Saturday, April 16, 2011

Editorial Advances the Discussion on "Doorings"

In a recent Chicago Tribune editorial, the issue of "doorings" was advanced. The legal issues surrounding "doorings" has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks because of the Active Transportation Alliance's efforts to publicize the fact that the Illinois Department of Transportation does not count "doorings" as a "traffic" accident.

IDOT's misguided rationale is a "dooring" does not count as a traffic accident because the motor vehicle itself is not in motion at the time of impact. I addressed IDOT's position in an earlier post on

The City of Chicago has and ordinance that prohibits "doorings." Further complicating problems for bicyclists is the fact that Chicago police rarely issue tickets to the motorists responsible for the "dooring." In 2008 the City of Chicago amended its Municipal Code to specifically address "doorings" and other dangerous actions by motorists that affect bicyclists. Section 9-80-035 provides the following:
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. Added Coun. J. 3-12-08, p. 22781, § 2.
Many of the opponents to bicycling try to spin this ordinance as unfair targeting of motorist. However, that is only part of the motivation behind this ordinance. The ordinance also serves as a deterrent to keep motorists aware of the possibility that a bicyclist may be approaching and that if they "door" a motorist then they could be fined under the ordinance. Section 9-4-025(b) of the ordinance,"Bicycle safety violation–Penalty" provides that the fine is $150 if the violation interferes with the bicycle and $500 if a collision results between the door and the bicycle. The ordinance reads as follows:
Any person who violates sections 9-40-160 or 9-80-035 of this Code, when such violation interferes with the movement of a bicycle, shall be subject to (i) a penalty of $150.00 or, (ii) if such violation causes a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicycle, a penalty of $500.00, for each offense.
A bicyclist who has been "doored" also has the right to pursue a civil claim against the motorist committing the "dooring" and their insurance company. Claims like this are common and often result favorably in favor of the bicyclist with the assistance of an experienced attorney. If you have any questions regarding this post or an issue involving Illinois personal injury law, please contact Illinois Bicycle Attorney Mike Keating at 312-208-7702 or . All initial consultations are confidential and free.