Health

Why Using Your Right Hand To Open Your Car Door Can Help Keep Bikers Safe

We'll definitely think about this the next time we get out of the car.

If you’ve ever driven a car in an area with many cyclists, you know how tricky (and dangerous) it can be to share the road. Unfortunately, when a car and a bike collide, it’s usually not the motorist who gets hurt.

But it’s not only when the car is in motion that we as drivers need to stay vigilant. Many cyclists are getting pinged by drivers who open a car door too quickly without looking. A 2011 report found that about one cyclist a day got hit by a car door in Chicago, accounting for about one in five of all reported bike crashes that year. That’s a lot of car door-related accidents.

Many cities around the country have established dedicated bike lanes now, and some cities, like New York, are using other means to raise awareness of this “dooring” problem, as it’s called. One movement is pushing for drivers to establish a new habit when opening their doors in order to help bikers stay safe. It’s a seemingly minor gesture, but one that can have important safety implications.

Photo by blmurch
Photo by blmurch
Photo by blmurch

The Dutch Reach

Many of us use our left hands to open our car doors. This habit makes it easier to forget to check the side mirror and our blind spot for bikers. The cross-body driver-side reach comes from the Netherlands, which is why it’s known as the “Dutch Reach.”

Here’s how it works: If you’re sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, use your right hand to get out. If you’re a passenger, use your left. This motion will help remind you to look first into your rearview and side mirrors, and then into your blind spot as you pivot your body to open the door. The “Dutch Reach” isn’t even called by name in the Netherlands—it’s just how drivers have been taught to open a door. This all makes sense, considering how much bicycle traffic the country sustains.

You can check out DutchReach.org, a safety website that’s trying to take the movement global. It has resources for spreading the word and slogans to help you remember to swivel in your own car. Take a look and start practicing the Dutch Reach today. It just might save a life.

Learn more in this video below: