To The Bicyclist Who Was Doored, The Driver Who Doored Her, And The Bikers Who Didn't Help

(Janet Lee/Flickr)

(Janet Lee/Flickr)

While biking to work this morning, I saw something happen that’s all too common in Boston: A driver opened her car door into the bike lane without looking. As you might’ve guessed, a biker in front of me, unable to avoid the door in the split second after its opening, slammed into the door, flipped over, and landed very hard on her shoulder.

Now, I had never been close enough to really call myself a witness — maybe just a passerby who saw only the impact, but never enough to see who was at fault. This time, however, I saw it all. And there were a few things I saw that really irked me.

First, the way the driver behaved after the accident was unacceptable. And it really suggests only one thing: an honest lack of understanding of the law regarding motorists’ responsibility to bikers and bike lanes. So, to be clear, this is what the law states, from Chapter 90, Section 14 of the Massachusetts General Laws regarding Motor Vehicles and Aircraft:

No person shall open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians.

It’s really that simple. And the police officers who arrived on the scene agreed. The opening of the driver’s door caused the accident. The driver is at fault, which I’m sure will be good news to the victim since she said she’s a massage therapist who relies on the use of her hands and arms to make a living — and thus could likely be out of work for a while.

So to the woman who was “doored” on her bike near St. Paul Street and Commonwealth Avenue, rest assured: You are not at fault. I made a statement to the police assuring them that you were not at fault in the slightest.

And that brings me to my next point.

Of the four bikers who saw the accident, only a guy named Will and myself stayed until the ambulance came. Soon after it arrived, however, Will had to leave, admitting he hadn’t seen the accident well enough to feel it would help if he stuck around. Otherwise, not one of the other witnesses stayed to help. In fact, one of them — the biker who rode directly behind the victim when the accident happened — didn’t even get off of his bike before saying, “Which one of you guys is going to take care of her?” Mind you, the woman was still lying in the street, crying, and writhing in pain.

And while his question was bad enough, the silence after the question was even worse. Almost no one bothered to swing their leg over their bike frame and help. Almost no one stayed until the ambulance came and no one else stayed to give a police report.

I understand we live in a city and we’re trying to get from point A to point B with as few obstacles as possible. But there are obstacles and then there are people. People who actually need your help and might be saved a lot of grief if you just stuck around for 15 minutes. As I said, the woman who was hit is a massage therapist. She makes her living on the ability to move her shoulders, arms and hands. If no one had been there to back up the biker, the driver — who tried to leave after suggesting she just leave her name and number — would have taken off without making a statement to the police, stiffing the biker with the cost of an ambulance and other costs incurred as a result of the accident.

I think the lessons learned from this experience are two-fold, and this goes to both motorists and bicyclists alike: Familiarize yourself with Massachusetts law regarding bikes, bike lanes and motorist responsibilities, and for goodness sake don’t avoid doing what’s right just because it’s inconvenient. Be a Good Samaritan when you get the chance. It’s often more important than you think.

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  • Vanessa – Jamaica Plain, MA

    What is wrong with people? Jesus. I agree with you totally, Nate.  I always get off my bike to help other bikers – even for a simple flat tire! C’mon people!

  • Paul – Reading, MA

    While I agree this is a terrible tragedy I’d like to add that it doesn’t much matter if you’re right or wrong if you’re lying injured or dead on the pavement.  You should *always* assume that *every* door could open in your face regardless of what the law says.

    • Chris (cyclist from Allston)

      Paul, I ride through that intersection twice a day. Yes, you should be prepared for any door to swing open, but in this spot, expecting it wouldn’t help: it’s a very busy section of Comm Ave. If someone opens their door and you veer to the left to escape, you’ll probably get hit by a car.

  • Chef Andy

    While I agree with the general sentiment of your piece, I’d like to point out that lots of people, especially people that work in the food service industry, hospitals, retail, public service, etc aren’t allowed to be 10 seconds late for their job, let alone 15 minutes. If you work in an office or some place that allows that… great. When my job is on the line, making sure an ambulance is on it’s way is the best I can do. Don’t assume that everyone shares your privilege of workplace flexibility.

    • No one

      Most of us do not have a flexible schedule but how can we say, ‘Well too bad that person was lying on the ground in obvious pain but at least I made it to work on time.” 

      • Chef Andy

        If you have a job where you’re going to be fired or severely disciplined for not being there exactly when the clock strikes, you’d be crazy for doing anything more than make sure someone else was helping. I’m sorry, but as long as life isn’t immediately at stake, sacrificing your job for the sake of due diligence is absurd.

        • Lauren

          I agree we all have a moral obligation to stay and help someone who’s injured, but Chef Andy has a point. I’ve had several jobs where I’ve seen my coworkers fired on the spot for being late. In a lot of food service jobs, your boss could care less that you’re late because you were being a good person. Doesn’t sound like the people who left had that excuse, but it’s something to keep in mind.

    • Anonymous

      Stopping to give a police report is an example of a person with “privilege workplace flexibility”?  Wow.  Nice try making it sound like a “work’n man” issue. 

      Sorry but you have obligations in life beyond yourself or your job.  We aren’t talking about you getting out of bed late here.  If your workplace can’t make an exception for you giving a police report then the onus is on your employer and they could be liable for it.

      • Chef Andy

        “Sorry but you have obligations in life beyond yourself or your job.  We aren’t talking about you getting out of bed late here.  If your workplace can’t make an exception for you giving a police report then the onus is on your employer and they could be liable for it.”Right, try explaining that to your supervisor at some quick serve food service or house keeping job. If you have the flexibility to do so, you’re morally obligated to do so, but that doesn’t mean there are circumstances where the sacrifice would be too great. And if you’ve got some sort of actual legal argument based in real law that would make that employer liable, I’d be  interested to hear it. 

        • Virginia in Springfield

          That one is easy.  It is AGAINST THE LAW for a witness to leave the scene of a personal injury accident.  The rider right behind the injured one was one who left.  He broke the law.  An employer cannot compel an employee to break the law.

