Drivers, Changing This Tiny Habit Can Save a Cyclist's Life

Drivers, Changing This Tiny Habit Can Save a Cyclist's Life

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Kenya Foy
Mar 19, 2017

We're often reminded to practice the utmost caution while driving, but changing the way you open a car door can save bikers' lives.

Hoping to put a permanent stop to "dooring"—when cyclists are inadvertently struck by open car doors, oftentimes resulting in injury and even death—70-year-old retired physician Michael Charney of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is leading the campaign behind the Dutch Reach, a technique in which drivers open their car doors using their right hand, which forces their body to turn and directs their attention towards oncoming cyclists.

The biker-friendly technique gets its name from The Netherlands, where drivers are required to open their vehicle doors with their right hands in order to pass the drivers' exam.

Charney is pushing for the Dutch Reach to be implemented in the US, where some 45,000 cyclists suffered road-related injuries in 2015, according to the US Department of Transportation.

(Image credit: BikeyFace.com via DutchReach.org)

Other biker safety initiatives that are taking place in the States give hope that the Dutch Reach will catch on. Researchers at Texas A&M recently created and installed a unique bike path on campus that borrows its design from a Dutch intersection, is illuminated with solar-powered paint and is also made from recycled materials. In Bend, Oregon, residents are pushing for the city to provide funding for more bike lanes, and in Chicago, the city is actively increasing its enforcement of cars obstructing bike lanes, which proves that the metropolitan areas where bike commuting is prevalent could definitely benefit from requiring its residents to utilize the Dutch Reach method.

Of all the ongoing initiatives geared towards increasing biker safety, the Dutch Reach might be easiest to implement.

"It's simple, it's obvious, and it costs nothing," Charney told The Boston Globe. "People just have to switch from one thoughtless habit to another thoughtless habit—but the second one is safer."

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