Bill to protect Va. cyclists from ‘dooring’ goes to Senate

Posted at 7:46 PM, Jan 18, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-19 01:08:27-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)— Lawmakers at the General Assembly are working on legislation that would fine drivers who open their car doors in front of, and into bikers.

The problem is known as “dooring,” and at least 40 states already have a law that penalizes drivers who open a car door when traffic is passing.

The damage from such incidents can cost bicyclists anywhere from a few hundred bucks to “thousands of dollars,” said Luke Stevens, the owner of BunnyHop bike repair shop

Stevens sees all kinds of damage from dooring, and the accidents don’t just hurt the bike, they can hurt the rider.

Amy George, avid cyclist and daily commuter, supports the bill, especially after what happened to her at West Cary and Harrison streets.

George, an analyst with the city, was riding through the intersection when she was doored.

“He hit me with his door and I went across a couple of lanes of traffic,” she said.  “I lost consciousness.”

Emergency personnel helped her from the scene after she regained consciousness. She escaped with minor skin injuries, some road rash.

“But it was very painful,” said George.” Not something I would want to repeat again.”

State lawmakers want to keep what happened to her from happening to other cyclists.  A bill is moving through the General Assembly that would fine drivers $100 dollars for opening their car door into the path of a bicyclist, or oncoming traffic.

Despite the fact that a majority of the nation enforces some form of protection from "dooring" for cyclists and pedestrians, not everyone stands behind the Virginia proposal.

"While it's concerning that I might be fined $100 dollar for just opening my door,” said Paul Howell. “And then, a bike that's speeding that I didn't see and that's called negligence that seems a bit rough."

Some question if such a law could even be enforced.

Senator John Watkins, (R)-10th District, is against the legislation.

"Keep in mind, this legislation affects you in densely populated areas and rural areas,” he said. “You can't leave your door open for what is determined to be an inordinate amount of time, otherwise you get fined.”

George believes the bill makes perfect sense. "In this case, it's our bodies instead of just our cars."

The “dooring” bill has passed the Senate transportation committee.  It now goes onto the full Senate for their approval.

CBS 6 is told that could happen next week. We will continue to follow this story.