Getting Doored Leaves Marks on Body, Mind

Getting doored down Floral Drive can cause a lot of problems. @Elrandomhero/

(When I found out that Kris was “doored” a little over a week ago, I asked him to write about it on Streetsblog. I didn’t push him to editorialize about it, something the reporter in him is loathe to do with his personal experiences. I think that it’s important for readers to understand where our team is coming from when we talk about issues such as bike safety or harassment on the train. – DN)

I don’t like riding fast through residential streets. They are too narrow, and people and cars are constantly coming from either side of the street. So getting doored while I was riding my bike down Floral Drive in East Los Angeles was a surprise. I was riding slowly uphill, and I have never been thrown off my bike by someone else’s actions.

Erick Huerta, or @elrandomhero on twitter, was riding ahead of me and noticed a man in his Dodge Camaro texting on his phone, but with his door opened slightly. Though I only had a second to maneuver around when he opened it, my right pedal still hit the door and knocked me off my bike.

The two-lane street doesn’t give much space to parked cars or cars themselves, so bicyclists usually end up hugging close to the sides of parked cars. This creates numerous blind spots for bicyclists like not seeing motorists exiting their vehicle or automobiles exiting driveways — lines of cars park so close to driveways that they act like a wall. If an automobile were trailing close behind me, a motorist’s alertness and good breaks would have been the only thing to stop me from ending up underneath the car since I landed in the middle of the car lane.

Which side hit the ground???? @elrandomhero/

The hit bruised my right arm and left knee, and warped my rim. The motorist’s face looked scared, maybe from the silent response I gave him when he asked if I was OK. I was shaken and pissed, but most of all I wanted to just walk away and repair my bike — I didn’t even ask him for money to fix my bike.

The man was a musician going to work a party at a house nearby. After waiting for a few minutes with me and Erick to see if I could ride away, he began pulling out his instrument from the back of his car.

I took  my bike immediately to Oriol’s Bike Shop three blocks from where I fell. The teenagers waiting at the shop asked what had happened. I took them through the step by step of my fall, and they asked me if I was injured, where it happened. One of the teens winced when I described the fall.

Getting hit, or getting doored is a similar fear many cyclists share, but don’t really care about until it happens. The bike shop owner said that one of his customer’s friends was riding fast through South Los Angeles and was killed by being doored. Stories like these, the shop owner said, are the reasons why he rides slow in narrow streets.

The bruises have almost healed, but that shaken feeling takes a lot longer to forget. Lately, I’ve been more sensitive to cars, sharp corners, and anything else that is in front or to the side of me. Even a few hours after the accident,I still felt imbalanced, like I could fall over if someone nudged hard enough.

But telling my story at the bike shop, I could sense the teens and the shop owners empathy. Even the bike shop owner was sympathetic and repaired my bike at a discounted price. I didn’t mind sharing my story with them, but the whole time I was just hoping to find a seat to rest.

  • Anonymous

    Sorry about your door collision.   However, judging by the photo you left yourself in harm’s way through several choices of form over function.  You have no helmet, were riding into the sun without sun-glasses, had an overloaded side bag with a distracting water bottle hanging off the side.   There also appears to be a U-lock that isn’t attached to the frame?   All of these accoutrments reduce your ability to maneuver and make you just as much a rolling hazard as the unaware drivers out there.

  • Mustxc

    not that its the most important of facts, but the picture has a ford mustang. Your article says “dodge camaro.” Camaro’s are made by Chevy not dodge. sorry i am stickler for facts.

  • Maryannurdiales

    Poor kris fortin!
    Nice to shine the light on this fear!
    Sana sana colita de rana<3

  • Daniela

    Getting doored is the worst (got an x-ray this afternoon b/c I got doored about a month ago). But Kris wear your helmet! 

  • Anonymous

    Stop riding in the door zone.

  • what’s with all the victim blaming? we should lower speed limits on residential streets and create cycle tracks on commercial streets to make cycling safer.

  • Anonymous

     We can’t control what other people do. We can only control what we do. Sometimes the victim is at fault.

  • Anonymous

    @traal:disqus I find that logic to quickly fail. The same could be said about any car/bicycle collision with that thinking. The person at fault is the person who broke the law by opening the door when the rider was there. While it is usually in your best interest to avoid the door zone, things happen, you misread the distance from the door you are, the car has extra long doors, you get buzzed and move to the right as a door opens. etc..  

  • Anonymous

    If your claim that defensive riding will prevent “any car/bicycle collision” is true, then why don’t we do it?

  • Anonymous

    @traal:disqus I don’t make the claim that defensive riding will prevent any car/bicycle collision. I apologize if that was not clear. I was pointing to the fact that with your logic, you can blame the victim for any car/bicycle collision. Person gets rear ended, well we can’t control what other people do, should not have been riding on the streets with those dangerous drivers who you can’t control. There are things we can do that can reduce some collisions, but the person who opens their door into traffic is at fault.

  • Anonymous

    Weshigh, there are some collisions bicyclists can’t avoid by following well known safe riding practices. But getting doored is not among them.

  • Bikesinla

    First of all I’m glad your injuries were not more serious and glad that Erick was there to document with photos and to be an alert witness. Many times cyclists ride with others and are involved in an incident (such as a collision, dooring, right hook) etc., and their friends do not document the incident. So much props to Erick.

    This picture speaks volumes, yes it is a narrow street, and if you look at it again, there is no safe place to keep you out of the door zone and at the same time risk the danger of being squeezed into the door zone by passing motorist.

    This street has many driveways and the parked cars make it difficult for motorist who are exiting these driveways to make it out safely, you can only imagine what it’s like when they back out of those driveways.

    Cyclists, legally have the right to take the lane on this street, and in my opinion it is the safest thing to do. This would make you more visible to people exiting these driveways, and take you out of the door zone and motorist will have to wait for a safe time to pass.

    I really hope that cyclist reading this post would take this incident as a learning opportunity on prepare themselves when riding and consider all the tips to reduce the chances of something like this happening.

    The motorist was at fault for not checking before opening his door. I would also highly encourage cyclist to gather the drivers info and take pictures of the driver and car license plates because you do not know if your physical injuries may be more serious later on.

    Hope to see you on the road soon Kris, RIDE WITH THE WIND ;)

    Carlos Morales

    P.S. – As a friend who knows how much you enjoy riding, please consider wearing a helmet – Don’t want to see my friends get hurt. :)

  • sahra

    someone once said that the sound of a door opening, to a cyclist, is the equivalent of the sound of a gun cocking. glad you’re ok, kris! it’s one of those things that definitely sucks, but always serves to make you a more hyper-alert rider.