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Common Hazards: Dooring

Cyclists in large cities become aware of this one sooner or later. “Dooring” is what happens when a motorist or passenger opens a car door into the path of a bicyclist. A dooring can be relatively minor—resulting in nothing more than scrapes, bruises and rattled nerves—or it can result in death.

While a cyclist can be killed by the door-strike itself, fatalities are more commonly caused by the cyclist being thrown into the road and run over. When the door is swung open, the cyclist swerves. The handlebars clip the door, yanking them to the right. The cyclist is then ejected into the lane of traffic.

Dooring is the legal fault of the person who opens the door. But you have a vested interest in preventing this from happening to you.

Tips: Keep your entire body, and the ends of your handlebars, at least 5 feet from the side of a parked car. We refer to the area within 5 feet of parked cars as the “door zone.”

The largest doors extend about 4 feet. You need to keep enough buffer that a suddenly-opened door won’t startle you into swerving in front of passing traffic.

Watch where people drive their cars. People instinctively don’t drive their cars in the door zone when the lane is wide enough to avoid it. Next time you are on a road with parallel parking, notice where the oil stain and tire tracks are. The right tire track will always be as far from the parked cars as the lane-width allows. Unless the lane is very narrow, riding in the right tire track should keep you outside the door zone.

Bike lanes: Most bike lanes are 5ft wide. So if a bike lane is next to parked cars, it will give you a good guideline of where NOT to ride.

Sharrows (Shared Lane Markings): These are being used where there is not enough width to stripe a door zone bike lane. Don’t trust the placement to indicate where you should ride. The guidelines for sharrow placement is too close to parked cars and many municipalities are violating even those meager standards.

Ride safe.