New Anti-Dooring Device?

Background Reading

Summary

The San Francisco Citizen blog posted an interesting image with the comment:

Is This a Rear-View Mirror for Taxi Passengers? Anyway, It Looks Like a Cyclist “Dooring” Prevention Device. I’ll have to get a closer look next time:

Anti-Dooring Device On Taxi

Anti-Dooring Device On Taxi

Fixing The Blame

They “make” something even more effective for anti-dooring purposes, the human brain connected to the vision centers of the bicycle rider themselves.

Why on Earth is there such an obsession with placing the onus for a problem that is created by the bicyclist on the motorist who is exiting a vehicle? The problem is a bit more complicated than the current frenzy over “Dooring” would suggest. Clearly the riders are able if properly trained to know to ride outside the “Door Zone”.

Door Zone Bike Lane

Door Zone Bike Lane

Poorly Place Bike Lane

Poorly Place Bike Lane

As you can see from the illustration above the so-called “Bike Lane” lies along the “Door Zone” or as they term it here the “Death Zone”. Note the two white stripes that delineate the width of the area. In fact a good municipal practice is to add an icon to the “Death Zone” to make it clear that this is where the cyclist is supposed to ride.

The best thing that can be said about this bike lane is that is it wider than the one depicted above. If the cyclist is alert they have a “bail out” area just to the left of the tips of the inverted white “T-stripes” where they can ride, albeit carefully. But this is still an iffy thing if the rider or the bike is wide and depends altogether on whether the cars are trying to squeeze by with less than 3-Feet to the left of the rider.

The Door Lane

The Door Lane

A more honest depiction of the problem is the labeling of strip adjacent to parked cars as the “Door Lane”.

So why then do municipalities shoe-horn in lanes where they do?

In a word “money”. The roadway is narrow enough that cars really do not have enough room to pass cyclists (while leaving 3-Feet) and at the same time accommodate the “suicide lane” demarcated by the yellow lines down the center of the street.

The real solution is to make the street wider. But that would mean that either the parking lane has to be removed on one side of the street (or both). Of course removing the parking altogether fixes the “Door Zone” problem for all but taxi cab situations. But that might mean a loss of revenue from automobile drivers along this particular roadway where businesses are situated. So my guess would be that keeping the parking intact is of major importance to the small business people along the way.

So once again the onus is on the bicycle rider. But frankly the problem is being forced on cyclists by municipalities which try to “shoe horn” in narrow bike lanes too close to parked cars.

The Dilemma

It is far too early for cyclists to start complaining about the placement of bike lanes because that would mean that municipal leaders would want to stop and take a look at the situation which would defer the building of even more bicycle infrastructure. So cyclists keep their mouths closed or at least deflect the problem anywhere but on themselves by mounting campaigns to make drivers the “bad guys” in a situation.

You could make it illegal to exit your car from the left side. Some states and municipalities actually have such arcane laws on the books. But today’s cars make this a nearly impossible maneuver by placing large consoles in the middle of the automobile to keep driver and front passengers apart. A woman in a dress would have a very difficult time cross one of those consoles with any dignity intact after the ordeal.

So the problem reverts back to the fact that in our society we either have to create “head-in parking” or both the bicycle rider and the newly minted car pedestrian (which is what the driver has now transitioned into) have to watch out for one another. But the problem is more on the shoulders of the cyclist than the driver. Why?

Namely because the cyclist is a moving target. Anytime the driver glances back in their mirror they are likely to see a clear path to exiting their vehicle and then suddenly a cyclist makes a right turn on red and is immediately aimed towards the exiting driver (or their passengers who are often small children). Only the bicycle rider can watch the entire thing unfold because only they have an unobstructed view of the situation which does not change much over time.

So who do cyclists need to blame? First off, themselves. They are the only ones who can see the entirety of the “Door Lane”. In fact if they are riding an upright bike (as opposed to a recumbent bike or even a recumbent trike) they can see over the door that is opening towards the area just beyond it. They are the only ones who can see at all times the driver as he moves around in the front seat preparing to exit.

The one unknown factor would be a small child exiting the rear driver’s side passenger door. Again however the bicycle rider is in charge of the situation because they can simply ride to the left of the “Door Zone” or “Door Lane” and avoid the collision. This of course means that they must at all times be aware of the automobile traffic moving to their left. And that means that the car drivers to the left of the cyclists must always be aware of the positioning of the cyclists to their right who might be trying to conduct an avoidance maneuver.

Ultimately the problem always revert to the fellows who created this crowded mess in the first instance, the traffic engineers employed by the city. If they really cannot safely install a bike lane then perhaps they should not attempt the effort. But if they cannot do this and provide an adequate route for cyclists then at least label the car lane as the bike lane. Paint the darn thing green if you have to. This means at the very least that cyclists have a perfect right to take the lane to avoid severe injury.