Q&A - Back Alleys
Question: For a few months now I have been trying to locate specific information on the rules of the road pertaining to back lanes and alleyways. Simply trying to get a concrete source on the speed limit of back lanes, especially those running along school zones, has been incredibly difficult. What are the rules pertaining to back lane driving?
Can a driver assume "right of way" and proceed to ‘plough’ through without regard to the dynamics of a back lane? What accountability measures are in place, if at all?
What if there are children and families making use of the area? If a child that was playing in a back lane is hit, and the driver was driving too quickly to respond or stop, is it the child’s fault for being in the lane?
I was told by an ICBC rep that unless there were police monitoring speed along the back lane, the driver would not be held responsible for hitting a child, or anything else “that is in its right of way”? This seems absolutely illogical to me.
Am I out of line to think that drivers should be held responsible since they ought to be driving in a manner conducive to the dynamics of an alleyway?
Answer: Speeds in alleys must not exceed 20 km/h:
146(8) A municipality may by bylaw direct that the rate of speed at which a person may drive or operate a motor vehicle in the municipality on a lane not exceeding 8 m in width must not be in excess of 20 km/h.
This can be a bit of a problem for drivers as bylaws may be different from municipality to municipality. The only way to know for sure is to do a bit of research, either on line or by telephone.
Right of way is given, never taken. Even if you have the right of way, exercising it when you know it could be risky could result in liability for a collision and a charge under the careless driving provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act:
144 (1) A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a highway
(a) without due care and attention,
(b) without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway, or
(c) at a speed that is excessive relative to the road, traffic, visibility or weather conditions.
The advice from the ICBC rep surprises me too. It is always the duty of a driver to avoid colliding with a pedestrian:
181 Despite sections 178, 179 and 180, a driver of a vehicle must
(a) exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian who is on the highway,
(b) give warning by sounding the horn of the vehicle when necessary, and
(c) observe proper precaution on observing a child or apparently confused or incapacitated person on the highway.
A back alley in a residential area is almost a guarantee that you might meet a child there and you should beware accordingly, especially if sight lines (fences, parked vehicles or other view obstructions) are poor.
The word "highway" means virtually any place that a person can travel using a vehicle.
There is also a requirement to stop before exiting an alley that many drivers do not follow.