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Slater & Gordon and ambulance union urge motorists to be more vigilant of cyclists

April 22, 2010

 

Slater & Gordon and ambulance union urge motorists to be more vigilant of cyclists

 

Slater & Gordon and the ambulance union (AEA) in Victoria have joined forces to warn motorists about the need to be more vigilant of cyclists on the State’s roads.

The law firm and union have come together after identifying a disturbing trend where cyclists have been injured or died as a result of collisions or attempts to avoid collisions, specifically from car door openings.

Slater & Gordon motor vehicle accident lawyer, Allan Macrae said the firm was alarmed by the injuries that clients had sustained while riding their bikes and the recent death of a cyclist in Melbourne.

“As the number of cyclists on our roads increase, there’s no doubt that the tension between motorists and cyclists is also increasing,” he said.

“A cyclist riding their bike to home, work or for recreational purposes, should not also have to be concerned that they’re putting their body and life on the line.”

Mr Macrae said the incidences of people being injured because of car door openings could be reduced if motorists and in some instances, passengers took the time to look before opening the car door.

“Drivers and passengers should get into the habit of doing a head check before opening the car door, just like checking for blind spots when driving,” Mr Macrae said.

“Our advice is that the easiest way to deal with cyclists on the road is to treat them like any other vehicle and to give them appropriate space and consideration on our roads.”

He said cases of cyclists being injured by car door openings, seen by lawyers at Slater & Gordon, included:

  • A 31 year-old female rider hit by a car door which opened while she was riding in a bicycle lane along Fitzroy Street, St Kilda.  She came off her bike and landed on the road fracturing her ankle, resulting in surgery. 
  • A 41 year-old doctor was injured while riding along St Kilda Road, in a designated cycling lane, when a car door opened in his path. The doctor landed face-first on the roadway and suffered serious injuries to his chin and jaw. 

  • A 71 year old was injured while riding along Toorak Road, South Yarra when a car door opened in front of him. The man was thrown to the ground and taken to hospital by ambulance. He suffered loss of consciousness, a fractured finger, lacerations to an elbow and a fractured wrist. 
  • A 31 year old woman was injured while riding along Plenty Road, Preston when a parked car door opened in front of her in July 2009.  She had to undergo surgery after sustaining deep lacerations to her mouth and severe bruising to her forearm.

Steve McGhie, Ambulance Employees Australia State Secretary, said his members were seeing up to five cyclists struck by car door openings, each week.

“It’s certainly a disturbing trend,” he said.

“Along with increasing awareness in this area, our members believe that more can be done to improve safety on our roads for cyclists.

“Standard bike lanes are funnelling cyclists into a hazardous place adjacent to parked cars – increasing the risk of them being struck or colliding with open or opening car doors.”

“There’s a definite need to increase awareness about these accidents and to change driver habits.”

Mr Macrae said many injured cyclists were not aware of their rights under the State’s injury insurance scheme.

“We’ve been told that many people who present themselves for treatment after a collision with a car, are not aware of their rights to access compensation and that’s alarming because it can mean that people are not getting access to medical care and compensation from the Transport Accident Commission (TAC).”

Mr Macrae said cyclists had always been covered by the TAC scheme for compensation, when they are injured during a collision or when trying to avoid a collision with a motor vehicle that was being driven. He said that in 1995, the laws were improved to cover cyclists who had been hit by an open or opening vehicle door.

“The area covering cyclists is complex and cyclists should always seek legal advice if they’ve been in an accident involving a vehicle or a near-miss with a vehicle,” he said.

Mr Macrae said in addition to the TAC system, some cyclists, who are injured in the course of their employment, should be covered by the WorkCover and Comcare workers compensation schemes.

Data supplied to Monash University’s Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit (VISU) has shown that hospital admissions due to pedal-cycle accidents among adult cyclists increased an average of 9 per cent each year from 1999 to 2008. This is said to be in line with the growing popularity of recreational and commuter cycling. 

The data has revealed that about 32 per cent of injuries were the result of ‘pedal cyclist injured in collision with car, pick-up truck or van’ and about the same (32 per cent) were the result of a ‘pedal cyclist injured in non-collision transport accident’, such as being thrown from or falling off the bicycle.

 

The data only relates to accidents which have happened on public roads.

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