Steve Wallace: Fine jumps for ‘dooring’ cyclists

For as long as I can remember, the fine and penalty point violation for opening a car door unsafely has been $81 and two points.

The term “dooring” has become legendary among cyclists and drivers alike. The fine itself was always thought by many to be far too low, considering the potential damage to relatively innocent cyclists.

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The fine has been raised to $368, as of Sept. 21 this year. This is good news. Finally, after decades of associated groups lobbying, there has been a politician who not only listened, but also acted.

The injuries sustained by a cyclist crashing into an open motor vehicle door can be fatal, but are more often serious than minor. Damage to the bike is of much less importance than to the rider.

David Eby, in his role as attorney-general and minister responsible for ICBC, made the announcement about a week ago. This increased fine, coupled with the same penalty point assessment, may be a wake-up call for all drivers.

Using the Dutch Reach, when the right arm is used to open the driver's door, will give all drivers a better angle to spot cyclists approaching from the left side blind spot.

This regulation, and associated fine, is a complete anomaly, as compared to the rest of the Motor Vehicle Act. It is the only time, except for the own lane head-on crash, that a driver can smash into another vehicle and remain blameless. That is right, blameless! Because traffic of all types is at the mercy of person opening the vehicle door, it has been deemed the responsibility of the driver, or any passenger, to look for hazards before opening the vehicle door.

Many drivers are surprised to learn they are 100 per cent at fault, when this type of crash occurs. Furthermore, passengers may also be held liable, if they open a vehicle door and a crash takes place.

It is best to allow passengers to exit the vehicle at the sidewalk location immediately beside the vehicle. This works well, even in a one-way street configuration. Children and unlicensed riders should never exit into traffic. They are often oblivious to the danger of all types of lateral movement.

Now that the minister responsible has taken definitive action against “dooring,” it may be time to take a good look at the paltry fine of $30 for not wearing a bike helmet. Police are reluctant to get out of their vehicles to enforce such an offence, particularly when there are other higher priorities.

Given that the above-mentioned fine of “dooring” has increased about four-fold, it is probably time to do the same with the fine for a helmet violation for cyclists. A sum of $120 would be more like it. Who could argue with it? Or perhaps the fine for a cyclist without a helmet should be about the same as a driver or passenger without a seatbelt.

It is good to see so many cyclists pedalling back and forth. It means fewer motor vehicles on our roads, a healthier population and an environmental advantage.

How long will it be before the cycle crowd becomes the cash cow for government, in the same way motor vehicles have funded all sorts of endeavours?

There are other unanswered questions.

Will there be a special tax on electric vehicles, given they have caused a loss of gas tax revenue?

Will motorized cycles or standard cycles be taxed at the same rate as traditional motorcycles?

Will there be a universal road tax for all users, regardless of the mode of travel?

Will certain cyclists be required to insure, test and register?

The future may well be financial, as opposed to friendly.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

stevedwallace@shaw.ca

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