Conflict Over Right of Way

conflictRight of way is given, not taken. Please read that again and think about what it means when applied to driving, cycling and walking. A sense of entitlement is not what you should have when you use our highways, regardless of your travel mode.

The following video was provided by the cyclist and reported on by CTV Vancouver:


It shows the cyclist using the cycle lane approaching an intersection on a right curve where there is limited visibility. A car on the right is attempting to make a left turn after stopping at a stop sign and encroaches on the cycle lane as the cyclist comes into view. The sun appears to be directly behind the cyclist and may be interfering with the driver's ability to see.

The cyclist moves to the left to go around the car. The driver fails to see the cyclist and begins to make the left turn. A collision results.

The discussion on CTV's Twitter account is mixed. Some lay the blame with the cyclist and others feel that it is the driver's fault. All seem polarized in a situation that contains shades of grey.

First of all, let's establish where the cyclist fits into the road rules. Section 183(1) MVA imposes the same rights and duties as the driver of a vehicle on the cyclist. For the most part, this means that the cyclist must behave as if they were a driver. It also means that other drivers must treat the cyclist the same way as they would another motor vehicle.

Now, let's examine this intersection with a two way stop.

Our car driver must stop properly at the stop sign. Having stopped, the driver must yield to the cyclist (and any other traffic present on the through highway) that is either in the intersection or approaching it closely enough to be an immediate hazard. The driver may now proceed with caution.

As the car comes into the cyclist's view it appears to be stopped and then moves ahead slowly.

Here's where the grey begins and many drivers and cyclists on the through street do not realize that they may have a duty to yield to this driver and let them enter the street.

Section 175(2) MVA imposes this duty.

Now take up your gavel and put yourself in the position of a judge having to decide liability for this collision.

You have the rules set out in the Motor Vehicle Act and established case law to guide you along with the information gained from the video.

Both the driver and the cyclist will present their side and you may also hear from witnesses. One witness may be an expert at collision reconstruction who will tell you that it is possible that the cyclist could not have seen the emerging driver in time to stop when riding at 40 km/h.

In my own humble opinion, there is some liability on both sides for this collision and I base that only on what I see in the video and the MVA rules.

Here's a view of the intersection with better resolution:




Interesting, 20 years of cycle commuting and this is the FIRST time he’s had anything like this happen.  I’d say he should count his lucky stars.  

I was taught (motorcycle) to assume they ALL don’t see you!  I would think cyclists should have the same mentality.  That’s not to say the driver isn’t culpable, I believe she is, 100%. She’s the one creating the “conflict” and fails to take that extra care and attention required if weather (sun) or visibility should make that “conflict” any more difficult to succeed.  That’s the first words out of ALL their mouths when they harm or kill someone..... I didn’t see them!  Not a good enough reason.  

I also think it’s confusing to most drivers to understand the concept of “giving” right of way vs “taking” it.  It’s not a gift, nor do I view it as a sense of entitlement.  It’s not owned by the “giver” for the “taker” to accept.  I think of it as rules of the road, the order of which actions are taken in order to keep the “order.”  Pedestrians go first, horses go first, the guy on the right goes first (stop sign arrival simultaneously) unless signs or lights dictate the “order” otherwise.  Follow the rules of order and it’s amazing how they function very well.  Like the zipper-effect for merging..... works perfectly when drivers follow the rules. 

I’m a huge advocate for ownership of responsibility.  IMHO, it was the responsibility of the driver to execute her left turn without harm or death to another.  She failed.  Miserably.  Now she can take responsibility for her negligence and be accountable.  


Court is in session

As neither party has presented any evidence I will have to proceed to render a verdict based on my own biases.

First the operator of the bicycle although required by law to observe the rules of the road and when it comes to night operation has to have a fully functional lighting system. No evidence has been presented contradicting my assumption that this requirement was not met. I am going to conclude that he did not have an operation DRL. DRL's are required on all 4 wheel motor vehicles sold in Canada since model year 1990 and two wheeled vehicles since 1981. Failure to have proper lightning on his bicycle, even though daytime lights are not specifically mentioned in the MVA regarding bicycles, full time front mounted lighting on 2 wheeled vehicles is.

