A commonly shared fear of the cyclist in the city is the ubiquitous driver’s side car door. My recent run-in (literally) with one such door indicates that my fear is not unfounded in New West.
From a cyclist’s perspective, the car door is an unpredictable hazard—every parked car we pass may contain a driver (or passenger) with one hand on the latch and the other grabbing keys, parking meter change, wallet, purse, badminton birdie, etc. In that crucial moment our safety rests in the hand on the latch, depending on a message from a pair of eyes that shoulder check, or at least check mirrors, before giving the all clear to swing an anchored, edgy steel object into our narrow path of travel.
There are measures bike riders can take to protect themselves. Visibility probably has the most impact (in preventing the most impacts). Bright, flashing, headlights work well at night, as does reflective and brightly coloured clothing. Bikesense.bc advises: ride in a straight line, stay alert and ride no closer that one metre from parked cars.
Section 203 of the British Columbia Motor Vehicle Act states: A person must not open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so.” This information has value to drivers, who may not know that the law is not likely to favor their decision to open a door that in turn meets a conveyance. I compare this to a rear-ender: generally, the courts will rule that a vehicle that rear-ends a vehicle in front is 100 per cent at fault. In our scenario, the door is the rear-ender.
My collision resulted in some scrapes and bruises and the cost of a new bike wheel. If I had been moving faster it could have been much worse. What I’ve taken from this is that a degree of my safety lies in the hands of my fellow citizen, and that I can only control my own actions. I wanted to raise this discussion with drivers, not because I blame drivers for being irresponsible or inconsiderate of cyclists, but because cyclists rely on you to take that extra effort and time to check. I wanted to remind cyclists that caution is your best defence and that drivers are human. I’m sure few of us cyclists who are also drivers can guarantee we made a full shoulder check before opening every door in our driving history.
Both parties benefit from considering of the situation of the other, so next time your hand is on the latch, please remember the cyclist. When biking: stay alert and visible, use the one metre rule, slow down when passing parked cars, take the lane when needed (there is less risk of collision and injury if you signal and move safely into the car lane, than riding too close to the parked car because the street is narrow) and be aware that the law may protect our rights, but cannot remove the risk of injury.
Travis is a bicycle mechanic for New West Cycle and an advocate for bike riding as exercise, green transportation, and fun.