Take a minute to imagine you’re in a car, on either the driver’s or passenger’s side. The car stops. You open the door to get out. But here’s the question: which arm do you reach over to do it with?
For most people in the United States, the obvious answer would be whichever hand is closest to the door. If you’re driving, it’s your left. If you’re a passenger, it’s the right.
This seems so intuitive and logical. You’re saving time and energy, two things we need to save as much as possible of to make it through the day.
Because of this, you might be surprised to know that in one of the most educated and developed countries in the world, The Netherlands, every person is taught to open doors the opposite way. Kids learn it at school and are reminded by their parents. Everyone who wants to become a driver has to learn it, and it’s part of the driving test.
In fact, there’s a name for this way of getting out of the car: it’s called “the Dutch reach.”
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Why would they do that?” What’s the point? Let me give you a hint: the Dutch own more bicycles per capita than any other country in the world. Dutch cities have very compact urban centers and narrow streets. This means that cyclists, drivers, and car passengers all need to share the same space.
So now we know why the Dutch open their doors this way—to reduce “dooring,” the word that many cyclists use to refer to being knocked off their bike by people inside cars opening their doors. Dooring can account for up to a third of all bicycle-related accidents in cities and can easily be fatal.
But what’s so special about the technique? Well, when you reach across with the far arm you naturally have to swivel your shoulders and turn your neck towards the door. This forces you to look at the mirror and out the window, helping you prevent or minimize any impact with passing cyclists.
The Dutch reach isn’t just a great method for making sure you don’t open up into oncoming cycle traffic; when you park on the street, it could protect you as well. Drivers exiting street-side from their vehicles can be in just as much danger from oncoming traffic, especially if the driver of the car approaching you is distracted by their phone or something happening in their car.
Simply opening up your door this way—using the right arm to open the left door and the left arm to open the right door—will already make a really big difference. But since we can all agree that risking a cyclist’s life or your own (as we see in the picture above) isn’t worth it, let’s make sure you’ve got the technique down.
The ride-sharing company has a great video that helps you figure it out in no time. As they joke, while the Dutch reach might not be the latest dance move, it’s a pretty nifty trick for keeping everyone safe.
For step 1, reach towards the door with the opposite/far hand.
For step 2, twist your torso towards the door.
For step 3, look over your shoulder into the side mirror and out the windows to make sure there aren’t any bikes, pedestrians, or cars passing by.
For step 4, open the door, but do it slowly and carefully.
As Uber points out, you could even turn this into a dance move! In the meantime, you might just save a life.