Cyclists got great news last week when the Provincial government announced long-awaited changes to the Highway Traffic Act, called the “Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act”.
The wide ranging Omnibus Bill contains a number of additions, amendments and technical updates to the Highway Traffic Act, with many of those affecting cyclists. The bill also incorporates a number of private member bills that had previously been proposed but had never passed, including Norm Miller’s paved shoulders bill.
- Increased penalties for “dooring”, including demerit points to those who open their vehicle door in the path of an oncoming cyclist.
- Enhanced tools for municipalities to improve safety — contra-flow bicycle lanes, bicycle traffic signal leads that allow cyclists the opportunity to go ahead of motorized vehicles at intersections.
- The introduction of a one-metre safe passing law.
- Paved shoulders on designated highways.
- While not in the legislation, the government is also honouring the 2012 Ontario Coroner’s Cycling Death Review and has committed to consultations with municipalities on the topics of sidewalk cycling and helmet use.
Along with the legislation, the government will also provide education and public awareness components to ensure that the new laws are clearly understood by all drivers.
The bill still needs to be debated in the House of Commons. Then it will move to second reading stage and be passed to a committee for further discussion and possible amendments. The bill will then return to the House for third reading and final vote.
Many stakeholder organizations were part of developing and lobbying for the bill, including the Share the Road Coalition, the Canadian Automobile Association, the Ontario Trucking Association, the Ontario Chiefs of Police, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. There is multi-lateral wide support for the bill, and expectations are that it will pass fairly quickly, even with the possibility of a provincial election.
This is great news for the 5.1% of Ontarians (650,000) who ride their bikes daily or almost daily, and the 31.2% of Ontarians who ride weekly or monthly. It will also help to encourage the 68% of Ontarians who would prefer to cycle more often, but for many reasons, are discouraged from doing so.
The bill is the first step in implementing some of the recommendations of the Ontario Cycling Strategy, with the hope that funding for municipal infrastructure will follow soon. 70% of Ontarians believe that cyclists need more bike lanes or paved shoulders and 78% believe that more people would cycle if there was more and better cycling infrastructure.