Splendid Cycles

Subscriber Post: The Defensive Rider and dooring

Posted by on September 12th, 2017 at 10:08 am

Sketch by John Liu for BikePortland.

This is BP subscriber John Liu’s second article. The first one was about right-hooks.

This series of posts is meant to share riding skills for people who want to take extra precautions against drivers who are distracted, careless, aggressive, inexperienced, or simply fallible humans and for drivers who don’t ever want to hurt or kill a cyclist through poor driving.

Don’t read this post if you want to know a cyclist’s or driver’s “legal responsibility” or you want to know what cycling “should be” like in an ideal world. As bicycle operators, we can ignore everything I write about here, and we may still be legally “in the right”. And dead.

About me: 40+ years of riding bikes in cities, 30+ years of driving in cities, 10 years year-round bike commuting in Portland, licensed driver with motorcycle endorsement, zero bicycle-car collisions as either a cyclist or a driver.

What is dooring?

Image: Wikipedia

A dooring is when the occupant of a parked vehicle opens the vehicle’s door into the path of a passing cyclist. In the typical dooring, the vehicle is parked in the curbside parking lane and the door is opened into the face of a cyclist in the bike lane painted alongside the parking lane. That’s why we call these “door zone bike lanes”.

Why do doorings happen?

This is a common type of collision. Some studies find 8% to 12% of urban cycling crashes are doorings.

Drivers and passengers sometimes throw their vehicle doors open, without looking for cyclists approaching from the rear. The cyclist collides with the suddenly opened door, crashes trying to avoid the door, or is forced to suddenly swerve into traffic.

How to protect yourself against dooring

door zone warning stencil-10

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The basic precaution is to ride at a safe distance from parked cars and watch for opening doors.

Ride at least three feet away from parked vehicles.


In a door zone bike lane on the right-hand-side of the road, the Defensive Rider will ride on the far left edge of the bike lane. Given a standard bike lane five feet wide and a car parked tight to the curb, a suddenly opened door shouldn’t quite reach her. (If in a left-hand-side bike lane, then ride on the far right edge of the bike lane.)

When riding in a street without a bike lane, if the Defensive Rider can lean over and almost touch the parked cars with her fingertips… that’s too close.

Watch for car doors starting to open. Look through the rear window for signs that the vehicle is occupied – bodies, heads, or movement. Other warning signs include a car that just parked, taillights or interior lights “on”, or windows rolling up.

Two cyclists shouldn’t ride side-by-side if one of them will be close to parked cars.

If the bike lane is very narrow, if your bike is wide (cargo bike, etc), if parked cars are partly occupying the bike lane, the Defensive Rider will slow down and ride with extra caution – or ride in the travel lane.

Even the Defensive Rider will sometimes still have car doors opened in her path, but instead of a bad accident, she’ll continue safely on her way with an extra burst of adrenaline from the close call. It’s okay to swear.

How drivers can protect against dooring

Illustration from DutchReach.org.

Before opening the vehicle’s door, the Responsible Driver (and Responsible Passenger) will look over his shoulder and make absolutely sure there is no bicycle approaching. A glance in the side mirror is not enough.

Reach across your body with your right hand to open the driver’s door. The “Dutch reach” — opening the door with your right hand instead of your left — makes it natural to check over your left shoulder.

Don’t park your vehicle where it encroaches on the bike lane. Park tight to the curb, especially full-size vehicles with long doors.

Tell your passengers to look before opening their doors or to exit curbside.

When driving, leave room for cyclists to ride at safe distance from parked cars.

Variations on dooring

Drivers walking to their car will sometimes step into the bike lane and open their car door, without looking. The Defensive Rider watches for persons walking between parked cars or standing next to a parked car.

Cyclists can also collide with vehicles pulling out from a parking space, if the driver hasn’t checked for bikes before pulling out. Drivers in diagonally parked cars sometimes cannot see the bike lane behind them due to other parked vehicles. Watch for taillights and reverse lights, for heads and movement.

Some bike lanes are “parking-protected”, placed between the curb and the parking lane. Stay alert, cyclists can get doored on the passenger side of a car just easily as on the driver side.

Okay, that’s what I have to say. Any other Defensive Riders want to chime in? How do you stay safe on the imperfect streets where we live?

— John Liu, BikePortland Subscriber (Want the ability to post stories? Support BP and join our community today.)

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • bikeninja September 12, 2017 at 10:27 am

    My long nose bakfiets with custom steel front bumper takes care of this problem for me.

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  • Dan A September 12, 2017 at 10:39 am

    This demonstration suggests more like 6 feet away from any parked cars.


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  • Dan A September 12, 2017 at 10:44 am

    Here’s another variation: https://youtu.be/6vGeVDsIgHY?t=5

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    • John Lascurettes September 12, 2017 at 11:18 am

      Ouch. Very reminiscent of the Uber/Lyft passengers stuck in traffic on the north side of the Moda Center flinging their doors open into the bike lane.

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      • Chris I September 12, 2017 at 1:57 pm

        The only time I’ve ever come close to getting doored was a passenger door in the bike lane as you approach Hollywood TC, right by Trader Joe’s. I yelled and swerved, but kept going through the green. The passenger actually followed me into the business I was visiting and apologized for not looking first. It was a surprisingly civil discussion, and I think we both learned a lesson.