          • Chef Andy

            Easy. All you’ve got to do is fully comply with the law, get fired in accordance with policy, and then make the extremely difficult legal case in civil court that the company *knowingly* compelled you to break the law, and didn’t just fire you because you failed to take delays into account on your morning commute. Especially in a employment-at-will state, that’s pretty easy. Especially when you’re in the socioeconomic bracket that would be most likely to be affected by these problems, it’s a piece of cake.

            If the law actually dictated how life worked, rather than just trying its best to whack people who don’t play along, then the woman wouldn’t have been doored to begin with.

            What you are describing is an ideal world where all employers, regardless of job level or socioeconomic status of the employee, would simply be reasonable and understanding when confronted with situations like this. In the occasional case where that did not occur, the law would instantly and seamlessly protect the employment status and incomes of workers affected, and punish the offending companies. Ideally, you would never have to choose between the economic welfare of you and your family, and doing the right thing.

            As much as I would love it to, this does not describe the world that we live in, and saying so isn’t an attack on the ideal itself, it’s simply addressing reality.
            I’m lucky enough, right now, to be socioeconomically privileged enough to not have to make that choice; For large swaths of my adult life, I haven’t been. 

          • Pockyfiend

            Chef Andy, it’s called: “Call your boss and say you’re at the scene of a gruesome accident and you need to give your statement to the police.”  If you don’t have a cellphone, I’m sure any random passerby does and would be happy to let you make the call from theirs once they see someone lying on the floor.  If you’re boss fires you after that, I’m sure loads of lawyers will be *thrilled* to take your case.  Yes, I’m sure there are many illegal immigrant workers who live in fear of the repercussions of involving any police, but based on your first name and your excellent English skills, I’m guessing this isn’t the case for you.  Man up and be a good citizen and follow the law by staying to help your fellow man.  Sheesh.

          • Chef Andy

            I did say that you’re morally obligated to stay if you aren’t going to incur significant sacrifice (losing your job) by doing so, AND life wasn’t immediately threatened. I also said that it wouldn’t be a question whether or not I would do it at this point in my life. 
            But if you really believe that the only people who might have any compelling reason not to stay are illegal immigrants who are afraid of the police, you clearly are ignoring everything that doesn’t fit your world view. Unless you can use the thrill of lawyers to put food on your table while you’re living off of the puny, involuntary termination slice of unemployment (assuming your job is over-the-table) until they get you a lost wages settlement down the road. Even that is assuming you could get lawyers good enough to actually prove that the company was knowingly make you break the law. This is not an option when you’re at a scene with 4 other people, one of them possibly being someone like me that *did* have the flexibility to stay.

            Take a look at the the recent department of labor wage violation reports (http://www.boston.com/Boston/businessupdates/2012/03/boston-area-restaurants-owe-back-wages/CyWQatNE9Wfj6xMRjNS1CL/index.html?comments=all) for the restaurant chains in the Boston area, know that it represents a *tiny* portion of the actual infringement that they pledge to step up on, and then tell me that the law adequately protects low end food service employees… and most of those people were *not* illegal immigrants. 
            If you find yourself judging the moral worth of a large group of people based on a single point on instantaneously gathered information, you’re probably not doing it right.

    • Anonymous

      I understand your point of view and the reality of the situation, but it makes me incredibly sad that such no-tolerance policies exist, even for things like “witnessing a crime” and “assisting someone who you saw get seriously hurt”.  I’d hope that most managers would have some sense of compassion, but sadly, that’s not the case.

      • Virginia in Springfield

        I think that is probably either an excvuse, or an opportunity to bash business owners.  If one of my employees was late for work because he/she stopped to help an injured accident victin, I would give them employee the rest of the day off with pay.  Although most employers would probably not do that, they would not fire anyone either.  Infact, it would be against the law, since it is AGAINST THE LAW for a witness to leave the scene of a personal injury accident.

        • A Hotel Kitchen Worker

          I think this is probably an excuse or opportunity to bash workers. You clearly don’t own a restaurant.

          • Virginia in Springfield

            Yeah, you can tell how much I hate workers by my statement.

        • Anonymous

          Glad to hear you would do that.  I hope all employers are like you.  Based on past experience, I fear they’re not.  

  • Llida

    you are too kind in your concluding assessment and advice, yet sensitive enough to care; truly a gift! I hope the doored rider is OK…..

  • Guest

    Thanks for this – I’d just like to point out that the phenomenon of both witnesses and participants leaving the scene of an accident is a problem overall – certainly not just with bike accidents.  Hit and runs happen between all modes, of course.  So I started thinking why cyclists might be likely to leave the scene, and perhaps it’s their lack of confident knowledge with the law?   

  • Jo

    I actually stopped cycling in Boston after having one too many car doors opened on me on Comm Ave. It is just too easy to reflexively swerve to avoid the door and into the path of a car. I hope that the injured cyclist heals well. 

  • older and wiser

    Experienced urban cyclists eventually learn how to avoid getting doored. It’s sad but true that if you’re riding in a trusting manner smack-dab in the middle of a designated “bike lane”  you’re simply asking for it. But still.

    The one time I got doored, in Amherst back in the early 80s, I got pretty badly banged up, as did my nice old Raleigh 10-speed. The guy who hit me was angry that I had “scratched his car” and threatened to call the cops. Not knowing my rights, and being a penniless kitchen worker, I hobbled into traffic, grabbed my pile of mangled steel, and disappeared into an alley right fast. It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized how badly I’d been hurt.

  • Jen Flynn

    this is so sad. Why have we built our lives so that we “don’t have time” to stop and help strangers? Shame on the people who don’t stop. That should be a crime

    • Anonymous

      Who is going to call the police on people who don’t call the police?

  • Kathy

    I agree with much of what you are saying. However, I also drive often in the very area you are describing and I have to say I live in fear of hitting cyclists even when I am being extremely careful because of the way many cyclists weave in and out of traffic, without helmets, on cell phones and with total disregard for intersections. I actually hit a cyclist two months ago while turning left with the light from Longwood onto St. Paul’s because the cyclist flew into the intersection without stopping at the light. I got out of the car to make sure he was okay after slamming into the passenger side of my car. I offered my name and number and he declined.

