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“Scene of a cyclist fatality that resulted from a dooring incident in a door-zone bike lane in Cambridge, MA”. Credit: humantransport.org

As I explained in my recent post, “Learning Bike Safety the Hard Way”, for a cyclist, getting doored can be emotionally and physically deflating. Getting back on the bike was an inspiring moment, although I found it important to recall my own experience to provide the Los Angeles cycling community with safety tips and the lessons I have learned in this experience. My last post focused on my own collision and recovery; below, I will discuss the experiences of others, dooring collision studies, municipal safety programs and my own ideas about cycling infrastructure and safety in hopes that cyclists will learn from the mistakes I and the perpetrator made- so they hopefully wont have such an experience themselves.

After my dooring accident in January, I heard many anecdotes from other cyclists about their experience being doored and how those accidents affect themselves or loved ones. One friend had a door opened in front of him and ended up flying over the door, yet escaped with a few minor scrapes. Another had a door opened right into his kneecap and felt excruciating pain, but was able to walk it off and get back on the bike about 20 minutes later. A woman I was speaking to about my experience told me that her mother had also been doored and required a year of physical therapy for her injured hand. I received a message from a friend who knew someone who was also doored recently: the victim suffered a dislocated shoulder, was prescribed two different pain medsications and missed a week of school. Throughout this unfortunate litany of injuries and accidents, a recurring theme was a lack of awareness from the individual opening the car door into the path of an oncoming cyclist. Because of this, I believe it essential that drivers be educated on the importance of observing their surroundings. It is also incumbent on cyclists to be aware of the door zone in order to reduce the rates of this entirely preventable accident.

In fact, in 2007 New York City started the “Look” campaign to address this issue following a 2006 report that showed “nearly all fatal crashes were the result of poor driving or bicycle riding behavior, particularly driver inattention and disregarding traffic signals and signs.” By using public education and outreach in campaigns, organizations and municipal agencies can teach individuals exiting their car to look for passing cyclists. In Northern Europe, individuals are taught to open their car door with the hand that is opposite the door (say, one’s right hand on the driver’s side, or one’s left hand on the passenger side), which would force an individual to look behind them for a cyclist before opening the car door. Cyclists should also use defensive riding techniques such as not being too close to vehicles that appear to be parked as there may always be somebody about to open their door!

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New York City’s successful bicycle and pedestrian safety campaign. Credit: New York City Department of Transportation

Tragically, there have been several documented cases across the world in which a doored cyclist lost their life, highlighting just how severe these accidents can be. A majority of the fatal dooring incidents involve the cyclist being struck by passing vehicles after being forced into the traffic lane to avoid being hit by the door. Most of these fatalities involve large vehicles like trucks or buses.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to find data on the total amount of dooring incidents that occur in Los Angeles in a given year. There is no “dooring” category for reporting purposes in the collision databases the state maintains. Because of this, it is a hidden, unrecognized hazard that is difficult for advocacy groups and municipal entities to quantify. Nevertheless, there have been some attempts to understand the rates of dooring accidents, such as a Chicago study that found dooring was the primary collision factor in 19.7% of bicycle crashes; in Boston, door zone collisions account for around 5% of collisions; in Santa Barbara, dooring accounts for around 16% of collisions. The League of American Bicyclists Guide to Safe Cycling suggests that the third most common motorist-caused bicycle collision is opening a door into the path of a cyclist, while cutting off a cyclist while turning, and running stop signs are the top two, respectively.

These experiences suggest the need for added bicycle infrastructure, such as segregated cycle tracks, to protect cyclists and identify a predictable space for them on the road. Outreach is also important, not only to highlight the risks cyclists face, but also illuminate the many benefits that can be realized when one uses a bicycle as their main mode of transportation. These include an active and healthy lifestyle as well as heightened spiritual, mental and emotional health that many cyclists enjoy. Los Angeles has some of the worst congestion and air pollution in the country; cycling serves to mitigate some of their negative effects as well.

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A young girl riding in this separated “cycle track” bike lane suggests the perceived safety of such a facility. Credit: Livin in the Bike Lane

Cyclists share a great deal of responsibility for traffic safety. Cycling has some inherent risks, so bicyclists must ride legally and alert at all times. Indeed, this collision could have been avoided if both myself and the woman who opened her door had been paying better attention and if we had not been in such a rush. I would suggest you take a look at the LADOT Bicycle Program’s recommendations on following California bicycle laws; with respect to the door zone, this means cycling at least three feet from parked cars. It is also advised that cyclists not pass cars on the right side (oops).

