Tips to avoid getting ‘doored’

Parked cars remain one of the biggest hazards for cyclists. You know, because you pass hundreds of them every day on the way to work.

Yes, there are bike lanes, and they help protect you from moving traffic. They give you your own space and help increase awareness in drivers so that they look for you before merging and turning. But those same bike lanes put you right next to cars strung up and down the city streets, with people getting in and out to run errands, eat meals, meet up with friends and go to their own jobs.

You constantly worry about getting doored. You know that people often look for traffic before opening a car door into the street, but do they look for bikes? Not usually. A door that suddenly opens in your way could lead to a high-speed crash or cause you to instinctively swerve right into traffic.

To help you avoid this fate, here are a few tips:

1. Remember that you can still ride in the street.

If you see people getting in and out of cars or if there is an area of parked cars with a clearly high risk level, consider riding in the traffic lane. Stay as close as you safely can to that bike lane, near the right side of the road, but stay away from the doors. Making this move in advance, rather than swerving, helps you do it in a controlled fashion so drivers will see you.

2. Do not weave to use empty parking spots. Stay on a straight line.

Swerving in to the curb may move you away from the flow of traffic, but it also makes you unpredictable. People in the parked cars, between those empty spaces, may never see you. If you’re predictable and you stay in the same lane, you have a better chance of being seen.

3. Anticipate mistakes.

Assume that people in cars do not see you. If you ever spot someone sitting in the driver’s seat, pretend that he or she is definitely going to open that door. Keep a close eye on it and get ready to stop. Stay alert and know that other people will make mistakes.

4. Wear bright colors and/or reflective vests.

Do everything in your power to make yourself highly visible. Pick clothes that stand out. Buy a brightly colored helmet instead of one with a matte paint job. Use reflective clothes at night and during the day. Invest in small, blinking lights for your bike. If the person in the car does check the mirror before opening the door, you are impossible to miss.

If you still get hit by a door and injured, make sure you know what legal options you have.