One of the more common and scary accident threats experienced by bicyclists biking anywhere there are parked cars on the side of the road, is being "doored". This is when a bicyclist is biking past either a line of parked cars, or even as few as one car, and the driver or a passenger opens the door quickly without looking to see whether or not there is a bike or car coming down the street.
Many drivers are distracted and not paying attention or seeing bikes. The car driver may be talking to passengers or may be busy with their cell phone or texting, even playing with the radio or eating. In these days of a populace distracted by hand-held devices, the possibility of a driver checking his or her smart phone as soon as he or she stops driving, but while leaving their car.
Many transportation experts say that Dooring is one of the most common kinds of bicycle crashes.
National and state databases only include crashes involving motor vehicles in transport. Since a parked car is not in transport, and a bicycle is not a motor vehicle, crashes where a bicyclist hits a parked car door are excluded.
Dooring accounts for 12 to 27 percent of urban car-bike collisions, making it one of the most common crash types.
Bicycle riders have the law on their side. Bicycle lanes put bicycle riders in the position to be exceptionally exposed to this type of road hazard where the bicycle rider may have no escape option: collide with the door or veer into oncoming traffic.
(1) A person commits the offense of improper opening or leaving open a vehicle door if the person does any of the following:
(a) Opens any door of a vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and it can be done without interference with the movement of traffic, or with pedestrians and bicycles on sidewalks or shoulders.
(b) Leaves a door open on the side of a vehicle available to traffic, or to pedestrians or bicycles on sidewalks or shoulders for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
(2) The offense described in this section, improper opening or leaving open a vehicle door, is a Class D traffic violation.
[1983 c.338 §655; 1985 c.16 §320]
The "Dutch Reach" is a simple habit you can use which will help you always be turned and looking before opening your vehicle door. This method is just using your further arm to open the door so that your body is turned slightly and your head turned where you can see the bike lane or pedestrians before swinging the door open.
Here is a Massachusetts Department of Transportation video (on youtube) which demonstrates the simple Dutch Reach technique.