March 9th, 2011

Dooring: a defensive riding technique.

Ah, the door zone. It gives you three options:

1. Ride on the footpath, slowly, showing excessive courtesy toward pedestrians.

2. Ride a full car width away from parked cars, out in the lane drivers have been known to call theirs, because they think they pay road taxes. It's not theirs. It's public land. And they have extra responsibilities, attendant to their (current) legal right to travel at unnatural speed. So most of the time, if there are cars parked to the side, you will occupy the middle of the "car" lane. At this point I shall refer you, dear reader, to the Behooving Moving law of minimum speeds.  
3. At times though, occupying that lane could put you at risk. A swarm of cars may be racing toward your rear end—and doesn't everyone race to a cyclist's taught buns. When you are forced into the door zone, slow down, cover your brakes, and look into parked cars for any heads. Okay, so the worst happens: someone opens their door. You are only in the door zone because you're not 100% sure a car isn't beside you in the next lane, right?, so whatever you do, don't veer into traffic. Veer into the open car door. I know, it's counter intuitive, like Keanu Reeves shooting the hostage in Speed. It could be construed as a righteous assault upon whoever has doored you, but we could be talking about an innocent kid in the back seat, let's not forget. No, the aim is to purely minimize injury, to anyone, including yourself. So grab those brakes you've been covering, and aim for the middle of that car door. Stay silent, lest whoever opened it now try to close it, knifing you with the edge. The door is flexible (look folks, I'm speaking from experience here, having performed this little maneuver dozens of times), and is angled as to deflect you into the corpulent cushion of somebodies body.
You were already going slow, right? And you have gotten a hold of your brakes at least for a second. No-one has been terribly hurt. But you're going to act hurt. "OMG OMG!" you will say. At this point, watching you ride away is their best option. So be on your way. Leave driver education to the government, whoever. Only in the event that your expensive bike has been damaged, will you keep the driver at the scene until cops arrive. But really, how unlikely is that? Bikes are pretty tough. With this tactic firm in your head, I suggest you can be as relaxed as like this super cool dude in the door zone.

I've thrown in that last image up there, to highlight the stupidity of drafting, or leading bunch rides, alongside parked cars. There can be safety in numbers, but not on that part of the road. Riding home from races, I peel off from the group when it looks like they're about to do something like this. I've never bothered telling them they are risking their lives for the sake of male bonding. The smart ones read my blog anyway. 

So anyhoo, do let me know if anyone else out there in the blogosphere has such good advice. I've only ever seen popikok spruiked. The best advice is to only ride slow in the door zone, slow enough that you wont break whatever body part cushions your impact.