By: Kimball Law
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Biking Safety Guide for Cyclists and Drivers in Nova Scotia
In recent years, more and more people are using bikes as their preferred mode of transportation. As a result, this has led to increased advocacy for the protection of cyclists, bringing about the construction of more bike lanes as well as legislation being passed to outline the rules and regulations that cyclists and drivers must abide by when sharing the road. While major cities, like Montreal, have embraced these changes and allowed cycling to be a safer and more accessible option for transportation, this is not always the case. In some areas, there is not a widespread demand for such drastic changes as two-way bike lanes, or traffic lights for cyclists. Knowing the laws around cycling in your province is important to maintaining the utmost safety on the road.
Over 50% of Canadians who ride bikes have reported that either they or someone they know have been involved in an accident while cycling. Educating drivers and cyclists of the rules for sharing the road, and of ways to prevent accidents is important for everyone’s safety.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a cycling accident, it’s important to seek the help of a lawyer for professional assistance. Personal injury lawyers are trained in negotiating with insurance companies to ensure you get fair compensation.
A Caution for Drivers
- Be careful of “dooring.” This is when a driver opens their door and an unsuspecting cyclist runs into it, leaving the cyclist injured, and the driver’s door broken or damaged.
- It’s important to be aware of your surroundings before stepping out of a vehicle to avoid “dooring,” as well as to pay attention to cyclists while driving.
- Be sure to use your mirrors and check your blind spots for approaching cyclists and scan ahead of you so you’re prepared to give cyclists space or adjust your speed.
- Signal early if you intend on turning or changing lanes. This gives cyclists a chance to anticipate your actions and adjust accordingly, such as by slowing down, and taking steps so as not to obstruct your path.
- When traveling near cyclists remember to leave at least a one-meter space between your vehicle and the cyclist.
- Be cautious of cyclists; don’t assume they will yield to you at all times. Try to anticipate what they may do and approach cyclist situations with caution.
A Caution for Cyclists
- Know the traffic laws that apply to you and obey them. This includes signalling your intentions by way of hand signals.
- Be cautious. It’s always safer to assume that cars don’t always see you, so approach situations with caution.
- Wear a helmet at all times. Regardless of age, it is the law to wear a helmet. It is not enough to have a helmet on your head, the chin strap must be fastened as well. Additionally, ensure that your bike has a front and back light/reflector. It is recommended you have a light. These are especially important when it’s dark out or if you’re cycling around dusk or dawn. It is also required by law to install a horn or bell if your bike does not already have one.
- If you’re cycling at night be sure to wear reflective gear so vehicles can easily see you. If your clothes reflect drivers’ headlights they’ll have a better idea of where you are and how much room to give you as compared to what a light or reflector will indicate to them.
- Don’t use your phone or listen to music while cycling, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times and these distractions may impede your ability to focus or to avoid a collision.
- Always try to stay at least one metre away from parked cars to avoid unanticipated doors opening in your path.
Relevant Rules of the Road
- Cyclists are required to ride in a bike lane if one is present. If not, cyclists must ride on the right side of the road, as near to the edge as safely possible. To make a left turn, if entering a roundabout, if avoiding an obstacle, or for other safety-related purposes, cyclists may use a full lane.
- Cyclists may pass cars on the right if it is safe to do so, however, be mindful of vehicles turning right or changing lanes because passing on the right can be dangerous. If a vehicle is making a right turn it may be wise to reduce your speed or otherwise adjust accordingly.
- Cyclists are required to follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles when it comes to such things as stop signs, yield signs and railway crossings.
- Cyclists are not allowed to ride between two lanes of traffic, whether moving in the same direction or otherwise.
- Cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic.
- Cyclists must ride in a single file line unless passing another cyclist.
- Cyclists may not ride on the sidewalk unless the cyclist is age 16 or younger.
- Cyclists must keep at least one hand on the handlebars and both feet on the pedals.
- Motor vehicles are not permitted to park in bike lanes and will face fines if they do.
- Motor vehicles are also not permitted to drive in bike lanes unless avoiding an obstacle and only when it is safe to do so.
- Motor vehicles may only pass a bicyclist if it is safe and there is at least one metre between the vehicle and the bicycle.
- Motor vehicles may cross the centre line to safely pass a cyclist, however it is paramount to only do so when there is no oncoming traffic, if there is, simply reduce your speed until oncoming traffic is not longer an issue..
- Bicycles are allowed on all roads in Nova Scotia unless otherwise stated by road signs.
When a Collision Occurs
- Refrain from moving. When you have been struck by a vehicle as a cyclist, it’s hard to say exactly what may have been broken or damaged. If you sustained injuries, excessive moving could cause you additional pain or make your injuries worse. So keep your movements to a minimum until paramedics can arrive to assist.
- Call the police and wait for them to arrive.
- Stay where you are. Remain on the scene and ensure the driver and other witnesses do the same. Witness testimony could be important if you end up making a claim for insurance or medical benefits coverage. The police will want to speak to the parties involved as well as any witnesses.
- Collect everyone’s information. Be sure to get the driver’s information, including their name, contact information, vehicle description, license plate # and insurance details. You’ll also want to get information from the police officer handling the incident (including badge # and report #) and witnesses.
- Gather evidence and information. It’s important, if you’re able, to take pictures of the scene and any damage to you or your property. If you’re not able to move or fear risking further injury by moving, then ask a witness for assistance in taking photos. Be sure to also note the location, intersection and time of the accident.
- Document the events & get police report. After seeking medical attention, be sure to document what you remember of the event as well as your injuries. When available, obtain copies of police reports for insurance purposes.
- Collect and organize records. Witness testimonies, medical records, records of lost time, are all important when filing an insurance claim, so, gather these as well
How insurance works in a Bike/Car Collision
If you have been injured in a Bike/Car Collision it is recommended that you consult with a lawyer before contacting an insurance company. Lawyers have experience with personal injury and motor vehicle accidents and are able to navigate the stressful and time-consuming process of dealing with an insurance company.
What if a cyclist is at fault?
- Cyclists aren’t required to have insurance because there is no equivalent to car insurance for bikes.
- Cyclists are instead entitled to section B benefits, regardless of who is at-fault.
- If a cyclist has car insurance then their insurance company would pay the section B benefits, but if they don’t then section B would be paid by the drivers’ insurance company.
There are two types of compensation that section B pays
- Medical and rehabilitation costs such as for physiotherapy or chiropractic sessions. Only costs up to $50,000 are covered or costs of treatment for up to 4 years, whichever comes first (i.e. $50,000 spent in less than 4 years, or 4 years of treatment that costs below $50,000)
- Income loss up to a maximum of $250 per week for however long bodily disablement prevents a cyclist (or driver) from working.
Collisions involving cars and bicycles are some of the most devastating that can take place on the road. While cars provide protection in the form of airbags and being surrounded by a sturdy metal frame, cyclists are extremely vulnerable. This is why it is in the best interest of drivers and cyclists to be cautious of those around them at all times and especially to be aware of and provide appropriate signalling to others using the road.
The above relates to Nova Scotia only. While a substantial portion of this information is transferable to other provinces, it is ideal to check out your own province’s legislation for specific guidelines and laws