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Landmark court decision for more cycling safety

A welcome court decision increases cycling safety: A cyclist’s health can be a matter of the correct distance to parking cars in case of abruptly opening car doors.  Nevertheless keeping a safe distance is seen by car drivers and in some cases even the police as being against the rules. Now CycleCompetence member, lawyer Dr. Johannes Pepelnik, has clarified the allowed anti-dooring-distance to parking cars. The Vienna administrative court, the “Verwaltungsgericht” (VWG), has ruled 1.2m to 1.8m distance to parking cars are appropriate.

Complaint filed for contempt of the rule to cycle on the right side 

On September 2015, the cyclist in question cycled towards the inner city on Schulgasse in Vienna’s 18th district. He kept a distance of between 1.2m and 1.8m to parking cars to protect himself from car doors that might be opened carelessly.

For this he was reprimanded by the police (and got an “Anzeige”) for contempt of the rule to cycle on the right-hand side of the lane (“Rechtsfahrgebot”) which is set down in the law on roads and traffic, the “Straßenverkehrsordnung” (StVO). Under §7 para.1 it says anyone steering a vehicle has to drive as far right (unless there is an exception in this law) as it is acceptable keeping in mind the ease and flow of traffic. Further, they should only do so without endangering, obstructing or harassing other road users, endangering themselves and without damaging things.

Successful appeal: Permitted distance settled

The expert on cycling law, Dr. Johannes Pepelnik, represented the cyclist in question in the appeal. The result one year later: The appeal was granted and the “Anzeige” was dropped. A distance to parking cars of 1.2m to 1.8m at 30km/h is “an appropriate distance to ensure the cyclists is not in danger of sustaining injuries from an open car door”.

The administrative court bases the minimum distance to parking cars on “1 metre + half the width of the handlebar”. In this case the handlebar was 80cm wide rendering the safe distance at 1.4m. And 1.2m to 1.8m at a speed of 30km/h were regarded as legitimate.

The court also noted it was irrelevant whether the cyclists was obstructing other road users by keeping a safe distance.

(For the whole verdict and full quotes please refer to the German version of this article – the switch language button is in the top right-hand corner.)

Conclusion: Legal certainty for distance

In case of cars parking at the side of the road, a wider handlebar and a higher speed a greater distance has to be kept. Whether or not this is slowing down other road users is not as important in choosing the correct distance as the own safety.

The court decision highlights the relevance of CycleCompetence member Radlobby’s campaign “Abstand macht sicher” (literally: Distance keeps safe”) Radlobby recommends cyclists to keep at least 1.2m between the right-side end of the handlebar and parking cars. Cyclists choosing this distance now have more legal certainty based on the court ruling.

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Photo: bicycledriving.org

Posted on October 10, 2016