The Accident

On Saturday October 2nd I was cycling south on Inverness Street ( a designated cycling route). I was riding a touring bike  equipped with supplies and camping gear for a three month cycle touring trip. At approximately 1 PM I arrived at the 57th Ave intersection, stopped at the stop sign and waited for an opening in traffic.

After checking to both the left and right I looked across the intersection and noticed a BMW SUV signaling for a left hand turn.  I attempted to make eye contact with the driver but glare on the window did not allow me to properly observe the driver.

When there was a break in traffic I started to proceed straight through the intersection.  The BMW did not immediately move forward and I assumed the driver had seen me and was waiting.

After I was part way through the intersection the vehicle (Blue BMW SUV plate #308 MAV) coming from the opposite direction on Inverness also entered the intersection making a left hand turn. When I saw that the driver was accelerating and initiating a turn I yelled loudly and began to turn away from the vehicle.

Upon hearing me the driver initiated braking but did not have enough time to stop the vehicle before colliding with me. The bumper of the vehicle hit the front wheel of my bike on the left hand side causing me to be knocked over and hit the pavement.

My partner had been cycling about a block behind me.  She was approaching the stop sign at the time of the collision.  She dismounted her bike, parked it near the stop sign and came to check on me.

We took a photo (shown above) of the position of the bike and vehicle as they were immediately after the accident.

The driver initially claimed that she did not have her driver's license with her.  After we started to call the police, she suddenly found her driver's license.  Then she offered us money to not report the accident.

We asked the driver to sign a statement that she had made a left had turn "...into an oncoming cyclist..." which she willingly did.

The collision bent the front wheel and the bike could not be safely ridden. After collecting the driver's information I took the bike to a CanadaLine station and then to a bike shop.

The bike shop determined that the front wheel was damaged beyond repair and replaced it. After replacing the front wheel we noticed that the handle bar and brake lever had also been damaged in the crash so those items were also replaced.

I suffered scratches and bruising on four different locations on my body. I treated those injuries myself and have not had to seek professional treatment at this time. The injuries for the most part appear to be healing although there is one permanent scar.

I was wearing a helmet but my head was not struck.

On the day of the accident I was leaving on an extended bike touring trip with another person. We had sublet our apartment and canceled cell phone services. The accident caused us to delay the trip by two days.

The First Adjuster
The adjuster I initially dealt with assigned liability in the accident 75% to the motorist and 25% to me.  She claimed that this was based on the fact it was unclear who arrived at the stop signs first.  I sent several emails explaining that order of arrival is not relevant in this case referring to ICBC's own documents, the BC Motor Vehicle Act, legal experts and case law.  It was after all NOT a four way stop where order of arrival would have been relevant.

When I started asking more detailed questions about her position and the rules of the road she ignored my questions, said her decision was final and referred me to her manager.  I wrote the manager a series of questions asking why the rules of the road did not apply to my particular claim.  The manager ignored my query and I did not hear from anyone at ICBC for another two months.

The Second Adjuster
Three months after the accident ICBC assigned a second adjuster that offered to cover 100% of the repairs of my bike.  Otherwise their position seemed the same.

Not satisfied with these developments I contacted ICBC customer service.  The representative I spoke with agreed that the first adjuster did not seem to understand the rules of the road. She promised to look into it further.

One day later I received a call from another ICBC representative.  She admitted that the first adjuster had made mistakes.  But she claimed that the driver was still not 100% responsible for the accident.  The reason now was the driver claimed to have initiated the turn prior to me entering intersection.  I pointed out that the photographic evidence of the accident scene that I had submitted did not correlate with this explanation.  She agreed that the evidence did not support the driver's statement but still refused to assign the driver 100% responsibility.

At this point I had several concerns:
- Why is ICBC refusing to assign the driver full responsibility despite the fact the evidence and eye witness accounts show that driver clearly broke the law and was driving in a careless manner?
- Why is ICBC reluctant to assign full responsibility to the driver given that experts have cited this type of policy as one of the reasons that Canada has higher cyclist fatality rates than European jurisdictions?  I submitted this document to ICBC regarding this issue.
- Why is ICBC changing their reason why the driver is not assigned full responsibility? Why wasn't this reason cited earlier?
- Why is ICBC offering me monetary compensation that is 75% less than what is typical offered in cases like this (my reserach has found that they typical amount for this type of accident is $2,000)?

