A few weeks ago, I was walking to work, minding my own business, and listening to a fabulous employment law podcast by Mayer Brown Solicitors (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0m3JnG52_SU), when I noticed a middle-aged chap cycle past me near a quiet roundabout in Harrogate. Nothing unusual there, you would think.
The next thing, I saw the poor chap lying spread-eagled in the road, clearly in pain. What had happened was that a lady driver had opened her car door straight into him as he was cycling past her driver’s door. I didn’t see the moment of impact, but the evidence was pretty damning: his bike was partially lodged under the car door. Poor chap.
As anyone would, I rushed to helped the cyclist to get up and out of the road, seating him in the car. Both the cyclist and the driver looked pretty shaken-up. I could see that the poor cyclist had suffered some visible wounds (there could have been other non-evident injuries, particularly psychologically). Both the cyclist and the driver could hardly talk due to the shock. Road traffic accidents are horribly frightening: just ask anyone who has had the misfortune to be involved in one.
Next, I moved the damaged bike out of the road, propping it against a nearby tree. I then returned to see if the two were ok before walking onto work. There didn’t seem to be a need for an ambulance and clearly the driver was going to look after the cyclist.
Walking onto work, I felt pretty angry for the cyclist: all the driver had to do was to look in her mirror to check for cyclists, but evidently she had forgotten. The cyclist was not traveling quickly. I doubt that she will make the same mistake again.
Only today, I have come across a video which I must – must! – share with you. It is news to me that, in Holland, drivers are taught to open their car doors with the “wrong”, unnatural hand – AKA “The Dutch Reach”. By doing so, the body twists, allowing the drivers to see behind them to check for cyclists. Try it.
According to reported statistics, around 600 cyclists are injured every year by drivers failing to look out for them. These figures, to me, seem lower than I thought they ought to be. Perhaps cyclists are less inclined to report such accidents because the car wasn’t being driven at the time. Now just because the car wasn’t being driven – it was being exited – at the time of the accident, then it doesn’t mean that the car’s insurance will not pay out compensation. I am confident that in the event of such an accident, a claim will be successful against the driver’s insurance. Of course, opening the door into a cyclist, particularly on a busy road, can easily lead to a fatality, as there have been reports of cyclists then being run over by a passing vehicle.
My own view is that using the mirror to check for cyclists is also just as effective as The Dutch Reach, however, as creatures of habit, we humans are more likely to remember the Dutch Reach, because it is so very unnatural. Why don’t you try it?
Final thought: drivers, please, please look out for cyclists when opening your car door. It could be the most dangerous manoeuvre you do today!
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