Car dooring, a worrying trend on the rise

A graph featuring increased car dooring
Most of us have been guilty of rushing out of our car without first checking for cyclists, thinking afterwards “that was stupid, but I’ll remember to check next time

Usually the consequence of forgetting to check for a rider before getting out of our car is little more than a ping of guilt at our own negligence. However, if a car door is opened in front of a bicycle or motorcycle rider the consequences can be catastrophic.

For riders, the prospect of a car door opening in front of them is a fear that is constantly with them as they negotiate the parked cars, trams and increasingly heavy traffic of Melbourne’s road network.

The number of both bicycle riders and cars on our roads is increasing, and with this comes the increased risk of collisions between them. In recent years the frequency of car doorings, when a person exiting a vehicle opens their door in front of a cyclist, has increased. VicRoads data shows there has been over 800 casualty crashes involving car dooring of riders in the last five years, and despite a slight dip in 2015 this disturbing trend is on the increase.

Vicroads data shows there has been over 800 casualty crashes involving car dooring of riders in the last five years

Data shows that a large proportion of these crashes are concentrated in a small number of locations. RACV analysis reveals that just four locations accounted for over 20% of all the car dooring incidents in Victoria in the last five years. The top location, Chapel Street in Prahran, contributed to nearly 10% of all car dooring incidents in the entire state.

Location

Location

Reported Car Doorings Incidents (2011-2016)

% of Total Incidents Victoria Wide

Chapel Street

69

8.4%

St Kilda Road

43

5.2%

Collins Street

31

3.8%

Sydney Road

29

3.5%

With such a high concentration of car doorings occurring in such a small area it is clearly time for the government to investigate separated cycling infrastructure at these locations to reduce the risk for cyclists. RACV has consistently advocated that separate bike lanes either off-road or on-road are clearly safest. RACV has previously proposed removing on-street parking, which could be an immediate step. On-street parking is an inefficient use of road space; if there are no parked cars, the risk of car dooring is dramatically reduced.

But it’s not just cycling infrastructure that needs to improve. We all need to put ourselves in the place of other road users’ and make sure our behaviour does not put them at risk; indeed many of us drivers are also cyclists.

When exiting a vehicle it is vital that you always check your mirrors and do a head check for cyclists before opening your door. The Victorian Road Rules (rule 269) make car dooring an offence, so not only is it illegal to open your door in front of a cyclist, it can be fatal.

A good tip for motorists is to get into the habit of using your left arm to open a driver side door and right hand to open the passenger side door. This will force you to turn your body and head, so you would see any oncoming bike riders. And when you are riding it is critical to remain alert, keeping an eye out for drivers and passengers entering and exiting parked vehicles. Where possible and provided it’s safe to do so, leave space between your bike and any parked cars.

Written by Evan Barr,
December 19, 2016