Dooring warning, Portland-style

Stencil spotted on N. Williams Ave. a few blocks north of Broadway.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Last week we shared how the world’s most bike-friendly city, Copenhagen, warns riders about potential right-hooks.

On my way home a few days ago, I noticed a different attempt at a warning sign and it struck me as being distinctly Portland. This one was an unofficial stencil that read “DOOR ZONE” and was placed to the far right of the bike lane. Ironically, when we rode by, there was a car door cracked open just a bit just after the stencil (see photo).

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Dooring is a serious issue, even when it doesn’t happen. As we’ve noted recently in the Ainsworth incident, riding far enough away from the door zone puts you directly in the middle of some narrow streets. That can be uncomfortable, it can enrage people in cars who think you shouldn’t be there, and it can lead to car trying to squeeze dangerously by.

And obviously, when dooring does happen, the results can be very serious. Ask Portland Mercury reporter Sarah Mirk. She was doored recently and shared her “awkward” experience on their blog.

Speaking of Portland-style stencils and transportation-themed graffiti, check out this story in the Oregonian. At a bus stop downtown, someone stenciled “Thank you for not driving”. From the Oregonian:

Stacks of black smoke billow for the letters of “driving” — emphasizing the vandal’s point. That’s soooo Portland, right?

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Michelle (BTA)
Michelle (BTA)
14 years ago

Smart stencil, and somewhat embarrassing since it correctly points out that we instructing bicyclists to ride in the door zone.

Steve
Steve
14 years ago

I dig this. I’ve always wondered when there’s a case of “hey can we get some signage here”, why don’t folks just do it themselves? I’ve wanted to do this at 4 way intersections where there are NO STOP SIGNS, or when the stop sign is basically invisible. It’s also a possible strategy for marking a guerrilla-style bike lane when one doesn’t exist. I LOVE IT! Any ideas what kind of paint works best for this? Rustoleum is the thickest spray paint I have found.

Dana
Dana
14 years ago

There is so much more to the terrible design of this street than the door zone.

N. Williams is one of the most dangerous roads for bikes that has a bike lane. There are so many problems with this road, I seriously wonder why a bicyclist isn’t injured every day.

-The bike lane is just far enough from the curb so that the tires of the parked cars are right on the inside bike lane line.

-Many times, probalby 1 in 10 (if not 5) cars has their tires in the bike lane.

-To avoid getting doored, you have to ride in the far left of the bike lane. The speed limit is (I believe) 30 mph. Cars pass you pretty fast, and pretty close.

-During rush hour (4-6pm), there is slow traffic all the way up Williams. This involves passing cars on the right as they are waiting for lights. Getting right hooked is more likely when you are passing the cars, because many times the cars do not look behind them before they make their turn.

-Also when you are passing traffic, cars that are trying to turn on to Williams are peaking their way out, blocking the bike lane. Otherwise, they are zooming out onto Williams to get into the tight space between to cars.

-This is a high traffic area for bikes as well. Since Williams is uphill, there is a wide range of speeds that people ride their bikes up the hill, ranging from around 5mph to 20mph. There are the idiots that pass into the car lane without looking, creating pissed off drivers.

I don’t know how this design got past city engineers, but it is just plain terrible. To make this safe, they need to remove at least one thing from the road, either a car lane, parking spaces, or the bike lane (as long as they make that bike boulevard a couple of streets over).

And now that the rain/dark has started, it is even worse.

Dana
Dana
14 years ago

P.S. What can we do to get this changed?

jeff
jeff
14 years ago

That’s right before the section where there are a lot of car doors being opened without looking for cyclists – folks crossing the road to the convenience store and by the assisted living place. Also, at the convenience store just north of Fremont.

I agree with Dana, Williams needs work, it gets really crowded out there in the afternoons.

justa
justa
14 years ago

that’s like 2 blocks from my house, and yeah, things get hairy during rush hour, for sure.

Zaphod
14 years ago

I’d *really* like to see bike lanes redesigned so that the door zone is striped and the lane shifted left to keep the lane itself the proper width.

There may be some places where it’s just too tight to introduce this but where it’s possible, it should be done.

We cyclists shouldn’t have to consistently be forced ride in persistent danger. Doors on one side and drivers on the other.

Grimm
Grimm
14 years ago

There is one section of bike lane on SE 42nd I now refuse to use the bike lane on. After having near misses twice. I figure the third time someone tries to door me itll be the last time.

aleeann
aleeann
14 years ago

Having lived in NYC, Boston, DC, and Baltimore, I cannot believe how much more careless drivers are here when opening car doors. I’ve had a lot of close calls here in Portland with people swinging their doors open and/or leaving their car door open while getting in or out of their cars – and this is on streets with a clearly marked bike lane. Not sure why, but I speculate that the bike lane almost acts as a safe zone, in the minds of drivers, to swing your car door open freely.

