Cycling, the law, and you: Dooring – Bike Magazine Australia

Words: Andrew Demack

‘Dooring’ is to have the door of a parked vehicle open in front of you while you are riding your bike, without sufficient time to take evasive action.

But dooring is not even a real word, let alone an actual offence that will be found in the uniform Australian Road Rules. Emily Billiau, a solictor from CycleLaw, a law firm in Brisbane which specialises in representing bike riders who have been in traffic accidents, says there are an array of offences that cover the common scenarios when dooring occurs.

The first is: ‘Driving without due care and attention’, even though a dooring almost always involves a stationary car. 

The offence is deemed to have taken place when a person ‘drove a motor vehicle on a road or elsewhere without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place’. Billiau points out that ‘to drive’ includes the actions of the driver even when the vehicle is not moving. “They are still operating the motor vehicle, in effect,” she says.

The second offence states that a person must not cause a hazard to any person or vehicle by opening a door of a vehicle, or by leaving a door of a vehicle open. 

As far as the day-to-day application of this law goes, it seems that it is more often used in assessing fault after a dooring accident, than it is in handing out fines to motorists.

Billiau explains: “It comes down to the discretion of the police officer as to whether a driver in a particular is charged with an offence.”

A typical dooring incident happens when a driver has turned off the motor and for some reason then delays getting out of the vehicle. This removes some of the visual clues to the bike rider that the vehicle still has someone inside it who might emerge at any moment.

And it is this very unexpected nature which makes the dooring such a shock, and occasionally unavoidable for even the most careful rider. One moment you are riding along, the next moment you can be impacted by a very substantial solid object.

So you’ve been doored and your bike is broken as a result. Can you ask the car driver to pay for it? What’s the best way to get that to happen? “Generally speaking, the answer is yes,” Billiau explains. 

“It if is a straightforward dooring collision where it is clear that liability rests with the driver of the vehicle then it will be a matter you would want to pursue.”
But getting the driver to pay is another thing. Bilau says this often comes back to whether the driver has comprehensive insurance.

“In many cases where an insurer is involved, I find that it is easier to resolve,” she admits. “If there is no insurer involved – and that is relatively common – then getting the driver to pay for the damage caused is much more difficult. “In that situation the bike rider might spend a lot of time and money chasing payment, and find that the driver simply doesn’t have capacity to pay. “But if an insurer is involved, generally speaking, it’s a much happier situation. Insurers can still be difficult to deal with, but in Queensland comprehensive insurers are relatively understanding in dooring-type collisions, and pretty quick to accept liability on the part of their insured driver.

“If an insurer is involved, the driver of the vehicle will lodge a claim with the insurer, and then the cyclist could liaise directly with the insurer about recovering the damage caused to bike or person”, Billiau adds. Until that point, lawyers aren’t necessary. However, if liability is contested, that’s when it becomes important to have representation. Some of the state advocacy bodies offer free consultation with selected law firms as a benefit of membership.

In terms of trying to avoid dooring in the first place, the question of where a rider should position themself in the lane is a personal assessment of risk. Riding to the left of the edgeline is entirely legal, but it can put you in the ‘door zone’. Riding further out into the traffic lane can be daunting for many riders, and additionally you may feel as though you are holding up other traffic. 

It’s a conundrum that is only solved by good facilities for bike riders – a proper bike lane in which parking is prohibited, or better yet a bikeway that is totally separate from the road.

But even in places where good bike facilities exist, the need for vigilance against dooring never ends.

An article on – a website about the unnoticed architecture and design in the world – explained how in Holland car drivers are taught to use the hand furthest away from the door to pull the handle, forcing them to look over their shoulder to spot potential cyclists approaching.

But until this so-called ‘Dutch Reach’ becomes part of the driver training curriculum across Australia, the price of bike riding in urban areas is still eternal vigilance. Stay safe out there people!

* Andrew Demack is Cycling Development Officer for Bicycle Queensland, and the host of the podcast ‘Briztreadley’ (