By Joel Zanatta
The Cycling Lawyer

You are riding down the road on a bright sunny day. Even though traffic is relatively light, you are vigilant – staying to the right side of the road, listening for the sound of vehicles coming from the rear, keeping your head up. Then suddenly, without warning a car door swings open and you are lying on the pavement. You have been the victim of the most callous form of negligence – dooring.

Dooring incidents have gone hand in hand with the explosion of cycling in Canada. As more cyclists hit the roads, accidents involving car doors have increased.

This epidemic has been such an issue that recently the BC government quadrupled the fine for dooring a cyclist.

While we laude the government’s decision in this regard, the change in law went hand in hand with the government’s decision to vastly strip away cyclist’s rights to compensation for injuries caused by dooring. Simply put, now the government gets to collect revenue from the motorist who doors a cyclist, but the cyclist is unable to pursue the motorist for fair compensation.

Nonetheless, the decision to increase dooring fines in BC is a good thing. The new fine, along with increased expenditures for driver education, may remind motorists of the presence of other more vulnerable road users. By educating motorists young and old to take a moment to check their mirror before swinging a door wide open into the travelled portion of the roadway, cyclists’ lives may be spared.

As cyclists, we cannot count on drivers remembering to check their blind spot before opening their door.

Our health and safety rely on our ability to avoid obstacles at all cost.

BC Cycling Coalition’s guide Bike Sense, makes the following recommendations:

  • Ride no closer than one metre from parked cars to avoid being hit by an opening door. The doors of some vehicle types can swing far into your lane.
  • If you see that the car is occupied, be particularly careful.
  • Where cars are parked intermittently, ride in a straight line instead of swerving in and out between the parked cars.
  • Anticipate behaviour and movements of other road users and dangers that might appear. Make eye contact and observe the traffic on the road ahead, behind and around you.
  • Turn on your lights, front and rear, whenever visibility is reduced.

We have the following additional tips to avoid being the victim of dooring:

  • Be particularly cautious when biking in areas that have restaurants, retail stores, banks etc. Also be extra aware in school zones.
  • Ride slowly when approaching parked vehicles.
  • Choose a safer route with less parked cars or one with separate bike lanes, is possible. Still maintain a one metre distance from parked vehicles when riding in a bike lane.
  • Keep your eyes out for taxi cabs and delivery vehicles.
  • Check for lit brake lights on parked vehicles.

Although riding defensively will not eliminate the risk of dooring, it will help reduce the probability of it occurring to you. And we all want to be as safe as possible when riding on the road.

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