Dooring

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Dooring is a traffic collision in which a bicyclist (or other road user) rides into a motor vehicle's door or is struck by a car door that was opened quickly by an occupant without taking due care to look for approaching traffic.[1][2] Proper procedure requires a driver to check the side mirror before opening the door, and/or perform a shoulder check. Use of the 'Dutch Reach' (or 'far hand method') for vehicle egress has been advised to prevent doorings as it combines both measures. The term dooring is also applied when such sudden door opening causes the oncoming rider to swerve to avoid collision, with or without loss of control, crash or secondary collision with another oncoming vehicle. The width of the door zone in which this can happen varies, depending upon the model of car one is passing. The zone can be almost zero for a vehicle with sliding or gull-wing doors or much larger for a truck. Dooring can happen when a driver has parked or stopped to exit their vehicle, or when passengers egress from cars, taxis and rideshares into the path of a cyclist in an adjacent travel lane. In many cities across the globe, doorings are among the most common and injurious[3] bike-vehicle incidents.

Legal issues[edit]

Many countries are aligned with the Vienna convention which states: "It shall be prohibited to open the door of a vehicle, to leave it open, or to alight from the vehicle without having made sure that to do so cannot endanger other road-users." (Article 24 — Opening of doors).[4]

Most areas have laws that require car users to check for all oncoming traffic including cyclists before opening the door of their vehicle.[5][6] Some jurisdictions also consider it a traffic code violation if vehicle doors are unnecessarily left open and thus continue to obstruct an adjacent travel lane.[7]

Despite such laws, serious injuries and deaths continue to be caused by occupants opening doors or by bicycle riders riding in the door zone. A 2015 British survey found that 35% of drivers self-reported that they did not check for traffic before opening their vehicle's door to exit.[8]

The problem lies with avoiding this 5 feet (1.5 m) zone, which should be part of the parking zone, when there is a bike lane or the perception by law enforcement or motorists that one should be riding their bike out of the travel lane to not impede faster motorized traffic. In most jurisdictions, a cyclist is considered a driver/operator of a vehicle afforded the same rights as the driver of a motor vehicle; however, in some jurisdictions cyclists are further restricted by laws such as "ride as far right [or left] as practicable." From a cyclist's point of view, "practicable" includes safety, and safety is noted in many of these laws through exceptions; however, many law enforcement, judges, motoring public and even cyclists stop reading at "as far right." Most motor travel lanes adjacent to a bike lane are only 10–11 feet (3.0–3.4 m) wide, so if a cyclist has to use that lane to avoid hazards in the bike lane, it is too narrow to safely share with passing traffic and he/she should ride in a "lane-control" method as is allowed by most of these ordinances.[9]

Avoidance & Prevention[edit]

Dooring prevention has proven a difficult problem as incidents can occur wherever hinged vehicle doors are carelessly opened and suddenly obstruct travel lanes or sidewalks.

Cyclists are advised to avoid door zones and exercise great caution if in range of open doors from either side when in traffic. Motorists and passengers are advised to exercise heighened caution and vigilance before and during entry or egress from their vehicle.[10] Passengers are advised to exit curb-side only, and never when vehicles are paused in a travel lane.

Street planners are encouraged to avoid emplacing painted bike lanes in door zones, and to implement instead buffered, separated and/or protected bike lanes and tracks, or shared lane markings.[11] Motor vehicle bureaus and departments of transportation are advised not to restrict vulnerable road users into door zone bike lanes by force of traffic code.

Motor vehicle engineers and manufacturers are deploying new technologies to warn or prevent vehicle occupants from exiting in the presence of oncoming traffic.[12] Auxilliary side view mirrors are now available which fit on B-pillar (car) to assist rear-seated passengers preparing to exit.[13]

Road safety advocates also call for greater enforcement, fines and penalties,[14] while insurance companies and personal injury attorneys apply sanctions after the fact in the form of increased premiums and liablity lawsuits.

Improved training in road sharing by motorists with vulnerable road users is recommended for all road users, done by means of upgraded driver licensing and education standards, curriculum and testing, and public education and behavior change campaigns to improve road safety conduct.[15]

Education[edit]

Because it is rarely possible to see and react safely to a suddenly opening door, traffic cycling educational programs teach cyclists to ride in the safe zone[16] or travel lane well outside the door zone as measured from the tip of the handlebars.

