A number of years ago on his way to his clarinet lesson, my son was riding his bike in the bike lane north on Mary Avenue toward the Don Burnett Bridge when the driver of a van suddenly opened her door right in front of him, causing my son to crash. He ended up going to the hospital with a broken collarbone. (The driver did not admit any fault in the crash.)
California Vehicle Code 22517 puts the fault of a dooring crash completely on the motorist opening the door. But that can be little consolation for the cyclist getting severely injured.
There’s been some discussion about this risk on our WWBC list. Here’s some basic advice. When there is a bike lane that goes along a row of parked cars (like on Mary Avenue), stay to the far left in the lane, or better yet, move left out of the bike lane altogether to give more room between you and the parked cars. As you ride, keep a watchful eye on the parked cars. If someone has just parked or if you see a car’s brake lights, give the car a wide berth. But more generally, scan the cars to see if there are people in them and be very cautious when you see someone in a parked car.
For more info and tips, see the article in Road Bike Rider or see the article California ‘dooring’ Law Places Liability with Motorists for more info on the legal aspects.