on taking the lane while riding


This evening, while riding home from work, I was involved in my first ever bike vs. car door incident. As I was approaching a red light, a driver decided it would be a great idea to open his door without looking. I had maybe 1 second to react, swerved left, and was thrown from my bike as it bounced off another car. If I hadn't been able to react quickly enough, I would have crashed square into his open door at about 20km/h. I pictured myself being thrown onto the trunk of the taxi cab in the next lane, and was trying to pick my spot on the trunk to minimize damage to me. Thankfully, I was somehow able to stop before hitting the cab (have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE disk brakes?) and wound up just being thrown to the ground as I hit the cab. Thankfully all traffic was stopped, because it was at a red light. Who opens their door at a red light?

Getting up, I shared some pleasantries with the driver (a profound "WHAT THE *ahem* ARE YOU DOING? *jebus* *cripes*!") I pulled the bike off to the sidewalk to inspect the damage, and everything looked OK. I thanked the driver for his care and attention, and continued riding home.

This incident brought home three things for me.

  1. assume every car on the road is full of braindead cretins hellbent on your destruction.
  2. assume every car on the road is about to open its doors.
  3. claim the lane. don't ride so far to the right that an open door will kill you.

For the rest of the ride home, I tried to remember to claim the lane. It's harder than it sounds. Riding in the lane, rather than along the edge. It's intimidating, picturing traffic piling up behind. I was able to keep pretty close to traffic speeds, so that wasn't a problem (except on a couple of uphill stretches). But, I'm going to keep claiming the lane.

I stopped a few km later to inspect the bike. There was no real damage, except for a chunk smashed off the rear fender from when it bounced off a car. Nothing fatal, but I'll want to fill the gap so when riding in rain I don't get a rooster tail.

Things could have ended so much differently. If I had failed to react, or if I'd been only a few mm to the right, I'd have had at the least a smashed right hand. At the worst, I'd have taken the full impact on his door with my head, or bounced off the taxi.

Update: It didn't dawn on me until later that evening, but of the dozen or so cars stopped at the red light when I got doored, not a single person got out to see if I was OK. The driver that doored me asked "are you ok?" as he closed his door, but not a single person got out. Are people so insulated in their cars that they just don't care? Did it all happen so quickly that they didn't have a chance to snap out of their commuter comas in order to react?

Not a single person. This city can kiss me where I don't have a tan.

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