One of the more common types of bicycle accidents in Chicago may surprise you. These accidents, often referred to as “Doorings”, occur when a cyclist crashes into or is struck by a car/vehicle door as the door is opening. Doorings result in a range of injuries from minor/non-incapacitating to major, broken clavicle, neck or herniated disk-type injuries. These injuries usually result in lost time from work and considerable medical bills.
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, 302 cyclist doorings were reported in Chicago during 2015. This is a 50% jump from data from the previous year—when only 203 cases were reported. The three years before 2014—2011, 2012, and 2013—all reported higher numbers than in 2014, however. Those numbers were 336, 334, and 270 doorings respectively.
What these numbers point to is the fact that the number of doorings has largely remained consistent overall. Being “doored” is a danger that many cyclists are aware of and fear, but one that many drivers and passengers may not think about every time they open a car door in Chicago. With just a small raise in the level of awareness, it’s possible that motorists may become more aware of the dangers of doorings and how taking an extra second to check for a nearby cyclist can help keep bicyclists safe.
As reported in an article in the Chicago Tribune, Yasmeen Schuller, president of Chainlink, an online networking site for Chicago cyclists, feels that “Every cyclist actively worries about getting doored and keeps an eye out.” She says that many bikers feel safer riding on the left side of the bike lane, closer to traffic, just to stay farther away from parked cars. It’s also common for bikers to constantly watch side mirrors on vehicles to see if someone is inside.
Most experienced cyclists do their part and watch out for themselves. Doorings can be avoided with extra precaution on both the part of the driver and passenger in a parked vehicle. Doorings commonly occur when passengers exit the backseat of a vehicle or a taxi-cab. Many cab or rideshare vehicle passengers do not think to check for cyclists, but taking an extra second to look around when opening a door can prevent another avoidable incident, accident report, and potential fine.
In 2011, Chicago launched a safety initiative called Vision Zero that focuses on bringing the number of traffic fatalities down to zero by the year 2026. Vision Zero focuses on three points: Education, enforcement, and infrastructure. Since 2011, Chicago has added more than 100 miles of protected bike lanes with concrete curb and bollard barriers or extra space in between the paths and parked vehicles.
The city also provides cab companies with window decals that remind passengers to look for cyclists before exiting a taxi. Anyone who opens a vehicle door in the path of a cyclist is subject to a fee of $1,000. The City of Chicago has also reportedly made an effort to inform all taxi companies and ridesharing services about current bike and pedestrian laws and provide tips for how motorists and passengers alike can avoid causing doorings.
These tips include opening the driver’s side door by reaching for the handle with the right hand, forcing the driver to turn and look behind them for oncoming bicyclists as well as avoiding parking or driving in bike lanes whenever possible.
Many cyclists in Chicago feel that there are more doorings in Chicago in comparison to other bike-friendly cities because the city could be doing more regarding educating the general population about how many of these accidents actually occur and how dangerous they can be. Chicago may have been named America’s Best Bike City in 2015, but many feel that the city has a long way to go until every biker feels as safe as they should be when riding near parked cars.