Regarding the recent “dooring” of an experienced cyclist at the start of the southbound Middle Street bike lane, SABR members are all happy to hear that the rider survived with only minor scratches. In fact, a number of members have raised their own concerns about that particular stretch. The bike path angles towards the curb sharply and there’s a large drainage grate and some rough asphalt at that spot, which can be tough for bikes. SABR riders have some ideas that could yield a couple of parking spaces back to residents and start the bike lane a little further down the road. We’ll be communicating those ideas to the City staff soon.
Best practices unanimously call for buffered lanes to protect cyclists from moving traffic, especially on streets like Middle Street where traffic routinely exceeds 30 mph. Placing a lane between parked vehicles and the main travel lane is a recipe for disaster. Cyclist John Kavanagh was killed in Durham in 2014 when he was “doored” by a driver and sent into traffic. The Middle Street design uses parked vehicles as a way of protecting cyclists and make it safer for them.
The crash on Middle Street was wholly the fault of the vehicle, which was parked illegally, and a careless occupant who opened a door without looking. SABR will be working with Chief Merner of the Portsmouth Police Department in the very near future to promote driver education regarding “dooring.” A simple technique called the “Dutch Reach” requires the car’s occupant to reach for the door handle using the hand furthest away from it. This makes the occupant turn their upper bodies and automatically makes them look behind. A simple thing that can save a life.