Riin's Rants

The Door Zone Project

Many cyclists make the mistake of riding too close to parked cars. This is extremely dangerous. Many cyclists have been seriously injured or even killed because they were riding in the door zone, i.e., close enough to parked cars so that when a car door suddenly swung open, it was in the path of the cyclist. In some cases, the cyclist hit the door and the bicycle stopped but the cyclist continued in motion, flying over the door, landing on the pavement ahead. In other cases, the cyclist hit the door and was knocked over into the path of moving traffic, sometimes right under the wheels of a bus or large truck that could not possibly stop, and the cyclist was crushed. In other cases, the cyclist swerved to avoid the door, but lost control of the bike and fell and was hit or veered into traffic in a panic move and got hit.

These types of accidents are so common, there is a word for them: to be "doored" is to be struck by or to crash into the door of a parked car (or less commonly, a car waiting at a stoplight) as the driver or passenger carelessly flings it open without looking to see if any cyclists are coming. This doesn't have to happen. Obviously, drivers and passengers should not be so careless. But cyclists should not be riding in the door zone.

So why does it happen?

Why do cyclists ride in the door zone? Many are reluctant to ride further out in the traffic lane. Maybe they do not believe they are safe as part of the flow of traffic. But riding in the door zone is the most dangerous place they can ride, as these cases show. Maybe if the lane is narrow, riding out of the door zone means taking the lane, and they feel uncomfortable "inconveniencing" motorists for a brief while. This is not rational. You are not required to die for anyone's convenience. I do not advocate inconveniencing others unnecessarily, but safety always comes before convenience.

There is another reason some cyclists ride in the door zone. They may believe they are not. I have read articles about riding out of the door zone that recommend riding at least 3 feet from parked cars. But some car doors are up to 4½ feet long! If a cyclist rides 3 feet from parked cars, he or she is still in the door zone! I don't ride any closer than 5 feet from parked cars, and I'm measuring from the nearest point of my bike toward the cars, not from the center of my bike.

Also, some cyclists face pressure from police or other city officials to ride close to parked cars. There may be bike lanes next to parked cars which are entirely within the door zone. Dana Laird was riding in one of these. Many bike lanes are excellent, but bike lanes next to parked cars encourage inexperienced cyclists to ride in the door zone. If you encounter one, ignore the lane marking, and do not ride closer than 5 feet from the parked cars.

I gathered the information below after an Ann Arbor Bicycle Coordinating Committee meeting at which our Chief of Police was present. He insisted that taking the lane was "madness" and said cyclists should ride close to parked cars until they saw a door opening. He refused to listen when we told him this was extremely dangerous and cyclists had been killed. We scheduled a follow-up meeting with some other people in the police department. I decided that before that meeting, I would gather as many newspaper accounts of people who had been killed or injured in dooring accidents as I could to present to the police. I wanted to show them with names, dates, locations, etc., that this really was dangerous, if they wouldn't just take our word for it. When we met with the other officers, they were already well aware of how dangerous riding in the door zone was. I was greatly encouraged by that. I gave them the newspaper articles anyway, though I wasn't sure it was really necessary. I suppose it couldn't hurt anyway.

Since I had spent about 50 hours researching and hunting down the articles, I wanted to make the information available to other cyclists to use in their advocacy efforts. If I can save someone some work, great.

The first eleven cyclists were killed; the next five were injured.

