This stirring call to action comes to you from HUB Vancouver. British Columbia’s Motor Vehicle Act is so out of date that a death caused due to dooring by a person driving a car results in a maximum fine of $81. Something needs to change.
Just last week, a person driving was charged under this very Motor Vehicle Act in the “dooring” death of a person cycling in North Vancouver earlier this year.
Maximum penalty? A fine of $81.
North Vancouver resident Mike McIntosh paid the ultimate price in January for another road user’s careless behaviour. He was riding a bike on the Esplanade West bike lane. Unexpectedly, a person in a car parked adjacent to the bike lane opened their car door in his way. This caused Mike to collide with a dump truck in the next travel lane. He died at the scene. McIntosh was a North Vancouver resident and Simon Fraser University librarian.
This nightmare scenario is all too vivid for those of us who regularly ride on BC’s busiest streets. We are hyper-aware of the cars and trucks we are forced to coexist with. In some cases, people on bikes are protected by cycling infrastructure, but most often, we are not. And right now, we aren’t very well protected with the current laws that set road user expectations and hold people meaningfully accountable for their actions.
The current Motor Vehicle Act, the laws governing cycling and driving in BC, is out of date. The last major revision of this critical legislation was in 1957, and it hasn’t even been updated since 1996. So much has changed since then with new types of infrastructure, different types of vehicles and road use, especially as cycling becomes an increasingly attractive mode of transportation for the residents of BC.
It is due to the outdated Motor Vehicle Act that the driver charged with unsafely opening his door, resulting in the death of Mike McIntosh, will be handed a mere fine. No criminal charges are being pursued for justice in the death of this avid cyclist and bike commuter. According to the law, the person in the car will face a mere $81 ticket.
HUB Cycling has long advocated for changes to create a true road safety act. Increased penalties for dangerous behaviour like “dooring” is among our 5 key requests. Ontario has made it clear that they are serious about holding road users to account by steeply increasing fines and demerit points for opening doors onto people on bikes. Fines should also be increased for harassment of people on bicycle, for theft or tampering with bicycles, aggressive driving, and motorist negligence causing injury or death of vulnerable road users.
How many more people on bikes must die before the BC Government takes road safety seriously?
With the driver’s court date set for July 24th, right now is the time for us to remind our MLA’s, Transportation Minister and Attorney General that we want an urgent update to the Motor Vehicle Act to encompass all road users. We want a Road Safety Act.