Tuesday, August 23

The DOOR Zone

This isn't a particularly difficult post to write. I think I shall have to make a special camera trip to illustrate some of the situations. I carried my camera at the ready and was unable to get a single illustrative shot, though I THOUGHT about stopping to take a shot of the lady in the mini SUV parked along the road, but some motorists get nervous when a cyclist stops to take photos. Anyway, here is a little story about a swing I made into the door zone. I'd do it again. While I'm on the topic of door zones, I have a homework assignment for anyone out there who fancies his or herself a diligent motorist watcher.

In contrast to those writing in a lot of blogs I follow closely, most of my riding is in the suburban environment. One positive aspect of that environment, at least around North Texas is that riding in car door zones seems even sillier than it is in the denser-packed urban environment. In truth, however, I rode in a door zone last week. I’d do it again.

I was taking my “shady hot day” route home, coasting down a shallow hill, when I noticed a pedestrian ahead wandering down the road. That’s pretty typical in this locale, though this guy seemed more oblivious to the potential danger of a killer bike bearing down on him than most. Actually, I’m not sure he would have noticed a big diesel coming up. 50 feet to impact.

I considered yelling, even from fairly far back, but it seemed a shame to disturb his reverie. With a 25 foot road, SURELY I could find a way to pass in such a way that his karma would be undisturbed. I moved left about ten feet, into the left lane. That would leave me in a position to pass wide to his left if he made a break towards a truck parked ahead and to the right, but I could also swoop wide right if he instead continued along the basic street direction. 40 feet to impact. At this point, it sort of looked like he was becoming aware so I thought about yelling my intended side to pass, but instead I slowed down to about 10MPH. I figured that way I could simply wait for commitment and go the other way. It is an approach I often use when getting off a ski lift with beginners.

The pedestrian wandered right and then left. At this point, I took the decision to sweep wide right and pass through the door zone of the truck that I could clearly see was unoccupied. That seemed to provide adequate clearance even had the pedestrian suddenly broken into a run. I did make some friendly noises and wave stuff at this point. Actually, the pedestrian did the same, so I was happy I didn't scare the poor guy. I passed about three feet from the door. That’s a couple of feet closer than I usually come to any car door except when I’m the one opening it.

Really, operating on the public roads, we’re in a constant tug of war between the ultimate in safety and courtesy to other road users, while still wanting to get where we’re going without delay. I see cycling blogs often berate motorists for a “must pass” instinct, but they’re really doing what we all do, they just use a deadlier instrument than cyclists do.

Motorists STAY AWAY From Parked Car Doors. Why Would YOU Do Differently?
Over the last year, to a much greater extent than previously, I’ve noticed that lane position might be much more obvious to cycling, but motorists use it as well. If you feel forced into riding in a door zone by a substandard bike lane, or by fear of getting honked at, simply repeat the homework assignment. Where I ride, I NEVER see a motorist pass a parked car within a door zone. Why should you accept less?

Those Tire Tracks Reveal Motorists are Adjusting their Lane Position to Increase Clearance from the Curb and Other Motorists

On any road with light to medium traffic and occasional parked cars, without striped lanes, simply watch how your motorists pass those parked cars. Mine tend to do a swoopy action and pass so as to leave about five feet between their right door and the parked car. You don't see motorists voluntarily driving in any door zones. Most would rather wait for oncoming traffic to pass than pass close by a door. You might think that they simply don't know where the right of their car is. Perhaps, but if so, that means they'll pass YOU with the same or greater margin unless you encourage closer passing. Think about that...


Anonymous said...

Your pedestrian is a lot nicer than the wandering one that W and I passed from behind this weekend. Although we called (nicely!) out to her to let her know we were coming up from behind .... and to help her realize she was walking into where we had to point our bikes, she told us to eff-off!
Pissed me right off!

As for riding in the door zone.. If I have to do it, I ride super slow.. and pray.

John Romeo Alpha said...

I will accept this homework assignment. I am also struck how in many different road conditions with many different levels of traffic and many different parking conditions, we still call them all "door zone." Maybe like the cultures that have a gagillion different names for snow, we need to call them different, distinguishing names when they are different, distinguishable things.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the phrase, "tug of war between the ultimate in safety and courtesy to other road users". That describes drivers and cyclists quite well. And I accept the assignment. --Ron

veesee said...

Hmm, I'll keep an eye out for this. Down in Uptown, most street parking is the width of a normal lane, so when people park hard to the side of it there's plenty of passing space on the left remaining in the intended lane.

Okay, one thing I have noticed - when I ride on the righthand side of the righthand land, motorists have no problem squeezing the inches to pass me in the same lane. If, however, a "right turn only" lane happens and I ride in the second lane from the right (because I'm not turning) motorists are far more reluctant to pass at all. I think it's the curb that makes them all antsy in their pantsy, not the fellow human being.

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