There are many ways to protect bicyclists on our roads. Many cities across the nation have embraced dedicated bicycle infrastructure, signage, and lights. In fact, millions of dollars have been poured into designing and implementing these measures.
Dedicated bike lanes and increased lighting will help to reduce bicycle accidents and fatalities. However, this takes a lot of time and a lot of money. Some states have begun to implement other changes that can begin to reduce the rate of bike accidents immediately for a fraction of the cost.
Low Rate of Bike Accidents in the Netherlands
84 percent of people in the Netherlands own a bicycle. Riding a bike is often more popular than driving a car. It may come as a surprise to learn that the Netherlands boasts the lowest bicycle accident rates in the world. There are more bicyclists than in the United States and far fewer deaths.
Why? One answer is the Dutch Reach, which refers to how motorists open their car doors. Think about how you open the door after you’ve parked your car. In the United States, you probably use your left hand, which is closest to the door. In the Netherlands, motorists use the hand that is furthest away from the door. Rather than using their left hand, drivers reach across their body and open the door with their right hand.
The Dutch Reach helps to keep bicyclists safe. When you use the hand closest to the door, it’s easy to throw it open into a neighboring bike lane. This can cause dooring, which is the leading cause of car and bicycle collisions. Dooring occurs when a bicyclist is struck by a car door.
When you reach across your body, you are physically incapable of opening the door more than is necessary. As you get out of the car, you’re facing the rear of the vehicle. This gives you the opportunity to look for oncoming bicyclists. As a result, you’re much less likely to impede a bike lane and cause an accident.
The Dutch Reach has been associated with lower rates of doorings and bicycle accidents.
Illinois and Massachusetts Embrace the Dutch Reach
The Dutch Reach is officially coming to two states. Lawmakers in Illinois and Massachusetts have passed legislation to introduce the concept into road safety manuals and road testing procedures. Drivers in these states will now learn about the Dutch Reach, why it’s important, and how the simple maneuver can help to prevent dangerous and deadly bicycle accidents.
Public education has always been a powerful tool. When drivers learn how to share the road safely, accidents are less likely to happen. Roads are safest when drivers and bicyclists do everything in their power to use caution and care.
Safety Organizations Embracing the Dutch Reach
Safety organizations in the United States are also beginning to embrace the Dutch Reach technique. It’s been reported that AAA and the National Safety Council will begin to teach the Dutch Reach in the traffic safety courses they offer. These organizations have realized that bicyclist safety doesn’t start and end with the person riding the bike. Bicyclists share busy roads with drivers of larger vehicles. These drivers also need to know how they can do their part to keep roads safe and prevent accidents.