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ICBC bill to cyclist reinforces need for riders to have insurance, advocates say

The ICBC bill is sobering news to a lot of cyclists and reinforces the need for avid riders to have some form of insurance, advocates say.
Ben Bolliger holds his broken bicycle recently at Willow Street and West 7th Avenue in Vancouver, where he was hit by a young driver behind the wheel of a Mercedes last July. JASON PAYNE, PNG

VANCOUVER — A year ago Derek Wilson had dismounted from his bicycle to use the crosswalk on Comeau Lake Road in Coquitlam when a sports car turning right hit him, swooping him onto the car’s hood and windshield with his bike on top of him.

He was unhurt, but news this week of ICBC billing Vancouver cyclist Ben Bolliger for more than $3,700 for damage to a car that hit Bolliger as he cycled through a controlled intersection in a bike lane gave Wilson pause.

“I was just as astonished as anyone,” the Port Moody resident, soon to be 74, said. “It was a wake-up call, if I’d smashed through that guy’s windshield … why should (Bolliger) get a huge bill to fix the car that hit him?”

The ICBC bill is sobering news to a lot of cyclists and reinforces the need for avid riders to have some form of insurance, advocates say.

“We strongly believe if you are an avid cyclist and you’re spending time on your bike that having some sort of insurance to cover you in that activity is beneficial and advised,” said Erin Waugh, CEO of Cycling B.C. “Insurance is a big component of what we offer as a sport organization … we think it’s really important.”

If you join Cycling B.C. there is liability insurance provided for organized club events, but that insurance wouldn’t cover a club member who found themselves in Bolliger’s shoes.

Postmedia News asked ICBC on Thursday for data regarding the number of letters such as Bolliger got that have been sent out and how much the corporation has sought to recover from such accidents, but was told that would take more time to track down.

Since the provincial government passed legislation in early 2020, ICBC has had a no-fault policy for almost two years now.

Readers might recall being pleasantly surprised of late to receive a letter from ICBC and find inside not bills but rebates — a couple for reduced kilometres driven because of COVID-19, another to compensate for lower rates because of no-fault, which ICBC calls enhanced care.

No fault insurance is meant to save drivers about 20 per cent on their annual premiums (and save ICBC around $1.5 billion). It also means victims may no longer sue the Crown corp., which means it’s hard to find a lawyer to represent you if you feel wronged.

And it stacks the deck against cyclists, said Vancouver lawyer Joel Zanatta.

“Completely stacked,” said Zanatta, whose company The Cycling Lawyer offers legal and insurance advice for cyclists and who is representing Bolliger on a pro bono basis. “It’s a war on cyclists.

“It sounds like I’m speaking in hyperbole, but I’m not. It’s insane.”

With the option of suing ICBC removed, injured cyclists are at the mercy of the monopoly insurer, he said.

“They immediately say, ‘If we find you at fault you’ve got to pay,’ and then to make matters worse there is nowhere to go if you dispute the fault except the CRT.”

The CRT is the Civil Resolution Tribunal, created to resolve disputes involving vehicle accidents, small claims, strata property, co-operatives and societies.

“The most you can get out of that,” Zanatta said, “is your bike paid for.”

No lawyer is going to want to touch that, he said.

“It’s a joke. I’m the only guy doing it and I’m doing it for free because I’m in a situation where I can.

“If I took this case in the old days, I win it every single time. It’s so rotten.”

And it’s not just cyclists, but anyone with the right to share the road is at risk, Zanatta said.

“[ICBC] is saying that if you want to share the road, which is a right in Canada, you’ve got to buy your own insurance for it and it’s not a pretty thing. It shouldn’t be mandatory, that’s for sure.

“Are you going to insure every child out there? Pedestrians are getting hammered by this. Skateboards, scooters.”

Parents pushing prams?

“Same thing. The group is called vulnerable road-users … all of them have legal entitlement to use the road.”