Update — 37-year old cyclist critically injured in Westside dooring

Word is just coming in that a bike rider suffered severe injuries after being doored last night.

According to an email from LAPD West Traffic Division bike liaison Sgt. Laszlo Sandor, a 37-year old bicyclist was riding south on Barrington near the intersection with San Vicente in Brentwood at 6:46 pm when he came in contact with the open door of a parked car.

No word on whether the victim, whose name was withheld due to privacy restrictions, was hit by the door as it was opened, or if he collided with it after the door was opened in front of him.

Barrington is a narrow, two-lane street on both sides of San Vicente, with substandard-width lanes that legally allow riders to take the lane in order to avoid the door zone. However, heavy traffic and impatient drivers encourage many cyclists to ride in the door zone, where passing cars can leave them trapped with nowhere to go if one of those doors should open.

Sgt. Sandor reports the rider is in critical condition and was in surgery last night for head trauma.

No helmet was found at the scene. This is exactly the sort of relatively slow-speed impact helmets are designed to protect against; however, there’s no way of knowing whether one could have made a difference in this case.

He was also using a headlamp and tail light, so he should have been visible to the driver.

And no word yet on whether the driver was cited. Drivers are almost always at fault in a dooring; CVC 22517 clearly requires that drivers only open car doors when it is safe to do so.

22517.  No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open upon the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

Head trauma is never a good thing; if not life-threatening, it can often be life-changing, sometimes permanently. So prayers, good thoughts and/or best wishes for the rider are definitely in order.

More details when and if they become available.

Update: I was just forwarded the following email, which went out as part of a community crime report from a Brentwood-area homeowner’s association. 

Unfortunately, an accident occurred last night on the 600 block of Barrington involving a cyclist and a vehicle. My partner and I were the first responders at scene.  The severity of the accident moves me to encourage all cyclists to PLEASE wear helmets — even for short trips. The cyclist is in critical condition and sadly, it doesn’t look good for him. 

A man sitting in his parked vehicle opened his door just as the cyclist passed and the cyclist clipped the door sending him head first onto the pavement. Does everyone know that it is the driver’s responsibility to look behind them before opening their door? The driver was incredibly shaken and upset and did not realize, until the traffic officers gently explained to him, that he was the party likely at fault. 

As our community continues to increasingly utilize cycling as a mode of transportation, please be ever aware of cyclists maneuvering throughout the traffic. And cyclists please wear your helmets and follow the rules of the road—all the rules of the road—for your own safety and protection.

Thank you. My apologies go out to the Brentwood Homeowner’s Association board and members for missing the meeting that I was en route to when we came upon the accident. I’ll make every effort to be at the next one….

Thanks to George Wolfberg for the heads-up.

Update 2: I’ve received confirmation that the victim, identified as Julio Martinez, died sometime after he was hospitalized; I haven’t been able to confirm the date. His brother, who worked with Martinez at the Belwood Bakery on Barrington Court, took his body back to their hometown in Mexico. 

This is the 88th bicycling fatality in Southern California in 2013, and the 39th in Los Angeles County. It’s also the 18th in the City of Los Angeles — a 360% increase over 2012.

My deepest sympathy and prayers for Julio Martinez and all his family and loved ones.

38 comments

  1. I’m gonna be a snot here, so please bear with me.

    The motorist is clearly at fault. CVC 22517 says the car occupant must not open the door until its clear to do so. Right?

    You obliquely suggest that if the rider wore a helmet he might possibly have avoided serious injury.

    How is this different from Serge Issakov’s victim blaming?

    • bikinginla says:

      Actually, you did me a favor.

      It wasn’t my intention to imply that a helmet may or may not have made a difference. Just that this is the sort of relatively slow-speed impact helmets are designed for, rather than the high-speed collisions most people think.

      But after reading it again, I can see how it could have been read that way. I’ve reworked it to try to clear up any confusion.

    • billdsd says:

      Suggesting that bicyclists should ride defensively in order to avoid collisions is not the same as blaming the victim.

      Quite frankly, it’s sad that so many people see it that way. Serge doesn’t blame the victim. He suggests ways to avoid tragedy in spite of bade motorist behavior. You may not see the difference but that’s your incompetence; not his.

      • bikinginla says:

        Incompetence? Really, Bill?

