Can you imagine riding down a city street, perhaps even in a bike lane, at between ten and twenty miles per hour when suddenly a car door opens in front of you? It can happen from the driver’s front or rear door or from the passenger’s front or rear door. Four separate chances of impending disaster.
This type of perilous confrontation can take place in only a second or two and can extend potential contact three or four feet into the path of a cyclist. It is a cringe-worthy scenario just in imaginary terms. But collisions of this type are in reality not rare and most often result in serious injury to the cyclist. It is so dangerous in fact that Florida has a statute making it illegal for someone to open the car door into the path of a cyclist.
Why Does Dooring Happen?
Why does this kind of thing happen? When motorists are parking their vehicles—cars, vans, trucks—they are usually in a hurry to exit and get on with their work or errands. A parent may be picking up a child from daycare or running into a convenience store for a soft drink. In short, drivers are not thinking about cyclists when they’re looking around inside for their hat, gloves, purse, or dry cleaning. They simply get on with their business and throw open the door without checking the rear or side view mirror.
Where Does Dooring Happen?
Dooring is a common occurrence when the vehicle is parked parallel with the direction of traffic, even if there’s a bike lane next to the driver’s door. It can also happen when there’s a shared lane, forcing the bike to the curb or onto the sidewalk where a pedestrian collision can take place.
When cyclists are riding on the right side of a car, they typically have a much narrower window within which to ride because there may or may not be a lane to the right. In some areas of Sarasota and other places there are bike lanes that are in between parked cars and sidewalks. Situations have come up in these areas where a passenger opened the door of a car right into the bike lane, causing a dooring accident.
Precautions for Cyclists to Take
Granted that cyclists must take care and precautions when vehicles are parallel parked to their right, maintaining at least a car door’s width between the two whenever possible. It’s imperative to ride defensively in traffic, looking ahead to see if there are passengers inside vehicles parked in the vicinity. It’s also a good idea to scan ahead to see who might be getting ready to leave their car or truck or van and move safely away at least a door’s length or five feet when passing. Slowing down is also a preemptive move that could save a cyclist from serious harm.
Responsibility for Dooring
In the busy routines of day-to-day life, no driver intentionally wants to cause harm to a passing cyclist through a dooring incident. But the weight of responsibility legally is on drivers to be hyper aware of their surroundings before they open their vehicle doors. A hurried, thoughtless maneuver could change someone’s life for the worse. Injuries to cyclists in these cases vary significantly but still pose a grave bodily threat, particularly fractures or spinal injuries which tend to be seriously debilitating.
That’s why it’s important to work with a cycling lawyer who understands the nature of such collisions, the mechanics involved, and the severity of injuries that may result in temporary, long-term, or even permanent damage. A lawyer who’s worked on many dooring cases knows where to place responsibility and can achieve the best possible financial recovery for a viable claim.