Eliminate car door deaths by design

Three weeks of the Tour of France on TV, equals three weeks of advertisements for Skoda brand cars. Can anyone tell me, exactly, how a Skoda car is good for cycling? I mean, it doesn’t even have sliding doors. (Come to think of it, no cars have sliding doors.)

Some newer New York cabs have sliding doors in the rear, to stop passengers cutting cyclists in half when they hastily decide to alight. I’m wondering why that initiative hasn’t spread like hard-wired smoke detectors, non-slip nosing on stairs, safety ring-pulls on drink cans, or anything else designed to reduce avoidable deaths. Is it because no cyclist has thought to go after the carmaker for damages when they were doored?

Like every other carmaker, Skoda know their doors are lethal to cyclists. They could put their front and rear doors on sliding runners, rather than hinges, and in so doing eliminate an obvious risk, by design. Designing out risk is so much better than expecting humans not to make errors.

Car doors with hinges even kill cyclists in the Netherlands, where supposedly everyone knows to look before opening their doors; alas, even citizens of bicycling nations have their fallible moments. Last year I narrowly avoided being hit by a tradesman’s car door, on the passenger side, in Copenhagen. As for those stickers that well meaning drivers put on their rear vision mirrors, to remind themselves not to carelessly kill us, I think ants would take more comfort from “don’t step on the ants” signs painted on footpaths.

Short of banning cars altogether, we need to: 1. sue car companies for injuries caused by hinged doors; 2. put it to Skoda that they aught to build genuinely bike friendly cars; and 3. find a country to be the first to outlaw cars with hinged doors. Since Australia is an Island and nanny state, I think we aught to take up that particular challenge. Once it upon a time it was normal and acceptable to advertise smoking as good for the lungs. Let’s get together and relegate car doors with hinges to a similar dark chapter in history.


  1. Edward says:

    There is a strange irony in that small picture. The cyclist is so amazed at the sliding door on the little gold car that he is about to plough into the open door on the car in front.

    Great line BTW: “Designing out risk is so much better than expecting humans not to make errors”. It often seems more a hope than an expectation.

  2. Matt says:

    I don’t think sliding doors will help more than marginally. Where car doors are opening, people are getting out, right? Is the improvement that cyclists will have more time to react to the sudden appearance of obstacles, and swerve into the lane of moving cars on their right?

    The central problem is that the metre of space between the parked cars and the moving traffic is an unsafe place to be. For anyone.

    This proposal retains that central problem, and adds onerous and expensive mandates on drivers and no encouragement for casual cyclists for marginal safety improvements for dedicated commuters.

    Sliding doors would save a lot of nicks and dings when parking at the shops. But cyclists need separated bike lanes.

    • Steven says:

      I’m sorry Matt, but I will have to deduct five points for your ignorance of the passenger-side door zone, and another five because you have not actually cycled in the countries you look to as models—Denmark and the Netherlands—where many cyclists are still forced to ride in the driver-side door zone. At the end of round one that gives you a score of minus 10, and me a score of plus 10, which gives me a lead of 20 points heading into round 2.

  3. Matt says:

    Hey I don’t want to annoy you. My opinion may or may not have any value, but as long as you’re inviting comments from anonymous internet strangers, I thought I’d contribute. That’s what you’re floating these ideas for, right?

    I’m sure you’re a fast rider and have ridden in lots of places all over the world – awesome!

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