Home > Complete Streets, dangerous by design, Design the Details, Representing, Safety Issues, Videos, Visual Stimulus > Beware of the Very Unforgiving Door Zone… Seriously

Beware of the Very Unforgiving Door Zone… Seriously

EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s post is dedicated to the fallen riders smacked by car doors while riding this year. This includes our friend and guest contributor James Bruckbauer who was the latest victim on Traverse City’s Washington St. in a crash yesterday. According to his Tweets, he is ok, however, likely a little sore today. We send him our best.

Video Tuesday

via Boston Biker via (for a dooring in slow-mo, see below)

It’s surprising how many people are not aware of the hazards of someone on a bicycle being doored. For riders with a lot of city miles on their saddle, it ranks as one of the biggest fears and one of the most consequential crashes that may occur. Often we are pushed too far to the right, either through poorly designed & thought-out bicycle lanes (TC Front St.) or aggressive drivers, and placed in an uncomfortable position of not knowing if that next parked car is going to swing a door open directly into our path.

As a general rule, expect every door to open at any moment. The best option is to maintain a 3 foot buffer between yourself and parked cars. If that means that a motorists behind you needs to wait before making a safe pass, so be it; their comfort and convenience doesn’t trump your safety. The Bicycle Advocate out of Chi-town has an informative post that goes into more depth: How To Avoid Getting Doored.

Where is the door zone? This animated graphic below by Carly Clark for SteetsBlog SF is making the rounds and shows it well. As a rule, where a bike lane is present with parked cars (downtown TC), I ride right on the inside line closest to the travel lane.

For those of you riding in Traverse City, considerate design to reduce the door-zone exposure is a long-way off. The recently released Urban Bikeway Design Guide by NACTO describes the treatments for reducing the potential conflict zones and it will take time to 1) have this information sift down to the hinterlands of northern Michigan and 2) prioritize the public investment to carry out changes.

As for drivers, a lot could be done through an education campaign to remind drivers to expect bicyclists. Also, taking a tip from The Netherlands where it is taught in driver education school, all of us should try to use our right hand (when in driver’s seat) to open the car-door. By reaching across our body, we are naturally in a position to look down the street to see if anyone is approaching.

Another action if anyone is interested, a guerilla sticker action using these well-placed reminders by Vigilant Velo. These have been on my wish list for a while…they might make good presents.

Again, first rule: avoid the door-zone; take your lane.



  1. JohnRobertWilliams
    September 7, 2011 at 10:27 am

  2. jimbruckb
    September 7, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Here’s a very thoughtful design of a busy one-way street in Portland:


    There are many benefits to having door-zone buffers on both sides of the on-street, parked cars. The parked cars serve as protection against traffic. The door-zone cushion limits the fear of being “doored.” And, the safe bike lane decreases the desire to cycle on the sidewalks.

    More safety measures usually means more cyclists. More cyclists can mean less traffic congestion downtown and in neighborhoods. (#BLA)

  3. Amanda Kik
    September 8, 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Nice post, G. I was doored when I rode my bike to work in Los Angeles. Thank goodness for helmets—I still got six stitches in my noggin.

    But I’m still just as guilty as the next guy for not paying attention when I open my door. I’m going to put the right-hand-open tip to use. Thanks!

  4. Eric
    September 13, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    In Holland, drivers are taught to open their car doors with their left hand. This makes it necessary for them to turn their bodies and look back, so they always see if there is a bicycle coming. It’s great to educate bike riders, but maybe some education for car drivers is in order also.

  5. Eric
    September 13, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    I meant RIGHT hand. Sorry

  6. james b
    December 7, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Great new Streetfilm: Chicago’s First Protected Bike Lane – http://vimeo.com/32986515

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