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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51 Comments on "The Doors!"


December 11, 2012

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FPA-ZcYGT94

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.

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.

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

Ian,

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

 
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