The Doors!

You’ve just parked, turned off your car, and given a sigh of relief that you’re no longer stuck in traffic. You reach for your things, kick open your door and CRASH!

The Doors

Okay, so you didn’t “door” a cyclist. But you very well could have!  Just because you stopped driving doesn’t mean you can stop looking. Dooring is one of the most common crashes for cyclists. And in many areas (including Massachusetts) the driver is at fault for opening their door in the path of oncoming traffic! So remember:

The Doors


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  • Ian Brett Cooper December 11, 2012   Reply →

    And cyclists, don’t ride in the door zone! The fact that it’s legal to do so doesn’t make it safe.

    And the fact that it’s illegal to open a car door without checking to make sure it’s safe doesn’t mean that motorists won’t do it.

    If you ride outside the door zone (that’s a full 6ft from parked cars), you take the responsibility for your safety out of the hands of stupid, ignorant and incompetent motorists and you keep that responsibility where it belongs – in the hands of the person who’s most likely to take that responsibility seriously.

    • Carrie December 11, 2012  

      Ian, is it necessary to insult car drivers? I bike and I drive. I try to be responsible and aware when I do both so I don’t see the point of saying things like “out of the hands of stupid, ignorant and incompetent motorists”. It is that kind of attitude that puts people who don’t bike on the defensive and makes them dislike people on bikes. We are all human and will get distracted at times. Motorists may be ignorant of bicycle safety but that doesn’t make them stupid and incompetent.

    • Ian Brett Cooper December 11, 2012  

      Carrie, in my experience, the vast majority of motorists do not take their responsibilities seriously, they obviously do not know the rules of the road and the last time they even looked at their Driver’s Handbook was the day before they passed their driving test (which may have been half a century ago). If one even suggests to motorists who have broken the law or done something really stupid on the road that they might benefit from further education, one tends to be met with an attitude of entitlement and arrogance, if not rage, rather than humility, responsibility and understanding.

      While there may be the occasional driver who (like me) does take his/her responsibilities seriously, who (like me) does know and practice the rules of the road, who (like me) seeks out his/her state transportation laws regularly to see if any changes might affect him/her, and who (like me) keeps a copy of his/her state’s Driver’s Handbook close at hand and refers to it regularly, such drivers are about as rare as snowfall in July, and I tend to think I’m far safer assuming motorists are all a bunch of incompetent morons, because that way, I can only ever be pleasantly surprised.

      In 40 years of road cycling, I have seen nothing on the road that assures me that any motorist is competent, and such things as the appalling state of driver education, the lack of regular retesting and the appalling lack of law enforcement for traffic offenses do not make me any more confident.

      If you want me to respect all drivers, I suggest you work to improve motorist education rather than shooting the messenger.

    • Jonathan Krall December 11, 2012  

      I don’t need you to respect drivers, but I agree with Carrie that it would help to dial back on the insults.

    • jennyc December 11, 2012  

      Problem is, many roads are narrow (if you live and bike in the Boston area, you will be familiar with roads such as Prospect St. in Cambridge, for example), and if there is heavy traffic, it is actually physically impossible to bike both outside the door zone and to the right of moving cars. Best we can do is keep one eye on the traffic and one eye on the parked cars.

    • Ian Brett Cooper December 11, 2012  

      @ JennyC:

      I agree that it is often physically impossible to bike both outside the door zone and to the right of moving cars. But it’s never a good idea to cycle to the right of moving cars, which is why I advocate cycling in the general traffic lane. It’s much safer. Off to the side, you’re much less visible and much more vulnerable to side-swipes and rear-end collisions (as well as doorings). Placing yourself fully in the traffic lane is perfectly legal and gives you a lot more control.

    • Eric December 11, 2012  

      jennyc: In that case, it’s probably safest to take the lane.

    • tad December 11, 2012  


      Do you take the lane all the time?

      I understand taking the lane is appropriate sometimes. But too much of it is just being very rude to drivers and creating big delays.

      And remember, though you say you are “controlling” the lane and “forcing” drivers to behave in a certain fashion, you are actually not able to force the operator of a car to do much. You are trusting each driver not to snap and run you down.

      I know you may say that by sharing the lane, I am trusting drivers not to hit me as well. But at least when they pass me, they are less likely to be doing so while enraged.

      Remember, I take the lane once in a while, just not all the time.

      Stay safe.

  • Andrew Levitt December 11, 2012   Reply →

    Totally agree with Ian’s post, but for myself I modify it a bit to say “avoid” riding in the door zone. Being stiffly dogmatic about it can make it difficult to navigate many situations, and at very low speeds the risk is much lower.

  • Andrew Levitt December 11, 2012   Reply →

    Totally agree with Ian’s post, but for myself I modify it a bit to say “avoid” riding in the door zone. Being stiffly dogmatic about it can make it difficult to navigate many situations, and at very low speeds the risk is much lower. It’s also worth adding that you might avoid door-zone bike lanes altogether–I consider it much safer on slow-moving side streets with no bike lane.

