Monday, September 15, 2014

Cyclist's POV Video Highlights The Horror Of Getting Doored

Below is a point of view video of a bicyclist getting doored by a taxi cab passenger from his right while riding in a bicycle lane in New York City.  The bike lane is located along the right side of a one way street.  The layout reminders me of Dearborn Avenue, north of Kinzie.  It is terrifying, though apparently the cyclist was not seriously injured.

There are a couple of interesting things about the video.  Let's assume for the moment that this incident occurred in Chicago instead of NYC.  The taxi cab driver did an awful lot wrong here.  By failing to pull to the curb to disembark his passengers he would have violated Rule 5.18 of the City of Chicago Public Chauffers Rules & Regulations which states, "Chauffeurs, when discharging passengers, shall do so in a safe and legal manner.  Chauffeurs shall discharge passengers curbside." He also would have violated several sections of Chicago’s staunchly pro-bicycle Municipal Code, including section 9-80-035 which requires drivers to look for other roadway users before permitting any door of their vehicle to be opened; section 9-40-160 which requires drivers to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any person operating a bicycle; and section 9-40-060 which prohibits any portion of a motor vehicle to encroach into a bicycle lane.  This sort of collision happens a lot in Chicago.  We have successfully represented many cyclists who have been doored by taxi cab passengers who disembarked into a bike lane.  We are always successful in holding the cab driver responsible.

Though the driver is culpable, that does not let the passenger(s) off the hook.  Taxi cab passengers owe cyclists, and other road users, a duty to look before opening a door.  Within the last two years or so some cab companies in Chicago have installed side view mirrors in front of the rear doors of their vehicles to facilitate passengers' ability to look for cyclists.  Many cabs also have window stickers warning passengers to look before exiting.  A claim may be brought against the passengers for causing harm in this circumstance.  A passenger's homeowners or renters insurance will generally provide coverage.

The bicyclist in this video did some things right and a few things wrong.  Firstly, he was correct for riding in the far right edge of the bike lane.  Usually, the danger from dooring comes from the curb side of the bike lane.  Riding along the outer edge of the lane keeps cyclists outside what is usually thought of as the door zone.  Secondly, he was wise to ride with a video camera.  What happened was well documented should there be a factual dispute later.  On the other hand, he seems to have been riding pretty fast; perhaps too fast for the congested conditions.  He admits on the video to traveling at about 25 mph.  He may have overestimated his speed, but there he is saying it on video.  Twenty-five miles per hour in city traffic is pretty damn fast.  Also, he is too cavalier about the possibility he was injured.  Hopefully, he was in fact okay.  But given his speed and the suddenness of the stop, he would have been wise to go to the hospital to get checked out.  Perhaps he ended up doing so.  He also suggests that he did not want a police report created, stating on video that he tries to never talk to the police.  This is foolish.  If he needs to bring a claim later for his injuries (if there were any), the taxi company's insurer will insist on seeing a police report to confirm that the crash actually took place.  My guess is that the cyclist may wish he could walk back some of the things he said after the crash.  In fairness, no one is at their best after getting into a crash.  But parts of his video highlight the importance of trying to stay cool following a collision.  The fact that he created and posted the video for all to see is much appreciated as it may serve as a device for educating drivers, passengers and cyclists about how to avoid such an incident and what to do afterwards.

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