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Bicycle Safety

In the Door Zone: If You See Something, Should You Say Something?

10:59 AM PST on November 16, 2010

The Valencia Street bike lane on a normal sunny mid-afternoon. The hazards abound, but is it my responsibility to say something to careless cyclists? Photo: Matthew Roth
The Valencia Street bike lane on a normal sunny mid-afternoon. The hazards abound, but is it my responsibility to say something to careless cyclists? Photo: Matthew Roth

I ride my bike along Valencia Street nearly every day from my home to City Hall or some other assignment and I love the relatively slower pace of traffic that resulted from the bicycle green wave signal retiming last year (way to go Janel!). Without fail, however, my heart rate rises when I come upon someone riding in the door zone of Valencia's lanes, which happens every single day I ride. I have visions of a door opening and the person getting maimed, or worse. Maybe it reflects my own obsessive mental state, but I've literally had dreams where the cyclist in front of me gets into serious trouble when a door swings open, leaving them no time to safely maneuver around.

What's even more astounding, I've witnessed a door-zone rider weave around a door that has opened ahead of them and right back into the door zone. Does the thought not register in their minds that the same door could just as easily fly open without warning?

As Joshua Hart so capably argued in his piece on the failure of bicycle lane design in San Francisco, the city is partly to blame for designing lanes that encourage riding too closely to cars. Valencia is particularly bad, because the whole street has been re-configured for safety for vulnerable users, save the bike lanes. Because there is only one stripe to the lane on the left-hand side, it gives the impression the lane is particularly large, though the actual safe area in the lane is only about two feet on the left. It's even worse on the newly constructed sections between 15th and 19th, where the lane narrows even more at the intersections.

Then again, I assume if the SFMTA were to realistically stripe the safe portion of the lane, it would lead to an outcry from the public for "shrinking" their bike lane.

So should I say something to the riders? I've rehearsed the speech in my head a thousand times. "Hi, I don't mean to intrude, but did you know the single most common cause of injury by drivers to people riding bikes in San Francisco is dooring? You should move over."

To which I expect, "Hey buddy, mind your own business!" or some other pleasantry.

What do you think? Should I say something? Do you?

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