    • Geoff December 11, 2012  

      I completely agree with “avoid” riding in the bike lane , it happens and sometimes its necessary. I can’t quite agree with you on side streets being safer for dealing with parked cars. Those are residential streets and people are just waking up or are tired and not always thinking straight when getting into and out of cars. Some of these streets get tight with parked cars on both sides of the street and moving traffic. oncoming traffic forces us out of the middle and to the right, into a door zone. On streets with bike lanes, the driver sees they are parking next to a bike lane and take precautions. The safety really depends on the street design and traffic patterns. I’ve found busy streets with lots of lights to be very safe, we take the lane because we go the same speed and drivers are more aware. not so busy streets, drivers have not so much reason to pay attention.

  • Dominique December 11, 2012   Reply →

    In Ottawa last year a cyclist was killed because she was doored; she flew into oncoming traffic and was run over.
    When you can’t safely bike outside a door zone area, make sure you bike somewhat slower and with your hands at the brakes just in case!

  • Geoff December 11, 2012   Reply →

    being a recent victim of a dooring, i can say its not as easy to always be out of the door zone. i tried putting full concentration to stay 4-5 feet out of the door zone for my hour long ride to and from my home when I got back to riding. I would say 10% of the time I was in the door zone even when I was doing everything to not be there. various factors such as road quality, intersection design, empty parking lanes becoming occupied lanes and cars passing too closely made me ride too close to the door zone for small amounts of time, usually one car at a time. One of the factors I listed was responsible for my being too close and getting doored while I was trying to move to the left to get out of the door zone. I ended up just switching my route to minimize roads with parked cars, or to use roads with bike lanes next to parking lanes.

    • Ian Brett Cooper December 11, 2012  

      If you’re being forced by passing cars into the door zone, you are not properly controlling your lane and you need to move farther out. 7 to 8ft away from the car is optimal, because it still won’t allow cars space to overtake on the right. In a situation where there is a door zone, taking the lane and forcing cars behind you to wait is absolutely essential to safety.

      If you feel you can’t stay out of the door zone on a road with multiple lanes, you’re better off moving fully into the middle of the next lane of traffic (if one exists) and allowing cars to pass on the right. You are far safer controlling any lane than you are when you’re forced to operate within 6ft of a parked car.

      The problem is, most cyclists are uncomfortable with controlling a lane. Not surprising since so many motorists behave so badly when cyclists do it. But every cyclist has to ask him self a key question: Would you rather be assumed to be impolite, or risk death? And let’s face it – even if you’re riding in the door zone and ‘out of the way’, most motorists aren’t going to respect you for it anyway – in general, they want us off the road altogether. So you may as well be safe.

      The only real reason a person should not be able to avoid the door zone is on a narrow residential street with parking on both sides. In that case, there are no passing vehicles anyway and you can go by slowly without too much to fear.

  • Susan December 11, 2012   Reply →

    Speaking of passengers: if you’re seated on the traffic side of the back seat, scoot over and exit on the other side, instead of opening the door on the traffic side in the first place!

    It’s a shame that more recent car design puts so much stuff between the front seats that it’s not as easy for drivers to scoot over and exit from the other side. However, if your car doesn’t have so *much* stuff that you can’t get your feet and hips over it and make your way to the other side from the driver’s side, maybe you could still exit from the other side too?

  • Tim O December 11, 2012   Reply →

    I’d like to be able to cycle that far out, but in London, on a lot of the roads which I use on my commute, four to five feet outside of the door zone would easily put me in the door zone of cars parked on the other side of the road! (and whilst theoretically cars should be parked facing the direction of travel, they aren’t always, so the door could open oriented in the worst direction still). eg

    (although I rarely see so few cars parked on that road).

    Nevertheless, when possibly staying outside of that area is preferential. Spotting car divers sat in their cars is also a warning that a door may open, or for that matter, that the car may pull out with little or no warning.

    • crankypants December 19, 2012  

      that street is about as wide as most residential streets in Boston – in fact, that’s wider than the street I live on. Although in Boston they often just eliminate parking on one side – or make it one-way –

      we also have the same problem in some neighborhoods – extremely narrow residential streets- parking both sides, people don’t bother to park in the direction of travel… I just ride right down the middle of the street, though…

  • MrDotbike December 11, 2012   Reply →

    What’s wrong with using humor to make a point? Can’t we all laugh at OURSELVES looking for a breath mint before exiting the car for that business appointment? My routine is equally as silly… As usual Bikeyface does it again! Two pictures do more than 2,000 words. I just wish this reached millions of people.

  • JP Gal December 11, 2012   Reply →

    I love the kangaroo! I hope we’ll see her again. What’s her name?

  • thorn December 11, 2012   Reply →

    Ian & Carrie, you can’t possibly really think that cyclists and motorists comprise two mutually exclusive groups, can you? Seems doubtful, so I’ll guess you don’t really think that.

