There are many things for which we much thank the Dutch! Aside from Dutch crunch—the hands-down best bread for a sandwich (yes, I am willing to fistfight over the issue)—the Dutch are responsible for Gouda cheese (you’re welcome tastebuds), cassette tapes (you’re welcome hipsters), and Brussels sprouts (you’re welcome sadistic parents who force them on your kids). Now, the Dutch could be responsible for saving tons of lives with the Dutch Reach.
The road is becoming safer for all of us who share the asphalt and paint. From pedestrian safe crosswalks to cycling lanes, more effort is being put toward ensuring everyone inside and outside of cars are safe on the road. But some problems are trickier to solve through design.
Say a driver finds a parking space on the side of the road and immediately goes to open the street-facing driver’s side door with their left hand. In the same moment, a bicycle approaches and is either clotheslined by the car door, or must swerve left into traffic. This is why I didn’t learn to ride a bike until my late 20’s… well that and because I couldn’t quite master the physics of it…yeah, it was just the physics of it.
Luckily, the Dutch Reach is here to remedy this potentially dangerous situation. In the Netherlands, drivers open the door outward with the hand furthest from the door. The Dutch drive on the right, as we do here, so they use the right hand to open the door, which results in the driver pivoting their body and almost automatically looking behind the B pillar. This makes the driver more aware of cyclists and oncoming traffic. While most states don’t track dooring accidents, Grid Chicago analyzed data from Illinois’ Department of Transportation and found that for the year observed, one in five bike crashes was caused by dooring.
In the Netherlands, drivers are taught about the Dutch Reach in their standard drivers ed. Of course they probably don’t call it the Dutch reach. They probably call it the “us reach” or just “opening the door.” Meanwhile, we’re still trying to get folks to remember to turn on their lights and use their blinkers. The Dutch Reach may feel a bit weird at first, but you’ll grow into it, and when you see a cyclist and wait that half a second until they pass, you’ll be glad you did. Also, while we’re at it, if you always order sandwiches on sourdough, switch to Dutch crunch… you’ll be glad you did.