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A recent tragedy involving a professor who was killed as she cycled in central London has brought the dangers of “dooring” into sharp focus again.

Maria Bitner-Glindzicz, 55, a professor of genetics, died on 20th September last year after sustaining severe injuries in the incident the previous day.

An inquest heard that as she was cycling in central London a van driver opened his door without looking, forcing her to swerve into the path of a taxi that was overtaking her.

According to the Islington Gazette, the inquest heard that the van was parked “a considerable distance from the kerb”.

Senior coroner Mary Hassell recorded the following verdict:

“Maria Bitner-Glindzicz died in a road traffic collision that occurred at approximately 11.30am on September 19 in St John Street, 70 metres south of the junction with Clerkenwell Road.

“She was cycling in a safe and steady manner wearing a helmet and fluorescent strap. Her bike was in good condition.

“A van driver had parked his vehicle far from the kerb. This created a hazard and meant less space in the road.

“The van driver didn’t look before opening the driver’s door sharply. The result was either that Professor Bitner-Glindzicz has to swerve suddenly, or that she was sideswiped.

“In either event, the opening of the door caused her to fall under the wheels of a black cab overtaking.”

The van driver involved was charged with opening a car door so as to cause injury, an offence with a maximum penalty of £1000. He was due to appear in court later that month but died in his sleep two days before his scheduled appearance.

The taxi driver was interviewed by police on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving however no charges were made.

Professor Bitner-Glindzicz was a specialist in molecular genetics as a clinical geneticist at University College London, as well as working at Great Ormond Street Hospital, focussing on child deafness. She was married with two children.

Cycling UK has called for stricter penalties for instances of dooring, including the option of imprisonment, as well as a new offence of causing death or serious injury via opening a vehicle’s door.

What is dooring?

Car dooring, also known simply as ‘dooring’, is where a cyclist is struck by someone opening their vehicle door (often without looking), usually resulting in the cyclist being knocked off their bike, and often has devastating consequences.

Is dooring illegal?

Car dooring is illegal under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Vehicles (Constructions and Use) Regulations 1986, wherein it is stated, “No person shall open, or cause or permit to be opened, any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person”.

Currently the maximum punishment available is a fine of £1000, which has been criticised by Cycling UK as there is no possibility of the offender receiving penalty points or imprisonment.

How common is dooring?

According to Cycling Weekly, the latest government figures showed that in 2016, 490 casualties were related to a vehicle door being opened or closed negligently. Of these, 429 were considered “slight injuries”, 60 were “serious injuries” with one person dying.

What can be done to prevent dooring?

Cyclists have called for the government to help raise awareness of preventative measures such as the “Dutch Reach”. Watch the following explainer video from Uber below.

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