AS CYCLING IN NEW YORK CITY BECOMES MORE POPULAR, THE DANGERS OF BEING “DOORED” CANNOT BE IGNORED
Being “doored” is one of the most common form of bicycle motor vehicle related accidents in New York City. Both the operator of the vehicle and occupant (if opening the door into traffic or a bicycle lane) can be held legally responsible for injuries sustained by a cyclist. Due to many careless drivers and passengers in New York City, several innocent cyclists have been injured and in some instances, killed. Numerous cyclists in New York City ride in fear of being “doored.” Under New York State Law, Article 33-New York Vehicle & Traffic Law, Section 1214 clearly states, in regards to opening and closing vehicle doors that no person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic, 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 number of careless drivers/passengers opening car doors into traffic has increased over the last few years.
Recently, there was a car door accident involving a graduate student, in which the driver, in violation of VTL 1214, opened his car door in the cyclist’s path, as the car driver attempted to exit his vehicle. Another victim, a young woman, was leaving her job in Manhattan. She suffered a severe injury to her back, knee and neck, as the car driver opened the door into the path of the cyclist. The most tragic of these car door accidents is the 2010 incident involving a 23 year old art student who was cycling on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, when a woman suddenly opened her car door to exit. The young art student was hurled into the air and thrown into the path of an oncoming city bus and killed instantly.
New York Code of Rules and Regulations speaks specifically to dangers of “dooring”, in that it provides “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.” NYCRR- Section 4-12(c). New York City Taxi Rules also speak to this type of occurrence. NYCRR-Section 4-11, requires New York City Taxi Drivers “while engaged in picking up or discharging passengers, must be within 12 inches of the curb or parallel thereto.” Also NYCRR-Section 4-11 – Taxi and Cars for Hire – (c) picking up or discharging passengers shall not be made under such conditions, as to obstruct the movement of traffic and in no instance so as to leave fewer than 10 feet available for the free movement of vehicular traffic; Where stopping is prohibited; or Within a bicycle lane.
There will always be a danger to cyclist, no matter where they are, but drivers and passengers must pay attention to the “door zone.” The “door zone” is the space 2-4 feet adjacent to parallel parked or stopped cars. Everyone driving a vehicle should practice the logical rule of “looking before you open your car door.” You just may save a life, prevent an injury and prevent a lawsuit.