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How Will You Remember to Watch for Bikes This Spring?

This important CAA campaign calls on drivers to keep their eyes peeled for cyclists

Happy family biking down tree-lined road, mom and dad in back and a young boy and girl ahead, all wearing helmets for safety

Winter might still have us in its grip. But in a few weeks, the cold weather should start to ebb, and eager cyclists will head out onto Ontario’s roads. That’s why CAA is ramping up its Watch for Bikes program, which has been encouraging drivers to keep an eye out for cyclists for more than 20 years.

Got your decal yet?

This year, as part of the campaign, CAA expects to hand out thousands of brochures filled with safety tips for cyclists and drivers. The pamphlets, available in CAA Stores, include a decal with the words Watch for Bikes. Drivers are meant to place the sticker on their side mirror as a friendly reminder to check their blind spot before opening their doors.

Those checks are increasingly important, says Jamie Stuckless, the executive director of the Share the Road Cycling Coalition, an advocacy group. “As we see a growing interest in cycling across Ontario, people driving need to be aware of people riding bikes,” she says.

The Watch for Bikes decals have proven to be popular; CAA has distributed more than 200,000 since 2013, and municipalities across southern Ontario, including Oakville, Vaughan, Markham, Barrie and Waterloo, are using them on their non-emergency municipal vehicles. You can also spot them on all CAA South Central Ontario Roadside Assistance vehicles.

The decals are meant to combat what’s known as dooring, the increasingly common act of a cyclist being hit by a car door. In addition to being extremely painful, a dooring can send a cyclist tumbling into traffic, with potentially fatal consequences, says Stuckless.

Another easy way to cut down on doorings

To cut down on doorings, CAA is also encouraging drivers and passengers to use a technique known as the Dutch Reach when exiting a vehicle. Popular in the Netherlands, it sees drivers grab their door handle with their right hand, forcing them to turn their torso and, crucially, perform a shoulder check before opening their door. Passengers should use their left hand.

Along with keeping cyclists safe, the Dutch Reach can help drivers avoid a pricey fine. In Ontario, drivers face a minimum fine of $365 and three demerit points upon conviction for a dooring offence under the Highway Traffic Act.

“You never know what’s going to be coming by,” says Stuckless. “When people are exiting a vehicle, it’s important for them to be aware of their surroundings.”

Ready to reach?

For more on how cyclists and drivers can safely share the road, check out the CAA South Central Ontario cycling safety page.

Image credit: iStock.com/GeorgeRudy