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      • Dan September 12, 2017 at 5:07 pm

        To be fair, they fling their doors open in front of cars too – I came very close to taking off an Uber driver’s door last month when they pulled over on the transit mall, I went around, and a passenger flung open the right rear door in my path — totally unexpected because it was not the sidewalk side – they were debarking into the bus lane. It was alarming even in a car.

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        • Spiffy September 13, 2017 at 10:15 am

          you made an illegal maneuver in response to their illegal maneuver…

          I see a lot of uber/lyft drivers obstructing traffic by letting people out on the transit mall… or they just pull into the bus lane… illegal maneuvers all day long in the bus mall…

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      • Pete September 16, 2017 at 8:05 pm

        HUGE problem in SF. Taxi drivers can lose their license for letting off passengers away from a curb, and often have video cameras recording everything they do. Not so in the Wild West of rideshare.

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    • bikeninja September 12, 2017 at 11:19 am

      In the case of a dooring by a passenger, who is liable if their is an injury and the cyclist chooses to file a civil suit for damages? This could be a key finding in the age of uber.

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  • Ryan September 12, 2017 at 11:01 am

    Where are these 5 foot wide bike lanes you speak of… 😉

    I try to look out for taillights/brake lights. If you see them on up ahead and then they turn off before you pass, there’s a good chance someone is about to get out of the car. I slow down in anticipation or go further out from them if safe to do so.

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  • MaxD September 12, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Great articles and I strongly agree! I cringe when I see people riding right next to parked cars where you can’t see in the car as well, you are very vulnerable to a door opening, and people in cars at cross streets can’t see you coming. This is somewhat rare subset of dooring danger, but when riding past stop and go traffic through the Rose Quarter (or near any event or restaurant district), be prepared to react to doors opening on all sides of a vehicle and a group of people leaping out without looking. This has happened to me many times.

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    • John Lascurettes September 12, 2017 at 11:48 am

      Those same people that hug parked car doors are also the ones that weave in and out of the parking zone even when there’s just a one-car gap in the parked cars. Double cringe-worthy. Do not do this people. It encourages unsafe passing from someone in a car behind you and it makes your path less predictable. When you’re between the parked cars, you’re not as visible to approaching vehicles from either direction.

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      • X September 17, 2017 at 11:56 am

        In my forthcoming book Riding With Trolleys there’s a chapter about the perils of riding between the right-hand rail and parked cars. This has to be one of the most dangerous things you can do with a bike on flat ground but it’s surprising common.

        Note to self, rain coming! No more 30 degree track crossings!

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        • John Lascurettes September 18, 2017 at 10:56 am

          Oh gosh. Never ever! 🙂 It’s in between the rails or the next lane over for me (NW 10th and 11th).

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  • John Lascurettes September 12, 2017 at 11:10 am

    Close calls with passenger doors have gotten much worse with Uber/Lyft in town, particularly near the Moda Center (going up Broadway on game or event days).

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  • David September 12, 2017 at 11:16 am

    My favorite variation of this is the Uber/Lyft driver parking in the bike lane and the passengers flinging the doors open with reckless abandon and keeping them open an excessively long time (>30 seconds). Suffice it to say that I take the lane and have some choice words for them (I’ll note that the driver and passengers in this situation seem genuinely surprised that I’m upset, there is usually a puzzled/confused look on their face).

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    • Dan September 12, 2017 at 11:25 am

      I’ve noticed this too with uber drivers. Not just in the Rose Quarter but all over town. Just clueless. Don’t ever remember seeing so many taxis parking in the bike lanes – maybe downtown.

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      • fourknees September 12, 2017 at 1:09 pm

        noted trouble spot I see frequently – on NW 14th at Flanders (between Rogue/10 Barrel) Not only blocking the bike lane, but also partially blocking the right lane of traffic….

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      • Chris I September 13, 2017 at 6:33 am

        They’re just “sharing” the space. Everyone! Don’t forget to share!

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      • John Lascurettes September 13, 2017 at 11:06 am

        Sometimes I ride a Lyft when I’ve been drinking. But I have yet to have occasion to correct a driver that drops me off over a bike lane, and then I give them a dreaded low-star rating if they contest it at all — but I’m ready to.

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    • Chris I September 12, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      I am shocked that members of the “sharing economy”, trying to save a few bucks on cab fare, would be oblivious to the negative social costs of their behavior. Shocked.

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  • wsbob September 12, 2017 at 11:20 am

    I feel that for best likelihood of avoiding collision with an opened or opening motor vehicle door, people riding in bike lanes having motor vehicles parked to the right or to the left of the bike lane…should make a point of riding as far away as reasonably possible while still riding in the bike lane, from parked vehicles.

    That would be riding the line distinguishing bike lane from the adjacent main lane of the road, Liu refers to this lane in his guest article as: “…travel lane…”. ). Ride the line, or ride the main lane of the road if parked motor vehicles pose a hazard to travel in the bike lane.

    By Oregon law, it’s legal for people riding, to avoid hazards in the bike lane, and opening or potentially opening motor vehicle doors are in my view, one such hazard which I feel is widely recognized as a hazard.

    Where there aren’t any motor vehicles parked next to the bike lane, it can be safe to ride a line at any point across the bike lane’s width.

    Doors don’t only get opened too late in front of someone on a bike approaching in the bike lane…because the person opening the door hasn’t looked for someone approaching on a bike. Circumstances can be present in which the person opening the door has looked, but did not either see, or notice there in fact was someone approaching in the bike lane. Factors contributing to this can be many, a couple of which I’d suggest are: angle of vision to person riding, speed at which they’re traveling.

