Cycling UK has said it is willing to provide legal assistance to the cyclist knocked off his bike by Chris Grayling. 'Car dooring' is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £1,000 – although the charity has been campaigning for stiffer penalties.
Footage of the incident, which took place in October, shows the Transport Secretary opening the door of his ministerial car into Jaiqi Liu, who was cycling past.
Liu said his bike needed a series of repairs and that he experienced pain later on, after the shock had worn off.
Grayling is said to have implied that the incident was the cyclist’s fault, claiming that Liu had been riding too quickly (despite not appearing to have seen him).
Liu said that after checking he was okay and shaking his hand, Grayling left without leaving his name or details. The cyclist then reported the incident to police.
Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns Officer, Duncan Dollimore, said:
“Mr Grayling as a former Justice, and the current Transport, Secretary should know it’s a criminal offence to open any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger anyone. Currently, it’s treated as a minor offence with a maximum £1,000 fine, despite the fact that people have been killed and seriously injured by car dooring.
“Cycling UK spoke to Justice officials in September suggesting that a review of the offence and penalties of the car dooring offence is needed. Disappointingly, Grayling’s former department rejected our suggestions and omitted them from their review of offences they announced two weeks ago. Hopefully, the Ministry of Justice will now listen to us, and reconsider the entire remit of what is a very limited review.
"Cycling UK is keen to speak to Mr Liu to see if our Cyclists' Defence Fund is able to provide legal assistance. There are questions about why Mr Grayling was not prosecuted for what appears to be an offence, and CDF has in the past been prepared to commence private prosecutions on behalf of injured cyclists."
'Car dooring' is a criminal offence under Regulation 105 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 and Section 42 Road Traffic Act 1988.
Cycling UK points to incidents such as the death of Sam Boulton as a reason why the offence should be reviewed. The current maximum penalty is a fine of up to £1,000 and penalty points cannot be imposed on the offender’s licence.
Dollimore also pointed out that incidents such as this could be affected by government plans to increase the small claims limit for personal injury.
“We sincerely hope Mr Liu suffered no lasting damage as a result of the Transport Secretary’s actions. Unfortunately, had he suffered a moderate but non-life-changing injury, as is common in such situations like a broken wrist or collar bone, if the Government has its way, Mr Liu would not recover any legal or other cost.
“Under current proposals to increase the small claims limit to £5,000, any compensation could easily be swallowed in legal fees as the Government thinks road victims, rather than insurance companies, should pay their own costs.”
Cycling UK, together with RoadPeace and Living Streets, yesterday launched the Road Victims are Real Victims campaign, which opposes the plans.