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Posted by on Jul 28, 2010 in Uncategorized | 13 comments

“Tips” on how to ride in door zone bike lanes

I kid you not, there is an expert at everything on the internet.

Just so you know, there are people who claim to have the “secret” to riding in a bike lane next to parked cars like we have in Orlando in College Park and Baldwin Park.

Here is Gary from California explaining how to do it. Says he has it DOWN.

And here is one from Boston.

Do you see a pattern here? According to these guys, you should only take up about six inches of a five foot lane.

And for heaven’s sake DON”T WOBBLE! because then what ever happens to you is your fault for not staying with the “green zones” these guys have decided are safe.

Just thought I would add some “safety instruction” to the mix in anticipation of HB 971.

Good Luck and you’re welcome!

13 Comments

  1. I’m not especially familiar with cycling in Florida, but depending on the block, opening car doors can be a frequent hazard if there is high turn over, and very much is in Santa Monica where I ride. My post on this was also directed with the intention for city staff to read, because I do not think they take into consideration the door zone when designing the roads for cycling, and how serious a problem it is and some blocks are also inconsistent lane width from previous and later blocks.

    When car lanes in Santa Monica are designed adjacent to car parking, there is usually adequate lane space to give a bit of a buffer from the parked cars, but cyclists are being directed to ride in that buffer, which is frankly very hazardous. Also from my experience drivers are less prone to pay attention when opening the door if there is a bike lane, because they have less sense of self-preservation as when opening into car traffic.

    Having seen a friend of mine, and what their face went through after being doored, I’m not interested in finding out what that is like my self. Until I started riding to the far left of bike lanes or avoiding bike lane routes all together, the majority of the times I had to take evasive action was to avoid people popping their door.

    Class II bike routes as they are called in CA are infrequent and supposed to be the best on-street routes available, but honestly within Santa Monica I often find riding the next street over and controlling the lane to be safer than being obligated to ride in a bike lane almost entirely or even entirely in the path of doors. Some of these lanes are also also on streets with major auto traffic jams to the left at many times of day, and if you are riding in the door zone and suddenly have to evade left, there is no where to go. Since it’s only one lane of car traffic either direction on most SM streets with bike lanes, it’s not safe to leave the bike lane and do lane splitting instead, because you would be going into head on traffic.

    I’m not seriously suggesting cyclists should be expected to hold a 4 inch line, that’s obviously unreasonable, I was going at a bit of sarcasm, and highlighting poor design standards.

    Additionally, something I started to conceptualize more later is that riding speed significantly effects the potential risk of being doored, as well as the severity of a door collision. As a cyclist who rides around pretty quick, and been in races in the past, I find doors to especially scary. On the street my example is from the car speed limit is 25 mph and 30 in some places. If I am riding 18-20 mph and hit a door, that is higher speed differential than if I am riding 20 and someone hits me from behind doing 25. Not to mention that depending on what phase of the door opening the impact occurs, you can potentially be bounced to the floor in the middle of oncoming traffic.

    The LAB guide to safe cycling stats indicate that the most common form of motorist at fault collision with a cyclist, after cutting off a cyclist while turning, and running stop signs, is opening a door into path of cyclist. Which happens more than twice as often as being hit from behind.

    My thoughts have also changed somewhat since I first wrote that post. At the time I mostly did ride the poorly designed bike lanes and to the far left. This past week I rerouted all my work commuting and errands to avoid bike lanes all together, which actually cut mileage because I had been going out of my way to use bike lanes. I found that I had fewer conflicts on the road doing this, while riding very assertively and as suggested in LAB literature.

    Ultimately what I want to see is if bike lanes are going to be done, they should be done right, and if the city is unwilling to use the space it takes to do it right, use sharrows instead of a highly compromised bike lane. In Hermosa beach, the first SoCal spot to get sharrows, they are very successful at both directing cyclists out of the door zone, and motorists pass with more clearance, and are less aggro about bikes being there.

    There are also some worse bike lanes than one from picture you took off my site, where there is no safe way to ride in the bike lane at all, such as bike lanes that go to the right of right turning cars.

    • Thanks Gary! Taking this riding position has saved my ass numerous times from oblivious people exiting cars. In each case, had I been riding in the middle of the bike lane, I would have slammed straight into the center of the door being flung open. Instead, the door misses by about 6″-12″. Here in the Bay Area drivers tend to give me a little more room when I’m on the outside of the bike lane, too; they will actually give me 3+ feet in some cases!

  2. Stolen from the comments of one of your links:

    “Best way to ride in a door-zone bike lane: DON’T!”

    …and don’t accept their installation, either.

  3. Talk about insane lanes! Rest assured that if I was on that road I would be riding in the centre of the general traffic lane. I don’t do door zones.

    Safety requires a bit of math:

    A cyclist typically occupies up to one metre of space. For example, the ends of the handlebars of my Pashley are almost exactly one metre apart.

    It is also necessary to allow 1/2 metre “swerve room” to allow a cyclist to avoid any obstacle or debris.

    A “five foot” cycle lane is unsafely narrow to begin with, being only a bit over 1.5 metres. Taking away space for a door zone leaves something that is grossly unsafe.

    There is a reason why the Dutch standard for a unidirectional cycle lane is a minimum of 2.5 metres with a minimum 1.5 metre separation from any motorized traffic.

    For more details, see:

    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2010/06/14-and-half-feet-please.html

    • Looking at my previous post, I should probably have written:

      It is also necessary to allow 1/2 metre “swerve room” on each side of the bicycle to allow a cyclist to avoid any obstacle or debris.

    • Will, I love that!

    • Me too!

  4. It spoofs my original graphic, but I pretty much agree with that thinking so I plan to use the mod in an upcoming blog post.

    • Gary,

      I really like that your thinking has evolved over time. I have gone through a similar process. Most of us (myself included) started out with favorable feelings toward bike lanes. If we are observant, our opinions change with exposure and experience.

      I, too, tend to ride out of my way to avoid the kind of bike lanes that put me in a crappy position — trading safety for harassment or close passing.

    • The funny thing is… look at cars driving next to parked cars on unmarked roads. They will give the parked car that much space normally.

      • Yep, you can see the pattern in the oil stain and tire tracks. People don’t drive their cars in the door zone. A suddenly-opened door won’t hurt a person in a car. But those same people will get on a bike and skim the edges of the car doors, playing Russian roulette.

        We live in a culture psychologically damaged and mentally retarded from basic common sense by car dominance.

  5. I just finished an “official” Chicago video regarding sharing the road, specifically bikes and buses. Due to damaged brain cells, I cannot recall the original reference source, which means it could be here, or any of the other valuable forums on cycling. The video is located at:
    http://vimeo.com/7949969

    A very strange collection of do’s and don’t's (should those words have apostrophes before the esses?) in that you’ll see riders in the door zone in many locations in the video, yet somewhere within the dialog, the riders are cautioned to not ride in the door zone. One of the roadways has sharrows, yet the cyclist is in the door zone as the bus passes.

    One of the buses’ marquee reads “training route” or “training bus” and you can see the driver holding a camera up to his face as he approaches an intersection. Whew! You’d think they would have a safety driver and a camera operator, not have the driver run a camera while driving!

    In too many years of riding, I’ve never had a door-zone-near-collision, which is lucky, since I was operating too close to the right edge all those miles. Last week, I was truckin’ at a good clip on a road with filled parking spaces, when one of the drivers opened a door into the traffic lane. Thanks to many resources regarding safe cycling, it was a non-event.