I saw another report today of someone on a bicycle getting doored into traffic and dying. It’s common in the U.S. to simply fling your door open as you’re getting out of the car. It’s common enough that there’s a trope in television and movies of opening your door in a busy city and then it gets blown off by a passing bus. Well, if a cyclist hits that same door, they’re going down heavier than a sack of potatoes, and potentially into the path of a passing bus. Sure it wasn’t your intent, but that cyclist is dead now.
I’ve been thinking a lot about two-wheeled safety lately, as I recently returned from a 1200-mile motorcycle ride that involved more than a little city riding. It is my anecdotal experience that we do not use our mirrors well enough, and don’t even bother to look in those mirrors for incoming cyclists, bikers, or even cars. I have had enough doors flung open in front of me to support that.
But there is an answer. It’s called the Dutch Reach, and it’s a method of opening your car door that gives you pause to consider if anyone would be impeded by it, or indeed hit by it. The next time you parallel park on the side of a busy road (or even a not busy one) give this a try. Instead of grabbing the handle with your left hand and pushing it out with your hand or knee, reach across your body to open the door with your right hand. This twists you around to look over your shoulder out the rear window, or at the very least gives you a nice line of sight to your rear view mirror.
In the Netherlands nearly everyone rides a bicycle, they’re incredibly common. The Dutch Reach method is even taught in driver education programs over there. As Americans increasingly move to concentrated cities and emissions are ever more of a concern, bicycles are growing in popularity. According to the League of American Bicyclists the number of people commuting by bike has increased by more than 46% since 2005, and that doesn’t seem to be a slowing statistic.
At the very least, you could save some damage to your car by looking over your shoulder. In some cases, you might even save a life. It’s a jungle out there, give it a second look before you swing your door open.