To Puke Or Not To Puke…

Background Reading


As John puts it this collision was a “perfect storm“:

Dustin's accident took place near this location on Milwaukee Avenue.

Dustin’s accident took place near this location on Milwaukee Avenue.

It was a perfect storm of factors that are all too common when Chicago bicyclists are injured or killed by cars. Dustin Valenta, 27, a delivery biker, yoga teacher and actor was commuting in Wicker Park when a driver opened her door on him, throwing him into traffic. As he lay in the road, another motorist stuck him and then fled the scene.

Valenta suffered a fractured skull, broken pelvis, 23 cracked ribs and a punctured lung but he miraculously survived and is currently alert and in good spirits. The question remains: why would a driver who accidentally struck someone already lying in the road not stop to give aid? Valenta’s family is currently working to bring the hit-and-run motorist to justice:

Friends have set up donation sites to help cover medical expenses for Valenta, who is uninsured, at Go Fund Me and Give Forward. Cut Cats Courier and Johnny Sprockets bike shop are organizing a benefit event for late February or early March, probably at Bangers and Lace tavern.

That Dustin survived as John puts it was something of a “miracle“. Note the injuries:

  • a fractured skull
  • broken pelvis
  • twenty-three (23) cracked ribs
  • all topped of by a punctured lung
A Fundraiser for Dustin

A Fundraiser for Dustin

The Urban Cycling Community went into overdrive with a fundraiser and other ways of showing both spiritual and financial support for Dustin. It is this kind of outpouring of empathy that literally brings tears to your eyes and warmth to your heart.

Reply by Lorena Cupcake on February 25, 2013 at 2:13pm
The Tiny Fix raised $1,211 this weekend at our bake sale! Thank you so much to anyone who came out and loaded up on cookies.

Also, one of the girls says she just visited Dustin in the hospital and he’s up and walking around.

I’ll be at the fundraiser tonight at B&L, Tiny Fix is donating a couple of prize bags for the raffle. Come say hi if you’re there too!

Reply by John Greenfield on March 1, 2013 at 5:09pm
Just got a copy of the crash report. Bizarrely, the reporting officer cited the driver who doored Dustin with failure to yield to an equestrian. CPD, stop horsing around!…

Reply by Cameron 7.5 mi on March 1, 2013 at 5:45pm
Additionally the narrative states Unit #2 (Dustin) was in a bike lane, while that section of Milwaukee has shared lanes and the sketch depicts Milwaukee Ave as running NE/SW instead of NW/SE. All round a terribly prepared report.
Does anyone know if the officer issuing the ticket for failure to yield to an equestrian will result in the driver facing no charges to stand up in court, or if more appropriate charges will be filled latter?

Reply by John Greenfield on March 1, 2013 at 5:51pm
Dustin’s lawyer says the attorney for the City of Chicago will probably correct the charges against Jeanne Quinn.

Reply by Juan Primo on March 1, 2013 at 5:51pm
That’s a lot of personal information that just became public. Reminds me to drive safer before Casa Primo becomes a national landmark!
I noticed the witness is Mark Vanecko. Perhaps he’s Mark Vanecko, the brother of Richard Vanecko who seems to have killed a suburban man while partying, and the brother of Robert Vanecko who seems to have invested City money in a really bad real estate deal.

Aside from Juan there is little response to the level of information about the driver being “set free” to the public.

But things are about to get “interesting”…

Reply by dan brown 4.4 miles on Tuesday
is there an update on Dustin’s current condition ?

(several people asked at tthe Bike Winter table during the bike swap saturday)

Reply by Juan 2-8 mi. on Tuesday
Last week I heard he visited his favorite yoga studio and was walking around stretching…

Nothing sinister in the response by Juan. But wait a second… Let’s do the math here… reports the situation like this:

Dustin Valenta, 27, a Lakeview resident and employee of Cut Cats Courier, which specializes in delivery for restaurants, was hurt about 11:30 a.m. Feb. 8 while riding his bike on Milwaukee Avenue near Wood Street, said his mother, Terry O’Bryan.

So assuming that the response by Juan is accurate that would place Dustin back at the yoga studio about a month following the accident. Wow!

I have personal experience with broken legs. I played football in college and neither time did I heal so fast as Dustin. Keep in mind again that not only did he sustain broken ribs, but a broken pelvis and fracture skull as well! Was Pat Robertson in town recently? I doubt he gets turnarounds this stunning, at least not on a regular basis.

The saga continues:

Reply by dan brown 4.4 miles on Tuesday
thanks Juan. wow – that is really great news.

Reply by David Barish on Tuesday
I am thrilled to hear good news about Dustin. I don’t mean to be a buzz kill in that regard, but think we may want to refrain from discussing his recovery on a public forum such as this. I am not related to Dustin in any way. However, I am a lawyer and cannot help but think from that perspective. I think we may want to leave it for Dustin or his attorney to publicly comment on his state of being. Forums like this are a treasure trove for defense lawyers and investigators to find things that they can take out of context. We should continue to wish him well and hunt for the mystery vehicle. I loved the forum crime scene investigation that occurred in this thread a short while ago.

