Rising Number of Cyclists Hit by Car Doors in Chicago
There are a number of great reasons Chicago was named the Best Bike City in America last year by Bicycling.com. Our expanding network of bike lanes, the Loop Link system, and the Divvy For Everyone program were all cited as important reasons we top the list of the best cities to cycle in. While many of the bike lanes are isolated from car traffic, those that are not, pose a significant challenge to drivers and cyclists alike. One danger unique to bike lanes that share the road with motor vehicles, is the possibility of a door opening in a bike’s path.
More Bicycles, More Car Door Accidents
This spring, the Chicago Tribune reported on the recent IDOT study into the most recent available data, dating from 2015. In that year, there were 302 incidents of bicycles crashing into open car doors - up nearly 50% from the 203 reported in 2014. This breaks a downward trend, where 2013 had 270 accidents between bikes and car doors, 2012 had 334, and 2011 had 336. IDOT did not collect data on these accidents prior to 2011.
There are more bicycles traveling around Chicago, with the percentage of people biking to work increasing from 0.7 percent in 2005, to 1.8 percent in 2015. But with more bicyclists on the roads comes an increase in bicycle related accidents. From 2014 to 2015, the number of bike accidents increased by 86. While there were fewer accidents in 2014 than there were in 2013, the number of bicycle crashes have increased by over 300 since 2011.
Cyclists have taken precautions to avoid being doored. Those interviewed by the Tribune described habits like: looking at car mirrors to see if anyone is inside, and signaling to bikes behind them if they see people in parked cars. This is necessary, suggested Katie Isermann, who told the Tribune, “I try to be aware because I feel like people driving aren't.” Tiber Scheer added, “As fun as cycling is, you have to be paying attention all the time and looking everywhere.”
While being mindful is good advice for cyclists, the responsibility for these accidents is not entirely on them. Chicago recognized this by instituting the Vision Zero plan, using a combination of education, enforcement, and infrastructure to reduce bicycle-related accidents. The city now provides cabs with window decals reminding passengers to look out for bikes before opening their doors. Additionally, the city has increased the fines for opening a door in a bike’s path to $1,000.
The city has also begun providing information and advice on safely interacting with bikes in the form of a flyer. It’s a good start, but Danielle Martin noted that it was only a start: “I think the city could definitely do a little bit more in terms of educating drivers and cyclists on how to share the road.”
Chicago has made a clear commitment to improving the safety and reliability of using bicycles to travel the city. We at Coplan & Crane encourage this trend to continue and stand by bicyclists injured by careless drivers. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a bicycle-related accident, we invite you to tell us your story so we can provide the legal help you need.