Matthew Sparkes on getting doored in London

Matthew Sparkes' wheels
CC BY 2.0 Matthew Sparkes

That bike belongs to Matthew Sparkes; he used to cover the bike beat for TreeHugger from London before he moved up in the world to become Deputy Head of Technology at the Telegraph. He is an experienced urban cyclist, but that didn't prevent him from getting doored last December. While the photos look pretty gross, he says he was not seriously injured:

I had a cut across my chest from the door, a perfectly straight line which has left an odd scar, and cuts and bruises on most of my sticky-out bits. My hand had been squashed between the car and my handlebars and my wrist was badly sprained. The end of my little finger had sort of popped like an overcooked sausage. My bike helmet was cracked, so it had done it’s job, and several layers of clothes had been ripped. If it had been a warm day I would probably have lost more bark.

But what has really got Matthew upset is how the police have treated him. Even though dooring is a chargeable offence in the UK, (section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 makes it an offence to open “any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person”), people rarely get charged. In Matthew's case:

I bring this unfortunate event up now because I recently received a letter from the Met telling me that they wouldn’t be taking the matter any further. It was a standard template letter, personalised only by my misspelled name at the top. After seeking clarification, the Met explained that they couldn’t take action “as we do not have the details of the passenger who opened the door into your path.” Bear in mind that everyone in the car had stayed to speak to the police.

He concludes:

My impression throughout has been that the crime of opening a car door and endangering me is not serious enough to pursue.

City of Toronto/Public Domain

This is certainly the experience in North America as well. In Ontario, Canada, you can kill someone with your door and the maximum fine for opening a vehicle door improperly is $110. In case after case, even when the victim dies, the police often seem to sympathize with the driver. Until recently they didn't even count them in Toronto, with the police spokesperson comparing it to a sunny day, something not worth counting.

Matthew writes that Police inaction over cycling accidents is a danger to us all. that appears to be true everywhere.

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Biking | London