Why is car dooring so serious?
Car dooring is when a driver endangers a cyclist by opening a door in their path. As cyclists, we are very aware of the danger of car dooring, and many of us know someone who has been injured this way. The seriousness of the offence was bought home by the death of James Cross, the 22 year old who was tragically killed after a driver opened her car door onto him.
What’s the car dooring bill?
Greens MP Greg Barber has introduced a law into parliament to increase the penalty for car dooring in Victoria. If passed, the bill will increase the maximum fine from $366 to $1220. It will also give police the power to dock three demerit points from drivers. This will bring the car dooring penalties in line with offences such as running a red light, or driving past a stationary tram with its doors open.
How will it change the law?
Under current legislation motorists can be fined $122 by police for car dooring, while a court can impose a maximum fine of $366. Drivers cannot lose any demerit points. This is pathetically inadequate given that dooring can seriously injure or kills cyclists. To put it into context, the fine for a cyclist not having a bell or reflector is higher : $153, with a $610 maximum court fine.
I support the bill! What can I do?
Ride to Parliament on Leap Day, February 29, 12.45pm at Gordons Reserve (triangle of grass just south of state parliament), Spring Street, Melbourne. We’ll be asking parliamentarians to support the bill, as well as calling for more bike lanes and respect on the roads. More details here.
But I can’t make it on Leap Day! What else can I do?
1) Contact your local upper house MPs and tell them that you support the bill and want to see tougher penalties for drivers. Ask for more safe bike lanes while you’re at it! If you can’t figure out who your local member is, just email premier firstname.lastname@example.org.
What else do we need to protect cyclists from car dooring?
Changing the law is a good first step. Here are three more things that need to be done:
1) Safe bike lanes and other infrastructure
Safer infrastructure is the most effective way to stop car dooring and protect cyclists. After the death of James Cross, the coroner recommended Vicroads work with local councils to identify places where separated bike lanes are needed. VicRoads Crashstats suggest dooring hot spots include Kilda Road, Grattan Street, Collins Street and Sydney Road. As the Bicycle Users Group for the City of Melbourne, the Melbourne BUG has asked the state government to invest in a separated bike lane along St Kilda Road.
Victoria Police inexplicably failed to charge the driver who caused the death of James Cross. If the police are serious about the safety of cyclists, they must enforce the law against drivers who endanger, injure, and kill cyclists through their careless actions. Police enforcement efforts need to be targeted at dangerous drivers, who are the overwhelming cause of deaths and injuries, and not cyclists.
3) Driver awareness campaigns
The coroner also recommended both drivers and cyclists receive education about dooring. But doorings are always the fault of the driver, and while cyclists are very aware of the hazard, there’s often very little we can do to avoid it, particularly given that the lack of proper bike lanes often means we are squeezed up next to car doors. Education campaigns need to focus on drivers.