  • Elainego

    As a bicyclist, I’ve had many near misses with drivers opening doors.  As a driver, I know it’s hard to remember to always watch out for bicyclists, especially when they often drive the wrong way on one-way streets.  As a pedestrian, I was knocked down two years ago by a bike rider, who quickly sped away after he saw that I was able to get up. I am constantly having near-collisions with bike riders, most of whom are completely unaware that there are actually laws governing biking, because they don’t obey any of them. 

  • Kozamora

    I’m so grateful for this article. A good reminder that we must obey the law and more importantly we must take care of one another.

  • Lorena L

    Great article. My husband is a seasoned cyclist and bike commuter, but even then I worry about him… the stories he often brings home about his commute and the behavior of motorists are scary.

  • tinyk

    I’m all for biking, but laws, no laws, bike lanes or no, biking around Boston is risky.  The city is too dense for bikers to commute safely.

    • Anonymous

      BS. I’m not a biker but all you have to do is look in your mirror.
       That’s all, look. Is this asking to much?
      At the same time a lot of cyclist are oblivious and or cavalier about the road.
      Then you have the ones who think the road belongs to them, the radical cyclist who punch cars. Still I try to look out for them as I’m in a 1500lb hunk of metal.

    • Cat

       then it’s too dense for cars and pedestrians, too.

    • DrKaz

      The city is too dense for cars actually…but we let them in anyways.  If everyone rode bikes or walked instead, then biking around Boston wouldn’t be risky at all.  So, your point is actually that cars are the problem, not the density of the city.

    • Carrie

      Tinyk- Have you been to Amsterdam? It’s a very dense and busy city where there are more bikes than people. If the laws and bike lanes and traffic regulations are there, busy diesn’t matter.

      And, good article.

    • http://chainreading.com/profile/baiskeli Baiskeli

      Actually, you’re wrong. I used to ride into Boston in the late 90′s, and I do it now. It’s much better now because the drivers are more aware. Boston is actually a city conducive to cycling because of the low speed due to the streets. What sometimes makes it hard are the small minority of aggressive entitled drivers.

  • LoWreck

    Yessss! As a frequent biker in Boston, especially down Comm Ave, this is all unacceptable! I recently moved to Salem, and you want to see an un-bike-friendly town?! Eeesh!! It is now my personal mission to get Salem up to snuff with bike courtesy and awareness! Boston has progressed in this arena with leaps and bounds, and all busy areas in MA urban or otherwise should follow suit! Thanks for this!

  • KristiP

    I too have a job where being punctual is imperative (I’m a physical therapist). I am fairly certain that most bosses would understand if you were late secondary to helping a fellow human being.How would you feel if you were injured or in need of help and no one stopped for you? Or if it was your mother, father, brother, sister, or significant other? Be kind people.   Good piece Nate.

  • LM

    Great post! My husband can’t see well enough to drive and relies on his bicycle to get around. He was doored about 20 years ago and still has trouble with the shoulder he landed on.

  • http://twitter.com/AdamMyerson Adam Myerson

    “Cyclists.” Bikers ride motorcycles.

  • Juice8

    its tough….it’s also sad but true….people don’t either care or they don’t want to get involved….its really sad…..

  • Sevencyclessuisse

    No surprises in this story, Cyclists in the USA usually receive no respect. When I ride in the USA I am shocked at the rudeness of car drivers. We all share the road, bicycles, cars, trucks and even tractors. Here in Switzerland drivers give space to bicycles and even offer encouragement on the long climbs. I have even had snacks offered at the summits…..Is it too hard for Americans to respect and be concerned with others?

    • Scott

      Actually plenty of Americans respect and are concerned with others. As recently as a few years ago, we had one of the highest volunteer and personal donation rates in the world.  Friends biking across the country were touched by the generosity they have received from complete strangers. As this article also reveals, not everyone stops but there are almost always a few people who do.

      Meanwhile, when I was traveling in Switzerland (German and Italian cantons) I found the people there to be some of the coldest and least helpful of any people I’ve ever met. I couldn’t wait to get to Austria, and I never thought I would think that in my life.

  • Mother

    Sounds like a little defensive biking is in order. Cyclists should assume they are invisible to motorists and behave as such. They should also assume that every driver in the morning is half asleep and looking for coffee. 
    Drivers do need to be more aware. Unless the population of cyclist traffic increases dramatically, cyclists will be a far afterthought. in the minds of any and all city drivers.
    Being able to quote a law doesn’t really help the situation. Assuming every driver is blind and a little crazy (this is Boston) does.

    • Mikeeo620

      Use these excuses when you hit me and see what happens…

      • Arboreye11

        I will, tough guy.

    • Whiteryanc

      How can negligence possibly used as an excuse, especially in the instance of this story? It is literally the law, and you as a person driving a vehicle have the responsibility to obey that law. It’s as simple as looking in your mirror before you exit your car. I’m both a cyclist and a car driver and I think it would be to the benefit of all road users if more people hopped on a bike and saw the point of view of cyclists, not just their own entitled view as a motor vehicle driver.

    • Pockyfiend

      Mother, your reply comes dangerously close to “blaming the victim”.  She did nothing wrong here, and this incident was ENTIRELY the driver’s fault.  We have no idea how experienced of a cyclist she was and whether or not she was in a position where avoiding the door was attempted or even possible.

      That being said, as a cycling advocate, I can agree that experienced cyclists can often avoid being doored.  The primary strategy is to ride to the absolute far left of the bike lane and be aware of traffic behind you, being ready to take the lane at any moment.  Or simply to ignore the bikelane altogether and take the entire car lane.  This is perfectly legal and often the safest strategy since most bike lanes in Boston are architected without any regard to the “door zone”, and although you may get honked, all research proves that you are *extremely* unlikely to get hit.

