(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.
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.