With the Spring months right around the corner, numerous neighborhoods will soon see a dramatic uptick in bicycle traffic. Unfortunately, whether this transportation method is a necessary means of travel or a healthy lifestyle choice, bicyclists risk serious injury on even the shortest trip from destination to destination.
Riders have taken to calling one common type of accident as “dooring.” This is when a motor vehicle occupant opens the car or truck door directly into the path of the bicyclist. When this happens, bike riders could potentially stop to avoid a crash, but they might only have the time to take one of two actions:
- Collide with the open vehicle door
- Swerve into a traffic lane to avoid a collision, leading to a collision with a moving vehicle
Safety experts suggest that vehicle occupants adopt the Dutch Reach method of opening their doors.
What actions make up the Dutch Reach?
When sitting in a stopped car, drivers and passengers alike can take steps to prevent a collision with a bicyclist. Many driving instructors and safety consultants encourage vehicle occupants to use the Dutch Reach to open their doors. Rather than simply using the hand nearest the handle to open the door, this practice requires individuals to reach across their bodies using the opposite hand to grasp the door handle.
This simple action forces the individual turn his or her upper torso enabling the vehicle occupant to see, in turn, the side view mirror, directly out the window and then over the shoulder closest to the side of the car. This series of actions can help the occupant to identify pedestrian or bicycle traffic and wait to open the door until a rider safely passes.
Many busy streets throughout New York City simply lack the space necessary to provide safe passing lanes for bicyclists. In general, the lane of parked traffic is usually only separated from passing traffic by a narrow space designated as a bike lane. Opening the car or truck door usually immediately blocks this area. The Dutch Reach can help vehicle occupants ensure the lane is clear before opening the door.