Now that was a curious rejoinder, don’t you think? What exactly can a report that he was up and about in the yoga studio produce that would be “out of context“?

Reply by Apie 10.64 on Tuesday
David, that post rubbed me the wrong way… So we should not speak of his recovery so he could get more $$? The thought of why you posted that makes me want to puke.

Yep. That reply by Dave was indeed either a very “smarmy” rejoinder or so guileless as to bring tears to my eyes.

Reply by Will 7.87 miles on Tuesday
The idea is that defense lawyers (if there ever is a defendant driver of the white truck) could use information in this thread to obtain for their client(s) and advantageous judgement that would result in less than fair compensation for Dustin.

I think we just went down the “Rabbit Hole” here. I can almost here the Queen of Hearts ranting about “fair compensation“. How on earth would a defense lawyer use information about the nearly “miraculous recovery” of our Dustin to somehow cheat him out of his “fair compensation“? Were I the attorney it would be standard practice to get copies of the medical reports of Dustin and then to “do the math“.

If the rate of healing is within known tolerances, then fine. What could be more straightforward?

Reply by David Barish on Tuesday
I really did not intend to offend. Whether Dustin and Mike are successful with any claim in the future is frankly none of our business. That is up to them. However, it is certainly a possibility. If we care about Dustin we should not do anything that would harm his position or be disadvantageous for him. Or, to put it another way, we can simply respect his privacy when it comes to public discussions of his health.
I suspect the possibility of reducing a horrible injury to monetary compensation may have had some impact in raising your bile. I understand. However, that is a reality and is frankly a much more humane “pound of flesh” when seeking to redress the actions of another. Money is crass but will do more for an injured person than watching somebody rot in jail. What we cannot do is roll back the clock and make this event have never happened. I wish we could.

This is all sounding a bit like “coded language“. And being the “babe in the woods” that I am I have absolutely no idea what the subtext is here. But I just smelled something fishy while I typed that last sentence. I’m gonna go check that our cats have not tipped over their food bowls.

Take care!

Germane to the Dustin Valenta story is another very interesting ChainLink thread:

How to minimize awfulness when doored
Posted by D Horst on February 15, 2013 at 3:08pm

After Dustin Valenta’s awful dooring and hit-and-run last week, I’ve been thinking about how to minimize injury when one is doored. I was lucky enough to come away from a dooring this winter with minor injuries because I swerved left and THANK GAWD there was no car in the lane behind me, but I could’ve very easily been hit by a car in the travel lane and sustained a really serious injury.

So when you see the door open and you don’t have time to stop: what’s the best thing to do? Should you brake hard and hope that you don’t skid into something that will kill you? Steer into the open door?

I haven’t found any great physics/medicine papers on this yet, and would appreciate the input.

Some of what follows reads more like a “How To Manual” for stuntmen:

Reply by Kevin C 4.1 mi on February 15, 2013 at 3:26pm
Since my dooring on Milwaukee in April of 2009 (from the passenger side of a car stopped in traffic), I have slowed my speed considerably when riding on Milwaukee Avenue. Additionally, I typically ride just to the left of the stripe delineating the bike lane. I make frequent shoulder checks so I have a pretty good mental image of what’s coming up behind me in the lane of traffic, should I need to move further to the left unexpectedly. And there are times of the day/levels of traffic that I simply will not ride on Milwaukee Avenue.

Reply by Chi Lowe 12.5+ mi on February 15, 2013 at 3:37pm
I haven’t been doored, but I doubt that many people who get seriously injured in a dooring have time to really mitigate the impact. That said, physics says:
The impulse force is related to the change in momentum (mass * velocity) / change in time (time at which the cyclist’s velocity = 0 – time at which the cyclist gets doored).
Since your mass is constant in the timeframe of a dooring, that leaves us dealing with either (a) your velocity or (b) increasing the length of time between when you hit a door and when you come to rest.
But… you really can’t control (b) either; dooring is so brutal because the time delta for a change in your momentum is very, very small. The car is hugely massive relative to you: you hit it, and you stop. Since the door and its hinges are effectively a lever with some flexibility, taking the hit on the outside of the door (closer to the street than the car) might increase the time delta, thereby reducing the impulse force — but that also puts you closer to the street and traffic.
The only solution within your control to make dooring less awful is to slow down (and pay attention) when you’re in a place where dooring is a possibility. Oh – and wear a helmet, since your skull doesn’t like being slowed down quickly any more than the rest of your body.