    I wonder what are the reasons people ride in the door zone of bike lanes. Anxiety over traffic in adjacent main lanes are one reason some do, I think. Maybe they think their chances of successfully avoiding the door that suddenly opens in front of them, are better than the risk of a close call or collision with traffic in the adjacent main lane if they were to decide to ride the line or the main lane itself. Even though the distance they’d be riding there would only be probably 2′ to 4′ closer to main lane traffic.

    Another reason I’m afraid some people may be riding in the door zone of bike lanes, may be due to misinformation passed word of mouth about the conditions under which people riding are obliged to ride in the bike lane. There seems among some people to be this idea they must pass around, that people must must ride in the bike lane, no if’s and’s or but’s, until hell freezes over. That notion is not true, and does no road user any favors to pass along such misinformation.

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    • soren September 12, 2017 at 1:59 pm
    • wsbob September 13, 2017 at 12:09 am

      First of all, thanks John Liu, for writing up something about the hazard people riding bikes are presented with in bike lanes directly adjacent to parking lanes for motor vehicles. And thank you soren, for questioning the provisions of ORS 814.420, which allows people biking, wide latitude to ride outside the bike lane to use other parts of the road as needed.

      John…not a bad summary of the door zone issue for people biking, and ways to avoid problems there, though I wish you’d have prefaced and supported advice you offered in your article by citing and and explaining some about ORS 814.420 ‘Failure to use bicycle lane or path’

      I think everyone that rides a bike in traffic, should have some familiarity with the provisions of ORS 814.420 ‘Failure to use bicycle lane or path’. So here’s a link to the text of that law:


      What this law does, is spell out the circumstances in which people riding bikes on the road are acknowledged to have the right to use all parts of the road…in addition to…the bike lane.

      Basically, this law acknowledges wide discretion people biking must have to avoid hazards that can be present in the bike lane, consistent with their having the same rights and responsibilities in using the road as do people driving. (Oregon law recognizes that bikes are ‘vehicles’.).

      Now, about the links soren provided in his comment to which I’m responding: They lead to a couple stories about the same traffic stop of a guy cited by 814.420 for riding a bike in and out of a bike lane down in Ashland a few years ago. One guy, one police officer, one court…not “…courts…”, or law enforcement in general, as it seems soren wants to believe. What are among the reasons he lost his case? Some, but not all the reasons are entirely clear. I think it’s worthwhile to read both of those stories, and the comments to them to better understand this part of the right people biking have, to use the road.

      People rarely get cited by this law for riding outside the bike lane. In the last ten years in Oregon, I doubt there was more than two, maybe three citations for this law, in any city or town or countryside across the entire state. Don’t believe me? Call up the Portland Police Dept or the police in your own town. Ask them.

      If you ride a bike in traffic, you should know that the law acknowledges your right to avoid road hazards you and your vehicle is susceptible to, just as it acknowledges the right of people driving to avoid road hazards they and their vehicle are susceptible to.

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    • El Biciclero September 13, 2017 at 12:51 pm

      “…misinformation passed word of mouth about the conditions under which people riding are obliged to ride in the bike lane. There seems among some people to be this idea they must pass around, that people must must ride in the bike lane, no if’s and’s or but’s, until hell freezes over. That notion is not true, and does no road user any favors to pass along such misinformation.”

      Whaaaaat? “some people”? Who are you talking about?

      Let me be the first to say that when given a choice between riding inside a bike lane that puts me in a door zone, vs. riding outside the bike lane, I will be outside the bike lane almost every time.

      However, this opens one up to certain legal pitfalls. Overtaking drivers are not legally obligated to give you any passing room when a bike lane is present (ORS 811.065); if you are buzzed by an overtaking driver, that’s perfectly legal. Further, if you are hit by an overtaking driver, you will probably be found at least partially at fault, because you were technically obligated to ride in the bike lane, unless a door was actually open in front of you. Which brings me to point three: police officers are very unlikely to acknowledge potential hazards as any kind of reason to leave a bike lane.

      I would bet that you’d be more likely to be passed dangerously when riding inches outside a door zone bike lane, but more likely to be cited if you are taking the whole adjacent lane. The chances of either adverse outcome might be very small, but they’re your chances to take.

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      • Alex Reedin September 13, 2017 at 1:32 pm

        Hence my preference to avoid all roads that have bike lanes, except for roads with at least medium-quality protected bike lanes. It’s not really about danger (the actual dangers of biking, almost no matter how you do it, within reason, are so small compared to the health benefits of biking that it’s not worth worrying excessively about) – but about comfort. I don’t like experiencing near-misses, nor being harassed by other road users, and I find those experiences to be more common on roads with non-protected bike lanes than on any other kind of road.

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      • wsbob September 13, 2017 at 6:55 pm

        There seems to be a bit of mythology associated with so called ‘safety’ inherent in use of bike lanes by people biking. Bike lanes of the painted line designated type, offer some improved safe road use over. no bike lanes at all…in some situations. Ultimately though, it’s just a 4′-6′, sometimes a little more, width of roadway directly next to the main lanes. Virtually no protection against someone losing control of their motor vehicle. Whether they’re riding in the bike lane, on the line, or in the main lane itself, the degree of safe use of the road people biking is comparatively the same from the majority of people driving, that I feel are conscious, and reasonably attendant to the responsibilities of driving safely.

