An all too common form of incident that can cause serious problems for cyclists
As cyclists we constantly have to have our wits about us, particularly when riding in urban areas, with a whole load of hazards that could potentially cause us injury.
One of the most common hazards that cyclists face is “car dooring”, which has led to the death of cyclists in the past.
What is car dooring?
Car dooring, or simply “dooring”, is where a cyclist (or motorcyclist) is hit by the door of a parked vehicle opened by a passenger or driver, usually after they fail to check over their shoulder for cyclists.
This type of collision occurs most frequently in urban areas where cars are parallel parked along the side of a road. Taxi ranks and lines of cars parked outside schools in the morning and mid-afternoon are common places that these types of incidents occur.
Is car dooring illegal?
Car dooring is illegal under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, which states that “No person shall open, or cause or permit to be opened, any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person”.
This offence has been criticised by cycling charities such as Cycling UK as it only allows for a maximum punishment of a £1,000, with there being no possibility of the offender receiving penalty points on their license or prison sentence.
However there are also loopholes in the law surrounding car dooring, such as when driver Kenan Aydogdu was charged with manslaughter after opening his door into cyclist Sam Harding, who died after crashing into the door before being run over by a bus in 2012.
Despite admitting to not looking in the mirror before opening his door, Mr Aydogdu was found not guilty in the case, and could not be charged with causing death by dangerous driving as he was not driving at the time of the incident.
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How common is car dooring?
The latest government figures reveal that there were 490 casualties where a “vehicle door opened or closed negligently” was a contributing factor in 2016. Of these, 429 were “slight injuries” and 60 were “serious injuries”, with one person dying in a dooring incident.
However these figures only include “accidents where a police officer attended the scene and in which a contributory factor was reported” meaning that there will be many more incidents that happen each year that are not recorded in the official figures.
What measures can be introduced to prevent car dooring?
Cycling campaigners have called for the government to introduce measures to reduce the likelihood of cyclists being doored, specifically with a public awareness campaign around the “Dutch Reach”.
This is a different technique for opening car doors, which involves opening the door with the hand furthest away from it (so a driver using their left hand if getting out of a right-hand drive car).
This means that the driver or passenger is unable to fully open to door without being forced to turn their body, making them look over their shoulder to check for the presence of cyclists before getting out.
What can cyclists do to avoid being doored?
The most obvious thing that cyclists can do to avoid being knocked off by a driver or passenger opening a car door is to ride further out into the road when riding past parked cars.
This will not only mean that you should be far enough out not to be hit by car doors being opened, but should also mean you are more likely to be seen by drivers and passengers who are only looking for cars in the middle of the road before opening a door.
The technical term for this is taking the “primary position”, which basically means riding assertively in the middle of the lane, and is often good practice when riding in slow-moving traffic and in areas where it is not safe for vehicles to overtake.
Another thing that cyclists can do is to keep an eye ahead, looking for cars that have recently pulled in or have their hazard warning lights on, often a sign that people might be about to get out.
Finally, make sure that you have a good front light when riding in the dark or in low-light conditions, although even this is not certain to make people see you if they don’t look properly.