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Do you know what a Dutch Reach is? It can prevent injuries of many cyclists

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Posted July 1, 2019

Cyclists are less noticeable and less protected than car drivers and passengers. You really do have to be brave to ride a bicycle in heavy traffic. However, many people choose to do it and some, sadly, end up being injured by cars. You have to pay attention as a driver, but you also have to be very careful when opening car doors. Do you know how to do it correctly? You should use the “Dutch Reach” method.

Cycling between lines of cars is extremely dangerous, but less so if car passengers are attentive and careful. Image credit: Hallgrimsson via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The problem is that the drivers and passengers often open doors right in front of cyclists. Crashes occur, which cause injuries or in extreme cases even death. Drivers are used to using side mirrors, but some passengers may not think it is that important to look behind before opening the door. But it is – cyclists may be coming very fast. Whenever you park parallel to the street or a bicycle path, you must be very careful when opening the door. Even if the door is on the sidewalk’s side – some people ride on them too.

This is especially important with the recent increase of popularity of electric scooters. They are whizzing around at quite high speeds and they cover quite a lot of distance very fast. This means that someone who looks quite far away is going to approach you much sooner than you would predict. You open your door and BAM! A person is now on the hard asphalt. You could argue for hours whose fault it is, but if it is possible to prevent that, we should.

You should open the door with the far hand – this way you are forced to turn and look. Image credit: Rahelwachs via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

And it is. There is a car door opening method called the Dutch reach. It is actually quite simple – you just open the door with the far hand. If you are sitting on the right, reach for the door handle with your left. And if you are sitting on the left, reach for the door with your right. Of course, you have to watch your surroundings the entire time, but that’s it.

Dutch Reach has been used since the middle of the last century, but in the last couple of years it’s became a standard in driver’s education as well. Now in Netherlands as well as multiple US states you new drivers are taught this as a fundamental skills. Dutch Reach is simply saving lives. However, a big problem is that there are no courses for passengers, which is why drivers have to warn them and parents have to teach their kids.

Dutch Reach is so effective because it forces you to turn around and look over your shoulder. Also, because you are opening door with your far hand, you cannot open it very wide. This results in a much lesser threat to cyclists. Of course, you still have to watch out for them, but the Dutch Reach makes it easier.

There are other safety notes worth mentioning. If you are a cyclist, presume that no sees you. This way you learn to expect the unexpected. And if you are a car passenger, assume that a bicycle or an electric scooter is going twice as fast as your eyes are telling you.

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