BICYCLE SAFETY AND REGULATIONS
The onset of summer has once again brought a large number of bicycles onto the streets, sidewalks and trails across Canada. There are over 9 million bicycles in Canada with at least 2 million being used on a weekly basis. The popularization of "mountain and "hybrid" bikes has changed bicycle riding from childs play to an activity for all ages and all purposes (sport, leisure and commuting/transportation). This rise in popularity has increased the number of regular cyclists (up to 300% since the mid-1970s according to some NHTSA figures) and also increased the costs of bicycles themselves to the point where it is very easy to spend over $1,000 on a very average bike.
However, all of these cyclists and bikes are coming into one of the least regulated and least controlled transportation fields in Canada.
At this time, there are no applicable standards in place to define if a bike is safe and suitable for sale in Canada. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) is withdrawing its only Standard directly applicable to bicycles (D-113.1, 1980) and no new Standard is under consideration (separate Standards for helmets and some accessories remain in place). There is o Canadian bicycle manufacturers/distributors association in place to assume a "self-regulatory" roles such as the Bicycle Manufacturers Association has done in the United States. This lack of controls and standards makes every manufacturer, distributor and vendor solely responsible for what they consider to be safe and saleable to the public. Unfortunately, this results in many bikes being poorly assembled (or assembled at home), built with low grade and low strength fasteners and components and not properly maintained after the sale. This phenomena is most pronounced in the less expensive price ranges (<$300) typicaly sold in department stores or lower line bike shops.
The combination of no standards and increased sales and usage can only mean that bicycle product liability claims will increase until concrete steps are taken to control the industry itself.
The operations of bicycles is controlled at the provincial levels through some form of Highway Traffic Act (HTA). With some minor exceptions based on size and usage, the bicycle is classified as a vehicle in legislative and enforcement terms in Canada. Any bicycle rider must therefore obey the same laws of the road as other users such as automobile drivers. Most HTAs also lay out additional regulations specific for bicycles such as lighting and reflector needs, horn/bell fitment, ect.
While all bicycles on the road must meet and obey some basic (and seldom enforced) safety laws, there is no method in place to train or license bicycle riders for compliance with the laws. There are no examinations required to test a potential riders capabilities or their understanding of the traffic laws such as are required by automobile drivers. As a result, may cyclists are ignorant (or claim ignorance after the fact) or even basic traffic rules and have poor bike handling and control skills. This level of knowledge and exper-tise of the rider becomes critical in any collision or incident where a product failure can be ruled out.
In any legal action that involves a bicycle failure or collision, it becomes important to have an expert witness who not only knows the mechanics of the bicycle and the road but can also comment on the "standard of care" that a cyclist can reasonably be expected to exercise. A suitable expert witness can be doubly valuable in many bicycle cases because many investigators are not immediately familiar with bicycles and some do not read a bicycle incident as seriously as one involving automobiles only, even if the property and personal damages are equivalent. Here at Walters Consulting Corporation, we have the well qualified expert you need to deal with bicycle accidents, so when a problem arises, give us a call to discuss it. Our initial consultation is free.
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Walters Forensic Engineering | 277 Wellington
Street West, Suite 800 | Toronto, ON M5V 3H2