Should Cyclist Be Treated More Like Motorists? Food For Thought

By Steven Arie Glowinsky | April 13, 2018

According to Statistics Canada over the past two decades, commuter population in metropolitan areas increased by 35.9 per cent. During this time, the number of people using a bicycle to commute nearly doubled.

As city traffic worsens, costs increase and environmental concerns take on more importance in society; more and more commuters are seeking alternative methods to travel, with many turning to cycling as their primary method of transportation to and from work.

Since one goal of the city of Toronto is for bicycles and cars to share the road, many are thinking about the best and safest way to implement this transition. A big question that arises is that since both cars and bicycles are involved in road accidents which can lead to fatalities, should they not have to follow similar rules of engagement?

Specifically, should there be a licensing requirement for cyclists, provided only after road and personal safety rules were demonstrated? Should bikes be required to undergo safety inspections, similar to car safety standard emissions tests? Should there be laws against distracted cycling? Currently there are no laws against cycling while on the phone while listening to music with headphones. However, these behaviours are dangerous and can result in injury and accidents.

What about insurance? Finding insurance for cyclists would be the toughest part of this debate. Motorists are entitled to access accident benefits – ordinarily by way of the insurer of the subject motor vehicle or the insurer of the motorist (if insured on another vehicle). When a cyclist has an accident with a moving (or parked) vehicle, the cyclist may access the insurance policy associated with that vehicle in order to claim accident benefits, regardless of fault.

What happens, however, when no car is involved in a cycling accident and therefore no insurance is accessible? That would be the case if a cyclists simply falls or if two cyclists collide. One thought would be to have an equivalent of accident benefits tied to home owners insurance. But what if a person does not own a home? Another thought would be to compel cyclists to insure their bicycles?  That mechanism would, however, be far from ideal.

There is a huge spectrum of possibilities for answering these questions. On the far right these regulations would be mandatory with cyclists paying for the services, moving into the middle with subsidized regulations and services, and to the far left with no mandatory regulations.

There are definitely more questions than answers in this area and progress towards finding solutions can’t come fast enough.

Steven Arie Glowinsky is a personal injury lawyer who represents both cyclists and motor vehicle drivers who suffered serious injuries as a result of an accident. For more information, he can be reached at sglowinsky@pacelawfirm.com or (416) 734-0431.