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Do we need a "Dutch-style" road safety movement in Chicago?

The Netherlands wasn't always a "bicycle-friendly nation." In fact, in the 1960s and 1970s, it was a dangerous place to be a cyclist or a pedestrian. Thousands of cyclists and pedestrians were dying on the roads every year.

The carnage experienced by the Dutch people inspired a road safety movement. People started to protest on the streets with picket signs and the government took notice. By improving road design, through nation-wide education campaigns, better laws and improved enforcement, the Dutch people made their roads safer.

The inspiring results of the Dutch road safety campaign

In the 1970s, Dutch bicycle and pedestrian deaths were above 3,200 per year. Yet, as of 2016, they were closer to 600 per year. The progress the Dutch have made in road safety is truly awe-inspiring when you consider that fewer people are dying - even though the population in the Netherlands is dramatically higher and traffic is worse.

The "Stop the Child Murder" movement

The tremendous success of the Dutch road safety movement was largely the result of the "Stop de Kindermoord" - a.k.a., the Stop the Child Murder movement. The Stop de Kindermoord road revolutionaries marched throughout the Netherlands to bring more attention to the tragic deaths of child cyclists and pedestrians. They helped promote the use of the "Dutch Reach" method of opening vehicle doors in a safer way to bypass the chances of injuring an approaching cyclist.

We've covered the Dutch Reach on this blog before. Essentially, it involves vehicle drivers and passengers reaching across their bodies with the inside hand to open the door of the car. This causes them to turn their bodies to look behind them for approaching cyclists to ensure that the way is clear before swinging the door open.

Chicago can learn from the Dutch

The city of Chicago is fraught with problems related to pedestrian and cyclist safety. Many cyclists also continue to get hurt in dooring accidents. It's time for our local citizens to call their local representatives and it's time to begin a conversation about improving the safety of our roads for cyclists and pedestrians. Perhaps it's also time to start protesting and picketing in the streets. We need to do anything that could help reduce the threat of accidents, deaths and injuries.

If you or a family member were bicycle accident in Chicago, learn more about your legal rights and options now. You may have the ability to seek financial restitution in court.

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