Secondly the operator of the car has proceeded into the lane reserved for bicycles. It appears that the traffic in the motorized vehicle lane is stopping which would suggest that the drivers in that lane are going to allow the driver entering SW Marine access. The bicyclist is not acknowledging this. Therefore, not exercising due diligence. Both parties in this case are partially to blame.

Section 186 of the MVA states that a driver must stop before entering the intersection. In this case the driver has proceeded into the intersection probably to get a better view of approaching traffic due to the slight corner. Regardless of this she has restricted the bicycle lane.

In conclusion the operator of the bicycle has no operational lighting nor did he exercise due diligence towards a vehicle entering the highway. The car driver on the other hand was too far into the intersection when stopped. I am going to assess the bicyclist 85% at fault and the motorist 15%. All damages and injuries are to be paid at the same assessment rate. If the bicycle operator does not have insurance he will be required to post a cash bond to cover his share of the costs.

I am also going to bring this accident to the attention of the AG's office with recommendations that all bicycles have to be equipped with a daytime headlight equivalent to that of low beams and operating as a strobe during daylight hours. That bicycle lanes be removed from main thoroughfares and be relocated to quieter streets for safety of both motorist and bicycle operators. That bicycle operators be required to come to a full stop at all intersections that are not controlled by a traffic light. That operators of bicycles on any public road within the province of B.C be required to have a numbered plate which will be renewed yearly in conjunction with PLPD insurance. That all operators of bicycles be required to obtain an operators permit and write the same test as vehicle operators. That the MVA be updated to reflect the changing traffic conditions of our roadways specifically in regards to two wheel human propulsion vehicles.

The above decision has been reached with no bias towards either operator:)

Fault on both sides

I drive around Langley a lot, and there are rarely bike lanes.

Most cars can stop faster than bikes, and yet bikes frequently drive so fast that they physically cannot stop in time to avoid a collision.

In this video, the cyclist may have had the right to proceed, however if the driver had fully stopped, then at the time he moves in to the intersection, he takes precendence.

Next, the cyclist is very, very vulnerable, and a sensible cyclist would recognize that the car poses an immediate hazard.
The bike rider can easily avoid the hazard with no inconvenience (or danger) to himself by slowing slightly, and going behind the car.

As a pedestrian, I NEVER walk in front of a car at a stop sign -- even if I know that they stopped for me.

As for the driver, I don't think that they can use the sun as an excuse.  If they really and truly could not see, then they have no business pulling forward.

Great website and newletter, keep it up!




As a long time (assertive) cyclist I tend to agree with the split of liability.

In my opinion he had ample opportunity to avoid the car - it was obvious the car was trying to pull out. A cyclist is always going to lose when colliding with a car, or most things really, so I have always taken the view that it is better to brake and avoid (in this case aim to pass behind the car) than to assume that they are going to see me (or take the view that I have the right of way and I am going to take it); it has served me well over the last 45 years and I have not had any collisions with people or cars. A dog, yes, but there was little I could do when a dog suddenly ran in front of me, except take up flying.

You may have noticed the assertive in brackets above. Why? Well before you think I am a cyclist who always panders to cars, I grew up where we shared the road with cars, no cycle lanes, you rode on the same space they drove on, so if you needed to turn and get out to the centre of the road to make that turn, you had to make a very clear arm signal and make it very clear you were going to move over, which meant being assertive. Not stupid mind. If you could see that a driver had no intention of letting you complete that manaeuver, then safety first, you waited for a safe gap otherwise you would be the one likely on the way to hospital. At the age of 12 I used to cycle 160km a week to school and back cycling the same roads as cars, trucks and buses daily.

Cycling and using lights.

