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The Dutch Reach

A couple of weeks ago I saw a cyclist get “doored” on Delaware Avenue in Kenmore. If you’ve ever seen someone get doored, it’s a pretty frightening experience. If you’ve ever been doored yourself, then you know how unsettling it can be. I’m constantly on the lookout for people opening their doors as I bike past rows of parked cars. It only takes a second for someone to open a door and flatten you. Fortunately, most people do pay attention when they are preparing to get out of their cars, but it only takes one careless driver to take someone out.

The other day, my wife passed along an article of interest in The Telegraph – “How to do the Dutch Reach (and potentially save someone’s life)“. The Dutch Reach is a method of opening one’s car door that involves using the opposite arm/hand to reach around for the door handle. The technique means that one’s view is automatically trained towards the exiting side of the vehicle, which allows a person to safely check the rear view mirror, and road itself, for passing cyclists. Once it’s clear, the driver is free to open his or her car door. 

According to writer Hugh Morris (in The Telegraph article), Dutch drivers are taught this method of opening a car door from an early age. The technique has proven to be very effective in helping to curb the number of dooring instances. Of course this makes a world of sense, because the effort ensures that the driver is always paying attention to the road. Unfortunately, attempting to retrain the way that people open their car doors would be tough – old habits die hard. That’s why there’s a world-wide push to teach The Dutch Reach to drivers at an early age.

The Dutch Reach has become the cultural norm in The Netherlands, because it is taught in driver education classes.

The next time that you reach for the door handle, think about trying The Dutch Reach. Ultimately it could save you, and a passing cyclist, an avoidable headache.

To learn more about this common sensical safety practice, visit Dutch Reach Project.

Lead image: Dutch Reach Project

Written by queenseyes

queenseyes

Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

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  • BuffaloGals

    Seems easier just to teach people to look in the mirror before opening their door than to instinctively reach with their opposite hand in the hope that while doing so they’ll also remember to look in the mirror.

    • BufChester

      I believe the technique is meant to get you to look directly at the area where an approaching cyclist would be, not just in the mirror.

      • BuffaloGals

        Wouldn’t the area that a cyclist is approaching from just be in the mirror, though? I’m all for it, I guess I just don’t get it. If you’re teaching people a new habit, why not just teach the habit of looking in your mirror before opening the door?

  • breckenridge

    This happened to a friend of mine years ago on Bidwell, it wasn’t pretty. Whenever I am riding past parked cars I try to keep a door-distance away from them, and when that isn’t possible I look for occupants/activity in the cars that might warn of an impending door opening, with fingers waiting on the brake levers.

  • Matt Gracie

    Good thing we’re painting so many of those new bike lanes right in the door zone of the adjacent parking lane.

  • I always look in the mirror when I leave so I don’t get flattened by a car, so I’m killing 2 birds with 1 stone by checking anyway.

  • UrbanLove

    This would require Buffalo drivers to want to change and grow. Unfortunately, few do. It’s very sad/pathetic.

  • A-BuffalLover

    I got a “dutch reach” in the red-light district in Amsterdam. I couldn’t walk for a couple days.

    • David Fieramusca

      😂😂😂

    • Bags

      Very satisfied that the first comment addressed what we all were thinking. Bravo.

  • BufChester

    Massachusetts has added the Dutch Reach to their driver education requirements.

    But since WNY drivers haven’t yet mastered the use of turn signals, or stopping at red lights and stop signs, the Dutch Reach may be too much to hope for anytime soon.

    • Johnny Pizza

      Boston drivers make Buffalo drivers look like saints of the roads. As confirmation of that, I’d ask you call your insurance and tell them you’re moving to Boston and see what they quote you. Bet you its triple your current payment, if not more.

      • BuffaloGals

        Shit drivers know no (city) borders

        • OldFirstWard

          While on the subject of cars, shit, and brilliance of millennials, I happened to spot a sticker on the back of nice new white Volkswagen with a good looking millennial female driving. On the sticker was written “Honk if you need to POOP!” It was one the dumbest stickers I’ve ever seen and rather disgusting. So the girl has a fetish with crap.

          • PaulBuffalo

            ‘On the sticker was written “Honk if you need to POOP!” So the girl has a fetish with crap.’

            Nope. I suggest you pick up Cliff Notes for Bumper Stickers (available at your local bookseller) to help you figure it out. I have hope for you on this one. Your brilliance is on the line.

          • OldFirstWard

            Actually, I and probably 99.9% of everyone reading it wouldn’t spend 10 seconds analyzing any deeper meaning. These are things taken at face value. We’ll leave the rest to you.

          • PaulBuffalo

            Sorry you defeated by a bumper sticker. Better luck next time, OFW.

