18 June 2012

Cyclist Fatally Doored In Queens

The stretch of Union Turnpike where a cyclist was struck and killed by a car door

What are the greatest fears of an urban cyclist?

I'd bet that many cyclist would say that getting "doored" is one of them.

It's something we all think about, particularly when we ride between traffic and the parking lane on narrow city streets.  I have been "grazed" or suffered a glancing side-blow from drivers opening their doors.

While my encounters with doors were painful, I escaped with injuries that healed with rest.  However, last night, someone on his way home from work wasn't so lucky.

A 39-year-old lighting technician whose name has not yet been released was riding eastbound on Union Turnpike, a major thoroughfare in central and  eastern Queens.  Although it's not far from where I work, I generally avoid Union Turnpike because it has the worst of two worlds:  highway traffic speeds and a parking lane where cars frequently pull in and out, or weave, as most of the Turnpike is lined with stores.  On the other hand, I can understand why he took the Turnpike, especially if he'd had a long day at work and wanted to get home quickly.  

Anyway, as he was pedaling, a driver opened his door.  The NYPD doesn't suspect any criminality on his part, probably because he remained at the scene after he realized what happened.  But even his action, and the help passerby gave the cyclist, were to no avail.  According to one eyewitness,  who said the Lord's Prayer over the victim, "The handlebar went right through his jugular" and "The blood was pouring out like a fire hydrant."  

According to Section 1214 (pdf) of New York State Vehicle And Traffic  Law, which regulates the opening and closing of vehicle doors:

No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of the vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
As police suspect no criminality on the part of the driver, they most likely believe he was acting in accordance with the above rule. I have posted it here, in case you live in New York and are involved in a "dooring" case in which you believe the driver was careless or had malicious intent.


  1. Two points:
    1 - I don't see how killing a cyclist with a door can be construed other than as interfering with the movement of other traffic.

    2 - Never ride within five feet of a car door.

    Careless door opening killed a human being and it appears that the NYPD do not care to enforce Section 1214.

  2. The fact that a person is dead would argue strongly that it was unsafe to do so, and it severely interfered with the movement of other traffic. In Massachusetts, the law now presumes that a driver that doors a cyclist is in violation of the law that they must only do so when it's safe. Intent, or lack thereof, shouldn't be the only factor.

  3. As much as these news stories upset me - I thank you Justine for putting it out there as an educational tool and as reminder to cyclist to stay safe out there on the road.