After outcry, ICBC won't bill injured cyclist for damage to car that hit him

When a car ran a stop sign and hit cyclist Ben Bolliger in Vancouver last July, his right arm was broken so badly he required external metal rods to put the bones back together.

Months later, an initial ICBC report found Bolliger 50 per cent responsible for the accident, and he was billed over $3,000 for hood and windshield damage to the Mercedes that hit him.

“It’s just ridiculous, and it flies in the face of the policies of getting people out of cars and using active transportation to make vulnerable road users financially on the hook for repairs to vehicles that hit them,” said Bolliger. “So I was determined, at that point, to fight.”

After an outcry from Vancouver’s cycling community, on Wednesday ICBC backed down. Not only will the 35-year-old not have to pay for repairs to the car that hit him, the insurance corporation has changed its policy for similar accidents going forward.

In a statement, ICBC said it will no longer seek recovery for costs in some clearly defined situations, including:

  • Where a cyclist or pedestrian has suffered a severe or catastrophic injury.
  • If there has been a fatality
  • When ICBC must determine liability as 50/50 because there is not enough evidence to determine what happened.

Mike Koski with the B.C. Cycling Coalition said advocates found ICBC “very open to change” on the issue.

“They listened to the cycling advocacy groups,” he said. “They listened to the cyclist. They probably listened to social media, and it was a good result.”

Bolliger is glad his advocacy paid off.

“Today’s announcement that ICBC is no longer going to be seeking damages from vulnerable road users in certain instances is a welcome first step,” he said. “But it is a first step.”

His lawyer Joel Zanatta agrees more needs to be done, saying B.C.’s new no-fault insurance model, which keeps most accidents from ending up court, disproportionally hurts vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists.

“When a car strikes a cyclist, the injuries are severe. And the reality is Ben, at best, gets maybe his bike paid for, but he’s now suffering from permanent injuries with no access to the courts,” said Zanatta. “There is no compensation besides some basic medical treatment. It has been a very, very significant change.”

For Bolliger, the accident has been life changing.

“I will never have full range of motion in my right hand, my dominant hand,” he said.

But the avid cyclist isn’t letting that stop him from getting back on his bike.

“I’m not doing the kind of rides that I used to like doing, but you know, that’s my new normal,” he said.