Hart
Hart
14 years ago

It’s sad that the Oregonian is so desperately out of touch with the city it calls home.

fuchsia
fuchsia
14 years ago

I want to know why cars are even designed to have doors that open out into the traffic lane. They should all have sliding doors.

Nature Boy
Nature Boy
14 years ago

To add to Dana’s (#3) list of dangers on Vancouver/Williams, I’m adding The nefarious Spandex warrior. When I used to work downtown, Every morning I would have my handlebars clipped at least twice by these @#$%^&##@’s, knocking me into traffic, who would fly by me on the right with out so much as a “coming through”. If by chance you are one of these spandex warrior’s, change your habit before you kill somebody.

(disclaimer: spandex suits are not evil)

SkidMark
SkidMark
14 years ago

Door Zone, Hotel Zone how about BIKE ZONE? It’s a BIKE LANE!

Scott Mizée
14 years ago

I realize these lanes are not perfect, but what’s with all the negativity? I remember like it was yesterday when everyone was proclaiming how wonderful these new extra wide bike lanes are?!?

It should come as no surprise that the bike lanes on N. Vancouver are the widest in the city at nearly 6 1/2 feet wide, which is sufficient width for two cyclists to ride side-by-side and is the same width Geller hopes to make the city standard in the future.

Dana
Dana
14 years ago

Scott:

You can ride side by side with me in the bike lanes, as long as you promise to take the right side so you get doored.

You could put a 6-1/2 foot wide bike lane in the middle of the freeway and it would still be dangerous.

People need to realize that just cramming bike lanes onto roads does not make cyclists safe.

ish
ish
14 years ago

negativity is right. i’ve ridden home on Williams for 3+ years and yeah, it’s not a perfect street, but it seems like there are so many cyclists out there who if they’re not bitching they’re not breathing. biking is dangerous, driving is dangerous, getting up out of bed is dangerous. there things we as cyclists need, but to nit pick every little inconvenience is just annoying. the world isn’t perfect, pick your battles. i’m far more concerned with right-hook deaths and cops harassing cyclists then a well traveled road with ample bike lanes that both cars and bikes drive on, and one is forced to exercise a little extra caution and forethought.

Andy
14 years ago

I’ve never been doored (thankfully), but last week I almost slammed into a guy running across SW Columbia in the park blocks. Started counting and had 3 others walk in front of me without looking on my commute through the city in mid-day. Anyone else have the same issue? While I appreciate the warnings when riding through areas I’m not familiar with, I have to agree with SkidMark, we could use some pavement signs saying “Watch for Bikes”.

ben
ben
14 years ago

Re: #8 Grimm,

I have been threatening to do this same thing on SE 42nd for years — it’s definitely pretty close to PDX’s crappiest “bike boulevard”. Door prize zone on both the fast parts of the stretch between Holgate and Powell (and boy is 42nd & Powell a crappy cross.)

I find myself almost always riding outside the bike lane because of 1) side street sharks 2) oblivious doorers 3) debris/bins in the lane. I counted three serious attempts on my life (all oblivious) in one trip N through those like 7 blocks, at least one of which would have got me had I been in the bike lane. It’s for chumps. I’m waiting for the day someone confronts me about it, but it hasn’t happened yet.

360-degree awareness! Keep a sharp eye out for those blind and deaf cagers.

Let’s ban free parking citywide and take back the streets!

-Ben

Donna
Donna
14 years ago

I really like this stencil. It’s got the potential to be very educational for those bicyclists who are new to riding and don’t yet get the concept of the door zone. I’ve definitely felt the urge to say something to certain folks on my work commute.

Anonymous
Anonymous
14 years ago

Getting doored is terrible
Most pain I’ve ever been in
First time I was in the ER
Accidents happen, the woman who opened her door wasn’t malicious or careless
If streets were designed with a door zone or if others wouldn’t be angry with bikes driving away from the doors, that would be nice

Bent Bloke
Bent Bloke
14 years ago

6-1/2 feet is luxurious compared to the bike lanes on Division east of I-205. More like 2-1/2 feet there, with narrow parking lanes on the right, and narrow auto lanes on the left. Speed limit is 35 – 40 MPH on this stretch. I’ve had truck mirrors miss my head by what seems like inches (but probably more) and the trucks are centered in their lane. When buses pull over to the curb, they hang over the bike lane. It’s very nerve-wracking. Keep alert out there!

