Watch above: Why dooring is a danger to cyclists along College Street. Mark McAllister reports.
TORONTO – One second, Siva Vijenthira was heading home along College Street during evening rush hour – on her bike, as she normally is.
The next, she was thrown sideways by an opening door.
The Toronto cyclist had gotten a “door prize” – a colloquial term for the painful experience of being hit by an opening car door.
“I was luckily riding slowly enough that I hit the door and I just fell over to the side instead of flying over the door or anything like that,” she said in an interview Tuesday. “But my shoes went flying, all the things in my basket went flying.”
There are more door prizes accidents on College Street than any other street in the city, according to data obtained by Global News.
There were 1,308 recorded dooring incidents in the city since between 2005 and 2013. – 73 of them on the busy west-side strip of College between Spadina and Landsdowne.
And those are just the ones where a cyclist was hurt: Many cases, especially minor ones, go unreported.
In the immediate aftermath of Vijenthira’s dooring, she recalls, other cyclists stopped and along with the “distraught” driver helped her gather her things. She checked to see if the driver was ok and kept riding.
TOMORROW: Where are Toronto’s worst door-prize intersections? What share of doorings result in charges?
“It was only once I had gotten another block away that I realized how injured I was and my bike was actually not in rideable condition. My wheel was bent,” she said.
“So I sat down on the sidewalk and somebody who had seen the dooring came up to me and said they had band-aids. I went into the Starbucks and they gave me some water to wash off my cuts.”
She locked up her bike and came back a few days later to get it fixed. She didn’t suffer serious injuries, just a few minor cuts and bruises, but the incident kept her off her bike for a few weeks.
She was lucky.
“I’ve heard stories from our members of broken arms, fractured wrists – in some cases, neck trauma. These are things that have an impact on people for maybe six weeks,” said Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto.
“But for a lot of people it goes on for years and these are chronic injuries – so this has a direct cost, an impact on Toronto.”
That’s especially true in a city ostensibly trying to coax more potential cyclists onto the road, as city planner Jennifer Keesmat says she’d like to do.
The worst time of day, according to the data Global News obtained, was during rush hour – between 9 and 10 a.m. or 6 and 7 p.m.
Biking infrastructure is becoming more prevalent as the city installs more bike lanes. But many are little more than painted lines that do nothing to stop cars from intruding on cyclists’ space.
College can be particularly confusing: There are bike “sharrows” – white chevrons painted into the pavement – but more often than not cars park on top of them.
“A street like College Street … it’s set up so that cyclists protect parked cars” by acting as a buffer between them and traffic, Kolb said. “Why aren’t we setting it up so that parked cars are protecting cyclists and putting the cyclists on the other side?
“Get cyclists out of the danger zone and get them into protected space.”
Kolb also wants a greater emphasis on education for drivers and cyclists.
He suggested cyclists try and be at least a metre from a parked car.
And drivers need to shoulder check before getting out of their car. One tip is to open the driver-side door with your right hand, forcing you to check what’s coming from behind you.
- With files from Mark McAllister