New data shows that “dooring” rose by more than half from the previously reported year
The number of local cyclists crashing into car doors is on the rise, according to new data released by the Illinois Department of Transportation, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.
Described as a wake-up call by city officials, the report from the IDOT revealed that more than 300 doorings were reported in 2015, a 50 percent increase from the previous year. The data also shows that 203 doorings were reported in 2014, down from 270 in 2013, though crashes in 2012 and 2011 occurred more than 330 times.
Dooring is one of the most significant dangers impacting cyclists in major cities, and it continues to wreak havoc even for experienced riders. As told by several people interviewed by the Tribune in response to the new report, cyclists expressed that they’re prone to dodge car doors in highly congested areas, even opting to veer into oncoming traffic to avoid a crash. Some may consider that the lesser of two dangers, but it can also be the deadlier choice.
Despite more than 100 miles of protected bike lanes that the city has installed since 2011, the number of crashes involving cyclists has grown exponentially in recent years. State data shows that 1,720 crashes occurred in 2015, up from 1,634 in 2014. In 2013, the city saw 1,720 crashes involving cyclists, but fewer in 2012 and 2011.
How to combat the issue
As stated above, the city has taken proactive measures to improve the number of protected bike lanes in and around the city. That’s a good start, but it can’t be the end. Much of the issue can be attributed to a lack of driver education and awareness. It’s an unconscious habit to open doors without thinking about cyclists riding nearby, so it stands to reason why we don’t enforce laws that would have people thinking twice.
One of the proposals that we believe is a plausible solution is to strongly enforce laws that deter drivers from blocking bike lanes, or impose stricter fines to deter them from doing so in the first place.
It’s also incumbent upon riders to know that bike lanes do not simply guarantee safe passage. Cyclists are just as responsible for sticking to traffic signs and proceeding at cautionary speeds to minimize any chance of a crash.
Using the “Dutch Reach”
A more simplistic approach might be to consider the “Dutch Reach,” put in practice by those in the Netherlands in which drivers and passengers reach for their car door’s handle by using heir right arm instead of their left, thereby turning their bodies in a position that encourages them to spot traffic from behind. The habit is taught from a very early age, and it’s even enforced during driving tests. It’s already catching in cities like San Francisco.
Michael Charney, a doctor based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, began an advocacy program to encourage U.S. residents to adopt the “Dutch Reach.” His website, dutchreach.org, comes with a bevy of resources for understanding how effective the method is, and why it’s more about changing habits than anything else. Among other things, you can find advocacy toolkits, news, and several digital resources to learn more.
And for good measure: Outside Magazine produced this video to give you a decent visual.