Retaking Roads from Cars

Graphic credit: NC Coalition for Bicycle Driving

Speaking of bicycles… Sen. Chap Peterson, D-Fairfax, has introduced SB736, which would forbid drivers and passengers to open car doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic “until is is reasonably safe to do so.” Violators would be fined by up to $100.

On his Ox Road South blog, Peterson defends the bill as a safety measure in an era in which the number of cyclists is on the increase. He writes:

As bike lanes become more prevalent in our urban areas, “dooring” has become a major threat to cyclists. It’s a threat because there is no way to prevent accidents and serious injuries.

A “dooring” occurs when a bicyclist is legally traveling down a bike lane or a roadway (not a sidewalk). A driver’s side door way is thrown open, causing a collision and sending the bicyclist flying over the handle bars. Permanent injuries or even death can occur from an accident that might otherwise appear innocuous.

Right now, the driver is not at fault. They are permitted to open the car door at their discretion. There is no law to find them negligent of causing the injury.

My bill would change that by shifting the responsibility to drivers to open their doors safely — and otherwise keep them closed — when there is oncoming traffic.

Changes like this are necessary to create a bike-friendly culture in Virginia that elevates bicycles to a legitimate transportation alternative.

– JAB

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