A major danger urban cyclists face just about every second they bike on city streets may not be as obvious as the dangers posed by careless drivers, but it is just as real. “Dooring” accidents – collisions that occur when a parked driver opens the car door without looking, are among the most common cycling accidents on city streets.
Dooring accidents are difficult to quantify because there is no system in place to track them. A recent analysis of Illinois transportation accidents conducted by Grid Chicago, a sustainable transportation advocacy group, found that one in five bike crashes in Chicago in 2011 was caused when the driver opened their door without first checking for approaching cyclists. In U.S cities where cyclists are even more common, it’s of course likely that dooring accidents could be even more common.
To help prevent dooring accidents, U.S. safety advocates look to the Netherlands, where dooring accidents are prevented using a simple method that has come to be known here as the “Dutch Reach.”
According to Mental Floss, children in the Netherlands learn the Dutch Reach at an early age by observing their parents and other adults practice it. When the driver parks, instead of opening the car door with their left arm, they open it with their right. Doing this pivots the body so the driver is forced to look over their shoulders where they will spot any approaching cyclists.
This simple method is so effective that it’s even included on driving tests in the Netherlands.
According to Mental Floss, the Dutch Reach is starting to catch on in the U.S., thanks in part to the work of Cambridge, Massachusetts, doctor Michael Charney, who founded the website dutchreach.org after a local woman was killed in a dooring accident. Other safety and cycling advocacy groups are also spreading the word about the Dutch Reach.
The simple maneuver could practically eliminate dooring accidents if all able drivers practiced it, especially since in almost every U.S. city, designated biking lanes are situated in the “door zone” – the buffer strip between the parking space and the road.