“Look Chicago” Anti-Dooring Campaign Starts Flyering on Saturday

Look Chicago - page 1/2
The first page of the Look Chicago flyer.

The “Look Chicago” community group will conduct its first outreach to prevent dooring crashes on Saturday, March 2, in the Wicker Park neighborhood. The Look Chicago street team will meet at 11 a.m. at Milwaukee and Damen to distribute informational flyers to pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers, proceeding to the site where cyclist Dustin Valenta was doored by a parked motorist, then seriously injured by a hit-and-run truck driver.

This will be the first such education campaign in several years. The last anti-dooring campaign consisted of two sticker designs affixed to parking meters – you can see remnants of these stickers today (see below).

Look Chicago - page 2/2
The second page of the flyer.

Hundreds of dooring crashes happen in Chicago each year, and they are entirely preventable. In 2011, the last full year for which crash data is available, there were 170 dooring crashes — about 9 percent of all reported bike crashes in Chicago. Last year, through October 9, there were 277 reported dooring crashes (data for all crash types will be available in the fall). According to a map from WBEZ, a lot of doorings are concentrated in Wicker Park-Bucktown and on diagonal streets, as you might expect.

The Look Chicago group counts Katie Paffhouse, Aaron Bussey, and Brendan Kevenides as members. Paffhouse and Bussey started the group in October, after Neill Townsend’s death on Wells Street. As he was commuting to work, a driver opened the car door in Townsend’s path, and as he maneuvered around the door he was run over by a trailer-truck driver. Said Paffhouse:

Neill Townsend’s death hit the cycling community hard. There were many discussions around what went wrong and, at times, these conversations turned into blaming certain parties. Few focused on how to be constructive and make change. Through conversations it seemed many people were interested in doing something to reduce dooring and prevent future issues; thus, Look Chicago was created.

Word is that the city has an official anti-dooring campaign in the works as well. Stay tuned.

Dooring education sticker
An anti-dooring campaign in 2008 put stickers that read "Someone opened a door and killed my friend" on parking meters.
Another earlier anti-dooring campaign used the message "Open doors can be fatal."
  • CL

    “In the event of a death, you will likely be held liable to provide monetary compensation to the bicyclist’s family” — This sentence is kind of creepy/sad to me because you would hope that for most people, the thought of being involved in a person’s death in any way would be more than enough of a deterrent. Even if you wouldn’t be found liable for the death. I think most people would feel destroyed if they were involved in any kind of accident where someone died.

    One thing I’ve been curious about — Is there some sort of general rule about what counts as dooring? When a cyclist is a couple of yards away and you open the door, they’re going to hit the door. But if they have plenty of time to see it (like if it was clear when the driver opened the door, and they came by when it was still open), they’re responsible for not crashing into the door just like all vehicles are responsible for not crashing into random obstructions. So in that case, if the cyclist swerves into traffic, it seems like the driver wouldn’t be responsible for what happens. Does anyone know if there is a standard amount of time or distance for finding that the driver is at fault?

  • There was a recent case where a trucker doored a cyclist, seriously injuring her, and then his company had the chutzpah to send her a bill for $200 for damages to the door: http://www.mybikeadvocate.com/2013/02/doored-bicyclist-wins-day-against.html. The company claimed the door had been open for several minutes and then the cyclist just ran into it for some reason. Fortunately, a witness was ready to testify that the trucker actually flung the door open right before the biker hit it. As a result the company instead settled with the cyclist, paying her a large sum. This case seems to suggest that it makes a difference how long the door is open before someone runs into it.

  • CL

    Interesting, thanks. I think it should make a difference how long the door is open, because in general, the law should hold people responsible for whatever they hit when they’re driving or biking or operating any sort of motor vehicle. That’s why they teach you in Drivers’ ed that if someone jaywalks in front of you, you’re responsible for stopping. And you need to be driving slowly enough that you have time to react, because “he just ran in front of me” isn’t an excuse for hitting someone. Similarly, you’re responsible if you plow your vehicle into a car that stops suddenly — this is why drivers are always technically at fault when they rear-end someone even if the person slammed on the breaks, making it difficult to avoid.

    Dooring is an exception, but it’s because cyclists can’t just stop when a door is opened right in front of them, and also because they are more vulnerable than drivers. So I’m okay with it being an exception, but there should probably be some sort of standard for what counts as not giving the cyclist enough time to react.

  • Obviously it’s dangerous to leave your vehicle door open in traffic for any significant length of time, so motorists who do this this should be held responsible.

  • The law has stipulations about how long a door can be open:

    “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.”

    MCC: 9-80-035- Opening and closing vehicle doors
    ILCS: 11-14-1407- Opening and closing vehicle doors

    The key phrase is”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”. You cannot open a door and leave it open unless there is active loading or unloading of passengers. It does not allow for the loading or unloading of cargo. Presumably this means that the door must be shut between each load.

