Door Zone Bike Lanes
Dennis asked: I was involved as the car owner in a bike collision in Jupiter, FL the other day. I had just completed a direct drive-in (no backing) parallel parking on Beach Road (A1A) in Jupiter, FL. I was about 8 inches away from the bike lane stripe, thus properly parked near the curb with the ignition off and the keys removed. I glanced back as I opened my door and before I got it more than about a foot I was hit on the edge of the door by the front tire of a bicycle. The cyclist was thrown clear of my car and fortunately received only minor scrapes and bruises and did not require medical attention. This was not a handlebar collision; the wheel of the bike was twisted and my door was driven forward initially and then outward. The forward energy was enough to spring one of the hinges and crumple both the forward edge of the door and the rear edge of the fender panel. The bicyclist was very lucky that he was not more seriously injured and I was even more lucky that I had not been in the process of stepping out of the car as I would have been crushed against the edge of the door by a bike traveling at near the speed limit level of 30 mph (probably about 25 mph per the witnesses).
It is likely that the edge of my door had reached a few inches into the bike lane when the collision occurred. Since a bicyclist has the right of way in a bike lane, the law says that I was at fault. Nevertheless, there may have been mitigating circumstances. The biker was running his large dog as he does apparently every day and I believe the dog was next to him on his left side. This means that he was very close to my car and that is borne out by the angle of attack on my door and the direction of the energy thereby imparted to the door based upon the observed damages. In fact in that relative position, I believe I could not have seen him.
The law as far as I have been able to determine does not address this situation, although the town municipal code does prohibit allowing ones dog on a city street without a leash.
My insurance company wants to take care of his bike and my car and any injuries that may have resulted from the crash about which we have not yet heard. Hopefully that may be the extent of it.
In this case I should have looked more carefully, but I think he was not following your advice. In my opinion, running a dog on the roadway is not a safe practice, particularly when the dog may be hit by the bike or traffic in the roadway and the biker may be constantly preoccupied with the position of the dog and other traffic. It becomes more dangerous as the biker’s speed increases and the biker and dog were not on a leisurely stroll but traveling with enough speed to cause substantial damage to my car and his bike.
Thank you for any input you can give me.
If it is any consolation, it could have been worse. I am aware of a case in another area in which a bicyclist killed when she struck an opened door and was thrown into the traffic lane and run over by a bus.
The law does very specifically address this situation, but not by providing any guidance about dogs in the roadway and the speed of the bicyclist if he was following traffic laws. The only possible law that would affect the treatment of the dog pertains to cruelty to animals, just as it does to dogs in hot cars. I think that would not apply here.
The law that does apply addresses opening doors into traffic. Bicycles in the roadway are traffic.
s. 316.2005 – Opening 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. A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.
I am familiar with the door zone bike lanes along Jupiter Beach. I used to live there and rode them frequently. Unless traveling very slowly, I would move to the outside edge of the bike lane, and even into the main travel lane if I couldn’t see into the cars, and there were any possibility of a door being opened. Many believe they must ride in the bike lane under all circumstances. They don’t. I always treated that as one of the exceptions to remaining in the bike lane, an unsafe condition, as you and that cyclist experienced.
s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
(5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
3. When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict …. which makes it unsafe to continue …. within a bicycle lane.
There is no requirement for bicyclists to stay out of a bike lane for their own safety, but it is prudent and legal under many circumstances.
Also, there is no requirement to stay in a bike lane when traveling at the normal speed of traffic, whatever that is. If the bicyclist were going 25 mph, much too fast to safely ride in a door zone bike lane, I believe that is close enough to the 30 mph speed limit to be the normal speed of traffic.
When riding in the main travel lane for my safety, I have experienced motorists, and even a police officer once, yelling at me to get in the bike lane. They didn’t understand the hazards presented by these door zone bike lanes and didn’t know the laws.