0 Dutch Reach Saves Lives

The Dutch Reach Saves Lives.

Dutch Reach Project

Dutch Reach Project (DRP) closes a serious gap in existing road safety efforts to prevent “dooring,” a common, feared & at times fatal crash caused when exiting motorists - using their near hand - suddenly throw open their car door into the path of a bicyclist or other vulnerable road user (VRU).

To prevent dooring, DRP promotes the Dutch Reach (DR): reaching across to the door with the far hand to open - a much safer method.

The DR project is already gaining increasing attention and being taught across the globe.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Doorings are among the most common, costly & feared crashes in cities across the globe. Doorings are increasing as more bicyclists, mopeds & other VRUs compete with ever more vehicles on our roads.

Carelessly opened doors strike & injure VRUs much as if a sharp-edged wall were suddenly thrown up before them. Riders get impaled, crash into or are thrown over the door. A knocked handlebar or reflex swerve can cause cyclists to lose control & crash to the pavement, into the path of oncoming vehicles & further harm,

But many people are unaware of dooring and how dangerous it can be, or that unsafe lane obstruction can be illegal. Also many do not use recommended practices for safe egress.

Other solutions exist: better road infrastructure such as separated & protected bike lanes; better laws & enforcement; VRU sensing & alert systems; safety campaigns to remind motorists to look before opening; & for VRUs to avoid the door zone.

However location, cost, intrinsic efficacy, agency priorities & political will limit the use & success of these anti-dooring solutions.

Regarding motorists, “LOOK!” & “caution” campaigns little influence ingrained or impulsive behavior. People are often distracted or in a hurry once parked. And bicyclists have poor & limited options. While some bicyclists advise avoiding the door zone altogether, road safety authorities most often do not. For in most places cyclists are expected or required to ride on the side of the road, often within the door zone beside parked cars & at risk of dooring. Also, many cyclists do not dare use the travel lane for fear of unsafe drivers & large vehicles.

Even so, bicyclists also get doored from the opposite side, by passengers illegally exiting vehicles stopped in an adjacent travel lane.

Importantly, doorings are most always due to motorist error. Opening without exercising due care dangerously obstructs others’ right of way.

So how can WE be MADE to exit more safely?

The Dutch have a surprisingly simple solution: Open using the hand farther from the door. The Dutch call it “how you open a car door”! DRP named it the 'Dutch Reach' as motorists must ‘reach across’ to the door latch.

Unlike the near hand habit (NHH), this far hand habit (FHH) forces you to swivel outward to see the side view mirror and then to look out to the side & back for traffic before opening. It also curtails sudden & wide opening. This slowed opening can alert cyclists & perhaps allow time & space to avoid a crash.

Once the door is partly opened, motorists can lean slightly out & get a clear view back, able to retract the door if unsafe. The NHH however lets you throw the door wide open without checking your blind spot or retaining door control. Finally, once the FH method is an automatic habit, drivers will routinely use it, even when distracted, stressed or in a hurry.

After a fatal dooring in June 2016, DRP’s founder resolved to get the Dutch method into his state’s driver’s manual. DRP research found the FHH cited in a few prior anti-dooring campaigns elsewhere, but the method had gained little traction.

DRP instead conceived a web based, grassroots “Do It Yourself” strategy to promote the FHH. DRP would do research, outreach & networking, devise & share of campaign strategies & tactics. Bicyclists would pick up & carry the campaign locally, & contribute back to DRP evermore news, materials & resources for further replication.

For its launch, DRP suggested that local police text the Dutch Reach using mobile electronic traffic signs. Stuck in traffic, a journalist saw “Safer to Open/ Car Door/ With Far Hand.” His Boston Globe story about the DR excited a wave of media interest. This wave - still rolling - led to volunteer & stakeholder interest and an outpouring of graphics, videos, podcasts, blog posts, features, editorials & news on the DR. These DRP collects & shares back on its website. A virtuous cycle of media attention & DR advocacy has ensued.

Meanwhile, DRP continues outreach to bicycle & road safety organizations, police, state & local active transportation staff, elected officials & DOTs.

DRP seeks FHH addition to official driver’s manuals; highway codes; driver education texts & curricula; licensing tests for novice, commercial & hackney drivers; defensive driving & court-ordered driver safety courses; and road safety education & behavior change campaigns.

DRP has inspired replication in messaging, collaboration & institutionalization across stakeholder groups in numerous countries & languages. Private entities - transportation & delivery companies, automakers, insurers, solicitors & attorneys - also now promote it.

Further scaling is likely. Dooring is an issue in both developed & developing countries. Rising use of active transport vehicles puts more VRUs at risk. Experts now recommend & governments promote the FHH as a practical, life-saving measure. DRP is now an international resource for its adoption.

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Year: 2016
Level of government: Regional/State government


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen
  • Evaluation - understanding whether the innovative initiative has delivered what was needed
  • Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways

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