As recently mentioned, getting doored by a car sucks a lot, and my theory is that fear of dooring probably makes people bike in a less safe manner overall. But there is an easy cure for dooring: get drivers to open doors with the far hand (that is the right hand in right-side driving countries). That way, as a driver you sort of can’t help but look outside as you’re opening the door, and as a result, you’re gonna avoid dooring people.
But how do you compel drivers to do that? We want right-handed opening to be completely automatic, like shoulder-checking during right turns or putting on a signal to switch lanes. Making dooring punishable by a $100 fine is not an effective method, because most of the time you open doors the wrong way you don’t actually hit anybody and it doesn’t become automatic to check for cyclists.
Here is what I think should be done: make it illegal to open doors with the wrong hand when you’re parallel parked. For one thing, if you do it on your driving test, that should be a big demerit. For another, if a cop catches you doing it, it should be a fine.
Yes, I feel uncomfortable proposing making something else illegal. One worry is that this will create another law that everyone is breaking all the time, which is a recipe for sporadic targeted enforcement and basically petty tyranny by the police. But I think this is somewhat less ripe for abuse than other laws because drivers open their doors for such a small portion of the time that they’re behind the wheel. If you want to catch somebody, they’re much more likely to be breaking the law in some way that’s already punishable than by opening the door wrong. That gives me hope that this is something that can be enforced in a mostly legitimate and not overbearing manner.
So I say it’s worth a shot. Introduce a fine for left-handed door opening. Let’s do this, New Mexico. The other way to promote correct door opening technique is to be somewhat obnoxious to your friends and family when they open their car doors wrong. Let’s do that as well.