Data from Only State that Tracks Dooring Show Its Big Problem

Friday, September 28, 2012 - 02:38 PM

(image courtesy of DOT)

Here's a little update on how prevalent "dooring" accidents are: very.

When we reported on NYC's new initiative to stop taxi passengers from hurting cyclists by reminding people not to open the car door when a bike rider is passing, we mentioned that Illinois is -- we think -- the only state to track dooring accidents as its own category. The Illinois Department of Transportation didn't get back to us with a request for dooring data, but Chicago writer Steven Vance did and he has access to IDOT's Data Mart, their online transpo data distribution site. He generously sent over the dooring data for Chicago, but also crunched the numbers on his site, Grid Chicago.

The results are  pretty shocking. In 2011, one in five bike crashes were caused by dooring.

  • 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.
Even if 2011 turns out to be an anomaly, this quick look is still strong evidence for more measurement of the problem and more campaigns to educate drivers ... or better yet passengers. The Chicago data sent over by Vance also reveal that the dooring culprit is most often the passenger, not the driver.
Vance goes on to compare the severity of injuries between dooring and non-dooring bike accidents in Chicago. His post is worth a full read for a local take on Chicago cycle safety, including the long legislative history of anti-dooring laws there.
For context: The best evidence we found in NYC for dooring prevalence was an observational study in 2010 that monitored 11 locations and found 77 dooring incidents, including near hits, over two days.
Chicago has about 2.7 million people, compared to New York's 8 million, but Chicago has about twice the rate of bike commuters as New York does according to the American Community Survey (spreadsheet) via the League of American Bicyclists. Until there's more measurement, there's no real way to tell if these Windy City numbers are the national normal, or wild outlier.


Comments [7]

chris m


Oct. 24 2012 02:11 PM

No, most are passengers are likely because of people leaving taxis.

Oct. 15 2012 10:12 AM

I suggest that the reason that the majority of doorings happen on the passenger side is that a lot of the doored bicyclists were riding on the sidewalk.

Oct. 05 2012 01:05 AM

When a driver prepares to open his door he first looks into the side mirror to check on any traffic approaching. The side view mirror allows a rear view of the entire street. Passengers behind the drivers don't have that rear view available to assist them as they open their door. It seems almost impossible for a passenger to check for bicyclists as they remain in their back seat and their are cars parked behind them. When I drive I always make sure the road is clear for the passenger behind me to open the door and tell them to wait if a car approaches. But cyclists are not as easily seen since they ride closer to the parked cars. Cyclists must be alert at all times. It's the price that has to be paid for sharing the road. As for bike lanes how many people would be comfortable walking in a bike lane? Not me. If you don't feel safe walking in one why expect anything different when you are riding.

Sep. 29 2012 06:34 PM

Drivers drive defensively (who wants a lawsuit?), passengers don't drive at all and don't think defensively. So responsible drivers think before opening the door and passengers don't.

Sep. 28 2012 10:42 PM
Alex Goldmark

No evidence to support this, but I would imagine mirrors help the drivers see bikes coming.

Sep. 28 2012 05:38 PM
Shane Phillips

I wonder what the reason is for passengers dooring more people than drivers. It seems possible that it could be because passengers are not as aware of their surroundings since they're not the ones operating the vehicle, perhaps. Or maybe it's that bicyclists tend to anticipate someone opening the driver-side door more than they do for the passenger side, since the driver's seat is occupied much more often. I suppose these could mostly be passengers on the driver's side though, which would make more sense given the fact that cars usually park with the passenger side against the curb.

Sep. 28 2012 05:25 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.