EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s post is dedicated to the fallen riders smacked by car doors while riding this year. This includes our friend and guest contributor James Bruckbauer who was the latest victim on Traverse City’s Washington St. in a crash yesterday. According to his Tweets, he is ok, however, likely a little sore today. We send him our best.
It’s surprising how many people are not aware of the hazards of someone on a bicycle being doored. For riders with a lot of city miles on their saddle, it ranks as one of the biggest fears and one of the most consequential crashes that may occur. Often we are pushed too far to the right, either through poorly designed & thought-out bicycle lanes (TC Front St.) or aggressive drivers, and placed in an uncomfortable position of not knowing if that next parked car is going to swing a door open directly into our path.
As a general rule, expect every door to open at any moment. The best option is to maintain a 3 foot buffer between yourself and parked cars. If that means that a motorists behind you needs to wait before making a safe pass, so be it; their comfort and convenience doesn’t trump your safety. The Bicycle Advocate out of Chi-town has an informative post that goes into more depth: How To Avoid Getting Doored.
Where is the door zone? This animated graphic below by Carly Clark for SteetsBlog SF is making the rounds and shows it well. As a rule, where a bike lane is present with parked cars (downtown TC), I ride right on the inside line closest to the travel lane.
For those of you riding in Traverse City, considerate design to reduce the door-zone exposure is a long-way off. The recently released Urban Bikeway Design Guide by NACTO describes the treatments for reducing the potential conflict zones and it will take time to 1) have this information sift down to the hinterlands of northern Michigan and 2) prioritize the public investment to carry out changes.
As for drivers, a lot could be done through an education campaign to remind drivers to expect bicyclists. Also, taking a tip from The Netherlands where it is taught in driver education school, all of us should try to use our right hand (when in driver’s seat) to open the car-door. By reaching across our body, we are naturally in a position to look down the street to see if anyone is approaching.
Another action if anyone is interested, a guerilla sticker action using these well-placed reminders by Vigilant Velo. These have been on my wish list for a while…they might make good presents.
Again, first rule: avoid the door-zone; take your lane.
Last night, without excessive discussion, the Traverse City Commission approved to vote at the October 3, 2011 meeting to amend the TC Code of Ordinances to require vehicles to stop for pedestrians in marked crosswalks. The discussion that did take place was more concerned about the trunk lines running through the city that really aren’t likely to be impacted by this local ordinance; being state roadways, they require a complete other bag of tricks to impact safety and speeds; a bold city ordinance will only help that cause.
Commissioner Ralph Sofferdine did raise some interesting concerns about creating a “false sense of safety” for pedestrians without adequate pavement treatments for marked crosswalks. It is a legitimate point, but one that also needn’t stop this current city commission from enacting an ordinance that may be slightly ahead of our street designs, education programs and enforcement regime.
Establishing the expectation that when approaching a marked, un-signalized crosswalk and a pedestrian wishes to cross that we come to a complete stop is something that all of the 70 miles of local streets (most of which are 25-mph zones) could benefit from. It is one small step to altering the culture endemic in the community that streets are solely for the use and enjoyment of one mode of transportation. The ordinance will more clearly put the onus on the person in or on a vehicle to acquiesce to the people simply wishing to cross the road.
Consider emailing the City in support of a city-wide ordinance requiring complete stops at marked cross-walks when pedestrians present. They will likely pass the ordinance on Oct. 3rd, but it’d be silly to see it constrained to a small location or otherwise watered-down.
* In-street yield to pedestrian signs like that shown above have “proved to be very effective” in influencing motorists behavior. It stands to reason that in-street stop for pedestrian signs would do the same. In New Haven, CT an extensive safety program has shown positive results with the in-street signs as well.
“Public health authorities and traffic engineers have extensive data showing that in-street signs are highly effective at increasing pedestrian safety.”