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Red Flags With Victoria’s Protected Bike Lanes And Green Boxes

Red Flags with Victoria’s Protected Bike Lanes and Green Boxes

Protected Bike Lanes on Pandora Open to Mixed Reviews

On Monday, May 1, 2017 the Pandora St. protected bike lanes officially opened to the public. The intent of this two-lane track that runs from Wharf St. to Cook St. is to separate bike traffic from car traffic and make cycling more efficient and safer.  While the intention is honourable, the immediate result has been confusion and many near-misses between motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.  Road (and crosswalk) users will have to adapt to significant changes in their usual behavior at intersections along Pandora.  However, it should be noted, where this kind of bike lane has been implemented elsewhere, improvements in safety have been realized.

Motorists, Cyclists and Pedestrians Face a Learning Curve

Motorists will no longer be able to make right turns on red lights at intersections, and must stop behind the green bike boxes away from the intersection.  Cyclists have to maneuver to enter and exit the bike lanes through “green boxes” that are far from intuitive and involve turning right to go left, and vice versa. The City has had to produce a four-minute video to explain how the protected bike lane works – it is doubtful many cyclists, motorists or pedestrians will absorb the video.  The City has stationed employees at the intersections to explain to road users how to navigate the new “facilities” – it is unclear how long these employees will be stationed there as the tourist season progresses.  The forecast calls for confusion and flared tempers, and sadly a significant chance of serious injuries as people adjust to this new norm.

No Requirement to Use the Bike Lane Provided

While many motorists are glad to see the dedicated bike lanes, some are not.  Even some cyclists ask if they have to use the bike lanes, many of them nervous that motorists and pedestrians won’t know how to behave around the bicycles that enter and leave the green boxes in a bizarre fashion that involves turning their bikes 180 degrees. However, whether people like it or not, the law does not require cyclists to use the protected bike lanes simply because they are available. If a cyclist is injured by a vehicle outside of the protected bike lane, the court will not find the cyclist negligent for not using the bike lane just because it was there, provided the cyclist’s actions were not otherwise the cause of the accident.

If Protected Bike Lanes Prove Hazardous, Can the City be Held Liable?

Importantly, BC courts have said: “a municipality has a duty to maintain roads in a reasonably safe condition. The duty extends to taking reasonable steps to prevent injury to users of the roads caused by hazardous conditions… such as those arising from the design or configuration of the road.”  The point to be drawn from the foregoing is that a municipality’s duty extends to maintaining and configuring its roads, such that they are safe for use by someone using ordinary care.

How cyclists are required to navigate Victoria’s new bike lanes, as well as how motorists and pedestrians are expected to behave around them, is now far from ordinary for the typical road user (watch the video and you will see).  This means that the City may find that a cyclist, pedestrian or motorist is injured because of a confusing or otherwise unsafe road design that a person exercising ordinary care would not expect, may hold the City responsible for their injuries. Such a claim does not involve ICBC paying for the City’s negligence.

Many people do not know that there is a very short time limit for notifying the City that its design or implementation of the new bike lane has caused someone harm. The BC Local Government Act states that a local government “is in no case liable for damages unless notice in writing, setting out the time, place and manner in which the damage has been sustained, is delivered to the municipality… within 2 months from the date on which the damage was sustained.”  This means that if the City is not notified of an injury within 60 days of the accident, the City will bear no responsibility regardless of how severe the injuries are.  Hopefully no injuries arise as tourists and locals learn how to use the new protected bike lanes, but if they are, they should not overlook the requirement to give notice to the City within the 60 days required by the Local Government Act.

Darren Williams is the principal lawyer with League and Williams and leads the personal injury area of practice of the firm.  If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, we would like to help you recover.  League and Williams offers free consultations, does not get paid until you do and is focused on ensuring that you recover to your fullest potential.  League and Williams is headquartered in Victoria, BC with satellite offices in Duncan, Nanaimo and Campbell River.  We may be contacted via email at or phone at 250-888-0002.

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