Saturday, 23 November 2019


Hands up who has heard of the Dutch Reach? Well I've heard about it because I'm writing about it, but even for me it's a relatively new concept.

The Dutch Reach is apparently the way that Dutch drivers are taught to open their car doors so they don't open it into a person cycling. The thing which apparently makes it uniquely Dutch is they open the door with their hand that's furthest away from the door because the movement. Except, if the anecdotes of Twitter are to be believed, it's a sporadic movement at best. I tagged the idea with my Twitter Bullshit Klaxon which I appreciate is not subtle and not conducive to a polite discussion, but you sometimes need to tell the Emperor that you can see his nuts.

As someone pointed out on Twitter, the English don't refer to English muffins as English muffins. So why does this idea keep doing the rounds? As a person who occasionally drives and who passed their test in 1991 I have always checked what's going on around the car when getting out even as a passenger - first using the wing mirror, then checking over my shoulder and then as I open the door - a little at first.

My driving instructor taught me lots of little tricks such as filling up with petrol on the "wrong" side of the car before hoses were quite as long as they are now and when changing lanes, checking my shoulder just in case.

It turns out the resurgence of the technique is because the AA and BSM (owned by the AA) are apparently teaching it and it made some of the newspapers and trade press in the week and 62% of British drivers haven't heard of it (and it's been long picked up by some cycling campaigns). Of course, if I hadn't seen it on social media, then I wouldn't be writing this post and besides, what have I got against the Dutch Reach?

Well, if it helps you not to door a person cycling then be my guest, but it's not some amazing behavioural fix because even though it's a specific motoring offence, plenty of people are getting hurt and this is the problem with behavioural campaigns - it's going to take one hell of an effort to get the message out to the 62% of drivers who haven't heard of the Dutch Reach!

Somewhat ironically, we also learned (I had missed the March announcement) that despite the fifth anniversary of the AA's "Think Bikes" campaign that "more drivers are surprised by a cyclist or motorcyclist apparently ‘appearing from nowhere’ than they were five years ago".

Perhaps we need to actually face up to the reality of all this because drivers (and sometimes passengers) are pretty poor at seeing people cycling (and let's face it, people walking). There is lots of incompetence out there, there's lots of rule breaking and let's be honest, people are not very good regardless of their chosen transport mode.

This is why personally, I advocate for design-led solutions to road danger which anticipate that humans are fallible and that mistakes will be made (and this could be by anyone). Mistakes on our streets should not be a death sentence and frankly, we can educate and enforce until we are blue in the face, it is never going to be enough. So, dear reader, if you want to import sometime Dutch to keep people safe, then import "Sustainable safety" because it's the only thing which keeps people safe 24 hours a day and all year round. Of course for the Dutch, this all remains a constant work in progress.

Cycle track with a buffer from car parking to
reduce the dooring risk.


  1. It has always been my view that the "dutch reach" should be taught, not as a method to protect cyclists, because most people really don't care about cyclists, but as a good method for keeping themselves and their precious vehicles unscathed by other motor vehicles. It is a better way of getting out of a vehicle and self preservation will always win.

  2. The "Think Bikes" figures remind me of the local online complaint about how very frequently they were meeting things "unexpectedly" round a blind corner.....

    Colin Smith

  3. One simple detail, which could even be included in the ENCAP assessment of new car designs, is the delivery of controls which are consistent and predictable.

    I haven't owned a car since 1976, but at least once a month I drive a motor vehicles of some sort. Every one is different, & in the first hour or so of using the car, I can often set the wipers going instead of indicating a turn or make a very rough start or stop, as I get the feel and position of the controls. Why no standard?

    The second iteration of the mini (after the pull cord to open the door - which actually required 2 hands, one to pull the cord and the other to push the door outwards - had the operating lever directly moving the door latch, and mounted right at the back of the door. It was impossible for driver or passenger to open the door with the nearest hand, and you had to turn fully round to operate the door release.

    Of course many commercial vehicles were designed with the knowledge that drivers and vanguards would be getting in & out frequently. UPS specify their vans with both sliding doors and a walk-though access to the load area. This delivers a large saving in time against walking to the back and opening the load area - often on the offside in moving traffic - the UPS driver steps through to the back, and slides open the nearside door, to step on to the footway.

    A zenith in good design was the BMC FG cab, where the opening doors remained within the vehicle 'envelope' AND glazed lower panels vastly reduced the hidden steradian zone, where some 80% of fatal HGV-cycle collisions have their initial contact.