Va. House panel OKs ban on 'dooring' bicyclists


“Dooring” may not be a household word yet, but it’s on the way to becoming a traffic infraction in Virginia.

It’s what occurs when someone opens a car door into a lane with moving traffic and a bicyclist slams into it.

Sen. Chap Petersen’s legislation (SB736) would forbid opening a door into moving traffic “unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so.” A violation would carry a $100 civil penalty.

The bill, which has already cleared the state Senate, got a 4-2 thumbs-up from a House subcommittee Wednesday and now goes to the full Transportation Committee.

Dooring is “a significant injury factor” for bicyclists, Petersen, D-Fairfax County, told the panel.

Michael Gilbert of Ride Richmond, a bicycling group, said dooring is already illegal in 40 states.

Petersen’s measure may be bicyclists’ last hope for bike-friendly legislation in the 2013 General Assembly. A bill to outlaw tailgating bikes (HB1950) failed in the House last week.


Posted to: News Politics State Government Traffic - Transportation Virginia

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Do we really need a LAW to

Do we really need a LAW to prevent this? Have some common decency and pay attention, drivers and bikers alike.


Obviously, they don't!

Do we really need a law?

Unfortunately, yes we do. In Subcommittee, the Virginia State Police stated that they saw no problem with this law. We have lots of laws that we wouldn't need if all drivers and cyclists exercised common sense all the time, but they don't - neither drivers nor cyclists. A moving cyclist or driver has the right of way vs a vehicle (or any part thereof) entering the road. The problem has been that without a law, cops have nothing to cite the motorist for when it is clearly their fault. As a result, no ticket is issued, and the injured party (cyclist or driver) is disadvantaged in a civil proceeding or in trying to collect insurance. Most insurance companies do consider the dooring driver to be at fault, but it's a question of proof.

aw gee.....

a moving bicycle hits a parked car and somehow it's the parked car's fault? No wonder you have so much time on your hands to spam this blog - obviously your judgement as an attorney (if you are one) is impaired.


Dear Fish_witch, I am in fact an attorney and this law does not allow cyclists to run into parked cars, it makes people liable for placing obstructions into moving traffic. It does not matter if the traffic is a car, a truck, a bike or a broomstick. The moving vehicles generally have the right of way. By the way, you're not really a witch, are you?

What about........

Fine if bikes want to play in the road with cars then they can stop in place at their appropriate place in the line of traffic when they come to a red light. They should not be able to pass cars, pull to the front and then force the need to pass them again a second or third time by vehicles. You can't be both a bike and a vehicle and play by both rules.

Roads are for people

Your comment betrays a limited knowledge of the history of roads and the rights of road users. Cyclists in the road are legitimate users Virginia Code 46.2-800 et seq. Just like cars. Most roads in US cities existed before automobiles were invented. Roads should be safe for all users. Yes, cyclists should obey traffic laws. So should drivers. Until 100% of drivers obey all laws all the time, the notion that cyclists do not deserve protection because some don't follow traffic rules some of the time is utterly without merit. Even when cyclists don't follow the rules, they rarely hurt anyone but themselves. Motor vehicles have killed over 3.5 million people since 1899, That's more than all US war deaths and domestic gun violence COMBINED.


Another dumb, waste of time move... Can we get on to the real issues???!!!

Real issues

According to the Virginia State Police, it's a real issue and this is a sensible measure, already adopted in 40 other states.


Troll Alert!!! Troll Alert!!!


Like an assault. Wonder if the penalty will be much different?

An assault??

If you did it on purpose, perhaps, but simply opening a door when you fail to see a bicycle coming is just an accident.

What this law does its to add an presumption the accident is a result of negligence and thus criminal, rather than just civil liability.

I'm not really sure that presumption is justified as I have often seen bicycles come up behind a parked car and then swerve out just before they get to it to go around. That makes their approach difficult to see.

We should all be careful when opening a car door, but remember that the person in the car is looking behind, probably in a mirror, and has a restricted view, while the cyclist is looking ahead and has the opportunity to see that the person is about to emerge.

What this law does

is add a recognition that the accident is a result of negligence and thereby give the injured party a legal standing when a court is deciding civil liability. Prior to this it was the cyclist who was held legally responsible for striking the obstacle flung into his travel lane by inattentive motorists.

again the attitude of victimization and entitlement.

No one is 'flinging' anything into your path, they are simply getting out of their car.

Bicycles, even properly ridden, are hard to see, especially because of the way a person's mind works. When they look in that left side mirror to see if its clear, they are looking for cars and trucks. They are not accustomed to being passed on the left by a bicycle and the mind registers what it is looking for. It often doesn't register a bicycle if it is where it is not expected any more than you see the details of the background when you are ridding. You see the tree you might hit, you don't see the squirrel sitting on one of the branches.

They are not being negligent, they are being human.

