Changes in Chicago Bicycle Infrastructure Expected to Cause Increased Bicycle Accidents Caused by ‘Dooring’

Recent developments in bicycling infrastructure in Chicago, and its surrounding Illinois suburbs are certainly encouraging. However, as with any change, a period of adjustment can be anticipated. Of particular concern are bicycle accidents caused when a driver or passenger exits a vehicle as an oncoming bicyclist approaches. This type of accident is commonly referred to as ‘dooring.’ The bicycle accident attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. caution both vehicle occupants and bicyclists to maintain an awareness of their surroundings as the city implements bicycling infrastructure.

With many bike routes running along the outside, and others now running on the inside of parking spaces, the potential for dooring has perhaps doubled. In areas where bike lane positioning has changed, those used to its previous location, may either fail to look for bicyclists, or don’t think to warn unaware passengers of to watch for oncoming bicyclists. The potential for a bicycling accident is further increased when bicycling infrastructure calls for the creation of a bike lane along a roadway where no lane previously existed. Although signage cautioning motorists to keep a lookout for oncoming bicyclists have aided in the reduction of bicycling accidents caused by dooring, these tragic accidents continue to occur.

Realizing the danger of dooring accidents for bicyclists, Chicago’s Mayor introduced a proposal in May of 2013 that would double the fine for drivers and passengers who ‘door’ a bicyclist, from its previous $500, to $1000. The press release for the Mayor’s proposal can be viewed at the City of Chicago’s official website (www.cityofchicago.org). In addition to increased fines, the Mayor also announces that stickers stating “Look, Before Opening Your Door” will be placed in the rear passenger window of the City’s 7000 cabs. The bicycle accident attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. support the Mayor’s safety initiatives, and are hopeful that it well help to reduce injury and fatality caused by dooring accidents.

Some may wonder why dooring accidents are such a large concern, and the answer to this lies within simple physics. As a bicyclist travels, often at a fairly high rate of speed, and is suddenly obstructed by an inanimate object (a car door), the potential for severe injury is significant. Although the use of helmets can reduce head injury or trauma, the bicyclist’s body is typically unprotected. As such, the bicyclist may suffer broken, fractured or dislocated bones, as well as cuts, bruise, and soft tissue damage. In some cases, the sudden impact can cause damage to the spine cord, and even cause paralysis. The accident can also put the cyclist in danger of being struck by an oncoming vehicle, which can result in severe injury, or worse, fatality.

If you or a family member were involved in a bicycling dooring accident, you may have questions regarding insurance coverage. In general, the auto insurance policy carried by the motorist that caused the dooring accident is the source from which to seek compensation for injuries. In situations where the motorist does not carry auto insurance, or has an insufficient coverage, you may also have the option of pursuing a claim through the uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage of your own auto insurance. As an additional note, if you do not own or operate a vehicle, but travel via bicycle frequently and wish to be protected in the event of an accident, you may want to look into purchasing non-operator car insurance. A Chicago licensed personal injury attorney who specializes in bicycling accidents can explain your legal rights and options.

For a FREE, COMPREHENSIVE, and CONFIDENTIAL consultation, contact the Chicago Bicycling Accident Lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. today at (773) 516-4100. You may also request a consultation through the ‘Contact Us’ section on the right hand side of our website homepage, at www.zneimerlaw.com.