Habits are a key part of life. Simplicity often is the shortest avenue to success. With one movement, how you reach to open your car door, you can save a life. You can save a bicyclist from injury. Creating a new habit, retraining your movement when opening a door, can come with unquantifiable benefit. Learn the Dutch reach — don’t “door” the friendly bicyclist passing beside you.
It seems easy enough to note bicycle images on the path outside your car door. However, if people don’t bike, it’s easy to not think of potential bicyclists passing by. Maybe they are already answering a text as they exit their car, since they were being responsible drivers and leaving the phone alone as the chimes came in. I still prefer protected bicycle lanes/paths. but in cases where we don’t have those, practicing “the Dutch Reach” is one of the best things we can do to protect bicyclists.
The Dutch reach is a movement where you reach around to open your door with your right hand. The movement of using your right hand instead of our left hand gives way to at least glancing in your rear-view mirror. More thoroughly, it encourages you to look behind you before opening your door.
As a cultural norm in the Netherlands, like so many other lifesaving measures, basic “driver’s ed” classes teach the Dutch reach — but it isn’t called that there; it’s just a habit people learn at a young age.
A 99% Invisible article by Kurt Kohlstedt points out why the clever Dutch adopted a “workaround to keep cyclists from getting doored” in this excerpt:
“The phenomenon of bikers getting hit by an opening car door is so common it has its own term: dooring. According to a study in Chicago, as many as 1 in 5 bicycle accidents involve car doors – in total, there is an average of nearly one dooring per day in the Windy City. Even when bikers swerve to avoid doors, they can end up getting hit by cars. Separating bike lanes can work but it also takes time and money.”
Please, consider the following video seriously. One might find it amusing if it was a parody, but it’s not. One might wildly imagine the possibility of getting such a ticket is paranoia. I don’t. A ticket for moving out of harm’s way? Many a bicyclist has met such backward situations directly on a bicycle and otherwise.
Related Story: Slow Streets Advocates For Greater Bicycle Safety
Images via 99% Invisible