Reported “Dooring” Bike Crashes Dropped Significantly from 2011 to 2014

The absolute and proportional numbers of dooring crashes in Chicago have gone down between 2011, when the Illinois Department of Transportation started collecting this data, and 2014.
The absolute and proportional numbers of dooring crashes in Chicago have gone down between 2011, when the Illinois Department of Transportation started collecting this data, and 2014.

Four years of data on reported dooring crashes in Chicago show a decrease from 2011, when the data started being collected by the state, to 2014, the most recent year for which crash data has been released. A dooring crash occurs when someone in a car opens their door into moving traffic without looking, resulting in a collision with a bicyclist.

Bike-Sticker-Version-4-Taxi
The new taxi sticker design.

The database is maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation separately from their main crash database, and holds fewer details about each crash, which also makes it more difficult to map.

In 2011, there were 337 reported dooring crashes, comprising 19.4 percent of all reported bike crashes in Chicago that year. In 2014 there were 202 reported dooring crashes, accounting for 11.0 percent of all reported bike crashes in Chicago. That’s a decrease of 66.8 percent from 2011 to 2014. See a full table of the data below.

When a person in a car opens a door on a cyclist, the result can be fatal, even if the cyclist never actually makes contact with the door. In recent years several people been seriously injured or killed while biking in Chicago. In 2008 graphic designer Clinton Miceli, 22, was doored by a driver on the 900 block of North LaSalle and run over and killed by a second driver. In 2012 attorney Neill Townshend, 32, swerved to avoid being doored near Oak and Wells and was fatally struck by a truck driver. In 2013 Dustin Valenta, a courier and actor was doored by one driver at 1443 North Milwaukee, then run over by another motorist who fled the scene.  This month, a 20-year-old man was critically injured in the same manner in Portage Park.

IMG_0816
Buffered bike lanes encourage bicyclists to ride outside the door zone. Photo: John Greenfield

Dooring and “near dooring” is illegal in Chicago. Section 9-80-035 of the municipal code states, “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…” In 2013 the city raised the fine for dooring a cyclist from $500 to $1,000.

The large drop in reported dooring crashes could be the result of several factors:

  • The installation of protected bike lanes that make it almost impossible to door a cyclist.
  • The proliferation of buffered bike lanes, which provide more space for cycling. One study showed that people cycling in buffered bike lanes position themselves slightly further away from the doors of parked cars than those biking in non-buffered lanes.
  • Better awareness of the issue. While there hasn’t been a formal dooring awareness campaign by the city, other than the recent requirement that taxis have “LOOK!” stickers installed in their windows, there have been numerous media reports about dooring crashes.
  • The larger dooring fines. Note that the $1,000 fine is more than the penalty for a motorist who causes a non-dooring bike crash.

When I shared this data with Active Trans advocacy director Jim Merrell he responded, “In the absence of a more rigorous analysis, we’d assume this reflects an actual decrease associated with better bike infrastructure and increased awareness among the public.”

“We have heard anecdotally that reporting can be inconsistent, so it is certainly possible the decline could be attributable to less reporting,” Merrell added. “On the other hand, maybe reporting has increased and the decline in crashes is even bigger! We really just don’t know.” Merrell said he hopes more analysis of crash data comes out of the city’s Vision Zero process.

I haven’t been able to obtain data on the number of citations police officers have issued for dooring crashes. Justin Haugens, a Streetsblog Chicago contributor, has sent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Chicago Police Department, and the Chicago Departments of Transportation, Administrative Hearings, and Finance, as well as the County Court Clerk, IDOT, and the Illinois State Police – all have responded that they don’t have that information.

Crash data for 2015 should be available by November.

Year Total non-doorings Total doorings Total bike crashes % which are doorings

2011

1,404

337

1,741

19.4%

2012

1,578

334

1,912

17.5%

2013

1,719

270

1,989

13.6%

2014

1,635

202

1,837

11.0%

This data is provided by IDOT based on crash reports from local police jurisdictions. The department does not endorse or review third-party analyses of its data. Download the data.

  • Anne A

    Over the last 20 years, I have noticed an increased awareness by drivers about dooring. While there are still plenty of offenders, situations where I see a driver check their mirror and wait, or start to open the door and then pull it back in, are more frequent all the time. I also feel that many cyclists have become more aware of indicators that could alert them to potential doorings.

    The stickers on cab windows help too. I’ve heard that at least some cab drivers check their mirrors and use auto-locking to keep the car’s doors locked if a cyclist is passing. Some of them learned the hard way – by dooring someone in the past.

  • disqus_SBxbICDCIX

    This is primarily because bicycles now ride in the middle of the street way outside the bicycle lanes and know were near the parked cars.

  • SingleOccupantDriver

    Thin electric vehicles parked to curb eliminate bicycle dooring. I suggest taxing the side seats of cars and, to keep it fair, any pedaled vehicles like side by side seated pedicabs or novelty family bikes. Then there will be far less bike dooring. Single-width transport like bicycles, walking, jogging, scooters, seguays, and thin electric vehicles are the safest and best use of street space.

  • Rabbits Ride Bikes

    Sadly the thin electric vehicles parked on the curb don’t actually eliminate bicycle dooring – the only way that they would is if the door slides back, up or down flush with the vehicle.

    I am not quite sure I understand how your taxing suggestion works – can you elaborate?

    I think that the best use of street space is a very complicated issue with numerous factors to consider. To counter your thought about those types only being the most efficient use of space look at many of the locations in Europe where all modes share the space and are safer for it.

  • Rabbits Ride Bikes

    Steven great read, I have similar findings and will have my results soon – defending in December.

  • SingleOccupantDriver

    As demonstrated at the National Association of City Transportation Officials this week in Seattle, thin electric vehicles don’t park on the curb, they park toward the curb like a motorcycle. When opening their standard doors, they completely avoid any space cyclists travel on. The only way a cyclist would encounter their opening doors would be when walking their cycles on the street.

    Regarding taxing, all vehicles using the road could be taxed per vehicle miles travelled. Since vehicle width beyond single width creates unneccessary congestion, double width vehicles like side by side seated cars, pedicabs, and side by side seated bikes like the ones rented at Navy Pier would be taxed twice as much as single width electric vehicles, motorcycles, scooters, and single and tandem seated bicycles.

  • Thanks. Which jurisdiction are you studying?

  • Rabbits Ride Bikes

    “they park toward the curb like a motorcycle” so you are saying that they park with back in angled parking?

    If this is correct then yes you are correct and it would remove the door zone completely. This is something that is a bit hard to do for any city Chicago not withstanding. This would be a large difficult solution that would be very hard to sell to those that have parking on Milwaukee Ave, not to mention the French that own the meters.

    I follow the taxing idea but it feels shaky to me, do you have any research that would support this?

  • Rabbits Ride Bikes

    All of Chicago.

  • I think @SingleOccupantDriver:disqus is referring to 39 inch Tango cars (vs 70 inches for a Prius, or 80 inches for a full-sized SUV). They parallel park against the curb just like a Chevy Tahoe, but the door doesn’t swing out nearly as far. The driver should still look back even in the presence of a bike lane — cyclists may weave into the extra space in the parking lane — but I really like the idea of narrow cars like the Tango.

    As far as taxing larger vehicles, I’m all for it for the reasons Single refers too — the trend to larger vehicle sizes over the past 20 years has resulted in increased congestion. They take up more room on the road, which means decreased highway capacity per person, which in turn leads to political pressure for more highway spending.

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