          • BuffaloGals

            And 99.99999999% of everybody in the world wouldn’t spend a millisecond analyzing what OldFirstWard thinks about them or any bumper sticker they might have. Guess it works out for everyone.

          • BuffaloGals

            I can’t imagine how crushed she’ll be if she ever reads your comment and realizes THE OldFirstWard no longer finds her desirable.

      • BlackRockLifer

        Florida drivers make Boston drivers look like saints.

    • Matt Gracie

      Buffalo drivers are only a few years away from mastery of that modern invention, the roundabout!

  • Mr. B

    “Unortunately, most people do not pay attention when they are preparing to get out of their cars . . .”

    FTFY, Newell. I’ve lost count of how many people simply swing their doors open when I’m driving past, forcing me to swerve — sometimes into oncoming traffic — my car.

    The good news is, since I’m in a car, I’m in less danger of injury than a bicyclist — and, if one ever opens their door directly in front of me and I’m unable to avoid it, my plan is to keep going . . . perhaps losing a door is what it will take for some of these idiots to start looking before they open their door into traffic . . .

    .

  • BlackRockLifer

    I commuted to work by bike for about 10 years in my younger days and had several close calls but never got doored. I generally stuck to the back streets to get downtown, all the way down West Ave to work and Prospect/Plymouth to get home. I usually side with the bikers since many drivers tend to be oblivious if not downright hostile to bikers. That said I was always amazed at how many hot dog bikers felt it was a good idea to fly down streets like Elmwood Ave at breakneck speed. Not just a danger to themselves but also a danger to pedestrians and just a general nuisance that gave all bikers a bad rap.

    • breckenridge

      Ditto. I always used back streets to navigate the city while riding. Elmwood and Delaware were off limits to me for riding. Elmwood is far too narrow and busy with distracted drivers, jaywalking, people trying to parallel park. Not a place to try and split the driving/parking lanes on a bike. If I had to go somewhere on a busy section of Elmwood I’d cut in on the nearest side street then walk up the sidewalk to my destination.

      • Johnny Pizza

        The way you just described getting to a busy section of Elmwood should be the model for all bike lanes in the city to and from the primary commercial streets.

      • Matt Marcinkiewicz

        Knew a guy who used to bike the length of Ashland while a friend drove on Elmwood…this guy was Lance Armstrong-level serious about cycling (he was a triathlete), and he’d reach Summer or wherever it ends (I know Norwood ends at Summer) before the speed limit-driving driver would reach the same endpoint

      • Marc Rebmann

        Elmwood being narrow is a good thing for cycling. Stay out of t r door lane and control the lane, and drivers don’t have room to try to squeeze by you.

        • ZEBRA9

          Great point, especially if you enjoy annoying car drivers. . . ..

      • ZEBRA9

        Delaware is a horror for cyclists due to high curbs, no room for negotiation! When I’m driving a car and see a cyclist I communicate about the bike lanes on Linwood to them. It’s usually someone not familiar with Buffalo and they look terrified, as well they should be. If a cyclist gets off Delaware Ave and on to sidewalks she encounters those big rough flagstone sidewalks between Bryant and North. Just avoid Delaware altogether. . . . .

    • ZEBRA9

      Not only that but irresponsible cyclists also “fly down” sidewalks on Elmwood Avenue, putting elders, children, pedestrians and pets at danger. GoBike and Buffalo Bicycles and cycling advocates worked for years to get bike lanes on Linwood and Richmond, use them! If irresponsible cyclists don’t feel as if they can safely ride in the street on Elmwood, they should avoid that route.

      • Yes, I avoid Elmwood as much as I can like E Delavan and Bailey because people have a tendency to dart out in front of the car! And I do 30 when I can and have no moving violations of any kind, ever.

  • David

    These people are just ignorant. While I don’t bike so much anymore I see these door swingers while driving. They open the door fully with one swing and don’t look at all. I see them gathering their things as I approach then… swing. Once, just once, I wish I had the nads to take their door off their car!

  • Kevin Patrick

    I find people who bicycle around the city annoying..

    • Cvepo

      what

      • Kevin Patrick

        what part you unsure of pal ?

        • Jeff Brown

          The whole thing?

  • Wally Balls

    This sounds like a solution without a problem….

    • Matt Marcinkiewicz

      I know a guy who broke bones twice in two separate dooring incidents. Newell and breckenridge mentioned others just in this thread alone. But those are mere anecdotes…the problem here is that stats on this phenomenon are not kept so we don’t know exactly how rampant the problem is

      • Wally Balls

        Your friend should probably start walking.

  • Jimbuffalo

    Good to see the examples used for this article are wearing helmets, just saying.