Spokane residents and visitors getting around Spokane and surrounding communities have ride-share options with companies like Lyft. Especially with the younger crowd, the ability to reserve a ride with a swipe on a phone and the lower costs compared to a taxi are helping Lyft and others trend upward.
Another upward trend in Spokane is cycling. This is part due to a drive to not use fossil-fuels and part due to the need for low-costs commuting in the city. Spokane currently had around 90 miles in bike lanes and has plans to build more. This, along with other factors, has garnered the city a Bronze level Bicycle Friendly Community Award from the League of American Bicyclists in 2014.
Lyft v. Cyclist
Unfortunately, with an increase in both ride-sharing and cycling, it’s inevitable that collision between the two happen, and when it does, it’s almost always the cyclist that gets the short end.
Numerous studies show that Bike lanes reduce accidents and fatalities by half in unprotected bike lanes and as much as 90 percent in protected lanes. But cars don’t always stay out of bike lanes, and even a parked car can be a risk for a cyclist.
Spokane Bike Lane Laws
Spokane’s Municipal Code Section 16A 61.570 states that cars may not park or stop in a bike lane except “when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or official traffic control device .“ Spokane bike advocates applaud the rule but wish for harsher penalties and stricter enforcement.
Picking Up/Dropping Off
Lyft drivers typically use a curb to pick up and drop off their ride, and sometimes this puts them in a bike lane. While this is illegal it happens fairly often, and cyclists often don’t look for cars parked in the bike lane which puts them at risk for serious injuries. it
Dooring is a problem wherever there are bikes and parked cars. It happens when a cyclist rides by a parked or stopped car and someone opens the car door right in the path of the cyclist. This can cause severe injuries to the cyclist.
This happens in bike lanes where a car is stopped (legally or illegally) and cyclist veers around the stopped car only to get a door for their efforts. Another way is on streets with no bike lane but the space next to the curb has cars legally parked. The cyclist is riding on the right-hand side of the street—as sometimes required by law—and gets doored by a Lyft driver or passenger.
Liability and Insurance
In any accident, the at-fault driver is required by law to pay for all financial losses incurred by the victim. Lyft has a $1 million insurance policy for damages done by their drivers. This is good for those injured, but there is loophole, sort of. The $1 million limit is only available to those injured by a Lyft driver while he or she is on an official ride. Once the passenger departs, then the driver is not “working for” Lyft until the drive accepts another ride.
So, if a cyclist is injured during a ride, then the company will pay up to $1 million. However, if not, then the lower policy limits of the driver’s own insurance will have to be sufficient.
If the injuries are caused by the passenger, then that person’s home owners policy will pay for the damages.
Closing the Gap
In 2015, Washington begin requiring a higher minimum for ride-share drivers. The law doubled the minimum insurance requirements to $50,000 bodily injury, $100,000 for two or more inured for all ride-share drivers and tripled the property minimum to $30,000.
While it’s not a million, it does address the higher risk cyclists have from Lyft and other ride-share drivers due to the amount of time they are out on the roads.