“Dooring” Injuries on the Rise: Cyclists and Drivers Should Be Aware

By Paul Mitchell, Q.C.
Categories: Blog, Personal Injury

Incidents of “dooring” are increasing. Both cyclists and drivers need to read this article.

“Dooring” is a term used to describe an accident in which an occupant of a parked vehicle opens their door and hits a passing cyclist. Urban cyclists live in constant fear of it: the click of a car door opening just as they ride by, followed by a crash that sends them hurtling off their bike and into the street. These collisions often cause serious injury to the cyclist. As someone who has acted for many injured cyclists, I have seen the devastating injuries these collisions can cause.

The Toronto Star reports that data provided by the advocacy group Cycle Toronto to the Toronto police show that between 2014 and 2016, there was a 58.3 percent increase in the number of doorings.

Last year there were 209 collisions in Toronto caused by dooring, up from 175 incidents in 2015, and 132 the year before that. “These are life-changing collisions that can result in serious injury or death,” said Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto. He speculated that dooring is happening more often, in part, because more people are choosing to ride a bike for their everyday trips. Kolb added that, because the data only capture incidents reported by the police, the figures “should be considered a minimum. Likely the real number is much more than that.”

Cycle Toronto is asking the city to improve cycling infrastructure, including the installation of separate bike lanes on major streets, according to the Star. They also want the city to consider removing on-street parking on roads with streetcar tracks to improve bike infrastructure and banning some taxi and rideshare pickup lanes.

The group is also encouraging education on a technique known as the “Dutch reach,” for opening a car door, which involves a driver using their right hand, forcing them to be aware of what’s happening over their shoulder.

Dooring is a growing problem in BC as well, with over 370 accidents reported to ICBC over the last five years. Many more likely go unreported. ICBC estimates that one in 14 car crashes involving cyclists are the result of “dooring”.*

In July 2015, Patricia Keenan was killed cycling in Kelowna when someone suddenly opened the driver’s-side door of a parked car. Despite wearing a helmet, Keenan sustained serious head injuries and died in hospital two days later leaving behind a 10-year-old son.

HUB Cycling (formerly the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition) is a charitable non-profit organization, originally established in 1998 to improve cycling conditions in Metro Vancouver. Colin Stein, HUB’s director of campaigns, says a cyclist is doored almost twice a week in Vancouver, and that the driver is almost always responsible.
“That’s everything from getting clipped on your pedal to actually slamming into the door,” Stein told CBC News. “That can result in anything, from minor to major injuries, even death.”

HUB drives the point home in its “Open your eyes, open your door” campaign, which pictures a grave site cross and flowers adorning an open car door. “It’s about changing behaviour and that’s difficult when someone has been driving their whole life and is just used to flinging their door open,” said Stein. HUB advises drivers check mirrors and get in the habit of using their right hand to open the car door.

See info on dooring and bike safety in general here:

HUB dooring safety campaign
HUB raise your bike IQ information page

Other cities have started similar anti-dooring campaigns. One in California. (www.CheckForBikes.org), has come up with small sticker to place on the inside of the driver window saying “ check for Bikes”. They can be ordered online. “It actually forces them to look behind,” the representative says, he said. “That way. they can get a good view at what’s coming up behind them so that they don’t actually become a doorer.”

PREVENTING DOORING IF YOU ARE A CYCLIST

If you’re a cyclist , other ways to avoid dooring:

  • Stay out of the “door zone” and ride at least one metre from parked cars.
  • Avoid streets with lots of parked cars.
  • Take separated bike lanes whenever possible.
  • Choose routes along quieter streets.
  • Use lights, even in daytime.

In B.C., a cyclist who is in a collision with a motor vehicle can file a claim against the driver’s ICBC insurance. In “dooring “ cases, a court will generally rule that a person who opens a vehicle door as a vehicle passes is 100 per cent at fault for any resulting collision. (Motor Vehicle Act, Section 203) Here is what the courts in British Columbia have decided in several dooring cases:

Anderson v. Leung

In the 1988 British Columbia Court of Appeal case of Anderson v. Leung [1988] BCWLD 747, a cyclist was riding along West Broadway when he collided with the opened door of a parked car. The driver of the car was found to be 85 per cent at fault for having opened her vehicle’s door without regard for approaching traffic. The cyclist was found to be 15 per cent at fault for not wearing a helmet.

Demchuk v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia

In the British Columbia Supreme Court case of Demchuk v. Merit Consultants Ltd. [1992] BCWLD 598, one driver was parked tightly to a building in a lane close to Arbutus and 46th Avenue. As he was opening his car door, it was hit by a passing vehicle, slamming it open and forward.

The judge said that the parked driver was in clear violation of his duty: he started getting out of his vehicle with no regard for the safety of doing so, and he failed to first look for traffic. The other driver had no warning of what the parked driver was about to do, so was not at fault.

Halfyard v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia

The British Columbia Provincial Court case of Halfyard v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia [1993] 26 CCLI (2d) 320, was another case where a cyclist was injured when a passenger opened his car door. The cyclist was riding his bike eastbound on Cornwall Avenue at Yew Street in Vancouver, and was slowing for a red light. He was travelling between a row of vehicles parked on his right and a row of vehicles parked on his left. A passenger in one of the vehicles parked on the left opened her door and hit the cyclist’s leg. The passenger then left the scene. The court ruled that the unknown person was 100 percent at fault.

The injured cyclist damage claim against the driver would include pain and suffering, income loss, and care costs. If the cyclist is killed, the surviving family can make a claim under the Family Compensation Act against the driver and ICBC.

As cycling season is about to commence, please take care out there.
Also feel free to forward this article to anyone who you think may benefit from this information. You may prevent a serious injury by educating your family and loved ones.


Paul Mitchell, Q.C. is a BC personal injury lawyer who has extensive experience with severe injury claims, including brain injury claims, spinal injury claims, bicycle claims, death claims, ICBC claims, and other catastrophic injury claims. He acts for injured clients all over BC and Alberta, and will not act for ICBC or any other insurance company. For more information on this article, or for a confidential discussion of your personal injury claim, contact Paul Mitchell, Q.C. at 250-869-1115 (direct line), or send him a confidential email at mitchell@pushormitchell.com