Getting taken out by somebody opening a car door is sufficiently common to have its own name: “Dooring”. Even if you don’t actually get knocked off your bike by the opening door, swerving to miss an opening door can put you in the path of an overtaking vehicle.
Kurt Kohlstedt in the blog 99percentinvisible.org cites a Chicago study which suggested that as many as 1 in 5 accidents in the city involve car doors, with an average of nearly one per day.
It’s going to take many years before all cities have good cycling infrastructure where bike lanes are separated from vehicle traffic. There’s a simple solution though, and it comes – like so much good cycling practice – from the Netherlands, where learner drivers are taught to open their car doors differently.
Instead of opening the car door with the hand next to the door, a Dutch driver is taught to open it with the far hand – in the UK that would be the left hand. The reason is that this causes your body to turn to an extent that it really is not difficult to see if a cyclist is approaching you, so you can wait till they have passed before opening your door.
A quick calculation: let’s assume that drivers pass their test at 18 and drive till they are 78 (I know that there are a lot of drivers well over that age, but that is another issue, and it makes the maths simple!). So if we were to persuade the Government and the DoT to introduce this “far hand” (or “Dutch Reach”) way of opening vehicle doors and it became law today, it would only take another 60 or so years till every driver in the UK had at least learned to do that. That may be faster than waiting for cycling infrastructure!
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