Chicago Bicycle Injuries- The Dangers of “Dooring”

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A “dooring” collision occurs when a motorist parallel parks his car then opens his or her car door to exit without first looking whether any bicyclists are coming. The bicyclist does not have enough warning to avoid the door and ends up crashing into the door and is thrown to the pavement. In a more dangerous scenario, the bicyclist is thrown to the pavement into the path of moving vehicular traffic.

Car door collision is the most common way bicyclists are injured in Chicago according to the Active Transportation Alliance (ATA), an advocacy group that works to make Chicago streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Active Transportation Alliance works to increase motorist’s awareness that there are bicyclists using the road way and they are usually try to stay as close to the parked cars as possible to stay out of the way of moving motorist traffic.

Additionally, if the incentive of not wanting to cause injury to a bicyclist is not enough, Illinois and Chicago City ordinances require motorist to look before opening their car door. Illinois statute 735 ILCS 5/11-1407 states that: “No person shall open a door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is responsibly safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic...” The Chicago Municipal Code 9-80-035 is identical to the state law. The City of Chicago ordinance carries fines of up to $500.00 for opening a vehicle door in the path of a cyclist.

During the last three years, Illinois averaged over 3,500 bicycle vs. motor vehicle collisions according to Illinois Department of Transportation. Out of these, 3,200 resulted in injuries to the bicyclist. From these statistics it is clear that bicyclists run a high risk of being injured. Though “dooring” collisions are often sudden and unavoidable, there are steps a bicyclist can take to minimize the risk of injury, including:

  1. Always wear a helmet on the street
  2. Wear bright and visible clothing
  3. Have proper bike lights at night
  4. If you see that a person is sitting in his car, preparing to exit, assume that the motorist will not look before exiting and be extra vigilant when passing that motor vehicle.

The Chicago injury law firm of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. has litigated numerous bicycle injury cases. From our experience litigating bicycle injury cases, we know it is important, if possible, to get the name, address and telephone number of any witnesses since it has been our law office’s experience that the motorist will often blame the bicyclist for the collision by claiming the bicyclist was riding recklessly and not looking where he was going. Another common defense is to claim that the car door was closed and that the bicyclist ran into the car’s rear view mirror on the side of the car. An independent witness will usually persuade the insurance company of the motorist to settle the case without protracted litigation.

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