There are many dangers for a bicyclists who share the road with motorists. Dangerous drivers, a lack of bike lanes and congested streets can all serve as urban obstacles for the ever-cautious cyclist. But there's one type of accident that is often overlooked and easily preventable.
Most states don't track how many accidents are caused by dooring. But when Grid Chicago analyzed data from the Illinois Department of Transportation from 2011, they found that one in five bike accidents in Chicago were caused by dooring.
In some instances, dooring can be fatal. According to information from Bicyclesafe.com, 25 people have been killed worldwide from dooring as of 2013. And even when it isn't fatal, it's never fun to be hit by a car door.
The Dutch Reach is simple: after parking a car, instead of opening the car with your left arm (the one closest to the door), open it with your right arm instead. By opening the door in this fashion, the driver is forced to turn their body and look over their shoulder, allowing them to see if the street is clear from oncoming bikers or not.
The Dutch Reach has been around for over 50 years and originated in the Netherlands. Children are taught the maneuver both in school and from their parents. The Dutch Reach is even a required part of driving tests in the Netherlands!
“We frequently cite our European neighbors as examples of what we would love to have here, in countries like Denmark or Holland, and it’s the little things like this that can make a difference,” says Sam Jones, from cyclist charity Cycling UK. “It’s safer not just for the cyclist, but motorcyclists, or someone jogging or walking with a pram.”
The Dutch Reach is spreading thanks in part to people like Michael Charney, the founder of the website dutchreach.org. Charney, a doctor from Cambridge, MA, was inspired to start the website after local woman Amanda Phillips died from a dooring accident.
Bicyclist safety is becoming a bigger and bigger issue. More cities across the U.S. are adding bike lanes to give cyclists a safe space to ride. For example, Minneapolis is paving the way in providing bikers with a protected bike lane by posting plastic barriers to keep cyclists safe.
Unfortunately, many non-protected bicycle lanes are placed in the "danger zone" where drivers can easily open their door out onto an oncoming cyclist. This makes implementing good safety habits like the Dutch Reach all the more imperative.