$2.4 million award in Philly bicyclist’s injuries ‘sends message’ to drivers

Montgomery County plans to add 800 miles of bike paths to its on-road bicycle system. (Nathaniel Hamilton for WHYY News, file)

Montgomery County plans to add 800 miles of bike paths to its on-road bicycle system. (Nathaniel Hamilton for WHYY News, file)

A Philadelphia jury has awarded a bicyclist  $2.4 million in a lawsuit. Why? As city bicyclists would put it: She got doored.

Ashley McKean was seriously injured in 2011 when a driver opened a car door in her path near Broad and Spring Garden streets. After she was hit by the car door, she was run over by a van that was following too closely, said her attorney, Chris Brill.

“Before the collision she was a very vibrant, very athletic young woman,” Brill said.

And while she is happy to be alive, Brill said, KcKean’s extensive hip and leg injuries have restricted her mobility.

“She can walk, but she can’t run. She can walk, but she can’t walk far. Everything’s limited now,” Brill said. “As she said to the jury, she was just grateful that she survived — that she didn’t die.”

Brill said the driver of the van claimed that the cyclist should have been riding on the sidewalk, which is illegal, instead of the road.

He said the $2.4 million award is significant.

“I’m not aware of any verdict of this magnitude for a bicycle rider who was struck by an open car door,” he said.  The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia’s Sarah Clark Stuart agreed that the award is precedent-setting. “I think that it does send a very strong message that bicyclists need to be taken seriously, and their safety needs to be taken seriously,” Stuart said. “So I hope that it gives everyone pause to follow the rules of the road and keep safe out there.” She hopes it prompts motorists to follow the rules of the road about not following bicyclists or opening doors in the path. Each driver involved in the accident was found partially liable — the van driver for following the biker too closely and the car driver for opening the door into McKean’s path.

The Bicycle Coalition found that Broad Street is among the most dangerous streets for cyclists in Philadelphia.

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