By Vince Crockenberg, Cyclist
If a driver of a parallel-parked car suddenly opens the driver-side door just as a cyclist is passing alongside, the cyclist either has to suddenly veer into the traffic lane—and perhaps into the path of an oncoming car—or get “doored.” Either option can result in injury or even death to the cyclist, as well as injury to the passengers in the car or damage to the car itself. Enter the Dutch Reach.
Here’s how to do the Reach: When opening the driver’s side doors (from either the front or back seat) reach across your body with your right hand. This requires you to swivel your upper body toward the door. In doing so you can easily look into your rear-view mirror and then over your shoulder to check oncoming bicycle and car traffic to ensure that it’s safe to open the door. At the same time you can use your left hand to hold on to the larger cushioned handle below the window to prevent the wind from suddenly blowing the door open.
In 2017 the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles added a section to its driver’s manual describing the benefits of the Dutch Reach. It also produced a one-minute video showing drivers how to do the maneuver; you can check it out at https://youtu.be/8A-9RGDFGDE. And in the Netherlands, where the Reach was invented, it is taught in school and is a required part of the driving test.
A tip: The habit of using our left hands to open the driver’s side door is so ingrained in all of us that it is helpful to add some kind of reminder to do the Reach when opening the door. One trick advocated by the Dutch Reach Project (dutchreach.org) is to tie a brightly colored ribbon to the door handle as a reminder to reach for the handle with the far hand.