Cycling website to record Toronto 'dooring' accidents

Police no longer keep track of the number of 'doorings' that happen to cyclists, which has bicycle fans and even the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board calling for a change. In the meantime, one Toronto man is developing an application that will keep track of Toronto cyclists hit by opening car doors.

Education is key to drivers and cyclists sharing the road safely

A Toronto man has started a website that allows cyclists to report and keep track of the instances of 'dooring,' which police no longer do. (Mike Brown/Associated Press)

It's called a "door prize" but it’s not one any Toronto cyclist wants to get.

It’s when the door of parked or stopped car opens and hits a cyclist riding by.

Police no longer keep track of the number of ‘doorings’ that happen in Ontario since a 2012 change in the definition of a collision, which no longer includes stationary vehicles.

This has many cyclists and even the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board calling for change.

In the meantime, one Toronto man is developing an open source application that will keep track of Toronto cyclists hit by opening car doors.

Justin Bull created the app in hopes that tracking and recording the statistics would draw more publicity to the potentially fatal collisions.

"I think that just because you decide to redefine what a collision means doesn’t mean you should actually stop the recording of a real life issue," Bull told CBC’s Matt Galloway on Metro Morning Thursday. 

"At the end of the day people are still at risk of getting hurt, thrown into the street and run over by other cars on the street.", which Bull says should be up and running in two weeks, will allow people to list recent accidents.

"You can sort by severity of injury, when it was submitted and when the actual incident occurred," Bull said.

Yvonne Bambrick, urban cycling consultant, says dooring is one of the biggest problems urban cyclists face.

"Dooring and streetcar tracks are definitely among the biggest issues for Toronto riders, just because the way most of our east-west roads downtown are built, there is a narrow space between parked cars and streetcar tracks," Bambrick said.

Toronto police Sgt. Jack West who works in the traffic unit at 54 Division agrees that it’s an issue that needs attention.

"I think it’s an important item to watch, this dooring, because people have been seriously injured or killed as result of this," West said.

Education is key

Bambrick says that while Bull’s idea is helpful and shows initiative, it isn’t a solution to the problem.

‘It’s an interesting idea in the interim, and nice seeing action from people who see the value in this stuff," Bambrick said.

"I love that he has gone ahead and launched this as a way to be helpful, but ultimately I’d like to see Toronto Police Service come forward with a viable way to gather the data and help to educate the public in how to avoid dooring."

It’s that education that West says is key to making a difference.

"I think it’s education, we have to get this out to the general public," he said. "It’s already in the driver’s handbook, put it in other driving schools as part of their education, put out  little public announcements to remind drivers when they are opening their car door what to look for."

Out of pocket

Aside from education, some have said that perhaps raising the fine for dooring — which is now $85 — would be an incentive for drivers to start paying closer attention to how they open their doors on main roads.

"We should be following suit with cities like Chicago and actually fining people," Bambrick said.

Chicago recently doubled its fine for dooring to about $1,000 US.

"We need to increase the fine [here in Toronto] and then enforce it."

West says such a move could work as an incentive for some drivers.

"Unfortunately some people might only learn when you take it out of their pocket book," he said. "Perhaps it might be more of a deterrent and by doing so maybe down the road we will see more compliance."

West says that police are aware of the issue but it's hard to catch offenders in the act. He says that when incidents are reported police do investigate.

But such reports are not always taken seriously, according to Bambrick.

"One of the issues I have heard from people is that police are either not taking it seriously or not responding in a reasonable amount of time."

Many cyclists blame the change in definition for the change in attitude and for the lack of response.

"It just seems like maybe their resources are a bit limited and so they found a good opportunity to stop recording a statistic that they felt was unnecessary," Bull said.

Alok Mukherjee, the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, said earlier this week that he wanted police to begin tracking the instances of dooring once again, but police have said they would not begin until forced to do so.

Police have about three months to report back on the possibility of again gathering data on dooring.

Tips on how drivers and cyclists can share the road safely to avoid dooring.

For drivers: 

  • Reflect on your own driving habits.
  • Continuously look to the rear of the car, do shoulder checks.
  • No quick glances.
  • Open the door with your right hand, forcing your entire body to turn and check your blind spot.

For cyclists:

  • Ride one metre away from the curb or parked cars.
  • Take an entire lane if it’s required.
  • Use a loud bell or horn.
  • Watch for passengers seated in parked cars.

With files from CBC's Metro Morning