Being a biker in a city is rough business. Even if there are guarded bike-only lanes, the likelihood of disregard or outright targeting by a driver or pedestrian is so high that it feels unfair. The ire towards bikers on the road makes biking riskier than it needs to be. Despite being the most popular form of transportation in the world, biking carries significant risks that can be very difficult to disregard. One of the most dangerous of these risks is hilarious in movies but potentially deadly in real life: being doored.
What Is “Dooring?”
A dooring accident, better known as “dooring,” is when a driver of a parked or stopped vehicle suddenly opens their door into the path of an oncoming cyclist. This usually happens by accident but is known to happen intentionally. Some drivers really, really hate bikers. Looking at you, irritable old New Jersey drivers.
One of three things tends to happen here. One, the cyclist has no time to react and collides into a wall of plastic, metal, and glass. Two, the cyclist has less than a moment to attempt an evasive maneuver and swerves into traffic, potentially being hit by another vehicle. Or three, and least likely to happen, a cyclist is doored and flung from their bike into an oncoming vehicle like some kind of human pinball. Ouch.
The kinds of injuries that result from a dooring can range from mild injuries to death. Injuries like concussions, herniated discs, severe lacerations and contusions, fractures, soft-tissue damage, and more can all happen after a dooring. These injuries can be devastating for a cyclist that may leave them out of work or stuck with expensive bills and time-consuming recovery efforts.
How Do You Prove Dooring Damages in Chicago?
In Chicago and throughout Illinois, occupants of a vehicle must look for oncoming traffic, including cyclists, before opening their doors. It is illegal in Chicago to open your car door into a cyclist’s path.
The vehicle occupant that doored a cyclist can be fined up to $1,000. In 2013, Chicago reinforced their city codes in order to protect cyclists from being doored. A PSA campaign was launched to educate drivers on the crazy concept of sharing the road. The “Dutch reach” was a major component of that campaign. This is when you use your inside hand to reach for the door handle and force your body to turn towards mirrors so you can more easily see traffic passing by your car from behind.
625 ILCS 5/11-1407 is pretty clear, but if you ask a Chicago personal injury lawyer, you can hold the “doorer” responsible for their negligence in a civil case. Take the example of this Chicago chef who was doored earlier this year on Washington Street. Despite riding in a protected bike lane, the brightly colored barriers were too subtle for that car occupant. The chef was awarded over $200,000 by a jury.
Talk about an incentive to use the Dutch reach, right?
Cars Have Mirrors For a Reason
God forbid drivers have to share the road with the most popular form of self-transportation in the world. Thankfully, city and state governments all over the country are increasingly taking steps to protect cyclists on the road. Drivers are surrounded by steel; cyclists are surrounded by air. The more that everyone respects fellow commuters and shares the road, the safer we’ll all be.