As a cyclist,I can’t live without my daily ride  

I have a few peeves about other cyclists. I have lights front and back day and night. I know that cars and predestrians see me better than with out.I wished other cyclists would use lights.Can’t count the number of times we near hit each other. Because of my bright light they were able to avoid me but I near ran into them for not fallowing the rules.I wished other cyclists would stay to the right on trails and paths. Many of the areas we cycle through are semi dark to near impossible to be seen by motorists in the light of day. Scence using the lights,cars seem to share the road more often than not.I can’t be given the right away if I can’t be seen. 

Let’s play safe,have fun  

Tom Brenner  


Submitted by E-Mail

I’ve had a few questions about cycling that I’d meant to ask you over the last few years.

Given that Section 183(1) MVA imposes the same rights and duties as the driver of a vehicle on the cyclist, must a cyclist come to a full stop at a stop sign, that can be difficult and disruptive at a stop sign that is slightly uphill?

Also, why do police and a lot of the general public turn a blind eye to the legalities of wearing a bicycle helmet? It is the law and is a proven life saver yet I’ve observed police cars drive by people riding bikes (wrong side of road too)without helmets.

Lastly a comment, about 10 years ago I was struck by a car while riding my bike, I’ve now changed rather substantially the way I ride.

I no longer travel quickly through intersections, even though I have the right of way. I don’t speed downhill where vehicles could pull out in front me. I’ve become a much more defensive driver on the bicycle and as a result feel a lot safer.


Currently in BC a cyclist must stop at any stop sign just the same way that the driver of a car has to.

My experience seems to be that little children are almost always made to wear helmets by caregivers and it goes downhill from there, so to speak. I know that the police rarely choose to enforce it and can only think this is so because they feel it is unimportant.

Experience is a great teacher as long as you survive to learn from it.

Submitted by E-Mail

I have found that my dashcam records a more complete field of vision than I see when driving.  While the dashcam and I may have the same field of vision, the camera records everything that it “sees”.  On the other hand, I only see a small portion of the same field of vision at any given time.  What I record is consequently only the small portion of my field of vision that I was looking at during a given instance.

While the camera “saw” the subject vehicle from some distance away, I doubt that the bicyclist “saw” the vehicle anywhere near as much as his helmet cam saw the vehicle.  Ditto for the driver of the subject vehicle.  I doubt that she saw the bicyclist, riding in shadow and likely without a functioning headlight (or daytime running light) nearly as well as the helmet cam saw her (much larger, more colourful and in bright sunlight vehicle, thus easier to see) vehicle.

Had the bicyclist “seen” the subject vehicle nearly as well for as long as his helmet cam did, and assuming that the bicyclist was familiar with that intersection – seems likely due to the speed of the bicyclist, I would have expected the bicyclist to avoid the collision by turning right onto MacDonald, which was an obvious escape route and which the bicyclist is obliged to do in order to prevent an avoidable collision.

So I suspect that neither the driver nor the bicyclist saw the other in sufficient time to avoid colliding.  My sense is that the bicyclist had the better chance to be aware of the potential collision.

What Was Happening at the Intersection

It looks like the drivers in the vehicles travelling the same direction as the bicyclist (northwest) saw that traffic ahead of them had backed up to the downstream side of the intersection.  To avoid blocking the intersection, the drivers were slowing down.  That created a break in the oncoming traffic, presumably allowing the vehicle stopped on MacDonald Street to proceed through the opening.

The break in the adjacent traffic also resulted in a space in the intersection for the bicyclist to try to veer around the front of the red vehicle.  In doing so, the bicyclist appears to have changed lanes without signalling.

It is quite possible that the vehicles in the lane to the immediate left of the bicyclist could have been slowing down to allow a pedestrian to cross the south side of the intersection.  In which case, the apparently narrowly focused bicyclist could have been in a very different and fully at-fault collision.


My sense is that the bicyclist was at least fifty percent at-fault.

My hope is that the bicyclist successfully completes the equivalent of a commentary driving course for bicyclists, does so soon and encourages other bicyclists to do so.

Google Ads