Monday, January 7, 2019

The "Dutch Reach" Becomes Part of Illinois Bicycle Laws

Illinois Department of Transportation data shows dooring crashes on the rise across the state. In 2015 alone there were more than 300 doorings reported. This number, which only represents those doorings that made it onto a police report, nonetheless represented a 50% increase from 2014. 

As part of an effort to fight the plague of doorings, the Illinois Secretary of State will now be required to include the "Dutch Reach" as a part of the Rules of the Road for Illinois motorists. The "Dutch Reach" is where a motorist opens the car door across their body with their right hand. This movement forces the the driver to turn their body and check over their left shoulder towards oncoming traffic. The goal of the "Dutch Reach" is to teach motorists to always check for bicyclists prior to opening their vehicle door into traffic and to prevent doorings. Keating Law Offices attorney Mike Keating was recently profiled in a CBS 2 Chicago story on the Dutch Reach.

Doorings Are Illegal

Section 11-1407 of the Illinois Vehicle Code and Section 9-80-035 of Municipal Code of Chicago prohibit opening a car door into traffic. Here's the Illinois dooring law:  
"No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers."
Bicyclists Have Equal Right to Illinois Roads

As clarified in the 2017 Illinois bike law known as "Dennis' Law," a bicycle is a vehicle under Illinois law and any reference to a "vehicle" or "traffic" includes a bicyclist. The trend of dooring has gotten worse. According to the available data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, doorings area plague to Chicago cyclists in particular. In 2015 there were 302 cases of doorings. There were 203 in 2014, 270 in 2013, 334 reported in 2012 and 336 in 2011, the first full year IDOT collected data on the number of doorings.

Teaching the "Dutch Reach" is an important step in making watching for bicycles at all times a common practice for all motorists. Just as every motorist is taught to "check their blind spot" when changing lanes, every motorist will be taught to look for bikes when exiting their vehicle. Each time, every time. And with that, we hope to see the number of doorings in Illinois decrease.