Be aware of that when you ride and you won't get hurt.


The law does not apply only to cyclists, it applies to any operator who hits a door if the person opening the door does not look before opening. If cyclists are too hard to see, then you are not looking hard enough. Open your door a crack before swinging it wide open - that gives the cyclist or driver in the road, who has the right of way. at least a warning that you are getting out.

For a bicycle to hit a parked car

sounds like its the bicyclist that's inattentive.

An accident still gets you a ticket

Cyclists do not have xray vision. We cannot see INTO a car. We are moving, vehicles are not.

When you say "Simply" an accident, are you forgetting that car accidents can be fatal? almost always result in tickets?

Regardless of this law, if a dooring is witnessed, and the witness will testify, A civil suit will result in damages awarded to the cyclist. A driver opening his door is simple. If a cyclist happens to be there, then I guess the cyclist must be at fault for the drivers oblivious action.

This Is Probably One of Those Laws That Should Be

just common sense. Most drivers check their side mirror before opening their car door - not sure that passengers do this...is the driver responsible if a passenger pops his/her door open before the driver has a chance to check?
Bicyclists frequently ride up and down side walk's with not a care in the world regarding blind driveways and intersections. Seems to me that bicyclists cause some of their own problems by not obeying traffic laws and being careless.
They certainly have the right to use the road but please do not weave in and out of traffic and ignore traffic signals and stop signs for your own safety!

Municipal Codes

The law cannot make an assume that people are violating current laws. For example, in Norfolk you cannot ride on side walks. Therefore, this law seeks to protect cyclists that are obeying laws in place by banning "dooring."

Sec. 25-398. Riding on sidewalks.
(a) No person shall ride a bicycle, toy vehicle or motorized skateboard or scooter upon any sidewalk, whether paved or unpaved, in a business district.
(b) No person fifteen (15) or more years of age shall ride a bicycle, toy vehicle or motorized skateboard or scooter upon any sidewalk, whether paved or unpaved, in any district, except that any person shall be allowed to ride a bicycle on the sidewalks of the area designated as the "Elizabeth River Trail".

About that sidewalk...

In some cities, the bicycle is considered a vehicle, and is not permitted to "drive" on the sidewalk. Not sure how this affects the liability of a passenger in a car.

In Virginia

In ALL cities in Virginia, (and every other state), a bike is a vehicle with rights to operate in the street. Cyclists, however, are supposed to ride "as close as safely practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway" This often puts cyclists in the door zone, hence the problem.

if enacted, this law will be difficut if not impossible to

enforce. Since the intent of the thing is to stop people from acting vindictively towards a cyclist, unless a cop sees a person throw open their door in such a way that it is clear the intent was to do harm, this will turn into a he said, she said argument.

So long as the person opening the door doesn't confess to doing it on purpose, I really cannot see how this would go forward. Was their malice in the act? Who can say or prove? Opening a door has no malice in the act, especially if the person is also in the process of getting out of their car.

Are passenger exempt from this law, if passed, seeings how they typically are not looking for others approaching them at speeds easily 15+mph? It does say traffic lanes. Left side doors only??

As I read the bill

It only applies to the traffic side of the car.

A bicycle passing on the right would not be protected, and indeed, they should not be doing that at all anyway.

You miss the purpose and intent of the law

A person deliberately plotting to strike a cyclist is an assault and battery; that is different from negligence where someone pushes their car door open into the traffic lane without ensuring it is safe to do so.

Enforcement will happen when I cyclist has been injured and an officer is writing up the accident report. The driver will say, "I didn't see him" and the cyclist will have a legal record of the incident that will allow them to recoup for injuries and damages if they were travelling in full accordance with the law.

Take some responsibility for your own safety

I knew an old biker, (thousand pound Harley, not a 15 pound bicycle) who told me that he wore flame orange leathers and rode with pulsing lights on to be seen, but always rode as though he was invisible. You are less visible than he is.

Think about these 'dooring' encounters objectively.

The driver is looking back in a 4 inch side mirror for traffic, but he expects to be passed by cars and trucks on that side, he is not looking for a hard-to-see bicycle.

The cyclist is looking forward with unrestricted vision. If he is paying attention at all, he saw the car park and should be expecting the door to open.

Which is best positioned to avoid the accident?

Ride like you are invisible and you will ride longer.

Cyclists arent supermen

We dont have xray vision. I cant ride around looking into every car. Indeed, if I rode down the street peering into cars, you would complain I was invading your privacy. I ride as If im a vehicle. A moving vehicle in city traffic, in my experience, is much easier to avoid than the unknown landmine of someone sitting in their car.

Step into our shoes: Riding up the road, with a line of parked cars on the right. A driver has been on the phone, so we didnt see the car park, because hes been sitting for a while. He decides to get out. I cant see into/through his tinted windows/large headrest/big truck/tiny sports car, and he opens his door directly in my path.

