The Dutch Reach


Because we bike so much when we’re in Spain, and because the extensive network of dedicated bike paths in Valencia makes it so easy and safe to ride there, I get used to the feeling of security. When I get on a bike in other places, I’m often keenly aware of the possibility that I might be taking my life in my hands.

Cycling around cars can be dangerous in obvious ways–cars run into or over people on bicycles with distressing frequency. But I didn’t realize until recently that even when a person in a parked car opens a door in front of an oncoming cyclist, a great deal of damage can be done. Deaths have resulted, in fact.

So I was interested to learn about a campaign to spread the word about a technique designed to help prevent “car doorings,” the term for the door that stops the cyclist in what would likely be comical if it weren’t so often extremely damaging.

The technique is called the Dutch Reach, and involves crossing over and using your opposite hand to open the driver’s side door when getting out of your car. For those of us driving on the right side of the road, using the right hand automatically twists the body just enough that you’re more likely to notice if you’re about to open the door in the way of an approaching cyclist, causing an accident.

The Dutch don’t call it the Dutch Reach, but it’s a move that’s become commonplace throughout the country, and is taught as part of regular driver education. The change of habit is important there, as the Netherlands has more bicycles per capita than any other country in the world.

Even if you never see bikes when you’re out driving, it can’t hurt to develop this habit. In fact, it’s bound to give you a nice little stretch. And if it even slightly decreases the chance that you’ll gravely injure someone else, it’s worth a little bit of swivel.

Next time you’re out for a drive, give the Dutch Reach a try.



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