Dooring Settlement Prompts Another Bike Shop to Cancel Rentals

By Serena Dai on November 8, 2013 4:02pm | Updated on November 8, 2013 4:02pm

Source: DNAInfo

Heritage Bicycles General Store, 2959 N. Lincoln Ave., ended its rental program after hearing about a lawsuit where a bike company was liable for a renter being injured by a car. © DNAinfo/Serena Dai

Heritage Bicycles General Store, 2959 N. Lincoln Ave., ended its rental program after hearing about a lawsuit where a bike company was liable for a renter being injured by a car.
© DNAinfo/Serena Dai

LAKEVIEW — A popular North Side shop is ending bike rentals in the wake of news that another city bike rental company is paying $350,000 to a customer who was involved in a dooring accident.

Heritage Bicycles owner Michael Salvatore said he saw “red flags” after reading that Lakeshore Bike N’ Tune legally settled with a rider after an incident where the renter was injured by a driver.

Salvatore, whose store at 2959 N. Lincoln Ave. includes a coffee shop as well as selling custom bikes, said he was suspending his bike rental program, and that test rides will be more carefully handled.

“It was like, ‘Nothing’s safe’,” Salvatore said of the hearing about the lawsuit. “It’s better to be cautious.”

Earlier this week, Lakeshore Bike N’ Tune agreed to a $350,000 settlement after tandem bike renter Winfield Cohen suffered head and leg injuries from being hit by a car door.  According to Cohen’s lawyer, the shop’s employees did not offer a helmet or school Cohen on safe cycling, violating company policy.

In total, Cohen was awarded $700,000 from various insurance companies and Lakeshore.

That the bike company was liable stunned Salvatore.

Heritage posted on Facebook and Twitter that rentals would end immediately, linking to the story about the lawsuit.

Salvatore’s rental program is a small part of his business, he said, charging $45 for a full day and $35 for a half day. The program was primarily for people who wanted to test ride bikes before making a purchase, he said.

Salvatore planned to provide rental bikes for a “How About We” date package where couples could pay to rent bikes and have a picnic lunch. But when Salvatore heard about the lawsuit, he emailed the dating website and canceled the package.

Though he is losing business, “it’s worth it” after the settlement, he said.

Heritage educates renters on safety and has them sign a waiver if they don’t want a helmet, Salvatore said. But the lawsuit was “unsettling” and leaves open interpretations of liability, he said.

He said in the Lakeshore incident, it “just seems like everyone’s liable.”

“It could be the shoe laces. You just don’t know,” he said.

Salvatore said he’s not sure if Heritage will restart the rental program. Even though Heritage has liability insurance, the lawsuit signaled that “there’s definitely no line” on who will be held accountable for an accident.

“It’s very unsettling to see as much as you can control the situation, at the end of the day, it’s out of your hands,” he said.


TakeAways

Door Zone Collisions are not inevitable. And for the most part they are completely avoidable. You do not ride in the Door Zone and you cannot physically be hit by or run into a door. Because of this it seems reasonable that the captain of this tandem should have to be responsible for a portion of the costs of the settlement. In fact had this been a single it would have made likewise sense to attribute a percentage of the fault to that individual. Because the bike rental shops function a bit like bars and restaurants in that they assume part of the responsibility for the behavior of their customers (especially if the person drives home drunk) it also makes sense that they be held accountable for the behavior of their users (assuming that the users should have been informed of the proper way to address the Door Zone).

With the advent of the “Protected Bike Lane is all we need” mentality many riders are taking to streets secure in the notion that training is passé and helmets are as well. Everything that the Danes or Dutch believe is enough for us to get by. We have some rather crazy notions floating around and many of these are conflicting. We believe that cars should pass us with 3 feet distances but we do not try and avoid riding alongside their driver’s side door with at least that same clearance. That is dangerous and this lawsuit makes that clear.

We are also fond of declaring that “Every Lane is a Bike Lane” but then whining when anyone violates or bike lane in the same manner that we often violate their CTA handrails or wrought iron fences or public spaces when we get ready to lock up our bicycles. Our bikes do steer and while we think it clever and cool to “shame” motorists who park in the bike lane or otherwise break the law, we want anonymity when we do the same. We do not want registration and especially not license plates on our bikes because then motorists could turn the tables. That is cowardly.

The notion that such a collision is 100% the fault of the car driver is ludicrous. In this one situation the only individual who was nearly blameless might have been the driver who was surprised by the stoker being launched into his path. But even then he should be expected to anticipate such a situation (hence the 3 Foot Rule). I hope this bit of legal wrangling makes it clear to cyclists that a Door Zone Collision is not a way to settle up your college loans or other outstanding debts.

I hope too that tandem captains take note. You have been forewarned.