PAY ATTENTION! And use the “Dutch Reach”

There are many ways to die in the big city. Despite the additions of bike lanes and protective infrastructure a record 18 bicycle riders have died on New York City streets so far this year. All of these have come from bicycle/vehicle collisions which never come out well for the two wheel riders. In the most recent instance, a 30-year old artist was killed traveling northbound on Third Avenue in Brooklyn when she attempted to maneuver around the open door of a parked van and collided with a Freightliner tractor-trailer according to the police.

Beyond an early flirtation with the CitiBike program here in New York, my riding in the city comes only on motorized vehicles (until my recent broken ankle). But I do admit to an unfortunate incident after I had just moved to the city where a food delivery bicycle collided with my freshly opened taxi door. There were no bike lanes in that area 20 years ago and he was squeezing between cars, but I learned to be much more careful to avoid a repeat. He shook it off and continued his delivery. He and I were lucky that day.

And here comes a helpful solution. In the Netherlands (where bicycles are more plentiful than cars) they developed a public service program that encourages you to use the “inside hand” when opening a car door. Think about it. Usually you use the hand closest to the door to flip it open. If you reach across your body you naturally turn your torso which allows you to easily look behind you and makes it easier to avoid such collisions. It is now called the “Dutch Reach.”

I am not kidding when I tell you to start practicing it now. Do it every time you exit your vehicle, whether you are on a busy urban street or your own driveway. Get so used to doing it that it becomes muscle memory. Then when you visit the big city and are leaving a cab or Uber or whatever you can see what is coming and hopefully save a life. Maybe even your own. Getting hit by a careening bicycle who cannot swerve in time would be devastating to you both.

Dutch Reach. Try it today, practice it well and do it forever.

As always you can find more at http://www.walterthinnes.com and on Twitter @walterthinnes

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