Doorings in Chicago and NYC are still a sorry state but one of them is doing something about it


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.”


Watch the advertisement on YouTube.

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:

Hey, @sethmeyers21, why don’t you tell your dooring “joke” to Clint Miceli’s mom. @SNLUpdate… [link]

@stevevance @sethmeyers21 Yes, on Weekend Update Thurs, about watching for cyclists when you open your door so you don’t miss them. Ugh. [link]

Watch Saturday Night Live comedian and head writer Seth Meyers joke about doorings on the Thursday night edition of Weekend Update (secondary 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.

10 thoughts on “Doorings in Chicago and NYC are still a sorry state but one of them is doing something about it”

  1. I suspect that the fluctuation in doorings is due to variation in how many are actually reported. Some police officers are on our side, and some don’t seem to care about cyclist safety, so accident reporting is still an act of police roulette – you don’t know who/what you’ll get when you dial 911.

    1. Right now, I, too believe reporting variations have a lot to do with the figures.

      Regardless of what the data say, and what @BlueFairlane:disqus says above, dooring remains an issue that we should attempt to tackle, but not, I believe, at the expensive of more injurious crashes.

      1. I wouldn’t consider “dooring” and “more injurious crashes” to be mutually exclusive. Fortunately, most doorings don’t result in major life-changing injuries, but some are very serious. Sometimes a dooring that could have been life-changing or fatal is shifted into the “almost” category thanks to an aware driver (witness) who helps to prevent the situation from becoming worse.

        This happened to me when I was doored and the driver behind me stopped and blocked traffic so that no one would run me over. If Clint Miceli had my luck, he’d probably be alive today. If I had his luck, I never would have met you.

        Examples like this (and others I’ve witnessed or heard about) have made me a strong believer in creating more awareness of the problem to help prevent at least some potential doorings.

  2. This is another one of those situations in which there’s not enough data to come to any conclusion, especially since you only have three years of data. You have one year at 127, one year a 344, and one year that’s probably going to come in around 150. We have no way of knowing which of these numbers is closer to the trend and which is the anomaly. Because of this, we can’t say whether 2010 or 2011 was unusual, and we can’t really make a guess whether the change is behavioral or related to data. With the information I have, I could say that AKA is right and police roulette worked against the reporting (though you’d think that the roulette would work out statistically over time), or I could say that more cyclists were on the road in 2011 leading to more exposure, or that there’s more awareness, or any other thing.

    1. Can we extrapolate any “advice” on what our policies should be?

      I recommend that we continue making people aware of dooring, but that, more importantly, we continue making better road designs that help prevent dooring. In the near future, we can see if buffered bike lanes, with their little “anti-door zone” has marks have an affect, but then again, that effect could be buried underneath the other problems with this data: it fluctuates too much with police roulette and being hesitant to report the crash.

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