Tips & Resources

The Dutch Reach

Dooring is one of the most common crashes for riders, but there’s a simple technique drivers and passengers can use to prevent it — The Dutch Reach.

Haven't heard of the Dutch Reach?

You may have heard that phrase “the Dutch Reach” dropped without explanation by Anna Meares in the heavily criticisedLife in the bike lane” campaign being pedalled by the Motor Accident Commission of South Australia.

“Haven’t you heard of the Dutch Reach?”, exclaims Meares.

Chances are, unless you’re across all the bike advocacy lingo, you have not.

A recent survey commissioned by car company Ford found that 95.5% of drivers were unaware of the term. 

Allow us to explain.

What is the Dutch Reach?

“Reach over with your far hand, swivel, look, open.”

Named for its origin in one of the world’s most cyclist-friendly nations, the “Dutch Reach” refers to a method of opening your car door using the hand furthest from the door.

The action causes you to turn your body and take a precautionary look back over your shoulder for any oncoming traffic, including people on bikes.

The method is designed for the safety of all road users, but specifically aims to reduce incidents where car doors open in the path of oncoming bike riders.  

The Dutch method was introduced in the Netherlands in the 1970’s in response to alarmingly high road carnage statistics – and has since become common practice in Dutch society.

In more recent times, the rest of the world has cottoned-on to the Dutch method, which has slowly been implemented in traffic safety handbooks and official driver’s manuals around the world.

Late last year the UK government announced it will be adding the “Dutch Reach” to the Highway Code as a measure to protect bike riders, pedestrians and other road users.

As of January 2019, American traffic safety organizations will implement “Dutch Reach” education into their standard driver safety training.  

Dr. Michael Charney, founder of the Dutch Reach Project, acknowledges that it is difficult to change behaviour and learn new habits. “I had a hard time retooling myself,” he said. “But it’s a simple behavioral fix; if you do it, it works.”

The Dutch Reach Project

Look before you open

dutch reach

In Australia, VicRoads referenced this method in their 2012 “Look before you open” campaign when they asked drivers to “do a head check before opening your car door (one way to do this is to open the car door with your left hand)”. 

The South Australian “Driver’s Handbook” directly cite the “Dutch Reach” as a “good way of opening a car door and looking behind you for bicycle riders or other road users.”

Despite this, the method has not yet been adopted to common Australian vocabulary or behaviour, and dooring remains one of the biggest risks to riders in causing serious injury or death.

See our campaign to stop dooring

Of course, like all behaviour change initiatives, the Dutch Reach has faced some criticism and critique (mainly that the door pillar blocks over-shoulder view, and that checking your mirrors thoroughly is more effective), but the method is ultimately gaining positive support around the globe and has been endorsed by some of the world’s biggest transport authorities, including The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Beijing Traffic Police.