Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Get Doored!

If you ride regularly, it's almost a foregone conclusion that you've been 'car-doored', or at least would have been if it weren't for your superior bike handling skills.

It usually goes something like this; you're cycling along, enjoying your ride and someone opens a car door right in front of you.  At this point one of several things can happen.  Depending on a number of factors you will either; stop in time and educate the driver in no uncertain terms as to what they've just done wrong; plow into and then over the door, then hopefully still be able to 
educate the driver in no uncertain terms as to what they've just done wrong; or swerve out of the way while simultaneously educating the driver in no uncertain terms as to what they've just done wrong.

If you experience one of the latter two possibilities above and you are very unlucky, you will be killed.  This is what happened to New Zealand nurse Jane Mary Bishop late last year.  As she was cycling through Auckland she swerved to miss an opening door. Tragically, a truck was passing at that moment and killed her.  The driver of the parked car was charged with causing her death earlier this month.

Tragedies like this don't often occur but when they do it is worth trying to learn a lesson from them.  The first, and most obvious lesson is for drivers; before you get out of your car, look in the mirror.  Make it a habit. Write it on your steering wheel if you have to.

As a cyclist, there are several things you can do to reduce your chances of being doored.  Here's my list that has kept me almost completely unscathed by doors thus far:

1. If possible, ride one metre out from parked cars.  Obviously, this depends on the traffic and road conditions and is not always possible.

2. Without neglecting where you're going too much, cast a glance into parked cars.  If there's someone inside, they're likely to be getting out some time soon.

3. Modify your riding to suit the conditions.  Sometimes in Melbourne (and many other cities), riding can feel like you're running the gauntlet; on certain streets you've got parked cars, moving cars, pedestrians, other cyclists and trams.  In these situations, ride slowly enough that you can stop on a dime.  If you're not comfortable in the conditions, go a different way.

4. Often, the best thing to do is to take a whole lane.  Again, this depends on the situation, but in slow traffic it's a good way to go.

5. This last one will help you stay safe in all sorts of situations: be aware of your surroundings, ride predictably, and ASSUME YOU ARE INVISIBLE.

I hope this is helpful.  Any other suggestions welcome!

Have a great day.




  1. Yup. The other one I do (and I guess you should do always really):

    If you are riding in an area where there is a strong possibility of people opening doors (e.g. a shopping strip), make a special effort to be aware of the vehicles that are driving past you. It's never happened to me, but hopefully if the pathological door/truck situation was to happen, I would be aware of the truck and choose the lesser of two evils (slamming into the door).

  2. I would also add - beware the divvy van. Yep! I got doored by a police van pulling up in front of me and the passenger copper swinging open her door on top of me. Because they never pull over right onto the curb, I was on the inside. Weird but true.