Oliver
Oliver
14 years ago

Not all on the right are noobs. I almost always ride in the right side of the so-called ‘door zone’, as I’m still in the Keep Right Except to Pass; camp. And while I’ve had my share of misses, I’ve never been almost doored, and I attribute this to scanning the roadway ahead (sure and some luck). Riding in traffic is not the time for leisurely half-attention riding. Having said that, It’s kind of ridiculous that we have cars parking to the right (the whole private property stored in public space argument rings very true here) of the bike lane. But that seems to be an imperfect solution, a compromise. Like main bike routes on bus lines (looney). Because if you reduce a 4 foot bike lane down to 2 feet, where does that leave for safely overtaking slower cyclists. If you’re traveling single file in the bike lane there should be room to overtake. But while we need to make room for those who are not as skilled, we shouldn’t have to wait behind them, but rather be encouraging them to build their skill and strength regardless of the fact that the anti-bike crowd would like nothing better than to slow our commute by any means necessary.

matt picio
14 years ago

Dana (#3) – I think the reason why N. Williams doesn’t have more problems is due to the large number of cyclists using it each day. Motorists have grown accustomed to seeing bikes, accommodating them, and avoiding them. Williams is practically a case study for common infrastructure from the perspective of “safety depends largely on the number of cyclists present on the road”.

aleeann (#9) – I agree. I think a lot of motorists believe that since the bike lane “never has anyone in it” and car traffic is separated from them by 4-6′, that they don’t have to be careful. I also think they frequently misjudge the speed of cyclists, and believe they have more time to open a door and get out than they really do.

It would be interesting to hear from other cities with bike lanes, and whether they have the same issue.

ben (#19) – how can you *not* like 42nd? You get to ride past Mayor Potter’s house. 😉

Oliver (#23) – and even 4′ isn’t enough safety space to pass another cyclist. There’s a lot of mountain bikes out there, and other bikes without drop bars that have a “wider” front profile. Many of those riders can’t hold a line very well, and some that can are too distracted to do so. Not to mention that it’s easy to scare another rider when you pass them less than 2′ from their handlebars without even an “on your left” or any other noise to warn them.

jv
jv
14 years ago

I ride that route almost every day chuckled when I first saw the PSA on the bike lane (I think sometime last week??) It does seem like it would be fairly easy to eliminate the street parking on the “bike lane” side of Vancouver/Williams, which would make it much safer for both motor traffic turning from side streets and for cyclists. There is plenty of parking in the area, and having parking on only one side of the road would make it easier for busses too…

To be honest,I drive the route by car as well, since it has fewer lights than MLK – and it is hard to see how there would be any downside to having a “bike superhighway” through there. The bike lane could be made wide enough (12 feet??) to allow easy passing without having to take the lane. No-one gets doored, visibility is increased, and both drivers and cylists have more space on the road.

ahhh…utopia.

fuchsia
fuchsia
14 years ago

Oliver- #23

There’s more than one reason not to ride in the “so-called” door zone. The further right you are, the less visible you are — to drivers coming from behind, but even more so to drivers entering from cross-streets.

jim
jim
14 years ago

“, why don’t folks just do it themselves

Cause its illegal and your going to be sorry if you get caught

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
14 years ago

“There’s more than one reason not to ride in the “so-called” door zone. The further right you are, the less visible you are — to drivers coming from behind, but even more so to drivers entering from cross-streets.”

…And to those checking their side-views before opening their car doors…

jim
jim
14 years ago

{Many times, probalby 1 in 10 (if not 5) cars has their tires in the bike lane}

This is a really wide bike lane. If you are concerned about car tires in the bike lane we could easilly make the parking strip a little bit wider, bingo no more tires in the lane

Icarus Falling
Icarus Falling
14 years ago

Random stenciling in a bike lane (or anywhere for that matter) is graffiti, it is illegal, and it is vandalism.

Not to mention disrespectful to everyone else who lives in this city, and the world.

Ride to the left side of the bike lane already. Look into the rear view mirrors also. It can tell you a lot about what is going on inside the car…

Alis
Alis
14 years ago

My bike is my major form of transport and has been my entire adult life. I’ve travelled the streets across the US, all dangerous; here in Portland they are mean.

An ugly, smothering attitude hangs over our city like a cloud; what cyclist hasn’t sensed this? Portland is not a bike-friendly city. The drivers hate cyclists here; discourtesy and hatefulness are driven home to the cyclist no matter how lengthy her trip; it’s pounded in again in the comment section of every article that’s ever posted after a bike fatality, or drunk driver citation. And cyclists have begun to return that meanness.

I find that ‘aura’ extremely troubling, and the root of our largest problem in Portland. Portland can paint and stencil the streets all they want; they can swap out parking spaces and convince everyone what a great biking community they are building here. Convince me, they will not. The cloud of hatefulness grows heavier.

Should we not focus on this, not the width of bike lanes, and whether a cars tires end up within the lane? Frankly, I appreciate the lane. But I can’t understand why someone would hurl a full liter of pop out their window at a middle-aged woman on a cold and rainy winter evening, leaving an ugly and painful hematoma behind her left knee for months. And I cannot understand why older men in business suits take a perverse pleasure in rolling down their windows and hurling foul abuse on the head of a pitifully small cyclist who’s just doing her best to make it home again at the end of the day?

Why can we not just share the road, with courtesy and good will?