Name
Age
Date of Death
Location
What Happened
Brodie, Rosemarie [1] 33 10/28/96 New York, NY Brodie's bicycle struck open car door, she toppled into street under passing van.
Cox, Lucas [2] 33 9/16/02 New Orleans, LA Cox swerved to avoid an open car door, lost control of his bike, fell, and was hit by an 18-wheeler.
Hernandez, Samuel [3] 19 5/18/87 Santa Ana, CA Hernandez's bicycle knocked into traffic by open truck door, struck by passing car.
Karayiannis, Andreas [4] 68 10/4/97 Nicosia, Cyprus Karayiannis' bicycle hit open car door, he was knocked off balance and fell, and was hit by a passing car.
Laird, Dana [5,6] 36 7/2/02 Cambridge, MA Laird's bicycle hit open SUV door, she lost control and fell under passing bus.
Provost, Keith Robert [7] 40 6/24/01 Vancouver, BC Provost's bicycle slammed into open car door, he travelled another 5 meters before landing on his upper body. He died of head injuries the next day.
Slipakoff, Philip [8] ? 1/6/98 New Orleans, LA Slipakoff's bicycle knocked into path of moving vehicle when door of parked car swung open.
Stallion, Winnie [9] 68 3/6/89 Derby, UK A car passed her and parked, and as she pulled out to pass the parked car, the driver opened the door and knocked her off her bike. She lapsed into a coma, and two days later she died.
Wong, Brian Thang Yiean [10] 29 7/18/97 Toronto, ON Wong's bicycle hit open van door, he was thrown into path of school bus.
Unnamed male cyclist killed by Amanda Sutherland [11] ? 8/15/95 Parkville, Australia Sutherland, a nurse, parked her car in a service lane in front of a hospital and opened her door to get out. The cyclist hit the door and fell and was hit by a van. Sutherland was fined AUS$400 ($200 for parking in a no-standing area and $200 for opening her car door, endangering the cyclist).
Unnamed male cyclist [12] 50s? 8/18/99 Gold Coast, Australia Unidentified cyclist swerved to avoid a suddenly opened car door, was hit by a bus.
Name
Age
Date of Injury
Location
What Happened
Injury
Freeman, Ron [13] ? 11/15/00 Toronto, ON Freeman was struck by a car door and flew under the wheels of an oncoming truck. crushed pelvis
Hamilton, Tyler [14] 31 8/25/02 Belgium Hamilton's bicycle collided with a car door. broken collarbone, facial injuries
Marinelli, Paulo [6] ? unknown Cambridge, MA Marinelli's bicycle smashed into a car door. ripped rotator cuff, badly bruised head
Riley, David [15] 36 early 1996 Queensland, Australia Riley's bicycle struck a car door. now quadriplegic
Unnamed male cyclist [16] 27 10/15/02 Birmingham, UK An unnamed cyclist collided with a car door. serious head injuries

References

1. Yazigi, Monique P. "The Perils of City Cycling." The New York Times, Sunday, November 3, 1996, section 13, p.8.

2. Elie, Lolis Eric. "Cyclists' rights lost in car culture." The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, September 20, 2002, metro, p.1.

3. Anonymous. "Bicyclist fatally struck after being unseated." Los Angeles Times, May 19, 1987, Orange County edition, metro, part 2, p.2.

4. Anonymous. "Cyclist killed as car door pushes him into passing car." Cyprus Mail, Sunday, October 5, 1997.

5. Rodriguez, Gloria. "Cyclist run over by T bus identified." The Boston Globe, Thursday, July 4, 2002, p.B5.

6. Lombardi, Kristen. "A dangerous & now deadly bicycle policy." The Boston Phoenix, August 2-8, 2002.

7. Bohn, Glenn and Chad Skelton. "Cyclist dies after slamming into parked car's open door." Vancouver Sun, Tuesday, June 26, 2001, p.A6.

8. Dvorak, Petula. "Bicyclists demanding equality on city streets." The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, Friday, March 6, 1998, p.A1.

9. Annable, Lynne. "Mum was a victim of thoughtlessness." Derby Evening Telegraph, June 10, 2002, p.6.

10. Anonymous. "Cyclist killed by school bus." The Toronto Star, Saturday, July 19, 1997, p.A16.

11. Anonymous. "Bike death nurse fined." The Daily Telegraph, Friday, October 11, 1996, local, p.22.

12. Anonymous. "Road Deaths." Courier-Mail, Thursday, August 19, 1999, news, p.7.

13. Skinner, Justin. "Cyclists pushing for more lanes for bike riders." Bloor West Villager, August 3, 2001.

14. Anonymous. "U.S. cyclist Hamilton injured in training." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 28, 2002, sports, 2C.

15. Steele, Selina. "Deadly war of the road." The (Brisbane) Sunday Mail, May 11, 1997, news, p.25.

16. Anonymous. "Cyclist injured." Birmingham (England) Evening Mail, Wednesday, October 16, 2002, news, p.5.

| Home | Bikes are better than cars | Our culture is mentally ill | Knitting & Spinning | Misc. happy good things | Email me |
Copyright © 2003 Riin Gill | November 16, 2003