A great deal of responsibility is placed on cyclists to watch
out for their own safety. Under the Highway Traffic Act, a bicycle is a vehicle
and has the same rights and responsibilities as other road users
and the driver of a bicycle must be as conscientious as the driver
of a car.
The Courts have tended to apportion liability for
car–bike accidents between everyone involved, sometimes
including the municipality. For example, in Evans v. Toronto
(City), 2004 Carswell 4721, the Ontario Court of Justice
upheld the claim of a cyclist against both a driver who opened his
door into traffic and the City who failed to maintain the road in
What was unique in Evans was the court's finding
that, where the city has designated a bike route, it has a higher
obligation to protect the safety of cyclists. As Justice Winer
wrote wrote at paragraph 17-18:
"I agree that cyclists should have an equal share of the
road that is safe, especially when the City has adopted a
bicycle-friendly policy and encourages cycling.
The designation as a bike route must mean something, some
indication that the street is somewhat safer than the unsigned
streets. The road, at this location, is not bicycle friendly. It
leaves very little room for a cyclist to maneuver, very little
margin for error. Sure, a skilled cyclist can pass in safety, but
roads should be safe for the ordinary cyclist. At one time, cycling
was quite rare in the City, but with the proliferation of bicycles
and the City's encouragement for health reasons, reducing
congestion, less burning of fossil fuels, the City should have done
something more positive about bike safety at this
Justice Winer concluded that the City "should have done
something to make the road safer" and apportioned 25% of the
liability to the City. The Plaintiff was found 25% liable due to
her failure to wear a helmet and to check the interior of cars
along her route. The remainder of the liability was apportioned to
We don't know of any decisions on the liability of trucks
that lack side guards, but they could be found liable for
negligence if the evidence proves they reduce harm to cyclists. We
support Olivia Chow's proposal that such guards should be
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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