Been doored in Toronto? Good luck.

I started biking to work again about a month ago. It’s a welcome form of exercise I will keep up with whilst still being practical (getting to and from work and avoiding the hot, slow, crowded and often delayed subway system). I’ve been cycling off and on in Toronto since I moved here 20 years ago. And while I’ve experienced more than my fair share of bike theft over the years, I’ve been able to avoid any kind of accident. That is, until Wednesday evening.

Three houses down from home my neighbour opened the door of her SUV when I was about a foot and a half to two feet from it, giving me no time to react. She did not yet have any part of her body out of the vehicle, so she didn’t get hurt, but I crashed hard into the door, while it was maybe 8 to 12 inches ajar. My handlebar slammed hard into my thigh, my front wheel buckled and my bell broke in half.

Broken bell
Sad, broken bell.

She was apologetic and asked if I was okay. I was obviously in pain, and I knew it was going to be a hell of a bruise, but I also knew that I was otherwise fine. Incredibly angry, but not broken. I said that I would live, but that my bike was not fine. And that I lived right there (pointing to my house). I picked my bike up and carried/rolled it on the back tire to my house, walking away from her.  A few people who witnessed it asked if I was ok (I regretted later not taking their information down, as witnesses). After going inside and cooling off for a few minutes, I decided I better go back and get some information. After all, my bike needed repairs and I felt she should pay for that.

Here’s where I’d like to pause and ask you what you would do. You accidentally open your door and a cyclist impacts it. After some exchange you learn this is your neighbour, just a few doors down.  You live on a short, quiet, dead end street where everyone knows their neighbours by sight. This neighbour has to pass your home at least a half a dozen times a day, so there’s no question your paths will cross regularly. What do you do?

You own it, that’s what you do. You bite the bullet and offer to pay to fix the person’s bike or for whatever other costs there are. You make it right, right? Who wants a pissed off neighbour who grows to despise you? No one.

But nope, that’s not how my neighbour handled it. She refused to give me her insurance information. She said she had been thinking she’d offer to pay for half the cost of fixing my bike. When I asked why only half — with a cocked eyebrow — she didn’t understand my question, so I said, “You aren’t trying to imply here that this was my fault, are you?” She then said she thought it was both our faults. She blathered on with all sorts of justifications for why it wasn’t entirely her fault. I was too close to her vehicle. Her lights were on, so I should have known she was in the car. She’s lived on this street forever and never had a problem. She always checks her mirror before she gets out on a busy street, but this isn’t a busy street. Yadayadayada. I told her, “No, this is pretty simple: you failed to look before you opened your door — that’s all there is to it.”

I gave her yet another opportunity to do the right thing and said, “Listen, I’m your neighbour, three houses over. How do you want to settle this in a neighbourly fashion?” She still didn’t grasp the opportunity to make it right. So I told her I’d be bringing her the bill for my repairs, and I walked away. I mean seriously. I’m not a random person she’ll never see again, in the city. I’m her neighbour. I know her address, I know at least part of her name and can easily obtain the rest from other neighbours. I know her license plate, and everything about her vehicle.

Way to own it, lady.

And so a couple hours later, after I’d retrieved my son from daycare, fed him supper and got him to bed, I decided to make a police report. I’d consulted the Facebook hive mind, Googled some articles and had a number of different pieces of advice on how to handle it.  I was told the police would come by and talk to me (both of us in fact) and have a look at my bike, etc. By midnight that night I gave up waiting, called and spoke again to the communications division and was told I would have to wait for a call back. I called again the next morning to check in, but my call was still pending.

A full day and a half later I’ve finally heard from the police. They took a report and will assign it to a detective in my division. I got my bike repaired and asked the officer what I should do about getting the $90 cost reimbursed. I was advised to call the division next Monday and find out what the detective advised for next steps. I suppose that’s to give them time to talk to the other party?

As it stands, I’m skeptical I’ll get any form of reimbursement. It’s not a huge cost to me but it was unexpected and something for which I was entirely not at fault. And I get it — Toronto police are busy people and this is a very minor incident in the grand scheme of things. But surely there must be some innovative ways to deal with reporting such a thing. Even small incidents like this are governed by law and deserve their due attention.  Could there not be an online reporting system and perhaps a kind of community-based level of law enforcement that maybe doesn’t require a full-fledged police officer’s attention? According to some research I did, they don’t even want you to report these incidents at a collision reporting centre, that because it was not a moving vehicle, it doesn’t even classify as a collision. Sheesh.

There must be a better way.