The decal on a taxi window says “LOOK! For Cyclists”.
I don’t report on doorings as often as I report on non-dooring crashes* but I should as it’s something we can affect with road design, a common theme of my writings. There isn’t much to say about dooring at the moment, but an article published on Wednesday about a new campaign in New York City to reduce dooring incidents between taxi passengers and cyclists caught my attention. Then two other things caught my attention.
New York City awareness campaign
Transportation Nation reported on a new video advertisement and decal being shown in all 13,000 New York City taxicabs in an effort to reduce dooring crashes. All yellow cabs in the city have a small TV for passengers; they’ll soon show a short clip about looking for cyclists before opening the door. A window sticker will say the same thing.
The message not to fling cab doors open without first checking for bicyclists will be hammered home in a video message that will play on all 13,000 Taxi TVs (assuming passengers don’t turn them off first). “Take out a friend,” reads the message on the video. “Take out a date. But don’t take out a cyclist.”
The article mentioned that Illinois was likely the first state in the country to track doorings; it also said Milwaukee recently made it illegal. Dooring, the act of opening a car door into traffic and then someone runs into it, has been illegal in Illinois since 1975-1976 (public act 79-1069). Chicago adopted an identical law in 2008 (code 9-80-035).
When I worked at CDOT, I helped the Bicycle Program prepare a memo to the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection asking them to spend some money on printing and affixing a decal in the windows of taxicabs. It was a yellow, diamond shaped symbol that said something to the tune of “watch for [bike symbol]”. If you’ve taken a taxi in the past few years, you’ll see it didn’t pan out.
Chicago reporting data
The author of the aforementioned Transportation Nation article mentioned that he asked IDOT for data on dooring crashes but hadn’t received it yet. I have access to IDOT’s Safety Data Mart and retrieved the data, reformatted it, and emailed it to the author right away (I don’t know if he received it). I did some quick analysis on it to see where Chicago cyclists sit with dooring crashes. The results concern me.
- In 2010, there were 127 reported dooring crashes, for a rate of 0.35 doorings per day. Doorings made up 7.25% of all reported bike crashes.
- In 2011, there were 344 reported dooring crashes, for a rate of 0.94 doorings per day. Doorings made up 19.7% of all reported bike crashes.
- In 2012, up until August 29, 2012, there were 132 reported dooring crashes, for a rate of 0.55 doorings per day. Data for non-dooring crashes is incomplete and excluded.
In 2011, IDOT announced, at the prodding of Active Transportation Alliance, myself, and the Chicago Tribune, that it would begin collecting and publishing dooring data, starting with January 1, 2010. There was a lot of media coverage of this, as well as chatter online. I believe this had a major influence on the reporting rates.
Have there been fewer doorings? Was that because more people now know how to avoid them? Or have there been fewer reported crashes, perhaps because less attention has been paid and fewer reminders have been given?
The same Transportation Nation article noted how widespread the problem is in New York City, relaying an observational study, and not relying on reports of crashes:
A 2010 survey in NYC counted bike-related infractions at 11 locations found that dooring (including near-hits) is a pervasive phenomenon with 77 infractions over the two days of measurement, 19 of them on one street alone.
What kinds of efforts should large organizations, like the City of Chicago, be making to reduce crashes in Chicago? Should there be a focus on dooring crashes? Is there a role that schools and businesses can play?
Saturday Night Live jokes about dooring
Dottie Bracket, who writes for the Let’s Go Ride A Bike blog, tweeted Thursday night:
@stevevance @sethmeyers21 Yes, on Weekend Update Thurs, about watching for cyclists when you open your door so you don’t miss them. Ugh. [link]
Dooring injuries versus non-dooring injuries
Injuries sustained from dooring crashes are less likely to be “incapacitating injuries” than injuries sustained from non-dooring crashes. Averaged with the two years of complementary data (2010 and 2011) the ratio of injury types between dooring and non-dooring crashes are as follows:
- Incapacitating injuries (A): 7.13% to 33.53%
- Non-incapacitating injuries (B): 47.54% to 51.66%
- Possible injury (C): 25.37% to 9.21%
- No injury: 19.96% to 5.60%
80.04% of those cyclists who were doored were injured, while 94.40% of those in non-dooring crashes were injured.
* Of the two detailed data sets I use from the Illinois Department of Transportation, the one about doorings is updated daily (although it’s about one month behind). The non-doorings crash data is updated less frequently and is provided only in summary form for a single city or county at a time.