With nothing but a helmet and pads between a bike rider and any obstacle they may encounter, striking something at speed can cause serious injury. When biking on city streets and in crowded areas, bikers run the risk of injury from getting hit by moving vehicles as well as from hitting a single car door.
“Dooring” occurs when a driver or passenger opens a street-facing car door without looking, causing a cyclist to crash into the solid door. Depending on the speed of the rider, striking a solid, heavy car door while moving can cause serious injury. Dooring accidents can even prove fatal.
Lessen your risk of injury by looking ahead while you are riding. Pay careful attention to stationary vehicles with open windows. Open windows in a parked car can be an indicator of people still inside the car. If you are able to see through closed windows, look out for people sitting on the traffic side of a parked car.
While it is natural for bicyclists to want to go fast, or for bike messengers to want to maintain speed to meet deadlines, slowing down in areas crowded with vehicles is a wise choice. The slower speed gives you more reaction time to potentially avoid hitting an unexpected opened door. The slower speed may also reduce the severity of injury if you cannot avoid an impact with a door.
When possible, ride at least a few feet away from parked cars. The more distance between your bike and the car doors, the less chance one will swing open into your path.
Use bike lanes with caution
While bike lanes exist for bikers to have a safe space to ride, many drivers on the road either do not understand how to engage with a bike lane, or they simply do not care. Be on the lookout for cars mistakenly parked in or too close to bike lanes.
Drivers and passengers can do their part to help reduce dooring injuries. When exiting a car, make it a habit to look behind you first. Employ the “dutch reach” strategy where you open the door with the hand farthest from the door. This forces your body to turn, making it easier for you to naturally notice anything approaching from behind.