A growing problem in busy urban areas is causing bicyclist injuries. Riders of Uber and Lyft are abruptly opening their door to exit the vehicle just as a bicycle is passing by. The term for these collisions is referred to as “dooring.” Brian Wiedenmeier, of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, says that opening a car door in front of a traveling bicyclist is increasingly common. Now that Uber and Lyft are beginning to venture into bike-sharing, it appears that they are attempting to heighten awareness to prevent such accidents.
Rideshare Companies Expand to Bicycles
Uber recently acquired Jump Bikes around the same time that Lyft purchased Motivate. Both rideshare companies are now using in-app messaging to remind drivers to be careful when stopping to drop off passengers near bicycle lanes. One of the best practices to prevent these problems is referred to as the “Dutch reach.” This involves exiting a passenger vehicle by using the hand that is furthest away from the door you are exiting. This causes the passenger's head to shift toward their shoulder and allow them better visibility. Lyft has also been distributing stickers to their drivers to be placed where passengers can see them.
Elizabeth Gjelten, an avid bicyclist in San Francisco, was “doored” by an Uber passenger who was exiting a vehicle several years ago. She says that the car stopped suddenly and the door swung open in front of her. She endured a chest contusion (bruise) and was dealing with pain for approximately six weeks. She said that she was very fortunate to be traveling rather slowly at the time of the collision. When she took a taxi cab home from the hospital after the accident she noticed that a “look before you get out” sticker was on the interior window.
Uber recently began experimenting with a safety app that provides data relating to bike lanes. The “bike lane alert” feature sends a signal to passengers when their drop-off location is in close proximity to a bicycle lane. The application is initially being tested in larger markets such as New York, Washington D.C., Toronto, and San Francisco. The company says they are “working with safety experts” in this and various other areas of concern.
Current Accident Data
Cycling Savvy recently attempted to compile some data and statistics regarding the number of “dooring” incidents that are occurring. The problem they have encountered is that the majority of accident data relates to moving violations or accidents involving motor vehicles.
Many of the best sources they have found have been from hospital records and emergency responders. They estimate that at least 12% of urban bicycle accidents are the result of “dooring.”.
The Transportation Research Board has made progress by studying this issue. They recommend that bicycle lanes be no less than 12 feet from the curb. It is possible to basically create a door “buffer zone” that is sufficient to prevent these collisions. The problem still can occur when rideshare passengers are exiting a vehicle that is two lanes away from the curb, particularly when there are vehicles parked in the curb lane.