        It’s a question of context. Had Serge made his initial comment on most any other post, I wouldn’t have had any objection. But to make it on a story about the death of a cyclist who was riding in the bike lane — especially when we don’t yet know how or why the collision occurred — seems insensitive. I’m sure Serge didn’t mean it that way, but that’s how it struck me, and clearly, others.

        Maybe I’m too sensitive. But I strongly believe in showing respect to the victims of bicycling collisions, and will fight for them as much as the circumstances allow.

        There is a time and place for a discussion of Vehicular Cycling techniques versus using bike lanes. But I don’t believe this was it, especially when the victim appears to have been riding in a legal, and what should have been safe, manner.

        • billdsd says:

          Yes really.

          I’m also becoming less and less enthused with bike lanes. I don’t feel that they are safe. This happened to me last month:

          • bikinginla says:

            Man, that sucks. I hope you’re okay. On the other hand, it looks to me like the problem was a careless driver who would have pulled out in front of you whether or not there was a bike lane there. I’ve had drivers pull out in front of me like that even when I was riding in the center of the lane.

            As for the question of my competence, I’m sorry you feel that way. I’ve always respected your opinion, even when I’ve disagreed with it.

            • Joe B says:

              He likely would have felt more comfortable swerving to the left if he were controlling the lane rather than riding in the gutter bike lane.

              As for incompetence, I very much prefer reading a blog without ad-hominem attacks.

            • Classic case of bike-lane-induced-false-sense-of-security. I catch myself succumbing to it all the time. It’s toxic.

              Being out in the lane makes you more conspicuous and thus less likely to be overlooked, and gives you more time and space to maneuver if they do pullout never-the-less.

              And Joe’s point is well taken. When you’re in the bike lane you don’t know if you’re about to be passed, but if you’re using the full lane, you have that space to your left to use.

            • billdsd says:

              I’m pretty sure that if I had been in the middle of the travel lane, I could have swerved enough to avoid the collision.

              I also suspect that if I had been in the middle of the lane, the driver would have been more likely to notice me and might not have pulled out in front of me in the first place.

              No major injuries. Just some scrapes and bruises and muscle/ligament strains. Prett good given that my GPS says I was going 19.2 mph at the time.

              Yes, the driver is 100% at fault. The cop saw the video and noted on the report that the primary cause of the collision was a violation of CVC 21804, failure to yield before entering the roadway. However, he still did not cite the driver for that violation.

              https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-McSAydgbnYU/Up-4o3k4oXI/AAAAAAAAARA/ewk_sgj1lb0/w600-h338-no/21804.png

              I would rather have avoided the collision in the first place, regardless of cluelessness of the driver. Pointing fingers after the fact doesn’t help me avoid being hurt or killed. I prefer to take control over my own safety. That’s all Serge is saying.

            • bikinginla says:

              I know what you mean. My standard approach is to check for traffic on my left when approaching an intersection, then swing a little further left to give myself more room to maneuver in case some idiot does what they did to you.

              I’ve also been known to cut a hard right to go behind drivers who pull out in front of me. Clearly, though, you didn’t have anytime to react after the jerk cut you off.

              And I can’t believe the cop concluded the driver broke the law, and still refused to cite him — even with video evidence. What does it take to get a little justice?

    • I don’t see any place where Ted blamed the victim. I think Ted is always fair to the cyclist…in fact, I find him overly fair (if there is such a thing).

      I feel it’s sensible to wear a helmet when cycling. In an ideal world, we should have protected lanes and everyone should be on the lookout for us. But the reality is far from that (especially here in LA) and until we get to that place, helmets are a good idea imho. I’m not worried about myself having an accident — I’m worried about the other guy…whether it be a driver, pedestrian, or another cyclist.

      Speaking from experience as a dooring survivor, I’ll do anything to increase my chances of surviving such an impact. Another friend of mine in Chicago cartwheeled over a door and landed on their head. While I’m no safety expert, looking at her cracked helmet (and not head) leads me to believe that a fairly significant measure of protection was provided by it. These are exactly the types of situations where a helmet is useful…not when I’m careening down Latigo Canyon Rd.

      Even a 10% increase in the chance of surviving serious damage from an accident seems a good tradeoff vs the “inconvenience” of wearing a helmet for me. And it is sensible to examine situations like this in hopes that we can learn more and educate others to avoid such incidents ourselves.

