It’s one of the commuting cyclist’s perils. You’re riding on the shoulder past parked cars when all of a sudden someone opens their car door, leaving you the choice of (a) crashing into said door or (b) veering left into traffic. Quite the “Hobson’s Choice” (that is, no choice at all).
Did you ever wonder whether drivers have a legal duty to look before opening their doors? Well, they do. And here it is. A Washington statute (RCW 46.61.620) provides as follows:
“No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side adjacent 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 a vehicle adjacent to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.”
This is also incorporated into Seattle’s traffic code (see SMC 11.58.050).
This law was written to keep bicyclists safe. If it’s violated and a bicyclist is injured, there shouldn’t be any reservations about holding the person who opened the door legally accountable.
For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Car and Motorcycle Accidents.