The summer months are marked with a jump in the number of cyclists on the road. Though bicycle use is a popular environmental alternative, cyclists and drivers experience great friction. A common fear of cyclists, and a growing road safety epidemic is the act of “dooring,” or a traffic collision in which the cyclist is struck by the door of a car. “Dooring” can result in either a direct crash into the door, or an attempt to swerve away from the door by veering into oncoming traffic. Either circumstance is undesirable and can lead to life-threatening or fatal injuries.
The bike lane allows cyclists to share the road with their fellow drivers. When exiting a car, it is important for drivers to check for any oncoming traffic of both vehicles and cyclists. When the coast is deemed clear, the individual should exit the car. By taking this extra step, drivers and cyclists can potentially avoid a collision.
There are two potential remedies for this problem that must work together simultaneously; better informed drivers and better informed cyclists.
Drivers and the “Dutch Reach”
At current, there is only a $100 fine for drivers who “door” a cyclist regardless of the level of acquired injury. Though not a complete solution, there is an easy-to-implement precautionary measure drivers can take before exiting their vehicle known as the “Dutch reach.”
With origins in the Netherlands, the “Dutch reach” is a 3-step checklist:
- Check the rear-view mirror
- Check the side-view mirror
- Open the door with the far hand (the hand farther from the door).
This maneuver forces the driver’s body to turn, giving better visibility of the road behind them. By creating an additional chance for drivers to see oncoming cyclists, the occurrence of “dooring” can potentially decrease.
The “Dutch reach” was recently added to Massachusetts Department of Transportation driver manual, with the hope of educating drivers on the dangers of “dooring,” and introducing a possible intervention.
“Prevent biker, pedestrian, and motorist “doorings’! Stop, look, and Dutch reach,” as Injury Prevention Coordinator Beth Wolfe notes.
Cyclists should remain alert when on the road, and be aware of the signs of a potential “dooring.” Possible signs include watching for white or red lights on the rear of a car, and the presence of an individual in the car. Cyclists should allow a 3-foot clearance space between the bike and the parked car, and should try to stay away from taxis, since the passengers are more likely to swing the door open without properly looking. Cyclists should increase their visibility and awareness of speed.
A last word of warning is to always wear a helmet. Though this does not reduce the risk of being “doored,” it can help reduce the risk of a head injury in case the collision does occur.