Lives lost on the long road to cycling safety

Man whose son was ‘car-doored’ says changes have come too late

Friday, 25th February — By Charlotte Chambers

Sam harding download

Sam Harding, who was 25, was crushed by a bus as he cycled down Holloway Road in 2011

THE father of a man who died under the wheels of a bus 10 years ago has called changes to the Highway Code – intended to give cyclists and pedestrians protection from other road users – “too little, too late”.

Sam Harding was just 25 – and due to move in with his girlfriend that same day – when he was struck by a car door and came off his bike in Holloway Road, before being crushed by a No 153 bus. Later, the driver of the car was tried for manslaughter at the Old Bailey but was found not guilty after an hour of deliberation by the jury.

Sam’s father, Keith Harding, said he was “glad” to see that the Highway Code had finally been adapted to protect the most vulnerable road users – but warned it still didn’t go far enough. As part of a range of new measures and clarifications brought in on January 29, it is hoped that the introduction of the “Dutch Reach” will reduce accidents.

The code – which all drivers are expected to be well versed in – now states: “Where you are able to do so, you should open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening; for example, use your left hand to open a door on your right-hand side. This will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder.”

Mr Harding, who has moved out of London since Sam’s death, said: “The recent announcement of improvements to the Highway Code to help support vulnerable cyclists, along with other amendments, is most welcome, and if fully implemented will save lives. Nevertheless, it is a shame that it has taken so long and has been given very little publicity.”

He added: “Both cyclists and pedestrians are frequently endangered by what is called ‘car-dooring’ – in other words opening the car door onto the road without looking.”

Since Sam died in 2011, 119 cyclists have died in London, according to research collated by cycling groups.

Among those were Hilary Wilmer, 65, who was “car-doored” last year as she cycled home from work at Channing School in Highgate. No charges were brought against the driver.

Professor Maria ­Bitner-Glindzicz, a Great Ormond Street consultant in genetics, died after she was “car-doored” in Clerkenwell in 2018. At the inquest into her death, her ­family heard how a white van door swung open suddenly, forcing her into the path of an overtaking taxi.

The van had parked one metre away from the kerb, leaving very little room in the road. The van driver died two days before a court hearing was due to begin.

Mr Harding criticised the government for not acting immediately after his son’s death. He said that had the Dutch Reach method – a “no-brainer and very cheap to implement” – been introduced at the time, “countless” lives could have been saved.

He said: “Whilst I am glad to see that this has now been incorporated into the revised Highway Code, I cannot believe it has taken so long.

“Ten years ago I sat on the BBC Breakfast sofa to talk about this. And later on the Jeremy Vine Show and other radio stations. Everyone agreed that this simple adjustment was a no-brainer – and very cheap to implement. But ­nothing happened and cyclists continued to be injured and killed.”

Mr Harding said that it doesn’t go far enough to deter careless driving and said protection for cyclists needs to be ­written into law.

He added: “I believe the changes to the Highway Code are advisory only, so they don’t have any legal force and rely on people’s ongoing common sense.

“It will do nothing to stop careless drivers. It needs to be a law.”

According to Dushal Mehta, who acted for the family of Ms Bitner-Glindzicz, the introduction of the word “should” into the guidance means prosecutions will be easier.

He said: “Once these rules are embedded, motorists owe a higher duty of care to keep cyclists and pedestrians safe on the roads and, if they don’t, they will fall foul of the law that will reflect the new rules.”

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: “Cycling UK’s campaigned for the Dutch Reach’s inclusion in the Highway Code for more than five years – its recent inclusion is an important first step to increasing awareness of and preventing car-dooring.

“The offence of car-dooring however needs updating – it is not fit for purpose and often fails to deliver justice to victims. Fortunately, the government has promised a review of all road traffic offences and penalties and we will make sure this misjustice is addressed.”

The changes to the Highway Code last month also introduced new clarification around its rules on cars turning into side-streets, stating they now need to give way to pedestrians crossing the road and cyclists riding straight on.

Drivers should now also give cyclists 1.5 metres of room when overtaking.

 Club points to need for extra bike lanes

Alec James of Islington Cycling Club

THE chair of Islington Cycling Club – the largest bike club in London – has said he believes London will see a “micro mobility revolution” as the popularity of e-bikes and e-scooters soars, writes Charlotte Chambers.

Alec James, who was elected chair of the Highbury-based club in November, predicted that in the future many more people will be using bikes or scooters to get around.

But he warned that the city’s streets will need bike lanes to make it safe.

Mr James said: “I think in the next couple of years we’ll see a huge [rise] in e-bikes.

“They’re amazing, for if you’re not very fit, if you’re not very strong, if you’re not very confident, if you’re a bit old or a little bit disabled. It’s a huge tool of freedom, having an e-bike or e-scooter.

“I think we’ll see a revolution in micro mobility in London – basically everyone [will have] a scooter or a bike and they can zip around London easily.”

Describing a vision where “everyone” cycles, Mr James, a communications manager at the Houses of Parliament, said it was essential for Islington – and London – to have bike lane infrastructure to support that.

He said he expected to see a “massive shift” in the backgrounds of people who take up cycling – currently typically the preserve of “young, fit, white guys” – due to the rising cost of living and the push from local boroughs and Transport for London for people to live healthier, more sustainable lives.

“I think on a societal level we’ll see a big shift in who is cycling,” he said. “I think at the moment it’s seen as a young, male type activity. I think we’ll see more older people riding, I think we’ll see younger people, we’ll see families out, we’ll see [people] from different cultures and ethnic backgrounds… I think we’ll see a societal shift and [cycling] to become much more diverse.”

While he welcomed new changes to the Highway Code which offer cyclists greater protection on the roads, Mr James said it needed to go “hand in hand with how we design” roads, and called on Islington – and all boroughs across the capital – to build as many bike lanes as possible.

He predicted that once e-scooters were legalised and affordable, in a year or two, bike lanes would no longer be bike lanes, as there would be an “explosion” of people using scooters. Instead, bike lanes would become “micro mobility lanes”.

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