Taking back the bike lane

By Darryl Holliday

A change in state policy concerning bicycle crash reports is in the works that could make roads safer for everyone.

Bicycle crashes, known among many as “doorings,” which occur when bikes crash into abruptly opened driver-side car doors, are receiving increased attention since Gov. Pat Quinn agreed to institute a change on April 25. Those accidents will now be reported more accurately among the Chicago Police Department and Illinois Department

of Transportation.

“I think a lot of times when there’s not a serious [dooring] injury, the biker sort of swears at the driver, then cycles off,” said Brie Callahan, press secretary for Quinn’s office. “What we want people to do is tell the police so that this crash is really reported because that’s what it really is—a crash.”

Previously, it wasn’t mandatory for those particular accidents to be counted as crashes by the CPD—though many officers, aware of the issue, had been noting doorings on crash reports.

The policy change will eventually create a designated section on crash reports in 2013 that will be used to officially track the location and overall number of doorings.

“We know people are getting doored,” said Ethan Spotts, marketing director for the Chicago-based Active Transportation Alliance. “So we’re thankful to the governor for his involvement and glad IDOT was willing to work with us and make this change.”

While the new policy could increase safety for city residents through improvements in road planning and education methods, college-age students may begin to see the results more effectively.

According to a 2009 report from the Chicago Department of Transportation, many of the highest concentrations of bike sightings surround the South Loop, where Columbia and other city colleges are located.

The highest numbers of sightings listed in the report were located along travel routes between the South Loop area and neighborhoods with high youth concentrations, such as Lakeview, Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village and the Near West Side.

“In terms of the demographic, college-age students tend to have less resources,” Callahan said. “They might live closer to campus but still have to commute, and I think especially a younger generation is often switching to more green modes of transportation. When you have a demographic like that, they’re going to see more of a benefit in terms of the applications of what comes out of this process.”

Though IDOT has not yet committed to any particular changes regarding applications of the new policy, the department plans to analyze the information and implement recommendations as needed.

“Really what we’re doing now is collecting any information and seeing if any changes need to be made,” said Guy Tridgell, IDOT spokesman.

The policy switch is being hailed on all sides for its reception to a public need.

“It’s the way state government is supposed to work,” Callahan said. “It was brought to our attention, so we’re trying to fix it. That’s the goal. When we become aware of a problem, we try to move and do the right things to make it better.”

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