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 this time with SLM (“sharrow”) which should work out just fine in this configuration.

There’s a quote at 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:

Here’s another video via cycliq on facebook… note their shoddy, or rather, incomplete advice. (here’s a newer cycliq on facebook) The refer to the motorist as an “idiot” for not checking but are mum on advising cyclists.

This happens with regularity

and is entirely foreseeable…

It is, furthermore, vastly and by definition intentionally under-reported, because of the way traffic crashes are defined and databased, see research study, referenced below, Bike lanes next to on-street parallel parking for the technical explanation.

“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

photo: Joshua Putnam
photo: Joshua Putnam

See critiques of various AASHTO dimensions from Wayne Pein at




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(!).

Research Study: Bike lanes next to on-street parallel parking

Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 120, November 2018, Pages 74-82 Bike lanes next to on-street parallel parking Paul Schimek



Most crash data sources do not include crashes where a bicyclist comes in contact with the door of a parked motor vehicle… Other sources show that “dooring” accounts for 12%–27% of urban bicycle-motor vehicle crashes, one of the most common types.

Paul also published a richly illustrated article at on the topic.



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

Compiled list of all known Dooring Fatalities; and FARS (#fars)

As mentioned above, Cycling Savvy Instructor John Brooking maintains a list of all known dooring fatalities, with names, dates and a narrative describing each crash.

I made a copy of the sheet and added links search FARS; some will be in FARS because the bicyclist contacted a “motor vehicle in transport”;  and some will not because the victim died without being struck by moving motor vehicle; and some will be missing

At the time of this writing, the most recent FARS data is for 2018; and of course FARS only covers incidents occurring in the US; I searched FARS for all incidents occurring in US from 2010 onward. (and sidenote is that FARS including “PBCAT” data typing for 2010 onward, excluding 2012):

There were 16 incidents meeting that criteria, of those:

  • 9 were in FARS
  • 5 weren’t in FARS; and according to description didn’t involve a “motor vehicle in transport”
  • 2 weren’t in FARS and I consider missing.

of the 9 that were FARS, the crash type was a complete grab-bag with no two the same:

  • (2) Parallel Paths – Other / Unknown
  • (1) Bicyclist Overtaking – Extended Door
  • (2) Motorist Overtaking – Other/ Unknown
  • (1) Other / Unknown – Insufficient Details
  • (2) Other / Unusual Circumstances
  • (1) occurred in 2012 and there was no crash typing that year

The cell formula to make a search link from the date is:

=HYPERLINK( CONCAT("",text(B3, "YYYY-MM-DD") ),"search fars")

5 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 Kempton
    Senior Planner
    Systems Planning Branch
    O: 602.506.7742
    Maricopa County Department of Transportation
    2901 W. Durango Street ▪ Phoenix, AZ 85009

  2. March 2017 Sentencing in Leicester, England.
    Doored cyclist thrown into traffic where he was runover and killed.
    The driver who ran him over was a “chronic” drunk driver but was not suspected of causing the collision; regardless he fled the scene. His sentence was suspended, so Arizona isn’t the only place where the serious crime of hit-and-run is treated very lightly:

  3. See: DOORING IS REAL. SO STOP PUTTING BIKE LANES IN THE DOOR ZONE whick links the research paper Bike Lanes Next to On-Street Parallel Parking by Paul Schimek

    comment for Paul,
    You mention Chicago 2011-2015 in your paper but don’t mention state of Illinois; they fairly recently added a specific dooring checkbox, so going forward, for Chicago, for example, they would no longer need to go thru a stack of police reports to come up with dooring data, it should just be available in their normal course of business. I wonder if there’s any updates?
    From the Illinois Crash Report Instructions:
    “new for 2013… Dooring with Pedalcyclist field to identify dooring incident…
    Dooring with Pedalcyclist – this is a new type of incident involving a Pedalcyclist colliding with an open door of a parked or non-moving vehicle. This typically occurs in dense urban areas where a driver (or passenger) opens the parked car’s door into the path of the on-coming Pedalcyclist causing a collision to occur.”

    Unrelated comment about Illinois crash forms regarding fault; Where Arizona refers to Unit 1 as being the unit most at fault, IL similarly simply refers to as at-fault:
    “Known or perceived vehicles at-fault should be entered as Unit 1. If the at-fault vehicle is
    not evident, the striking unit should be entered as Unit 1. Provide a Diagram and Narrative if
    neither one can be determined.”
    Also of note: The form is called the Illinois Crash Report, and they do not use the a-word at all except when quoting statute. #crashnotaccident

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *