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




When I was a kid and reached the age where I was old enough to open a car door on my own I was taught to always look behind in case there was a car coming. I guess in the UK many roads are narrow enough that cars will be inside the door-zone as well as bikes.

I was in the Netherlands the other week, and it did seem that less people were wearing helmets than I usually see in the UK. Mind you, there’s more room for cycle paths there.


I’m an avid cyclist and yeller-at-cars, but I’m not sure about the argument against bike lanes.

Many of those bike lines, while being far from optimal, do make for a more relaxed ride without motorized psychos driving up your back. Some do impose additional dangers, but not all.

The alternative, without a bike strip would be taking a full lane - and while legal, and the safe thing to do, most bikers will not, coerced by motorists who implicitly threaten them with deadly violence. So even without a bike strip, real-life, non-superhero bicyclists will often hug the parked cars.


Taking a full lane isn’t generally legal here in BC here I live. It’s single file in the gutter for us, dutifully wearing our foam hats. The door-zone painted lanes are maybe better than nothing in some sense, but only if they’re plenty wide and not hard-up against the parked cars.

However, they allow road designers and administrators to pretend that they have done something about cyclists’ safety and perhaps lessen pressure or expectation that something actually worthwhile be done. They can also (further) inflame motorists seething hatred for cyclists when they see us (so as to save our lives) not using these murderstrips.


Driving is for looking at Instagram, and for texting, silly.


Yes, this. In L.A. it is safer to take the lane even if it pisses off the car drivers behind you. Really, safer for everyone. The deaths associated with not doing so led to the “3 foot law.” In full context, given at least 3 feet from the door zone, at least two feet of width for you on your bike, and another 3 foot clearance on the other side of you, you already own the entire lane and there is virtually no where in urban areas where a lane has enough space to be shared side by side. By taking the lane, it then compels the vehicle behind you to fully change lanes rather than dangerously squeezing past you and partially occupying the adjoining lane.

I suspect it has a lot more to do with distracted driving.


I need to see whether something is in the parallel space within 3 feet of my door. My sideview mirror does that just fine, because I adjust it properly. It doesn’t matter if it looks like the bike is 20 feet away when it’s only 6 feet away, because I don’t open my door until the lane is clear. Seems simple to me.


The point about the dutch reach is that it requires you to twist in your seat - so you are already looking in the right direction. You then pop the door and have the door grip in your hand so that if you spot someone approaching you can control the door rather than just flinging it open without looking - which many people do.

You don’t? You always check? Great.

The dutch reach is about the people who don’t religiously do that, to increase the chances that they will see an approaching cyclist (or car but that’s less of a concern) and be able to keep the door shut to avoid a collision.


So, if someone isn’t gonna glance at the mirror, they’re gonna do something that requires even more physical effort? OK.


It’s a fair point.

However, the idea (in the UK at least) is that it’s proposed people be taught that’s how to open a door when learning how to drive.

If that just becomes how one opens a car door, it improves safety. If it doesn’t, what’s the harm?

You seem to have a lot invested in this being stupid/unnecessary. What’s the harm to you if people want to start doing this?


Bad statistician - “Therefore, bicycle helmets increase the risk of injury. Similarly 100% of NFL players who suffered head injuries last year were wearing helmets”

Better statistician - “those who wear helmets likely engage in activities that are higher risk”

Dark statistician - “most cyclists who suffer accidents while not wearing helmets go to the morgue instead of the hospital”


In theory, yes… in practice, many drivers will still not fully change lanes. Some drivers will be so angry to find a BIKE in the ROAD that they’ll intentionally pass extra close and fast to “teach you a lesson”.

I take it case by case… on a road with multiple lanes in my direction, parked cars, and no bike lane, I can get away with taking the lane. Single lane roads or roads with (door zone) bike lanes are iffy.

That may also be a factor, but a pedestrian hit by an SUV is much less likely to survive than if they were hit by a sedan. The SUV’s higher front end is more likely to knock you over and send you under the wheels.

Lifted pickup trucks really terrify me.


Sigh. Sorry, it’s just that this isn’t the first time someone has suggested people changing their habits to help others. It’s not even the first time I’ve read about the “Dutch Reach”. There’s a reason it’s still being talked about, and why these efforts are continual, and it’s kinda depressing. I hope people will eventually take the hint. I just don’t expect them to.


I live in NC and drive a Mazda 6…even in a car they scare me.

And something something douchecanoe’s with the offroad HIDs blinding me at night…


Yep. The split between “going about your business cycling” and sport is much more pronounced in the Netherlands than most the world.

They even have two very distinct words: fietsers and wielrenners. The former translates most directly to cyclist, but is exclusively used to describe a “utility cyclist” just going about their business, whilst the latter literally translates to “wheel-runner” or racing cyclist and is used to describe sporty cyclists. I’m not sure how MTB riders would fit in with those terms…


Like the planes which didn’t make it back in WW2 (thread):


I think they use English loan words for mountainbiken and mountainbikers.


Were these ever a thing in Canada?

In 80ies Germany, they were ubiquitous, but have since fallen out of favor…

Except for this person who made theirs fit the actual distance German traffic code requires (in theory) overtaking motorists to keep :smiley:



When I drive a car in San Francisco, I assume that cyclists are all trying to kill themselves and I do my very best to stop suicide.

When cycling, I don’t believe in riding along side parked cars. I’ll take the entire lane, at least in situations where I can keep up with slow urban traffic. Lights and reflective garments help tremendously in twilight hours. Helmets can literally mean the difference between life and death, I say this having lost coworkers. Abrupt changes in direction and a general lack of awareness of your surroundings can result in collision, communicating your intentions to those around you is important.


I’d love to discuss this with a police officer stopping me.

What I wouldn’t love is getting thrown off my bike because drivers don’t care and hit the thing at more than 30 km/h.

Shit. Great idea, but impractical.