A new police proposal calls for drivers to adopt a new way of opening their car doors called the ‘Dutch Reach’ to cut down on the number of injured cyclists.
The method, for UK drivers, would mean drivers open their door with their left hand so that they are forced to turn and check blind spots for any approaching cyclists and vulnerable road users including motorcyclists and pedestrians.
Currently, ‘car-dooring’ a cyclist - the literal title given to someone opening a car door and hitting an unsuspecting passer-by - is treated as a minor offence with a maximum £1,000 fine – an incredibly lenient sentence considering around 474 UK cyclists were injured by ‘dooring’ in 2015, according to the Department of Transport. As of 2013, 25 cyclists have been killed, according to Bicyclesafe.com.
I have seen too many cyclists injured because of a vehicle passenger’s lack of awareness for other road users.
I have seen too many cyclists injured because of a vehicle passenger’s lack of awareness for other road users. Whereas the police proposal for taking more care when opening a car door has been met with some criticism, the potentially life-changing injuries sustained by the victims of such negligence would surely make many think otherwise and welcome any changes that minimise these kind of accidents.
To offer a scenario, though a cyclist may be as aware as possible of their surroundings, a sudden unavoidable obstacle would mean a cyclist is unable to stop in time, potentially forcing them into the flow of traffic.
Recently we witnessed Transport Secretary, Chris Gayling’s infamous car-dooring of a passing cyclist outside the Palace of Westminster. Fortunately the cyclist involved was not seriously injured, but the incident is exemplary of when someone should know better that to blindly swing open their car door, given that the road was a main thoroughfare on Cycle Superhighway 8 in Westminster.
In the Netherlands children are taught from an early age both in school and from their parents, that they should turn with their opposite arm to open a car door - as well as being a required section of the driving test.
The UK is sadly behind other jurisdictions in Europe when it comes to cycling claims, as highlighted in the following video:
For further reading, see our previous blog: How do the Top Five Bicycle-Friendly Cities Compare with London?
James Easson is a senior associate specialising in personal injury claims at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.