On Monday, the Province announced new legislation that would improve cyclist safety on Ontario’s roads and highways. If passed, the proposed Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act and supporting amendments to the Highway Traffic Act will:
- Increase fines for distracted driving from a range of $60 – $500 to a range of $300 – $1,000 and assign three demerit points upon conviction
- Increase fines for drivers for dooring cyclists from a range of $60 – $500 to range of $300 – $1,000 and raise the demerit points from two to three
- Require all drivers to maintain a distance of one metre when passing cyclists
- For cyclists, the fine for having improper lights or reflective equipment would go up from $20 to $500.
These changes address some of the issues raised by the Chief Coroner in his 2012 Report, Cycling Death Review. For example, the report identified driver inattention as a contributing factor in 28% of cyclist-vehicle collisions.
The report also addressed the importance of a one meter passing rule:
Notwithstanding the potential challenges of [a one-meter passing rule], the fact remains that a significant number – the majority, in fact – of cycling deaths in our Review that involved a motor vehicle occurred when the driver was attempting to pass the cyclist from behind. Often, the driver attempted to pass the cyclist without waiting for a gap in traffic in the adjacent or oncoming lane such that it would allow the driver to move to the left in order to afford the cyclist a safe distance when passing. In order to support and emphasize the need for drivers to allow of a safe distance when passing a cyclist, the OCCO recommends the introduction of a one-meter / three-foot passing rule.
The increased fine for incidents of “dooring” is also appropriate given the risk to cyclists. In 2011, a woman in Ottawa was killed when an opening car door knocked her into traffic.
Many of the people in our office regularly commute by bicycle and we are pleased that the Province is taking steps to help ensure they, and other cyclists, arrive safely.