As people continue to choose a healthier and greener lifestyle of riding a bike, the amount of bicycle related accidents has become more frequent. Although many safety precautions have been initiated to protect cyclists, injuries are still inevitable. A common fear among cyclists is the fear of having a car door opened immediately in front of their path. This is often referred to as “dooring.” As Henry Robertshaw described in his Cycling Weekly article, “car dooring, or simply ‘dooring’, is where a cyclist (or motorcyclist) is hit by the door of a parked vehicle opened by a passenger or driver, usually after they fail to check over their shoulder for cyclists.” These types of collisions frequently occur in urban areas where cars are parallel parked along the side of a road.
Chicago has faced the dilemma of drivers sharing the road with cyclists. As the number of cyclists increase, the frequency of accidents also rises. Although dooring accidents are not always tracked, Chicago does keep such statistics. In her article in the Chicago Tribune, Leonor Vivanco reported that “more than 300 cases of cyclists crashed into open car doors” in the city of Chicago in 2015. This was almost a 50% increase from the previous year in which 203 dooring accidents were reported. However, these are only the reported cases. Some accidents may not be logged as doorings as the bicyclist may swerve to avoid a door and instead be in a motor vehicle collision.
As dooring collisions remain frequent, Chicago has enacted a law against opening a vehicle door without first checking for oncoming bicycle traffic. The statute states: “Opening and closing vehicle doors. No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.” 625 ILCS 5/11-1407. As defined by the statute, violators of this law can be subject to a $150 fine if they open their door and it interferes with the movement of a bicycle. Id. Violators can also receive a $500 fine if opening the door causes a bicycle and motor vehicle collision. However, these fines are minimal compared to the financial costs as well as pain and suffering that a victim of a dooring accident may endure.
Recently, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law House Bill 5143, which adds the Dutch Reach strategy to Illinois’ Rules of the Road manual. In addition, this House Bill also added bicycle safety questions to the state driver’s license test. The “Dutch Reach” is a simple, but potentially lifesaving habit that drivers and passengers in cars can adopt to help reduce the danger of opening a door into a bicyclist. In the article “The Dutch Reach Will Become Part of Illinois’ Driver Curriculum”, John Greenfield describes the Dutch Reach as “using your inside hand (right hand on the driver side, left hand on the passenger side) to open the door.” The notion is that by doing so, it makes you look over your shoulder, reminding you to check for bike riders and making it more likely an approaching bike rider will be in your field of vision.
In addition, the Municipal Code of Chicago also provides legal protection for cyclists. Section 90-40-160 of the Code requires that “every driver of a vehicle [to] exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian, or any person operating a bicycle.” Additionally, Section 9-80-035 states that “no person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic.” Illinois is very concerned with the safety of bicyclists, and as such, bicyclists are afforded many protections.
Although there are many safety provisions in place, proving a driver’s negligence in dooring accidents can be more challenging compared to other bicycle collisions. If you have recently suffered injuries due to a driver opening his car door in your path, even if you did not contact the door, you may be entitled to compensated. Contact the skilled personal injury attorneys at Sherwood Law Group at 312-627-1650 for a free consultation and case review.