"Hey, watch your door buddy!" Hundreds of times each day in San Francisco bicyclists holler some variation of these words as they pass motorists who carelessly swing open their car doors just centimeters from our unprotected bodies.
"Doorings," or being hit by opening doors of parked cars along the curb, are one of the most common causes of injuries to bicyclists in San Francisco. But also one of the most preventable.
Because we live in a dense, crowded city there is limited street space for all users. Too often, motorists parking along the street do not look behind them before they swing open the car door to get in or out of the car. Also too often, bicyclists place themselves in a hazardous position on the road - the dreaded door zone.
Why would any bicyclist ride in this risky spot? Many people simply don't know about the danger until it's too late. And others may feel too insecure about their right to the road as motorists zip by on their left, sometimes unwilling to share the road space that rightfully belongs to cyclists.
The safest thing we can do as cyclists is to ride legally and predictably - which means staying out of the door zone, or at least three feet away from a parked car. If you can reach out and touch a parked car as you pedal by, you're too close.
Many people feel a false sense of security in bike lanes. For instance, I've noticed a lot of people riding in the door zone on Valencia Street, even though the new bike lanes are plenty wide to ride at least three feet away from the parked cars.
Position yourself far enough out in a traffic lane or a bike lane to avoid the door zone. This is legal and essential to safe bicycling in San Francisco. If you get honks from impatient drivers, simply wave them by with your arm, or give them a wave of your choosing. You're not doing anything but riding right.