The Senate Transportation Committee of the Virginia General Assembly today consider SB 736, an anti-dooring bill that would bring Virginia’s motor vehicle code in line with the 90% of the nation that has the identical law on their books. Unfortunately, after some legislators and other opinion makers have branded what should be common sense as “foolishness,” SB 736 may have an uphill battle.
Late Update: SB 736 passes through Senate Transportation Committee for consideration by the full Senate.
Later Update: SB 736 passes the full Senate 23-17 on January 22. It’s now in the House Transportation Committee.
The WashCycle claims 45 states already have an anti-dooring law. In a survey of state traffic codes, I found 40 states and the District of Columbia (shown in green on the map below) have this law. I could not find a dooring law for 10 states (shown on red on the below map), including Virginia. (Please let me know in the comments if you know of a state I’ve missed).
Most states have adopted verbatim the model text provided in the Uniform Vehicle Code, which says “No person may open the door of a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so, without interfering with the movement of other traffic. No person may leave a door of a vehicle open on the side of a parked vehicle so as to obstruct the movement of vehicular traffic.” Virginia SB736 is worded the same, with the addition of a fine ($100) and exceptions for law enforcement, firefighters, rescue personnel and “school guards” (huh?!).
Although some Virginians are pitting this as a cycling issue, this law was written in the 1950s at the latest, long before the current bike boom and even the 1970s bike boom. California has had this law on the books since at least 1963. You’d think it should be stupidly obvious to watch for passing traffic when opening your car door, but it happens, and the people who do this complain furiously when they’re ticketed for violating the car door law. I was once told of a bus driver who proudly tracks the car doors he hits with hash marks on his coffee mug. Bus drivers also tell me they’re always, without exception blamed by the door opener whenever the bus “catches a door.”
Virginia Bicycle Federation has the goods on who to contact about the dooring bill. Committee hearing on this is happening as I post this.