The session hasn’t even started and one of my bills is getting a fair amount of PR, both positive and negative. In a Post article, SB 736 was referenced as “quirky” and then was impliedly relegated to the “stupid” pile by some important people down here.
Why is this relevant? Am I restricting personal freedom? Common sense?
No, it’s about safety. As bike lanes become more prevalent in our urban areas, “dooring” has become a major threat to cyclists. It’s a threat because there is no way to prevent accidents and serious injuries.
A “dooring” occurs when a bicyclist is legally traveling down a bike lane or a roadway (not a sidewalk). A driver’s side door way is thrown open, causing a collision and sending the bicyclist flying over the handle bars. Permanent injuries or even death can occur from an accident that might otherwise appear innocuous.
Right now, the driver is not at fault. They are permitted to open the car door at their discretion. There is no law to find them negligent of causing the injury.
My bill would change that by shifting the responsibility to drivers to open their doors safely — and otherwise keep them closed — when there is oncoming traffic. The maximum civil penalty for a violation ($100) is not large but the law will do two additional things: (i) raise awareness that “dooring” is illegal and (ii) shift legal responsibility to the driver if there are injuries and property damages from a “dooring” accident.
Since drivers are in the best position to avoid “dooring” accidents, that is only fair. Incidentally, over 20 states, including Maryland and D.C., already have this law.
Now that I’ve explained it — is it really all that quirky?