Among the many dangers that bicyclists have to watch out for is “dooring.” As you probably know, that’s when someone opens the door to their vehicle to get out without looking and a cyclist slams into it.
California law states that motorists need to refrain from opening a door “unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of…traffic.” However, those guilty of it typically don’t face criminal consequences if they didn’t intentionally try to harm a cyclist. Safety advocates acknowledge that most people are “just not conscious” of the possibility that their door could hit someone.
Since most cases of dooring don’t result in serious injury to cyclists, it’s hard to know just how often it happens. However, it can result in very serious — and sometimes fatal — injuries.
Can these incidents be avoided?
The widow of a man who was killed in October when he ran into an open door and then struck by an oncoming vehicle is one of many advocates working to bring better infrastructure to Los Angeles and rest of the state and more awareness by drivers of cyclists who share the roads with them.
One example is encouraging drivers and passengers to use the “Dutch Reach” when they open their door. This refers to using the arm farthest away from the door to open it, which causes them to have to look behind them.
Bicyclists can help protect themselves when they’re riding near parked cars to be aware of anyone in those cars. If you see tail lights, brake lights, overhead lights or movement in the car, it’s crucial to ensure that those in the vehicle see you. It may be safest to stop if possible.
While some areas with a lot of cycling traffic have implemented “sharrows,” or shared bike/vehicle lanes, designated bike lanes and other safety measures to give cyclists more room, local lawmakers unfortunately don’t make it a priority in underserved areas – even though there are generally more pedestrians and cyclists in these areas.
If you’ve suffered injuries in a dooring incident, don’t underestimate their seriousness or your right to seek justice and compensation for medical costs and other expenses and damages. Having sound legal guidance can help.