      • No one is saying that bikinginla is being unfair to cyclists, or blaming the victim. The issue is what is different about what he is saying in this context from what others have said in other contexts that he and other have characterized as “blaming the victim”.

        More specifically, here is what I don’t get.

        Why is saying “using the full lane instead of riding in the bike lane makes you more conspicuous and less likely to be overlooked and hit” (or something to that effect) in a comment to a post about a cyclist killed by a motorist who drifted into the unnoticed bicyclist in the bike lane “blaming the victim”, but saying “I feel it’s sensible to wear a helmet when cycling” (or something to that effect) in a comment to a post about a helmet-less cyclist who suffered serious head injuries in a crash not “blaming the victim”?

        What’s the difference? Isn’t it just a difference of opinion? I mean, if you agree that a certain behavior is sensible (like helmet wearing), then mentioning that in the context of a cyclist’s crash where the cyclist was not engaged in that behavior is appropriate and is not blaming the victim?

        But if you don’t agree the behavior is sensible (like using the full lane despite an adjacent bike lane), then mentioning that in the context of a cyclist’s crash where the was not engaged in that behavior is inappropriate and is blaming the victim?

        Is that it? If not, what is the difference?

        • John Montgomery says:

          Hey there –Interesting comment.

          To answer your first question, I feel when I wrote “wearing a helmet when cycling is sensible” that I wasn’t blaming the victim.

          To answer your second question, I don’t feel the full lane comment was blaming the victim either.

          Blaming the victim would be “the reason the victim was injured is because they shouldn’t have ridden directly into the side of a car door”. Or “they had it coming to them because they weren’t wearing a helmet or using the full lane”.

          In this case, blame is fully with the f-wit who opened their car door. The other points are things that might — or might not have — made a difference in the situation.

          That’s my take, but of course…could be wrong.

      • bikinginla says:

        To be fair, the initial draft of this post could have been read as saying the victim might not have been injured if he had worn a helmet, which was not my intention. I have since rewritten that section to clarify what I meant to say.

        As for Serge’s complaint, I and others took offense at his initial comment, which appeared to suggest that the victim might not have been killed if he had been riding in the traffic lane in stead of a bike lane.

        I accept that may not have been his intent; however, I feel it was inappropriate to use the death of a cyclist to promote a vehicular cycling/anti-bike lane agenda. There is a time and place for that debate, and this was not it.

        • John Montgomery says:

          OK…this is all making sense now (ah-ha moment). I must have read the later version of the post and I also missed the original full lane comment. Got a bit lost in the comment thread, as I thought it was just a response to me.

          Ted, your respect for the victims in the moment outstanding…and yes it can be a fine line between using the moment to learn vs. blaming.

  2. bike2hike says:

    Yes a helmet would have been nice also a horn helps too https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6o7eyAxtNM0

  3. […] Also from CA is another “winner” of a door prize. Breaking news — 37-year old cyclist critically injured in Westside dooring […]

  4. “Barrington is a narrow, two-lane street on both sides of San Vicente, with substandard-width lanes that legally allow riders to take the lane in order to avoid the door zone. However, heavy traffic and impatient drivers encourage many cyclists to ride in the door zone, where passing cars can leave them trapped with nowhere to go if one of those doors should open.”

    The clear implication of this statement is that the cyclist could have avoided being doored had he chosen to ignore the “encouragement” to ride in the door zone, and used the full lane instead.

    Some might interpret your statement as “blaming the victim”, but it’s really about crash avoidance; not blame.

    • bikinginla says:

      Actually, the clear implication is that I’m trying to understand how this incident occurred, and explain it to my readers based on my own personal understanding of that intersection.

      You will note that nowhere did I say the victim should or should not have taken the lane, nor did I suggest that other riders should or should not ride in the door zone under the same circumstances.

      But if you really want to be an internet troll, feel free to scroll back and critique all the other more than 80 pieces I’ve written about cyclists killed or seriously injured on SoCal streets this year.

      • Well, you’re not as explicit as I am, I’ll give you that.

