Sudbury

New Ontario law promises to make roads safer for cyclists

The Ontario government passed new legislation this week aimed at making roads safer. Along with tougher fines for distracted driving and driving under the influence, the law also focuses on making roads safer for cyclists.

New law requires drivers to maintain at least one metre of space between their vehicle and cyclists

Sudbury cyclist union chair Rachelle Niemela says a new Ontario law that requires all drivers to maintain at least one metre of space between their vehicle and a cyclist wherever possible is a welcome change. (Marina Von Stackelberg/CBC)
New legislation will increase fines for "dooring" cyclists. It will also require a minimum distance between bikes and cars passing them. The CBC's Marina von Stackelberg spoke about the changes with Rachelle Niemela, chair of the Sudbury Cyclist Union. 3:50
The Ontario government passed new legislation this week aimed at making roads safer. Along with tougher fines for distracted driving and driving under the influence, the law also focuses on making roads safer for cyclists.

Fines and demerit point deductions will increase for drivers who "door" cyclists — when someone in a parked car opens their door without checking, and hits a passing cyclist.

The law will also require all drivers to maintain at least one metre of space between their vehicle and a cyclist wherever possible.

It's a welcome change, says Sudbury cyclist union member Rachelle Niemela.

"If somebody should side-swipe you and hit you, they're automatically in the wrong because they have not given you obviously the one metre."

Niemela noted that, while cycling, she experiences somebody driving too close to her at least two or three times a week.

"Yesterday, I was travelling down Barrydowne and I had a big black truck that passed me within about six inches."

Now that the Ontario government is making it mandatory for cars to leave a minimum of one metre between the car and the cyclist whenever possible, she wonders how that law will be enforced.

"So the challenge is going to be, how are you going to prove that someone passes you within that one metre?"

Sudbury Police spokesperson Cst. Bert Lapalme said somebody filing a complaint would need to have enough information to identify the driver of the vehicle.

"Having said that, any patrol officer — if they notice that that distance is not being respected — could make that traffic stop."

Both Niemela and Lapalme said they hope making the mandatory space a law, rather than just a recommendation, will change the behaviour of drivers.

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