Ever been doored? It is actually illegal

doors-can-be-fatalI was once witness to a car dooring. My friend was pedalling past stationary traffic less than a metre ahead of me, when suddenly a passenger opened their door, knocking my friend off his bike. Miraculously he didn’t have a single scratch. His back wheel was completely buckled.

It turns out that the passenger had actually committed a criminal offence and would be liable of a fine up to £1000. (RVCUR r. 105; RTA s. 42; RTOA Sch 2). The exact wording is: it’s an offence to open “any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person.

However, as UK Cycle Rules author Jorren Knibbe commented on the recent Radio 4 legal show Law in Action, this is rarely enforced. Since the 1960’s Mr Knibbe reports only being aware of 2-3 reported cases.

What is particularly interesting is that there doesn’t have to be a crash for the offence to have been committed. If you have to swerve to avoid the crash, then this would be classified as having been endangered by the driver.

For the many of us who’ve had to do this on more than one occasion it’s interesting to read that technically we’ve had an offence committed against us and could have pursued legal action.

(See also: Steps to keep in mind if you are ever in an accident)

If you’ve suffered a similar fate to that of my friend then it is worth knowing that you could pursue a dooring as an offence. Even if the person who doored you or nearly doored you was a passenger.

The driver or passenger of course can defend themselves by claiming you were riding too close or that there was no danger to you.

Jorren Knibbe has more on what to do if this happens to you in the excellent blog post Laws of Car Doors.

See also: What cyclists can be fined for

Image via Sreiny Flickr | Special thanks to reader Helen for bringing the show to my attention.

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30 Responses to Ever been doored? It is actually illegal

  1. EcstaticGaucho 15/11/2011 at 9:50 am #

    I’ve been ‘doored’ a couple of times, both times very painful indeed. The first time was at night and, without thinking, the driver said “I didn’t see a car coming” – very telling. The lesson I learned is to cycle out of the ‘door zone’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Door_zone.

    There was a motorcycle safety ad about a man’s morning routine that is interrupted by an accident after someone opening their car door as he bikes to work, the lesson of the story being to keep clear of the door zone. The sad truth is most people probably don’t look when they open their car door. Although one is naturally inclined to drive close to the edge of the road/parked cars for safety and to avoid slowing traffic, doors are probably more of a risk than drivers clipping you as they go past.

    • Andreas 15/11/2011 at 10:36 am #

      It’s interesting because I never open the door without looking. There’s always a high chance a car is coming or a cyclist but I guess you are bound to have a better awareness after having ridden around on a bike.

  2. Dean 15/11/2011 at 10:21 am #

    I’ve been doored by a passenger a few years ago and still have a hefty scar to prove it. Since then I’ve been hyper alert to the door zone.

  3. Will 15/11/2011 at 10:44 am #

    I’ll echo what has already been said – Avoid the door zone. If you are riding that close to parked cars then your visibility (both seeing and being seen) is poor and your options are limited should anything happen.

    Riding a couple of feet further out will not hold up cars significantly more, and might save you a nasty bump.

  4. Martyn 15/11/2011 at 10:51 am #

    I too have been doored by a passenger, at a junction where the car was turning right, off of the main road. Very unexpected. My swearing finger took most of the impact against the door, I couldn’t use it for about a week because of the bruising.

    Like Dean I have been super alert to car doors since and give them a sensibly wide berth.

  5. elliot 15/11/2011 at 11:11 am #

    Good article – thanks. The more people who know about this, the better.

    the interesting thing is that most police don’t know about these regulations (I asked a friend of mine who’s a sergeant in the Met) – as a paramedic, I attended a motorcyclist who’d been knocked off, and the police there certainly had no idea the driver had committed an offence. It’s an idea to memorise the offence and that way you can tell the police.

    Also, if you’re injured, you can make sure your solicitor is aware, so that even if the police decline to take action, you still have a strong comeback.

    Interestingly, i told @ukcyclerules about the offence because i had been taught it as part of my advanced driving test. It’s actually an offence “to cause or permit any door to be opened…” – which means a driver could be held liable. This happened to me when a taxi passenger opened a door; the driver shouted at me for cycling alongside his car. He shut up when I told him the law and offered to call the police to help settle the matter.