As street planners often lay out painted bike lanes in the door zone, many bicycle safety advocates advise cyclists to maintain a safe distance from car doors nonetheless and disregard such markings to do so.[17] However riding on the margin of the bike lane places a cyclist in increased proximity to overtaking vehicles and also at risk of being squeezed closer into the doorzone. Other advocates therefore instruct bicyclists to take control of the full travel lane to avoid dooring, considering it the safest position overall.[18]

Also to avoid doorings, bicyclists are dvised to exercise vigilance, scan for the presence or likelihood of an occupied parked or stopped vehicle. Risk is increased especially in areas and at times of high parking turnover, on main arteries, during morning and evening commutes, and in retail, restaurant and entertainment districts with parallel parking. Bicyclists are also advised to assure their visiblity to motorists & in mirrors both day and night by the use of bright and reflective clothing, vests, reflectors and front lights. Marked caution, slow speed and preparedness to brake when in the door zone are also counselled.[19]

Dutch Reach[edit]

Dutch Reach - Use far hand when opening car door

Motorists and passengers - both front and rear - may be able to make dooring less likely by practicing the "Dutch Reach" [20][21][22] - opening the car door by reaching across the body with the more distant hand[20][23] which promotes a shoulder check - out and back - to scan for cyclists and other oncoming traffic.

Reaching across turns one's upper body and head outward. It encourages drivers and front passengers to use the side wing mirror,[24] look out to the side and then over one’s shoulder to scan for traffic before opening.[25] Once the door is partly opened, as one leans out one's over-the-shoulder view is now clear, no longer limited by side pillar (car) or door frame.[26][27] As a further safe-guard against dooring, reaching across curbs wide, sudden opening.[28]

Even as the maneuver is becoming known elsewhere as the "Dutch Reach", in Holland driving instructors and driving school companies refer to it by description and not by a name.[29][30] The far hand move is not literally specified by Dutch traffic code to pass the safe parking section of the road test. Rather, Dutch regulations for licensing set two standards to ensure safe exiting of vehicles to protect vulnerable road users (VRUs), viz: Articles 4e and 6a.[31][32] As fewer than half of applicants pass the examination on first attempt,[33] Dutch instructors teach the far hand maneuver as most assured to demonstrate safe exiting on the road test.[34][29][30] That said, alternative exiting measures may also suffice in modern, bicycle friendly Netherlands.[35] But evidence for such left or near hand instruction awaits documentation.

The reach method is likely less practiced by Dutch motorists today than in the 1960s-1980s when Dutch road fatalities numbered in the thousands[36] and prompted the Stop the Kindermoord protest movement[37][38] to end the carnage. Anecdotal reports date the 'reach across' practice to that era. Since then bicycling in The Netherlands is much safer. Innovative and extensive infrastructure improvements, separate and protected cycle tracks,[39] strict driver education and testing, popular use of bicycles for daily transport and dedication to road safety,[35] all contributed to its dramatic decline in road injuries and fatalities.

As noted above, the far hand technique does not have a Dutch name, but in 2016 an American physician in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, coined the term to promote[40] the Dutch method which was little known in the United States.[23][41][42] The “Dutch Reach” coinage reflects that the method was common to The Netherlands[43] [44] before being 'imported' to the U.S. It was described as a Dutch road safety measure in the American mainstream press in 2011 by the New York Times [45] and the Boston Globe in 2013.[35]

The method can be traced beyond northern Europe starting in the 2010s. From 2011 to 2016 several bicycle advocacy organizations and road safety agencies in the United States, Canada and Australia added advisories or launched anti-dooring campaigns which included or featured the far hand countermeasure. In New Haven, CT it was variously called the "Amsterdam", "European cities’" or “reach-across” method (2013).[46] In Fort Collins, CO it became the “Opposite Hand Trick” (2014).[47] However the tip remained nameless in San Francisco, CA (2015);[48] Montreal (2014),[49] and Vancouver (2016),[50] Canada; New Zealand (2015);[51] and Victoria, Australia (2012).[52] In Australia two slogans have emerged to prompt the habit: "Lead with your left"[53] [origin uncertain]; and "Always Cross Check",[54] devised by a road safety organization. [Note: Drivers in left hand drive countries 'lead with left' to reach across.]

Considerable international interest in the term and method followed its coinage, suggesting that the far hand method was or remained little known across the globe. Press, electronic media and internet news coverage about the Dutch Reach method have since occurred in Canada,[55] United Kingdom,[56] Austria,[57] Australia,[58] Belgium,[59] Bangladesh,[60] Brazil,[61] mainland China,[62] Chile, Croatia,[63] Estonia,[64] Finland,[65] France,[66] Germany,[67] Greece,[68] Hong Kong, Hungary,[69] India,[70] Ireland,[71] Italy,[72] Japan,[73] Korea,[74] Lebanon,[75] Luxembourg,[76] The Netherlands,[77][78] New Zealand,[79] Philippines,[80] Poland,[81] Portugal, [82] Qatar, South Africa,[83] Spain,[84] Sweden,[85] Switzerland,[86] Taiwan,[87] and the United States.[41]

In early 2017 the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (UK) endorsed the Dutch Reach as the recommended road safety practice to avoid dooring collisions.[88] In 2019, the National Safety Council (U.S.) and American Automobile Association began including the far hand reach in their respective novice and defensive driving education and road safety programs.[89][90][91] National, state and local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations have played an important part in promoting the measure. These include: We Are Cycling UK;[92] League of American Bicyclists;[93] Bicycle Network (AUS);[94] Cycling Action Network (NZ);[95] New York Bicycle Coalition;[96] Bicycle Friendly Driver Program of Fort Collins, CO;[97] MassBike and Somerville Bicycle Committee.[98]

