The family of Sam Boulton, the cyclist who was killed when a taxi passenger opened its door into his path, have joined Cycling UK in calling for the creation of a new offence of causing serious injury or death by car-dooring. They were among hundreds who braved poor weather to take part in a memorial ride for the Leicester teacher yesterday, at which Harborough MP Neil O’Brien promised to raise the issue with ministers.
Boulton was killed after being knocked into the path of a passing van on his 26th birthday on July 27, 2016.
In March, taxi passenger Mandy Chapple was fined £80 after admitting the offence of opening a car door, or causing or permitting it to be opened, so as to cause injury.
The same month saw the van driver, Nigel Ingram, admit failure to stop and driving while over the legal limit for alcohol. He was handed a 26-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months and conditional on his attending a 12-week course for treatment for his alcohol addiction. He was also banned from driving for 28 months.
In June, private hire driver Farook Yusuf Bhikhu was fined £300 plus costs for the same offence as Chapple. He had chosen to park on double yellow lines outside Leicester Railway Station and permitted Chapple to disembark into the road rather than onto the pavement.
This month’s Leicester Critical Mass ride was branded Ride for Sam in tribute to Boulton and several hundred people turned out. Local MPs Neil O’Brien and Keith Vaz were among those in attendance.
Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigner, Duncan Dollimore, said: "People of all ages gathered in Leicester city centre last night, singing in the rain as they rode around the city to the sound of Mr Bojangles and Penny Lane on the amplifier.
“With bikes on parade adorned with Sam's own artwork, an array of 'Sam Says' T-shirts with calls for the law on car-dooring to be changed, and a penchant for flat caps, this was a humbling tribute to much-loved young teacher with a passion for art, teaching, life, and painting bike frames retrieved from tips with his own designs.
“Neil O'Brien MP was one of hundreds who pootled through the puddles, promising to raise with ministers the concerns Cycling UK, Sam's family and many others have raised regarding car-dooring laws, and the need for a public awareness campaign on the dangers of dooring. Hopefully others will now add their voice to those calls."
Cycling UK argue that there is a huge gulf in penalties between a nominal fine for car-dooring, which is treated and perceived as a regulatory offence, and a manslaughter conviction, which in most cases will be unrealistic.
In a blog on the charity’s website, Dollimore points to the penalties in other cases where cyclists have been killed as a result of being doored, such as the £200 fine handed out to Kenan Aydogdu for the incident that led to the death of Sam Harding in 2011.
Aydogdu was found not guilty of manslaughter, even though the visibility from his Audi had been reduced to 17 per cent of what it should have been after he applied tinting film to the windows.
Cycling UK is also advocating the use of the Dutch Reach method of opening car doors.