In April, I responded to Bill 23 which creates minimum passing distances for cyclists, imposes speed limiters on heavy-duty vehicles to reduce collisions and greenhouse gas emissions, and expands the province’s ability to permit technology like robot delivery services. Overall, this legislation marks important progress towards less car-centric communities, though there is still plenty of work to be done to make our cities safer and increasingly friendly for alternative modes of transportation, like bikes and busses.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to Bill 23, the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act.
As both of my colleagues the Minister of Transportation and also the official opposition’s critic have noted, this bill is an important bill, especially for anybody who’s not in a motor vehicle.
I think the way that our laws in this province have evolved over the years is very much reflective of the car-centric society that we have. I can’t stand and speak to this bill without recognizing a constituent of mine on Saltspring Island, Myna Lee Johnson. Every time I go to Saltspring, Myna Lee reminds me of our car-centric society. She reminds me of the noise that’s generated by cars. She reminds me of the pollution that’s generated by cars. She reminds me of the dangers that motor vehicles pose to anybody who’s not in a motor vehicle.
Just take a look at the name of this act as a very basic start: the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act. We’re amending the Motor Vehicle Act. This is not an act that’s generally designed for safe transportation in all the different modes. This is about protecting and enhancing the use of motor vehicles. It’s a minor point with major impact, I think.
If what we are designing the rules of our transportation rights-of-way around is just the motor vehicle, then the outcomes will be that that will be the centre of the decision-making.
I think that now, as we’re looking at active transportation options that are increasingly prominent in our communities, perhaps it might be time for us to change the name of the act, to change what the act is built around, and that would just be transportation through a variety of different modes. A lot of the time and a lot of the anxiety that’s created in communities when a municipality moves to build bike lanes, for an example, on roads is that that space is for cars. They’re not spaces for cyclists. That space that’s now being taken up and made just for cyclists previously was made just for cars. So I’ve had a number of conversations where people get quite anxious and quite frustrated about that.
As someone who is a cyclist and chooses to get to work here, mostly on the nicest days, by bike, and even by bus when I’m not on my bike, the reality is that oftentimes those motor vehicles, often the single-occupancy vehicles are…. The preference is given to that form of transportation rather than creating space for buses, creating spaces for rapid buses, creating spaces for cyclists and pedestrians.
Having that on the record and recognizing the important advocacy that Myna Lee offers every time I go to Saltspring, I want her to know and want all of my constituents and, indeed, anybody who’s paying attention to this to know that these are important changes in this bill. But there is also a philosophical discussion that needs to happen in this province — that if we continue to build our legislation around a single form of transportation, then those are the outcomes that we’re going to get.
But today I’m very happy to be debating, as my colleague in the official opposition from Surrey–White Rock and the Minister of Transportation have been talking about safe passing laws for cyclists, enabling innovation like speed limiters on heavy-duty vehicles to help reduce collisions and improve greenhouse gas emissions and to expand the province’s ability to permit technology like robot delivery services.
As the Minister of Transportation noted in his speech, this is a bill that has had a lot of support from third-party stakeholders, people and groups outside this Legislature, in acknowledging these important changes.
As someone who cycles to work, cycles down to the Legislature — I’m one of the seven MLAs that have the benefit of living and working in the city — most of my ride is on an old railbed, now a trail, off the road. But there are a couple of spots on my commute where I am directly exposed to vehicles. As much as a cyclist can create as big a presence as they can on their bike, using bright colours and a lot of light, the reality of it is that there is always a sense that the cyclist is an imposition on this road right-of-way.
I think that that’s part of the psychology that needs to change and is changing by requiring drivers to share the road and to create a substantive amount of space in passing cyclists and not trying to rush to get past the cyclist before the oncoming vehicle gets there, creating a really dangerous situation for the person on the bike. I’ve had a few of those incidents, but the incidents that I’ve had are scary.
I think that the decision for me to divest of a vehicle, to move to a bicycle and to kind of commit, I guess, a portion of my commute on bike is that every day I get on that bike, I want to get home and see my family.
