Tagdooring

FOIA is great…if you know who and what to ask for

Dooring is dangerous (sometimes deadly) for bicyclists. Where's the data? Image via The Blaze

Dooring is dangerous (sometimes deadly) for bicyclists. Where’s the data? Image via The Blaze

tl;dr: This is the list of all citation types that the Chicago Dept. of Administrative Hearings “administers”.

The Freedom of Information Act is my favorite law because it gives the public – and me – great access to work, information, and data that the public – including me – causes to have created for the purpose of running governments.

FOIA requires public agencies to publish (really, email you) stuff that they make and don’t publish on their own (which is dumb), and reply to you within five days.

All you have to do is ask for it!

BUT: Who do you ask?

AND: What do you ask them for?

This is the hardest thing about submitting a FOIA request.

Lately, my friend and I – more my friend than me – have been trying to obtain data on the number of traffic citations issued to motorists for opening their door into traffic – a.k.a. “dooring”.

It is dangerous everywhere, and in Chicago this is illegal. In Chicago it carries a steep fine. $500 if you don’t hurt a bicyclist, and $1,000 if you do.

My friend FOIA’d the Chicago Police Department. You know, the agency that actually writes the citations. They don’t have bulk records to provide.

Then he FOIA’d the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings, and the Chicago Department of Finance.

Each of these five agencies tells you on their website how to submit a FOIA request. You can also use FOIA Machine to help you find a destination for your request.

None of them have the records either. The “FOIA officer” for the Administrative Hearings department suggested that he contact the Cook County Circuit Court. So that’s what we’re doing.

Oh, and since the Administrative Hearings department doesn’t have this information (even though they have the records of citations for a lot of other traffic violations), I figured I would ask for them for a list of citations that they do have records of.

And here’s the list, all 3,857 citation types. You’ll notice a lot of them don’t have a description, and some of very short and unclear descriptions. Hopefully you can help me fix that!

I can grant you editing access on the Google Doc and we can improve this list with some categorizations, like “building violations” and “vehicle code”.

 

My television interview about dooring data

Last week you heard me on WGN 720 AM talk about bicycling in Chicago and my bike crash map.

This week you’ll get to see me talk about bike crash and dooring data on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight program. It comes after a rule change announced on Sunday: the Illinois Department of Transportation will begin collecting crash reports for doorings. Previously, these were “unreportable.”

WTTW reporter Ash-har Quraishi came over to my house Thursday to ask me about what kind of information the crash data I obtained from IDOT includes and excludes.

Why the Chicago bike crash map doesn’t show doorings

The data on the Chicago bike crash map comes from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) after reports are made to the Chicago Police Department, but it’s missing certain types of crashes. IDOT currently will not collect data about doorings.

Some Chicago cyclists created this sticker to alert drivers and their passengers to the dangers of the door. “Someone opened a door and killed my friend.” This is version 1 of the sticker; see version 2. Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.

Here’s a summary of the process:

1. Police officers make the reports

Chicago police officers collect information on dooring (outlawed by MCC 9-80-035) because of a recent agreement with the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) – the importance of reporting doorings became a bigger priority after someone died after being doored on LaSalle Street in 2008.

When there is a dooring, Chicago police officers use an “Additional Units Form” in addition to SR-1050 (standard reporting form for Illinois motor vehicle crashes) and write “dooring” where the IDOT barcode would be on the Additional Units Form.

2. How the Chicago Police Department records it

When the Chicago Police Records Office sees that there’s no barcode they know they can’t send it to IDOT, but they see “dooring” and scan it for their own records (so they can provide it to crash parties later) and then email that number to the CDOT Bicycle Program. (There was a general order put out by CPD on this procedure and, yes, they actually send them– at least some of them.)

The CPD also knows that doorings, according to IDOT, are not a “reportable” crash. In addition to doorings, IDOT doesn’t consider the following as “reportable” crashes:

  • Any crash in which the first point of impact does not involve a moving motor vehicle.
  • Any non-injury crash which causes less than $1500 in property damage, unless one or more of the drivers was uninsured.

3. CDOT and Chicago Police Department connect

CDOT can then connect to the Police Departments records system, download a scan of the crash report, reads it and enters specifics into a tracking spreadsheet.

This is how dooring data is collected in Chicago because IDOT will throw away reports or attachments without barcodes. This should change. This process affects ALL cities in the State of Illinois but as far as I’m aware, only Chicago records doorings. It’s unfortunate that local agencies are forced to bear this additional task and provide special training for thousands of officers outside of statewide practices because IDOT doesn’t acknowledge the importance of this issue and revise its reporting policy.

Below is the SR-1050 form and you can see the IDOT barcode with the case number below it. The bike and pedestrian crash data I have from IDOT includes those case numbers.

Read more about doorings on Grid Chicago.

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