Ranting on Vancouver’s Doorknob Bylaw

Smart design or boneheaded ban?

By Brian Reynolds

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Photo credits: nickharris1/CC

In the fall of 2013, Vancouver’s city council went ahead and updated their building bylaws. Starting this past March, all new construction within the city including private property will have to install door handles instead of a doorknob.

The idea behind the ban was to help make the city become more progressive and move towards the idea of universal design. If you’re unfamiliar with universal design, the point is to create an environment that can be accessible for everyone.

The dastardly doorknob has been discriminating against the elderly and people with disabilities due to the cumbersome twisting action required to manipulate the doorknob. Personally, I’ve never come across anyone of any age that complained about the difficulty required to use a doorknob. Using a door handle is obviously much simpler, but is it the best option for every property?

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While Vancouver’s city council is filled with good intentions, their boneheaded doorknob ban can actually put dogs at risk. Door handles are easier to use than the traditional doorknob and that just isn’t for the elderly. Dogs are very smart and can learn to do things by watching people. Just looking quickly through YouTube you can find dogs easily opening doors with handles instead of knobs, like this dog, or this dog, or this dog. So if dogs can open front doors with door handles, what’s stopping them from running out into the street? A city is a dangerous place for an unsupervised dog.

I’d like to point out that in some very rare cases that dogs have been able to open doors with doorknobs but you’re almost just as likely to see a dog riding a bicycle. If the city had only imposed this ban on public property it would not be an issue for dogs and dog owners. By prohibiting the doorknob on private property, in our homes, it prevents people from being able to make their own decisions on how to run their lives. You might disagree with me and love the idea of a lever instead of a knob on your front door, but that’s your decision. It’s not the municipal (or any level) government’s role to dictate how we can or can’t open a door.

For outlawing Osbourn Dorsey’s 1878 invention of the doorknob, I’m putting Vancouver’s city council in the doghouse.