Toronto man to track cycling ‘door prize’ accidents in absence of police stats

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Cyclists ruefully call it the "door prize." It's when a parked motorist suddenly opens a car door just as they're cycling past, creating an unavoidable collision.

Except it's no longer officially a collision as far as the province of Ontario is concerned. The government revised its definitions in 2012 and no longer tracks collisions involving stationary vehicles.

The cycling community and even the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board wants the government to revisit the change.

But CBC News reports a Toronto man is hoping a web app he's developed will do what officials no longer will — provide a statistical picture of the number of cyclists being nailed by opening car doors.

Justin Bull said he hopes, which isn't quite live yet, will offer a central site for Canadian cyclists who are "doored."

[ Related: Cycling website to record Toronto 'dooring' accidents ]

“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 News on 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.”

"Dooring" is a serious problem as cities encourage more people to hop on bikes instead of driving cars to get from A to B but bike lanes are rare and cyclists must share the road with motor vehicles most of the time.

Before police stopped tracking them, Toronto recorded an average of 144 doorings a year between 2007 and 2011, the Toronto Star reported this week.

The National Post reported in 2011 that Toronto has among the highest rate of cyclist collisions in Canada.

A 2003 report prepared for the City of Toronto found dooring was the third-highest cause of cycling injuries and fatalities in 1997-98, accounting for 11.9 per cent of crashes, including one death.

[ Related: 10 cycling safety tips for Ottawa roads ]

“Dooring, as the numbers show, is something that happens in quite a large number of cases,” Toronto Police Services Board chairman Alok Mukherjee said in an interview. “So I think it’s appropriate for us to track them as a way for us to then decide what kinds of safety measures can be taken.”

Mukherjee knows what he's talking about. His wife was doored a few years ago, fracturing her knee, and some years before that, he intersected with a door opened by a careless motorist, breaking his thumb.

"I needed a cast for six weeks," he told the Star.

Toronto police spokesman Const. Clint Stibbe in June dismissed the idea of tracking door collisions but Mukherjee said he hopes a report he'll table for the board next week might push police to change their position.

“I believe that we need to have a public discussion of what constitutes a ‘collision,’ who defines it and how we should deal with ‘dooring’ as a danger to cyclists’ safety,” his report states, according to the Star.

The Ontario Highway Traffic Act allows for an $85 fine for drivers who improperly open a vehicle door. The Star said Toronto police have laid 46 charges so far this year.