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The growing dangers of “dooring”

Currently, 41 states have what is called “dooring laws” that involve bikes colliding with open car doors. However, most of those states have vague language that refers only to “traffic,” creating challenges in the interpretation of the law. Only Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Oregon have wording that specifically refers to the protection of bicyclists and pedestrians.

However, in spite of those legislative actions combined with designated bike lanes increasing throughout the country, a growing number of bicycles colliding with car doors continue to raise concerns.

Limited Data, Options And Progress

Data on the threats of dooring accidents and the ways communities respond to them is limited and largely anecdotal. Cities are not required to track these types of accidents in crash reports to police. As of 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Governor Highway Safety Association and the U.S Department of Transportation lacked a coordinated effort to ensure accurate reporting of dooring accidents.

Public awareness campaigns are equally scarce. Taxi companies in some cities place stickers on cab windows to remind passengers of possible “dooring” Another initiative promotes the “Dutch Reach” where doors are opened with right hands, reminding passengers to look for bicyclists before opening their doors.

Designated bike lanes exist to improve bicycle safety in many cities, yet concrete data on their effectiveness in preventing accidents is unknown. Bike lanes are often striped to the left of parked cars with buffers to alert cyclists of pending danger. While that covers the driver’s side of the car, someone exiting on the passenger side can still lead to a serious accident.

Automobile companies are starting to get into the act by installing bicycle-detection systems in concept cars. However, those vehicles are currently not available for purchase.

Existing laws, public awareness campaigns and other initiatives can only go so far. Even the most proactive steps by bicyclists may not be enough to prevent tragic and potentially fatal collisions.

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