One of the greatest fears of bicyclists—and with good reason—is the fear of being “doored” while riding a bike in traffic. Dooring is what happens when a driver or passenger in a car opens a street-facing car door without looking, causing an oncoming bicyclist to crash into it. Dooring accidents frequently cause serious injury or death to bicyclists, and while they aren’t the biggest statistical threat, they do pose enough danger that many states have passed laws making motorists responsible for checking behind them before opening a car door into traffic.
Hard data on the number of dooring accidents is hard to come by, but several cities have provided local numbers to give us a clue as to the threat. Studies in Chicago have shown that dooring accidents may account for between 7 and 19 percent of all bike accidents in the city. Similar reports in Boston show their numbers to be between 7 and 13 percent.
Protecting Yourself from Being Doored
As a cyclist, while there’s no foolproof strategy to prevent a car door from leering in front of you, you can definitely reduce your own risks by doing the following:
- Look ahead—Keep an eye on car windows as you approach them, watching for people sitting on the traffic side of the car.
- Don’t speed through—Try to ride slowly enough that you could stop quickly if necessary; keep hands over both handbrakes when riding next to parked cars.
- Be cautious even in bike lanes—Designated bike lanes often get obstructed, or they don’t provide enough distance from parked cars.
Avoiding Dooring a Bicyclist
If you’ve parked along a street, the best way to avoid dooring a bicyclist is to look behind you before opening the door (a good idea, anyway, because sometimes oncoming cars aren’t paying attention, either). One of the most effective ways to implement this strategy is by a technique called the “Dutch reach,” in which you open your car door using the hand farthest from the door. This move not only forces you to turn toward the side (making it easy to look back) but also places an initial limit on how far you can open the car door.
Virginia, Maryland and the District of Colombia all have “dooring laws” requiring drivers to use caution opening their traffic-facing doors. If you have been injured in a dooring accident due to a driver’s negligence, we may be able to help you. Call our Washington D.C. personal injury attorneys for a free case evaluation.