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Posts from the "Dooring" Category

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SFMTA Tries New Bike Lane Treatments to Keep Cyclists Clear of Door Zone

In a five foot standard bike lane, bicyclists really only have about one to two feet, if you consider the door zone. Animation/graphics by Carly Clark. Photo of Polk Street between O'Farrell and Geary by Bryan Goebel.

The door zone is one of the biggest urban threats to bicyclists. Conventional bike lanes that squeeze bicyclists between the door zone and automobile traffic leave little room for error, but the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is piloting a series of projects designed to encourage bicyclists to steer clear of the door zone.

On sections of Polk Street, pictured above (and yes, we added the green but do hope to see green bike lanes on Polk Street some day soon!), the SFMTA has painted in a batch of T’s in the bike lanes that are supposed to guide bicyclists away from the door zone. While the treatment seems to be an improvement over typical door zone lanes, it also highlights how little street width is available for cyclists to ride safely.

I asked our graphics designer Carly Clark to do a little photoshopping to illustrate how much real space bicyclists have if you consider the door zone. If you take a standard five foot bike lane, like the one above, and factor in the door zone, you realize bicyclists are only given a sliver of a space that is about one to two feet wide, depending on the width of the lane, and the size of a car door.

According to the SFMTA, dooring is the second most common form of injury collision involving cyclists, behind unsafe speed, though the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) points out that dooring is the highest injury collision type caused by motorists or their passengers.

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Eyes on the Street: Valencia Streetscape Project Nearly Complete

Valencia_striping.jpgThe new striping on Valencia Street. Photos: Matthew Roth
The near total reconstruction of Valencia Street between 15th and 19th Streets in The Mission over the past year has seemed at times maddening to those who use the street, no matter what mode. From ripped up sidewalks to ripped up pavement, the area has been a construction zone for nearly a year now, causing businesses to bemoan the lack of sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to shimmy along the narrow strips of plywood and concrete that has passed for temporary sidewalks, and leading cyclists to dodge construction vehicles while navigating grooved pavement and large ruts.

Soon all that will feel like a distant memory, as the five blocks recently received a smooth layer of asphalt and over the past few days have been striped for a new lane configuration. To make room for the delightfully wide and sparkly sidewalks, the center median stripes have been replaced by two parallel yellow lines, an arrangement that is sure to make the old median double parkers upset.

While the new pavement is pleasant to ride over, cyclists will quickly realize the new lane configuration doesn't provide them with much new space and doesn't diminish the danger of dooring. If anything, the absence of the center median means delivery vehicles are no longer parking in the media and are using the curb for business, which can pinch the bike lane down and reduce visibility. Knowing drivers who used to pass cyclists with their left wheels in the median will also have less space to pass comfortably. Hopefully that will slow them down so they pass with greater care, but I'm concerned it could add to more conflicts.

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Saving Life and Limb By Avoiding the Door Zone

Door_Zone_small.gifDIY Door Zone stencil from Portland, OR. Photo: BikePortland.org

Many urban cyclists have a tale to tell about a car door that swung out into their path and nearly knocked them from their bikes. Hopefully, the story ends there, with no injuries or further harm. Some haven't been so lucky, however, as they've been thrown from their bikes or hit when swerving into traffic. In addition to bearing the physical scars, the memories of collisions with doors has altered their riding habits or led to piqued anxiety.

Michael Smith, a San Francisco cyclist with nearly twenty years of urban cycling experience, was doored in 2004 by a passenger exiting a cab on Market Street. Smith was leaving a meeting near 7th and Market and only planned to travel the length of the block before locking up his bicycle for his next meeting. He estimated he was traveling no more than 5-10 miles per hour when a passenger thew open a cab door into his path, hitting his handlebars and sending him careening into a cement wall above a BART station. The impact of the fall crushed a vertebra in his back, which has left him in great discomfort that will persist the rest of his life.

"I feel like I was riding in as safe a way as possible before, but I feel like I’m even more careful now," said Smith, who continues to ride his bike for most of his trips in the city. Like many cyclists who have been doored, Smith relives the incident in minute detail as he recalled that his "handlebars barely hit the door. If they had been in a slightly different location, they would have avoided it."

According to the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority (SFMTA), dooring is the second most common form of injury collision involving cyclists, behind unsafe speed, though the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition points out that dooring is the highest injury collision type caused by motorists or their passengers.

"Education for cyclists to avoid the door zone and empower them to assert their right to the full lane is important to avoid dooring," said Marc Caswell, SFBC Program Manager. "But, just as important, is making sure drivers understand why cyclists ride 3 to 5 feet from parked cars."

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