A cyclist has been taken to an area hospital in critical condition after crashing into an open car door in northwest suburban Arlington Heights, IL. The incident highlights the dangers of being doored on a bicycle, particularly in densely populated urban areas.
Cyclist in Critical Condition
On September 4, 2018, at approximately 11:55 a.m., an unidentified 63-year-old man was riding his bicycle southbound on Dunton Avenue from Thomas Street in Arlington Heights. At that time, the owner of a parked 2015 Kia Optima was retrieving items through the vehicle’s open door. The cyclist was then “doored” when he crashed into both the door and the motorist.
The cyclist, whom authorities say was not wearing a helmet, suffered severe injuries in the crash. He was taken to Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, where he remained in critical condition as of the following afternoon. The owner of the Kia was reportedly not hurt.
An investigation into the cause of the bicycle crash was still ongoing when the news first broke.
More Cycling, More Crashes
In the increasingly densely populated Chicagoland area, where vehicular traffic can come to an agonizing standstill during peak travel times, more and more city dwellers have turned to bicycles to make their way from Point A to Point B. According to census figures, the percentage of Chicagoans riding their bicycles to work rose from 0.7 percent in 2005 to 1.8 percent in 2015.
Many recent developments in the city have likely contributed to this spike in cycling, including the installation of protected bicycle lanes, the ubiquity of the bicycle-sharing service Divvy, and an ongoing test run of so-called “dockless” sharing. Perhaps because of the confluence of these factors, Bicycling Magazine named Chicago the “Best Bike City” in the United States in 2016.
But this rise in Chicagoland cycling brings with it increased risk. More bicycles on the road could understandably lead to a greater frequency in bicycle accidents – a supposition borne out by statistics. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), crashes involving bicycles increased in 2015, up to 1,720 compared to 1,634 the previous year.
These numbers are especially troubling because crashes on bicycles are potentially more dangerous than crashes in other forms of transportation. With no protective metal frame, as in cars and trucks, a cyclist is more exposed to direct contact with other vehicles, obstacles, and the road itself, so he or she could face a greater likelihood of serious injury in a collision or some other mishap.
When Doored on a Bicycle, Injury Is the Norm
One type of serious bicycle accident that is becoming increasingly more common is one in which a rider is doored on a bicycle.
“Dooring” occurs when a cyclist crashes into an open car door. Even if the cyclist manages to avoid striking the door head on, he or she could still face serious injury from swerving into traffic or tipping over and crashing onto the pavement. In fact, in cases in which someone is doored on a bicycle, expect injury to be the norm, not the exception: One Illinois study found that over eighty percent of reported dooring accidents resulted in injury to the cyclist.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Chicago riders have increasingly fallen victim to being doored on a bicycle. According to IDOT, there were 302 Chicago dooring crashes in 2015, up nearly 50 percent from the 203 cases reported in 2014.
Chicago Bicycle Accident Lawyers
So what happens if you have been doored on a bicycle and sustained serious injury? Theoretically, the law may be on your side.
In nearly all Illinois dooring cases, the person who opened the vehicle door is at fault, particularly in Chicago, where that person would likely have violated local law. According to the Municipal Code of Chicago, § 9-80-035:
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.
Of course, the fact that the person who opened the door is likely at fault does not mean that his or her insurance company will not argue the opposite – namely, that you were at fault for the crash. In these sorts of dooring incidents, in which there may have been no witnesses and no law enforcement present, the situation may quickly devolve into an “I Said, You Said” scenario. Moreover, since the person who is doored on a bicycle is more likely to have suffered significant trauma in the incident, your ability to accurately recount what happened may have been impaired, giving the insurance company more leeway to deny liability.
Given the challenges involved in pursuing a personal injury claim following a dooring incident, many injured parties find that they might benefit from experienced legal representation, such as the representation provided by the Chicago bicycle accident lawyers at GWC Injury Lawyers.
With over $2 billion recovered for our clients and offices throughout the state, GWC is Illinois’ largest Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation law firm.