Pickup driver found liable in crash with cyclist on popular Vancouver bike route

Vancouver Courier

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A pickup truck driver has been found liable for causing a collision with a cyclist on a popular Vancouver bike route in 2013 that resulted in the man being diagnosed with a brain injury.

Javad Behragam, who was riding west to work along the 10th Avenue bike route, collided with a 2011 Ford Ranger driven by Peter Paviglianiti on the morning of Sept. 23, 2013.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that a pickup driver was liable in a collision involving a cyclist at a roundabout on West 10th Avenue at Birch Street. Photo Dan Toulgoet

The collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. in a roundabout at West 10th Avenue and Birch Street. Behragam was knocked off his bicycle and lay unconscious on the traffic circle for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a ruling posted May 24 to the B.C. Supreme Court website, Madam Justice Emily Burke said Paviglianiti was “100 per cent liable for the accident.” Burke’s decision did not include awarding damages.

“The evidence establishes that the cyclist entered and was in the intersection first,” Burke wrote.

“The [driver] was focused on traffic coming from the west. He looked right but did not appear to look left. Careful review of the testimony reveals that the defendant may have glanced left, but it was more likely that he just relied on his peripheral vision.”

Burke noted Behragam, who was in his late 40s at the time of the crash, has been diagnosed with a brain injury and suffers from some “memory issues.”

Behragam was born in Iran and came to Canada in December 1989. He is a potter by trade and owns and operates a pottery business called “U Paint I Fire” on West Fourth Avenue.

He was on route to work from his East Side home when the collision occurred. He was riding five days a week at the time of the accident — a commute that took 45 to 60 minutes.

On the day of the accident, Behragam was dressed in a yellow and black jacket with reflective tape and wearing a helmet. His bike had an orange reflector on the wheel.

Behragam estimated he was travelling 14 to 17 kilometres per hour before the collision. Burke noted Behragam does not recall what occurred in the moments just prior to impact.

“Mr. Behragam says that he tried to brake and swerve left in order to avoid the accident, but that it was too late,” Burke wrote.

“He and his bicycle came into contact with the left fender and door of the truck before falling to the ground. The next thing Mr. Behragam remembers is waking up in the hospital.”

Paviglianiti argued he entered the intersection before or at the same time as Behragam. He also disputed Behragam’s estimate that Paviglianiti was travelling 40 to 50 kilometres per hour in his truck; he testified he was driving five kilometres per hour.

Furthermore, Paviglianiti said the point of impact — the “mid-driver side of the truck” — confirms that he was the dominant driver with the right of way.

Paviglianiti, who lives in the area, said he was familiar with the intersection, having travelled through it many times to get home. He knew to be cautious because of the number of cyclists who use the route.

“As his vehicle approached the west side of the raised median, [Paviglianiti] felt and saw a ‘dark’ impact just beside his head,” Burke wrote.

“At this point, he was looking straight ahead and heading south. The force of the impact was such that, if his window had been open, the cyclist would have come through into the front passenger seat. He did not see a cyclist until after the collision.”

Paviglianiti said he was in a state of shock after the collision and that he or someone else called 911 within seconds after impact. Paviglianiti stayed at the scene and spoke to police.

Burke’s ruling relied on expert testimony from engineer Robin Brown, who specializes in motor vehicle accident analysis and reconstruction.

Brown’s opinion was the relatively minor damage to the truck’s side panels — “in the absence of structural damage to the bicycle” — would indicate Behragam’s bicycle speed was low at impact.

Brown concluded that if the truck and bicycle were travelling at the same speed, then the bicycle would have been in the intersection “for about 5.5 times the length of time the Ford truck was in the intersection.”

Added Brown: “When the Paviglianiti Ford entered the intersection, the Behragam bicycle was about 1.6 metres east of the path of the Ford. The bicycle and rider would be in full view of Mr. Paviglianiti.”

Paviglianiti successfully introduced a report to the court from engineer Kurt Ising. Burke said it wasn’t made clear until final argument that its purpose was to “effectively establish a wider intersection and thereby argue that the defendant had been in the intersection longer than the plaintiff [and was, as a result, the dominant driver].”

“Ultimately, Mr. Ising’s report is of no assistance to the court,” Burke wrote.

“In contrast to the report of Mr. Brown, Mr. Ising did not visit the accident site. Further, Mr. Ising uses a definition of the term ‘intersection’ that is at odds with the statutory definition in [the Motor Vehicle Act]. Furthermore, various factual elements upon which Mr. Ising relied in his report were not established on the evidence, making the report of little to no value to the court.”

The Courier spoke to Behragam Thursday by telephone, but he referred questions to his lawyer Kevin Miles, who could not be reached before this story was posted.

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