All it takes is a fraction of a second. A motorist carelessly swings open a vehicle door into the path of an oncoming bicyclist, and a serious collision occurs.
Over the years our office has handled many bike dooring accident cases. Dooring is defined as when a driver or passenger swings open a car door directly into the lane of travel of a bicyclist, causing an accident. Injuries from a car door vs. a bicycle can be severe. Usually, the bicyclist has no time to react and slams into the open door, often flipping over and landing hard on the pavement.
In 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn ordered the state to start counting dooring accidents as a type of collision for statistical purposes. Police departments across Illinois now have to record these types of accidents on Illinois traffic crash reports. The information on these accidents will be added into the Illinois Department of Transportation's (IDOT) annual crash report summaries. IDOT also started a public outreach program to spread the word to vehicle occupants that they need to look for bicycles before swinging a door open into traffic, especially in communities with a high number of people using bicycles for transportation.
According to IDOT statistics, door accidents occur most often at diagonal street intersections in Chicago, for example as Lincoln and Milwaukee Avenues. Clark Street also had a high number of dooring accidents.
The majority of these accidents over the last few years took place on the North Side of Chicago and in the downtown area. There were also areas on the South Side that had a high number of doorings, such as Hyde Park.
One surprising statistic about Illinois dooring bike accidents is that most of them occur during the daytime with good weather conditions. Fewer of these accidents occur at night or during bad weather such as rain or snow.
The City of Chicago has reacted to try to reduce these accidents over the last couple years. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been going through the process of adding protected bike lanes throughout the city in locations where there is a high concentration of bicycle riders. The new bike lanes have a wider buffer between riders and car doors. In 2012-2013 significant bicycle lanes were constructed in the downtown area on both Kinzie Street and Dearborn Street. The lanes on Dearborn even have a separate traffic signal for bicyclists.
As of 2013, Chicago has over 170 miles of marked bicycle lanes. The "Chicago Streets for Cycling plan 2020" (http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/cdot/bike/general/ChicagoStreetsforCycling2020.pdf) has the goal of having 645 miles of bicycle lanes to be completed by 2020, with bike lanes set up within a half-mile of every Chicago resident. The Mayor’s goal is to build more protected bicycle lanes than any other urban area in the United States.
While safety efforts are to be commended and will no doubt make bicycling safer in Chicago, in reality many of these accidents will continue to occur. Our city streets get busier every year, and more Chicagoans are riding bicycles as a primary means of transportation, both to commute to work and for recreational purposes.
These accidents can cause serious injuries. Sometimes it's a broken arm or a broken leg, sometimes back and neck injuries, and unfortunately sometimes it can be severe head trauma or death. In October, 2012 there was a public outcry in Chicago when bicyclist was killed due to a car door swinging open. The bicyclist swerved to avoid the door, and was struck by a passing commercial truck.
One common type of dooring bike accident involves taxicab passengers. Passengers are often allowed by cab drivers to disembark in the middle of busy city streets, failing to pull their taxi over to the curb. This results in the taxicab door swinging open into bicycle lanes or the paths of bike riders lawfully riding in the street. Often cab companies try to point the finger at their passengers for not carefully opening the door, but in reality the taxi driver never should have allowed the person to get out of the vehicle in traffic.
The Illinois Vehicle Code, 625 ILCS 5/11-1407, in pertinent part states as follows:
Opening and closing vehicle doors. No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
If a driver violates this law, it is negligent conduct and an injured bike rider has the right to pursue an action to recover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of normal life, and other damages that occur as a result.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a bicycle accident that was caused by a negligent driver or passenger opening a car door into traffic, contacting the experienced Chicago bicycle accident lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. for a free consultation. You may be entitled to financial compensation that can help you recover from the devastation of your accident or that can enable you to move beyond the crash itself. The dedicated injury attorneys at our office have been handing bicycle cases for years and as a result, we know how to get the relief that our clients deserve. Contact us through this website, or call us toll free at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442) or locally at (312) 924-7575 for a free consultation.
If a bicycle dooring accident has left you injured, call us today at (855) LAW-CHICAGO for a free case consultation.