Bike lane; cyclists and car doors.

Cyclists & Car Doors

It’s a fear that lurks somewhere in the collective subconscious of all cyclists, yet it’s something that no car owner thinks about- until it’s too late. Bicycle-only lanes often lie adjacent to lines of parking spots, which means that the doors of most cars open into active bike-traffic after they’ve parked.

We all know the struggle of finding parking in New York City- after you’ve finally found a spot the last thing you’re thinking of is the bicyclists who might be hurtling alongside you as you set to leave your vehicle. What happens when a cyclist comes screaming down the bike lane and the driver or passenger of a car unknowingly pops open their door? Catastrophe. It’s a common problem, though one that is easily preventable. Later, we’ll take a look at how drivers and cyclists can avoid these types of accidents.

Though, a question remains- who is to blame?

Here is the pertinent part of the New York State traffic law codebook:

Section 1214 of the Vehicle and Traffic law states “opening and closing vehicle doors – “No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic, and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall a person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.”

NYCRR- Section 4-12-(c) Getting Out of Vehicle: In New York City: “No person shall get out of any vehicle from the side facing on the traveled part of the street in such manner as to interfere with the right of the operator of an approaching vehicle or a bicycle.”

This makes it seem like the burden of responsibility lands squarely on the shoulders of the motorists. When a cyclist crashes into an open car door, the cyclist is much, much more likely to be seriously injured. This may be the reason why the law seems disproportionately skewed in favor of the motorist. However, there are gradations of circumstance in every situation. In some cases, such as when a cyclist neglects to use appointed bike lanes, is traveling at unsafe speeds, or is exhibiting noticeably unsafe riding behavior, the owner the vehicle may be the one entitled to compensation. In some situations, the cyclist may in fact be the one responsible for paying damages.

Here are some tips which both cyclists and drivers can use to keep both parties and safe:

  • For Riders: Stick to appointed bike lanes. A driver may not always see you coming, but if they are aware of the bike lane in general, they’ll be more likely to anticipate your arrival.
  • For Drivers: Be on the lookout- use your mirrors and windows! While on the road driving or on the side of the road parking, side-view and rear-view mirrors are invaluable resources. If utilized correctly, mirrors can give an almost 360-degree view of the environment surrounding your car. If your car is safely parked, you’ll be able to turn around and look out through your back windows as well.
  • For Riders: It’s NYC- we know you’re in a hurry. But try to weigh the consequences of speeding recklessly against the rewards of arriving at your destination a minute or two late. Nothing is more important than your health, and if adding a few seconds to your arrival time means saving you from grievous personal injury, we believe this is a substitution you’re obligated to make.
  • For Drivers: If you’re not parked next to a bike lane, never open your door into traffic. If possible, exit your vehicle on the curbside. If this means sliding across a backseat, so be it. If you’re a passenger, and you must exit on the road-side, wait until you’ve got the all clear. Enlist the help of your driver for added security.

In an ideal world, both cyclists and motorists, would be aware of one another at all times. Motorists would check their mirrors and out their windows before exiting their vehicle, every time they exited their vehicle. Cyclists would ride at prudent speeds, and would slow down as they passed recently parked cars. Cyclists would also use the bells on their bikes so as to alert drivers to their presence. However, we do not live in a perfect world. Accidents happen, and when they do, it’s of utmost importance that you retain the counsel of New York’s premier accident law firm- Kaplan Lawyers PC.

Kaplan Lawyers PC

The roads in New York City are chaotic places. Just like there are two sides of the road, there are two sides to every story. When an accident happens, concerning vehicles and bicyclists, we at Kaplan Lawyers PC know that there are numerous mitigating factors which determine who is at fault and who is the victim. If you’ve been hurt in a vehicular incident, or believe you have been wronged, contact Kaplan Lawyers PC today. Our consultations are a free and easy way for you to begin learning your rights. We will analyze the details of your situation and begin building a strong foundation for your case. If you’re unsure whether or not you’re entitled to compensation, or don’t know what to do next, call Kaplan Lawyers PC.