The news that Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking and chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, was involved in a car door opening incident, which knocked over a cyclist, only serves to highlight the sudden, unexpected dangers that can assail two wheel users at any moment on British roads.
Long suffering cyclists will hardly be surprised to hear that another motorist, a public figure or not, was the cause of a fellow traveller’s grief despite being apparently “unharmed” by the incident. A statement was later issued which said that her “car was parked and the engine was switched off” when she hit the male cyclist with her car door as it was being opened. It was noted that there was a mobile phone in her hand ( although it was not being used) as she “apologised profusely” to the cyclist.
Incidents recording injuries caused by car doors suddenly opening in the path of an oncoming cyclist frequently appear on bicycle accident claims.
A 2007 Transport for London study shows nearly 8 per cent of cyclists were killed or seriously injured by a car door.
According to latest available figures, the number of cyclists injured in this manner have rapidly escalated by 25 per cent in just 24 months. Nearly 600 cyclists were knocked off their bicycles by a car door in 2011, up from around 400 in 2009, of which more than 90 received “serious injuries.” In 2009, just 55 suffered serious injuries while 413 received injures described as “slight.”
According to analysis conducted by Halfords, leading cycle retailers, into the latest census statistics, the number of people who now cycle to work has risen by 760,000 or 17 per cent in England and Wales in last ten years. Incredibly, over the last seven years the Met Police have issued just under 10 fixed penalty notices for car door incidents, which has to be viewed as a relatively insignificant figure compared to the number of accidents that occur each year.
The total mileage cycled increased by 20 per cent between 2001 and 2011 and the number of cyclist injuries doubled to just under 4,500. The need for increasing motorist awareness to the presence of cyclists is crucial if the rise of incidents such as car door opening without looking first is to be prevented.
In January, a new £30 million fund to improve street safety was announced and the Government is investing an extra £107 million in cycling infrastructure, including £35 million to deal with dangerous junctions. It’s up to motorists, however, to invest in a self-infrastructure of due care and attention when exiting their vehicles safely.