    • Karl

      Defensive biking is always in order; assuming you are invisible, however, leads many cyclists to dangerous and stupid decisions when they ride.  You take steps to make yourself as visible as possible.  Behaving like you are invisible put yourself at risk and often frightens and angers motorists.
      Defensive riding – such as riding further into the middle of the road, at least three or four feet away from parked cars – often necessitates being visible and behaving as such.
      Also, being able to quote a law means that motorists suddenly realize they are financially responsible for the accidents they cause with cyclists.  When motorists understand this they start to become a little less blind and crazy, as we all care about our wallets!

      • http://twitter.com/kuroikittee Kittee

         Unfortunately the bike lanes being drawn are very close to the sidewalk (where many cars choose to park). I commute via bicycle in the summer and have often feared that one of the cars parked in the bike lane would throw open their doors. 

        It’s very sad to see the lack of support from other passersby and cyclists. Hopefully this article raises the awareness of all commuters.

    • Eliot

      I do not believe being in a subset of commuters should cause anyone’s well being to become an afterthought. We are still talking about people.

  • http://lizybee.wordpress.com/ Ms. Sweetman

    This would help if Boston drivers used their rearview mirrors.

  • Kirst Emily

    Wow that scares me to see that. I was once in a bike/auto accident where a taxi sped through a cross walk from a blind turn . I collided flipped over the car & landed in the oncoming lane of traffic. I couldn’t move for a bit out of pain needless to say stand on my my own. Only one guy in a touch stopped oncoming traffic & saw me through the ordeal. After that type of collision the last thing your able to do is think straight. I struggled with my name how was I supposed to talk to police by myself. Thanks for helping her.

  • Katie

    Wow, I thought this article was about me for a minute because I was hit by a car while biking yesterday too. One passerby stopped and offered me a wet-nap to get the blood off my face, but I was so shook up I didn’t even think to call the police. I was fine overall and got checked out at the hospital, but I wish someone had thought to call the cops while I couldn’t think straight. 

  • Pete DaSilva

    I am a big fan of everyone on the streets obeying and understanding all traffic laws; to motorists that open doors on unsuspecting bicyclists AND bicyclists that ignore pedestrians in crosswalks and blow through stop signs, red lights, etc. 

    • pocky

      Pete, this is not the right forum to take the opportunity to bash cyclists who don’t obey the law.  From what we can tell of the facts from this article, the cyclist did NOTHING wrong, and this incident was ENTIRELY the driver’s fault.

      • Pete DaSilva

         It is not an attempt to bash. Of course it was clearly the driver’s fault and clearly an accident due to ignorance of the law, good safety practices and common courtesy. Was I bashing motorists in the first part of my comment?

        In my mind, the lack of care from one of the following bicyclist of the victim in the “next point” in the article is indicative of my sentiment: We all (motorists, cyclists, pedestrians) should be mindful of each other on the roadways; and of course the ducks and other waterfowl that cross our streets and parkways. 

  • Emily

    a year ago, i crashed in central and broke my elbow. i had a whopper of a concussion and a broken phone, so i did not have the wherewithal to help myself. two pedestrians stopped and called an ambulance. i am thankful every day for these good samaritans. it saddens me that, apparently, this kind of altruism is the exception the rule and i just got lucky.

  • Rob

    We should at least consider that the driver may have looked first and somehow not been able to see the cyclist, and that this could have been a very genuine accident. Being liable for an accident is not the same as being guilty of a crime.

    • Marcelo

      I’d wager that not looking was probably why the driver didn’t see the cyclist coming…somehow.

    • Manda

      The way Boston has their bike lanes set up, just one quick look in your mirror provides you a good shot of the bike lane. If she had looked and seen nothing, then the bikes would have been far enough away to react to seeing a car door opened and would have changed their flow to accommodate it. When being doored you literally have to be almost on top of the car before they open their door, and you can certainly see that in your side-mirror because the biker would be close enough for that.

  • Paula

    My daughter rode to work on her bike for many years in Chicago — a city very much accustomed to bikers.  She did say her biggest fear was a driver opening the door of their car right into her path.  Bikers tend to watch for this possibility, but need to be vigilent.  I do hope that the biker is ok.  Your bigger message should cause people to pause and consider what they would have done to help.

    • Doug

      > her biggest fear was a driver opening the door of their car right into her path

      Odd.  Experienced cyclists simply assume this is going to happen and stay out of the door zone.  Problem solved.  Yes, it’s still the responsibility of the driver to open their doors only when it’s safe, but so many fail to do this that smart cyclists simply avoid the area entirely.

  • guest

    What about bicyclists who run red lights and stop signs? I’ve almost hit bicyclists when I’ve had the right of way and it infuriates me that they can ride in the street but not obey the laws. 

    • Aaa

      You can add a million other “But what abouts” here. Bicyclists break laws too, but opening a door doesn’t justify it nor should it serve as a lesson for all those who ran a light. 

      I’m a bicyclist, and I feel sorry that the one red-light-runner misrepresents our group as a whole. I’ve seen a lot of stupid things by both drivers and bicyclists. We all need to be more careful. 

      • ABC

        i dont really think  you can say the “one red light runner”, i see it pretty much every day when im driving. I rarely see a bicyclist stop at a red light. I do understand that all need to be more careful, and in Boston its crucial to check your mirrors before opening your door, and even double checking by looking over your shoulder. 
         This is a sad story, but at the same time, I think it needs to be said that bicyclists need to start obeying traffic laws, otherwise more accidents will continue to happen. (not related to this, where she was in a bike lane). 

    • Doug

      But what about motorists who speed and run stop signs?

      And what does this have to do with dooring somebody?

    • jess

      Last paragraph of the article addresses this quite nicely. Bicycles are considered vehicles are are supposed to obey all the same traffic laws.

      I think the lessons learned from this experience are two-fold, and this goes to both motorists and bicyclists alike: Familiarize yourself with Massachusetts law regarding bikes, bike lanes and motorist responsibilities, and for goodness sake don’t avoid doing what’s right just because it’s inconvenient. 

    • Lyle

      Haha.  I got rear-ended when I stopped at a red light by a woman who jumped out of her car and started screaming at me for not running it because  I “totally could have made that!”  Boston — where you’re not really running the red light unless you’re the fourth car through it.