        Your “point three”: Look…here’s a simple fact, which I mentioned earlier already: Police officers very rarely cite for 814.420. Why don’t they? In part, I figure there’s a good chance at least some of them either have ridden bikes, or have heard and discussed what constitute road hazards to people’s bikes, that are different from what constitutes road hazards to people motor vehicles. All of which may have something to do with their opting not to cite people that bike for violation of this law.

        I don’t really know what police officers and law enforcement, or judges in the courts consider to be the inclusive range of hazards that can be in the bike lane, and that can constitute legitimate reasons for leaving the bike lane to ride in the main lanes of the road. They should know and understand, and if they don’t, or have some questions about that, people interested in biking would be well to make a concerted effort to open discussions about this with them, so the will come to know and understand.

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  • Bike Curious September 12, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Best defense is a good offense. I’m in the lane with mixed traffic. I hear an occasional honk, that’s them acknowledging they see me, albeit in anger but whatever, I’m visable and not getting doored.

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    • Eric Keller September 12, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      well, there is the lovely practice of doornailing

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      • bikeninja September 12, 2017 at 12:16 pm

        Please explain?

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    • wsbob September 12, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      “…I hear an occasional honk, that’s them acknowledging they see me, albeit in anger…” bike curious

      You’re sure they’re honking in anger? Sometimes people honk in response to the presence of a person biking in front of them, just to let the person biking know they’re behind. Because some people biking don’t keep track of whether they’ve got someone behind, or have been watching but had someone roll up whom they didn’t notice, or other circumstances like wind noise.

      At any rate, if someone does honk, it may not a big deal, and it can be considerate for the person riding to make a big sweeping gesture with an extended arm to indicate to the person driving that the person riding recognizes someone driving is behind, and that it’s ok with them for the person driving to go ahead and pass. Of course, don’t suggest they pass unless it is somewhat reasonable for them to pass.

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      • Dan A September 12, 2017 at 8:38 pm

        “Sometimes people honk in response to the presence of a person biking in front of them”

        That’s illegal.

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        • wsbob September 13, 2017 at 12:34 am

          Now…c’mon dan…before saying as though you’re sure something is illegal, check first to have some idea of what might be illegal and what’s not. Here’s the full sentence that I wrote, which you copied and pasted a part of:

          “…Sometimes people honk in response to the presence of a person biking in front of them, just to let the person biking know they’re behind. …” wsbob

          What I’m saying, is a short, friendly ‘beep-beep’, rather than extended leaning on the horn, though in an emergency, that would be reasonable too.

          You didn’t cite an Oregon statute to try support your thought on what I wrote, so I did a bit of searching and found the one I think is relevant:


          The relevant element of that law ‘Violation of use limits on sound equipment’ is (1) (b):

          “…(b) Uses a horn otherwise than as a reasonable warning or makes any unnecessary or unreasonably loud or harsh sound by means of a horn or other warning device. …”

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          • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 3:09 pm

            I don’t think it’s reasonable to honk at a cyclist to let them know you’re there, or to give friendly ‘beep beeps’ either. It’s rude.

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            • wsbob September 13, 2017 at 6:22 pm

              Rude in your opinion, one definitely not universally shared by many if not most other road users, of all modes of travel. And not illegal either.

              A couple nights ago, westbound on twisty Humphrey Blvd up in the west hills, I came up behind someone riding, and followed them at about 10mph around a couple curves until they pulled off onto a wide driveway to let me pass. I love it when people traveling slow are that considerate.

              Just after I’d passed this person by 10′-15, I hit the horn a couple short ‘beep-beep’s, as a gesture of thanks. I hit the horn after I passed them slightly rather than when I was abreast of them, so they would hear the full intensity of the horn’s volume, and they would be likely to understand that the sounding of the horn was a thumbs up kind of gesture. So, Officer Dan…to your mind…was sounding the horn as I did, rude? Or would you write up a citation for unreasonable use of sound equipment, for someone using their vehicle’s horn as I did. Or as a friendly notice to someone riding, that there was someone close by driving?

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        • Spiffy September 13, 2017 at 10:27 am

          nope… using your horn in Oregon is protected free speech…

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          • John Lascurettes September 13, 2017 at 11:09 am
          • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

            Weird, the law says:

            A person commits the offense of violation of use limits on sound equipment if the person does any of the following:

            Uses a horn otherwise than as a reasonable warning or makes any unnecessary or unreasonably loud or harsh sound by means of a horn or other warning device.

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            • John Lascurettes September 13, 2017 at 12:50 pm

              Yup. The above linked article covers that is what the law says, but then also covers the cases where judges said, “nope, free speech.”

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            • caesar September 16, 2017 at 12:53 pm

              Quick tap of the horn to let cyclist know you’re approaching from behind = “reasonable warning.”

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  • SD September 12, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Great article. Thanks for writing this. I know your intentions are 110% good. But, to me, your statement about never being in a crash sounds similar to someone saying that they eat a special diet and have never had cancer. Just food for thought.

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    • BB September 12, 2017 at 1:31 pm

      Same. This series of articles comes across as pure condescension no matter what other points are raised.

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      • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 6:41 am

        Only if you’ve been forced to read them.

