The Dutch Reach: A Simple Solution to Chicago’s Bicycle Accident Epidemic

More and more Chicago bicyclists each year are getting severely hurt in dooring accidents, but there is a simple solution that can prevent numerous people from getting hurt.

According to a recent report put forth by the Illinois Department of Transportation, “doorings,” or traffic accidents where a cyclist is struck by a car door, have increased by 33% between 2014 and 2015.  While the number of reported crashes in Chicago involving bicycles remained relatively the same, the percentage of dooring accidents has jumped up from 10% in 2014 to 17.5%.  Jim Merrell, advocacy director of the Active Transportation Alliance, said these numbers represent “a step backward for safety in the city.”  Moreover, the City also saw a bump in fatalities from 6 in 2014 to 8 in 2015.   This presents a problem for Chicago, which sees an average of 125,000 daily bike trips and over 45,400,000 bike trips per year. 

The lawyers of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. has seen an uptick in bicycle accidents and, more specifically, dooring cases in the past few years.  Attorney Peter A. Zneimer, name partner and personal injury attorney in Chicago for over twenty years, remarked on the subject that, “our firm has seen an increased number of accidents involving bicyclists to the point where they have become a cornerstone of our business.  Many times, bicyclists are severely hurt and need our zealous representation to get compensation for their injuries.”

Fortunately, dooring accidents are easily preventable.  While Chicago adopted Municipal Code 9-80-035 in 2008 which prohibits individuals from opening “the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so,” there is a much simpler solution: the “Dutch Reach.”  In the Netherlands, drivers are taught that when exiting a motor vehicle to open their car door with their right hand, or in other words, the hand furthest away from the car door, instead of using their near or left hand.  When a driver opens the car door with his or her opposite hand, that driver is naturally forced to turn back and see whether there are any oncoming bicyclists.  This simple behavioral shift is cost-effective and can prevent, “hundreds of bike-car crashes and severe injuries,” according to Dr. Michael Charney, founder of the Dutch Reach Project.

This practice is so effective that, in May 2017, Massachusetts added Dutch Reach instructions in the Massachusetts Driver’s Manuel in an effort to curb doorings.  “Hopefully, Illinois adopts a similar measure; however, until then, I strongly advocate for drivers to use the Dutch Reach in order to keep an eye out for bicyclists,” Mr. Zneimer expressed. “It pains me to see so many injured by something we can all work together to prevent.”

Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. is Chicago-based law firm that handles serious personal injury cases and broad-range immigration cases.  Our office is located in Lakeview, near the intersection of Irving Park and Western and close to Lincoln Square.  Our staff speaks English, Spanish, Turkish, Bulgarian, and Russian.