BERLIN: There’s perhaps nothing more scary for a cyclist than the sight of an opening car door. That’s because thousands of bike rides end in hospital every year due to people in cars not looking properly when exiting.
But there’s one simple thing all car passengers can do to make things safer for cyclists: Open the car door with your other hand when you get out.
“This manoeuvre, known as the Dutch Reach, will twist your body slightly and make checking easier,” Australia’s Bicycle Network explains. It’s just one of numerous bicycle advocacy groups calling for drivers to memorize this trick.
By reaching across your chest to open the door, you will automatically turn and look over your shoulder, meaning you will likely spot a passing cyclist before “dooring” them.
Experts also suggest getting into the habit of always checking your mirrors before getting out of a car and then just opening the door a little so you can get a proper look at the road.
Every year, over 500 people across England, Wales and Scotland are injured by opening car doors, according to Cycling UK, while Germany’s ADFC bike club estimates dooring is responsible for at least one in 10 bike accidents.
A 2019 study of a thousand German cyclists found that almost half (45%) had, in their own view, almost collided with a suddenly opening car door at least once.
Prominent cases of cyclists being killed by opening car doors have even led some countries such as Australia to introduce fines on negligent drivers.
Is there anything cyclists can do?
Cyclists themselves can hardly prevent dooring accidents. If someone opens a car door while you are cycling at a speed of 20 km/h, then you would need to see it about 11 metres in advance in order to be able to brake in time.
That means you can only try to reduce the risk of an accident. The road safety experts with the Auto Club Europa car club therefore advises cyclists to always keep a distance of at least 80 cm between them and the parked cars beside them.
It also helps to pay close attention to warning signs like indicators, turning wheels, brake lights and tail lights in parked cars. Wearing bright clothes will also increase the chances that someone in a car will see you before opening the door