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2 Cyclists Killed and Critically Injured in 2 Days Shows Need for More Dooring Awareness

The 1100 block of West 18th Street in Pilsen, where a car passenger doored a 25-year-old man on his bike yesterday, resulting in life-threatening injuries. Image: Google Street View

It's been a bad week for biking in the Chicago region. In addition to the young female cyclist who was seriously injured Tuesday afternoon in Avondale by a driver fleeing in a stolen car, a bike rider was killed in northwest suburban Arlington Heights, and another cyclist was critically injured in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. In both of the latter two cases, the bike riders crashed after doors were opened in their paths.

There had already been at least one tragic dooring case this summer. On July 28, Luster Jackson, 58, was struck and killed on his bike in South Shore when a driver opened a car door on him, forcing him to swerve into the path of another motorist. Local aldermen previously blocked the Chicago Department of Transportation from installing protected bike lanes on this stretch of Stony Island, which could have made a difference in this case.

On Tuesday of this week just before noon at Dunton Avenue and Thomas Street in Arlington Heights, a motorist left their driver-side door of their 2015 Kia Optima sedan open in traffic while retrieving items, according to the local police department. Glenn Richmond, 63, was biking south, struck the door and the motorist, and crashed. Richmond was taken to Lutheran General Hospital in critical condition and pronounced dead at 5:31 p.m. The driver, who was struck in the back, was uninjured.

A Sun-Times report on the crash blamed the victim for his injuries noting that "the bicyclist was not wearing a helmet." The paper failed to mention that the actions of the driver, who hasn't been cited yet, may have been illegal. The Illinois Vehicle 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, 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.

And yesterday around 6:30 p.m. on the 1100 block of West 18th in Pilsen, a passenger in a parked vehicle opened their door in the path of of a 25-year-old male bicyclist who was traveling eastbound, according to the Chicago Police Department. The man struck the door and fell on the ground, where an eastbound vehicle struck him. He was transported to Stroger Hospital in critical condition. Police issued a citation to the passenger for violating the city's dooring ordinance, which carries a $1,000 fine.

This stretch of 18th has non-protected bike lanes, which remind motorists to watch out for cyclists. However, in the wake of the crash cyclists tweeted that they feel doorings are a constant threat on the street due to its high parking turnover and narrow road width.

All of these recent crashes highlight the dangers of opening a car door, or leaving it open, in traffic without first checking for cyclists. There were 302 reported doorings in Chicago in 2015, according to Illinois Department of Transportation data.

Chicago and Illinois have already made some efforts to raise awareness of the issue. In the wake of the October 2012 death of attorney Neill Townsend, 32, who was struck and killed by a truck driver after a car driver doored him, Townsend’s friends designed an anti-dooring decal that was eventually made a requirement for Chicago cabs.

The Dutch Reach.

And last month, after advocacy from Groups like the Active Transportation Alliance and Ride Illinois, as well as state rep Theresa Mah, Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law House Bill 5143, which adds the Dutch Reach anti-dooring strategy to Illinois’ Rules of the Road manual. The Dutch Reach is the norm in the Netherlands: using your inside hand to open the door, which makes you look over your shoulder, making it more likely an approaching cyclist will be in your field of vision.

But the more we can do to remind residents that checking for bikes before exiting a car can be a matter of life or death, the better. It would be great to see the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois roll out social media and display advertising campaigns to help spread this potentially life-saving message.

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