  • http://cyclingsavvy.or/maine John_Brooking

    I’d also like to ask a few pointed questions to the people to decided to put a bike lane in the door zone, and the engineers who approved that as a standard: WHY IS IT CONSIDERED ACCEPTABLE TO LURE BICYCLISTS TO RIDE CLOSE ENOUGH TO PARKED CARS FOR THIS TO HAPPEN? You don’t even expect motorists in their protected shells to drive that close to parked cars, so why is it okay for vulnerable bicyclists?

    And to bike advocates who “are okay” with door zone bike lanes: Are they really better than nothing? REALLY?

    Best wishes for a speed recovery to the victim, and hopes that others cyclists learn that it is acceptable for them to ride at least 5′ from parked cars, even if that’s outside the bike lane, to avoid putting themselves at the mercy of careless motorists.

  • Clint Cavanaugh

    I agree, Nate, and love that you wrote about this incident, but I think there’s one more lesson to be taken away: bikers are vulnerable and not matter what SHOULD happen, we have to always be wary and ride knowing that drivers–and even pedestrians–will generally do the silliest thing they possibly can. 

    I’ve been somewhat lucky, I suppose.  I’ve biked the streets of Boston for the last 28 years…long before the advent of bike lanes.  I’ve also never once been hit or doored (knock on wood), but I don’t think that’s all luck. 

    We bikers need to ride much more carefully–more defensively.  As I peddle down a busy, car-lined street like Comm Ave, I scan the cars in front and to the side of me and look for signs of life (maybe not so intelligent) inside them.  I go more slowly than I might like.  I also keep an eye on the traffic to my left, just in case I have to swerve to not get doored.  As I cross intersections, even though I have the light, I look.  Who knows who might be disobeying coming the other way.  

    So sure, it may be the fault of the woman who popped that poor gal with her door this morning, but it’s the bike rider who suffers the consequences of the accident.  RIDE DEFENSIVELY!!!  Don’t listen to your iPod, don’t gawk around, do expect that everyone is going to do something they shouldn’t, and be prepared and able to stop on a dime.  Maybe we shouldn’t have to ride that way, but we do.  And, honestly, it doesn’t detract from the joy of riding.  Every morning,  I hop on my bike and ride to work.  At night, I ride whenever possible, because it sure is easier to find parking for my bike than my car!  And man,  I LOVE riding in the city! 

    We also need to communicate better.   Tell each other and pedestrians when we’re passing.  Make eye contact with drivers.  Be friendly and polite!  I’ve observed so many people being not so nice when they’re startled by a biker.  Instead of returning their glare, smile and say, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”  We can set an example of kindness and considerate behavior and it will help our cause. 

    • Nate Goldman

      I totally agree with you! Ride defensively and responsibly. We’re all on the road and we all have a responsibility — motorists and cyclists alike — to be aware of what’s going on around us. 

      And as for your comment on communication — I’m 100% with you. Just today I was biking to Davis Square and construction on Memorial is a nightmare, forcing me to bike along very narrow paths that are shared with pedestrians. In those situations, it’s important to always remember to yell “On your right!” or “On your left!” as you approach them. And, as you said, in order to not come off as hostile, smile and say “thank you” to reassure them that you were just trying to be a responsible cyclist looking out for their safety and yours. Thanks for the response! 

      • Anonymous

        If there is construction, get off your bike and walk until it is safe for you to resume riding.  You have no right to tell pedestrians to move out of your way.

    • G_double_U

      You are right on about defensive biking. I work in Central Square, near where a woman on a bike was ‘doored’ while traveling West on Mass Ave a few years ago.  Sadly, she ended up under a bus. Sure, the driver who opened the door was in the wrong, and by all accounts was extremely distraught afterwards, but that wasn’t much help to the bicyclist who died.

       Defensive biking is key, whatever the laws. As are defensive driving and pedestrian-ing, too. It’s frightening to contemplate, but in a chaotic situation such as a busy urban street, a mere moment’s inattention can bring disaster, to oneself and to someone else.

    • http://cyclingsavvy.or/maine John_Brooking

       +1 on the communication. I’ve found that to be one of the keys to avoiding conflict. Turn signals, stop signal, especially when it is not safe to be passed. Then a friendly wave when passing becomes acceptable again. Even looking back is also a signal.

      Being positive is less stressful than being negative. Sometimes it’s hard to avoid that moment of anger, but don’t let it ruin your ride and rule your life.

      But on door zones, avoid them altogether. Looking inside the cars is not always reliable. The only 100% way to avoid doorings is to NOT USE the door zone, even if the bike lane is there. Door zone bike lanes are totally unacceptable in my book; they lead bicyclists into a dangerous situation. What other traffic facility does that? Would that be acceptable to motorists? Are our lives worth avoiding a little motorist inconvenience?  The law allows you to ride outside the bike lane for your safety, and your safety is worth a little motorist inconvenience, even if it it’s a little uncomfortable for you at first. PLEASE, just avoid the door zone completely. You know what can happen if you don’t.

  • Anonymous

    The law requires drivers to look before they open the door, but any bicyclist who relies on perfect obedience of that law is playing Russian roulette with his or her  life.

    Ride at least FIVE FEET from parked cars.  Without exception.


  • BostonBiker

    While in the bike lane, I was doored by someone getting out of a taxi last month. I find it safer to bike in the middle of the road at times, or to bike on roads with no side street parking. The person’s first instinct was to blame me while I was laying on the ground in traffic. “Why were you biking so close to the taxi? Well, that was stupid.” I don’t know if this is the usual response, but it was one of those “loss of faith in humanity” moments for me. 

    • http://cyclingsavvy.or/maine John_Brooking

       Well, exactly. Motorists are taught to avoid driving too close to parked cars, precisely to avoid hitting opening doors, and THEY are protected by a steel frame! Why is it expected then that vulnerable bicyclists will use the door zone, and just wring our hands when a motorist forgets to look, or perhaps looks but does not see? That’s what I find so immoral about door zone bike lanes. We are told that bike lanes are supposed to keep cyclists safer, that’s their whole justification! But when they are in door zones, they do EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE! They promise you safety, but they are LYING to you, and so are the advocates who say they are better than nothing. Don’t put up with it. I don’t know about you, by MY life is not worth some avoiding some slight delay to the motorist behind me.