I submitted these questions to the manager now working on my claim.

On September 7th 2011, the manger sent me an email in response to my questions.  In that email she included the statement from the driver.  This was the first time I had seen the statement - 11 months after the collision occurred.  The statement revealed that the driver made several inaccurate and contradictory statements including a claim that I and another cyclist had run the stop sign.

Apparently ICBC was basing their find of responsibility on this statement but had not revealed the substance of the statement to me until almost a year after the incident occurred. 

The original adjuster made NO mention of several claims that the driver makes in the statement.  If I had known that the other driver was making claims that were so incredibly inaccurate I would have made an attempt to get other witnesses of the collision.  Not making me aware of these items until almost a year later makes this more difficult. 

The original adjuster seemed to indicate that the only issue was an understanding of the rules of the road as it applied to a two stop sign intersection.  There was NO mention of the driver's claim that I did not come to a full stop.

The driver also claimed that she saw bikes before she waited for the traffic to clear.  The traffic on 57th avenue was quite busy at that time of day.  Both myself and the BMW driver had to wait at the stop signs for some time  for the traffic to clear. If, I had in fact run the stop sign that means at this point in time, well before she initiated her turn, I would still have been at least half a block away.  Especially if you accept her claim that I was was traveling at such a high speed that I was able to somehow get half way through the intersection and get my bike in front  of her vehicle after she had initiated the turn.

It is unlikely she would have noticed a cyclist that far away.  The only way this statement make sense is if I was already at the stop sign and waiting for the traffic to clear when she noticed me.

The claim that I entered the intersection after she had initiated her turn, clearly contradicts the evidence from the scene.  Notice from the photograph  that I was already half way through the intersection when she hit me.  And she hit me from on the side.   Also that her vehicle was still just initiating the turn.  The vehicle had not even fully crossed over the yellow dividing line.   If I has run the stop sign after she had initiated the turn I would have hit her vehicle on the side.  But she hit my vehicle on the side. 

I have been commuting by bicycle for over 15 years.  I have never had a claim through ICBC.  I just completed a 3,000 km bike trip down the coast which include riding through San Francisco and Los Angles with no accidents.  The idea that I would cross a busy street without coming to a complete stop and looking for traffic is ludicrous.

The driver also claimed that the other cyclist had run the stop sign.  The second cyclist is a certified CAN Bike instructor who teaches cycling safety courses.  The idea that she would run a stop sign is insulting.

In that same email, the ICBC representative claimed that a previous email of mine said the opposite of what I had written.  It is clear she was not even reading the information I presented carefully.

A New Manager

On October 7th, 2011 I received a message from Daniel Elliot, a manager at ICBC that I had not spoken to before.    On October 11th I spoke with him on the phone. He refused to meet in person although I felt this would be a better way to resolve a file that was now dragging on for over a year.

Incredibly, he also insisted that the order of arrival at a two-way stop sign determines right of way.  I pointed out that this was the same mistake that the first adjuster had made and that his view is not supported by the BC Motor Vehicle Act, the ICBC Drivers' Manual or case law.  I had him read the relevant part of the MVA (RSBC 1996- CHAPTER 318 Part 3 Section 174) and the ICBC Drivers Manual (page 45). He continued to insist he was right implying that specific section of the MVA did not apply and that the ICBC Driver's Manual was inaccurate.

Astonishingly, he also opening expressed his bias stating that "Some cyclists feel they have different rights..."  He actually repeated this several times and only when I said I was writing it down did he a  proviso of "..some motorists too.."

And then in a bizarre twist he ironically tried to insist that in some cases drivers are justified ignoring the rules of the road.  He tried to describe a hypothetical situation where left turning drivers should not yield rate of way to oncoming traffic based on order of arrival at the stop sign.

In the end he also decided the motorist was not 100% at fault.

I also found it interesting that he mentioned that ICBC spent quite some time thoroughly investigating the car for damage.  However, ICBC did not bother to examine my bike for damage even though I brought it to their claim centre a few days after the accident.

Next stop, small claims court.....