    I also wonder how the person opening their door would react if they opened the door and a passing car or truck hit it, and ripped it off – or if they stepped out and into the path of a passing vehicle. I’m sure both of these situations have happened many times.

    • Andreas 15/11/2011 at 11:20 am #

      That’s why I think it’s good to have an awareness of cycling laws because often the police are unable to offer the correct advice.

  6. Ashleigh 15/11/2011 at 5:35 pm #

    This is really interesting. I always try to ride out of the door zone, and to stay alert to people inside parked cars, but sometimes it’s just not possible. On narrow roads with lines of parked cars, you can end up holding up a lot of traffic. I know it’s on motorists to be patient, but I don’t want to be the cause of frustration and real anger. I’ve been honked at and sworn at, with motors revving, even when I’m riding inside the door zone. I’d prefer to pull over and let them pass than incite further road rage.

    I guess this is down to the same old culprits: bad road design, bad attitudes to cyclists, and lack of understanding of the dangers we face.

  7. charlie_lcc 15/11/2011 at 5:37 pm #

    In August this year Sam Harding, a 25 year old cyclist, was killed on Holloway Road. A car door opened, knocked him off his bike into the path of a bus that could not avoid running him down.
    Some press reports say that a child opened the door but this has not been confirmed.

    My understanding of the legal situation is that the driver is responsible for ensuring that no one in the car opens a door causing danger. Taxi drivers have the facility to ensure that no passenger opens the door until it is safe. They don’t always check.

    I don’t know if anyone will be prosecuted over Sam’s death.

    • GuyC 18/11/2011 at 11:37 am #

      Interesting, happened to me a week ago just turning in to Waterloo and the Taxi driver of LT05 EPP denied all responsibility leaving me and his fare behind.

    • Steve Jones 25/07/2014 at 12:55 pm #

      No, it’s a strict liability offence that applies to anybody in a vehicle. Of course, children below the age of criminal responsibility is another thing and no doubt civil liability will transfer to the “responsible adult”, who might, or might not, be the driver.

      Note that insurers of taxis will generally not take responsibility for the behaviour of passengers unless it can be shown the taxi driver was somehow responsible, at least in part, for what happened.

      I’m also pretty certain that “the cyclist was traveling too close” would not be accepted as a defence, Among other things, it is not always possible to stay out of the “door zone”, especially in suburban roads with parked cars and oncoming traffic.Further, there are any number of cycle lanes which are immediately to the right of lay-by areas for parked cars. I

      And yes, it has happened to me – indeed less than a week ago when a door of a Volvo was open right in my path (at about 17mph) with no notice. The door caught the edge of my helmet, which split (and I got a gash above my left eye) and I heavily bruised my shoulder. The side window was got broken and the door buckled so it didn’t close properly. The car had recently parked up (out of my view) and had tinted windows making it virtually impossible to see any occupant,

      Fortunately A&E found nothing that couldn’t be dealt with using superglue (really).

  8. Alex 18/11/2011 at 11:44 am #

    The offence is referred to as ‘opening door to danger’.
    I was in court as a witness a few years ago as the CPS prosecuted a taxi driver for causing an injury to a cyclist whilst doing so.

  9. PaulM 18/11/2011 at 11:59 am #

    I could well imagine that cases are rarely taken to court because the defence, and no doubt the magistrate, would prefer to lay the blame at the cyclists feet – “you should have left more space”, just like you are at fault if you aren’t wearing a helmet or high-vis.

    However, if it happened on one of those Waltham Forest cycle lanes celebrated by the now-silent Freewheeler – you know, the ones painted on the road right next to a line of car-parking spaces – you could presumably refute that defence on the basis that you were merely doing as instructed.

  10. Dave H 18/11/2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Remember that Section 170 (RTA) is the detail you need to follow through on this and other dangerous driving. If the PRESENCE of a motor vehicle causes you injury or damage then you are a person reasonably requiring the prescribed details from the driver of the vehicle. You don’t need to be hit by the vehicle.

    Most bus drivers in London have Section 170 cards, to make the exchange of information at the scene of a crash quick and simple with no admission of liability.

