Cycling Safety: The Door Zone

posted in: Cycling Safety | 0

I caught a car door to the chest once, and I don’t recommend it. While riding with a friend of mine, we chatted as we rolled through an intersection. The next thing I knew I was on the ground struggling to breath.

It turns out someone parked on the side of the street had kicked their door open just as I was riding by. The edge of the car door hit my handlebars nearly dead center. The impact sent me chest first into the upper corner of the door so hard, it cut through my jersey and base layer. It took a while to get over that one, but I definitely learned something valuable. The door zone is no joke.

The door zone is the space four feet out from a parked car. Unfortunately, that is also the width of a standard bike lane here in California. The silver lining to that otherwise grey cloud is at least a bike lane clearly defines the door zone.

When riding in an area without a bike lane, project an imagined bike lane on the ground. Simply keep to the outer edge of that area. It’s an easy way to avoid any surprise doors that may open in your path.

While I knew people who had been doored, until that day I wasn’t too mindful of the door zone. State law mandated that I rode as closely to the curb as possible. I was also not one to impede traffic by taking the lane. Since then however, I have changed the way I ride. The reality is, a car door can be just as deadly as being hit by a car.

I now ride with a constant eye on parked cars. A quick glance in a driver side rear view mirror reveals if anyone is sitting in a parked car. I never ride up next to cars parked on the side of the road unless it is obvious that the vehicle is unoccupied. I tend to ride further into the lane now, staying aware of the traffic behind me.

It’s an interesting fact that California Vehicle Code puts the party who opens the door into traffic at fault, but few people look before opening a door into traffic. These days, I always look over my shoulder before opening a door. Of course this is due to the fact that I have caught a door to the chest. Unfortunately, many people don’t look before they open their car door.

Sometimes you just have to ride close to parked cars. Stay alert when you do. Always keep in mind, the best way to avoid catching a door is to stay out the area where a door can open. Stay safe out there and keep the rubber side down!

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