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What are dooring accidents?

Since bike lanes are separate from normal traffic lanes, you might feel safer riding your bicycle down a bike lane. However, just because you are riding in a bike lane does not mean that you are free from the risk of an auto accident. Sometimes an automobile may steer into a bike lane that cuts through an intersection. Other accidents, however, may happen when a car is not moving at all.

Bicyclists may sustain a severe injury due to a dooring accident. The bike rides down a lane when without warning, a car door opens up right in the path of the rider. The rider has no time to veer away and slams into the door. Such collisions can knock a rider off a bike and onto the pavement, causing a serious and painful injury.

Common accidents

According to Sfgate, dooring accidents are frequent causes of car-bicycle collisions in urban areas, though they may happen in any setting where a bike rides past a parked vehicle. Dooring accidents are so common that they account for 12 to 27% of car-bike collisions that occur in an urban environment. Dooring accidents are not just bikes colliding with car doors. They also can happen if a cyclist tries to avoid a suddenly opened door but collides with another obstacle instead.

The door zone

Bicycle advocates sometimes discuss an area called the door zone. This is the space that extends from a car into the bike lane where a door can swing open and hit a bicycle rider. Some bicycle advocates call this space the “death zone.” To avoid this zone, some bike advocates recommend cyclists ride three feet from the tip of a bicycle handlebar to the doors of cars.

Other bike advocates suggest that cyclists simply avoid bike lanes and ride in the middle of the usual traffic lanes. While this can keep bicycles visible to people in parked cars near a bike lane, it also exposes bike riders to danger from the normal flow of traffic, particularly motorists who are driving fast. While cities may currently consider options like marking wider bike zones to cut down on dooring accidents, for now bike riders still run risks by riding close to parked vehicles and should remain as vigilant as possible.