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    • Gary B September 12, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      I understand your sentiment, but one can eat a diet to reduce their risk of cancer, and can ride to reduce their risk of collision. He may have had some luck this far, and he may eventually crash. Neither invalidates the effort to reduce risk.

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      • SD September 12, 2017 at 3:15 pm

        I agree. Good point. My comment is not about the validity of risk reduction.

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        • Alex Reedin September 12, 2017 at 4:41 pm

          Yeah… The complete lack of supporting evidence and citations makes this whole article series not very convincing to me as someone who has already thought about the different options for how to ride my bike and come up with my own conclusions about how I want to ride my bike.

          (The same criticism could be made with the article about Safe Driving Behaviors I recently wrote… at least, to the extent that one didn’t take it as satire of articles about Safe Walking/Biking Solutions)

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          • SD September 13, 2017 at 8:42 am

            My hope is that this forum for safety anecdotes will provide an outlet for people that feel inclined to preen about their habits rather than using bike rider or pedestrian fatalities as their platform.

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      • soren September 12, 2017 at 10:03 pm

        I’ve ridden at high speeds in a highly illegal fashion just about every day for 40+ years and I have never once hit a person, animal, or thing.

        Does my completely and utterly irrelevant anecdote also not “invalidate[] the effort to reduce risk.” If so, does this entitle me to also write a condescending piece suggesting that the best way to avoid dooring is to ride 25+ mph in the “travel lane” while lane splitting and weaving through traffic?

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        • Middle of the road guy September 13, 2017 at 12:52 am

          People should be able to drive that way also, as long as they don’t hurt anyone.

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          • soren September 13, 2017 at 9:05 am

            you are making my point.

            telling someone to weave through traffic to avoid a theoretical door is very bad advice. likewise telling someone to ride on the edge of a bike lane or to suddenly exit a bike lane is also, imo, bad advice from a safety perspective.

            From a LAB study of the majority of bike fatalities in one year:

            40% of fatal crashes with a reported collision type were “hit from behind” incidents


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            • wsbob September 13, 2017 at 9:51 am

              “…telling someone to weave through traffic to avoid a theoretical door is very bad advice. likewise telling someone to ride on the edge of a bike lane or to suddenly exit a bike lane is also, imo, bad advice from a safety perspective. …” soren

              There’s nothing theoretical about doors being opened into the bike lane. The ability of someone in a car to see someone riding a bike, approaching in the bike lane behind, is not nearly so easily done as someone driving down towards an intersection regulated for traffic with a stop sign or a stop light.

              What percent if any, of the collisions involving people on bikes rear ended, occurred due to someone driving and running into them as the person on the bike was waiting at a stop sign or stop light?

              It’s illegal by Oregon law for people biking to run stop signs and stop lights based on your theory that the general hazard of their being hit from behind in such a situation, is so likely that violation of the stop law is justified for people biking. There is no law that says it is legal for people biking to vary from the stop law for this reason.

              ORS 814.420 clearly says it’s legal for people biking to avoid hazards existing in the bike lanes. That law doesn’t list every single such possible hazard, but instead leaves open a wide range of possible hazards that it would legal to leave the bike lane to avoid.

              It’s excellent advice to advise people biking to avoid door zone hazard by either riding the line or taking the main lane itself. It’s not good advice to “…suddenly exit a bike lane…”, as you mentioned. So people riding don’t have to make an improper and dangerous exit from the bike lane is why riding the line, or the main lane to avoid the door zone, is advisable. Anyone riding in the bike lane that needs to exit the bike lane, should do so safely by signaling in advance of the transition from bike lane to main lane to let other road users know what they’re doing.

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              • soren September 14, 2017 at 8:38 am

                “signaling in advance of the transition from bike lane to main lane to let other road users know what they’re doing”

                i prefer telepathy — it’s far more effective(1).

                1. Soren Impey, personal communication.

                PS: unlike wsbob and john liu i actually reference my claims!!!

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          • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 9:35 am

            Shoes = bikes = cars = commercial trucks = battleships.

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          • Bald One September 13, 2017 at 12:19 pm

            Discussion allows for the near-miss for the vulnerable road user to be almost as bad as an actual collision. Think about weaving among the joggers and walkers on the bike paths/MUPs along the river on your e-assist cargo bike; or getting passed a little too close for comfort by a speeding car. Is that okay, along as nobody gets hurt?

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        • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 6:41 am

          Why would it need to be condescending?

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          • soren September 13, 2017 at 8:33 am

            ok…you asked for it.

            if you do not ride like me you are doing it WRONG.

            you can trust my accumulated wisdom because i have a perfect safety record, use hand signals, communicate telepathically with drivers via eye contact, and most importantly…i make you all *look good*.

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            • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 9:10 am

              Soren, I’d love to read that subscriber post. Share your wisdom — I know you have a different take on how to get around, and I’m sure we could all learn something from it. If you don’t directly put people down, I don’t know why people would take it that way.

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              • soren September 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

                As bicycle operators, we can ignore everything I write about here, and we may still be legally “in the right”. And dead.

                my take is that we should focus on evidence-based approaches to safety (e.g. vision zero) as opposed to promoting the idea that people who do not ride like john liu will die. and to my knowledge, no one has died from a dooring in portland so the victim blaming premise embedded in this piece is at best a gross exaggeration.

