Proposed Law on Dooring

13 Jan

According to RVA News, State Senator Chap Petersen (D – Fairfax) has introduced a bill intended to make motorists more attentive to the potential danger of opening their car door without checking for passing vehicles first.  The bill does not specifically mention bicycles, but apparently the idea of proposing the law came after one of Petersen’s staffers was doored while cycling.  The piece explains further:

If passed, SB 736 would require automobile drivers and passengers “to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open vehicle doors on the side adjacent to moving traffic.”  The bill also stipulates that doors “only be left open as long as necessary.” Violators would be fined up to $100.

Apparently Virginia is one of the few states that does not have such a law on the books.  Ideally this law would simply encourage more awareness on the part of those opening doors and highlight the fact that bicycles are legitimate road users.  It could also tip things in favor of the cyclist in terms of liability.

As is often the case, the comments inspired by the piece are interesting — if also somewhat disheartening in some cases.  It seems like almost every article about cycling provokes at least one or two people to rail about scofflaw cyclists.  The good thing is that it gives us an opportunity to respond.

I hope that if the law passes, it doesn’t give cyclists a false sense of security, however.  The best defense against getting doored is, after all, not riding in the door zone!

Zoning and Bike Parking

While we’re on the subject of laws, a piece about the difficulty of opening restaurants in Richmond due to parking requirements caught my eye a little while back.  Current zoning ordinances require businesses to secure a parking space for every 100 square feet they occupy.  This proves really challenging in places in many parts of the city, including downtown but also Carytown and Church Hill.

Here’s the fairly obvious relevance for cycling.  A really easy way for the city to encourage cycling and make things a bit easier for these entrepreneurs would be to allow some number of those required spaces to be offset by bicycle parking.  Maybe it would be possible for those businesses to offer a discount to people who use a bicycle to get there too!


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