Incidents of "dooring," when a cyclist is hit by an opening car door, are on the rise in Toronto, says a cycling advocacy group, which is calling on the city to address the problem in its road safety plan.

The number of dooring collisions went up in 2015 and 2016, Cycle Toronto said in a release, citing figures provided to them by Toronto police. According to the data, dooring incidents were up 58 per cent in 2016 compared to 2014.

Dooring can result in a $365 fine and three demerit points for a driver.

Breaking down the numbers, dooring collisions totalled:

  • 132 in 2014.
  • 175 in 2015.
  • 209 in 2016.

"For us, we ask the question of why. And what we've seen is more and more people are choosing to ride a bike in the city of Toronto, and primarily because it's the fastest way to get around, especially around the downtown core," Cycle Toronto executive director Jared Kolb told CBC Toronto.

He noted that in the city, trips of 5 km or less are completed the fastest by bike.

"So what we're seeing alongside that is the infrastructure's not keeping pace. So we've invested in life-saving infrastructure like the Bloor [pilot] project, but in a city with more than 5,000 km of roadway we still only have about 20 km of protected bike lanes."

In its statement, Cycle Toronto said the dooring numbers "should be considered minimums" because they are only the incidents that were reported to police.

The group notes that dooring collisions are no longer tracked at the provincial level, after they were removed from the Motor Vehicle Accident Report (MVAR) in 2011 because an opening door does not equal a vehicle in motion.

At the city level, Toronto police track dooring collisions via incident reports, which are not part of the regular vehicle collision reporting protocol. Cyclists are trying to keep track of incidents by using online reporting tools such as doored.ca.

Streetcar tracks a particular hazard

Streets with streetcar tracks and street parking are "overrepresented in the data, with particular emphasis on Queen St. W and College St.," according to Cycle Toronto.

Streets that do not have tracks that were particularly problematic for cyclists included Bloor Street West and Yonge Street, which are popular spots for "pick-up and drop-off activities."

Dooring incidents

Dooring locations in Downtown Toronto 2014-2016. Dooring locations are marked with a yellow dot. Blue lines indicate the presence of bicycle lanes. Hot spots are in red. (Cycle Toronto)

Perhaps not surprisingly, dooring rates were lower on streets with bike lanes compared to streets without them, and were even lower on streets with protected bike lanes, such as Richmond Street and Adelaide Street.

Dooring "is a potentially life-changing injury. It could also result in death," Kolb said.

Separated bike lanes "are ideal, the best-in-class approach to protect cyclists,"  he said.

He encouraged the city to move quickly to install protected bike lanes on major arteries, such as Bloor Street, the Danforth and Yonge Street.

Last June, city council voted to double the size of Toronto's cycling network. However, the plan is to be rolled out over 10 years, but in the end will add 525 kilometres to the bike-lane network. At the time of the council vote, estimates suggested that about 40,000 people cycle to work every day in Toronto.

City Coun. Jaye Robinson, who was at the forefront of the road safety plan the city adopted last year, said Wednesday several initiatives are underway to help improve road conditions for cyclists.

Educational materials are being rolled out for cyclists and drivers, she said.

"As we move forward with the road safety plan for Toronto we are going to push this issue harder because we see the numbers going up and that's a great concern to us," Robinson told CBC Toronto.

"We have to learn to share the road in Toronto."

The city is considering a number of options to improve safety, she said, including signals and advance greens just for cyclists, and bike boxes at the top of intersections.

Cyclists 'trying to get from A to B'

Cycle Toronto issued a number of recommendations for the city and province, and also for drivers and cyclists.

For the province:

  • Change the MVAR to include dooring collisions to ensure more accurate reporting.

For the city:

  • Install protected bike lanes on streets without streetcar tracks, including Bloor Street and Yonge Street; improve Adelaide Street between York Street and Victoria Street.
  • In areas where streetcar tracks are prevalent, such as the west end of the urban core, consider replacing on-street parking with protected bike lanes.
  • Investigate the role taxis and ridesharing services play in dooring collisions; consider banning taxi and ridesharing pickup and drop off in hotspot locations like Yonge and Dundas.
  • Include dooring collision analysis in Road Safety Plan.
  • Launch education campaign to educate drivers to understand why people on bikes ride one metre from parked cars even when that means using the centre lane of traffic, and to open their car door with their right hand.

For drivers:

  • Use your right hand, what's known as the Dutch reach, when opening your car door. Always shoulder check before opening your door.

For cyclists:

  • Avoid riding in the door zone by riding at least one metre from parked vehicles.

"At the end of the day, people riding bicycles are just average Torontonians trying to get from A to B like everyone else," Kolb said. "They shouldn't have to risk lasting physical trauma or death to do so."

Matt Galloway narrates his bike ride along Bloor Street West during the morning commute.1:55

With files from Adrian Cheung