Beware of the Very Unforgiving Door Zone… Seriously
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.