Bike lanes: Kelowna lawsuit adds clarity to bike lane usage | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Bike lanes: Kelowna lawsuit adds clarity to bike lane usage

FILE- Bike Lane.
January 25, 2020 - 6:00 PM

A recent court decision about a Kelowna cyclist who was hit while riding through a busy intersection clarifies who has the right-of-way in areas where bike lanes end but the road carries on.

Valerie Charlton-Miner was cycling to work along Kelowna's Hollywood Road, March 2015, when she was struck by a vehicle while entering the intersection with Highway 33, Honourable Justice Wilson wrote in a decision posted this week.

She was travelling northbound on Hollywood Road, which is single lane traffic in both directions for much of the route. Around half a block before the intersection with Highway 33, it widens and there are two lanes in the northbound direction.

Of the two lanes of traffic, the left is for those going straight through on Hollywood Road and the right lane, which is the lane closest to the curb, is a right turn only lane for drivers turning eastbound on Highway 33.

Shortly before the intersection, there is a third lane for traffic to the left of the other two, intended for those intending to turn left (or west) on Highway 33.

There is a dedicated bicycle lane adjacent to the curb on Hollywood Road. The bicycle lane is adjacent to the only lane for northbound traffic until the right turn lane commences and then the bicycle lane is to the right of the right turn lane.

As she entered the intersection, the traffic light had turned yellow. Then she was hit by a car turning right onto Highway 33.

"The plaintiff impacted the defendant's vehicle with her shoulder while simultaneously braking and turning her bicycle to the right to avoid or at least minimize the impact," Wilson wrote.

The defendant, an 87-year-old man named Reginald Hedgecock had every opportunity to observe the plaintiff as he approached the intersection, Wilson wrote. 

Charlton-Miner argued that the defendant was 100 per cent liable for the accident because the traffic light was green as she approached the intersection and that she was therefore entitled to proceed. She says she did not leave the dedicated bicycle lane on Hollywood Road.

Hedgecock, however, said if she was intending to cross over Highway 33, she was obligated to leave the dedicated bicycle lane and merge into the vehicle lane to continue through on Hollywood Road in a northbound direction.

"He says that the plaintiff was not entitled to continue straight across the intersection in the dedicated bicycle lane because it is to the right, or curb side, of the right turn lane," reads the decision.

"It was therefore reasonable for the defendant to assume that the plaintiff would have been turning right at the intersection."

He also argued that had the plaintiff been taking greater care of her own safety by being more aware of her surroundings and in particular of vehicles approaching from behind her, the plaintiff could have avoided the crash.

The judge ultimately did not agree.

"If I were to accept the defendant's argument, the dedicated bicycle lane should not be used by cyclists who intend to cross the intersection and would instead be used solely by cyclists intending to turn right," reads the decision.

"However, there are neither signs nor markings in the bicycle lane that would indicate that the bicycle lane has ended for through cyclists. There are no signs or markings that require users of the bicycle lane to turn right. The bicycle lane is separated from the single lane and what subsequently becomes the right turn lane by a solid white line."

In the absence of any signs indicating cyclists wanting to go straight ahead should do otherwise, it is reasonable to assume that cyclists are intended to remain within the bicycle lane, regardless of whether they intend to turn right or to continue through.

"At this intersection, a cyclist would have to leave the dedicated bicycle lane, traverse the right turn lane, and then merge into and ‘take’ the through lane, a potentially hazardous manoeuver when the latter two lanes can be expected to contain vehicular traffic travelling much faster than the cyclist."

This wasn't feasible, said Wilson, noting later in his decision the cyclist should not share any responsibility for the accident.

"The plaintiff had been travelling in the dedicated bicycle lane for several blocks. It was a bright and sunny day and she was clearly visible. Motorists such as the defendant who were travelling in the same direction as the plaintiff had a prolonged opportunity to observe her in the bicycle lane and the defendant ought to have anticipated that she may continue through the intersection in line with the dedicated bicycle lane," Wilson wrote.

"Because I have concluded that the plaintiff was ahead of the defendant as they approached the intersection and that they arrived at the intersection at approximately the same time, the defendant was obligated to yield to the plaintiff, no different than if she had been a pedestrian using the adjacent crosswalk."

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