On the criminal implications of the Transport Secretary’s 'dooring', Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns Officer said:
“Mr Grayling as a former Justice, and the current Transport, Secretary should know it’s a criminal offence to open any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger anyone. Currently, it’s treated as a minor offence with a maximum £1,000 fine, despite the fact that people have been killed and seriously injured by car dooring.
“Cycling UK spoke to Justice officials in September suggesting that a review of the offence and penalties of the car dooring offence is needed. Disappointingly, Grayling’s former department rejected our suggestions and omitted them from their review of offences they announced two weeks ago. Hopefully, the Ministry of Justice will now listen to us, and reconsider the entire remit of what is a very limited review."
- 'Car dooring' is a criminal offence under Regulation 105 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 and Section 42 Road Traffic Act 1988. However this offence is only punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 and no penalty points can be imposed on the offender’s licence. It is dealt with by the magistrate’s court and the defendant can plead guilty by letter.
- Cyclist Sam Harding was killed in August 2012, when driver Kenan Aydogdu opened his car door in front of Harding on London's Holloway Road. Given that this was not a 'driving offence', and the maximum penalty for car dooring was only £1000, the Crown Prosecution Service brought a 'manslaughter' prosecution against him, but he was acquitted despite his windows being coated with dark plastic film, reducing visibility in and out of the car to 17% of their normal level. He was fined £200 for the car-dooring offence.
- Leicester school teacher Sam Boulton was killed earlier in 2016 while cycling outside Leicester train station, following a passenger opening their taxi’s door, causing Mr Boulton to fall from their bicycle into the traffic flow.
- As Justice Secretary, Grayling announced a wide review of traffic offences and penalties in May 2014, following lobbying by Cycling UK.
- No progress was made with this review whilst Grayling was in post, or under his successor Michael Gove. The current Justice Secretary, Elizabeth Truss, finally launched the public consultation on 5 December to both the relief and dismay of road safety organisations, given the narrow remit of the review which concentrates on sentences for the worst offences rather than the wider problems the original review promised to address.
On the civil implications of Grayling’s actions, Duncan Dollimore said:
“We sincerely hope Mr Liu suffered no lasting damage as a result of the Transport Secretary’s actions. Unfortunately, had he suffered a moderate but non-life-changing injury, as is common in such situations like a broken wrist or collar bone, if the Government has its way, Mr Liu would not recover any legal or other cost.
“Under current proposals to increase the small claims limit to £5,000, any compensation could easily be swallowed in legal fees as the Government thinks road victims, rather than insurance companies, should pay their own costs.
“Cycling UK, together with RoadPeace and Living Streets, yesterday launched our Road Victims are Real Victims campaign, calling on the Justice Secretary, Liz Truss, not to cut compensation for people who are riding bikes or walking at the time of injury.”
- The action can be found at www.cyclinguk.org/roadvictimsarerealvictims with further background on the campaign available on our website.
- Nearly 3,000 people have signed the action in the first since it went live at 1700hrs on 15 December.
- 70% of cyclists’ claims are for less than £5000, so new proposals disproportionately affect blameless injured cyclists.
- RoadPeace are the national charity for road crash victims, and Living Streets are the national charity for everyday walking.
On the implications and importance of cycling infrastructure, Dollimore said:
“Grayling publicly told the Evening Standard that he didn’t think “all the cycle lanes in London have been designed as well as they should have been”. This is a problem he can fix, and which Cycling UK has repeatedly asked him and the Department for Transport to do.”
“It is within the DfT’s gift to devise and establish national design standards for cycle provision so that the risk of incidents similar to what happened between him and Mr Liu are minimised by better infrastructure. This incident should bring home to the Transport Secretary that his department needs to treat cycling seriously and introduce national design standards.”
- Grayling’s comments were made on 06 December in the Evening Standard.
- Cycling UK via its Space for Cycling campaign calls for national design standards so that everyone can cycle everywhere.