    • Anonymous

      yeah. when exiting your car, the cyclist should have been farther from your parked car. when driving your car, the cyclist should have been closer to the parked cars. and when you drive as far to the right as possible at all times, you came out of nowhere and they didn’t see you. don’t worry about other people’s preferences, just do whats safest and most convenient for you. drive in a straight line, well out from the side of the road and the parked cars. end. 

  • Acorey84

    Totally agree about defensive biking.  I used to love riding while listening to music, but I had to stop because it wasn’t safe.  I can usually hear a car door start to open before I see it.

    • Anonymous

      how fast do you ride? like snail pace?? just the other day, this guy opened his car door the very moment me and my gf were passing by him and knocked her off her bike. NO time to react. she heard the door but there wasn’t time to brake.



      (also changing lanes, turning, pulling out from a parking space. ALWAYS CHECK FIRST)

  • AK

    I just want to add a few things I learned from my experience getting doored – call the police and don’t leave the scene, even if the driver does. Get witnesses’ contact info if they are willing to share it. Get an accident report from the police even if you feel okay (I had a broken rib but didn’t feel it right away because I was in shock). 

    • Anonymous

      there is no police form for a bicyclist to report a collision in mass. its crazy!

      • A Casual Observer

        Smartest thing you’ve said yet, BW. It IS Crazy. And your idiotic raving about cyclists forced to go 2 inches per hour b/c you have to pay attention to cars….guess what: you can spar with a car, you can fuss with a bus, but don’t f*** with a truck. And since a car is bigger than a Bike, you’re at the bottom of the food chain of mobilized vehicles. You ride crazily and insist on your “rights” at your peril in Boston.

        It is very sad that someone was hurt, and, despite my rants, I hope the driver pays a stiff fine and all of the injured party’s medical bills. But don’t be stupid and think that Boston road culture is going to change…perhaps ever. It’s a recipe for disaster giving driver’s licenses to people who are proud of not being nice to each other and then cram them into one of the smallest cities in the U.S. The only way to keep accidents like this from continuing to happen is to get the arrogance out of the cyclists – and that would include you BW – thinking that if there’s a danger of your flipping over handle bars because you have to stop short for pedestrians when you’re going 35 mph, WE THE PEDESTRIANS should change our behavior. No, BW, it’s you who needs to change your behavior, and soon if you’d like to live to be 45.

        • Anonymous

          don’t be stupid and think boston road culture is going to remain the same. it HAS changed since i started biking on the street in the 90s. and it WILL continue to change whether you choose to acknowledge that fact or not. more bikers are out there now, and more drivers are sharing the road respectfully instead of trying to bully us out of the way. maybe the die hard A holes like yourself will always be a danger we face, but your views are not as popular as they once were. thank god!

          the supposed arrogance of cyclists is not the only reason why bicyclists get hurt. why then should it be the sole focus of our efforts to make biking safer? if the attitudes of drivers & pedestrians are somehow inevitable and unchanging, what makes you think you can change the attitudes of cyclists? maybe we ARE better people in your imagination, but in reality we are just more people. not better. not worse. just more people, doing more different things. culture changes, and thoughtful people have a responsibility to identify the brightest path leading to the best possible future and try to lead the way there. the best possible future for the human race is one where carbon emissions are not required for transportation, and safe passage for bicycles is part of that

          as for braking short at 35 mph, you have no idea wtf you are talking about. if i were riding 35 mph and slammed on the brakes full force, i WOULD go over the handle bars. its a fact of physics. bikes aren’t magic, they take time to stop. if you refuse to believe that, you might get hit by one, and it might be your fault. as a rule of thumb, just treat bikes like you would a car. you wouldn’t get in front of a car going 35 mph, so don’t do it to a bike. you wouldn’t expect a car to pull over for you so you can pass. you wouldn’t expect a car going straight to jam on their brakes and let you turn in front of them. you wouldn’t expect a car to veer quicklly out of the way in front of another car so you can open the door of your parked car. its not rocket science.

  • Garry Burke

    When iIrode, I would look at the vehicles mirrors to eliminate the possibility of a door strike.

    • http://twitter.com/abacor Last Resort

      if only everyone could be as perfect and as infallible as you, Garry… if only.

  • http://twitter.com/CrankyAcid Cranky Acid

    Remember when the world was horrified by the child left in the road in China after being run over? 

    • Anonymous

      no i don’t remember that.

  • Rickibobbi

    Yep, love Boston, people really pitch in.  Drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, everyone just seems in the now, enjoying the moment for its own sake, not caring about how fast they get from one point to another, living life fully…………not driving like a Nascar driver with a horn the size of a cruise liner, nor Lance Armstrong on his way to another drug addled tour win, or someone walking like a laser guided linebacker.   Yes, that’s right, moved out of Boston, couldn’t take the “charm”    Its like a city of complete strangers who are junk yard dog mean, know it, are proud of it but obviously complain about how mean everyone else is, all of this is helped by the lovely accents as people tell you to go f**k yaw selves

