Noel Morales was pedaling down South Van Ness Avenue and about to make a right turn onto 22nd Street when an Uber’s door suddenly popped open in front of him.
Before he could swerve to avoid it, he lost balance and fell on the sidewalk.
The Uber’s final destination that Sunday at 2 p.m. was further down the street, but the passenger decided to get out while waiting for the red light.
Morales, who spent five hours in the hospital getting 10 stitches on his left ring finger, said he had only recently been thinking how lucky he had been. In eight years of riding a bike, he had been accident-free.
“And then I was doored,” he said of the Sept. 11 accident.
He’s not alone.
At least 200 similar dooring cases, in which a car door opening at the wrong time injures a cyclist, have been reported in the past five years, based on data from TransBASE. The total number is likely higher, as the data only includes incidents reported to the police. The most recent on record was all the way back in June.
There were 291 incidents in total; nearly 72 percent involved bicycles.
“The biggest problem we see is actually about Uber,” said Michael Stephenson, the founding attorney of Bay Area Bicycle Law. “A lot of cyclists who are calling us are getting doored by passengers. And we probably get 10 times as many complaints about Uber as we do about Lyft.”
Each dot is a dooring accident; click on each dot to see the time, type and severity of each collision.
To be sure, Uber’s market share is much larger than Lyft’s: 72 percent, compared to 28 percent, as of May, according to Bloomberg Second Measure.
A spokesperson for Uber said they were unaware of any data that supports the notion that many of these kinds of accidents involve Uber.
While it’s rare for a passenger to insist on getting out early, as happened in Morales’ case, most dooring incidents come about because drivers drop off their passengers in an unsafe place near a bike lane or in front of a driveway.
“It’s usually when there’s something going on, and a lot of people are being dropped off at once, and so there’s no parking for anybody.” Stephenson noted. “And we also see it during commuting times, because that’s when a lot of cyclists are coming and a lot of people are also getting transported by Uber.”
The injuries can be severe. Chris Colwell, the chief of Emergency Medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, said even helmeted cyclists can be badly hurt when they bike at full speed with no anticipation of an open door. Stephenson has dealt with cases in which a cyclist suffers lifelong brain damage; another nearly died after losing a lot of blood.
And sometimes injuries can be delayed, even if there is no clear and bleeding wound right after impact, added Colwell.
Stephenson is currently handling a case against Uber on behalf of a 59-year-old cyclist who developed early onset dementia, allegedly after being doored by an Uber outside of Moscone Center in February, 2018.
A hastily opened door can trigger a chain of events that leads to an accident, even if a cyclist avoids it or suffers only a glancing blow. In May, 2020, 30-year-old Devlin O’Connor was fatally struck by a second vehicle after he was doored on Frederick Street.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, an advocacy group for cyclist safety, has a tip page telling cyclists to stay away from the “door zone” and never to bike next to a parked vehicle. But on many roads in the city, this is aspirational advice.
In Morales’ case, there was only one narrow passageway for him between the car waiting for the red light and the car parked along the street. “I am not an urban planner, but I would love to see roads that allow the separation of pedestrians, bikers, and vehicles,” said Morales.
“If a cyclist has to bike past a car, even a parked one, slow down to a speed where you can stop at any time,” suggested Colwell.
Stephenson said another solution is to ask the ride-share companies to train their drivers better.
In 2019, Uber launched Bike Lane Alerts, and San Francisco was one of the first cities to get this feature. Riders receive a push notification informing them that their upcoming drop-off is near or along a bike lane, and reminds them to look out for people on bikes before opening their door.
“Part of the problem is, the passengers are sitting in the back seat, and there’s no mirror. So it’s harder for the passenger to see that the cyclist is coming. So I believe that Uber needs to train its drivers to check their mirrors and to then warn the disembarking passengers that a cyclist is coming,” said Stephenson.
For passengers, Uber also sent educational materials about using the Dutch Reach. This requires opening the vehicle’s door with the opposite hand, which requires twisting the body. This enables a driver or passenger to spot bike riders before opening a car door.
The core problem here is bicyclists, for a variety of reasons, being unwilling to use the full lane. But that’s usually the only effective way to avoid all types of crashes, including doorings.
“In Morales’ case, there was only one narrow passageway for him between the car waiting for the red light and the car parked along the street.”
Riding there is playing Russian Roulette. Take the lane!
I want to Thank you for covering this serious problem, (Education is the Key), and driver responsibility, (due dillgigence is neccessary), thank You! for being A Positive Force For Good.
