The Dutch Reach: Safety Tip to Avoid Injuring Cyclists

Riding a bicycle is great exercise and a plus for the environment but the fact remains that cyclists are vulnerable to injury, especially riding in congested urban areas. One of the lurking dangers includes the potential to get "doored," that is for a cyclist to run into a driver's car door as she is opening it after parking. Getting doored can result in severe injuries and even death but there is a way for drivers to safely avoid dooring cyclists. The Dutch Reach, as reported in this article from Public Radio International, is a safety maneuver taught in driver's ed in the Netherlands where there are a large number of cyclists on city streets.

The concept is simple: instead of opening your car door with your left hand you reach around with your right hand to open the door. This forces you, the driver, to turn your upper body and look behind you before opening the door and hopefully to be able to detect not only a cyclist but also a jogger or a stroller or anyone else coming up quickly behind your parked vehicle.

I tried this today in my MINI Clubman and it was easier than I imagined and it worked. By reaching around with my right hand I was forced to turn and see what was behind me before opening my car door. I'm not suggesting that using the Dutch Reach will avoid all injuries to cyclists or that it will work for every vehicle and driver but it's the cultural norm in the Netherlands, testimony to it's effectiveness. There are a lot of bicyclists in Austin and in my neighborhood so I'm going to make the Dutch Reach a part of my routine. More on injury prevention in Chapter 3 The Weakest Link of my book HURT: the inspiring, untold story of trauma care.