    • Anonymous

      go f**k yaw self

  • A Casual Observer

    All due respect, Nate but virtually no one follows any driving law in Boston, so why would they follow this one? It’s terrible that the biker got hurt, and good that the driver will pay for her carelessness. But the combination of Boston’s aggressiveness, rudeness and active pride in not obeying laws is lethal for anyone who doesn’t drive or ride defensively. All the bike lanes in the world would not have protected that woman. Bikers routinely think they can be seen, when they are MORE INVISIBLE in a driver’s blind spot than a car. They routinely break laws by not using hand signals, weaving in and out of traffic. passing on the left because it’s inconvenient to wait (God Forfend) on the right. In a city in which more people pretend to be socially conscious and caring than in a lot of other cities, cyclists have to be prepared that NO ONE CARES about their making a smaller carbon footprint. Go hug a tree and get off the roads. Boston’s streets are too narrow and twisty to begin with for a cyclist to be careless, yet every day one can get run over by someone barreling down a bike lane thinking that because s/he is in this 3-foot wide stretch of pavement they are all powerful. Cars are how the vast majority of Americans get around. Pair that with the generally laissez faire attitude about following driving laws in Boston, and you’ve got a bad chemistry. As a final note, I was in Newton Centre yesterday, and watched as one young woman tried to cross IN A CROSSWALK; FIVE cars passed her before she forced someone to stop by virtually walking in front of him – AND ON THE OTHER SIDE, PEOPLE KEPT DRIVING PAST HER. Then I tried to cross, and it was the same thing. I goofed with a van driver who blocked the other side waiting for someone to stop on my side. The Town of Newton could solve its budget problems if it even bothered to enforce all those crosswalk cones they’ve placed all over the town. People are just rude and self absorbed, in and out of cars in Boston. And, based on the huge majority of articles on this “Tired” topic in Boston, very few people care.

    • Guest

      “All the bike lanes in the world would not have protected that woman.”

      True.  Most are positioned within the “door zone,” a lane as wide the
      distance between the parked car and the outer edge of the opened car

      Had she the habit of riding outside the door zone, she probably would
      not have struck the car.  Many drivers can’t stand a bicyclists actually
      using the roadway in a perfectly legal and safe manner, because they
      may have to apply the brakes gently or steer around the cyclist, passing


      The driver caused the accident because the driver failed to look before blocking the roadway with an open door.

      Instead of or at least in addition to bicycle lanes, people should be
      educated, trained and expected to driver their bikes properly out side
      of the door zone with exceptions while going very slowly. 

      And that of course means to operate with regard to the other users of the public roadways and to the traffic law.

      Sadly in Boston this need to be heeded as well by drivers and pedestrians.

      More often than I would like.  Most people are still pretty decent about
      public ways.  Gotta train and educate drivers too.  Many more of them,
      and they are heavier and faster vehicles and carrying toxic and
      flammable chemicals, thus much more hazardous.

      • A Casual Observer

        Thanks for your reply. Very fair. As you no doubt perceived, I am a cynic of the first order. Training drivers is a task that will never be accomplished. This leaves it to the bikers to protect themselves by (as I noted) assuming they are in a driver’s blind spot; if a whole car can disappear into one, a cycle just never existed for all intents. Bikers don’t like to ride slowly – cf a Yahoo story on a SF cyclist going 35 mph who killed a pedestrian this week. His response to why he didn’t stop? “I was going so fast, I saw the light turn yellow, but I just couldn’t stop; then all of a sudden the crosswalks filled from both sides with pedestrians. There was nothing I could do.” Drivers are going to say that his attitude is prevalent…bikers are not yet willing to admit that “You can spar with a car, you can fuss with a bus, but don’t f*** with a truck.” A car is almost always bigger than a bike. Behave accordingly. But thanks again for your reply.

        • Anonymous

          it IS hazardous to jam on your brakes if you’re going 35 mph, you could flip the bike. and pedestrians often cross before the walk light comes on. soon as the first one goes, everyone else follows like lemmings. ALWAYS look both ways, regardless of the lights or what other pedestrians are doing.

          and i know a lot of bikers who are very aware of blind spots. personally i look for the drivers face in the mirror. sadly, i’ve had drivers pull in front of me as i look directly in their face. some people just aren’t looking.

          we will never be able to bike anywhere with any speed if we are constantly supposed to monitor each car door as we pass, assume every pedestrian will jump out into the street, assume all the cars will carelessly turn in front of us without even signalling, etc. we have to watch out for ourselves, but we also have to depend on SOME level of common sense from other people. otherwise we’ll be reduced to a paranoid bundle of nerves pedaling a couple inches an hour, looking over our shoulder lest a car try to drive right through our invisible bike

    • Anonymous

      “virtually no one follows any driving law in Boston, so why would they follow this one?”
      because you could kill someone?

      • A Casual Observer

        Hi BW – Very clever, but there are plenty of other laws that Bostonians routinely ignore that could kill others too, to wit: Not yielding on left turns (an especially bad choice b/c it would kill one’s passenger {child, elderly parent, good friend, etc.}), going fastest in the left-most lane on highways, so those of us who follow the degree of speed laws need to swerve around the discourteous folks who plant themselves sanctimoniously to either crackberry or just plain go slowly; using turn signals (stunningly easy to do, as part of driving is anticipation of expected behaviors, none of which most Boston drivers could possibly care less about); um, yielding to pedestrians (the towns around Boston could all run in the black if they just posted cops by crosswalks and ticketed the thousands of drivers who ignore pedestrians – Newton Centre is my new favorite after a trip on Friday); etc., etc., etc. There’s a cultural pride in being rude in Boston that simply does not exist anywhere else, including NYC. I’ve been in 49/50 states, so I can say this with confidence. There is no other place in the U.S. where people are arrogant & rude AND PROUD of it. So, please, spare me and all others from stupid comments that even try to suggest that even close to half of Bostonians care even a little about someone else’s needs in the street. It just isn’t true – and won’t be until someone like Gov. Patrick takes on the Police Dep’t’s unwillingness to enforce the driving laws the way he finally busted the State Police’s ridiculous grafting practice of insisting that a uniformed cop “Protect” people at ALL construction sites. Please!

  • A Casual Observer

    Hi BW – We meet again. Have you even considered that Bikers are not MEANT to move quickly in city traffic? NO ONE moves quickly in traffic! That’s why they call it traffic – I think (haven’t checked the actual meaning but have always assumed it basically means SNAFU). You should flip over the f-ing handle bars if you are going 35 mph anywhere NEAR a crowd of people. News Flash: There are people who don’t pay attention everywhere, AND THEY’RE NOT GOING TO START b/c a bunch of sanctimonious cyclists refuse to follow the rules of the road b/c, somehow in their minds, they distinguish a vehicle without an engine from one with one. 35 mph is 35 mph is 35 mph (except when it’s ~55 kph). It’s moronic people like you, thrill seekers who think that b/c you’re on a bike you’re less subject to the laws of the road. YOU’RE NOT! And since you chose to ride in one of the most cluttered, narrow, dangerously routed cities on the planet with THE worst drivers in the U.S. hands down, no exceptions, if you expect someone who can see you in a side mirror to yield to you, you’ve left your brains at home. Defensive Biking should be the law, just as defensive driving should be. The only problem is the cops don’t give a f*** about enforcing the laws, so everyone just keeps breaking them. Which road are you going to take…the high one or the low one? Oh, sorry. I already know that answer.

