Bikers and car doors have long struggled to co-exist. In fact, there have been so many accidents where doors have suddenly been open in the path of a biker that the severe-to-fatal crashes have their own name: dooring.
According to 99% Invisible, dooring is named for its occurrence in the “door zone“: a dangerous area that lies in-between primary vehicle lanes and parked cars. And even when cyclists swerve to avoid being doored, they could then end up being hit by another car in oncoming traffic.
Though there has been some progress made in order to prevent these accidents (such as New York City’s informational video advertisements and “LOOK! For Cyclists” stickers pasted on yellow cabs) it’s still important for owners of motor vehicles to take responsibility for protecting cyclists — especially with the ubiquity of Uber and Lyft. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to keep cyclists out of danger.
Why you should open your car door with your right hand
The tip advising drivers and passengers of motor vehicles to open their door with their right hand originated in the Netherlands and it’s exactly what it sounds like: just open your car door with your right hand. According to 99% Invisible, if instead of using your door-side (left) arm, you reach over with your other (right) arm, you’ll naturally look back to see if there are cyclists coming your way.
The right-handed door-opening method is also known as the “Dutch Reach,” and it’s so simple that it’s genius. Instead of restructuring door zones or separating bike lanes, there’s a near-effortless habit that will decrease the prevalence of dooring and keep cyclists safe across cities.
Like any habit, the Dutch Reach will take practice
Reader’s Digest notes that, as with any habit, the Dutch Reach may take a while to internalize. But if you remind yourself often enough, eventually opening your car door with your right hand will become a no-brainer.
Moreover, there are handy resources like the safety advocacy movement DutchReach.org, which is adorned with tips and tricks on “teaching and reaching” as they say. “Reach, Swivel, Look, Open” is one of the mantras they suggest repeating in order to make opening car doors with your right-hand second nature, as it is in the Netherlands.
The next step? Integrating this “teaching and reaching” policy into Drivers Ed in the U.S.
Bonus: Why those annoying people who merge at the last second are right
When a car zooms by — ignoring all the patient, compliant drivers and arriving at the front of the merge ahead of everyone else — we tend to feel a surge of irritation.
But what if that impatient driver is actually doing the right thing? What if that method of merging, called the “zipper merge,” benefits all the drivers on the road and not just that one driver in a rush?
It may be annoying, but research reveals the zipper merge is the most efficient way of keeping traffic moving — as long as drivers follow a set of rules for the occasion.
Typically created by a construction zone that requires three lanes becoming two, or two lanes becoming one, merging lanes often inspires bad choices: sudden, dangerous lane-switching; impetuous tailgating; and vindictive merge-blocking.
Just adhere to some simple rules of the road when approaching a merge: Don’t tailgate the vehicle in front of you, which can start a chain reaction that can slow down a long line of cars behind you. Make sure you’re giving your own vehicle plenty of space in front and behind.
And most importantly, chill out.