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              • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 12:33 pm

                I guess the next time there’s a subscriber post with some safety tips you can just skip it then. Why people spend time commenting on posts they don’t care about is really baffling to me. SOME of us find posts like this to be worthwhile.

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        • Kyle Banerjee September 13, 2017 at 8:14 am

          Riding in a technically illegal manner and riding unsafely are not the same. It is not possible to ride 40 years without incident unless you’re riding for conditions, within your capabilities, and defensively, or you’d get into trouble when others make mistakes.

          There is a reason some people have constant adventures. Doorings are almost always avoidable, and to imply otherwise is a disservice.

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          • soren September 13, 2017 at 8:47 am

            “There is a reason some people have constant adventures.”

            people who have learned to ride in areas without decent bike infrastructure often suffer from learned helplessness. being shocked, buzzed, threatened, or otherwise harassed no longer elicits a response.

            “Doorings are almost always avoidable”

            being hit from behind when exiting a bike facility to avoid a theoretical door is almost always avoidable.

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            • Kyle Banerjee September 14, 2017 at 9:20 am

              Learned helplessness is willfully ignoring obvious steps to protect your safety in normal riding conditions. Cars don’t surprise or shock me, including from behind for the because I actually pay attention to them.

              There is close to zero chance of me getting hit from behind in response to an opening door for the simple reason I would know the car was there, I would have pushed the car out if I had the slightest doubt about the door opening, I slow down so I can stop if I can’t shift the cars (rare), and in the truly bizarre situation where it came fully into the lane, I would have ditched into the parked car as that is a far better option.

              I once had a texting driver come fully into the bike lane behind me once, and I had to hop a cub (blew the hop and fell, but wasn’t hit). I also had to bail once on highway 20 many years ago.

              Being defensive is a prerequisite for riding. If any of you drive the way some of you advocate cycling, you are among the worst drivers out there. Cycling like this makes you a menace to ped and other cyclists. That you work so hard to undermine the notion that people ride safely and defensively is irresponsible.

              As traffic, we need to act like it.

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    • SD September 13, 2017 at 9:48 am

      post hoc ergo propter hoc

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    • Spiffy September 13, 2017 at 10:31 am

      I agree that their luck in not being crashed into has no bearing on the validity of the article and seems to just be an ego booster…

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      • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 11:20 am

        I have no doubt that there are great people out there who did everything right and were killed by a driver anyway.

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  • J Chris Anderson September 12, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I tell my daughter to ride as if every door was already open.

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  • B. Carfree September 12, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    The only proven method of not being doored is to not ride in the door zone. I lost count long ago of the car doors that would have had me had I been in the door zone, usually with no warning whatsoever. Does this annoy people who live behind the windshield? Sure, but it’s my skin in the game and it’s perfectly legal to not ride in a door-zone bike lane even in mandatory-use Oregon.

    Two anecdotes to relay: 1. A few years ago I was riding on a street with door-zone bike lanes. As is my custom, I was taking the lane to stay clear of the door zone. A person in a pick-up honked at me. Although it annoyed me, I just pointed at the parked cars by way of explanation. When the parking lane cleared, I moved into the bike lane. The pick-up pulled alongside with the passenger window down. The driver asked, across his ten-year-old son, what was going on. I explained the door zone issue. He thanked me nicely for the information and we all went on our way with smiles.

    2. While riding down the coast approaching a bridge, I considered moving into the door zone so that a couple of cars could pass me before the bridge. Thankfully, I resisted the urge because right at that moment one of the doors flew open. The person who did it saw me as I flew by and said something like, “Whoa, that was close.”

    Never ride in the door zone unless you are prepared to be doored. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when you will get doored.

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    • wsbob September 13, 2017 at 12:49 am

      Only thing I’d add to your anecdote about the guy in the pickup truck honking, is that instead of you pointing at the parked cars in response to his honking, it might be a whole lot easier for people to understand what to do when they come up behind you, if your just wave them on around you instead.

      ‘Hey…what’s that cyclist pointing at those parked cars for?

      Unless they themselves have ridden, I have to question whether it occurs to most people driving, that people biking are either riding the line or in the main travel lane because of door zone and other hazards in the bike lane. I think there’s a good chance that waving them on by, lets them know you’re aware of their presence behind you, and that you’re going to stay put while they swing around, if they’ve got the opportunity…no oncoming traffic…to allow them to do that.

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    • Spiffy September 13, 2017 at 10:43 am

      “it’s perfectly legal to not ride in a door-zone bike lane even in mandatory-use Oregon.”

      I don’t think that’s true… seems to me there was a case where somebody got a citation because there was no immediate hazard because no doors were being opened…

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      • John Lascurettes September 13, 2017 at 11:19 am

        Yes, Soren made that point in this comment with a Bike Portland pair of articles where a rider lost his court battle over needing to leave the bike lane because of debris (that doesn’t mean you’d lose every case like that though).

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        • Dan A September 14, 2017 at 7:20 am

          I have very high uninsured motorist coverage to protect my family should something happen to me on my bike. I think it’s totally reasonable to have concerns about how the insurance company might respond should I be hit from behind while I’m in the main lane because I’m avoiding a bike lane door zone.

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        • wsbob September 16, 2017 at 11:35 pm

          lascurettes…thanks for saying what you did there. I think it might have helped me, and probably other people too, if I could have read the court transcript of the hearing for the citation the guy got for failing to ride in the bike lane. Maybe it’s possible to get something like that. I’ve never tried to do it.

