May 082012

Media: ABC News 24 Breakfast
Date: 7th May 2012
Headline: Drivers who open doors on cyclists facing increased fines:
Presenters: Karina Carvalho and Michael Rowland
Reporter: Simon Lauder

Cyclists in Melbourne would no doubt welcome the increased interest in dooring from the mainstream press, however they would have been left rather perplexed by this question from ABC News 24’s Simon Lauder to Bicycle Network Victoria spokesperson Garry Brennan:

Are you worried that by increasing [the penalty for dooring] it might be sending a message that it’s always the motorist’s fault?

The issue of fault was then discussed by the live news channel’s breakfast presenters, Karina Carvalho and Michael Rowland:

Rowland: Now just to even the ledger up a tiny wincy bit, did I hear [Brennan] say it’s always the motorist’s fault or is my hearing failing me?

Carvalho: No, we both heard that, and I would say that you would probably need to take that comment with a little bit of caution, because it’s not always the driver’s fault.

Rowland: …a sack of salt, not just a grain of salt, because without pillorying cyclists….I have seen my fair share of reckless cyclists so I think it’s very unfair to purely blame motorists 100% of the time.

Carvalho: …and more education and more awareness on both sides is what’s needed.

Pointing the finger at reckless cyclists is a regular tactic in trying to deflect motorist responsibility for car/bicycle collisions. No one denies that such cyclists exist and should be held accountable for their actions, but the issue of fault in a dooring incident is not debatable: it is always the motorist’s fault. This underpins the current proposal  to increase penalties for car dooring, which aims to deter motorists from committing this serious offence.

Carvahlo’s suggestion that both sides need more education also needs to be examined. Cyclists are legally required,* and expected by motorists, to ride in poorly designed bike lanes that present a serious dooring risk, so they are regularly advised by cycling groups to stick to the right side of the lane away from the dooring zone. Motorists, on the other hand, are mostly uninformed about the serious danger they present when exiting a vehicle without checking behind them. Education and awareness are definitely required on both sides, but it’s on the motorist side where it’s seriously lacking. Hence the new penalties.

It would be possible to take these comments with (to borrow Rowland’s phrase) a sack of salt, but cyclists who have been involved in or witnessed a dooring incident would perhaps beg to disagree. Rowland and Carvalho were wrong on this issue and made light of an extremely serious concern for regular bike commuters.


*s247 of the Road Rules 2009 requires cyclists to stay in the bike lane ‘unless impracticable.’ Arguably this could extend to unsafe bike lanes, but it needs to be clarified.

 Posted by at 8:00 am

  5 Responses to “Dooring is always the motorist’s fault”

  1. As a car driver, I believe it is my responsibilty to check behind before opening the door. I have nearly wiped out car doors on parked vehicles when reverse parking, by pulling parallel before reversing. Drivers throw open their doors without looking. If they don’t see a car, then they won’t see a bike. We should treat our cars as if they were a deadly weapon, because that is what they are!

  2. From @BreakfastNews on twitter:
    There was an on-air correction on #dooring this morning, and you can find it on our Facebook page: @hmoffat @freyja_m

  3. Well isn’t that a kick in the crutch to all the good work that’s being done towards rider safety.

    I can only think the presenters have no idea what dooring is and thought he was talking about all car and bike accidents.

  4. well, I guess there must some cyclists out there who open parked car doors wilfully as they ride past and thereby slam into them….
    What an absolutely stupid on air comment to make.
    Are they suggesting that cyclists are riding too close to parked cars? Is that it?
    I wasnt aware there was a legal distance involved? if not, then shut up and blame the person opening their door onto the road side without checking first. And make the fine big so that it fits the crime of injuring or killing an innocent cyclist.

  5. Typical ill-informed comment by presenters whose only job is to fill dead air time with inane chatter. There are lots of bike accidents where the rider can be partly or wholly at fault but dooring is not one of them.

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