A bicycle safety campaign that can be traced back to a doctor from Cambridge has gone international, and was promoted this week by a member of the Canadian government.
Member of Parliament Joël Lightbound on Monday announced a sticker campaign about the “Dutch Reach,” a safety measure that encourages drivers to use their right hand when opening a door to exit a vehicle. The motion forces motorists to swivel their bodies and unintentionally look into the rearview mirror for oncoming cyclists.
“Every year in Canada, 7,500 cyclists are seriously injured or killed in this country. And some of these accidents are preventable through a simple technique called the ‘Dutch Reach,’” Lightbound said in his presentation to Canadian legislators. “Easy.”
Lightbound, a Quebec Liberal MP, asked that other members of Parliament — and all Canadian drivers — practice the maneuver all winter long, so that come summer, when more cyclists hit the streets, “from coast-to-coast-to-coast, we do the ‘Dutch Reach.’”
The actual movement, which is meant to prevent cyclists from getting “doored” by drivers, isn’t new. According to a Globe article from 2013, recounting a reporter’s visit to the Netherlands, drivers there are required to use their right hand to open a door as part of a driving exam — it’s common practice. But the catchy term has roots here in the state.
Michael Charney, a 70-year-old retired doctor who lives in Cambridge, spearheaded a grassroots public information campaign about the “Dutch Reach” earlier this year. The idea followed the death of a female cyclist in Inman Square this summer. Charney worked with Somerville police to promote the “Dutch Reach” on an electronic sign board positioned outside of the city’s Veterans Memorial Rink.
After the Globe interviewed Charney, Outside magazine picked up the concept, and created a short video showing the step-by-step motions of the reach. The video went viral. And slowly, it seems, the phrase crept over the Canadian borders.
Charney has a website packed with resources about the reach. A diagram he had made by a friend from Boston Bike Party, which shows a woman exiting her car — it’s a drawing based on his wife — is the same one featured in Lightbound’s campaign.
“We made it available for public use,” Charney said.