It is safe to say that Chris Grayling, Minister for Transport, is not at the top of his game as far as cycling is concerned.
Many of us saw the footage of him knocking a cyclist to the pavement by opening the door of his ministerial car last October.
This contravenes Rule 239 of the highway code which states that you ‘must ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door’.
‘Dooring’, as it is termed, is surprisingly common on our roads. Dooring can cause cyclists to swerve or fall into the path of oncoming traffic and accounted for nearly 600 injuries to cyclists in the UK in 2011.
If you Google the ‘Dutch Reach’ you will find that the ever-enlightened Dutch have a simple method for avoiding dooring cyclists.
Use the hand furthest from the door to open it, meaning you reach across your body and automatically look behind you and notice oncoming cyclists or other road users. They even have a fun video to communicate it.
Anyway, back to our Minster for Transport, he got out, checked the cyclist was OK, engaged in a bit of victim blaming (saying Jaiqi Liu had been going too fast), then shook his hand and left the scene.
It was done and dusted in under two minutes. Fortunately, Liu was not badly hurt, although he was shaken and his bike needed checking to see if it was roadworthy.
What the Minister didn’t do was to follow one of the golden rules of traffic incidents, which is to exchange details and if necessary wait for the police (Highway code rule 286).
The Minister did not give a name or a contact number, and on the video footage captured by a cyclist following, his aide was seen hiding his parliamentary pass.
Notwithstanding the fact that this is wrong, it also shows a complete lack of understanding, on the part of our Minister for Transport, about how different road users should interact on our highways.
When it comes to dooring, cyclists in the UK are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Cycle lanes, well the painted white lines on the side of roads, often put cyclists in the danger zones for dooring; as well as the danger zone for vehicles turning left (see British Cycling’s Turning the Corner campaign). When passing parked cars, cyclists are taught to leave ‘a car door and a bit more’.
This makes them safe from opening doors, but subject to the ire of some drivers following them who don’t understand why they are taking up so much of the road.
Cyclists, intimidated, will then move back into the door zone which puts them at risk again.
The answer? Well it is quite straightforward. The Minster for Transport needs to learn the Dutch Reach and what to do in a traffic incident.
More importantly he needs to support proper segregated cycle lanes so that vulnerable road users do not have to mix with motorised traffic.
Ahh, road users, that is the other thing Mr Grayling seems muddled about, but we will leave that for next week when we will discuss the case of the road user who isn’t a road user.