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When a cyclist gets “doored” by a car who is liable?


Even though Winnebago County is continuing to create a much more bicycle-friendly and safer environment, there are still dangers that cyclists need to look out for. One is inattentive drivers, and the other is the possibility of getting “doored.”

In addition to cyclists having to be hyper-aware of traffic, cars, trucks and pedestrians, they also have to be watchful of people who have just parked their cars and are about to open their doors.


Who is liable when a cyclist gets doored?

Who is liable when the driver or passenger opens the door, causing the cyclist to collide with it: the cyclist, the passenger, or the driver?

If there are bicycle lanes, cyclists must drive in them when traveling on a roadway. If there are no lanes, they are to ride in the right lane of traffic, which puts them in danger of getting doored, as they pass numerous parked cars.

The law is that drivers and passengers are supposed to see if there are any bicycles driving by them (or other traffic, for that matter), before opening the door. Therefore, if a cyclist is doored, the driver or passenger is liable.

Where it can sometimes get sticky, is when getting doored happens where there isn’t any traffic. Then the person opening the door might try to claim contributory negligence, saying the cyclist had plenty of room to avoid the open door. In this case, the defendant would try to prove that the bicyclist was partially responsible.


How dangerous is “dooring”?

Although there are fatalities due to a motorist opening a door in the path of a cyclist, it appears, in some situations, to be safer than other types of bicycle collisions. The extent of injury depends on how fast the cyclist is riding, how hard and fast the door opens, and whether the cyclist is hit by another car when trying to avoid the open door.

To avoid an accident, cyclists need to be very cautious of their speed in heavy traffic where cars are parked, and drivers and passengers need to check their mirrors and be sure the door-zone is clear of cyclists before opening the door.


How safe are bicyclists in Wisconsin?

How bicycle-friendly is Wisconsin compared to other states? According to the League of American Bicyclists, Wisconsin ranks 26th in the nation in bicycle friendliness, with 17 bicycle-friendly communities, 41 bicycle-friendly businesses and 6 bicycle-friendly universities.


The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office has published online a list of Bicycle Safety Tips. You can read about Wisconsin bicycle laws here.


If you have any questions about this article, please contact us.

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