“Minor Bike Collision – What would others do in such a situation?”

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Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric Spiegel

“Dear PoPville,

I was in a minor bike accident near Logan Circle recently. A driver opened his door into me, which, in turn, knocked me into another vehicle. I was more shocked than injured–thank goodness–although I have a massive black and blue knot on my leg.

The door-opening-driver was unapologetic and did not even ask if I was alright. He did not believe he was at fault and, in fact, proceeded to blame me.

The driver of the vehicle that I was knocked into was much more considerate and concerned for my well-being. This driver exclaimed that he did not blame me and that it was the fault of the door-opening-driver. He then proceeded to demand the insurance information, etc. from the door-opening-driver.

The door-opening-driver also happened to be an on-duty transportation service provider (the company is irrelevant). So, I snapped a pic of his license plate and have reported the incident to his employer.

My point in sharing this in not to tell my sad little story, but to ask what is the standard procedure after a bicyclist has endured a minor incident, such as being struck, bumped, knocked over, etc.

I feel that reporting him to his employer is sufficient in this case; however, I’m not sure what I would have done if it were even a slightly more serious accident. Should I have called the police? Should I have asked for the door-opening-driver’s insurance information?

Would have others done or what would others do in such a situation?

Also, I just want to give a shout out to driver of the vehicle that I was knocked into as well as all of the kind pedestrians and fellow bikers who asked if was OK and offered comforting words. I truly appreciate everyone’s kindness and consideration.”

54 Comment

  • From WABA’s pocket guide.
    A cyclist has been “doored”. Who’s at fault?
    The person in the car. Section 2214.4 reads,
    No person shall open a door of a vehicle on the
    side where traffic is approaching unless it can be
    done without interfering with moving traffic or
    pedestrians and with safety to himself or herself
    and passengers

    Thank you WABA for this amazing resource. http://www.waba.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/PocketGuide-Sept-2015.pdf

    Based on this, I would have asked the door-opening car for their insurance information AND filed a police report.

    • thanks for this, I always wondered as well. On the other hand, if you are doored while weaving through traffic and in between lanes, I would think the driver would not be at fault? Or yes?

      • I believe “lane splitting” is legal in DC, where safe to do so – i.e. slow speeds. Correct me if I’m wrong. If so, that would not absolve the car from first checking it was safe to open their door.

  • The person opening the door without first checking to see if it is safe to do so is at fault. I one time did that while parked in Adams Morgan and almost got my door whacked off by a police car. The officer stopped, got out and lectured me about looking before opening. I didn’t get a ticket though.

  • Glad you’re not hurt. You should report it to WABA as an FYI, because they can help provide resources and info on any legal recourse. I think it also helps with statistics etc – I reported an incident with an aggressive DPW driver and they were very helpful with track down who I could lodge a complaint with.

    Also, the driver should have been fined by the police (even though it is a piddly $50). And burn in eternal hell fire.

  • exchange insurance information and call the police if the driver won’t give it to you.

  • I definitely would have called the police, especially if the person opening the door refused to admit fault and blamed me. It could be good to have a police report, and very good to potentially get the door-opener a ticket for his troubles. It’s the only way some people learn to take responsibility for their actions.

  • Doing what you did was proper, but you should have done more. First, you may end up with more injuries than you realize…although you were probably feeling fine, its not unheard of for adrenaline to hide some of the aches and pains you might have later (.e.g. a trivial rear-ending can given you serious neck problems from whiplash even if not immediately apparent — same with a bike accident). ALso, given that your fall may have damaged the second car, they may have a claim as well. You or that driver should have had the police come and take an accident report to formally document the incident. You should also have insisted that the door opening driver provide insurance information, and remind him that police were on the way and leaving would be much worse for him. The fact that you got his license is good, but having an accident report would be better. Please do report him to his employer as well.

    This also goes to a more general point: when you have an accident that is enough to knock you off your bike, I think that is by definition serious enough to warrant some sort of accident report etc. The door opening driver was careless, and it doesn’t sound like he’s going to learn a lesson from this. His employer needs to be aware of his recklessness and he should have such an incident go on his driving record.

    Its important that

  • Agreed. I would have called the police to report the incident. If nothing else, you have the police report to dispute any claims from either driver’s insurance companies and info in case of any future medical problems that don’t appear because you are full of adrenaline. Glad that you are ok, OP.

  • Call the police regarding something like this immediately, they will take down a report and take witness statements… you don’t want to be in a situation where the driver who opened the door on you continues to lie and could get out of it.
    .
    Great job in taking a picture of his license plate, I would immediately notify his company – although again, this is where police come in, as with notifying his company they may deny what happened and be on his side, not yours. Police report would help with this.
    .
    I’m a fellow bicyclist and driver myself, and I can tell you what the door-opening-driver did was irresponsible and rude. I hope that you are alright and am glad others asked if you were okay as well. I always make it a point to observe all my surroundings before opening my car door so that I don’t open it while an oncoming bicyclist is near.

