Making Bristol better for cycling

If Chris Grayling had doored a cyclist in Bristol?

In some areas of Bristol up to 20% of collisions injuring cyclists are caused by motorists recklessly opening car, van etc. doors. In the last six years the police have recorded 139 cyclists being injured in this way – and 18 of them seriously (defined as requiring a stay in hospital (note 1)). Due to under-reporting these figures are likely to underestimate the extent of the problem (note 2). Injuries from this type of incident are caused not only by impact with the vehicle but also, and often in the more serious and fatal cases, when the cyclist is knocked into the carriageway and the path of other motorists.

Safe cycling organisations recommend keeping out “a door and a bit more” away from parked cars, but there are situations where this is difficult, or cyclists feel intimidated, say by fast moving traffic, into keeping close to the side of the road. Some cycle lanes even encourage cyclists to cycle through the door zone and danger, most notoriously outside the BRI hospital.

Note that a number of the injuries were caused by car passengers opening nearside doors to hop out of cars which had paused in congetion.

Whether carried out by a driver or a passenger, it is an offence under section 42 of the  Road Traffic Act 1988 to open “any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person”. Would that include Minister for Transport Chris Grayling?

So what are the police doing to deal with these crimes? Figures obtained by Bristol Cycling under Freedom of Information requests show that in these 139 reported incidents of injury caused to cyclists by motorists, the police brought prosecutions in only 11 cases (9 of them successfully (note 3)). Given the police’s generally low rate of prosecutions for road traffic incidents involving pedestrians and cyclists, and given the recent finding that for the CPS even fatal road traffic incidents “no longer enjoy the priority they had in earlier years”(note 4), these figures are perhaps not surprising. However it must be of considerable concern to most cyclists that so many are being injured with so little being done about it.


note 1        Source: Bristol City Council Highway and Transport Management Service.

note 2       Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2013, Department for Transport

                   page 34 “Under-reporting of pedal cyclist casualties”

note 3      FOI responses dated 20 April, 2015 and 27 September, 2016.

note 4      Joint Inspection of the Investigation and Prosecution of Fatal Road Traffic Incidents, HMIC, 2015.


  1. Eric Booth

    We should all be using the Dutch Reach, and making it part of driver training:

    Also brought to our attention by Michael Charney of The Dutch Reach Project, Cambridge, MA, USA

    Just writing to see if BCC has an opinion on the value of the far handed method for opening vehicle doors and whether you’ve considered pushing to include it in the official Drivers Manual, and on licensing exams and road tests.

    It also can be promoted directly to the public as MP Joel Lightbound of Canada is doing. Perhaps you could produce a left-side of road version for social media, as has occurred here with the Outside Online video.

    I’ve got info on NL’s statute and much info which might be helpful at

    This is an international problem — outside of Holland — where they’ve used the far hand method for about 50 years.

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