In re death of Cross (2011) H&FLR 2015-24

Inquest into the death of James Bernard Cross (2011) H&FLR 2015-24

Coroners’ Court of Victoria

10 November 2011

Coram: Coroner Spooner

Appearing for the the family of the deceased: Mr Hevey
Appearing for Mrs Richards: Ms Gleeson
Appearing for the Roads Corporation: Ms Fox

Catchwords: Victoria – Coroner – cyclist – dooring – death – bicycle lanes

Facts: The deased was a 22 year old student.  On 17 March 2010 he was cycling to university along a designated shared parking and cycling lane on Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, south of the intersection with Barkers Road. A car driver (Mrs Richards) was parked in the shared lane approximately 150 metres from the intersection of Barkers and Glenferrie Roads.  She opened the driver’s-side door, which collided with Mr Cross causing him to fall onto the roadway beneath the trailer wheels of a heavy vehicle with was also travelling south on the road.  Mr Cross sustained fatal injuries in the accident and died at the scene.

The driver’s evidence was that she had considered the possible presence of cyclists, that she had checked her wing mirror and that she had opened her door only 12cm (about 5 inches) when it was struck (1).  She said however that she had not seen the deceased.  The truck driver’s evidence was that he was travelling at around 30 kph (19 mph) at the time of the accident.

Police opted not to charge Mrs Richards with breaching Road Safety Road Rules 2009, r.269(3) (opening a vehicle door to the danger of another).

Held: Concluding that Mrs Richards had opened her door wide enough to knock Mr Cross off his bicycle, but that the truck driver’s driving had not contributed to the accident, that –

1. Cyclists should be considered vulnerable when riding in close proximity to other vehicles.

2. It is the responsibility of motorists to check for the presence of cyclists before opening car doors.  However, it is incumbent on cyclists to remain vigilant when riding past parked cars.  It was recommended that VicRoads take steps to remind both groups of their responsibilities.

3. It was recommended that reconfiguring bicycle lanes to pass to the left of parked cars be encouraged.

Judgment

The Court’s judgment is available here.

Comment: Intriguingly, Court’s third recommendation may have little trouble attracting support at a policy-setting level.  Pro-cycling politicians have observed that “a significant number of people would ride to work and sports and make as many short trips as they could by bike, if it were safe to do so … That means having safer on-road or off-road paths that connect and link the various centres” (2).  The safety-enhancing effect of having bicycle lanes to the left of parked cars would have prevented, for example, the accidents discussed in a blogpost by attorney Tina Willis (3) and looks remarkably like arch-conservative Rush Limbaugh’s robustly-expressed view that cyclists should be required to ride on footpaths rather than on public roads (4).

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(1) How far the door was opened was disputed by another witness.

(2) ‘Pushbike pollies pedalling a new line’, Newcastle Herald, 6 March 2015.

(3) Tina Willis, ‘Bad Week For Bike Riders’, Tina Willis Law, 25 September 2014

(4) Adam Voiland, ‘What does Rush Limbaugh have to say about bicycling?’, Examiner.com, 5 March 2009

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