The "Dutch Reach" car-door opening technique prevents injury to cyclists


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Bikes are (still) the coolest invention in the universe

I thought the “Dutch Reach” referred to the move you make in the movie theater where you put your arms up to stretch and then let one come down to rest on your date’s shoulder, but then she shrugs you off because you made her pay for her own popcorn.


Some years ago when I was getting back into bike commuting, I actually signed up for a class with a local bike group that teaches people how to navigate traffic on the bike. The ‘door zone’–the space the door takes up in the lane when opened–was the subject of some discussion. The advice they gave–and to which I adhere–is to stay as far to the outside of it as traffic allows. I see people riding on the inside of the door zone all the time, too close to the parked cars. Those people are gonna get whacked some day.


The Dutch (and really much of europe) are also much more advanced in terms of having dedicated bicycle right-of-way, separate from traffic and pedestrians. In the US we think some paint stripes on a roadway is a big win, when we should really be advocating for dedicated right of way.


I got that knowledge some years ago
but it’s best to watch all gaps between cars parked too


Dutch Reach does sound like some kind of sex move that involves the butt.

In addition to opening doors, especially rear doors–people in the rear seat often have a huge c-pillar blocking line of sight and no convenient side mirror to use–you need to watch for pedestrians trying to sneak out when cars aren’t there. If you’re riding near the parked cars they just won’t see you because they’re looking for cars.


looking far ahead of where you are at the moment is super helpful. If someone is getting out of the car, there is a good chance they just parked. Looking for break lights that just turned off, or if you are on a nice straight road, actually seeing the car pull in up ahead, lets you know that the door is about to open.


Opening the door just a couple inches for a moment before going full open is also an easy way to let (observant) cyclists know there’s a door coming. Ad a cyclist this can be useful for planning even when the door is a ways away.


They make great chocolate, and now this.


The Dutch don’t actually call it the “Dutch reach”, which makes sense-- I remember asking my old roommate from Belgium what they called Brussels sprouts in Belgium, and he said, predictably, “sprouts.”


Did they stop putting mirrors on driver’s doors?


Are you thinking of a "Rusty Venture?"


No, but human intelligence continues to be what it has always been: not good enough.

Update: fix typo.


We need a catchy name to teach Dutch cyclists to wear a helmet.


The best tactic for staying alive while cycling through traffic and near parked cars is to assume everyone is trying to kill you. This goes for pedestrians, too.

This is a good tip. When the brakes are lit, the driver is not getting out of the vehicle (and it’s not about to pull out, either). As soon as those lights go off, assume trouble.


We don’t call it “Canadian Bacon” either ;-).
Seriously though as a driver I don’t parallel park often enough to practice such a technique so I can’t say I will do this next time, or the time after that. I think I am generally cautious of all traffic in this scenario though, I hope I am never responsible for dooring a cyclist. Not that long ago a doored cyclist ended up being run over by a cube van here in Toronto so they didn’t live to make a video like this.
As a cyclist, I try not to be in this position. Many of the roads with cars parked on them are 40km/h or less and I’ll take as much of the lane as I need to be out of the door zone even if a car behind has to slow a tiny bit. In the other areas the parked car is generally blocking too much of the right lane of a multi-lane in that direction for a car to use anyway, so I’ll use the leftmost portion of the driving/parking lane to the same effect.


Nederlandse kopbanger.


Update: Nederlandse hoofdbanger.


That technique could also save you from losing your door, and possibly your arm, if what’s coming isn’t a cyclist but a car.


Sometimes the road design actively encourages cyclists to ride there- this cycle lane near me, for example, coincides almost exactly with the door zone.



yeah, you learn stuff, after getting doored.