  • You definitely should have demanded his insurance information. I accidentally doored a biker a few months ago. Thankfully he was unhurt, but I janked up his bike pretty well and my car door wouldn’t close after the fact. I reported it to my insurance and they paid for his bike repair and my door repair. Ditto the commenter who points out you may not have realized the full extent of your injuries. It’s good to get insurance information for that reason alone.

  • +1. Definitely file a report in case something bubbles up down the road.

  • I think it is clear from this account that this person didn’t just make a mistake – they deliberately did not want to take any responsibility for an action that is illegal and subject to a fine.

    And having almost been doored half a dozen times in DC, I think I am free to pass judgment on people who open their car doors without looking and then refuse to accept any responsibility (or even apologize).

  • That was a response to Philippe – not the rest of you.

  • Yeah, you did ok. Deciding on whether to call the police and deal with them an insurance companies is a choice.
    .
    The one time I was hit in a minor collision on my bike, by a left-turning driver when I was proceeding straight through the intersection going downhill, which was why I could swerve some to get out of her way when I saw her coming at me, but couldn’t get away completely – as lease she was apologetic about just not seeing me – I didn’t call police. My bike frame was warped and unusable after that. I was scraped, and my back messed up. But I just wanted to go. I knew my chiropractor would sort me out.
    .
    Same with the four times I was hit in my car – not my fault – just sitting in my stopped car – once in line at a toll booth, once in a shopping center driveway, and twice on the street waiting for a light, when the car ahead of me decided to just start up from a stop and back up into me, without bothering to look to see if there was car behind them. Each time, I suffered whiplash, but I just went on my way. You don’t feel the back and neck injuries until the next day usually, but when you’ve been hit enough times, you know when the hit is hard enough to cause whiplash. I just wanted to get away from those evil, stupid, nasty, not apologetic people who claimed they weren’t at fault when they clearly were – it is a common reaction, I find. And not deal with police, who can be horrible any time if they so choose to, or take hours to show up. Or the paperwork and calls of dealing with insurance claims.
    .
    I don’t regret my choices – it is a choice whether a minor injury is worth going through all that hassle. I’d rather pay for a few chiro visits than deal with all of that – not worth it. And it isn’t like I can’t do paperwork and calls and work out stuff – that’s what my profession involves doing. I just do a cost/benefit analysis about my time and the hassle factor.
    .
    Of course, if I’m ever hurt worse than I think I am when first hit, that’ll be a problem, but so far my judgment about the extent of my injuries has been good, and hopefully it will be good as well to know if I’m ever hurt worse that i need to call the police right away and deal with insurance claims, etc.

  • I think most relevant points have been made, but this one should be said at some point as well:

    Cyclists should avoid riding in the door zone. It and the right or left hook are top reasons for collisions with vehicles. Avoid it in the traffic lane and avoid it in the bike lane, even though faulty bike lane designs in most instances overlap considerably with the door zone.

    • so stay clear of the parked cars but also stay clear of safetrack insane DC traffic ? Would you mind sharing how this feat is feasible ?

  • WABA has a great smartphone App designed specifically for this type of situation. It walks you through all of the steps you should take immediately following a crash. As a word of advice, even if you think you’re fine, don’t say it, as insurance companies will try to use that statement against you. Injuries can sometimes take a little while to show up, so it’s best to stay ambiguous with those statements.

    Glad you’re doing okay. Another reminder of how important it is to end contributory negligence!

  • Seconded on the WABA app!

  • +1,000 to TJ. Was going to make a similar comment in response to Huma’s comment that did not thread correctly.

  • That’s good advice, TJ. It really is poor design that cyclists can be easily doored while riding in the bike lane. I’ve also forced myself to ride slower when commuting to (hopefully) assist with identifying hazards before they hit me. I’d also recommend that cyclists continue in a straight line when going thru an intersection rather than curving toward the crosswalk b/c cars will drift right to take up the space you vacated and suddenly the bike and car occupy the same space at the other side of the intersection.

  • If that mistake can easily kill someone, then yes.

  • Always call the police. My husband hit a biker a few years ago. She was fine, just a few bruises. She refused medical treatment and didn’t want to report it. A year later he gets a letter saying that she’s suing him for hospital bills. Even if you’re fine it’s good to have a record of what happened. You never know when it’s going to come up later. Glad you’re okay either way though!