        Anyway, as an aside:

        “where passing cars can leave them trapped with nowhere to go if one of those doors should open”

        The notion that passing cars are the problem to a door zone cyclist should a door open is missing the point. It’s widely believed that a bicyclist should be able to react in time should a door open. But even at 15 mph (22 feet per second) a bicyclist is traveling well over a car length every second. Even if the space to the left was known to be unoccupied with no overtaking traffic whatsoever, a cyclist in the door zone is unlikely to be able to react in time to get out of the way of the door that suddenly opens. I only say this because I believe one of the reasons so many cyclists ride in door zones is because they believe doorings are avoidable if you’re sufficiently vigilant.

        That said, yes, from an out-of-the-way lateral position you can’t suddenly swerve left potentially in front of other traffic that has the right of way there (not to mention the mass to squish you).

        This is why cyclists are taught in traffic cycling courses to establish control of the full lane adjacent to parked cars, so that neither suddenly opened doors nor overtaking traffic within the lane are issues to be concerned with.

  5. Marc Caruso says:

    Crash prevention is not victim blaming. Analyzing a crash and detailing how it could have been prevented by the victim is not victim blaming. If anything it’s empowering. It gives the next potential victim the ability to prevent the crash by their actions. Though you raise a valid point about harassment.And while there needs to be tougher laws against harrasment. I highly doubt it rises to the epidemic proportions that you would think it is at when reading such articles.

  6. Mark Elliot says:

    Sad for everyone, this report is. Thanks for bringing it to us. Regular riders in this Brentwood locale know that San Vicente is as much a dooring hazard. From Bundy to the VA it’s a dooring nightmare: no bicycle lane, lots of restaurants, quickie valet parking, frequent in-and-out, and riders who hug the parked cars. Knock wood, I’m shocked I haven’t come across a dooring there yet.

  7. Robert Cronin says:

    I have been harassed by police for taking the lane to stay out of the door zone. In such cases, it would be extremely useful if CVC 21202 had explicit door-zone language among the exceptions to “far right as practicable”.

  8. […] Cyclist Critically Injured in Westside Dooring, Driver Who Caused Crash Clueless (Biking in L.A.) […]

  9. Joe B says:

    It is absolutely mind-boggling that drivers are allowed to operate heavy machinery in public places without even knowing the basic rules of the road. Like, “You’re not allowed to fling your door open in front of oncoming traffic.”

    How many deaths would be prevented if the driving test were an actual test, where passing required knowledge of the rules of the road?

    While the driver was at fault in this dooring for being a dumbass, the real culprit here is the DMV for letting him (and others like him) have a license in the first place.

    • John Montgomery says:

      It makes me angry too. But the problem with putting this at the feet of the DMV is that knowledge of laws/rules doesn’t equate with following the laws. We all see this daily riding around on our bikes…I think we’re more in tune with it because we’re so exposed. Every driver knows what a red light or stop sign means, yet they don’t stop. Every driver knows what a speed limit is, yet they speed. And I’m sorry, but it’s common f-ing sense to look before opening your door.

      What we need to have happen is strict enforcement of the laws and followup by charging violators not simply with violating a law, but also assault and even manslaughter. Drivers cannot get away with this.

      • Joe B says:

        (1) Most drivers stop at red lights. When they don’t, most at least attempt to violate the law with some semblance of safety. If we can get that sort of compliance with safe passing and dooring laws through education, then I think that’s a step in the right direction. Even if people still break the law sometimes.

        (2) We don’t have the manpower for strict enforcement. And even if we did, citations are an awfully cumbersome and expensive way to teach people the law. By all means, ticket the scofflaws, but I think education is more effective for people who are willing to (mostly) obey the law.

        (3) Be careful what you wish for; are you sure you really want strict enforcement? For example, I sometimes violate cvc22108 when I need both arms to steady the bars while braking; I’d hate to get ticketed every time I did so.

        • John Montgomery says:

          My writing was poor on that comment. My point is that drivers need to take responsibility for their actions and in the case of dooring it’s simply common sense. It’s not a DMV issue (dooring)….passing distance will be.

