Simple Theory Aims to Reduce Bicycle Accidents caused by Dooring in Chicago


It’s a careless event that’s causing serious injury to bicyclists in Chicago and around the world. Dooring is a dangerous collision caused by the doors of parked vehicles opening into the path of bicyclists. These accidents were, for the first time, counted as crashes in Illinois thanks to the tireless work of safety advocates and the signature of Gov. Pat Quinn.

Now there is a simple idea that can put an end to these preventable and careless bicycle accidents in Illinois.Here it is: When you get out of your car on the driver’s side, just open the door with your right hand. Opening the driver’s side door with your right hand will force you to twist your body around and look back, allowing you to see if any bicyclists or pedestrians are approaching, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Our Chicago bicycle accident lawyers understand that this practice is already taking place in other crowded areas, like in the Netherlands, where a majority of the population uses bicycles to travel around town. As a matter of fact, drivers in this area are taught to exit their vehicle this way. This practice was also written about in a New York Times piece, The Dutch Way: Bicycles and Fresh Bread.

“Likewise, every Dutch child has to pass a bicycle safety exam at school,” wrote Russell Shorto, author of the New York Times’ dooring piece. “The coexistence of different modes of travel is hard-wired into the culture.”

It is also believed that the visibility of the overwhelmingly large population of cyclists contributes to safer streets as drivers are more likely to expect them.

“Bicyclists and pedestrians are less likely to be hit by cars in cities that have greater numbers of cyclists and pedestrians,” said psychologist Dan Simons, who explored this phenomenon in his book, “The Invisible Gorilla,” which he coauthored with Chris Chabris.

Just last year, Chicago had more than 70 reported dooring accidents, according to the city. That’s likely to be only a fraction of all the dooring collisions, as many go unreported.

“We were never against collecting the data. There was never really any large effort to make us aware that doorings could be an issue,” Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) spokesman Guy Tridgell said.

Earlier this year, Governor Quinn put a new directive into effect that requires law enforcement agencies across the state to make special note of dooring accidents when they write up reports. All of their reports are later handed over to the state. The dooring data will be incorporated into annual traffic accident summaries compiled by IDOT. Our state did not previously categorize such accidents because they don’t generally involve a moving vehicle.

“As more people are riding bicycles and embracing other green modes of transportation, we need to ensure that Illinois collects data that presents a complete picture of what is happening on our roads,” Quinn said in a statement.

According to the Governor’s office, IDOT will be launching a public outreach effort to spread the word about the need for driver’s to look around before popping open a door, especially in areas popular with bicyclists.

If you or a family member has been involved in a Chicago bicycle accident, Abels & Annes offers free and confidential appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

Additional Resources:

How to end ‘dooring’ accidents, by Julie Deardorff, Chicago Tribune
The Dutch Way: Bicycles and Fresh Bread, by Russell Shorto, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:

Chicago bike accident lawyers secure $40,000 settlement, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 27, 2011

Kinzie Bike Lane Nears Completion; Reduction in Risk of Chicago Cycling Accidents the Goal, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 2, 2011

Windy City Rated Near Top by Cyclists; Advocates Work to Reduce Risk of Chicago Bicycle Accidents
, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 13, 2011

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