Critics Say Intersection and Road Design Increase Risk to Pedestrians

BicycleIt’s become a far too common occurrence—a motorist parks on the street and opens the traffic-side door without looking, putting the open door directly in the path of an oncoming vehicle, or even worse, a cyclist. In a study conducted in Chicago earlier this decade, researchers found that “dooring crashes”—where bicyclist collided with the open door of a parked vehicle—accounted for almost one in five bicycle-related accidents (19.7%). A similar study in Boston found that about one in ten bicycle crashes involved “dooring.”

The problem is not a new one, though. Unbeknownst to most people, so-called “dooring laws” have been on the books in some states since 1956. Over the past 50 years, most states and many metropolitan areas have either enacted legislation requiring motorists to use reasonable care before disembarking from a vehicle, have mounted public service campaigns to make motorists more aware of the risks associated with opening a door into traffic, or have put both measures in place. Only ten states have no dooring law. All but two of the states with dooring laws also make it illegal to leave a door open longer than necessary to load or unload a vehicle.

Cycling advocates say that both the infrastructure that has been created for bicycling, as well as many new bicycling laws, have increased the risk of dooring accidents. For example, they point to the proliferation of bicycle lanes between road and curb, which may actually require that bicyclists ride in the path of an open door. Furthermore, some bicycle laws mandate that riders be as far to the right as possible, placing them directly in the door zone.

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