  11. Vladimir 18/11/2011 at 12:05 pm #

    Hey guys,

    After reading all the horror stories (some on this site, most on other sites), I’m really interested in getting a camera for my helmet.

    What can you guys recommend that is both decent and rather “well” priced (I will consider any price at first, it’s good to get a feel for the price range).

    Thanks guys

    • elliot 18/11/2011 at 12:11 pm #

      Hi Vlad, I’d recommend you google some reviews. But having said that, I bought the Muvi Veho cam after reading a review on here – and was very disappointed with it. Pic quality mostly acceptable, but unreliable controls and poor battery life makes it annoying and almost pointless. The mount for the helmet (purchased separately) is poor, and it’s difficult to know if the cam’s pointing the right direction and stay that way for the length of the journey.

  12. Kate Byrne 18/11/2011 at 12:53 pm #

    I was knocked off my bike a few years ago by a driver swinging wide open his door while another driver was trying to pass me very closely. I was really injured in my right side.

    The police arrived and eventually prosecuted the driver for having no licence and no insurance and for “borrowing” the car off someone who had not given him permission. I pointed out to them in writing and in no uncertain terms that they should have prosecuted him for the damage to me by opening the door on me. I actually quoted the law, chapter and verse. The police refused to do anything about this!

    I found this very galling. The police actually said to me that it would have been the man’s word against mine (!?) and that I could have just fallen off the bike as I passed the car (?!!).

    I am going to the vigil at Bow Roundabout tonight. I have been knocked off my bike twice on that roundabout. Again, despite involving the police straight away they refused to prosecute the drivers who injured me.

    Why not do a subject “Tell us about a time when the police did nothing”?

    • elliot 18/11/2011 at 12:56 pm #

      🙁 that’s incredibly frustrating and annoying. did you consider taking any legal action against him yourself? where there’s blame there’s a claim.

      i joined the LCC specifically so I could have the insurance and access to decent solicitor that they offer as part of the membership package.

      • k8 18/11/2011 at 5:18 pm #

        CTC got me a solicitor who was excellent. She got me a little compensation, which was very welcome as I was off my bike for four months and had to take the tube to work. I would swap any amount of compensation, though, in exchange for the police coming down hard on bad drivers!

  13. Rob 18/11/2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Re Door Zone – I cycle well out in the road away from cars. I do tend to bomb along everywhere at a decent speed though so I don’t tend to get too many complaints from vehicles. I have experienced abuse when I’ve been pootling along. :o/

    Re:Muvi Vehu – it is sufficient for non contact incidents but be aware I had a big off (when a dear fellow cyclist coming towards me turned across my path at the very last minute… I have no idea why, he has no idea why!) and what was getting me through the resultant pain, bruising and stitches inside my ear(!) was the thought of seeing the gruesome footage! Unfortunately, the impact had caused it to come off my helmet and nothing was saved.

    As a deterrent for antisocial behaviour, it works well. I’ve had van drivers get back in their van when they’ve seen it, likewise mopeds have been a lot less aggressive once they’ve seen it.

  14. Maria 19/11/2011 at 9:12 am #

    On a cycle safety course I was told the most common accident cyclists have is being knocked off by an opening car door. I was told to cycle a door width away from parked cars for this reason. Car drivers don’t seem to appreciate this, last week a large van drove closely behind me beeping on a small residential road with cars parked both sides. I resolutely stuck to the middle of the road to avoid a) the van attempting to over take when there was clearly not enough room and b) so I didn’t end up so close to a car door that if it opened I’d be injured. The van driver then shouted at me that I was in the middle of the road! I’ve even had cyclists shouting ‘get in’ as they seem to want to cycle tightly to parked cars. A friend broke his collar bone doing just that, beware of the parked car and give yourself enough room would be my advice, shame so many people don’t appreciate this fact.

  15. iamnotacyclist 20/11/2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Luckily I’ve never been doored, and I feel for people that have. Must have been a truly horrible experience. I often experience a sense of danger when cycling close to parked cars, but I cycle slowly enough (20km/h) to be able to brake for pretty much any situation happening, and I usually slow down to a crawl in tight spots to give myself and others enough time for reaction – works pretty well. I always feel that when I cycle really fast I am not able to predict and react to road situations quickly enough.

  16. Olivia Mcd 04/01/2012 at 10:04 pm #

    This evening on my way home from work I got doored by a van door opening. I fell off the bike, onto the road and looked up towards the vehicle……”POLICE” it said….yes it was a group of coppers waiting in a van and one of them opened the door.
    I had some bruising on my lower arms and knees. Bike is ok I think…I haven’t ridden it yet as I got a lift home in the same van.
    Needelss to say it wasrecorded thoroughly and the driver cop was breathalised.
    They were very nice to me, keeping me sweet, no doubt. Luckily I wasn’t going very fast and the cars to my right weren’t either.

    Bloody hell!! I think I’m still in shock

    • Andreas 04/01/2012 at 10:22 pm #

      Unbelievable! Thank god no one was hurt. A good reminder for people to look out for all types of vehicle!

  17. John Somers 27/01/2012 at 6:53 pm #

    This has happened to me on numerous occasions though have managed to avoid being knocked off but for one of those instances when a van with blacked out rear windows prevented me from seeing the driver – because I do look for this type of “incident”.

  18. bogwoppit 18/06/2012 at 9:14 pm #

    In defence of drivers this has just happened to me, i had just parked the car tonight , looked in my rear view mirror , started to open the door about 6 inches to get a better view of the blind spot area when a cyclist smashed into it and bent the top of the frame. i also ride a bike and have been driving for a considerable number of years. He was thrown across the road lucky there were no other cars coming towards him.
    I know i looked in my mirror, he told me he was riding close to the parked cars, he had part of a 4 pack of beer in his rucksack that came off his back and he bent the door frame. My observations are as follows
    1. what speed must he have been doing to bend the car door.
    2. How did i not see him when i know i looked in my rear view mirror.
    3. how can a rucksack if correctly worn come off like that.
    4. Why didnt he want to give me his name?
    5. If he was paying attention why did he no see me park the car and think ahead. I am not saying its his fault it just thats what i do when i am on my push bike.
    6. I feel very bad for hitting him ive been sitting here shaking for an hour what else could i do to prevent this from happening again. I normally open my car door a small amount like i did tonight so that i have better vision of the blind spot because i know its there. but if even opening it 6 inches is going to take out a bike what do i do.

    • Blithering Milage 30/06/2012 at 4:12 am #

      Open the window and look out of that instead, is a simple answer and don’t expect other cyclists to think like you do. I give car doors a wide berth whenever I can, though I once had to slam-on in stationary traffic at a set of lights when a passenger leaped from the cab of a truck waiting there as I was passing on the outside! I think doors are made to absorb a lot of the energy of an impact and so bend easier than people might expect. Why you didn’t notice him is something only you know, possibly only under deep hypnosis… but I wouldn’t worry about that, just be more careful not to let it happen again. I’m glad the cyclist was OK, and I hope you are – I imagine it must have been a bit of a shock, but that’s probably a good thing…
      Anyway, good comment, your honesty does you credit.

  19. Zara 05/11/2014 at 4:31 pm #

    Reading all your horrific stories, I strangely became addicted to reading all of them. I’m still amazed now the amount of ‘dooring’ that happens. I’ve been riding my bike to work n back for over 10 years on town roads. I was doored for the first time last Friday…planning to on a Halloween critical mass bike ride to make the drivers in Northampton aware of how many cyclists there are on the roads,oh the irony!
    My bike was covered with green led lights/spider lights and normal front and back lights….but goes to show it doesn’t make you more visible if the driver admits not looking before opening his car door on a main road! I was riding approx 2-3ft away from the parked cars and his door flue open and my chin hitting the top of it stopped me from flipping over. Pains, bruises, whiplash, glued chin and broken bike forks was the end result. Which i feel kind of lucky for. When researching I found that in the Netherlands, drivers are taught to open with the opposite hand to the door, so they are more inclined to look…this isn’t being taught in the UK. If it was….I bet half of the accidents that I’ve read on here wouldn’t be on this thread. Keep safe Cyclists.

    • Andreas 05/11/2014 at 6:50 pm #

      Hey Zara – so sorry for your incident – sounds like a rather horrible experience. Very interesting what you mentioned about the Netherlands teaching their drivers about opening with the opposite hand.

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