The actions of drivers who ignore cyclists in bike lanes can be extremely costly, physically for the cyclist and financially for the driver.
Eight years after a Chilliwack veterinarian was seriously injured after being struck by a driver on Promontory, he was awarded $1.14 million in a B.C. Supreme Court decision last week.
Mark Steinebach was travelling at nearly 50 kilometres per hour on his bike in the dedicated bike lane down Promontory Road on Mother’s Day in 2014 when Katherine Skittrell turned into a townhouse complex in front of him.
Her vehicle collided with Steinebach shortly after she heard him yell “no, no, no,” according to the written decision from Jan. 19 by Justice Ardith Walkem.
Steinebach suffered a broken collarbone which tented through his skin, a fractured shoulder bone, a collapsed lung, multiple rib fractures, and a spine injury that required surgery.
After the crash, Skittrell was issued a violation ticket, which she paid. But in response to the civil action, she disagreed on liability for the accident, causation, and the degree of damages Steinebach suffered.
“A key point of dispute between the parties is how damages, particularly regarding past and future loss of earning capacity, should be assessed,” Justice Walkem wrote.
As part of Steinebach’s veterinary practice he often did surgeries, something he was unable to do after the accident.
“The plaintiff enjoyed veterinary medicine and surgery because he felt this gave him a sense of winning all of the time and because he was able to solve problems for people.”
He had to shift his professional life as a result of the accident, selling 75 per cent of the veterinary practice that he built from the ground up.
As for the accident, Steinebach had a near miss with Skittrell’s vehicle just seconds prior to the crash at the intersection of Promontory Road and Teskey Way. Skittrell turned right on a red light from Teskey to go north on to Promontory as Steinebach came through the green light on his bike.
Then just about 100 metres down the hill, an estimated 10 to 15 seconds later, Skittrell turned into The Gables townhouse complex colliding with Steinebach who was legally in the bike lane.
“Turning into and across a dedicated bike lane without a side shoulder check, and without a check of the side mirror to ensure no cyclists are in the dedicated bike lane, falls far short of the requisite standard of care and attention required in such circumstances.”
Skittrell’s lawyer argued that Steinebach was cycling too fast, passing several vehicles unsafely on the right, before coming up upon and striking the her vehicle as she executed her turn.
Steinebach argued that he was coasting when he struck her vehicle, evidence that was corroborated by his fitness app, Strava, which tracks riders’ speed, routes, and output effort.
He immediately applied the brakes upon seeing her turn, and yelled “no, no, no,” which she admitted hearing.
Skittrell also argued that based on evidence from the Strava app, that Steinebach engaged in “recklessness and competitiveness.” He had been recorded as fast as 76 km/h on the stretch of road in question.
Justice Walkem did attribute 15 per cent liability for the crash to Steinebach for the crash given his own observations about how busy it was that day.
Still, where there is a marked bike lane, a driver’s presumption should be that there are cyclists travelling in that lane, and one of the benefits of marked bike lanes is the legal ability to pass drivers on the right.
“Based on her own evidence, I find the defendant had little situational awareness of the possibility of cyclists on the road just prior to, and at the time of, the accident,” Walkem wrote.
“Cyclists’ vulnerability warrants an ongoing situational awareness and corresponding vigilance on the part of motorists who share roadways.”
Steinebach had been seeking $3.2 million in damages for pain and suffering, and lost income, while Skittrell argued closer to $670,000 was appropriate.
Walkem awarded $1.14 million.
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