  • this is one of the few redeeming qualities of salmoning. you have a much better chance of staying upright as can you bounce off the doors rather than do a hard stop.

  • a $50 fine for injuring someone through sheer careless = “condemned straight to hell”

    lol

  • Last night, as I was driving up 15th St., I realized I was anxiously waiting for the traffic to clear so that I could move to the left lane – I realized I find it safer when driving to not be in the right lane where I can be doored (or hit by people pulling out of parking spaces, or risk hitting people jaywalking from between parked cars where you don’t see them right away) as well as when biking. Maybe it is all my years of biking in other large cities (I rarely ride on the street in DC, just the bike trails, as I find this place so dangerous for bikers), but I realized I’m constantly on the lookout so I don’t get doored, even when driving.
    .
    Dooming is, and always will be a problem – it is a kind of design flaw in the system (because people are stupid – I usually look before opening the door, but sometimes have caught myself not doing so). Hopefully technology in cars will deal with it someday (perhaps beeping loudly at you if something is detected coming up in the space that the door will open into – that shouldn’t be that hard to incorporate into auto design.)

  • If it had been me I would have dodged the door. But that’s just how I roll. Glad you are not hurt too badly! Next time I would call the police and file a claim with their insurance. In the moment you could be shaken up and miss an injury that requires medical attention. The driver’s insurance is on the hook for it.

  • I’ve been doored while riding in a bike lane and called the police and got a lecture on: 1) why riding a bike was unsafe, 2) that i was too close to the edge of the road (what? that’s where they put the bike lanes), and 3) told I was “probably riding too fast.”

    basically, I waited around for the police to show up just get lectured by them and they refused to take a report. adding insult to injury (i was bruised up pretty badly) I ended up being late to jury duty and got an earful from the judge.

    Basically, if nothing is broken I just don’t bother calling the police anymore. Since they refused to file a report, my accident didn’t show up in any statistics, and I couldn’t make a claim for my front tire that was mangled. Just because the law clearly says the driver is at fault for dooring a cyclist doesn’t mean the police will care.

    • For those in such situations in the future, I’d suggest asking the responding officer to summon their supervisor who should be able to force a police report to be produced. If there’s an injury it seems the police have a responsibility to document it, not make it “disappear” by being belligerent. The MPD’s own guidelines suggest that if anyone involved in the “traffic crash” reports an injury then a report called “PD Form 10” should be filled out (see page 3, V(A)(1)(a)): https://go.mpdconline.com/GO/GO_401_03.pdf

  • I’ve been “doored” three times. All three times I called the police, and all three times I was told by the police that this was the right thing to do. In one case, a post-accident visit to the doctor revealed hairline fractures.

    Always, always, ALWAYS get the information of the person who hits you and call the police. If they won’t give it to you, take a photo of their car and license plate for the cops.

    Drivers who “door” are 100% at fault.

  • To J – the fine is worth laughing at, given that people in this thread have mentioned injuries they received and not everyone has insurance or great medical insurance. I believe the proposed new law increases the fine, which is scheduled to become law in the fall.

    When you’re doored or confronted by someone who doesn’t think dooring is a mistake, then you will understand my anger.

  • Delete your account

  • gotryit

    jerseygirl
    On other issues where the responding officers weren’t doing the correct thing I’ve had success asking them to contact their sergeant. Something along the lines of “I think the law is XXX. Please call into your sergeant to confirm.” If they don’t, then make the call yourself. The sergeants usually know enough to make the right call.
    I’d also follow up in your case about the things the officer told you since that’s inappropriate. Those guys should get feedback from their supervisors to knock it off.

  • I have been doored twice and both times I was riding in the bike lane.

  • don’t need the other side. illegal for car occupant to door a cyclist. end of story. Refusing to share insurance information is an additional offense, as is leaving the scene of an accident

  • jerseygirl – This is exactly what I was going to ask, does anyone know if the police will make a report if there is no injury? I’ve only been in an incident where another guy hit my car with his car, we waited around for the police only to hear them say they can’t file a report unless someone has been injured. Not sure if this is how they deal with bikes as well.

  • driver could very well get fired for leaving the scene of an accident. If driver had a fender bender with another car he would be able to just dismiss that person even if he felt he was 0% at fault. not sure why it’s any different for an accident with a bike.

  • The one time I was doored (while in a bike lane) I was riding in the lane away from the parked cars and was hit by someone throwing open the back door exiting a cab mid-block. I was purposely avoiding the door zone, and still got doored (he literally opened the back, passenger-side door the exact second I was next to the cab; pushed me into the parked car on the other side of the bike lane and did minor damage to my bike, but was incredibly apologetic and took full responsibility, paying for all bike repairs). Just saying that it’s not as clear-cut as “avoid the door zone.”

