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Halifax dooring incident prompts calls to revise Nova Scotia traffic laws

The Atlantic province is one of four provinces in Canada in which dooring isn't an offence

The dooring happened on Vernon Street in central Halifax. Image: Google Maps

On Monday, July 17, a Halifax-area cyclist by the name of Sara Kirk was riding with a friend along Vernon Street. Her friend, riding little farther ahead of Kirk, the CBC reports, stopped at a four-way intersection. Simultaneously, the occupant of a truck apparently prepared to disembark.

Moments later, her friend was lying on the asphalt—a victim of a dooring that catapulted her into the road.

“One minute she was on the bike, the next minute she was lying on the ground,” Kirk recalled. “The person…did not look when the door was opened and she was hit, literally hit, and catapulted into the road.” In response, Kirk—who sits on the board of Canada Bikes, an advocacy group with the aim to get more Canadians in the saddle—is calling on the Nova Scotia government to punish those who door riders more severely.

Nova Scotia, however, is one of only four provinces with traffic safety laws that don’t address the severity of dooring. Currently, to door a cyclist isn’t an offence under the province’s Motor Vehicle Act.

Along with New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia stands apart from the rest of the country, with highway legislation prohibiting the opening of car doors “until it is reasonably safe to do so” on the books of most provinces and territories. Speaking to the CBC, Brian Taylor, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia’s Transportation Department, said, “We know that this can be an issue for road users. We are currently looking at the feasibility of introducing amendments to address this safety concern.”

In order to get more Canadians riding, such amendments, Kirk suggests, are long overdue—and not just in Nova Scotia.

“We need a national cycling strategy,” she said. “We need to be putting in guidance for provinces around what we should be doing to promote more cycling and walking.”