Will Ontario's tougher measures against distracted driving, 'dooring'
and passing bikes too closely make us safer?
Published on Tue Mar 18 2014
Cracking down on motorists and cyclists who flout the rules of the road
will make the streets safer for everyone — at least in the Ontario
The minority Liberals at Queen's Park introduced a new bill this week
that jacks up penalties for a slew of traffic offences. It doubles the
maximum fines to $1,000 for distracted driving and for "dooring"
a passing cyclist. The bill also introduces a new rule requiring motorists
to maintain a one-metre distance when passing a cyclist.
The bill introduces a rule requiring motorists to keep a one-metre distance
from cyclists on the road.
California recently put forward its own version of this — the "three
foot" law — joining a list of jurisdictions in Canada and the
U.S. trying to do more to prevent cyclist deaths, said Jared Kolb, a spokesperson
The change was prompted by a coroner's review of cycling deaths from
2006 to 2010, which found that a "majority" of biking fatalities
involving a motor vehicle occurred when the motorist was trying to pass
Kolb doesn't expect statistics to show an immediate surge in safety,
but believes it will make a difference in the long run.
"This is crucial for how we educate drivers going forward," he
said, describing how the rule can be taught in drivers' school and
included in government safety handbooks.
"These things take time," he said.
One of the great fears of every urban cyclist is the dreaded "door
prize," awarded when a car door swings out into the bike lane, and
Like the distracted driving penalty, the Liberals' new bill hikes the
penalty for "dooring" a passing cyclist — from a maximum
of $500 to $1,000.
Daniel Flanzig is
a lawyer in New York City who says 50 per cent of the cases he works on
involve a cyclist injured in a "dooring" incident. The city has long been subject to anti-dooring laws on the municipal
and state levels, though
Flanzig doesn't believe they act as a deterrent. However, he says that's
mainly because cops in New York don't take infractions to court unless
they personally witness the "dooring".
"I don't think it's actually ever been a deterrent, but I
think it works very, very well when I have a civil claim," he said,
adding that he'd welcome stiffer fines for "dooring" in
New York, and supports the increased penalties in Ontario.
Kolb agrees, calling the tougher dooring fine a "step forward."
Still, if the law is to be effective, he thinks education campaigns need
to follow when the government decides to throw the book. He'd like
to see a campaign to teach people to use their hand closest to the middle
of the vehicle, forcing them to twist and look before opening a car door.
"I think there's an opportunity here to change how we go about
opening a (car) door," Kolb said.