A driver’s carelessness in opening a car door — not a collision with another vehicle, as witnesses reported — caused a serious cycling accident on Sixth Avenue last week, according to the biker who broke a hip and an arm in the ugly crash.
Witnesses originally reported that 60-year-old rider Stan Baum had been sideswiped by a car, but Baum told us on Monday that he slammed to the pavement after a driver opened his car door into him.
Baum, a long-time biker, remains at New York Methodist Hospital, where he is recovering from hip-replacement surgery and a broken left arm. He doesn’t remember anything after he hit the roadway in the Nov. 8 crash — but he does know what caused it.
“The guy opened his door right into me,” said Baum, who was between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place en route to his family when the car door flung open.
“There was nothing I could do,” said the city Sanitation worker, who was riding with head and tail lights.
Baum’s elbow and left hip shattered when he hit the street. Witnesses thought he had been struck by a car because the driver of another vehicle got our and talked to Baum before driving off.
“But two people knew that wasn’t the case — me and there was the person who opened that door,” he said. While Baum crumpled in pain, the car-door opener slinked away into the night.
“I would appreciate if the driver would get in touch; his or her insurance could help me out a little bit,” said Baum. “I’m not sure it’s right they just melted away like that.”
A spokeswoman for the bike advocacy group Transportation Alternatives reminded that it’s illegal to open a car door without looking. The spokeswoman, Caroline Samponaro, said that three fatal dooring incidents this year — in the Bronx, Harlem, and the September crash that killed Jasmine Herron on Atlantic Avenue — as evidence that the law is being ignored.
“To call dooring an accident is a misnomer,” said Samponaro. “It’s a preventable collision. And it’s the responsibility of the driver.”
The best way for motorists to avoid dooring a cyclist is to simply look before opening the door, Samponaro said. Cyclists can avoid doors by claiming an entire lane, which is legal, but most riders would rather not anger drivers by getting in the way.
Baum took his first steps this Monday. He hopes that his recovery will draw attention to the dooring crisis.
“If all goes well, I will ride again. I will play guitar again. I will be close to who I was, and that’s to be thankful for,” he said. “But the short term is nine miles of hard road. I would just like to raise awareness.”