City Cycle Safety: Be Aware Of 'Dooring'

By helenbabbs Last edited 79 months ago
City Cycle Safety: Be Aware Of 'Dooring'

Londonist contributor and city cyclist Helen Babbs had a nasty run in with a car door recently. But having nursed her wounds and sought some advice, she's not letting it put her off cycling.

It was last Monday evening.  Well it was late afternoon. I work for myself and was heading home early, because when you’re your own boss you can. I was daydreaming about dinner, but I was also concentrating on the road, cycling as safely as possible and keeping an eye out for wayward drivers.

On Holloway Road I was knocked clean off my bike by a car door that opened in a queue at red traffic lights. One minute I was making my way to the front of stationary traffic for a safe getaway on the green light, the next minute I was in an undignified heap on the pavement, hit off the road and into oncoming pedestrian traffic.  I admit I swore at the passenger who decided to leap out without looking, and then burst into tears.

Lots of kind people stopped. The car pulled over. Someone took the driver and his passenger’s details as I sat on the pavement in a hopeless haze. Once I’d proved I could stand up and didn’t need an ambulance, a kind gentleman and his mum helped me and my beloved bicycle hobble home.

The passenger insisted it was an accident, which of course it was. The kind gentleman told him that accidents like this would be prevented if people only took time to look. Home, I inspected my wounds, made a cup of tea and got into bed. The gloom set in, thick and heavy. There’s nothing like being reminded of your own mortality to make you feel morbid. But I also felt angry. I still do.

Over the last week I’ve watched a forest of bruises bloom along my right leg and arm. A week on, my lumpy knee is painted all the colours of the rainbow and dotted about with tiny scabs. I’ve struggled to get back on my bike. It’s funny how random incidents like these can feel so personal and prophetic. I need to take action and I also need someone to convince me to start cycling again.

I’ve been talking to Kathryn King (Bikeminded), Andrew Tobert (Climate Rush) and Andreas Kambanis (London Cyclist), all passionate about city cycling and campaigning in their own ways to make cyclists safer. I’ve been wondering whether a safety awareness campaign about ‘dooring’ might help, or if being 'cyclist aware' should be part of the driving test. Andrew says us cyclists deserve protection not posters. I think perhaps we deserve both.

1. How to avoid a good ‘dooring’

“Spiderman-like reflexes help. A slightly slower pace is a good idea and well serviced brakes in case of an emergency stop. Also, crucially, where possible you shouldn't ride too near to parked cars or the gutter” – Andreas

“We advise cyclists to cycle at least a metre away from a parked vehicle. This means that you’re more visible to another road user, but also that you are out of the danger zone in which you could be hit by a vehicle” - Kathryn

“The best thing you can do is to campaign to remove on-street car parking. Replacing parking spaces with bike lanes or bike parking has been shown to increase everything from house prices to money spent in nearby shops” – Andrew

2. Teach drivers to take care

“Perhaps the best step forward we could take is to assume that, in an accident between a driver and a cyclist, the driver is always at fault. This has been implemented in other countries successfully and means drivers are always very cautious around cyclists” – Andreas

“Cyclists are vulnerable - they deserve protection. Segregated cycle lanes in the Dutch style would do far more to protect cyclists than any safety campaign” – Andrew

3. Demand change

“We want London to be a vibrant, habitable city, not a congested polluted one. Climate Rush organised a Cycle for London protest last week and our demands were car-free and car-light areas; 20mph as the norm throughout central London; and a democratically accountable TFL. We'll be carrying on our protests. If enough people get involved, change isn't just possible, it's inevitable” – Andrew

4. Why cycle?

“The bicycle gives a great feeling of freedom. Seeing new sides of London and experiencing the world, rather than being stuck on an underground train. It means less pollution and congestion. London Cyclist is about everything an everyday cyclist could need” – Andreas

“Research from across Europe shows that when levels of cycling increase, the rate of cycle collisions drop. So more cyclists means safer cycling. Bikeminded offers advice and inspiration to get people cycling” - Kathryn

“Cycling is fast and it's free! It's gets you fit and it's the most enjoyable commute you'll ever have. Cycling will change your life” – Andrew

Enough said.

But please please please look before you swing open a car door. Dooring can and does kill.

Images © Rob Pinney / www.robpinney.co.uk

Last Updated 01 October 2011

Liz Almond

All good advice, but I'd add avoid cycling up the inside of a queue of stationary cars. It's very tempting, but it's also one of the most likely times that drivers/passengers are going to open their doors without looking - particularly if you're in the centre of town and there are stopped taxis in the queue. Far safer to overtake on the outside of the lane of traffic in order to get to the ASL.

Harry

You were lucky!  Someone was killed about a month back from a dooring on Holloway Road.  What pisses me off is the attitude of drivers when you do travel that metre out from car doors - they get infuriated and have a go at you, come to close, you name it, because you're impeding them on their way to the next traffic light.  Councils don't help by painting cycle lanes beside car parking - again encouraging drivers to expect you to risk dooring - Islington, I'm looking at you.

Mick

I'm a driver in London who was also a cyclist in the city 10 years ago, I never once had any sort of accident or even a near miss and I used to cycle a 30 mile round trip. The roads where not as cycle friendly as they are today, but then I was observant of everything going on around me and wasn't riding to antagonise people of the four wheel kind. We drivers aren't all anti cyclist polluting terrorists some of us are quite considerate who think we should all use the roads, but I do think cycle lanes should be away from roads. And yes I do still cycle but not to work.

