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The State of NoVa
Posted at 05:11 AM ET, 01/15/2013

Bill to protect Virginia cyclists from “dooring” sparks dismissive rage from Norfolk columnist


Cyclists use the bike lane along New Hampshire Avenue in Washington. A law there, and in 46 states, requires car drivers and passengers to use caution when opening their door around traffic. A proposal to enact a similar law in Virginia has drawn some blind scorn. ((Photo by Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post))

UPDATE, Wednesday, 5 p.m.: The Senate Transportation Committee today approved the “asinine measure” which “ought to be withdrawn” by a vote of 7-6.

ORIGINAL POST: As traffic has worsened in Northern Virginia, many of us are turning to bicycles to commute/get around town/live. But there are no laws in Virginia barring drivers from opening their doors into the path of cyclists, as there are in D.C., Maryland and 45 other states. The lack of such a law often prevents injured cyclists from recovering medical costs after a “dooring” incident, not to mention eliminate the legal (if not moral) motivation for motorists to avoid such incidents and preserve the health of cyclists.

A state legislator from Fairfax, Sen. Chap Petersen (D), has a bill pending to remedy this oversight. For this he was roundly trashed Sunday by Virginian-Pilot columnist Kerry Dougherty, who in her annual high-larious roundup of pending legislation attacked Reston last year for seeking its own license plate. She doesn’t look like a cranky 85-year-old man, but she sure writes like one. “Get off my laws you darn kids!”

It’s “the one bill that epitomizes all that’s wrong with Richmond,” Daugherty intones. It’s an “asinine measure” and “Sen. Petersen, this bill is embarrassing. It ought to be withdrawn.”

Petersen’s five-sentence bill does not explain “dooring,” or the health and financial risks to cyclists who are suddenly intercepted by a car door, and Daugherty does not mention any of that. She did read the title, “Opening and closing motor vehicle doors,” and decided, “The title alone justifies a ‘no’ vote.” Wouldn’t want to delve any further than that, being a “journalist” and all.

It’s actually hard to see why anyone would oppose a law which provides for a $100 civil, not criminal, penalty for opening a door into traffic; reminds drivers to share the road with cyclists; and removes an excuse for insurance companies to deny medical coverage to injured cyclists. Unless you’re scraping for another reason to bash Northern Virginia. The current setup encourages lawsuits because injured cyclists have little other recourse. Feel free to explain why this bill is a bad (or good) idea in the comments, and I presume you’ll have more insight than the cranky Norfolk columnist. Here again is the bill itself.

By  |  05:11 AM ET, 01/15/2013

Categories:  Politics, NoVa | Tags:  dooring, cycling, Sen. Chap Petersen, Kerry Dougherty

 
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