Here's How Drivers Can Help Save Cyclist Lives: Do the "Dutch Reach"

Video screen capture. Outside Magazine

Cyclists all want more bike lanes, but sometimes they are "door lanes", right beside parked cars. This is often worse than no bike lane at all, since cars can speed beside the lane with impunity. Sometimes drivers open their doors without looking, and give out what some call the Door Prize, and other just call a dooring. TreeHugger has mentioned before that one way to avoid doing this is to actually open the door with your right hand; this means you have to twist your body to reach the door handle and you get a really good view.

Now a doctor from Cambridge, Mass, Michael Charney, is encouraging everyone to do it. He calls it the Dutch Reach, because evidently that is how they train drivers in the Netherlands. According to an earlier New York Times article,

Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind.

Charney tells the Boston Globe:

“It’s just common sense,” said Charney. “Instead of stepping out of the car with your back facing oncoming traffic, you’re being pulled around, so you will be looking at what’s coming at you.”

It really is common sense, and I have been doing it for years, since we first wrote about it. It's a good stretching exercise too. We never had a name for it though, and Dutch Reach is a pretty good one, although watching this silly Outside magazine video, it clearly has a ways to go to.

Charney is hoping his neologism has staying power, and the Dutch Reach becomes a recognized practice here. He envisions the method one day appearing on driving exams and in driver education classes in the United States. However, he understands that could take time. So for now, he’d like to make the streets safer for those traveling on two wheels by merely suggesting people try the Dutch Reach for themselves.
door prize

City of Toronto/Public Domain

It's probably going to be more effective than the Door Prize campaigns, education campaigns that try to get people to look. With the Dutch Reach, you are pretty much forced to look. Good name, good idea.