Queen’s Park Update: MPP looks to bring the Dutch Reach to Ontario


by Jamie Stuckless, Executive Director, Share the Road Cycling Coalition

Today Share the Road is at Queen’s Park in support of a private members bill being introduced by MPP Marit Stiles. The bill is a proposed amendment to the Highway Traffic Act (HTA) to require that the Dutch Reach method be included in driver’s education manuals, programs and testing in Ontario.

Share the Road supports this Bill as a way to raise awareness about the Dutch Reach and reduce “dooring” collisions with people cycling. As cycling grows across Ontario, this Bill is relevant to communities of all sizes.

A press conference was held this morning and we had the opportunity to speak alongside MPP Marit Stiles and the CAA. The bill will be introduced later this week and debate on the bill is expected April 18th.

To show your support for this bill, you can sign this online petition: https://www.maritstiles.ca/teach_the_reach_petition

What is the Dutch Reach

The Dutch Reach was recently described as a low tech way to save lives by the New York Times. It is a simple way to keep yourself and other road users safe when exiting a motor vehicle. By reaching across your body to open the door with the hand furthest from the door — right hand if on driver’s side, left hand if on passenger side — you automatically do a shoulder check before opening your door into traffic.

When you exit a motor vehicle, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are not opening the door into a moving vehicle or person (HTA 165(1)). Doing the Dutch Reach is a proven way to reduce “dooring” collisions.

The Dutch Reach is common practice in The Netherlands (hence the name) and we believe it’s time to officially bring it to Ontario. Other jurisdictions, including Washington State, Massachusetts and Illinois, have added the Dutch Reach to their education and training materials as well.

In 2018, Share the Road launched a Dutch Reach awareness campaign with the Canadian Automobile Association (South Central Ontario). We are encouraged by this move to reach all new drivers. An official education requirement is a much needed next step.

Why the Dutch Reach

In 2016, more than 200 people in Toronto alone were hit with a vehicle door while cycling (aka. doored). A 2015 study in Vancouver showed that “doorings” were the most common type of reported cycling collision. These collisions are incredibly painful and have been fatal. They are also preventable if people practice the Dutch Reach.

And it’s not only in large urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver where the Dutch Reach is relevant.

Our polling shows that cycling is on the rise across Ontario, with 6% of residents cycling everyday or almost every day. This is up from 4% cycling daily in 2014. We are also seeing more municipalities invest in cycling. Just a few weeks ago I was in Smiths Falls, Ontario (population 8,885) delegating to council about a planned parking protected bike lane and one of the items raised was the importance of the Dutch Reach.

Practicing the Dutch Reach is a simple and proven method for increasing road safety that we can start practicing right now. We hope that with support from legislators at Queen’s Park, we can ensure that everyone learning to drive in Ontario learns about the Dutch Reach.

Thank-you to MPP Marit Stiles for introducing this private members bill and for prioritizing the safety of people cycling in Ontario.