          Regarding enforcement, I meant when someone gets doored — charge them fully. Not have officers enforce every moving violation, etc…

          I’m with ya on the cvc22108 thing. :)

        • David Huntsman says:

          The manpower for strict enforcement may not be there. But, if Joe Soccerdad and Betty Bridgeclub all of a sudden had to meekishly explain that their driver licenses have been revoked for too many tickets, for driving in bike lanes, tailgating et cetera, in West Los Angeles, and that’s why they are taking cabs everywhere, word would get around…

  10. Belinda says:

    No. The insurance that needs to cover this would be the insurance of the driver, his/ber being at fault, not the cyclist. While the helmet is pointed out as a key feature in the story, the fact that the cyclist did have head and tail lights means he was within all laws. The best way to avoid this would be additional infrastructure that includes a buffer for cyclist that includes buffering from cars that are parallel parked. I know of only one street here where such a thing was implemented… and a block away from where those implementa

    • bikinginla says:

      Belinda, somehow, the comments you’re referring to bled over from a previous post about a stolen bike; they have nothing to do with the rider who was doored, and have been removed from this post.

  11. Here’s a pertinent quote:

    “When we have accidents, we have to learn from them,” she said during a news conference.

    Oh, wait. That’s in reference to an airline crash, not a bike crash. Silly me. Nobody has anything to learn from bike crashes. Never mind.

    http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-1212-asiana-crash-hearing-20131212,0,5877528.story

    • bikinginla says:

      You’re right, Serge. Every collision should be analyzed to determine how it happened, and how we can avoid similar situations in the future.

      But you didn’t do that, did you?

      The NTSB carefully examined every piece of evidence and spoke with every available witness, spending months on the investigation before coming to a conclusion. They did not enter the investigation with a predetermined conclusion, nor did they announce their results less than 24 hours later, based on nothing more than their own biases and suppositions.

      Neither you, nor I, nor anyone else not involved in this investigation knows how it happened or why. And therefore, we do not know how the victim in the Calabasas crash could have avoided it, whether riding in the bike lane had anything to do with it, or how anyone else could avoid a similar situation in the future.

      Yet that did not stop you from boldly declaring that the way to avoid similar situations was to ride in the traffic lane and avoid the right side of the roadway, based on nothing more than the initial report that the victim was riding in a bike lane, which may or may not be true.

      I, for one, like the NTSB, would prefer to wait until we have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the situation to base any recommendations I may or may not make on what actually happened, rather than conclusions I reached long before the crash ever occurred.

      Anything else would be a fraud.

      • But prior to the investigation and publishing of this official report, there were thousands if not millions of blogs, articles and comments posted based on speculation – much of it much wilder than anything I posted here about the bike lane crash – regarding what happened in the Asiana crash. Now maybe somebody somewhere objected to all that as being inappropriate and insensitive, but I certainly didn’t see it.

        Of course it’s not just you and this blog. As you’ve noted, in many cycling forums speculating about causes and prevention in the context of discussing a particular bike crash, especially if it’s a fatal one, is often unwelcome.

        So, what is it about the bicycling community and bike crashes that creates such sensitivity about speculative crash analysis? I can’t think of any other context in which that is the case. Not in plane crashes. Not in car crashes. Not even in car-ped crashes. Not in SCUBA fatalities. Not in swimming or boating fatalities. Not in rock climbing or in sky diving or in paragliding. No where else. Why is that? And are we doing ourselves any favors with the underlying attitude that inhibits such discussion? It’s often seems like willful refusal to think about possible crash causes and how to avoid them. If that’s not it, what is?

        • bikinginla says:

          Give it a rest, Serge.

          I have speculated on the causes of crashes numerous times in the blog, but only when I had sufficient information to do so — and never to push an agenda of any kind.

          Instead, you came in here with a clear Vehicular Cycling agenda, and used the death of cyclist to spread it with no regard for whether it really had anything to do with the victim’s death. And no sympathy whosoever for the victim or his family.

          In my book, that’s despicable.

          I have given you numerous opportunities to express you opinion. But at this point, you have become nothing more than an internet troll, and you will be blocked if you continue what has become nothing more than repeated harassment.

          You are more than welcome to return again in the future and contribute to the conversation another time, on another subject. You do have valid things to say, whether or not I agree happen to agree with them

          But show some goddam respect for the dead.

          This conversation is over.

  12. Eric Weinstein says:

    Tough comments on this topic!

    Just to add to the fray – I try to teach drivers to open the door to their cars with the right hand. Reaching across the body turns you enough to see behind the car. Much, much better chance of seeing a cyclist coming.

    If everybody started doing this maybe the deadly doorings will decrease.

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