Without this law, Im screwed. Bicycles regularly travel 20mph. Fast enough to kill.


I ride like I am invisible, but it's impossible to know whether someone will open a door just as you arrive. I generally "take the lane" meaning I ride far enough away from cars that I cannot be doored. However, this sometimes bothers drivers for whom my 15-20 mph pace is not fast enough. A door can be opened quickly leaving the cyclist no time to react. Under the legal doctrine of "last clear chance" that warrants a presumption that it's the driver's fault. If the driver thinks otherwise, they can take the case to court, just like any other infraction.

If you are only driving 15-20 mph

you shouldn't be on the road because you are obstructing traffic. Roads are for cars; not bicycles, not scooters, not wheelchairs, not horse & buggy. You deserve what you get.

Roads are for people

Sorry, Virginia code says you're wrong. And most roads in our cities existed long before there were cars. Cyclists started the movement to pave the roads for safety. You own a car, not the road. And before you say it, no, cars do not pay for roads- they pay only a fraction of the full cost through the gas tax. The rest comes from general revenue. Cyclists are taxpayers too, and considering how little damage they do roads, and how little we spend on bike-specific infrastructure, cyclists subsidize cars.

Impossible to enforce?

Not according to the Virginia State Police

from the bill. not a huge one.

"A violation of this section shall constitute a traffic infraction punishable by a fine of no more than $100." Humm, so if your young son or daughter opens the door and a police officer deems this action failed to meet the law, are they guilty of the traffic infraction or is it the driver?

For someone to be guilty of a traffic infraction, they should first have an understanding of the law. This law does not compel a parent or guardian to open doors on the left side or forbid the door from being opened by just anyone.

I don't see how the law could make accountable a child or the driver for the action of a child. The proposed law is flawed when thought out.

Maybe include this under the battery section but not traffic.

Targeting the wrong party

This is just plain idiotic! It should be illegal for bicyclists to ride within 4 feet of cars! Every time you turn around, there is some new law that caters to an overly vocal special interest group. It is far more difficult to see an oncoming bicyclist than for that same cyclist to see a car and its driver. As a bicyclist, I perceive one of the greatest road dangers to be an opening car door, so I take the proper precautions.

Not idiotic

I would welcome a law that requires 4 feet of separation, especially if it applied to cars passing cyclists, but in Virginia the rule is 2 feet. In Pennsylvania, they recently adopted a four foot law. Current Virginia law requires cyclists to ride as close as safely practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway. That puts them in the door zone. Another approach would be to eliminate on street parallel parking.

OK Anonymous. Rather than

OK Anonymous. Rather than riding my bike to the right, I'm going to follow your advice and take the entire lane - which of course, is entirely legal - (and will count on one hand how many seconds it takes you to lose your cool and gell me to get out of your entitled way. You asked for it!)

I can't count the number of times I've seen some knucklehead throw open their car door without looking first, while yappping on the cellphone, slurping their coffee or chowing on their Egg McMuffin. Fortunately, I've avoided getting doored many times due to quick reflexes and lots of luck.

Forty states have a dooring law on their books. So should Virginia.

(And we should all - drivers and cyclists - obey the laws, be courteous, and focus on what we're doing w


Why is the GA spending time on "dooring" when "cellphoning" is infinitively more important. The safety issues with drivers using a cell telephone are well known and the traffic congestion they cause by impeding traffic, sitting at green traffic lights, and expecting others to accomodate their inattention to the critical task of safely driving a vehicle are justification for banning all cell phone use by a driver.
How our legislators can bury their heads into "dooring" and completely ignore something as important as banning the use of a cell phone when driving is astounding!!

Cell phoning

I agree, cell phones and texting are a bigger problem, but some members of the General Assembly have said that they will not ban cell phone use in cars because without their phones, they couldn't get their work done. Still, a texting bill may pass this year. If our legislature were not so knee-jerk pro automobile we could pass more good laws. As cyclist I will take whatever laws we can get passed. For an understanding of the problem, you could try visiting House Transportation Subcommittee 2, where cycling safety bills go to die. Despite efforts of right thinking committee members like Delegate Carr, too many good solid safety measures have been defeated by the maneuvers of Chairman John Cox, who seems to be irreconcilably anti-cycling.

HR != VA

Remember, folks, Hampton Roads isn't all of Virginia. Dooring is a very real problem in Northern Virginia. Lots of folks commute on bicycles up there. Because Virginia doesn't have a dooring law, cyclists often have to pay for their entire medical bill when their doored. Insurance typically doesn't cover this as an accident unless someone can be proven "at fault".

There's no question its up to the responding officer to decide if it was "reasonable" to wait to open the door. But at least with this there will be a law on the books so cyclists can have their accidents covered.

