08 April 2009

As one door closes, another knocks you off

In the latest issue of New Scientist is an article about a cyclist-detecting car door being developed by BMW. If sensors detect an object nearby as the door is opened, the door opening is automatically damped.

At the moment the technology can only detect lampposts, but they're working on the detection of more convenient forms of transport such as bikes.

To make things even easier for lazy drivers, they could add an automatic recorded announcement that shouts at the cyclist and complains that we don't pay road tax.

In that curious management jargon that equates technology with pastry, BMW hasn't yet made a decision whether to 'roll it out'.

Meanwhile there are still terrible contraflow cycle lanes that force you to run the door-opening gauntlet of parked cars, such as the one in Ebury St (right).

There's a straightforward low-tech solution - make all one-way roads two-way for cyclists and make the speed limit 15mph - but few politicians are going to stick their neck out on that one. Unless German engineering can come up with a problem-sensing device for political necks.


  1. Um, lanes like that don't only appear as contraflows (Cambridge has a lovely example running along side the parking by the botanic gardens on Trumpington Road) and contraflow lanes don't always have parking the other side of them (Downing Street, Cambridge), so I think you're trying to solve the wrong problem there. There are in fact two things:

    a) don't put bike lanes that close to parked cars

    b) only use contraflow lanes to indicate two-way cycling on a one-way street where it actually helps

    Some one-way routes genuinely aren't wide enough for a bike to pass a car, and should probably stay one way, but otherwise I agree it's nice to get as many routes opened up to cycling as possible, and to keep contraflow lanes to a minimum.

  2. Of course motorists will want 'value' for money' All these extras will be expensive but they will probably prefer to pay the extra if the door opens just as a cyclist goes past and it would activate another button 'As*shole'!

    Love the idea though but if it doesn't work, motorists will have to think, and that's where it goes horribly wrong as they don't think.

  3. That message is from Velochick BTW

  4. @lnr... Thanks for that. I suppose I'm just trying to think of the best blanket way to avoid the Door Opening Zone problem.

    Individual solutions in individual streets, at least in London, don't seem to work; and 'smart doors' are not going to solve things by themselves, whether they ever appear or not.

    And I'd love to see more 'permeability' something of a buzzword at the moment (or perhaps I only just noticed it!)

  5. @velochick... Yes, maybe BMW are missing a trick - they could save a bunch on development costs and just invest in an insult-generating speech chip...

    But, seriously, I wonder if this would be another example of technology making people lazier. We'd all get so used to not having to look, because the sensor will do it for us, that we'd be more likely to blat a passing cyclist or lamppost when leaving a car that didn't have the technology. And probably just get less wary in general.

    Perhaps, paraphrasing the old line about the best way to encourage careful driving being to put a large spike on every steering column pointing at the driver's chest, we should actually put paint bombs inside car doors that would explode on impact with anything. That'd make people careful about opening them.

  6. I would agree that all this technology is actually making motorists less wary. They do need to think. It is vital.

    I was told the other day that some cars are fitted with electronic devices telling you how to reverse. (Even if you don't need this silly gadget), but if the device doesn't work, perhaps they won't be able to do it properly without it. It is quite scary that technology is going to go this way.

    As for the spike, great stuff. Paint bombs, talcom powder, waterbombs, pepper spray would be handy to make them think (for once!) before opening the door. It works with hypnotherapy (with the 'bad association') so it ought to help the motorist. Maybe they could have a Highcode Code woman shouting at them if they dare open the door when a cyclist appears.


  7. Actually, "make all one-way roads two-way for cyclists and make the speed limit 15mph" is almost exactly what we do have over here. The only slight difference is that the speed limit on these roads is 18 mph ( 30 km/h ).

    I'm never seen a one way road here without a cycling exception. I've also never seen a cycle lane here designed to ensure collisions with car doors (though I can certainly remember the ones in Cambridge...)