British Columbia

Vancouver cyclist charged $3,700 for damage to car that hit him

Ben Bolliger, who was badly injured in the collision, and cycling advocates say his case highlights flaws in ICBC's recently introduced no-fault insurance system.

ICBC told Ben Bolliger he was 50% at fault for collision; he says his case highlights flaws in no-fault system

Ben Bolliger holds the pieces of the bike he was riding when he was struck by a car in 2021. (CBC)

A Vancouver cyclist has been slapped with a $3,700 bill from the provincial vehicle insurer to repair the hood and windshield of a car that hit and injured him last summer. 

Ben Bolliger said he was pedalling to get lunch on Granville Island when a driver of a Mercedes-Benz ran a stop sign at the intersection of Willow Street and West 7th Avenue, striking him with enough force to badly break his right arm and snap his bike in two. 

"I may have entered the intersection going maybe five kilometres an hour and I was thrown 14 metres," he said. "They removed many pieces of windshield from my back. I think in the end [I received] close to 97 sutures and staples."

According to the assessment of the incident by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), Bolliger was found to be 50 per cent at fault for the crash and was charged accordingly for the damage to the car.

Bolliger and cycling advocates say his case highlights flaws in ICBC's recently introduced no-fault insurance system.

"They are treating my bike as if it's an uninsured vehicle ... just as they would a car, which in my mind is bonkers," Bolliger said.

"And under this new no-fault insurance regime — which seems comical at this point — there is really no or very little recourse for cyclists."

In a statement, ICBC said investigators review all evidence before reaching a decision. It said in claims involving conflicting accounts or insufficient evidence, "responsibility for the crash may be split," and that decisions can be appealed through the civil resolution process. 

Under the no-fault system, people can no longer sue for damages if they're injured in a crash involving a vehicle.

ICBC switched to the model May 1, 2021, promising it would save the average B.C. driver $400 a year in premiums while redirecting hundreds of millions of dollars spent on lawyers and legal costs to benefit those injured in crashes.

Bolliger's plight came to light after he posted about it on social media. As it turns out, he isn't the only cyclist unhappy with ICBC.

Cyclist Alecia Sharp claims she was hit by a car that ran a red light, but ICBC told her she was 100 per cent responsible for the crash. (CBC )

Alecia Sharp told CBC she was hit by a car she claims ran a red light at a major bike route intersection at East 10th Avenue and Clark Drive.

ICBC told her she was 100 per cent at fault for the crash because she entered the intersection from a stop sign. 

"I waited until I had the pedestrian walk sign," she said. "But because I left on a stretcher, unfortunately, I wasn't able to get any information from the scene. So I don't know about the car that hit me and I wasn't able to get any witness information, either."

The crash and aftermath has been particularly stressful for the pregnant Sharp. Unlike Bolliger, she only recently learned ICBC will not be charging her any money.

According to a personal injury lawyer who specializes in representing cyclists, the two cases highlight the unfairness at ICBC.

"After [the introduction of] no-fault, the ability to challenge any decision that ICBC makes, including liability, was removed or severely restricted," said David Hay. "Under the old system, you could retain counsel to create some leverage ... In the new world, you can't pursue damages."

Hay recommends cyclists wear a body cam for the purposes of evidence in the event of a crash.

Cycling advocacy group HUB is also speaking out in favour of revising the Motor Vehicle Act to better protect non-vehicle drivers.

"It's very outdated and doesn't do much for people walking or people cycling," said spokesperson Jeff Leigh. "A specific vulnerable road user law would be a big step forward."

With files from Janella Hamilton