Other governments are now adding the 'reach' to driver's manuals and education, taxi and for-hire ridesharing regulations, and road safety campaigns. Examples include: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts,[99] State of Illinois,[100] State of Washington,[101] State of Pennsylvania,[102] South Australia,[103] Washington D.C.,[104] City of London Corporation,[105] Berlin, Germany,[106] NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission,[107] Cambridge, MA, USA,[108] and Burbank, CA.[109] In 2018 the British transportation network company (TNC) Addison Lee launched its own anti-dooring far hand reach campaign branding it 'the Addison Lean'.[110] In April 2019 Lyft, a U.S. TNC implemented automatic wikt: in-app push notifications to prompt its drivers and clients in 22 U.S. cities to use the Dutch Reach when exiting.[111][112] Uber followed one month later with a pilot Dutch Reach education program for its users & drivers in four North American cities.[113] Some police departments,[114][115][116] hospitals, motor vehicle insurance companies,[117] transportation management companies[118] and personal injury law firms[119][120][121] have also begun promoting the method.

Until 2018, the scientific safety literature had been silent on the relative merits or flaws of near hand versus far hand egress from vehicles. However a human factors research paper Validating the Dutch Reach[122] presented at the 7th International Cycling Safety Conference [123] in October 2018, found initial evidence for its safety advantage.

Automated systems[edit]

At least one auto-parts supplier has developed an automatic detection system to prevent or warn the user before opening the car door if a bicycle is approaching.[124]

Prevalence[edit]

Narrow bike lane concept intended to avoid door zone

It is difficult to find statistics on the incidence of door zone fatalities, serious injuries, and collisions as the type of accident is often not recorded consistently from city to city. However, an analysis of Chicago bike crashes found that there were 344 reported dooring crashes reported in 2011, for a rate of 0.94 doorings per day. Doorings made up 19.7% of all reported bike crashes. The number of additional doorings that occurred without being reported is unknown.[125] In 2016, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency reported that for the period 2012-2015, doorings of bicyclists constituted 18% of injurious or fatal bike-vehicle incidents in which the cyclist was likely not at fault.[126] A 2015 study for the City of Vancouver, British Columbia found that doorings accounted for 15.2% of all bike collisions[127] and was the foremost cause of bike-vehicle collision injuries which resulted in hospital emergency department treatment (22%) - not including additional injury incidents due to dooring avoidant swerve crashes requiring emergency treatment.[128]

Collisions[edit]

In Toronto, "motorist opens door in path of cyclist" collisions were 11.9% of all reported car/bike collisions in 2003.[129] Eight percent of serious injuries to cyclists in London in 2007 were caused by cyclists swerving to avoid opening car doors.[130] In the Australian state of Victoria between 2006 and 2010, car door openings caused eight percent of serious injuries to cyclists.[131]

Relative risk[edit]

Relative to other collisions such as getting rear ended, getting doored is less risky: "80.04% of those cyclists who were doored were injured, while 94.40% of those in non-dooring crashes were injured."[125] Also, it should be noted that getting doored itself usually is not fatal; rather, most serious door-zone-related injuries are sustained by getting hit by a motor vehicle after colliding with or swerving to avoid the obstructing door. Thus, most dooring deaths and serious injuries occur in the travel lane and not in the door zone.

Fatalities[edit]

As with other dooring statistics, even fatalities are often under-reported as, for example, secondary collisions after door avoidant swerves may not be recognized by authorities, the media, witnesses or perpetrators as due to a dooring incident. Also, in some jurisdictions, dooring is not officially considered a motor vehicle collision if the vehicle is parked.[132] Informal logs of dooring fatalities based on found media reports have been maintained on the internet. An annotated, international memorial spreadsheet with entries from 1987 to the present is currently maintained by an American cycling safety advocate.[133]

In New York City, 3% (7 out of 225) of bicyclist fatalities in the ten-year period between 1996 and 2005 were from striking an open door or swerving to avoid one.[134] In London three people were killed in car door opening incidents between 2010 and 2012.[130] In two peer reviewed studies, 124 deaths in London during 1985-1992,[135] and 142 deaths in New Zealand during 1973-1978,[136] none of the fatalities occurred in door opening incidents. While there were 1112 collisions caused by opening doors in the Australian state of Victoria between 2000 and 2010, the first fatality occurred in March 2010.[137]

Bike lanes and door zone incidents[edit]

In a comparison of Santa Barbara (without bike lanes) to Davis, California (with bike lanes), 8% of the car-bike collisions in Santa Barbara involved an opening door, whereas Davis had none.[138]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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