I guess just for the drivers out there, and as someone who also drives a vehicle, I often have to remind myself. It’s not difficult to get into the driver’s mindset when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle and to kind of lose all of that memory of the close calls on a bicycle. So I’m very pleased that this is an initiative that is underway in creating 1 metre between vehicles and cyclists and a minimum of 3 metres of distance following.
The next important thing that will come after this law is passed, of course, is the education of drivers that this is indeed the new law. Many of us get our driver’s licence and then that’s the last time that we really think about it. We know the rules. We follow the rules. But we don’t ever have to go through a process to be reminded of what the rules are, to brush up, to have those constant touch-ins throughout our driving career. When we’re making changes to the rules of the road, how the government informs the public that this is their new responsibility — a metre of distance in passing, three metres of distance behind in following…. Making sure that the public knows of that will be very important.
It’s also just to say that with respect to this new change, we are joining a large number of legislative jurisdictions across North America that are making these changes and making the roads more safe for cyclists. Thirty-nine provinces and states have passed a similar law, including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec.
I think it’s important just to put into context that 1,600 British Columbians on bicycles are injured in car crashes each year. Almost 80 percent of people say close-passing vehicles are their biggest threat while cycling, and those who bike regularly say that they are close-passed at least once a week. That’s slightly more than what my experience is, but certainly only one accident, just one incident, could be a life-changing experience for a cyclist.
The speed limiters on trucks. Some good questions being asked by the member of the official opposition. Just noting that putting speed limiters on trucks has been proven and shown to reduce at-fault accidents and to also reduce emissions. Ontario introduced this in 2008, capping speed limits at 105 kilometres an hour, with fines anywhere between $250 and $20,000. Quebec introduced it a year later with the same limit, at 105 kilometres an hour. But their fine structure is a much more narrow $305 to $1,050. It appears that British Columbia is expecting a similar 105-kilometre-an-hour limit.
I’m just going to end with this. I think that it’s incredibly important that we are creating the space and creating the legislative framework and the classes of vehicles for the future potential of self-driving vehicles. It feels like self-driving vehicles…. My colleague from Surrey–White Rock mentioned the Back to the Future reference from 1989. I also remember that movie, which also dates me. It seems like the self-driving car has always been just a couple of years away. It’s just a couple of years away.
Now that we see this renaissance for AI happening, perhaps we’ll find that yes, indeed — self-driving vehicles, little pods that move us from A to B, maybe a subscription service. They go and park or go and pick somebody else up, and then, when you need to come back from the grocery store, there’s a pod there to take you back to where you need to be. Perhaps we are just a few years away from that.
But it’s clearly more than just the vehicle that is going to be required for that technology to be in place. Certainly, a very robust network is going to need to be in place, access to I think the type of broadband capacity that we haven’t even imagined yet.
We are working towards that. Certainly, the developers are ever working towards making that a reality. So it’s good to see British Columbia creating the classes of vehicles and creating the framework for that to exist in.
Finally, I think just a tip of the hat to InDro Robotics. With the regulations that are coming in place for emerging technologies like delivery robots, there are a few companies out there right now that are using this technology already. I can’t remember the company’s name, but I just saw a company in Africa delivering blood from a central blood location out to hospitals in more remote areas using airplanes and parachutes — deliveries going every 20 minutes. A really phenomenal system.
InDro Robotics is a company that I think started on Saltspring Island, or at least has offices on Saltspring Island. The first robotic — I think it’s called “out of line of sight” — delivery that has happened in this country happened on Saltspring Island, in my riding. It happened with a pickup from the London Drugsin Cowichan, in Duncan, with a delivery to a location on Saltspring.
I’m grateful that the government is working to regulate that area, because I know that there are innovators in my riding that are working on this technology, and perhaps it will limit the number of trips that I need to make on my bike.
With that, I just want to raise my hands in gratitude for the changes that are being made here. As someone who is going to be immediately and directly impacted by these laws, it will make my life safer. I think I appreciate that. My family appreciates that, and people who cycle in this province and who are pedestrians in this province will appreciate it as well.
With that, I’ll take my seat.