|Alberto Paulon is the second cyclist in the image. The collision happened few video frames after this image. Read more about the incident here and here.|
Injuries and deaths due to "dooring" incidents are common around the world. Such incidents are sometimes viewed as an unfortunate side-effect of cycling, a problem requiring driver and/or cyclist education. Cyclists should not be under constant threat of death depending on how they position themselves on roads. There is no reason for roads to be designed in such a way that danger results from mistakes by their users when they could be designed to reduce the chance of mistakes becoming tragedies.
Door zone collisions can be almost entirely eliminated by changing the design of roads. This blog post illustrates how that can be done.
What's wrong with Sydney Road, Melbourne ?
The road on which this incident happened is in the Brunswick area of Melbourne, which has a high rate of cycling for an Australian city. Unfortunately, while the people who live in and use the shops in this area cycle quite frequently, the road is designed to serve those who are passing through in motor vehicles and no proper separate space has been found to keep cyclists safe.
A twenty-one metre wide road is more than wide enough to allow cycling in safety, and more than wide enough to provide cycling facilities which are free from the "door zone" problem. However this will require making a choice of what the purpose is of Sydney Road.
Is the purpose of Sydney Road to provide a route for trams, for motor cars and trucks or is it a local shopping street. While there is an attempt to make this road serve all types of users it is likely that it will not serve any of them well. Cyclists are amongst the most vulnerable users of any road and therefore amongst those users most likely to be injured or killed as a result of inadequate infrastructure.
A narrower road in Assen is much safer for cycling
The photos below come from Groningerstraat in Assen. Groningerstraat is a through road of approximately 18 metres wide. This makes it three metres narrower than Sydney Road in Melbourne. Despite its relative narrowness, Groningerstraat provides a very high quality environment in which to cycle. It's very convenient and also very safe. Dooring is almost impossible in Groningerstraat.
|Layout of Groningerstraat. 18 m in total are divided between 1.8 m wide pedestrian paths, 2.2 m wide unidirectional cycle-paths, 2.8 m wide lanes for motor vehicles leaving space for green buffers, drainage and car parking. Thanks to Streetmix.|
|Safe, sociable side-by-side cycling is possible in both directions along Groningerstraat.|
|Car parking alternates from one side to the other along the length of the road. The pedestrian and cycling infrastructure is constant.|
|Angled "forgiving" kerbs are used so that a cyclist who makes a mistake and collides with the kerb will simply mount the pavement and continue for a while rather than being injured. Note that in this photo the cyclists shown are riding racing bicycles. It was taken during one of several large racing events which take place in Assen. Racing cyclists use cycle-paths in the Netherlands because there is no advantage to riding on the roads.|
- It is normal in the Netherlands to cycle on the right, and that places an individual cyclist as far away as possible from parked cars as they are passed.
- The drain / buffer between parked cars and the cycle-path is wide enough for a significant proportion of the total car door side.
- The cycle-paths are of a width which allows two cyclists passing side-by-side to very easily pass an open door in safety.
- If a cyclist swerves away from the car then they may meet the kerb between the cycle-path and the pavement, but this is an angled "forgiving" kerb over which it is possible to cycle in safety so swerving won't result in injury.
- The Netherlands is a left hand drive country. Therefore doors of cars parked in the conventional direction (the blue car above is parked against the flow) will most frequently be opened on the opposite side of the car from the cycle-path.
- This is residential parking, not business parking. Therefore car movements are less frequent and car doors opened less often.
- It is possible for cyclists to swerve, stop or even crash without any danger of being run into by a motor vehicle. This means that the very worst outcomes are avoided because riding straight into a car door won't result in a secondary collision involving another motor vehicle - the cause of the death in Melbourne.
Other Dutch examples
|A less good example from Assen. Because the cycle-lane is on the wrong side of parked cars, there is a risk of dooring resulting in a secondary collision. On-road cycle-lanes are not good cycling infrastructure. In this case there are factors which reduce the risk. A 0.5 m buffer between parked cars and the cycle-lane offers some space for a door to open and the 2 metre width of the cycle-lane offers some swerving space for cyclists. Also these cars are parked by residences so do not move so frequently as they would if parked by shops. Note that at this location also the motor vehicle lanes are 2.8 m wide. This is wide enough for all vehicles.|
Cyclist injuries are rising across the English speaking world
Tracey Gaudry from the Amy Gillett Foundation is quoted in the ABC news story as saying that The road toll is decreasing across the country on the whole except for bicycle riders. So what is happening is that the work that is being done to protect occupants of motor vehicles, not enough is being done to protect vulnerable road users, including bike riders." The same is true across most English speaking countries because while there has been a rise in the numbers of people cycling, there has not been any significant improvement in the safety for cyclists.
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Many roads across the world have the same problem as does Sydney Road in Melbourne. Many of them could be improved by following the same engineering principles as are demonstrated above. On the other hand, there are relatively few roads like Groningerstraat in which these principles can be demonstrated. That is why this road has featured on our study tours since it was rebuilt in 2007.
Groningerstraat also demonstrates other examples of good design, such as an extremely safe and convenient traffic light junction and a very well designed and safe side-road crossing. Assen has many examples of good infrastructure which extend well past this one road. To see and learn from these and other examples of good design as well as to have problems caused by bad designs pointed out, book a study tour.
There is a campaign in Melbourne which has been calling for a cycle-path along Sydney Road for some time.