Could you ride into a car door?

Last updated 06:31 27/11/2012

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There have been a number of reports about cyclists being injured or killed by inconsiderate drivers opening a car door and causing the cyclist to swerve into the path of another vehicle.

As a commuter cyclist you do a lot of thinking ahead and precautionary riding tactics to avoid inconsiderate drivers.

I've often thought: If a driver opened a door right in front of me, could I ride into it? There is not time to look over your shoulder, check the road lane is clear and pull out around the door. The alternative is that you swerve and take the gamble with your life. So not being a gambling man, I was trying to condition myself mentally should the scenario arrive.

Just last week as I was cycling home, the driver of a black car joining the road from a side street waited for me to pass before pulling out. We even made eye contact, which for a cyclist means a lot.

The black car then passed me and pulled into a parking bay in front of a row of shops. A cycle lane separates the car parks from the road, but I have learnt long ago that drivers use cycle lanes as their personal entitlement and never check for cyclists.

No more than 10 seconds had passed since I made eye contact with the driver of the black car, but clearly I was long forgotten as he opened his door without checking just as I drew level with the rear of his car. There was no time to stop.

Despite all my mind conditioning I could not ride into the driver or his door. Instinct takes over to avoid a collision. My arms moved automatically and I swerved into the car lane to miss the door.

I was fortunate as no vehicle hit or had to take action to avoid me. But could I do it - no. Could others do it - probably not. So when a cyclist is injured or killed and a car driver pleads ignorance, what is the difference between that and manslaughter?

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