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New West motorists to face bigger fines for “dooring” cyclists

New West councillor: More needs to be done to protect cyclists

Motorists will face steeper fines for an action that can have devastating consequences for cyclists – including death.

In an effort to help reduce cycling collisions and better protect everyone on the road, the provincial government is significantly increasing the fine for "dooring" – when people open a door of a parked car when it’s not considered reasonably safe to do so. Effective Sept. 21, the fine for dooring will increase to $368, which is more than four times the current fine.

"Dooring can cause serious injury, and the new fine reflects that," said Claire Trevena, B.C.’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. "But it is preventable, which is why we are also investing in public education. We want to make sure everyone who uses the roads does so safely."

The province hopes the higher fine, as well as a public education and awareness campaign, will help improve cyclists' safety by making drivers more aware of their actions.

"Increasing the amount of the fine for dooring is a positive step forward in reforming our outdated Motor Vehicle Act," Navdeep Chhina, acting executive director of HUB Cycling, said in a press release. "We must continue to make our roads safer by building safer infrastructure and increasing fines for motorist negligence risking injury or death of vulnerable road uses, as well as for aggressive driving, harassment of people cycling and walking, and for theft or tampering with bicycles."

Coun. Patrick Johnstone welcomes the higher fines for dooring. He noted that it was among the recommendations related to Motor Vehicle Act modernization in the BC Road Safety Law Reform Group Position Paper on cycling laws, which he took to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention as a resolution in 2018, where it was endorsed.

“The increased fines are a great idea, and I hope this raises awareness of the danger of dooring,” he said. “Many drivers don't even know this is the law; that a person in a car is responsible when they open their door to check first and assure it isn't into the path of another road user.”

North Vancouver cyclist Mike McIntosh died in January 2019, after a motorist was alleged to have opened his door into the adjacent bike lane, setting off a chain reaction of events that led to the cyclist’s death.

Johnstone, an avid cyclist, said it is really dangerous when cyclists are forced into the "door zone" by poor cycling infrastructure.

“Hitting a door is bad enough, but the cyclist can be tossed into adjacent traffic and killed, like happened to Mike McIntosh in North Vancouver last year,” he said. “I have never been hit this way, but have had too many close calls to count.”

While he supports the increased fines, Johnstone said more work needs to be done to protect cyclists.

“The increased fine shows the provincial government understands this as a risk to bicycle users in urban areas; A good step, but there is more to do,” he said. “This change was one of several that were included in a resolution sent to UBCM by New Westminster in 2018, asking that the Motor Vehicle Act be reformed to address the needs of active transportation and evolution of how urban streets are used.”

Ultimately, said Johnstone, the solution is to build better infrastructure so bicycle users aren’t forced to ride in the dangerous "door zone", and especially not between parked and moving cars.

“The temporary installation on Seventh Avenue is an example where bicycles are on the other side of parked cars, and a three-foot buffer exists so a door can't be swung into the cyclist path,” he said. “It is different, which challenges some people, but this is the direction we need to go to protect people on bicycles and people in cars, so a momentary mistake doesn't cause disaster.”

With files from the North Shore News