Virginia can't even protect people with wheelchairs

so now we have to worry about some *sshole bicyclist running into your car door and the car driver gets the ticket? Enforce this law only when you enforce the laws bicyclists break all the time: no riding abreast, stay in single file, obey stop lights, don't pass on the right side of cars, etc.

Bicyclists cause their problems, not the cars. Roads are for cars; bike lanes are for bikes or stay off the road to begin with. They deserve what they get.

I wonder

I just wonder how many of these "doorings" are happening in rush hour bumper to bumper traffic when the cyclists are weaving in and out of traffic to keep moving. In other words, already breaking the law like so many cyclists are prone to do.

If only

yes - if only cyclists would strictly obey all traffic laws and speed limits, just like drivers. It's well known that 100% of Virginia motorists strictly obey all such laws. And I am the tooth fairy.

How about

How about enforcing the laws for cycling on the roadways? Cyclists are required to follow all traffic laws just as drivers are. When are the cyclists going to be held accountable for the stupid (and illegal) things that they do?

We are.

Up in richmond, cyclists are given tickets for running signs and lights, and for reckless driving. THis enforcement is dependent on local LE.

How about an insignificant ticket allowing a severly injured cyclist to be covered by insurance?
How about discouraging drivers from another deadly inattention...

I wonder

I just wonder how many of these "doorings" are happening in rush hour bumper to bumper traffic when the cyclists are weaving in and out of traffic to keep moving. In other words, already breaking the law like so many cyclists are prone to do.

Don't most of us believe in the golden rule?

Treat others as you would like to be treated? It's simple to say and sometimes hard to do. This bill makes the idea a law. If you were the cyclist in the situation, wouldn't you want the driver to look before they opened their door into you? If you were driving a vehicle wouldn't you want the cyclist in front of you to move over (close to all those parked cars) so you can pass them? The cyclist doesn't ride his bike to be in your way. He rides it to get somewhere and would like to be considerate of vehicles behind him. The cyclist simply wants to be safe to ride next to those parked cars to allow the cars behind him to pass.

It fits with my values. Doesn't it fit with yours?

The problem with your

The problem with your assumptions is you come across as believing that people open their doors on cyclists on purpose. We have a lot of dumb, useless laws on the books. This one takes the cake. The way I see it, the cyclist is more at fault than the person opening the door. When I ride a bike where there could be the possibility of a door opening in my way, I use situational awareness to react if a door were to open in my way. It's common sense.

Actually, I don't assume... but I see how you could think that.

People mostly open their car doors at the wrong time because they are careless, distracted or possibly not used to looking for cyclists/motorcycles. It's rarely, malicious.

Laws like this one eventually get used in public safety announcements, drivers Ed training, DMV booklets/tests, etc. The PSAs, etc don't happen without a law. So, the law is needed to enable improved awareness to decrease accidents and recognize negligence when accidents happen.

What could be malicious is some people on this board who don't want to improve the safety of bicyclists by passing this law. They want cyclists to ride 4 ft away from car doors - & would be the same people blowing their horn at the cyclist in their way.

probably zero

How often do you see motorists opening their doors in rush hour bumper to bumper traffic? It is parallel parked cars that open their doors without looking that cause this, not only for bicycles but also cars driving in neighborhoods with narrow streets. Simple, look before opening the door.


We also need a law against "slamming."

"Slamming" is when you precede someone through a door to a public place and fail to hold the door open for them, allowing it to close on them possibly resulting in injury to the person.

That person has every right and expectation that you would hold the door open for them. They are far too stupid, unaware, and unprepared to think they might have to open the door themselves.

This is so very, very important. We've got to look out for those among us who are so totally unable to look out for themselves.

We have a biger problem that bicycles on the road

A person has to be an idiot to door a bicyclist, they wouldn't want someone to do something that stupid to them,would they? I have bigger problems with drivers texting while driving, talking on the cell phone while driving,nothing worst than getting behind someone who are texting,they are dangerous people and speaking of dangerous people. Tail gaters,because I'm doing 20 miles a hour OVER the speed limit,the stupid tail gaters feel that I'm not going fast enough. And what about those drivers who feel a need to be number one on the road, so as you're driving over the speed limit and not holding anyone up,some knuckle head driver has to pass you only to make a right turn in front of you--No logic for that move.

It's simple.

Drivers don't purposefully open their door in such a way to endanger anyone (cyclists, other motor vehicles, buses, etc). Cyclists don't purposefully endanger themselves by slamming into open doors at speed. These arguments are invalid, especially because dooring accidents are fairly common in urban areas.

There is no law that says 'use common sense'. Therefore specific laws must be designed to protect persons from people who may neglect to use common sense everyone once in a while (and let's be honest, that's all of us).

This is not to criminalize car drivers who should know that they should not throw their car door into moving traffic. If doing so causes damages, the driver should be liable for them, especially medical costs.

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