          Also, I think it would be helpful if the officer that issued the citation, and the judge that made a decision on the citation, were to agree to an interview in which they could explain their understanding of what circumstances and situations that (3)(c) 814.420 provides for that can reasonably be regarded as hazards for which someone riding in the bike lane has a legitimate reason to leave the bike lane.

          First hand experience for me, and many people that ride road bikes with generally lightweight tires compared to say, old schwinn cruiser tires or tires for mountain bikes, is that small bits of glass, rock, metal and such, definitely pose potential hazards to avoid. In fact, much small road debris that poses a hazard to the tires of bicycles, likely poses little if any hazard to motor vehicle tires.

          Cross sections of a range of bike tires and motor vehicle tires could help illustrate this. I believe that people responsible for enforcing this law, and the people obliged to make judgements based on it, need to have a solid fundamental familiarity with what kid of road debris poses a hazard to bike tires.

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      • wsbob September 13, 2017 at 7:07 pm

        Spiffy…what b carfree and I’ve said about ORS 814.420, is true. I’ve posted a link to the law’s text. Go read it for yourself. Read the bikeportland stories soren posted the link to. And the comments. Don’t take it on purely word of mouth that it’s illegal to ride outside the bike lane, simply because someone says so. Don’t take mine or b carfree’s word either, if you don’t feel confident doing that. Read the law for yourself.

        The reasons the guy in Ashland lost his case? Not so simple, I don’t think. What all happened down there..(not just the specific bits that some people like to use to feed their animosity held against cops, the courts, the laws they don’t like, or authority in general…) that contributed to having his citation stand, and him being found guilty? Not so easy to know way up here in the Portland area. Might have made an interesting story for someone that had the opportunity to investigate and write about it.

        Whatever happened down there, does not change the fact that Oregon statute 814.420 acknowledges the right of people that bike, to use all parts of the road both inside and outside the bike lane for a wide range of circumstances and road conditions.

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  • Andy K September 12, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    I love this post John. Although it may not help experienced cyclists at all, it is eye opening and potentially lifesaving for new riders and those who are interested but concerned. Biketown should probably link to this post.

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  • Phil Richman September 12, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Door zone bike lanes need to be phased out in this city in exchange for space for people to move. Riding Broadway almost daily along the hotel door zones is madness. I do exactly as you describe. There is often little to no room for passing other people on bikes without moving into the motor vehicle lane. This is much more safely and easily done being on a long-tail e-assisted cargo bike with my rear-view mirror, but it’s awful for the neck jerk. (i.e. me on a BikeTown bike) Both Broadway and 4th Ave downtown could easily have cycle tracks for little $. In NYC they’re building them by the miles https://ny.curbed.com/2017/8/1/16079170/new-york-city-protected-bike-lanes-increase. I guess some cities need to lead the way for others to follow.

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    • wsbob September 13, 2017 at 1:02 am

      You make it so complicated. If the SW Broadway bike lanes past the hotels are socked with parked cars, signal to leave the bike lane, and ride the main lane. It’s somewhat uphill, but traffic isn’t very fast there, and the blocks are only 200′. If it turns out someone riding slow happens to be holding a lot of traffic back, they could briefly turn onto a side street to let the traffic pass, though in most cases that probably wouldn’t be necessary.

      The parking adjacent to the hotels isn’t always busy, and there’s other blocks that have no hotels, so the bike lane there is relatively safe to ride. The bike lane at least allows the line to be available for riding, and free of motor vehicle traffic. If the bike lane weren’t there, people riding would always have to be riding a main lane, with motor vehicles on their tail much of the time.

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    • Pete September 16, 2017 at 8:11 pm

      This is one point I wanted to add – using a mirror for “situational awareness” helps you know when you can move out of the bike lane or not. The door zone bike lane I ride in most has 40+ MPH motor vehicle traffic in the two travel lanes next to it, and at 18-22 MPH myself it leaves me little time, so I stay as left as possible in the lane but also split my attention between threat on both the right and the left. If I’m riding that lane in the morning or evening when people are coming or going to work, that’s when I need to be extra cautious.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu September 12, 2017 at 5:14 pm

    Agree. Where there high bike volumes get squeezed into a standard width door zone bike lane, it becomes more difficult to avoid riding in the door zone. Broadway downtown is an example. I’d like to see the city prioritize these problem spots.

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  • bendite September 12, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    I want to hear people’s estimates on how many doorings they avoid each year by staying out of the door zone? I’m thinking three a year for me.

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    • Alex Reedin September 12, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      I think maybe 2% of a dooring per year for me? Biking is pretty safe, statistically, even though it feels scary given the neglect of our government and our abusive driving culture. I see tons of people out there riding in the door zone all day long. If they were all getting doored three times a year, I bet they’d have changed their behavior.

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    • Kyle Banerjee September 13, 2017 at 8:19 am

      This is a function of where you ride. If you ride by parked cars regularly, people will sometimes open doors. I would guess I see a door open for every several thousand cars I pass. Uncommon, but more than frequently enough to make ignoring this threat very dangerous.

