Here’s Why You Should Always Open Your Car Door with Your Right Hand
Opening the door with your right hand can save a biker's life.
If you live in a city, you see people driving dangerously all the time. But even parked cars can be hazardous. This is especially true for cyclists. Bikers, often sandwiched between parked cars and flowing traffic, are prone to being struck when a car door swings open.
The phenomenon of “dooring”
Car doors are such a threat to to bikers that there is a term to describe them being struck: dooring. Sadly, dooring is a lot more common than you’d think. Back in 2011, there was roughly one dooring accident in Chicago each day.
And things haven’t gotten much better for cyclists in major cities since. There were still more than 300 cases of cyclists crashing into open car doors in 2015. And in New York City, at least three cyclists died in 2019 as a result of dooring.
New York City hopes to raise dooring awareness among taxi passengers with a “LOOK! For Cyclists” sticker in all 13,000 city cabs. (Chicago declined to pass a similar measure several years ago.) This is a nice start for a city that serves about 336,000 cab passengers each day.
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The “Dutch Reach”
But what else can we do to protect bikers? Luckily, there is a simple, almost effortless step you can take to ensure cyclist safety. All it takes is opening your car door with your right hand.
This tip comes to us from the Netherlands, which is why it’s known as the “Dutch Reach.” If you are sitting on the driver’s side of a parked car and you want to get out, don’t open the door with your left hand (even though it’s closest to the door). Instead, open the door with your right hand. This simple motion causes you to pivot your entire upper body as you reach, first drawing your line of sight past by your rear-view mirror, and then out to the street behind you.
Here’s a video that shows why the Dutch Reach works:
What about for passengers?
The trick is to use the hand furthest from the door to ensure an upper-body pivot. So, if you’re on the passenger’s side, use your left hand instead of your right.
It’s just that simple—and it works. The Dutch Reach is so effective that it doesn’t even have a special name in the bike-friendly Netherlands. For decades, that’s just how Dutch drivers have been taught to open a car door.
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Do as the Dutch do
Like any habit, the Dutch Reach will take a while to internalize. DutchReach.org, a safety advocacy movement trying to make the reach mainstream, has plenty of resources for spreading the word. They also offer a few slogans that can help you remember. Our favorite: “Reach, Swivel, Look, Open.” Of course, if it’s easier, you could always just tell yourself to “Go Dutch.”
- The Chicago Tribune, “Number of Chicago cyclists caught by car doors on the rise, IDOT data show”
- Gotham Gazette, “A Spike in Cyclist Deaths, A Call to the Mayor, and The Slow City Adoption of ‘The Dutch Reach'”