Effective this past Monday, Illinois is now tracking deadly "dooring" accidents occurring across the state. "Dooring" accidents, or getting "doored," are terms that cyclists coined for bicycle accidents occurring when a parked motorist carelessly opens their car door into the bike lane, making contact with the cyclist or the bicycle itself. Such accidents are common in crowded, bike-heavy metros such as Chicago.
It's encouraging to see Illinois officials take a serious interest in these bicycle-v-car-door accidents. In these collisions, the best-case scenario is when the cyclist flies to the ground and suffers scrapes and bruises. However, the "dooring" action often causes a much bigger problem: the cyclist being launched out of the bike lane and into traffic. This will often cause serious trauma and crush injuries, leading to traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken bones, and internal organ injuries.
What makes these accidents especially tragic is that they are so easy to prevent. If motorists would just get in the habit of checking their rear-view mirror and blind-spots before exiting their car, this type of bicycle accident would never happen. This is the very reason that the Illinois government is going to start recording dooring accidents, to pinpoint the geographic areas where these collisions most frequently occur and determine how best to prevent them. The City of Chicago has been recording dooring data for three years now; it is good to see the rest of Illinois follow suit.
In Chicago, motorists can be fined $500 for a dooring offense, while the motorist also remains civilly liable for any harm caused to the cyclist. While the high fine has gotten the attention of some drivers, bike lane intrusion remains a serious problem in The Windy City.
If you are cycling in the greater Chicago Area, please remain wary of parked cars. While there isn't much the cyclist can do to prevent dooring accidents, remaining cautious of the looming threat may just end up saving your life.
Source: Chicago Tribune, "Illinois to start tracking bicycle 'dooring' collisions" April 24, 2011.