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Milwaukee Avenue Dooring 'Epidemic' Claims Another Victim

By Alisa Hauser | November 19, 2013 10:45am | Updated on November 19, 2013 12:15pm
 John Hogue (l.) said he looked out of his rearview mirror before opening his car door, but cyclist Ron Mendoza "came out of nowhere." Hogue said he plans to tell a judge that he's not guilty when he goes to court Jan. 6.
John Hogue (l.) said he looked out of his rearview mirror before opening his car door, but cyclist Ron Mendoza "came out of nowhere." Hogue said he plans to tell a judge that he's not guilty when he goes to court Jan. 6.
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DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser

WICKER PARK — A major biking route along Milwaukee Avenue that some say is experiencing a "dooring epidemic" recently was the scene of yet another accident.

Humboldt Park cyclist Ron Mendoza, 33, was treated at a hospital for a bruised wrist after an incident Friday afternoon in the 1200 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, just south of Paulina Street.

Mendoza said he has been doored three times in the last nine months, and five times since 2009, at various places around the city.

Mendoza said he "usually avoids" Wicker Park's stretch of Milwaukee Avenue when he commutes 4.5 miles to his job at a Downtown health club because it's "such an aggressive street between cyclists and motorists."

 John Hogue said he looked out of the rearview mirror of his Chevy Tahoe SUV before opening his car door around 4 p.m. Friday but cyclist Ron Mendoza "came out of nowhere."  Hogue said he plans to tell a judge that he's not guilty when he appears in court Jan. 6.
Dooring on Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park
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Mendoza, who said he rides at an average speed of 15 mph, blames the driver, John Hogue, a 29-year-old furniture delivery man.

Hogue, who was driving a Chevy Tahoe, said he "looked in my rearview mirror before opening the door and didn't see" Mendoza, adding that the cyclist "came out of nowhere."

Mendoza, in an interview Monday, said "there's no way in hell" Hogue looked before opening his door.

Under the terms of the 2013 Bicycle Safety Ordinance approved by the City Council in June, Hogue, who was ticketed in the incident, could face a fine of $1,000 for opening a door in traffic and causing injury to a cyclist when he appears in court Jan. 6.

While a stretch of protected lane was installed earlier this summer on Milwaukee Avenue between Kinzie Street and Elston Avenue, the narrow width of Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park makes it impossible to have both parking and barrier-protected bike lanes. 

The problem is so perplexing that Dutch cycling experts recently came to the neighborhood to discuss ideas for making the Milwaukee corridor safer.

Milwaukee Avenue 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.

After a June incident in which a 22-year-old cyclist was doored in the 1500 block of North Milwaukee Avenue, Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield chronicled some of the accidents.

"I'm really getting fed up with hearing about cyclists' blood being spilled on Milwaukee Avenue, Wicker Park and Logan Square from dooring crashes that might have been prevented by protected bike lanes," Greenfield wrote.

Mendoza said he tries to avoid the stretch of Milwaukee where the accident occurred. However, he'd just gotten a haircut at a Milwaukee Avenue salon Friday afternoon and decided to stay on Milwaukee rather than use Division Street to avoid the area between North Avenue and Division Street. Some activists have called for barrier-protected bike lanes for that stretch.

Around 4 p.m., just after he passed the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue and Paulina Street,  the handlebars of Mendoza's Cannondale CAAD road bike crashed into a car door opened by Hogue. Mendoza said he "flew" over his handlebars.

"He was on the street, face down, shaking," said Eddie Laureano, 22, a sales clerk who witnessed the accident.

Hogue said he had just finished his shift and was picking up food at a Milwaukee Avenue restaurant.

"I tried to help him. He said, 'Leave me alone. Don't f------ touch me,'" Hogue said of Mendoza.

Mendoza said he "couldn't move" and was in "pain, shock."

"[I] don't know what could have broken," Mendoza said.

Mendoza, who is uninsured, was released from St Mary's Hospital at 2333 W. Division St. around 9:30 p.m. Friday. Mendoza added that he will need to take his bike to be repaired.

Hogue said he contacted his insurance company about scratches on his car door.

Mendoza said Friday's crash was the fifth time he's been "doored" since he began cycling in 2009, with three of those crashes happening this year, beginning in February when a Downtown driver was ticketed for not having a sideview mirror after dooring him, he said.

In June, Mendoza was cycling home on Halsted Street after Pride Weekend when a woman opened a cab door onto the path of his bike.

"She didn't roll down and check [for cyclists]. They were intoxicated and thought it was a joke. She smirked, and my hand was around her throat," Mendoza said.

Mendoza said he plans to go to court and believes Hogue should get fined.

"Absolutely, he needs to be fined the $1,000. People need to be more consciously aware of cyclists. I'm even guilty of it when I'm driving," Mendoza said.

Friday's dooring crash was the third one in the last year that Laureano said he's witnessed in front of Diana Shoes at 1272 N. Milwaukee Ave. where he works, just north of Division Street.

"I ride a bike, but not like these guys. A lot of bikers will zoom around you very fast," Laureano said.