How to avoid hitting people with your car doors

A cyclist was taken to hospital in Victoria this afternoon after colliding with a van door. The woman in her 20s was heading west on Pandora Avenue just past Vancouver Street about 1:15 p.m. when the driver of a white van parked on the side of the road opened his door

Times Colonist – 12-August-2014

Dear most of us who drive cars, and therefore have to open doors to get out of them, here are two things we can do to avoid hitting cyclists (and other people) with our car doors.

Separated bike laneChange the system! Advocate for separated bike lanes in your city/town, especially on major roads. The current setup of curb – parked car – cyclist – moving car means the cyclist has to choose between getting swiped by moving traffic, or risk “colliding with a van door”. The City of Victoria is planning a separated bike lane for this very street. Imagine how hard driving would be if there were people walking along the road with you, and not in a separated walk lane (also known as a sidewalk). This process of building better facilities for cycling will take a few years, but it’s worth it for everyone. Cyclists are safer, pedestrians are safer because cyclists are less likely to use the sidewalk. Car drivers are safer on major roads because they will have fewer people in their way, what with all the cyclists using their fancy separated lanes, and all the car drivers looking at all those fancy cyclists saying “Hey, I can do that too!”. Tell your city to start building separated cycle tracks now.

Door Lane

Open the door with your right hand! Try this next time you park a car and exit. Open the car door with your right hand. As your right hand swings across your body to get the door handle, notice that you’re now facing left automatically, it’s magic. You’re no longer opening the door with your left hand while looking right to pick up your cellphone or your bag. This simple hack ensures that you always check that it’s safe to open a door, and that there are no humans (or large animals) in the door lane before you open the door. I could tell you to always check before opening the door, whichever hand you use, but who am I kidding. We have limited attention spans and we’ll forget to look that one time there’s a human in the way.

Door picture courtesy Gary Kavanagh used under a creative commons license. Picture of bike lane is from the City of Victoria pdf I linked to.

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