Embattled Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, had another bad week when a video clip showing the aftermath of him “car-dooring” a cyclist went viral.
Mr Grayling, 54,who had been contending with industrial action by rail and airline workers’, swung open the door of his ministerial car, sending cyclist, Jaiqi Liu into a lamppost outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster.
This embarrassing film highlights the dangers of car doors that are opened carelessly by drivers and passengers.
The incident happened outside the Palace of Westminster. I know this section of road very well as I cycle along it on my way to work. It is a main thoroughfare for cyclists into central London from South/South-West London and is on Cycle Superhighway 8. As Transport Secretary Mr Grayling really ought to have been acutely aware that cyclists pass along this section of road in large numbers and he should have instructed his driver to drop him off somewhere else and/or carefully checked it was safe to open his door.
The incident has divided cyclists and motorists as to who was at fault, with one side arguing Mr Grayling should have checked before opening his door, and others stating Mr Liu contributed by undertaking stationary traffic – otherwise known as ‘filtering’. The later argument is of course nonsense. Cyclists cannot be expected to crawl along at slow speed or come to a halt when a car to their offside has to stop in traffic when there is a space or cycle lane ahead of them which is clear. One of the major advantages of cycling in London is that you can travel faster than a car. Recent research has revealed that the average speed of vehicles in central London is less than eight mph (no faster than the days of the horse and cart!).
I have represented many cyclists injured as a result of car-dooring incidents and I have previously written a blog setting out the law in relation to car-dooring.
There are two main dangers for cyclists which are difficult/impossible to avoid. The first is a motorists travelling behind you and the second are car doors.
In Holland, drivers are encouraged to open their door with their opposite hand, meaning they turn as they reach to take in any oncoming traffic in their blind spot.
It is very important that motorists and their passengers look carefully when opening car doors as failing to do so can have disastrous consequences for cyclists.
I advise Mr Grayling to reflect on this incident and to increase expenditure on cycling infrastructure to the same levels as the Netherlands. UK spending on cycling infrastructure is £2 per head/year whereas in Holland it is £24per head/year. Greater segregation would reduce the number of cyclist casualties and increase the number of cycle journeys. Cycling has obvious environmental benefits and is a healthier / cheaper alternative to public transport or driving.
Richard Gaffney is Slater and Gordon’s principal lawyer for Cycling UK (previously CTC), the national cycling charity.
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