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Bike Safety – Doored

One of the more common accidents experienced urban bicycle riders is the hazard of getting car “doored.” When a cyclist is doored, they can be flung into the air, into traffic, and the impact with the door itself can cause serious injuries. Not only can a car dooring accident cause very serious injuries for a cyclist, but can also sometimes be fatal.

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Surprisingly, bike crashes that were caused by dooring are not really tracked by any state transportation departments. There are a few recent very isolated surveys. In Illinois, one state that does track bike crashes caused by dooring, the data collected in Chicago alone is shocking. In Chicago, one in five bike crashes were caused by a dooring incident.

In another very limited study, the results are even more shocking:

A 2010 survey in NYC counted bike-related infractions at 11 locations found that dooring (including near-hits) is a pervasive phenomenon with 77 infractions over the two days of measurement, 19 of them on one street alone.

If these specific type of reported bicycle crashes were reported, it would help roadway designers to plan better street and infrastructure that might better warn of the hazard. In New York City they are attempting to reduce the number of these types of injury accidents. The Department of Transportation is putting stickers on taxi cabs with instructional reminders to look for bikes before opening the door. This approach is interesting and uniquely well suited to NYC where taxi rides are common even for people that might sometimes drive, or be passengers in a non-taxi, which might help quickly reduce the number of dooring bike accidents.

Colorado does have a law that protects bicyclists from the threat of getting injured by a car door opening in their path.

42-4-1207. Opening and closing vehicle doors.

No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic; nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class B traffic infraction.

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So what can urban cyclists do?

Some bicycle advocates suggest a rear view mirror. These rear view mirrors can be small and mount to your goggles or glasses, helmet, or be larger and mount to your bicycle handle bars. With a mirror, the idea is that if a door is swung into your path, and you have to take evasive action, you won’t be left with the perhaps more dangerous option of colliding with traffic. You can also ride defensively when you feel that you are being squeezed between traffic and parked cars which can happen even when riding in a designated bike lane.

Some places are labeling bike lanes to warn cyclists of the “door zone” which could help make all cyclists more aware of danger zones.

All cyclists have to assume that many drivers and car passengers on the road are distracted by their cell phones and texting, and may not be looking to make sure it is safe before they swing open their car door.

If you are doored, make sure to take your time and examine your injuries. Many times cyclists will have adrenaline pumping and won’t be aware of where they are hurt until later. Make sure you get the accident information before leaving the scene. You need to get the names of witnesses. You need to get the name of the driver and or occupants and their insurance and license information.

If you have been injured as a result of being car doored, you do have rights. Consult with an experienced bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible. Our initial legal consultations are free.

For details on Colorado law as it applies to vehicles and traffic, see Colorado Revised Statutes

REGULATION OF VEHICLES AND TRAFFIC

C.R.S. 42-4-1207. Opening and closing vehicle doors.

No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic; nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class B traffic infraction.

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