The Door Zone

People who ride bikes often raise safety concerns about ‘bike lanes’ marked on the road with a painted line beside parked cars.

These lanes leave no room for error as when the driver opens their car door, the unsuspecting rider can be pushed into traffic.

Sydney cycleway in door zone of parked cars

At the 2019 International Cycling Safety Conference, research discussed demonstrated these types of lanes produced some of the closest passes by motor vehicle operators.

An on-road observational study was conducted by Dr Ben Beck and a team of researchers at Monash University in Melbourne. They  fitted sensors to the bicycles of sixty riders. As a result, 18,527 passing events were recorded over 422 trips. 

One in every 17 events was identified as a close pass. This meant the motor vehicle driver left less than 100cm of space between the edge of their motor vehicle and the bike rider.

The median passing distance between the motor vehicle and the riders was 173cm. However, on average, drivers of 4 wheel drive vehicles passed 15cm closer to riders. Additionally, bus drivers passed 28cm closer.  

Commonly, drivers passing riders on roads with parked cars and a bike lane painted in the door zone, passed riders 40cm closer.  On-road bicycle lanes beside parked cars were identified by the researchers as reducing passing distances.

In campaigning for the State Government and Councils to build it for everyone, Bicycle NSW has called for safe, connected cycleways that are safe enough for children and older riders.  Research supports that door zone lanes aren’t safe enough.

“This research makes it clear to road planners and managers that better standards are needed to keep people safe riding bikes,” said General Manager of Public Affairs, Bastien Wallace.

Bicycle NSW has also held Bikes and Busses days with bicycle user groups to help promote safe passing.

“This research is a great reminder to anyone operating a large vehicle to make sure you leave enough space to pass people riding bikes safely,” said Bastien.

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