My friend went to the hospital last night. He was carted off to Harborview Medical Center yesterday after riding his bicycle in a "sharrow" lane—a space between traffic and the parked cars where some paint suggests drivers and cyclists "share" the lane—at about 15 to 20 miles per hour. The door of a parked car flew open, directly into his path, and my friend hit the car door full speed. There was no way to slow down, nowhere to turn. My friend is in stable condition, but he suffered considerable injury to his abdomen.
He didn't break any traffic rules. He was just riding where cyclists are supposed to ride on every street—in that channel between the cars lanes and parked cars. And the driver didn't do anything wrong, exactly, except not look to see if a cyclist was coming. Now my friend is facing upwards of $5,000 in medical bills. "Getting doored" is common enough that it's happened to five or six people I know in the last few years.
There's no real solution except to say: Be careful, drivers, and open your doors slowly after checking to make sure no one is coming. There's literally nothing a cyclist can do in that situation to avoid a car door when he or she is pinned between traffic on the left and a row of parked cars on the right.
And City Hall, when people talk about building protected bicycle lanes—physically separated from traffic—it's not because they fetishize Europe. It's basic infrastructure that serves public safety.