  • Certainly a bicyclist who runs into a door that was opened for a while may have a case that is more challenging to prosecute. However, it is important to note that the relevant Chicago ordinance states that a driver shall not, “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.” A driver who has left a door for a period of time, may still be held liable for any injuries caused as a result.

  • CL

    Sure, but it doesn’t take long for a cyclist to come around the corner and reach the car — just a few seconds really.

  • CL

    Interesting — I still think that in the time it takes to unload passengers, cyclists and cars can catch up with the location of the car. And any vehicle that strikes a car door (including cars) when they had time to see it coming should be considered at-fault. But it’s good that it’s also against the law to just leave a car door open for a long period of time.

  • Jennifer

    That is a terrible, terrible graphic right at the very top. This campaign will fail.

  • Katie Bussey

    Thanks for the questions. Jennifer, I am a little confused by your comment. The photo doesn’t show depth or a crash. What about it is terrible to you?

  • Tony.

    Your mom fails. Hater.

  • Katie Bussey

    Thanks for the feedback. We had tried for a graphic that didn’t depict a crash. It doesn’t have depth, so doesn’t necessarily mean the car is heading towards the door. We are open to feedback, though. What is terrible about it? And why do you think the graphic will result to a failed campaign?

  • Katie Bussey

    Sorry, cyclist heading towards a door.

  • Mr I Made The Graphic

    Your breath is terrible. Failure.

  • Your Failed Anti Dooring Group

    Your face fails as it hits a door with no one doing anything about it.

  • I think it illustrates a common dooring scenario fairly effectively in a way most drivers should be able to understand. Just my $0.02…

  • Jennifer

    There are action lines behind the cyclist but not the door, implying that the cyclist is moving heedlessly into a door that has already been opened and is currently at rest in that position. Haven’t there been enough incidents in which drivers tried to claim that is exactly what happened? Random Driver is going to take one look and think “So, those stupid bikers ME to look out for THEM? Can’t this so-called dooring be best prevented by them slowing down and watching where they’re going?”

  • What are you talking about Jennifer??? The picture is a good choice, I think this is pretty clear. This campaign will not fail, do not down on someone who is trying to help.

  • Person who worked with many

    Your face slowed down but your butt is still talking because you sound like an ass

  • To give a real life example – A cyclist (Sue) is riding on a narrow 2-way street and approaches a driver (Joe) sitting in a parked car along the curb, close to an intersection. Joe is just sitting with the door open for an indefinite period of time. There is no other traffic in sight. Sue veers left to avoid the open door.

    As she passes Joe’s car, a moving car (driven by Alma) is quickly approaching the intersection from the left. Alma barely pauses and turns right. Sue is still left of the virtual centerline and is now heading for the hood of Alma’s car. Sue and Alma both hit the brakes hard at the same time and successfully avoid a collision. Sue falls and is slightly injured.

    If Joe hadn’t been sitting there with his door hanging open, the near collision and crash probably would not have happened.

  • Katie Bussey

    Thanks-we hadn’t thought of that angle. If we add action lines by the door or make the door look a little more closed, will it be a better representation?

  • Jennifer

    Yes, definitely.

  • BlueFairlane

    How essential do you consider the word “likely” to the text? I personally don’t think it’s legally necessary, as legally a person who doors a cyclist is liable. The word significantly weakens the message, though, especially in its second use. (That second instance sounds very clinical to me, anyway.) It’s a qualifier that isn’t needed. I’d drop it were this my flier.

  • I disagree about using “likely” it depends on the situation. You cannot say “you will” if it was the cyclists fault for not paying attention. Not all accidents are strictly drivers faults.

  • CL

    Anyone who bikes or drives in the city is constantly confronted with a wide variety of obstructions blocking their path — a UPS truck stopped in the middle of the road, a jaywalking pedestrian, construction work, a bus, a huge pothole, a pile of snow. You can’t blame the obstruction for what happens when you navigate around it. We’re responsible for slowing down, for looking, for being careful.

    True dooring (opening a door when the cyclist is right there) is different because it gives the cyclist no time to react. But to me, a door left open is no different from countless other obstructions — you slow down, you look to see if it’s safe, and then you go around it. Leaving a door open seems to be illegal, which is fine — but so is jaywalking and parking in the middle of the street. It doesn’t mean you can blame whoever was blocking your way if you swerve into oncoming traffic and get hit (driving or cycling).

  • CL

    I think it’s supposed to look like the driver’s arm is in the process of opening the door — making this slightly more clear might make a difference. However, I immediately understood the graphic to mean that the door had just been opened (but maybe it’s because I already know what dooring is)

  • returnofjaffar

    You’re just a fucking idiot, now aren’t you.

