Road Safety Week: Have you ever done the ‘Dutch reach’?
Ever heard of the ‘Dutch reach’? Well, considering it’s going to be promoted in the Highway Code, it’s probably not what you’re thinking.
The Department for Transport has recently announced that vehicle drivers and passengers will soon be encouraged to use the Dutch reach when opening doors from the inside. It’s being introduced to the code along with a host of other changes following a review aiming to reduce the number of road casualties and make roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
It’s quite fitting considering the theme for this year’s Road Safety Week (19-25 November) is encouraging everyone to be Bike Smart. So what exactly is the Dutch reach?
Pioneered (unsurprisingly) in the Netherlands, the Dutch reach involves opening a car door by turning and using the hand furthest from the handle. The idea is that it forces occupants to look over their shoulder – typically the blind spot area – before swinging open the door, where there could potentially be a passing cyclist.
Figures show 101 cyclists were fatally injured in road collisions last year, with many instances occurring in cities and busy suburban areas – exactly the kind of place the government wants drivers to use the Dutch reach.
Cycling and walking minister, Jesse Norman commented: “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world but we need them to be safer still for all – and particularly for cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.
“Cycling and walking are increasingly being understood as crucial parts of an integrated approach to issues of health, obesity, air quality and town and city planning. But this will only happen if people feel safe on the roads.”
A spokesperson for Cycling UK said: “Close overtakes and people opening car doors in front of cyclists are not only dangerous, they also put people off riding a bike.
“We’re delighted the government has listened and we hope to contribute to the discussions regarding the amendments required to prioritise the safety of cyclists and other vulnerable road users.”
The Department for Transport (DfT) is also publishing an updated national standard for cycling training manual, with the best safe-cycling practices.
GEM road safety officer Neil Worth commented: “We support the introduction of the Dutch reach. After all, cyclists are vulnerable, and we welcome this move to provide them with better protection. For drivers and their passengers it’s a small and simple change, but it could make a big difference for the safety of cyclists who might be riding past.”
The Dutch reach is being introduced to the code along with other cyclist-specific changes including a new 1.5m minimum distance for overtaking cyclists. The Highway Code has been pretty vague on the issue in the past, simply stating drivers should five cyclists “plenty of space”.