  • I find it frustrating that DC has a vision zero plan, but not all agencies are fully on board. I called 911 when I was doored, and the dispatcher told me that there was nothing they could do. I hung up and called back and reported it as a hit and run, which got more attention — when I confronted the driver about getting doored, they cursed at me and drove off. I got a partial plate #, which I provided to the dispatch and police who eventually showed up about 20 minutes later.

    At this point, after waiting for the police to show up, and then getting lectured about my how cycling in the city is unsafe, I unfortunately I didn’t have time to wait around for a sergeant to show up or get one on the phone. It was like pulling teeth to just get the first cop to show up, and I was already running very late.

    I think my point really is that I think while it’s always probably a good idea to get the police involved, there is no guarantee that they will care. My front wheel was pretty much taco’ed, so while I was only bruised there was damage caused by the accident.

    Of course reporting a bad driver to their employer might not do anything either. I got side swiped by a metrobus a few years ago and when I reported that to WMATA I also pretty much got the brush off. I just ride defensively and assume the powers that be aren’t looking out for me. It’s a hazard of being a cyclist in the city.

    • I was side swiped by a metro bus as well, it didn’t stop. Passengers on the bus were looking at me in shock. I also called WMATA and was directed to various voice mailboxes each time I called. Not a single one of my messages was returned. But that lack of response was pretty much on par with every other interaction I’ve ever had with a WMATA employee, so I wasn’t surprised.

  • Newer Audi cars have an available option that warns of oncoming bicyclists or traffic when an occupant tries to open a door. I imagine other manufacturers are also rolling out a similar feature, although I have not looked into it.

  • A professional/commercial driver is almost certainly required by his employer, and possibly by law, to document and report all accidents involving him as a driver or his vehicle if resulting in a possible injury or property damage.

    He’s is delinquent in his responsibility. It’s possible he has previous strikes and this would be really bad for him. Maybe he doesn’t know the rules. Or maybe he just cuts corners.

    Anyway, you should definitely report it. If there’s any damage to your bike, or additional injury, their insurance will compensate you. They’ll probably offer to settle with a bit of gravy on top to try to get you to sign a binding agreement not to sue.

  • Good question. Can you give an example of where someone would be [legally] opening their door not from the right-most lane after pulling over (assuming it is even legal to lane split per the reply below)?

  • Sounds like this would apply to a cab, stopped in a travel lane, where the passenger flings open the back door on the right side of the vehicle, into the bike lane. In our case, 2014, the driver just sped off and left the victim on the road, to talk to the nice passenger — who couldn’t really do anything but apologize. Police, EMTs had zero interest in the driver of the cab.

  • Whether driving a bicycle or a car or walking, ALWAYS try to get photos before cars or bikes have moved, get witnesses phone numbers if they can’t stay, and then move vehicles out of the way ASAP. Drivers are required to provide insurance info but many will flip the script when they speak to their insurance company. These days DC cops often won’t write tickets even when fault is obvious.

    My car was hit by a guy making a left turn from the right lane on 12th at downtown. The police officer, who said it was definitely his fault, agreed to talk to his insurance company. At that point I thought it would be over – but an idiot at his insurance company said of the officer, “That’s just her opinion.” There is no penalty to them for lying, and the company just wants to deny claims. Witnesses who were not involved will be extremely helpful if there are some who are willing to share their information.

    I had heard that in DC, leaving the scene of an injury accident can result in jail time. Anyone know the regs? Politely stating this might convince someone to stay around.

  • DC Police have a guide showing commonly cited, but actually legal, bike-related incidents. That guide shows that by DC law, the driver opening the door is at fault. You should call the police and get a report.

  • It’s not illegal, so it’s legal. The only backstop is it is illegal to drive/bike recklessly. Passing stopped vehicles at <10mph is not reckless, and probably not even negligent.

  • Wanted to say I had something like this happen to me once. Had to make a sudden swerve into the next lane to avoid being hit, just as the car in front of me in that lane was stopping quickly. Clipped the bumper. Car who caused it all just drove away. Wanted to say like in your case the driver of the car I hit was kind and concerned, rather than raging angry (after all, I had hit their car). I really appreciated the empathy and compassion.

  • Just want to reiterate that you should take precautions after an accident, even if feel fine right after. This has happened to me twice, where I get in an accident (once in a car, once I got doored while on my bike) and thought I was fine, but I ended up with a concussion. Broken bones can take a few days to show up on xrays; concussions can be masked by adrenaline; whiplash and other soft tissue injuries can take a while to manifest. So do your moms and doctors a favor–get their insurance, and at least think seriously about getting checked out by a doctor.

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