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    • Spiffy September 13, 2017 at 10:45 am

      I ride very few roads with bike lanes, so that number is low for me…

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  • Tom Hardy September 12, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    I have bent or busted more than a couple of door hinges. All of these when I slowed slightly as I suspected a motorist of watching for me to ride by with a car on the left. In all cases the motorist opened the door full with about 2 foot to spare. In each case I was Prepared and braced and hit the door with enough force to destroy the hinge and wrinkle the door. In each case I was uninjured because I chose where to hit the door and how to hit it. In only 1 case did the driver ask for information for an accident report. I got his information. I gave mine and sent a bill to his insurance for $750 for a new wheel and $600 for a new fork.
    The insurance just sent the check + $1000. For an old Schwinn varsity that I had spent $18 for at Good Will.
    The rest apologized and I left. I always assume that if a person is visible in the car the driver is waiting to door a cyclist as they pass. Some I will go around the block 3 or 4 times and each time they have an “accident” that I dodge.

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    • wsbob September 13, 2017 at 1:22 am

      “…I gave mine and sent a bill to his insurance for $750 for a new wheel and $600 for a new fork.
      The insurance just sent the check + $1000. For an old Schwinn varsity that I had spent $18 for at Good Will. …” tom hardy

      Seriously? You filed an insurance claim of $1350 for an old junky Schwinn Varsity that didn’t cost $100 brand new? Funny. So you’re admitting to fraud, on an open to the public weblog. Something about that, to me, doesn’t sound too smart.

      For me, it’s definitely easier and better, to just not be in the door zone at all if I think there’s a chance someone is in their car possibly ready to open their door. Ride the main lane or the line, and then you don’t have to spend time confronting people in the car or filing insurance claims. But now that you’ve found you can make close to a thousand bucks by slamming into someones’ opening door with your feet, I suppose resisting the temptation of riding in the door zone might be tough.

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    • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 6:44 am

      “Some I will go around the block 3 or 4 times and each time they have an “accident” that I dodge.”

      Say what?

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    • bendite September 13, 2017 at 7:31 am

      So you committed insurance fraud? You should be proud, Tom.

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      • Kyle Banerjee September 13, 2017 at 8:25 am

        It’s more impressive than that. The words make it appear he intentionally caused multiple collisions with the express purpose of maximizing damage to the other vehicle while making a pretty penny.

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        • Kyle Banerjee September 13, 2017 at 8:30 am

          This does help me understand why people here are so insistent that the word “accident” not be used to describe crashes…

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          • BB September 13, 2017 at 9:08 am

            Another case of trumpian false equivalence, where someone claims that something that actually harms people (motor vehicle operators maiming and killing people) is comparable to something that harms no one (property damage), and therefore the first thing must of course harm no one and shouldn’t even be considered.

            No. Calling a crash a crash because calling it an “accident” perpetuates the acceptability of mass death on American roadways is not the same as one jerk on the internet claiming to get doored on purpose. Try again Kyle.

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            • Kyle Banerjee September 14, 2017 at 11:16 am

              Just out of curiosity, how many multilingual people here try to force nonstandard meaning on widely accepted vocabulary in any language other than English? Protip: it won’t work there either. Dictionaries are your friends.

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        • Kyle Banerjee September 13, 2017 at 10:33 pm

          Right, because not buying into an absurd linguistic practice common here but virtually unknown elsewhere that it’s offensive to suggest that some tragedies are in fact accidents.

          Language belongs to everyone, not just some fringe group.

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    • John Lascurettes September 13, 2017 at 11:22 am

      I call shenanigans.

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  • psyfalcon September 13, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Those passenger side doorings are the scary ones. Drivers? If you can’t stay all of the way out, at least you can watch who is parking, and who is getting in. Passengers jumping out at a stop light?

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    • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Yeah, this has been eye-opening for me. Now I have to worry about giving 6 feet of space to stopped cars on my left too.

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  • Maddy September 13, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for this. Car doors scare the heck outta me. I ride slowly and constantly scan the mirrors looking for people.

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    • Dan A September 13, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      May as well skip that step. I’ve had a door open beside me in a car that appeared to be empty. Not mention tinted front windows…

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  • John Liu
    John Liu September 13, 2017 at 2:38 pm

    As I said, this series of contributor posts is about defensive riding techniques, not about legal responsibilities or fault. A BP contributor and lawyer, Ray Thomas, has a collection of blog posts on the legal aspects of cycling. Here is his post on dooring:


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    • wsbob September 13, 2017 at 7:21 pm

      Defensive riding techniques are essential to riding safe in traffic. Hopefully, no one riding will ever have to use any such techniques that aren’t legal.

      Ray Thomas’s article, which you posted a link for, doesn’t cite ORS 814.420, but does allude to what that law acknowledges is the right of people biking to use all parts of the road in Oregon. Here’s the relevant excerpt from that article:

      “…Bicyclists have a duty to ride as far to the right as practicable, but the law allows us to take up to a full lane, if necessary, to avoid hazards like car doors. …” ray thomas

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  • Kyle Banerjee September 14, 2017 at 2:08 am

    The comments in this thread seems to focus exclusively on the threat from cars to cyclists when cyclists riding close to vehicles represent a threat to peds, especially kids and people in wheelchairs who may be passing in front and hard to see.

    Also, be aware that normal kids in a car may be hard to see and unaware that some riders who qualify as adults may be willing fully riding in an unsafe manner. But hey, the kid you smashed into because she didn’t know the “Dutch reach” was part of car culture so the cyclist can feel victimized…

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  • Aer September 14, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Just thank you! Even those of us with decades of sometimes bitter experience benefit from considering these basics again.

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