Few actions scare bicyclists more than the prospect of a car door suddenly opening in their path.
Such crashes — known as “dooring” — can kill or maim bike riders.
But a simple step that is supported by worldwide ride services Uber and Lyft can avoid dooring accidents by calling on vehicle drivers and passengers to pause and look out before exiting.
Uber recommends that passengers use the “Dutch Reach,” in which they open the nearest vehicle door with their far hand. This makes the passenger swivel and look at the rearview mirror and to the back of the vehicle, giving them the ability to spot oncoming bicycles and vehicles and avoid dooring accidents.
A post on the technology and business website VentureBeat said the “Dutch Reach” is believed to have originated in The Netherlands, which has a low bike fatality rate.
What is the Dutch Reach?
The Dutch Reach method of opening a vehicle door has spread to other countries and to American driver’s education courses in Massachusetts, Illinois and other places.
An official said Uber would launch a campaign to teach riders ways to prevent “doorings.”
The plan includes Uber using publicly available maps in a smartphone app — Bike Lane Alert — to show locations of bike lanes and shared roads in cities and towns.
Uber users in San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C., and Toronto can get push notifications on their smartphones letting them know their upcoming drop-off is near a bike lane or along a bike route, and the app will remind them to look for cyclists before opening their door.
Lyft has also taken measures to help prevent dooring accidents. The efforts include urging riders to use the Dutch Reach and having drivers remind passengers to use the swivel door-opening method.
Lyft will use its smartphone app to remind customers to use the Dutch Reach. The company also shares safety tips on the Lyft Driver Hub and will be distributing window decals reminding everyone to look out for bikes and scooters.
How common are dooring accidents?
The prevalence of dooring crashes is unclear, though The League of American Bicyclists said such crashes “are likely one of the more common bicyclist-vehicle collision types, particularly in urban areas.”
Between 2010 and 2012, data from the City of Chicago showed dooring crashes accounted for 7.3 percent to 19.7 percent of bicycle crashes. The Boston Cyclist Safety Report published in 2013 found that dooring crashes accounted for 7 percent to 13 percent of all bicycle crashes in Boston between 2009 and 2012.
“Dooring is way more dangerous than you think,” said welovecycling.com.
That website noted that vehicle manufacturers have access to technology that can help with dooring accidents. Motion or light-detection components can achieve the goal of blind-spot monitoring in a vehicle by scanning the area. If a bicyclist is coming, the driver and passengers inside the vehicle can be alerted with alarms, beepers or buzzers.
Such efforts to raise awareness can increase safety, said Kristin Smith, Uber road safety product manager in the VentureBeat post. Uber will remind drivers it’s illegal to stop in a bike lane in most cities and encourage them to coordinate pickups and drop-offs away from bike lanes.
If you've been hurt in a dooring accident, contact personal injury lawyer Daniel C. Carlton today for a free consultation.