Bike dooring is the term used to describe the situation where a person opens the door of a parked car into a bike lane, which a cyclist then runs into and is harmed. This kind of accident is rising in frequency and is a growing cause for concern. There have been efforts to increase awareness of the problem and better enforce violations. The cyclist often has no time to react, and even if they do, often has nowhere to go due to traffic. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the person opening the door to ensure that the way is clear.
This particular bike dooring occurred on April 21, 2010 in Lake View, at the corner of Newport and Southport avenues. The victim was Bridgid Mullen, a then-39-year-old woman. When the SUV door swung open, she could not avoid it, and she hit it hard enough to break her arm and suffer permanent nerve damage. Despite ongoing treatment, she has continued pain in her elbow and has experienced decreased mobility, flexibility and strength in that arm.
Southport Avenue has long been a problem in this regard. In fact, the high number of Chicago bicycle lawsuits arising from this roadway had led it to be one of the first in the area to get painted bike lanes. The driver admitted to not paying attention, which is not uncommon in these cases. Most doorings occur simply due to a lack of observation, which is also what makes the problem so frustrating.
A Growing Problem
Painted bike lanes and current awareness efforts have come up short. Between 2009 and 2012, there were nearly 600 significant doorings reported in Chicago, and based on current Chicago bicycle lawsuit statistics, the trend is still increasing. Chicago is working hard to find new ways to get the message across to people, and it is exploring innovative ways to increase observation. Statistics show that doorings happen at a higher rate on diagonal streets due to the reduced visibility, so Chicago has had engineers working to remove those blind spots as much as possible.