  • “but maybe it’s because I already know what dooring is”

    That is really important. If you look at the dooring crash reports (as reported by people to Chicago Police Department who forwards them to IDOT), they rise each year starting with the year in which IDOT began collecting them, 2010.

    In the many quotes/interviews I’ve given on this topic, I believe the higher number of reported dooring crashes is due in the largest part to increased awareness of what dooring is, it’s illegal, and that police will collect a crash report for it.

  • Can you please rephrase your comment?

  • sean

    Jezz. You really strike me as every thing that’s wrong with the internet, in that people are trying to help the real world and you want to talk about JPGs. MADD didn’t reduce accidents by having the best graphics- they were organized and raised awareness. Getting the facts in front of the uniformed, no matter the graphic, is the most important feature. Not trying to dismiss the importance of having a good graphic and a concise, easy-to-understand message but… wow… you are terribly-critical, cynical and offer no help to anyone.

  • Anonymous

    Since everyone seems to be struggling for an example as to why a car door would be open for more than a few seconds, think children and the elderly. When I’m buckling my kid into the car seat, that takes time. An elderly person may take some time getting into the car.

    If I’m standing there wrangling the kid into the seat and getting her buckled for a minute and a half and a cyclist comes along, I really doubt that any of you would consider such a situation a “dooring”. CL’s point seems to be that if the cyclist comes upon such a situation, it’s the cyclist’s responsibility to safely avoid it. If the cyclist does something unsafe that causes an accident at that point, it’s on the cyclist, not the loading car.

    ie, there are situations where the cyclist is at fault.

  • Anonymous

    In this case, it seems like Joe is negligent in leaving his door open unnecessarily, but the scenario changes if Joe isn’t negligent, he’s simply slow to exit the car for a legitimate reason.

  • All of those uses you mentioned are accommodated by the dooring law: “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.” Link.

    When there is someone loading (or being loaded into) a car, this activity is probably seen. It’s likely very rare that people riding bikes ride into doors that had been open. See Brendan’s (a lawyer concentrating on bike incidents) comments on this page about how such a case may be more difficult (presumably for him) to prosecute a case where the door was left open.


  • Jennifer

    The graphic seems poor. Success may be limited.

  • Anonymous

    Agree on all points, but I think CL (and sorry CL if I’m incorrectly putting words in your mouth) was asking if in such a situation, a cyclist is hit while avoiding the open door, would the parked car’s driver be liable. I would posit the answer is no. That would either be on the cyclist or the driver that actually hit the cyclist, depending on the circumstances. ie, one of them almost has to have been at least negligent, either the cyclist didn’t look before weaving out or the driver didn’t avoid the cyclist.

  • EF

    I have a suggestion: Drop both the likely and the held.

    If you violate a traffic law and cause an accident, you are liable for the damage you cause unless the other party is equally at fault. So I don’t think it is wrong to generalize and say that by violating the dooring statute, you will be liable.
    It is true that the cyclist won’t always sue, but that is a different issue.

  • EF

    No, actually when you violate the law, you are responsible for damage you cause. It is true that other road users have a duty to take reasonable measures to avoid obstacles, but the person who unlawfully created the obstacle shares responsibility. If you are reasonable in your efforts to avoid the obstacle, and you are still injured, then liability falls on the person who created the obstacle.

  • In this real life incident, Joe remained sitting in his car for at least 5 minutes after the crash happened. Before the crash, Sue saw him almost a block away, door open, not moving.

    If you’re sitting that long and not using a wheelchair or other mobility assistance (he wasn’t), shouldn’t you just close the door?

  • Most of those scenarios are fairly obvious when approaching. In the example I gave, Joe was a middle aged man sitting alone in a car – no crutches, cane or other mobility device visible. he was not attempting to get out of the car. He was just sitting there.

  • CL

    Do you really want it to be the case that drivers aren’t responsible for what they hit when they drive around whatever is blocking the road? There is no “reasonable” path around an obstacle that involves hitting another person.

  • EF

    CL, obviously it is not reasonable to intentionally, or even recklessly drive into something, just because there is an obstacle. What I am trying to say is that your assumption that all responsibility falls on the party that is in motion is not correct as a matter of law (and I agree with the law). Sometimes when your legal path is blocked, it is reasonable, or necessary, to take risks that you would not have to take otherwise. If something happens as a result, the fault lies, at least partially, with the person who unlawfully created the obstacle.


Active Trans: New Bike Safety Ordinance Good for Cyclists

Yesterday Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced the 2013 Bicycle Safety Ordinance to City Council, including plans to double the fines for motorists who door bicyclists from $500 to $1,000, as well as to raise fines for cyclists who break traffic laws from $25 to a range of $50-$200, depending on the infraction. Emanuel also announced that […]