Motorcyclist at intersection wiht Ambulance going by in opposite direction - photo taken in  Metro Vancouver in the Metrotown Burnaby  area

Motorcyclists and Visibility!

Rose Keith, BA JD,  author of articles on personal injury based in downtown Vancouver, BC

"Motorcyclists and Visibility" by: Rose Keith, BA JD, Vancouver BC personal injury lawyer - first published 2012.11.25

A very recent British Columbia Supreme Court case grappled with the issue of visibility of motorcyclists on our roads and the consequences in terms of fault when a motorist simply fails to see a motorcyclist when they are there to be seen, creating an urgent if not emergency situation that the motorcyclist is forced to respond to. ICBC defended the case on behalf of the motorist, seeking to cast at least partial blame on the motorcyclist for the manner in which he responded to the situation created by the negligent motorist.

The accident occurred when the motorist merged onto a road. Prior to the motorist merging, the motorcyclist had been travelling in the right most lane, or the lane that the motorist intended to merge into. The motorist apparently did not observe the motorcyclist at all prior to attempting to merge, creating an urgent or emergency situation for the rider. The motorcyclist moved into the left hand lane quickly and unfortunately the cars travelling in that lane came to a sudden stop. The motorcyclist did not have time to avoid the resulting collision and suffered serious personal injuries as a result.

In addressing liability and rejecting the suggestion by ICBC that the motorcyclist (Metzler) was at least in part at fault for the motor vehicle accident, Mr. Justice Blok stated as follows:

I accept the evidence of Mr. Metzler that he assumed the Sidwell vehicle would not merge into his lane until he had safely passed. Two vehicles had already merged in front of him, the second aggressively so, and I conclude his assumption was a reasonable one in all the circumstances. He took evasive action by changing lanes. As I have said earlier, the evidence is unclear as to how established Mr. Metzler was in the left- hand lane immediately prior to his emergency braking. On the state of the evidence I am unable to conclude that he had sufficient time in the left-hand lane to establish a safe distance between his motorcycle and the car ahead.  It follows that ICBC has not discharged the burden upon it to show that Mr. Metzler had sufficient opportunity to avoid the accident.  It also follows that the other parties to the two actions who allege negligence on the part of Mr. Metzler have similarly failed to meet their burden.

McStravick v. Metzler 2012 BCSC 1685

Although the decision was a great result for the motorcyclist and a vindication in some regards, it also highlights the grave danger that motorcyclists face on our roads. Motorcyclist visibility is a significant safety issue for riders and is thought to contribute to at least 50% of the crashes involving bikes. From 2008 - 2010 a "Go High-Viz" Rider Conspicuity Campaign was produced by the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Centre with assistance from a citizens’ advisory group, conspicuity product retailers and volunteer motorcyclists.  The resulting top ten tips for increase riding conspicuity are:

1. Wear a fluorescent/reflective safety vest;

2. Wear a white helmet;

3. Wear a brightly colored jacket;

4. Use strategic lane positioning;

5. Use a headlight modulator;

6. Flash your tail-light;

7. Wear reflective materials;

8. Use movement;

9. Use auxiliary driving lights;

10. Use hand signals.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has published five key points to safe riding on their web site. Those tips are as follows:

Assume you are invisible to other drivers. Don’t ever assume another driver knows you’re there.  Adhere to the attitude that no one else on the road is concerned with your personal safety.  Learn to use a riding strategy like SEE (search, evaluate, execute) to manage the roadway and traffic.  You can learn SEE in a basic or advanced training course.

Look where you want to go. It’s called visual directional control.  Keep your head and eyes oriented 3 - 4 seconds ahead of you when cornering.  You can get instruction and practice in this technique in a basic or advanced training course.  In an emergency, do not stare at the guardrail, the gravel shoulder or the oncoming car -- chances are you’ll hit whatever you’re trying to avoid.  (The term for this is target fixation).

Countersteer. Use precise inputs to the handgrips, not body lean, to lean the motorcycle.  When you countersteer, you initially turn the handlebars in the opposite direction you think you should. Press forward on the right handgrip, the bike leans right.  Press forward on the left handgrip, the bike leans left.  (Note: countersteering is not how you turn a motorcycle; it’’s how you lean a motorcycle.) You can learn to use this technique in a controlled setting by taking a basic or advanced training course.

Use both brakes. Your front brake provides 70 percent more of your stopping power in an emergency.  Squeeze, do not grab, the front brake, and keep squeezing, increasing the squeezing pressure until you’ve slowed sufficiently or stopped.  Untrained riders are often afraid to use the front brake, for fear of flipping over.  Trained riders know better.  You can learn how to use your front brake for maximum braking in a basic or advanced training course.

Never stop riding the bike. Don’t ever give up control of your motorcycle.  "Laying it down" is not a strategy.  The person with the most control of any situation is you.  Look where you want to go, countersteer or use maximum braking to avoid a crash.  You can get instruction and practice in all these techniques by taking a basic or advanced training course.

In addition to all of the above tips, make sure to stay out of the blind spot of motorists and give yourself enough room and time to react if you need to.  Not always an easy thing to do but being extra cautions and taking these extra steps could prevent serious injury or death.  The reality is that when a motorcyclist is out on the road, regardless of whether an accident is the rider’s fault or not, the consequences will be most significant for the rider.  Do absolutely everything you can to guard against the negligence and errors of motorists on the road.  Stay safe.

Rose Keith, Personal Injury - Trial Lawyer

Rose Keith Law Corporation
1486 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC,  V6G 3E6

Article author: Rose Keith, BA, JD, former President of the B.C. Trial Lawyers Association in 2007 (, and is well known Vancouver personal injury lawyer. See - first published 2012.07.12

Rose Keith, ICBC Car Accident Injury Disputes Lawyer l in downtown Vancouver BC Rose Keith, JD ICBC injury disputes / Medical Malpractice / Employment Law.

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© 2012 Rose Keith - published in

Rose Keith, see also Rose's article on Motorbike Insurance in BC

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bicylist holding bike in air, San Francsico photo  for safe habits - CLICK FOR MORE INFO

Photo credits
The photo of cyclist backlit by sun and holding her bike overhead was taken by Norberto Li, San Francisco dentist who is a helmet wearing cycling enthusiast who has also done restorative teeth surgery for patients suffering injury from bike and car accidents.  For more information go to his web site at

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