Despite the pain that I have endured throughout this experience, I am only more inspired to pursue bicycle safety and driver awareness in my work here at the LADOT Bicycle Program. Many individuals have a difficult time making that transition back to the bike after such fearful collisions- and so I dedicate my work to them. Although my ordeal wasn’t that severe, I am interested in exploring solutions to reduce the risks associated with cycling. Hopefully, this story and more like it will contribute to the discussion of implementing protected bicycle lanes, or cycle tracks, in the city of Los Angeles, which separate cyclists from the roadway and reduce the probability that a dooring can occur. Please feel free to share any of your own dooring experiences (or other collisions) in the comments below.

Chances are, if you ride a bike on any one of L.A.’s 6,500 miles of streets, you may end up seeing something that needs repair. Did you know that there is a quick, simple way of reporting these issues so that the city can address them?

By visiting MyLADOT Service Request on your home computer, phone or tablet, you can submit a service request and ensure that you’re sending it to the city department responsible for that type of repair.

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The MyLADOT Service Request form

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City of Los Angeles General Services Department works with LADOT Signage Crews to install corrals on Abbot Kinney

The LADOT Bike Program has just installed two more bicycle corrals as part of the City’s pilot program!  The two corrals, both located on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in the very bicycle-friendly neighborhood of Venice, are the new custom LADOT cyclestall design.  Both locations, one outside of Gjelina Take Away and the other outside Local 1205, are some of the oldest bicycle corral requests on the books from a waitlist of over 25 requests. The Bike Program is happy to finally deliver these corrals after much organization, coordination and planning! Councilmember Bonin is as excited about the new corrals as we are, saying, “One of the coolest streets in LA just got a lot cooler thanks to two new bike corrals that will let dozens of people safely park their bikes as they visit businesses in the area. Bike corrals are a great use of space and an excellent reminder that our streets belong to everyone – including those who travel on two wheels.”

Both corrals represent the LADOT’s most contemporary integration of bicycle parking on a city street, addressing issues relevant to all users whether they are pedestrians, drivers, or bicyclists.  By removing bicycle parking from the sidewalk, the corrals free up space for pedestrians and the sidewalk’s actual purpose: walking.  The corrals are designed with features that protect them from cars once they are in the street, including durable rubber wheel stops and object marker signage that will warn parking cars that they are approaching the corral.  From the bicyclist perspective, the corral design provides ample space between the curb and corral for bicycles to enter from the street in addition to being accessible from the sidewalk.

Our custom cyclestall design

Beyond the design layout, we wanted to follow up with why we chose the cyclestall hardware for the pilot.  Both the corral hardware and design have been implemented for their safety, as safety is our number one concern.  The cyclestall corral shape and orientation towards the sidewalk demarcates a clear transition for users: from being a bicyclist to being a pedestrian.  As people on bikes dismount in the corral, there is no confusion or opportunity for the now-pedestrian to enter the roadway- one’s only option is to safely approach the sidewalk, without any potential conflict with a car.

The Bike Program would like to acknowledge and thank our hardworking field crews for getting these corrals in the ground.  Installing a bicycle corral is no simple feat. LADOT Marking, Striping, and Signage crews, as well as our colleagues in the General Services Department, worked on the actual corral installation.

Installation crews hard at work

In case you haven’t heard enough about bicycle corrals today, let’s discuss a few ways that they can and will benefit the surrounding businesses and community.  Benefits of the corrals include, but are not limited to, turning one parking space into 12, protecting bicycles in their care, and increasing business visibility and promotion.  Corrals also provide general safety features to the street: calming traffic, and promoting driver awareness.

Don’t worry, we’re not done with our pilot! Next in line are corrals at Antigua Coffee in Cypress Park (3400 N. Figueroa St) and Laemmle Theatres in North Hollywood (5240 N. Lankershim Bl.).  If you are interested in getting a bicycle corral in your neighborhood, the first steps are identifying a maintenance sponsor and a viable location.  We consider applications for corrals on a first-come, first-serve basis and as mentioned, we have a wait list of over 25 corral requests.  If you are the owner of a local business who would be interested in having a bicycle corral outside your establishment, please take a look at the Bicycle Corral Information and Application:

For cyclists who have been involved in a collision with an automobile, the thought of getting back on a bike can be both daunting and liberating. Whether the collision occurred because the driver was impatient or unaware, because the bicyclist made a dangerous or risky maneuver, or because there was insufficient infrastructure, accidents force riders like me to re-evaluate the connection between our bodies and our bicycles.

The relationship between person and bicycle is manifested by the physical work of the body on the bicycle, and it takes on an entirely new meaning after you are injured. Riding my bike today for the first time since my collision three weeks ago, I felt this connection once again, albeit with a heightened understanding of the risks associated with riding.

