Bike Law Changes Proposed to Avoid Dangers of Getting “Doored”

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Raleigh City Council members are looking into the issue of bike lanes being too close to parking lanes for cars, and the danger of what happens when a driver isn’t paying attention and opens a car door in front of a bike. The accident is called “dooring” and happens when the cyclist runs into a car door.

Councilors Tuesday authorized the drafting of an ordinance containing changes proposed by the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC).

Charlotte Mitchell, vice chair of the BPAC, said the majority of the proposed changes involve removing obsolete terms and updating to current terminology. The goal is to modernize the code and reflect best practices in the cycling community.

Sharrows remind motorists to share the road with bicyclists.

"Sharrows" remind motorists to share the road with bicyclists.

For example, the BPAC proposes that it be illegal for a motorist to overtake a cyclist at a distance of less than three feet. Current North Carolina law calls for a two-foot distance.

But the issue of “dooring” prompted another proposed change. The BPAC proposes that it be illegal to open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so.

Councilor Bonner Gaylord emphasized the dangers of “dooring.”

“Dooring can be deadly. People can die from it,” Gaylord said. “We need to make it clear that it is the responsibility of the person opening their door to make sure that their door has clearance.”

Councilor John Odom feels responsibility lies with both the cyclist and the driver.

“This particular thing puts all the pressure on the car driver not to open their car door at the wrong time, more so than it does on the cyclist to be aware of a car that just parked there,” Odom said. “Both parties need to do their due diligence.”

Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin questioned the possibility of outreach to help address the problem and whether any areas of the city were a particular problem.

While Councilors authorized the preparation of the ordinance, they requested that staff return with statistical data on the number of accidents involving cyclists and “dooring” and plans for any type of educational or outreach campaign necessary.

Public Hearing Date Set for Duraleigh Road Rezoning
A public hearing has been set for the rezoning of a 1.5-acre property located on Duraleigh Road, north of its intersection with Blue Ridge Road.

If approved, the property would be rezoned from Office and Institution Conditional Use to Office Mixed Use Conditional Use.

This rezoning would allow the property to be redeveloped without the required buffer between it and the adjacent bank, while preserving the 50-foot wide buffer between the redeveloped property and neighboring townhomes.

The public hearing will be held during the Nov. 5 evening meeting of City Council.

School Zones Changed
School zones are being revised.

Councilors Tuesday approved a change to the traffic code that would remove the sub-category of school types from posted school zones. School type does not impact school zones and is therefore unnecessary, Councilors said.

Each year Wake County Public School System changes the start and release times of schools throughout the district. This requires an update to posted school zone signs.

Discussion centered around the types of school zone signs available, and the possibility of working with the Wake County Public School System to make school zones safer.

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane asked about school zone signs that have flashing lights.

“Who is it that makes the decision on the type of signage used?” McFarlane asked. “Do we have any data on whether they are more effective?”

Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin suggested McFarlane write a letter to Keith Sutton, Chairman of the Wake County School Board, requesting that they work together to help make school zones safer for students.

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