Aldhard

Whilst I was sorry to hear that you were badly injured n shocked during this incident, I feel that you placed yourself in the position for this to happen, sidling down a line of stationary traffic, if you hadn't, this incident wouldn't have happened. I don't feel that the passenger was at fault, it was yourself. Did they take your details so they could report you for this dangerous action?
I feel that it is so easy to blame drivers for the thoughtless actions of cyclists who don't think of the consequences of their actions before they do something.
I think that all cyclists should have to pass a theory n practical cycling test before they even get on a cycle, I had to when I worked for W.H.Smiths in the 1960's delivering large bundles of newspapers n magazines to companies by cycle, then the roads were less cycle friendly than they are now and I never had any problems getting around London or with other drivers.
Too many cyclists think the roads are theirs alone n tend to disregard the rights of other road users constantly today, the roads are for all road users.
On the subject of cycle lanes, I feel that when used on roads that are not really wide enough to accommodate them safely they are a road hazard n dangerous, more thought needs to go into where they are used n placed. I've never need a cycle lane in the past when I've cycled all over London.
I think cyclists should stop moaning n griping about car/lorry/buses n learn to use the roads properly, as it's your life in your hands. Stop n think before you do something on the roads.

Make not cycling up the side of a stationary line of traffic one of your major not to dos!!!

John

Murray

A lot of people, I think, just do not think. Full stop.

In the pub the other day a bloke I was chatting to started complaining about cyclists - "What do they need to go up the middle of the road for? They're just slowing me down!"

I explained to him how cyclists need to be wary of car doors opening. And told him of the death on Holloway Road recently. Suddenly his attitude changed. Now he realised what it was all about...

Kierra

Ensure safety first. Cycling is good for all and not so good for the cycle r himself.

BethPH

All good safety advice. I do dispute a couple of things raised by the cycling experts though.

Firstly, I'm totally opposed to the suggestion that in the event of an accident between a motorist and a cyclist that the motorist should be automatically to blame. It simply removes all personal responsibility for safety from the cyclist and until the day all cyclists have to complete a test before they can ride on the road and pay insurance then they have no more or less responsibility for safety than anyone else on the road.

Secondly, awareness of other road users is already part of a driving test. If a learner driver on a test caused a cyclist to take avoiding action or collide with them then the driver would fail the test.

Mick

I was working today can a cyclist please explain to me why cyclists have to be cycling three a breast in a bus lane is it just to be contrary or is there a reason

Sebastian Heroiu

Mike, i understand you always drive alone. How sad. But if not, imagine cyclists enjoy the company of others too. Cars are to blame for being so noisy that you can't really hear somebody in the back or in front. On another note, are you a bus driver then? can't understand how is this troubling you, if you are, remember that one cyclist is one less driver, that's 5 to 6 times less traffic (unscientific personal estimation). Research coming up soon,

Peace.

young donkey

Helen,

I got taken clean off my Brompton by a pothole, and my helmet got smashed up, my head was intact luckily. I also had the usual group of bystanders offering support and giving evil glances at the pot holes.  BUT yes I too was shaken for the night and did the same hide under the duvet job when I got home.

However, I took a day off work and then got on my bike and went to the shops and bought a new helmet and then got right back in the groove.  Yes my body ached somewhat, but my mind felt better.  Sometimes the most you don't cycle after accidents the worse it gets.  Just get back on the saddle, do a few short trips and before you know it you will back doing your normal jaunts.

Helen

All road-users have equal responsibility to make sure
they and other road-users are safe.  That
said, cyclists have zero protection in a crash (other than perhaps a helmet and
a flimsy high-vis vest), and so I would argue they deserve to perhaps be
treated with a little care by those who are hermitically sealed inside aluminum
and steel.  You get a bumped door, I get bruised
bones, or worse.

 

This piece isn’t calling motorists evil or saying people
shouldn’t drive.  (Although I admit there
are many good environmental arguments why people shouldn’t drive in a city where
it is invariably quicker and perhaps cheaper to take a tube or a bus.)  The piece is asking vehicle users to look
before they swing open a car door, and asks how that message could be put
across.  If a cyclist is presented only
with the back of someone’s head, what exactly can they do to be seen?  In this incidence it is the motorists and
their passengers’ responsibility to look. 
How do we remind, gently and in the spirit of goodwill, people to do
that?

 

Perhaps cycling alongside stationary traffic is terribly
dangerous - I certainly won’t do it again without thinking seriously about it -
but cyclists are also told that is generally safer to be out at the front of a
traffic queue, especially if vehicles are turning left.  Car doors open on both sides, so whether I
was cycling on the inside or outside of the traffic queue seems irrelevant.  The car wasn’t a taxi, though I think taxi
passengers should also take time to check.

 

I am back on my bicycle, thank you, and sporting a flash
new helmet with a little peak! 

Joe Dunckley

“Research from across Europe shows that when levels of cycling increase,
the rate of cycle collisions drop. So more cyclists means safer
cycling."

Not quite. Research across Europe shows that places with higher levels of cycling have safer cycling. Or to put it another way, places where cycling is safer have higher levels of cycling. You've inferred an arrow of causation that the research doesn't really support.

The major confounding variable is, of course, that safety and higher levels of cycling are both the result of designing streets which invite cycling, rather than designing roads solely for the purpose of shoving as many motor vehicles as quickly as possible through the city.

helenbabbs

Turns out hitting a cyclist with your car door is a criminal offence! Skip to 25mins and hear for yourself. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programme...