Ontario still does not have a vulnerable road user law but cyclists and advocates hope that will soon change. On Tuesday, Bill 158 which was tabled then rejected last year is alive again after Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife reintroduced the bill for the government’s consideration.
The reintroduction took place on the same day that Anthony Smith, a cyclist hit and seriously injured by a pickup truck in Barrie, Ont. in 2017, was at the provincial legislator at Queen’s Park to help spur on support for the bill. Cyclists and road safety advocates in Ontario have been pushing for a vulnerable road user act that would strengthen existing road laws, stiffen penalties and introduce new measures to make roads even safer.
“I would sincerely hope that after today and the law being demanded by the main active transportation groups, the Ontario Brain Injury Association, the United Seniors and Friends and Families for Safe Streets, that it would be very difficult for them [the Liberal majority government] to turn their back on it,” explained Patrick Brown, the founder of Bike Law Canada, via email to Canadian Cycling Magazine. “Even the City of Toronto has passed a motion requesting it. I am no politician, but I would think one would have to think very hard in ignoring it.
This bill has 50 charges, not just 1. It eliminates the ability to plead down a lower charge. It would have changed the lives of the victims that stood with us today. There is a difference @liberal_party – you HAVE NOT given Ontario a VRU Law, don't try to tell us that you have https://t.co/PIEcw9Pzqu
— Bike Law Canada (@BikeLawCanada) April 10, 2018
Supporters of the law say there need to be stiffer penalties for drivers who injure, main or kill cyclists and pedestrians. Anthony Smith was a victim of a severe collision when a driver made an illegal left-hand turn on rural road. The police initially laid three charges but ultimately only a $125 fine was given to the driver for an unrelated license plate violation.
“I want them [Ontario’s MPPs] to see vulnerable roads users need a different treatment,” Smith explained on CBC Metro Morning. “And if you are in a collision that involves a pedestrian or cyclist or someone in a wheelchair or other vulnerable road user, the penalties need to be higher because this is about equity. The consequences of these injuries are higher and the penalties need to be proportionally higher.”
For the bill to be passed, the Liberal government would need to get behind it which has not ye happened. In 2017, the bill was introduced as an amendment to an omnibus bill but was rejected by the government. With a provincial election scheduled for June 7, there could be a change in government on the horizon but Brown said this should be a bi-partisan bill that the current can get behind now and pass.
“Road violence should be an issue all the time until we stop it. Whether one is up for election or not, laws like this should be viewed as non-partisan and the right thing to do,” Brown said about the potential impact of the looming election. “The coalition and victims calling for this law do not care who does it. They just want it done.”
Brown added that if getting a vulnerable road user law in Ontario is important to you, constituents should reach out to their MPPs to find out where they stand and lobby them to support it. Additionally, Brown suggests support for groups like Friends and Families for Safe Streets can go along way. They are an organization made up of survivors and families who are pushing for Bill 158 but also other measures to better protect all victims of road violence.