Now that it is summer, there are many more bikes on the roads and highways. With more cyclists, there is an increased risk of mishaps and accidents between bikes and cars. If you are operating a motor vehicle, you bear the primary responsibility to be as cautious and safe as possible.
It is important to note that a person riding a bicycle is legally akin to a pedestrian.
In Ontario, the Highway Traffic Act imposes a reverse onus on a driver who impacts a pedestrian on a public roadway. The duty of care is outlined in section 193(1), which section reads as follows:
“When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle.“
Therefore, a driver of a motor vehicle is presumed to be 100% negligent for an accident unless proven otherwise. A driver must therefore establish in Court that he or she acted reasonably and properly in the circumstances. The plaintiff (injured party, whether a pedestrian or cyclist) need only prove that the collision occurred and that the collision caused the damages.
Many people wonder why someone riding a bike is considered a “pedestrian”, since many people think a pedestrian is a person walking on the sidewalk or crossing the street. The issue really is this: is a bicycle a “vehicle”? The answer is, yes, a bicycle is considered to be a “vehicle” under the Highway Traffic Act, but the key is that it is NOT a “motor” vehicle for civil liability purposes. Pursuant to the relevant section of the Highway Traffic Act, a “motor vehicle” includes an automobile, a motorcycle, a motor-assisted bicycle unless otherwise indicated in this Act, and any other vehicle propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power, but does not include a street car or other motor vehicle running only upon rails, a power-assisted bicycle, a motorized snow vehicle, a traction engine, a farm tractor, a self-propelled implement of husbandry or a road-building machine; (“véhicule automobile”).
In sum, if you are a driver who collides with a cyclist you will have to prove you were not negligent in the circumstances. If you are a cyclist who somehow impacts with a motor vehicle, you will therefore have the legal advantage to collect your related damages. However, it is important for both drivers and cyclists to pay attention, be proactive, keep proper lookout, use signals and respect and obey the rules of the road so everyone can stay safe.
We have represented many injured cyclists through the years and we would be pleased to give you more information about your claim and legal rights at any time.