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Cyclists and the risk of a dooring accident

If you're a cyclist and you hear someone talking about a "dooring" accident, you immediately cringe. You know just how bad this can be and how difficult -- or even impossible -- it is for the cyclist to avoid. It may be one of your main fears every time you get on your bike and ride down the city streets.

A flawed design

The real issue, is some senses, comes down to a poor roadway design. As things currently stand, you often have three different lanes. As they progress away from the centerline, they are:

  1. The travel lane
  2. The bike lane
  3. The parking lane

The issue is that cars park on the inside, between the curb and the bike lane. While the lanes may be wide enough for them to fit while parked, with no one in them, problems crop up when people open the doors. Those doors then extend into the dedicated bike lane.

Cyclists riding next to a line of parked cars always feel a bit nervous. Sure, they have the right of way and they have a right to use that lane, keeping them out of moving traffic, but that does not mean they're safe. It's not the protective buffer many people assume that it is.

Riding with traffic

Part of the issue is that cyclists ride with the traffic. This means that cars overtake them on the left, while they overtake parked cars on their right. Someone who pulls into a parking spot has to check their mirror or turn their head to see if a bike is approaching in the lane.

Often, people just neglect to do it. They pull into the parking spot, noting the distance between them and the travel lane -- while forgetting about the cycling lane entirely. Then they wait for a minute or two, checking the notifications on their phone or gathering up personal items in the car. Traffic continues to go by.

When they finally open the door, the cyclist that hits it may not have seen them pull into the parking spot at all. As far as that cyclist knew, it was just an empty vehicle. The driver never checked for the bike, perhaps not understanding how fast they travel.

As the door swings into the bike lane, the cyclist has a split second to make a decision. They can hit the door head-on or they can swerve into traffic. Neither option is good and either one can lead to serious injuries. Sometimes, these accidents even become fatal.

Your rights

Have you gotten injured in an accident like this in California? If you have, make sure you know what rights you have to financial compensation for medical bills and related costs.

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