    Also, Ian & others, ‘don’t ride in the door-zone’ – ? ‘A full 6 feet from parked cars’ – ? Where I live, this amounts to choosing between being killed by moving traffic and being killed or seriously injured by an opening car door. I keep my wits about me, have a bell, and am not shy about dinging it — followed by a friendly ‘heads-up!’ and ‘thank youuu..’ And during rush hour in the city I know better than to think trying to spin along at 20mph is going to be anything but frustrating. I stick to about 12.

    There’s a reason why German cities build bike-lanes into sidewalks, in contrasting brick. Not only is the speed-difference between pedestrians & cyclists generally less; there’s a difference in mass that makes non-motorized people more compatible with each other than with motorized vehicles. Make no mistake, these are not ‘shared paths’ – they are simply paths that are completely off-limits to motorized traffic. I often wonder how the math would work out on a retrofit in the US. Someone who can’t afford a car might not be able to afford insurance. What are the ER, rehab, etc. costs to society in the current scenario? Probably because so many cyclists avoid injury by being killed outright, it’s not an issue…

  • Jay Nielsen December 11, 2012   Reply →

    Being a retro grouch, It’s rare that Iearn something new like “getting in the habit of opening your car door with your right hand.”

    • Jay Nielsen December 11, 2012  

      (May I’ll learn to proof read prior to hitting the send button)

  • Trevor December 11, 2012   Reply →

    I have to agree with the sentiment about leaving your insulting attitude at the door. The message you are communicating is important, but by tainting it with such negative delivery you are reducing the overall effectiveness.

  • Lonnie L. Jones December 11, 2012   Reply →

    As a cyclist and motorist, I see a LOT of stupidity behind the wheel. So, a motorist parks and without looking, flings open the car door and has that door removed by another vehicle. It only makes sense to look and see if it’s safe to open the door, not just for the safety of others, but for your own safety as well.

  • Bob S December 11, 2012   Reply →

    If it’s “not physically possible” to ride outside the door zone, how would cars fit through? If there’s space for a car, there’s certainly space for a bike. If there’s not space for a person driving a car and a person driving a bike to share side-by-side, then they can share one after the other. Please: Never, ever ride in the door zone.

    In London’s lovely medieval streets, I would travel down the center of the lane.

    • JR January 4, 2013  

      Me too, on the narrow streets in London, I ride centre stage. These are the roads with cars parked on both sides and only one lane’s width for traffic to flow down. On these roads, it is a give and take situation regarding priority. Exactly the same give and take that you would be forced to display if you happen to be driving a car down that same street. If there is an oncoming car that entered a narrow section before me (i.e. has priority in some way) I will find a place safe to pull to the side, stop and let them through. If someone lets me through, I wave to them to acknowledge their action – like I would when I am driving.

      Cars behind me on these roads? I don’t really worry about – my safety is my priority – once it is safe I will move to the side and let them pass. But only when it is safe to do so, not when they want to – hence why owning the lane is important. If they are being really aggressive, shouting and revving (which is the very rare – though an annoying and alarming minority) I certainly don’t let them push me into the door zone, but I will get out of their as soon as I am able.

      It is mainly mutual respect, so if I know that I have someone behind me for a time I make sure I give them a wave to thank them for their patience.

  • reflector December 11, 2012   Reply →

    Look: just think of all the stupid things you yourself have done while driving, assume at all time that everyone around you can be just as dumb, then ride accordingly. Worked for me so far (20 yrs, 50,000 miles).

  • Steve December 12, 2012   Reply →

    Funny thing is, you are preaching to the choir here… Because we ride, we know about the door zone, and that we should always look when operating a cage. The problem is the other 92.85 percent of the drivers that have never ridden a bicycle and have watched in slow motion a person with a laptop bag, purse, cup of coffee and a bagel stuck in there mouth fling a door open into a travel lane. I see it every single day.

    How do we get the bikey face message out to the drivers?

  • Bill December 12, 2012   Reply →

    I look for vehicle occupants to evaluate my dooring risk and ride accordingly.

    in San Francisco where there is decent bicycle infrastructure, i know that you are at greater dooring risk during rain: passengers/drivers are rushing for shelter.

  • bikeyface December 12, 2012   Reply →

    In an effort to keep discussions constructive I am actively moderating comments. Please be polite and respect that there are many perspectives and points of view. Feel free to add your opinions to the conversation- this can be done in a couple of comments. However, there is no need to dominate the conversation and reply to every comment expressing a different opinion. I want to keep comment area a welcoming place for discussion for all Bikeyface readers. Thanks!

    • Daniel January 6, 2013  

      Yes, please do moderate, it’s scary here, despite the great cartoon.

  • Here, kitty kitty December 12, 2012   Reply →

    Bikeyface, I had my first dooring experience two days ago, and I look a lot like the woman you drew. Are you channelling my life experience? As always, awesome comic!

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