Cycle Clinic

Q Sometimes, when I am out on my bike, I wonder about being too close to a  car door if the driver or passenger opens it as I pass.

A This happens sometimes, and doesn't only affect cyclists. Pedestrians can also be hit by a car door being opened as they walk past, and is known as 'Car Dooring', and it's not just drivers, but also their passengers who sometimes open the door without checking that someone is passing.

If it is a car or van passing it can damage the car as well. Most drivers don't want their door ripped off !

 In Holland, for many years it has been a requirement that car users should use the hand furthest from the door to open it. This has been called  The Dutch Reach in America but there is no name in Dutch for this technique — it’s just second nature to Dutch drivers, and has been for years. It has been deeply ingrained in the country’s culture.

According to former managing director of the National Institute for Road Safety Research SWOV in the Netherlands, all Dutch are taught it. It’s part of regular driver education.

Here in the U.K. we have recently incorporated the Dutch Reach into the highway code for safe driving, and there has always been a legal duty to avoid  injury through the use of a vehicle.

There does not have to be a collision. The offence is not limited to drivers, so a passenger who injures or endangers a cyclist by opening a car door also commits the offence. This offence is only punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 and no penalty points can be imposed on the offender's licence.

But there is a lot we can do as cyclists to help ourselves. ROSPA (the Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents) says:

•Cycle outside of the 'door zone' if you can. Ride at least a metre away from parked cars to avoid opening car doors on streets with and without cycle lanes. It is useful to remember the saying: "the width of a door and a little bit more".

•Be aware of situations that could indicate a car door opening. Look out for recently- parked vehicles, vehicles with occupants visible through the window, taxi or delivery vehicles or the sight or sound of a door opening.

A video promoting this idea is well worth seeing and going viral, if you can, on https://youtube/WeM984dk220

Mike Skiffins, Portsmouth CTC
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