The chair of the Toronto Police Services Board wants the force to track how many cyclists are “doored” by parked cars, a much-feared accident that police stopped recording last year.
In a report written after the Star published an article on the issue, board chair Alok Mukherjee questions why cyclists struck by open car doors are not recorded in the force’s accident database.
Mukherjee’s report will be presented at the board’s next meeting on Aug. 13. Police will then have three months to report back to the board about the feasibility of tracking dooring.
In a city where bike lanes are vanishingly rare — they account for just 113 km of Toronto’s 5,300-km road network, according to a recent Toronto Public Health study — the fear of an abruptly opened car door is ever-present for many cyclists.
Between 2007 and 2011, an average of 144 doorings per year were reported in Toronto.
But police stopped tracking them in 2012 after new provincial guidelines defined a collision as involving a vehicle in “motion.” A stationary car opening its door would therefore not count.
“Dooring, as the numbers show, is something that happens in quite a large number of cases,” 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.”
For Mukherjee, the matter is personal: a few years ago, his wife fractured her right knee after being doored in Toronto.
Years before, the police board chair himself got the “door prize,” a sarcastic term cyclists often use for the accident.
“It was a long time ago, on King St. east of Yonge,” Mukherjee said. “I was going to a meeting and someone opened a car door without checking and I fell and fractured my thumb. I needed a cast for six weeks.”
Fortunately, a streetcar was holding traffic at bay, he said, otherwise he might have been killed.
In 2008, a 57-year-old man was killed after hitting an open car door while riding his bike on Eglinton Ave.
In June, police traffic services spokesman Const. Clint Stibbe dismissed the idea of tracking dooring.
“If you said how many days a week is it sunny, we’re not going to track that,” Stibbe said, adding the force had no intention of recording such collisions.
Mukherjee’s report puts pressure on police to change that 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.
Mukherjee said he was open to a proposal by Councillor Adam Vaughan to set up an online database for cyclists to report when and where they are doored.
“It should be possible for people to report certain types of incidents, like dooring, without calling 911 or waiting for an officer to show up,” said Mukherjee.
It will be up to police themselves, however, to propose ways to track such collisions, he added.
The Toronto Police Service did not respond to requests for comment.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, a driver can be fined $85 for improperly opening a vehicle door. Toronto police have laid 46 such charges so far this year.
The Ministry of Transportation isn’t sure how many of these incidents involved cyclists.
In Chicago, the fine for dooring a cyclist was recently increased to $1,000.
Chicago police have tracked dooring since 2009, with 250 to 300 incidents reported annually.
In 50 per cent of Chicago doorings, an ambulance was called to the scene, compared to 30 per cent of the time for other cycling accidents.