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Abels & Annes, P.C. Chicago Injury Blog

Bicycle Doorings: What You Need to Know

Getting Hit by a Door While Riding a Bike Causes Serious Injuries

Bicycle DooringsCyclists and bikers who ride in town are at constant risk of “doorings“. This is a type of accident that happens when a vehicle door opens unexpectedly in front of them, causing a collision. Doorings can result in death and severe injuries when riders fall over their handlebars or collide with the open door. Chicago dooring accidents are one of the most common and dangerous hazards cyclists and bikers face in urban riding conditions.

In large cities like Chicago, cars line the streets and cycling is a common way to get around town. When you combine these two factors, it is no surprise that car versus bicycle accidents are common. In this blog post, we discuss how doorings happen, how riders and drivers can take steps to prevent them, and what to do if you suffer injuries in a dooring accident.

What Causes a Bicycle Dooring Accident?

Imagine this scenario: a cyclist is riding on a busy Chicago street. In keeping with local traffic laws, the rider stays in the right-hand part of the lane. To the right of their bike is a line of parllel parked cars. Suddenly, the driver-side door of one the cars swings open so the driver can exit the vehicle. The door opens just feet in front of the cyclist and they don’t have time to stop. The front of their bike collides with the door, they go flying over her handlebars and crash onto the pavement. Luckily, their helmet protects their head, but the rest of their body isn’t protected and they land with the sickening crunch of broken bones.

This is how a typical dooring occurs. It’s quick and violent, and it happens because of a combination of factors. The driver getting out of their car doesn’t look behind them to see if a bike rider is coming. Or, maybe they simply don’t look long enough and miss the harder-to-see cyclist. The city streets often have lots of traffic, forcing the rider closer to parallel parked cars than they would like.

Doorings most commonly occur when a rider on the right collides with the door of a parallel parked car. They can also happen when passengers open their rear door into traffic. There can also be doorings when a car parks on the left side of a one-way street, or when anyone opens a car or truck door in a parking lot or similarly crowded area.

Our bicycle dooring accident lawyers in Chicago often work on cases where there are serious injuries due to a passenger opening a car door. This scenario is especially common with taxi passengers exiting on busy streets.

Are Doorings that Injure Cyclists Preventable?

Fortunately, car doorings that injure cyclists are preventable. Bike riders, car drivers, and passengers can take some simple safety steps. Following the suggestions below can prevent serious injuries to bicycle riders, so pay close attention.

Can Car Drivers Help Prevent Doorings?

Drivers and passengers can prevent doorings by being more attentive to their surroundings before opening their doors.

This advice sounds easy and obvious in principle, but it’s harder to implement in practice. Perhaps the most reliable way to ensure that drivers and passengers take heed of approaching riders is to practice what is known as the “Dutch Reach.”

Instead of opening a car door with the hand closest to the door, a driver or passenger using the Dutch Reach reaches across their body and opens the door with the hand further from the door. That simple behavioral adjustment forces drivers and passengers to turn their torso toward the street. The motion makes it easier and more intuitive to notice a cyclist or biker approaching from behind the car.

Data on the effectiveness of the Dutch Reach is still emerging. However, anecdotal reports suggest that when the Dutch Reach is practiced, doorings occur far less often.

Drivers and passengers not inclined to start using the Dutch Reach can still look over their shoulder before opening a door. It’s a little less comfortable to do so but not nearly as uncomfortable as causing a traumatic accident.

Whether or not they use the Dutch Reach, drivers and passengers can also reduce the incidence and severity of doorings by opening their doors slowly. The longer it takes for the door to open, the higher the chance the rider will see the hazard and have time to avoid it.

Can Bicycle Riders Help Prevent Injuries Too?

Cyclists and bike riders also have a role to play in preventing doorings and reducing their chances of receiving injuries in a cycling accident. These steps encompass the sort of safety strategies riders should be employing anyway, but they are especially important in urban environments where doorings are common.

  • Wear visible clothing and use lights. The more visible a cyclist is, the higher the likelihood that a driver or passenger will spot them before opening a car door. Wearing bright colored clothing and using front-and-back flashing lights, even in the daytime, can increase a cyclist’s visibility significantly.
  • Be vocal or have a bell. If a rider sees a car door about to open, yell “on your left!”. Ringing a handlebar bell can also be an effective way to alert incautious drivers and passengers to the rider’s presence.
  • Ride with a safe margin if possible. Riders typically have the right to occupy a full traffic lane if safety requires it. When traffic is light in an urban area, riders can reduce dooring risk by riding out of the reach of car doors.
  • Ride at a safe speed in urban areas. Riders flying down a city street just inches from parallel parked cars give themselves very little time to avoid a dooring. When riding in an urban environment, safe cyclists dial down their speed.
  • Wear a helmet. This is a no-brainer (pun intended). No one riding in a city (or anywhere else, for that matter) should go without a properly-fitted helmet. Helmets are the single biggest step bike riders can take to prevent traumatic brain injuries in accidents.

Failing to take the above precautions would not defeat a bike accident claim, however they are wise actions to take.

What to Do After a Dooring Injury?

If you sustain injury in a dooring accident, your first order of business should be to seek immediate medical help. Further, if possible, it can be helpful to collect information about the person who opened the door on you and about the accident scene. Take photographs of the street conditions, your bike, the car door, and your injuries. Also, collect contact information for any accident witnesses.

Then, contact an experienced attorney who has handled matters for clients who have been doored. You may be entitled to compensation from the driver or passenger who opened the door in front of you, and from other parties as well. Having an experienced attorney on your side can also help when dealing with insurance companies after an accident.

At Abels & Annes, PC, we understand the hazards riders face in urban environments and take seriously the rights of victims of doorings. To speak with our bike accident attorneys about your dooring injuries and your legal rights, contact us today online or by phone at (312) 924-7575.

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