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Starting today, September 1, 2015, drivers–and cyclists–will face stiffer fines for a variety of unsafe behaviours.

The “Making Ontario Roads Safer Act”, which sailed through the legislature with unanimous support in June, seeks to reduce collisions on the roads. Many of the changes that come into effect today (more are coming into effect at several points over the next few years) are specifically aimed at protecting cyclists, largely through the introduction of weightier fines under the Highway Traffic Act.

These cyclist-friendly fines include:

Distracted driving: There will now be a set fine of $490 and three demerit points for distracted driving. Novice drivers will receive a minimum 30-day suspension. This is considerably more severe than the current $60 minimum penalty.

‘Dooring’ cyclists or vehicles: The dreaded “door prize” will now impose upon drivers a set fine of $365 and three demerit points. The current minimum is $60 (and no points).

Passing cyclists: Drivers must now leave a buffer of at least one metre when passing a cyclist. Failure to do so will mean a $110 fine and two demerit points. In a community safety zone, passing a cyclist with less than 1 meter of distance will mean a $180 fine and two points.

Improper lighting on bicycle: Per subsection 62(17) the Highway Traffic Act, during the period between a half-hour before sunset and a half-hour after sunrise, or during periods of otherwise poor visibility, cyclists must ensure there is a white or amber light on the front, a red light or reflector on the back, and reflective material on both both front and back forks of their bicycles. Cyclists who do not have proper lighting for their bicycles will now face higher fines. Before September 1, there was a set fine of $20 for improper lighting on a bicycle. This has now increased to $110.

As urban cycling continues to grow in popularity in cities like Toronto, drivers and cyclists will need to find improved ways to safely share the road. These stiffer penalties will hopefully go some distance in discouraging unsafe behaviour.

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