Just a thought… Reach, Turn, Look, Live. [The Dutch Reach Campaign]
Just a quick note on a webinar happening tomorrow at 2 pm EDT to discuss the October 2020 AMA Waterways riverboat cruise that Mike Cooper and I are hosting – taking over the ENTIRE BOAT with just our group! If you’ve never taken part in a webinar, not to worry, it’s just my second. You need to pre-register, so just click here, and please join us tomorrow at 2 pm EDT. If you can’t, we’ll make it available for you at another time, plus there’s an evening webinar planned for June.
Meantime, today’s journal was inspired by what I experienced on our most recent trip, combined with the fact that Rob and I took off on a 30 km bike ride yesterday. BIG fun.
It happens repeatedly every year in almost every city where cyclists and motorists share the road: a driver finds the perfect parking spot; a taxi cab passenger reaches her destination. Then, unthinking, the person in the car opens the door into the bike lane (or even just into the street) and strikes a cyclist. It’s called dooring and it’s a daily – and often deadly – occurrence, especially if the person struck is sent out into traffic, often to be hit by a passing vehicle.
As a casual bike rider, I think about this all the time and give parked cars a careful, wide berth. I keep in mind that people are pre-occupied most of the time and so they don’t always (or sometimes ever) remember to check over their shoulder to see if there’s someone heading their way. That’s why the idea of what’s called the Dutch Reach – aka Far Reach, Far Hand Reach, Right Hand Reach, Reach Across and Safety Exit – is so brilliant.
As we saw on our recent trip to Amsterdam, they take cycling very seriously. (And with humour: a longstanding joke is asking Germans when they’re going to give back the bicycles they stole from Amsterdammers back in WWII.) But as one of our tour guides reminded us during our visit earlier this spring, if you hit a cyclist, you are in very big trouble. That may be why the Dutch Reach has become de rigueur there since it began in the 1970s under a campaign named to “stop the child killing.” The Dutch Reach is so normal that there isn’t even a name for it in Holland or The Netherlands.
How does it work? You park your car. Instead of using your left hand to open the driver’s side door, you reach across with your right hand. That way, you are forced to twist your body and it reminds you to look over that left shoulder to make sure the way is clear to open said door. (Obviously, the opposite works on the passenger side.)
It’s a simple way to reduce the risk of the biggest cause of car-to-cyclist crashes: dooring. As someone who rides, I’m always aware; as a passenger and occasional backseat driver, I’m also an active proponent of using this method, although I don’t do it 100% of the time – yet. They say that doing things for thirty days makes a habit of it. And here’s a handy tip: tie a ribbon to your car door (inside) so when you see it, you’re reminded not to try to step out until you and your passengers have checked to make sure the coast is clear.
This article from the New York Times has more tips, including those for cyclists, which include using running lights all day. I don’t have one, as I don’t ride at dusk, in the dark or in inclement weather, but it makes sense from a safety point of view. Just yesterday we noticed several riders with running lights, which was good in the many shady spots we rode through. Take a quick look at the article and maybe you’ll start using – and teaching your children to use – the Dutch Reach. You never know how many lives you could save.