The Dutch Reach

Last week after a ride with my friend Paul, he told me how he fears being doored on his road rides.

If you’re not sure what that means, “getting doored” is when you’re riding past parked cars and a driver suddenly opens their door without looking and takes you out.

If you’re lucky it hurts, if you’re unlucky you die. Paul has had a few close calls over the years and he is right to be scared of the situation.

I was doored years ago in Vancouver on my commute home from work. The door had only opened up about a foot and I took its metal corner directly to my sternum, then I bounced violently into the rush hour traffic on Hastings Street.

The next thing I new I was looking up at the bumper of a truck as it screeched to a stop, trying to avoid running me over. I’d hit the car so hard that the door was crushed against the front fender and it would not close. Apparently I’d flown 15 feet through the air and was slammed onto the pavement in front of said truck.

I missed seven weeks of work, couldn’t ride my bike or play lacrosse for a couple of months, and my bike was pretty much toast. The driver was ticketed and obviously had some insurance issues and body work to deal with. All this chaos because he forgot to look over his shoulder before whipping his door open into traffic. Lucky for him it was a bike and not a bus.

Paul mentioned the “Dutch Reach” as a way to avoid these types of accidents, so I did a bit of research. In the Netherlands, this is taught in driver’s ed and it is second nature for most drivers. It is an easy way to force the drivers to shoulder check before opening a door. And it’s simple.

When parking your vehicle and reaching to open the door, simply use your right hand instead of your left. As you reach across your body, you are forced to turn and therefore look over your left shoulder, clearly being alerted to a cyclist approaching.

Save a cyclist, save your car, and prevent some chaos for everyone involved. Use the Dutch Reach when opening your car door.

As cyclists we still need to be alert. Look in the rear window as you approach a parked car to see if anyone is in the driver’s seat. Watch for front wheels turning toward traffic and any time you can safely leave a bit of space between you and a car, do it.

I’m James Durand and I’m Goin’ Ridin’…