I find myself always encouraging cyclists to ride farther from parked cars. Riding in the Door Zone is a bad idea and there are plenty of examples to back it up.
Toronto Cyclist Killed by Car Door
While I was biking down my street when a driver shouted out his window at me. I couldn't hear what he said as he sped past in his large truck. Fortunately he soon pulled into parking where I was able to approach him. Sure I was frustrating but this time it felt different and I wanted to ask him what made him so upset.
He said that I was riding too far into the lane of traffic when I should have been farther to the side of the street. To his credit he brought up a good question and I was happy to explain why I ride in the lane of traffic. We had a good discussion about it in a friendly, kind of awkward way. Apparently he bikes too and this made him willing to talk about it.
Here's Why I Bike in the Lane of Traffic
1. The Door Prize...Parked Cars are like land mines.
Risk is an equation of Chance + Severity. Although the chance of getting doored is relatively low, the severity is extremely high. Every year cyclists are killed by door accidents. Sometimes it's the collision itself and other times they are knocked into traffic and run over.
2. More time to pay attention
Because I'm not watching ever single door...I have more time to watch what's going on around me. That includes car, potholes, cats and let alone a chance to think for a moment or two.
3. I get to avoid the gravel shit on the side of the road.
The sides of the roads are littered with bits of metal, gravel, road kill, and lots of cracks.
4. I am more visible to oncoming drivers (so they don't turn left across my lane)
If the oncoming traffic can't see you they are more likely to make a left in front of me.
5. I'm more visible to drivers behind me (so they don't bump me!)
The reason the car behind might get upset with you for taking the lane demonstrates perfectly that they CAN see you! It's better to dominate the car view so they have to react. If you're riding in the door zone, cars will try to squeeze by without moving into the other lane. And there really isn't space here for a car and a bike. It's better to force them to slow down and pass when there is space.
Here are a few tips for riding in the lane:
1. Be seen by wearing reasonably light clothing, or have at least one bring item (your helmet, paniers, something)
2. Ride in a straight line. When going down the street make a bee line to the end of the blocks. At intersection ride straight in the lane, don't veer to the right because you'll be pinched at the other end of the intersection.Which usually results in swerving in front of drivers (driver's hate this for good reason) or if you try to squeeze through you'll end up in the Door Zone!
When there are cars parked on the side of the road, resist the urge to swerve into the openings where cars haven't parked. Sure you might be able to escape the lane for a few moments but then inevitably you are pushed back to the lane by a parked car. If there's traffic coming you either have to slow down to wait and merge, cut off a car (screetch!), or slip into the Door Zone. The parking lane on the side of the road is not for driving or riding. It's for parked cars and no one should expect you to travel in it.
3. After some time your ears will become tuned to traffic sounds. And you will be able to listen for cars approaching from behind. This may be an acquired skill but I feel its pretty important. It alerts you to approaching traffic and the noise can indicate whether it's a little car or a big truck, and also how fast it's going.
Good Luck out there!