If you live in a city, every commute could be a “best-of” reel of dangerous driving. Car doors, in particular, have become an excellent teaching aid in proving Newton’s law that no two objects can occupy the same space simultaneously. Bikers, often sandwiched in a bike lane between parked cars and flowing traffic, are so prone to being struck by errant car doors that the phenomenon has a name: dooring.
This tip comes to us from the Netherlands, which is why it’s known here as the “Dutch Reach.” If you are sitting on the driver’s side of a parked car and want to get out, don’t open the door with your door-side (left) hand as you’re intuitively prepared to—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. (If you are on the passenger’s side, use your left hand instead of your right; the trick is just to use the hand furthest from the door to ensure an upper-body pivot.)
It’s just that simple—and it works. So effective is the Dutch Reach that it doesn’t even have a name in the Netherlands. For decades, that’s just how drivers have been taught to open a door.
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, and a few slogans that could help you remember. Our favourite: “Reach, Swivel, Look, Open.”
Of course, if it’s easier to remember, you could always just tell yourself to “Go Dutch.”