Car Doors

Question

William asked: Recently I parked in a private lot next to the sidewalk.  I opened my car door into the sidewalk to exit the car and a bicyclist appeared out of nowhere and collided with the door. This did not happen on a public street or right of way. My insurance company claimed I was 50% at fault. Shouldn’t a bicyclist yield the right of way while traveling on a sidewalk?

Answer

The sidewalk is part of the highway on public or private property open to use by the public.

s. 316.003 – Definitions

(53) Street or Highway

(a) The entire width between the boundary lines of every way or place of whatever nature when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular traffic;

(b) The entire width between the boundary lines of any privately owned way or place used for vehicular travel by the owner and those having express or implied permission from the owner, but not by other persons, or any limited access road owned or controlled by a special district, whenever, by written agreement entered into under s. 316.006(2)(b) or (3)(b), a county or municipality exercises traffic control jurisdiction over said way or place;

A bicyclist on a sidewalk is one form of traffic.

(57) Traffic – Pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, and vehicles, streetcars, and other conveyances either singly or together while using any street or highway for purposes of travel.

You are required to insure it is safe and will not interfere with other traffic before opening car doors onto the roadway, sidewalk or any other location. The statute does not limit this requirement.

s. 316.2005Opening and Closing Vehicle Doors

No person shall open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any 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.

The bicyclists don’t just appear out of nowhere. You just didn’t see him/her.

If it was determined that the cyclist was traveling at an unreasonable speed or was otherwise doing something unsafe or negligent, your responsibility could be mitigated.

See the other posts on this site about the rights and duties of cyclists on the sidewalk.

4 Comments on “Car Doors

  1. To prevent encroachment or interference of off-street parking activity on the public sidewalk, common practice nowadays is to separate a sidewalk from any adjacent off-street parking with a landscape strip or, at least, a cable rail fence. There are still locations, though, where parking lots adjoin sidewalks with no separating strip or barrier.

  2. I will continue to ride on sidewalks and face traffic. Obviously if I ride in New York City or another large city I would obviously have to change my riding patterns but here in Twin Falls Idaho my method is the safest. Especially at night.

    • I agree that when side walk riding its much safer to ride facing traffic. Collisions on sidewalk typically are from the side and not head-on. On the side walk, I want to see turning traffic in front of me, instead of behind me. On the sidewalk, I follow pedestrian rules.

  3. When on the sidewalk, just be aware that there are other safety factors that must be considered, particularly when riding against the flow of traffic in the roadway.

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