I am sure everyone has seen this video of a cyclist colliding with a car door in London’s Mile End, losing control and falling in the path of a London Black Cab.
Happily, no serious harm was done. The parked car’s door was dented and the car driver has offered to pay for the cyclist’s expenses.
The cyclist was too close to the parked cars. He should have been further out into the road. But could he have been?
Moments before the road was narrowed by road works. I hear the words of my driving instructor still: the most dangerous place for collisions is just at the end of road works.
Then of course there is the road design. The cycle route is one of Boris Johnson’s magic blue cycle routes. The lane is shared with buses.
It’s main function, however, is a car park. Drivers can use the bus lane as car park for most of the day, but in doing so push bicycle users (and buses) out into general traffic.
International best practice puts the cycle path between the footway and the parked car, leaving a buffer zone for opening car doors. Like so:
in Belfast cycle lanes are painted directly beside car parking bays (above) or on-road parking boxes. Elsewhere cyclists are expected to share with buses, but are still threatened by drivers opening car doors:
In years past NIGreenways ran a campaign to point out this fatal flaw in Belfast’s extensive cycle lane network; it is a car park for most of the day.
Currently, Dublin bicycle users are running a similar #freethecyclelanes campaign.
Both campaigns show that without meaningful enforcement motorists take a chance on breaking the law and mostly get away with parking illegally.
Avoiding the door zone puts the cyclist in the middle of general traffic. This gif shows very neatly where cyclists are squeezed into a very narrow channel between parked cars and moving traffic.
Belfast’s Lisburn Road has a tidal parking restriction, but this is too hard for motorists to understand.
TransportNI have concluded their tidal restrictions trial in South Belfast and deemed it a success, making the arrangement permanent despite cars obstructively and illegally parked in the bus lane or other sections of the Urban Clearway on a daily basis.
When the trial was announced I wrote in protest saying bicycle users would be in danger of getting doored. Like the bicycle user in the video above. My protest fell on deaf ears. Conall McDevitt, then a MLA, responded saying the trial and new parking arrangements were necessary to support local businesses and retailers. (Despite many examples worldwide of traders seeing a boost to profits when a cycleway was installed.)
The published Northern Ireland Bicycle Strategy spells out clearly cycling is a higher priority than parking cars.
Very commendable. There remains that suspicion, however, when vested interests, especially local traders with an on-street parking fetish, and safety of vulnerable road users meet, the traders’ interests prevail.