My Experience

On the morning of Wednesday, January 8th, I was “doored” while bicycling to work. Getting doored entails the occupant of a vehicle opening their car door while a cyclist is approaching in the “door zone” (the 3.5-5 foot zone which an opened door typically spans into or obstructs the roadway), causing a collision. The technical language that applies in the California Vehicle Code is:

22517.  No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open upon the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

Admittedly, this was not a typical incident because I was attempting to pass a vehicle on the right side.  (Oops.)  We’ll get to what’s wrong with that in the next post…

I was riding in the right-most travel lane on Bundy Dr. We were stopped at a red light and there was a Santa Monica Big Blue Bus loading passengers at a designated bus stop.  I was late to work, and rushing to catch this particular bus. There was only one car stopped behind this bus, which I decided to pass on the right in order to mount the sidewalk and hurry onto my cross-town ride.

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Our back-of-the-napkin illustration of how the dooring accident took place

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Bike Week 2013

The LADOT Bike Program would like to recognize the hard work of Nate Baird and congratulate him as he begins an exciting new stage in his career as the Mobility and Healthy Living Programs Officer for the City of Long Beach. During Nate’s time as Bicycle Coordinator, he played an integral role implementing numerous bike projects and leading efforts to secure funding for future projects. His contribution to the future of bicycling in L.A. has been significant and his measured presence in the Bicycle Program is already missed.

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One of our largest and longest-running projects here at the LADOT Bicycle Program has been the development of bicycle wayfinding signage. We’ve recently made significant progress by working with the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) to place signs along the Los Angeles River Bicycle Path. As we continue to expand our bikeway network to serve more neighborhoods, it’s important for people to know how they can use the larger, citywide network to get where they want to go.

At this time, we have finished determining the specific information (destination, direction and distance) for each individual sign in the planned citywide wayfinding system. We’ve assembled all this information into the following interactive maps and a spreadsheet, which are presented below for your perusal. After the maps and spreadsheet, we discuss the background of the wayfinding project and explain some of the decisions that occurred during the design process.

Tips for using the maps: If no signs appear initially on the Google Map, you must zoom in and out a few times to make the signs appear. Each point represents a single sign location. Clicking on a point will bring up a pop-up window containing the location of the sign and the destinations the sign directs users to. Because of the amount of information being presented, we are grouping the signs by the following regions: 1) Downtown L.A.-Central L.A.- Northeast L.A. (this includes Boyle Heights and other Eastside neighborhoods), 2)Harbor & South L.A. 3) Westside L.A. 4) San Fernanado Valley. If the map has muiltiple pages, you must click through on the numbered pages in the bottom left corner to make the next page of signs appear on the map.

Please note that the sign locations as depicted on the map do not precisely reflect the individual poles to which the signs will be mounted; they’re merely intended to give a rough idea of where each sign will be in relation to the intersection. For this reason, the dots may appear in some odd places when you zoom in. We assure you that we aren’t going to install any signs on private property; all signs will be mounted to city sign poles within the public right-of-way.

Downtown L.A.- Central L.A.- Northeast L.A.

Click below to view the remaining maps and a downloadable spreadsheet of each sign in the system.

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Karina Macias, LADOT Bike Program Graphics Guru

2014 is a big year for the LADOT Bike Program identity!  For the past 8 months we’ve been blessed with the ultra talented Karina Macias, our pro-bono consultant who designed new Bike Program stickers, spoke cards, and took the Bike Program graphic identity in an entirely new direction.  The Bike Blog took a moment to sit down with this graphics mastermind to get to the bottom of her brilliant design strategy.

Bike Blog: Why #BikeLA?

Karina: “We wanted to encourage a community, within social networking, of people who ride their bicycle in LA. [#BikeLA] would be the easiest way for bicyclists to share their ideas and stories.  This is the Bike Program’s way of identifying with them and building a community around bicycling.”

Bike Program Sticker by Karina Macias

Bike Blog: Why green?

Karina: “Bikes mean money… I mean, green is a comfortable color.  The Spring Street bike lanes are green and it makes bicyclists feel comfortable.”

Bike Blog: What about the spoke cards?  I see there’s a golden ticket…

Karina: “With the City of LA’s growing bikeways network, I felt this was the Bike Program’s way of giving bicyclists a golden ticket to a transportation network, to pedal powered transportation.”

This is your Golden Ticket!

Bike Blog: And the anatomy of a safe bike?

Karina: “That stems from my own ignorance of what a safe and well maintained bike should look like.  I wanted to share with everyone what I researched.”

Anatomy of a Safe Bike

Karina also designed a very handy spoke card that outlines the rules and regulations every Los Angeles bicyclist should know and carry on their bike.  The card includes both State and LA City bicycle laws.

Rules and Regulations Spoke Card side 1

Rules and Regulations Spoke Card side 2

We are so proud of these new promotional materials! Please stop by an outreach event soon to stock up on our fun, informational, and awesomely designed stickers and spoke cards!

And, if you want, you can follow Karina on Twitter! @kmacfromla

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