I’ve biked in San Francisco for all the 35 years I’ve lived here. Two weeks ago, I was doored by a man exiting an Uber that was the third car stoped in traffic at a red light on Valencia street at 24th street. The man was apologetic but I sustained cuts/scrapes and broken and bruised ribs. The Uber driver simply drove away. I think that Valencia street Uber/lyft/food pick ups are a disgrace on Valencia street between 24 and Duboce. I think that DPT and SFPD should have staff out patrolling it to stop it. As one of the best and busiest bike streets it’s now become one of the most dangerous. I find these aforementioned drivers’ behavior outrageous – they don’t care as they stall or park directly in the bike lane.
It’s worth mentioning that, by law, it is always the responsibility of the car occupant to not open a door until it is safe to do so. https://krasneylaw.net/blog/california-dooring-law-places-liability-with-motorists-not-bicyclists/
So he was going to run the red light?
This 200 doorings is almost certainly a small fraction of the actual number, since I suspect most people don’t bother to report the incident. I was biking uphill (so slowly) when I was doored badly enough to cut my knee almost to the bone and I believe fracture my foot (I never had it x-rayed). Yet I didn’t report it. Why? The other person was genuine in their distress and apology—as they often are—and I was injured, didn’t have health insurance, and didn’t want to wait around for police, or god-forbid an ambulance I couldn’t possibly afford. I regret it, but still I bet that sort of thing happens more often than not. The dutch reach thing is one potential solution, I guess. I try and remember to do it. Probably most important is for cyclists to stay vigilant. I certainly have come to give doors more space since my accident, and pay close attention to cars that have suddenly pulled over, or when the engine has just turned off. Casting bicyclists as the problem here—that in other words they deserve it—is simplistic and unhelpful.
I urge all the angry drivers on this thread to learn the Dutch Reach method for opening their door using the arm furthest from the door. It makes you look back and makes it harder to open the door wide. Until covid, I was a regular bike commuter between Berkeley and Oakland. I did not blow thru lights or the other parade of horribles mentioned here (as if all cyclists were the same). I was doored in Albany when a parent stopped at a light across from an elementary school let his kid open the door on the passenger side without looking. Knocked unconscious and no memory of the accident. Minor injuries, brief vertigo. I had been to that crossing hundreds of time , always stopping and waiting for the light (lots of traffic on Marin).
The real problem is that they are passing cars illegally. Both left and right and then have the nerve to complain
Of course, scare up the usual ‘evil company’ excuse based on the flimsiest of evidence and completely ignore the hordes of wildly unsafe cyclists who act like everyone else needs to defer to their whims at all times.
In my experience driving down Folsom or S. Van Nes the bike riders double and triple up to the point of encroaching into the car lane and they ride like they own the road blowing through arterials, red lights and not giving right of way to pedestrians. This picture looks like the bike rider passed the car on the right because the Uber car slowed down to a stop. Bike riders are required to follow the same rules of the road as car drivers, which means no passing on the right.
When riding, avoid the door zone and take the lane. Crashing into an opening car door while riding at a leisurely speed of 12mph will result in similar injuries to riding off a 2nd story balcony onto the sidewalk below. Dooring is the single greatest threat to every cyclist riding in the city because it happens in a blink of an eye and it’s only avoidable by never ever riding in the door zone of any parked cars. Every day i see riders on Polk street riding right in the door zone of parked cars when the bike lane randomly ends north of Pine street because of the dangerous cars-first street design of Polk street.
Ride safe, and take the lane. When a car stops in front of you, go around well clear of its door zone. Don’t risk it riding through the door zone. If you ever ride through the doorzone, eventually you will crash into an opening door. The only defense is never ever ride through any doorzone under any circumstances.
Uber’s profits aren’t undercut by the costs the rest of us assume due to increased travel time, air pollution and accidents
Bicyclists are also a big part of pedestrian injuries. They ignore stop lights and stop signs and endanger pedestrians in the cross walks. I’ve been injured 5 times in the crosswalk by a biker, some with children in the bike seat. They yell at me like I was in the wrong. They also ride on the sidewalks rather than the bike lane. The Haight area and Market Street are the worst!
55 years as a motorcycle rider in the bay area. I’ve been de-horsed by door flingers twice.
People don’t care.
Look at all the trash people throw out of their cars. Lit cigs, food wrappers, bottles, cans.
If we could identify the perpetrators we would likely find they are not California natives .
I know that sounds like some nativist crap, but seriously who ever thought that 40 million people should live in this formerly beautiful place?
The same bicycle Coalition that says not to report bicycle theft because of the affect it might have on people of color?
LOL, What are they implying?
It’s hard to respect anything they say after a statement like this.
From Their website…
Bike Theft and Policing:
Black and brown people are often deeply harmed or even killed by interactions with the police, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition decided in 2020 to end any formal relationship with SFPD. Because policing is interwoven into nearly all current solutions to bike theft, some of our recommendations do involve minimal contact with the police, but we identify those and try to propose alternatives. We encourage everyone to consider the potential impact to human life of involving the police in any situation.
