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Commuting 101: Don’t ride in the door zone

by Richard Masoner

The door zone is the space within two to three feet of cars parked parallel on the roadway. If a driver suddenly opens his door in the path of a cyclist, that cyclist has been “doored.” As this recent tragic news from Australia reminds us, getting doored can get you killed. Sometimes the trauma of the crash will severely injure or kill the cyclist; often, death comes from getting pushed into the path of a passing motor vehicle.

The best way to avoid doorings is to ride outside of the door zone. 36 inch bike lanes are sometimes convenient markers showing precisely where the door zone lies.

Most areas have laws requiring car users to check back for approaching traffic before opening their car doors, but there have been numerous deaths, injuries and property damage caused by careless opening of doors.

 
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8 Responses to “Commuting 101: Don’t ride in the door zone”

  1. Patrick says:

    Perhaps, just perhaps people should design cars with sliding doors, or “suicide” doors should come back into style. Then again, cyclists should be educated on this.

  2. Vanessa says:

    In my neighborhood, I have to ride through a fairly busy two-lane street, and the only space I have to ride is the door-zone. I think about this every time I’m riding, and am not sure how I should approach this area.

  3. Sideburnz says:

    You’re really much safer farther out into the lane than in the “door zone”. Especially if its only for a few blocks, which sounds like it may be the case. You’ll nix your chances of being doored, and be much more visible to vehicles approaching from behind.

  4. Ke Ru says:

    Not the be all end all but I look in the mirrors to check if someone’s in the car. With SUV’s and tinted windows it’s not always so easy plus with everything else going on.

  5. ande says:

    In my area a couple years ago the council changed a dual carriageway into a single carriage way with a cycle lane on the nearside and a chevroned are on the other side of the main carriageway.
    This now means though that in several places the cycle lane passes between the main traffic carriageway and parking bays at the side of the road.
    At these parking areas the cycle lane is right beside the parking area so the cycle lane forces you to ride in the door zone.
    There would have been plenty room for them to move the cycle lane out of the door zone and the main carriageway over into the chevroned area.
    Further down the road closer to town there is on street parking for the houses at the side of the road and again the cycle lane runs right beside this.
    When i am riding in these areas i tend to move out into the main carriageway but this does not please drivers. Luckily i am confident enough to ignore the horns and abuse as they pass you but i know that a lot of other cyclists get really scared by that kind of thing.

  6. Quinn says:

    1. Here in Reno, if I ride outside the “door zone” I’ll most likely get run over, Period!

    2. I will bet any amount of money that the cyclist that was killed from being Doored, was Hauling Ass, when you get to a car SLOW DOWN!

  7. Groundshero says:

    I was doored three months ago. Woke up in a hospital bed with very large gap in my memory, among other things. I was lucky that the “doorer” stuck around and called an ambulance.

    Even though there are laws about open doors in bike lanes, and open doors in traffic, the police never came, and “doorer” never got a citation.

    I’ve shifted some of my routes away from the lines of parked cars. With light being more & more scarce as fall comes, it’s harder for me to see through the cars as I approach to check for a driver ready to exit.

  8. Josh says:

    I’m constantly checking car windows or taking the lane (when appropriate). It drives me crazy though riding with my fiance when she’s in la-la-land only a foot from parked cars. I’m constantly reminding her to get further away. The standard response is typically “I don’t want to get hit from behind either”. We all know its less likely to get hit from behind but I believe this is main fear of average cyclists. Think I’ll get her a mirror to ease her mind.

    Its illegal to open your door into traffic here. There have been quite a few times where I had to swerve from taking someone’s door off in my car because they didn’t look behind them. I kinda wish I still had an old beater car to just take the door next time.

    I have a friend that has had 2 doors ripped off his car from opening them in traffic. He used to live on a busy 3-lane, 1-way street with parking on both sides. After opening his door into traffic and another car ripping it off (and almost his leg), he decided to start parking on the opposite side of the road (driver’s door opens to curb). However, the replacement door for the driver’s side was used and the door handle broke within weeks. He continued to keep parking on the opposite side but crawling through to his passenger side to get out (door opening to traffic). I don’t think it took any more than a month for him to have his passenger door taken off. I’ve reminded him of these incidents many times while getting out of the car with him and I don’t think he’s learned his lesson. He basically thinks that because he paid the tickets and his insurance picked up the tab for the other cars, its just an expense of driving… like parking tickets. I guess some people will never learn.

    The ways I’ve avoided a dooring are not riding in the zone unless necessary (heavy traffic), a quick but firm “Watch your door in the bike lane” as someone is opening their door and I’ve even pushed a door back into someone because I would’ve been pushed into traffic.

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