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"Dooring" self-defense: Prevent these dangerous bicycle crashes

"Dooring accidents," in which a motor vehicle driver or passenger opens up their door in the path of bicyclists, are exceedingly dangerous. Numerous Chicago cyclists have incurred devastating and catastrophic injuries as a result of these tragic incidents.

Because of the risk of injury and even death in dooring crashes, it's important for bicyclists to be on alert and do everything they can to avoid them. Here are a few ways cyclists can avoid getting "doored" by asking themselves these questions while they're sharing the roadway with motor vehicles:

Where is it safe to travel with your bicycle?

The "safe zone" for bicyclists is approximately three to four feet away from a parked car. Riding close to parked vehicles is a recipe for disaster, as an inattentive vehicle driver or passenger could open the door in your path. Always ride within this "safe zone" while avoiding the "door zone," a.k.a, the "death zone."

Can I reduce risk if traffic conditions are forcing me into the "door zone?"

It's not uncommon for traffic conditions to force you back into the "door zone." If this happens, you have a couple of options:

  1. Move into lanes of traffic and claim your space among the cars
  2. Pull off to the side of the road, stop and wait for traffic to clear; or
  3. Ride on the sidewalk if there's one available while being careful of pedestrians and other hazards found there.

Do you see any signs of people in the cars?

Whenever you're passing parked vehicles, scan ahead to determine if there are any signs of human occupants. Even if you don't see any heads in the vehicles, don't assume that the coast is clear. Some people are short and hard to see when they're sitting in a vehicle. Scanning ahead like this will help give you a little more information to use so that you're not entirely surprised if and when someone swings open a vehicle.

There's so much more that cyclists can do to stay safe on the road and avoid becoming the victim of a dooring accident. If, in spite of your best efforts to be safe, you were hurt in a dooring incident, you may want to learn more about your rights. The driver or passenger who caused the collision by opening the door in front of you could be financially liable. An attorney can review your situation and discuss your legal options.

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