The problem of ‘dooring’ – when a cyclist is knocked off their bike by a car door being opened in their path – is getting worse and Bristol has one of the worst records in the country.
The city has the highest incidence of this type of accident outside London with 121 cyclists injured, 16 seriously, in the last seven years.
Department of Transport figures reveal that:
Nationally, more than 2000 cyclists were injured, 278 seriously and five fatally, when a ‘vehicle door was opened or closed negligently’ in incidents attended by the police, between 2011 and 2015.
It is very difficult for cyclists to avoid this type of accident. When they try, they often end up in the path of an oncoming vehicle with the injuries sustained as a result frequently life changing and sometimes fatal.
What does the law say?
‘Dooring’ is a criminal offence under Regulation 105 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 and Section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. However, it is only punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 and no penalty points can be imposed on the offender’s licence.
The case of Sam Harding, a cyclist killed in a ‘dooring’ incident, shows just how woefully inadequate the law currently is.
Mr Harding was thrown under the bus which was following him as he cycled in London and killed after he collided with a car door opened by Mr Kenan Aydogdu, who was parked at the time.
Because Mr Aydogdu was parked, he could not be charged with Causing Death by Dangerous Driving. There was no other appropriate road traffic offence which applied, and with the maximum penalty for ‘dooring’ only £1,000 the Crown Prosecution Service brought a manslaughter prosecution against him.
Mr Aydogdu had added a high level of tint to his car windows which reduced visibility by 17 per cent and also admitted he had made a mistake by not looking in his mirror. He was acquitted of manslaughter and fined just £200.
Is legal change on the horizon?
The answer, sadly is no – at least not any time soon. Cycling UK, which promotes cycling and cycling safety, has appealed for a new offence of Causing Death or Serious Injury by Car Dooring, with more serious penalties, to be introduced as part of its call for a full review of all road traffic offences.
In the meantime, it is encouraging drivers to take up what has become known as ‘Dutch Reach’ – a practice widely used in Holland where the driver opens their car door with the hand furthest away from the door and in this way, is forced to physically look over their shoulder to see if anything is coming.
If you have been involved in a cycling accident, or a ‘car dooring’ incident, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Accident and Injury team. You may be entitled to compensation from the car driver’s insurers. Partner Helen Boyd is highly experienced in this area of the law and has acted for a number of cyclists injured in ‘dooring’ accidents.