Cyclist Doored on Milwaukee Avenue: 'I Can't Hate the Guy' Who Did It

By Alisa Hauser on June 26, 2013 10:47am 

Slideshow
 Colin Croom, 22, a barista for a West Loop diner, was traveling home to Logan Square from his job when he was 'doored' by a driver in the 1500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. 
'Dooring' in Wicker Park
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WICKER PARK — Bleeding from his head and trembling as he smoked a cigarette, a 22-year-old cyclist who had just been doored in Wicker Park Tuesday waited for an ambulance as a visibly stricken motorist stared at the street.

"I'm glad he's OK," motorist Michael Choi said.

Choi, a Pilsen resident, had just parallel parked in a space in front of Jimmy John's in the 1500 block of North Milwaukee Ave around 3:15 p.m. Tuesday when he said he opened his car door "a crack" and "did not see" Colin Croom approaching on his bike.

"It is what it is," Choi said, shaking his head and refusing to talk more.

Under the terms of the 2013 Bicycle Safety Ordinance approved by the City Council earlier this month, Choi could face a fine of $1,000 for opening a door in traffic and causing injury to a cyclist when he appears in court Aug. 8.

While the new law increases fines for cyclists who violate the rules of the road, it also doubles the fines for motorists who cause dooring incidents, in which cyclists either run into an opened car door in traffic or swerve into traffic to avoid it.

The city reported 250 doorings in 2012, up from 170 doorings the previous year, an increase of almost 50 percent.

Data published by WBEZ and obtained through the Illinois Department of Transportation showed  there were 577 reported doorings between 2009 and Sept, 7, 2012, with most of the occurrences at intersections and diagonal streets such as Milwaukee Avenue.

A former bike messenger, Croom said he's been cycling in the city for five years and has never been doored until Tuesday's crash, when he said he "flew over the door [of Choi's car] and landed on my head."

"I'm very safe and don't put earbuds in or any sh-- like that. Maybe my life just caught up to me," Croom said.

On Tuesday, Croom said he had worked a 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift as a barista at the West Loop's The Little Goat, and was about halfway to his home at Armitage and Central avenues in West Logan Square when the crash occurred.

The majority of Croom's nearly 5-mile commute is on Milwaukee Avenue, which sees 14,000 cyclists daily and is deemed a "spoke route" in the city's "Streets for Cycling" plan to build a network of protected bike lanes. A stretch of protected lane was installed earlier this month on Milwaukee Avenue between Kinzie Street and Elston Avenue. 

Croom said "Even with abiding every stop sign and stoplight, you can still get to places faster by riding a bike than taking public transit. A significant amount of the population in this area has bikes. It's the most efficient way of getting around, and it shouldn't be the most dangerous."

After a trip to St. Mary's Hospital at 2233 W. Division St., Croom — who did not appear to be wearing a helmet at the time of the crash — said he had "eight or 10 stitches" in his forehead and will need to take a few days off work.

Croom said he plans to attend Choi's court date with receipts for the prescribed pain medications and will try to receive compensation for missed worked hours.

"I'm not seeking some kind of big compensation, but there's a part of my life I can't do," he said. "I was supposed to work the next three days in a row, that's half of my rent, it's paycheck-to-paycheck for me, and I'm trying to make ends meet."

Croom is one of hundreds of cyclists who have reported doorings. Anecdotal evidence suggests much higher than reported numbers.

Earlier this month, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) told CBS News that he's been doored or hit five times. In May, some cyclists in Logan Square said they all knew friends who had been doored or had been doored themselves.

In October, 32-year-old Neill Townsend died when he collided with a semitrailer in Old Town after swerving to avoid an opening car door. In February, Dustin Valenta was traveling home from work in the 1400 block of North Milwaukee Avenue when he was doored and then struck by another car in a hit-and-run crash that left him in intensive care.

Valenta's injuries prompted a series of fundraisers and inspired cyclists to launch a "Look Chicago" anti-dooring campaign, in Wicker Park, which is especially busy with bike commuters.

Later Tuesday evening, Croom said of Choi, "I can't hate the guy."

"He was saying, 'Sorry man, sorry man.' It was kind of surreal. I was trying to gain a sense of what happened. You are infuriated, and you are pissed, and this is your only mode of transportation, and you want to get to where you need to go safely and soundly," Croom said. 

Choi "probably didn't know any better, but it's unfortunate people don't know any better. You need to look out of your side mirror and look around before you get out of your car."

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