Get to Know the ‘Dutch Reach,’ a Road Safety Practice to Reduce Doorings

Now that the weather has finally warmed up in Ontario, motorists must be aware of an influx of vulnerable road users on their city’s streets. In large population centres like Toronto or Ottawa, motorists should be particularly aware of cyclists. It is the responsibility of all road users – cyclists and motorists alike – to share the road respectfully and drive defensively. But, as every bicycle accident lawyer knows, the consequences of a collision are much more severe for a cyclist than for a car or truck driver.

One way that motorists can contribute to cycling safety is a practice known as the ‘Dutch reach,’ which involves opening your car door with your opposite hand to prevent ‘dooring’ accidents. Recently, Henk van der Zwan, ambassador at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ottawa, spoke to CBC News Ottawa about his nation’s technique.

“As you are making this movement, your body makes a half turn, and this will enable you to watch behind if there’s someone coming there, a cyclist or something,” he said. “So that is the safest way of doing it.”

The technique also pushes motorists to check their side mirrors and limits how widely they can open their door.

“Absolutely, it’s counter-intuitive,” van der Zwan said. “But then you have to realize that you’re not the only road user. Cyclists, by nature, because they’re not surrounded by some metal frame … are more vulnerable.”

The ‘Dutch reach’ speaks to the Netherlands’ second-nature practice of sharing the roads and respecting fellow road users, a practice that Ontarians would do well to embrace.

“It’s in our DNA … kids grow up with it,” explained van der Zwan. “I think here in Canada, you have a distinction between car drivers and cyclists. In Holland, it’s all the same.”

Dooring is a significant risk to cyclists’ safety, as every bicycle accident lawyer in Toronto knows. More than 200 Torontonians were injured in dooring events in 2016, enough to spur the city to action. In 2017, Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee asked the city and province to introduce measures to reduce dooring, including teaching the Dutch reach in driver’s ed classes.

If you’ve been injured in a cycling accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced bicycle accident lawyer. Our team can assess your claim, provide information and guidance about the litigation process, and connect you with leading healthcare resources to help manage your recovery.

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