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Tips to help you avoid getting hit by a car door

You try to be a safe cyclist. You wear a helmet. You ride in the bike lanes. You understand that there are risks, but you keep a close eye on the traffic moving around you and you try to reduce those risks as much as you can.

But what about traffic that isn't moving?

After all, one of the largest risks that you face comes from those parked cars that line the city streets of New Haven. If you don't have a bike lane, you ride as close to that side of the road as you can. Even with a bike lane, you don't have much of a buffer zone.

Motorists often do not think about cyclists and do not check to see if any are approaching. They just swing the door open and step into the street. If you're riding by at that moment, the door swings into your path.

Now you have two options: Hit the door or swerve into the road, risking an accident with a moving car. And that's if you have time to react at all.

As you can imagine, no matter what you do, you could get seriously hurt. Here are a few tips that will help you avoid this type of accident:

  • Stay toward the left side of the bike lane. Give yourself as much space as you can. The cars passing you on the left need to give you space, as well. Trust that they will and stay away from parked cars where people may not have seen you.
  • Stay on the same line and be as predictable as you can. For instance, there may not be a solid wall of cars. You have breaks where you could move over and ride next to the curb. Doing so puts you farther from traffic and feels safer, but it makes you invisible to people in those parked cars. Stay on the same line on the outside of the bike lane so there is no confusion.
  • Know the risks and keep your eyes open. If you watch a car pull into a spot, keep an eye on it to see if anyone gets out. Be ready to react. Watch the cars and do not get distracted by music or anything else.
  • Look for paths with less risk. If there are specific bike paths, use them. Even if there aren't, you may find it easier to ride on streets where cars park on the opposite side of the road every other day, giving you chances to avoid riding next to them.

There is nothing you can do to guarantee you won't get hurt in an accident. When it happens, take the time to look into your legal options to seek compensation.

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