Reply by Will G – 10mi on February 15, 2013 at 4:11pm
I agree with what Lowe said.
My personal opinion would be to take the hit into the door/(hopefully)exiting driver. I feel that you’ll stand a much better chance of surviving a direct impact with an open car door than you would a glancing blow off the door and into traffic. Plus, as Lowe pointed out, the car door isn’t the “car” and has a much lower mass than the car itself and the hinges on the door will act as springs, prolonging your delta t. Both these things will help to reduce the force of the impact.
That said, I understand that in most (all?) of these instances there will be no conscience thought processing, it’s going to be all instinct. My first instinct in the past has been to swerve to the left, into traffic.
Some random side thoughts:
car doors could be engineered such that they’d easily fail (crumple/detach from the car/etc.) under a load equivalent to the magnitude and direction a cyclist places on the car during a dooring incident.
Would it make sense to perhaps swerve right into the side of the car if possible. This would help to slow you down before impacting the door (maybe?).

Reply by MagMileMarauder on February 15, 2013 at 4:14pm
The best advice from above is to slow down where doors, poor maneuverability (i.e street), and traffic coexist. Riding out of the door zone whenever possible should be a given, but it needs to be reminded. If a dooring occurs, it’s a complex equation, and so will be your response depending on how you respond to danger in general.
In other words, as our famous man on the 100 bill said, “28.35 grams of prevention is worth 453.59 grams of cure”;)

This next reply seems to keep in mind the “old saw” to avoid the problem altogether:

Reply by Anne Alt on February 15, 2013 at 4:40pm
Having been doored a few times over the years, I’ve found that there is no universal answer for all situations. The closest I could come is this.

1. If at all possible to ride completely out of the door zone, DO IT!
2. If you’re on a street like Lincoln where it’s usually a choice between riding in the door zone vs. drivers breathing down your neck if you take the lane, take the lane when possible and GO SLOW when the door one is your only option.

If you’re going 10-12 mph vs. 15 or more, you’ll have more reaction time to avoid a crash. If you have a crash anyway, you’re likely to suffer less damage. The slower your speed, the lower the force of impact = less trauma to your body.

3. Some factors will be beyond your control. The nature of the crash and extent of your injuries will vary quite a bit depending on whether the door opens in front of you or next to you, how high the door is relative to your riding position (low sports car may stop your bike but not you, while SUV may stop both), how fast you’re going, whether there’s a vehicle in the lane next to you when you get hit, etc. In other words, your mileage may vary.

4. Keep your eyes and ears open. If you see a car parallel parking ahead or brake lights going off, you know that driver is likely to get out sometime soon. If you’re near a cab with a passenger, the passenger’s movements may give you advance warning that he/she will exit soon. When in doubt, slow down and/or stay further away from that vehicle.

I’ve been doored 3 times over the course of 20+ years and avoided hundreds more by looking, listening, braking and swerving. Again, your mileage may vary.

Reply by Duppie 13.5185km on February 15, 2013 at 10:39pm
Much better to avoid a dooring in the first place than to deal it one.

Reply by Kevin K on February 23, 2013 at 1:11pm
1. It increases you odds of being able to stop before you hit the door, avoiding the accident entirely
2. If you do hit the door, slower speed = less force on impact. Force of impact is the SQUARE of your velocity.
Impact of a 10mph crash has 4X the force of a 5mph crash
Impact of a 15mph crash has 9X the force of a 5mph crash
Impact of a 20mph crash has 16X the force of a 5mph crash
3. If you have time to stop or slow down, you’re less likely to swerve to the left — into traffic — potentially getting run over by a car. As bad as slamming into a door might be, getting run over by a car or truck would be worse.
Dustin’s dooring does sound particularly brutal, thank god he’s doing ok, all things considered.

This is the first entry that speaks to how to absorb the impact in “stunt man style“:

Reply by J2O on February 23, 2013 at 10:24pm
1. Stay in the left 1/3 of the bike lane whenever there are cars parked on the right. This may annoy the guy behind you, but honestly, you’re slowing him down for less than 30 seconds.
2. Look through the car. Look through the back/side windows and in the mirrors for occupants.
3. Don’t trust the occupants. Even if they seem to be holding the door closed for you, assume that they’re going to mindlessly fling the door open moments before you pass. Slow down and give them plenty of room to open the door. As you pass, yell “thank you!”. Seriously. It works.
4. If they open the door, surge and unweight. Stomp hard on the last bit of pedal you have, then lift up; pretend you and your bike are floating. If you get lucky, the door with simply sweep you and your bike over a foot or two. This has saved me on a few occasions and you look totally badass.
5. If you do crash, go limp noodle. It’s probably going to hurt and be messy. I got bumped by a car into the back of an SUV. Totally did a Loony Tunes with face and hands on the rear window. No injuries. Which was good because the guy that bumped me took off, destroying several parked cars in the process. The woman in the SUV was pretty traumatized, but I had her laughing by the time the cops showed-up. Had I tightened-up, I would have likely driven my face into her back window with completely different results.