Door Zone Bike Lane removed after cyclist killed

Photo from satire site Clickhole "That’s right. Gone will be the days of ugly car-on-bike collisions. From now on, whenever a ... driver unthinkingly opens their car door into the path of a bicyclist, the rider will hit the state-of-the-art dedicated safety ramp"
Photo from satire site Clickhole “That’s right. Gone will be the days of ugly car-on-bike collisions. From now on, whenever a … driver unthinkingly opens their car door into the path of a bicyclist, the rider will hit the state-of-the-art dedicated safety ramp”

I usually make a point of only noting incidents that happen in Arizona; but the DZBL thing is just ridiculous, plus at least the cyclist didn’t die in vain…  (DZBL = Door Zone Bike Lane. That is: a bike lane placed next to parking where the parked car doors when open protrude into the bike lane) 

Bicyclist John Kavanaugh was killed in a door zone bike lane on Main Street Durham, NH (home of UNH, apparently) August 2014 by an inattentive driver who opened his door into the cyclist’s path. It turns out this DZBL has just been installed a few months before.

Initial reports, e.g. WMUR,  indicate cluelessness, consider the reporting that said it was a “Witnesses describe it as a freak accident”, which might be excusable, but in same story Deputy Police Chief Rene Kelley said  “I don’t know what the bicyclist or the driver could have done differently,”. Done differently?

  • The driver could have not opened his door into approaching traffic, as required by law.
  • The cyclist could have not ridden in the door zone (which would have perhaps incurred the ire of Police?)
  • Or the best answer, which admittedly doesn’t directly involve either the cyclist or the driver: the city could have never installed such a well-known to be dangerous facility

As things turn out this is a rather low speed affair, and the DZBLs had just recently been installed, and had removed a (on both sides?) travel lane in favor of the DZBL (road diet gone wrong?). By Late September, the travel lane was back, reports fosters.com this time with SLM (“sharrow”) which should work out just fine in this configuration.

There’s a quote at bikeforums.net that i can’t confirm that said “One town official was quoted as saying ‘If people wore helmets, less accidents would happen.’ ” (if you don’t catch why this is a moronic statement, re-read it).

The mechanics of a door zone crash are somewhat non-intuitive… the cyclist gets thrown into / towards moving traffic in the adjacent travel lane. See this video:

 

This happens with regularity

and is entirely foreseeable… “A Fort Collins cyclist was seriously injured after being struck by a car Tuesday afternoon near the CSU campus… Shortly before 3:20 p.m. Tuesday, Updegraff (the cyclist) collided with the driver-side car door of a silver Toyota Camry that was parked near the bike lane on Lake Street. Updegraff fell into the westbound travel lane and was then ran over by an oncoming Subaru Outback. The victim was in critical condition at…” 12/11/2014 The Coloradan. The forces of this type of collision throws the victim directly into the path of oncoming traffic — just as is graphically illustrated in the video, above.

This story of a dooring on Milwalkee Ave in Chicago has it all: a dooring, as well as according to the source Chicago Police misfeasance/malfeasance — “The officer who responded to the scene refused to take a police report; she let the driver leave without taking any of her information…  Adding insult to injury, the police officer also refused to cite the driver, but told the bicyclist she could give him a ticket for not riding his bicycle in a bicycle lane. What?! There isn’t a bike lane here!”. The video also (again) graphically illustrates the forces involved in a dooring will throw into traffic, i.e. to the cyclist’s left toward any overtaking traffic.

Existing Standards are Inadequate

See critiques of various AASHTO dimensions from Wayne Pein at bicyclingmatters.wordpress.com.

photo: Joshua Putnam
photo: Joshua Putnam

As pointed out by Joshua Putnam:

NCHRP 766 documents that the open door width of private passenger vehicles extends 11 feet from the curb, and bicycle facilities should be designed to keep cyclists out of this hazard zone. The report specifically notes that where a bike lane is next to parallel parking, common designs put essentially all of the bike lane in the door hazard zone.

In this photo, the (right) tip of the bicycle’s handlebars is measured exactly 11 feet from the curb. This is “as near to the right as is safe” — cyclists should never, and are never required to ride within this standard SDOT door-zone bike lane.

Here is what the  NCHRP guidance says (I think; the document apparently isn’t online), this extract appeared on the CABOforum:

For parking lanes that are 7- to 9-ft wide, assuming the 95th-percentile parked vehicle displacement and an open door width of 45 in., the open door zone width of parked vehicles extends approximately 11 ft from the curb. Therefore, the design of the bike lane should encourage bicyclists to ride outside of this door zone area and account for the width of the bicyclist.

What to do?

Simple: don’t ride in the door zone. And do NOT advise bicyclists to try to intuit when a door might be opening — that’s often not humanly possible; and even if it were, reaction time means in most cases a bicyclist will be unable to avoid crashing into the the door anyways. Here is how the ADOT Share the Road Guide/pamphlet states it:

Look for people in parked cars ahead of you and ride in a straight line at least 5 feet away from the car. Someone may open the car door in front of you unexpectedly. Be predictable: don’t weave in and out between parked cars. — page 24 ADOT Share the Road Guide

If you overlook the first bit (“Look for people in parked cars”), it’s really quite fine advice. The first bit, however is completely unrealistic: attempting to look for people in parked cars ahead is useless advice and it sets up false expectations. I see the Pima County Share the Road guide has added/changed this section; they talk more about the streetcar and potential problems.

In a similar (bad) vein, the MAG (Maricopa Association of Gov’ts) Bike Facilities Map says:

Look inside each parked car before you pass it…  Watch behind you. Keep track of traffic behind you, so you’ll know whether you have enough room if you must swerve suddenly out of the door zone…

Ug! Just don’t ride in the door zone. No need for sudden swerving(!).

Resources

I’m not trying to document a list of all DZBL crashes — here’s some resources:

2 thoughts on “Door Zone Bike Lane removed after cyclist killed”

  1. The “Maricopa County Bike Facilities Map” referred to above is actually the Maricopa Association of Government’s (MAG) Bike Map [ed note: I made that correction in the article above — thanks reed]. Maricopa County is a member of MAG and I will bring Ed’s concerns to their attention.

    My observation is that with today’s headrest requirements, it is difficult to determine if someone is actually in a vehicle as you approach from behind on a bicycle. I don’t ride in the door zone.

    Reed

    Reed Kempton
    Senior Planner
    Systems Planning Branch
    O: 602.506.7742
    Maricopa County Department of Transportation
    2901 W. Durango Street ▪ Phoenix, AZ 85009
    reedkempton@mail.maricopa.gov

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