Video: Why Is the Dutch Reach Important for All Road Users?

Opening your car door using this simple technique could protect both cyclists and you, say experts

Video: Why Is the Dutch Reach Important for All Road Users?

Cycling is a big deal in Ontario, with more riders pushing the pedals every year. But cyclists face a host of dangers, from impaired drivers to hubcap-sized potholes. Perhaps the most perilous obstacles on the road, however, are car doors. In Toronto alone, more than 200 cyclists were hit by a door being opened by an unwitting driver or passenger in 2016, say police. The incidents are so common that they even have their own name: dooring.

“Being hit by a car door is a painful experience in and of itself,” said Jamie Stuckless, the executive director of Share the Road Cycling Coalition, an advocacy group. “But when you add in the surrounding traffic, there’s a real opportunity to [push people on bikes] into dangerous traffic situations that could seriously injure or kill them.”

Share the Road and CAA are working together to promote safety

That’s why Share the Road and CAA are partnering to raise awareness about what’s known as the Dutch Reach, a novel way to exit a vehicle. (Check out the video from this campaign below!) This is the third time CAA has partnered with Share the Road to highlight cycling safety. And CAA has been campaigning for cycling awareness for more than 20 years with its Watch for Bikes program, which provides a mirror sticker to motorists to remind them to look out for other road users. This year alone, 35,000 decals have already been distrubuted.

The Dutch Reach maneuver sees drivers and passengers use the hand farthest from the car door to open said door. That cross-body reach forces them to pivot their torso and check their blind spot for people on bikes—or anything else that might be coming toward them, like a bus.

“It’s an important maneuver to protect people on bikes,” says Stuckless. “But it also protects people exiting cars by making it easier to check their full surroundings for approaching vehicles before opening the door.”

The move, perhaps not surprisingly, is common practice in the Netherlands, where cycling is very popular. There, despite the fact that bicycles outnumber people, dooring is relatively uncommon, say experts.

The Dutch Reach is becoming increasingly important here, says Stuckless, because cycling is booming: some 650,000 Ontarians cycle daily. “There are more people cycling every year. There’s a greater onus on drivers to make sure that they’re looking when they open their door.”

Ontario has made cycling safer in recent years and recently invested $93 million for infrastructure such as bike lanes. But Stuckless says it’s still crucial for drivers to remember to share the road. “People on bikes are not protected. There are no airbags. It’s just them.”

Want to know more about sharing the road safely?

Get more tips on cycling safety, or visit the Share the Road website for more resources and upcoming bike-safety events.

Image credit: iStock/DragonImages

This advice is intended to provide general information only and is not intended to provide legal or professional advice, or to be relied on in any dispute, claim, action, demand or proceeding. CAA South Central Ontario does not accept liability for any damage or injury resulting from reliance on this information.

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