Black and brown people are far more often deeply harmed or even killed by interactions with other black and brown people… 35,000 have been killed, in just Chicago since 1958. Ten times more that the 3,500 killed in the the ENTIRE nation, in 86 years of lynchings.
Is there a way to enter a bike/car collision without filing a police report? I got whamped last week and flew over my handlebars and driver’s car hood, but didn’t file a police report. I would like to be included in the stats but…haven’t found a simple way to do it.
This is just a symptom of the of the greater issue with SF traffic flow: nobody gives a F about anyone but themselves or their app-based delivery and neither do the ‘police’.
Do taxis have this same problem? They are clearly marked. I am wondering if Lyft and Uber drivers had some kind of markings on the back of their cars that would alert bicycles so they can be informed as to what to expect that might help with this problem. Thank you for your article Ms. Chuqin Jiang. Very well written and the map you included speaks for itself. I wonder how other urban cities address this? Thank you.
Crossing Market @ Noe, the MUNI tracks force a cyclist to ride next to parked cars. There is no avoiding it… except by trying to ride in between the MUNI tracks (impossible to get there at a safe perpendicular approach). I wiped out HARD doing just that and slid across the busy intersection, just trying to avoid the door zone on Noe. After that, I just avoided that block completely, because there is clearly no safe way to ride it.
I’ve been doorprized multiple times even before uber
give us a break – this is NOT NEWS to us who have been cycling all over the city early AM – afternoons – PM
its that pple don’t think to LOOK – car stop and the passenger gets out on the street – i get prized by the window on passenger side THANKU idiots
Cars pass us – park and the idiots get out on the street side and BOOM
another door prize – lucky me – not to have crushed by car passing
Another item is bus stops while we pass then starts up in meantime a truck passing on our left – crush like caterpillars – lucky moi no injuries
sick of traffic OH YEAH and dumb cyclists all over the place who don’t know shtzzles about riding bike in city streets no signals – stop suddenly in lane – etc
screw it all
I’m 72. In the 1990’s I worked downtown and biked down Market and Montgomery to get to work. I was doored twice on Market. Once my bike was totaled. And once all I got was a split lip. I didn’t stop biking. But eventually I stopped working. I still bike everywhere but I learned I had to stop getting doored and the way I do that is I do not cycle next to parked cars or cars that have stopped in the street! In the few times when traffic forces me to, I cycle so slowly I could stop on a dime. In dooring, the cyclist has some control. Do not ever cycle next to parked cars or stopped cars, especially at any speed. When a door opens you’re going to get hurt.
A friend who worked at uber and commuted to work got doored multiple times, ironically by ubers as well. I wish employees internally pressured the company to do something as well.
Being a bicyclist… in this instance… I NEVER bike on the passenger side of cars OR squeeze between cars to go past unless I have lots of room.
I’ve seen other cyclist almost die squeezing by on the passenger side of busses and cars on Market before they restricted cars.
It’s honestly common sense slow down, stay where people can see you, have a bell, and just give space.
I thought that cyclists’ problems with cars would be solved once we replaced parking minimums with parking maximums.
Can we replace the SFPD with a law enforcement agency that gives a damn?
omg.i definitely agree with you.i had a dooring incident where the driver started to open their door,then seemed to change their mind,giving me the impression that it was ok to pass them,just to have them open up their door and my having no time to stop.now,im too paranoid to ride in the street and people will just have to get over it.
I don’t blame you. I am the same way after getting badly messed up by a tiny pothole that wasn’t easily seen at night going downhill.
Re: comments made by Iman and Wanda. Iman, I appreciate that you took the time to put the exact language the SF bike coalition has on their policy about reporting bike theft. It clarified their vision for me. I understood it to mean that Black and brown people are disproportionately policed in comparison to white people. The SF bike coalition divested from SFPD to prevent racial profiling that could result in the unjust arrest, detainment, etc, of folks of color.
Wanda-I am not sure where you’re data comes from and I am also unclear as to why you compare it to lynching. It was a practice used by white supremacists in the Jim Crow south and the legacy is continued in this present moment as Black and brown people continue to be murdered by police. It feels like an I’ll fit comparison to a report on cyclists being doored.
For those who defend UBER as a primary source of cyclists being doored: why protect a corporation as opposed to seeking education? We know Uber drivers ensure a tremendous amount of stress to do their jobs and that they are not liable for the actions of their customers. Educating drivers to tell their customers to use the aforementioned “Dutch method” or checking for cyclists and pedestrians is one solution to the problem.
I am a cyclist and an occasional driver and I’ve made mistakes that could’ve injured folks because of poor decisions, especially when in a hurry. Each time I learn that it is more important to slow down and pay attention to what’s going on around me.