Over the years I’ve had two serious accidents on my bike – both involved someone opening a car door right in front of me. Unless we have separate cycle lanes with hard dividers, these accidents continue to happen. in fact they are likely to happen even more often when cycle lanes are just marked on road and push cyclists close to parked cars. There are numerous complex ways of dealing with this issue – but there’s also one incredibly simple solution – the ‘Dutch reach’.
While the ‘Dutch reach’ sounds suspiciously like some interesting sex position (and if nothing else that should make it easier to remember), it’s in fact a way of preventing accidents that costs absolutely nothing and is awesomely easy to put in place. All you have to do is open the car door with the hand that’s furthest from the door. That’s it.
Opening the door with your off hand requires you to turn your torso round so you’re looking a bit behind and out, and have a far greater chance to see oncoming cyclists. In the Netherlands this is a requirement for drivers taking their driving test – which means it becomes as automatic a holding the wheel correctly, or flicking the indicators the right way. However, having tried this myself, it’s remarkably hard to re-train yourself into doing this once you have decades of thoughtlessly opening car doors with your near hand. So making it part of the training and testing is crucial.
Sometimes solutions to problems don’t have to be high-tech, or complicated, or expensive. It would cost absolutely nothing to include the ‘Dutch reach’ into driver training and testing. It’s not a problem for a driver to do once it becomes automatic. And it could prevent so many accidents. We should be doing this.