Dooring is a very common way in which bicycle riders are injured in the Greater Boston area. The really sad thing is every dooring accident is entirely preventable. Even the slightest amount of thought and awareness from motorists would prevent the majority of dooring accidents in our area.
As the name implies, dooring involves opening a car door into the path of an oncoming bicyclist. These accidents most often involve the driver’s door since it opens to the left, but it can also involve a rear passenger who is seated on the driver’s side of the vehicle. In some cases, we have seen passengers in taxi cabs or rides sharing vehicles open their doors into the path of an oncoming bicyclist, causing serious personal injury.Dooring is Not the Fault of the Bicyclist
Contrary to what many believe, when a driver or passenger opens his or her door into the path of a person on a bike, a resulting accident is the fault of the person who opened the door. State lawmakers have codified this into law as found in Section 14 of Chapter 90 of the Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.), which states no person is allowed to open the door of a motor vehicle in such a way as to interfere with oncoming traffic, and this specifically includes bicyclists and pedestrians. It is important to note, the statute does not say “no operator” or “no driver,” but instead uses the phrase “no person.” This is because as we discussed above, it doesn’t matter whether it is a passenger or driver who opens the car door.
Many drivers will argue it was the bike rider’s fault for running into the door. In some cases, a poorly-trained traffic enforcement officer might even go along with this, but this is not correct. As long as the bike rider was riding his or her bike in a lawful manner, on a road on which he or she was allowed to ride, liability will fall on the person who opened the door. The fine for dooring is not more than $100. However, even if defendant was not issued a citation for dooring, you should still speak with a good Boston bike accident attorney as soon as possible to see if you have a valid claim. In many cases, we will still be able to successfully negotiate for a full and appropriate financial recovery from at-fault motorist’s insurance company, or win a verdict at trial, even if the police did not cite a defendant for dooring. This is something you should discuss during your free initial consultation because no two cases are ever the same as the facts may vary greatly.
With respect to whether you had a right to ride on a particular road, pursuant to the laws of the Commonwealth, a bike rider is allowed to ride on any public way unless it is a limited access highway like the Massachusetts Turnpike (Mass Pike) or there is a conspicuously placed sign prohibiting the use of the public roadway but bike riders, pedestrians and possibly other slow-moving traffic.
Example of Recent Cambridge Dooirng Accident and Its Aftermath
According to a recent news article from NECN, the police were left searching for a suspect in the wake of a serious accident in which the rider was traveling on his bike in Cambridge. The 23-year-old victim was riding down Massachusetts Avenue when the driver of a blue BMW allegedly opened his door into the path of the bike rider. The victim then hit the door and was thrown on to the street. At this point, the driver of the BMW allegedly got back into his car and drove away from the scene. There was a also a passenger in the car who allegedly fled the scene on foot.
Following this incident, there were renewed calls for more bike lanes in the area. If there are dedicated bike lanes, either with physical barriers or bike lanes not placed right next to a line of parked cars, there is a much lower risk of a dooring accident. As it stands, dooring is the second most common cause of bike injuries in the Greater Boston area, so this is clearly a major problem. The mayor of Cambridge, however, has said this is a very controversial issues. It would seem preventing the loss of lives and prevent injury of bike riders would not be controversial, but in order to implement the installation of new bike lanes, there must be a removal of many parking spaces, and motorists are not happy with any less parking in the city.
There is no question a dooring accident can result in serious personal injury, but they can also result in death. There was a 26-year-old female rider who was killed in Cambridge’s Inman Square area in June 2016, when she ran into a car door, which was opened into her path.
Another way to prevent dooring is to educate drivers. While this will not prevent every dooring incident, even if it can prevent a few cases of serious personal injury or death it will be well worth the expense and effort. One method used in Holland, where many people bike commute on a regular basis, is known as the Dutch reach. This instructs drivers to open their door with the right hand instead of the left. While this movement seems much less natural and less efficient, it requires a driver to rotate his or her body towards the rear of the vehicle when opening the door, which will basically force the driver to look to the rear and see if there is any traffic coming. This is only one method, but as we can see, a little education can go a long way towards preventing dooring accidents in Boston and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a Boston bicycle accident (we prefer the term “bike crash”), call for a free and confidential appointment at 617-777-7777.
Dooring’ Incident in Cambridge Highlights Bike Safety, May 14, 2018, By Kaitlin McKinley Becker, NECN
More Blog Entries:
Better Bicycle Infrastructure in Massachusetts Will Take Time, Feb. 21, 2018, Boston Bike Injury Lawyer Blog