    • Andy Rc Stuff

      moronic comment.

    • don

       don’t feed the troll

    • http://www.hillsandheadwinds.blogspot.com/ Steve Wilson

      oh my goodness – you are a dumb@ss. There are very very very few cyclists that are capable of cruising at 35 mph on a flat city street. Most of those who can race professionally. Only about 10% of all cyclists can maintain an average of 16 mph for any sustained time. Most commuters travel in the bike lane at around 8 to 12 mph.  The law is pretty clear. Your inane ramblings are not. Cyclists have a right to use the road, especially the bike lanes. Motorists have a responsibility (just like cyclists) to obey the law. Where does all your selfish hatred come from? Did a cyclists cause you to slow down slightly for  12 seconds one day in the past? Idiots like you make me scratch my head.

    • Anonymous


      By “laws of the road” do you mean the law the writer quoted that clearly put the driver at fault?  You need to look before you swing your door open.  If it was a car that grazed the door, the door would have been ripped off and the driver injured.

      The article never even mentioned the speed, and 35mph is pretty freaking fast unless the cyclist is an athlete traveling downhill.   Either you didn’t read the article, or perhaps you live in a facility where they don’t allow you sharp objects.

    • Jonathan

       That’s an odd response. She didn’t report anything about speed. You don’t need to be going fast to be seriously injured. A person jogging, then suddenly, forcibly stopped could be seriously injured.

      Her point wasn’t about cars and bikes. It was about people. People who should take 5 minutes to see if someone is ok, and help if possible. Doesn’t take much.

      Although I’ll admit, I might not stop if I see a couple other people have stayed to help. So far, the only time I’ve witnessed someone being doored, it was me. Usually, someone stayed to help, for which I was grateful.

    • Dotrider

      Dude you’re wrong the law clearly states if you open your door and a bike hits you it’s your fault. You’re right about most of the rest of your rant though…

  • http://twitter.com/drphilxr Philip Kousoubris

    Boston is a tough city. Im now more aware of bicycles and lanes – many lane lines just recently appeared in the last several months. Just yesterday there was a car every 30 seconds passing me on my bike in my quiet neighborhood (Chestnut Hill), and thought how nice it was for a passing sportsman cyclist to say “hello!”; I wouldn’t bike on/ near any busy roads, esp. during rush hour however.

  • Dbianco74

    The cyclists’ credo: One less car, same number of @ssholes. 

  • Tt T Expectspam2

    Please do stop and assist when anyone gets hit. When you are in pain and shock any stangers kindness, reaasurance, compasion means a great deal.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RCM7WNOB3PS4FPRV6SZJOYHW4Y Ivan

    Glock .40 deters aggressive auto drivers……the Boulder, Co way:)

  • Dotbiker

    Everyone’s in a hurry. I witnessed a shooting once and was the ONLY person (and there was easily 30 in range so to speak) who even called 911 let around hung around and told the cops. Thanks for stopping though. It’s too bad more of us don’t show more compassion for our neighbors in need. Plus the traffic law is clear that if you open your door and a bike hits you its your fault for opening the door. Thanks Mass Bike for that!

  • http://www.rayheisey.com/ Ray Heisey

    ray n gigi
    As a cyclist stopping to assist is 2nd nature, common sense. It’s my simple understanding of good Karma, paying it forward. Let’s face it , if you ride a bike you’re gonna crash, self inflicted or otherwise. Hopefully someone is there to lend a hand , make the call, get the plate # off the motorist, whatever. We claim to be an enlightened species. Things like this make me wonder.

  • Guest

    Its really unfortunate when people are injured due to another’s carelessness.  And I agree that witnesses should have stuck around and aided the victim (if possible).  But, as a motorist who is constantly trying to dodge bikers who run red lights, fail to yield at yield signs, and generally completely disregard the laws of the road (one way streets, stop signs, red lights, no turns, etc), I can’t help but think…damn, if it had been the biker’s fault for failing to follow the appropriate traffic law, this article would have never been written.

    We all need to share the road – which means following ALL the laws of the road, not just the convenient ones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Mercer/100001786695804 Greg Mercer

    Bike lanes, in my experience – I’ve bike commuted in Boston for years at a time – cause more danger than they solve.  No one pays any attention to them, and it hardy helps your injured body that it wasn’t your fault.  It pays to aggravate some drivers and stay out there in traffic, at least far enough out that car doors can’t harm you.  To trust drivers to obey that law is highly foolish if you value your health.

  • Roch Aubert

    The more people are around in a big city, the more likely everyone will expect someone else to step in and help.   Not that I agree with that reaction, I think it human nature.

  • Texasborntwin

    That’s why we call drivers in boston “massholes”

    • Chef Andy

      And that’s why drivers who didn’t grow up driving on Boston streets who call Boston drivers “massholes”, we call “ignorant.”

  • A Casual Observer

    Hi Steve – Nope no hatred here. Just reacting to another post sent my way implying that his going 35 and having to slow down for a pedestrian would be a dangerous inconvenience for him. I have no trouble with cyclists at all…I just don’t cut them any slack just because they’re on bicycles. A significant majority need to learn more about the realities of being on a city street in re: what a driver can and can’t see. Mutual aggression is a bad idea. I just spout off because more often than not in Boston there is someone (like the other correspondent) who takes a holier than thou approach to her/his methods and reasoning. Just as you don’t think I should blather on, I don’t think a cyclist should be automatically granted a pass b/c s/he isn’t using a motorized vehicle. The case in discussion is a sad example of what happens when a car and a bike collide. We can all do better to keep it from happening to anyone else. 

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