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
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.

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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.

  • Kevin M

    More Protected Lanes, Now!

  • Guest

    The biker in Arlington Heights apparently did not have a door suddenly opened in front of him. The driver, according to the ABC 7 report:

    “was standing in the open door of the parked car and retrieving items from inside when the 63-year-old bicyclist crashed into the owner and the door as he rode south on Dunton Avenue from Thomas Street, police said.”

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Correct, that’s how the crash is described in this article. However, it may be the case that, the driver was the only person who described the crash to the police that way. So it would be good if there’s security footage to clarify what happened.

  • Zerodlasd

    Daily Herald says the driver was hit in the back but not seriously injured:

    https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20180906/arlington-heights-man-dies-from-injuries-in-bike-crash

    This would tend to support the theory that the driver was standing outside the open door of the vehicle when the biker approached

  • Courtney

    More driver education and more protected bike lanes, please. I was biking on Broadway last night near that horrible shopping center (horrible because it’s a terrible use of space. Why not have tons of apartments on top of the shopping center and make it a TOD apartment building?!) near Broadway & Ainslie and almost hit by a driver turning into the shopping center. He was following behind the previous car who turned. He was a much older gentleman and it’s a huge reason why I support the state testing older drivers more frequently.

    “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.”

    ESPECIALLY on streets with bike lanes and/or a high amount of bikers. It still boggles my mind to see folks drive so carelessly especially on streets that see a high amount of bikers.

  • Tooscrapps

    I’ve been doored once (uninjured but my bike was wrecked) and the driver admitted fault to the CPD, yet no ticket was issued to him.

    To me, that sums up how the seriously the CPD takes this issue.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    This post also mentioned that the driver was struck in the back.

  • eastmb

    This is due to poor design. Make protected bike lanes, or at least bike lanes that aren’t in the dooring zone. Stop designing cities for cars with everyone else as an afterthought.

  • rwy

    Did their insurance at least pay for repairs or a new bike?

  • Tooscrapps

    Yes. State Farm paid for all repairs plus my transit costs the time my bike was in the shop. However, it was only like $600 total and I had no injury claim.

  • Carrie Clark

    Was doored last month turning from the bike lane on 33rd St onto the northbound bike lane on Halsted. Guy didn’t seem to realize he’d done it. I even had to ask him to help me stand up. Why didn’t I think to take a picture of his plate? Or report the incident to the police station a block north?! Thanks to my pals at Blue City Bikes for checking me and my bike over.

  • FlamingoFresh

    If only there was a consequence that affected to drivers to this dooring incident like a battering ram that would take off the door if collided with a bicycle. Only then would you see a quick change of habits when opening your car door.

  • Michael

    People in parked cars fling their car doors open right into auto and truck traffic even more often than hitting bicycles and it has not changed behavior. Especially with the new “protected” lanes that put parked cars in the middle of street and shrink the buffer between traffic and parked cars like on Elston south of North Avenue or Milwaukee south of Chicago ave. The cushion between car door and auto traffic is now gone on these types of protected lanes, and parked cars are flinging their doors open without looking… both drivers and pedestrians. If your 10 year old is in the back seat on the traffic side, there is now zero buffer when she opens the door right into traffic which is now inches away without the buffer. Despite the “consequence” of a 2000 lb “battering ram” hitting both their own cars and bodies, it is not changing behavior… especially with passengers in the back seat on the traffic side.

  • Michael

    Chicago is averaging about 350 reported doorings to bicycles per year (reported meaning an injury occurred and was reported) or about 1 per day and the numbers are rising as the percent of bicycle commuters reaches the middle single digits citywide. As we move cars to the middle of the street, the doorings have shifted on those streets from parked car on bicycle to parked car on moving car/truck with a 500% increase in car to car doorings on streets using parked cars as the buffer to protect bicycle riders. So we are partially solving one problem to creating a new one. With reported car to bicycle doorings averaging one a day – and likely 4 times that number of bicycles getting doored, but going unreported – and combined with all of the injuries and deaths in traffic, it would appear that riding a bicycle on Chicago streets is a highly risky proposition… frankly it seems it should be avoided on most city streets until a real solution to bicycle safety exists in Chicago. It is not worth the risk of serious injury, permanent disability and death.

    Of course, every time you leave the house you are at risk – you can get hit by lighting, be the victim of a crime, hit by falling building debris or a million other things. You certainly can’t lock yourself in your house forever. But that said, some activities put you at unnecessarily much high risk – especially when there are alternatives to commuting, like public transit – at least until bicycle riding on Chicago streets become a lower risk proposition.

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