Here are 10 tips to both avoid getting “doored” and to protect your rights if an unfortunate incident occurs:
Choose a safe, wide route, not one that is car-lined.
- Prevention is the best cure, always.
Slow down and pay attention.
- If you can’t avoid a car-lined route, slow down to improve your braking ability. Pay attention to the parked cars so you can break in time for opening doors.
Choose a route with a painted bike lane.
- This isn’t always possible, but it is ideal.
Keep your hands on the brake levers, not the bars.
- This will help you stop more quickly. Also, avoid using the tricep-bars when riding next to cars. This riding position makes it harder to stop quickly.
If in a group, ride single file.
- When you ride 2 or 3 abreast and you are in a position next to the parked cars you have no option to maneuver around opening doors.
Ride at least four feet from car doors.
- In California, you must ride as far to the right side of the roadway as practicable, but this doesn’t mean riding right next to a car door. So ride four feet away from car doors — they swing out further than you think (although this is often cold comfort, the California Vehicle Code 22517 states that a car door can’t be opened unless safe to do so.).
Look ahead for movement inside the car’s rear windows.
- If you see movement, ride away from the car door or be prepared to brake in time, because many motorists fling open their doors without looking.
Notice if the rear brake light is illuminated, as it will tell you if the car is occupied and running.
- You could get “doored” if the door is suddenly opened, or even be in for a collision if the car unexpectedly pulls out, so be on alert.
If you are following the law and get “doored”, get pictures!
- Whether it is you or your cycling partners, take pictures of the crash site and the location of the vehicles. If possible, include pictures of how far out the door was opened. Your cell phone camera is great for this.
If you’re “doored”, get the driver on record if they admit opening the door or pulling out.
- This helps your insurance claim. If, by opening the door, the driver creates a situation in which it is impossible for you to do anything other than slam into the door or put yourself in certain danger, the insurance company can’t argue that you don’t have a claim.
Ed. Note: If a car door opens and hits you which causes destruction to the vehicle and you are cited while riding your bike, please keep this in mind under California law, section 22517 of the Vehicle Code states that “drivers have a responsibility to ensure that they only open their car door when it is safe to do so. No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open upon the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.”