Ottawa

Ambassador demonstrates the 'Dutch reach'

Adopting this European method for exiting your vehicle just might cut down on "dooring" collisions involving cyclists.

Adopting this European method for exiting your vehicle just might cut down on 'dooring' collisions

Henk van der Zwan, ambassador at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ottawa, demonstrates the "Dutch reach," where a driver uses the hand furthest from the door to open it, forcing the upper body to turn and better see cyclists coming up from behind. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

You've parked your car at the curb and you're about to exit. Which hand do you use to open the door?

The vast majority of drivers here would say the left hand — the one closest to the door. But in the Netherlands, where cycling is very common, many use their right.

Why?

To avoid opening their door into the path of passing cyclists, of course. By twisting their body to reach the door handle, they're practically forced to look at the side mirror, and the door's swing is limited by their right arm's shorter reach.

Here's Kingdom of the Netherlands Ambassador Henk van der Zwan with a demonstration:

"As you are making this movement, your body makes a half turn, and this will enable you to watch behind if there's someone coming there, a cyclist or something. So that is the safest way of doing it," van der Zwan explains.

"Absolutely, it's counter-intuitive. But then you have to realize that you're not the only road user. Cyclists, by nature, because they're not surrounded by some metal frame … are more vulnerable."

In North America, it's called the "Dutch reach," but in the Netherlands, they don't even need a name for it — it's that common.

"It's in our DNA … kids grow up with it," van der Zwan said.

"I think here in Canada, you have a distinction between car drivers and cyclists. In Holland, it's all the same."

Henk van der Zwan said he's nearly been "doored" by motorists several times. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

So. How do you feel about the Dutch reach? Will you use it? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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