The “Dutch Reach”

I have sent the following message to Dr. Michael Charney, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, promoter of the “Dutch Reach”. The “Dutch Reach” is motorists’ opening the drive’s side door with the opposite hand, so they must look back for bicyclists riding within range of an opening car door.

Dr. Charney —

Have you studied the literature of bicycle crash causation and prevention, see for example Paul Schimek’s study of Boston bicycle crashes — or had any instruction in best practices for safe cycling,  for example through the CyclingSavvy program or the League of American Bicyclists Smart cycling program?

Sure, the Dutch Reach will prevent doorings as long as the motorist remembers to use it.

It probably works reasonably well in the Netherlands, where bicyclists have great political influence, where enforcement against motorists is draconian and where bicyclists’ squeezing through tight spaces is unavoidable on crowded, narrow streets that date back to medieval times.

Promotion of the Dutch Reach at least acknowledges that bicyclists riding at normal speeds are unable to stop in time to avoid an opening car door, as hasn’t been universally acknowledged in advice given to bicyclists.

Car doors aren’t the only problem with riding close to parked cars. There are also ride-outs, drive-outs, merge-outs and walk-outs, all of which, as well as dooring, are avoidable by riding far enough from parked vehicles to see, be seen, and have maneuvering room. Every motorist who gets out of the car on the street side is also going to walk out around the front or back of it to get back in, and merge out to drive away. The resulting risks are avoidable only by riding outside the door zone, or if in it, very slowly and cautiously.

Bicyclists who are in a position to be doored also are often overtaking on the right, subjecting themselves to risks of right-hook and left-cross collisions. The “Dutch reach” addresses only dooring.

Promoting the Dutch Reach as if it would make door-zone bicycling safe promotes the false belief that most car-bike crashes on urban streets are overtaking crashes. In fact, these are rare. Bicyclists still have the other problems which result from edge-riding, and become uneasy. These bicyclists’ beliefs either trap them in the door zone or lead them to quit bicycling.

Bicyclists who rely on the Dutch Reach are defining themselves as helpless victims, expecting the same motorists they fear to take all of the responsibility for their safety. Self-definition as a victim prevents bicyclists from understanding that they can take actions to improve their own safety.

Promoting the Dutch Reach perpetuates the idea that bicyclists are second-class citizens, motorists have a superior right to use the road, and promotes the construction of door-zone bicycle lanes which codify that belief.

Most media outlets cover the Dutch Reach — as is usual with bicycling issues — out of context. Once again, as with helmets, bike lanes, etc. etc., a single measure, which has benefits and also which can fail, is described as if it is a be-all-and end-all and draws attention away from what could be a comprehensive and reasoned approach to bicyclists’ mobility and safety.

Would you as an MD advise your patients to come in for a yearly doctor visit and dismiss things they can do for themselves: healthy diet, avoiding smoking, exercise, monitoring for symptoms of serious disease? Would you ignore research which shows the importance of these practices? No, but you are promoting a single practice which can address only one of many safety issues facing bicyclists, and whose promotion unfortunately reinforces common misconceptions and distracts from comprehensive solutions.

Thank you for your attention.

8 responses to “The “Dutch Reach”

  1. Dear John Allen,

    Thank you very much for examining and offering your informed opinion on the merit, questionable or otherwise, of attempting to alter driver and passenger door opening behavior for the benefit of public safety both for exiting occupants and on-coming traffic, cyclists in particular.

    Addressing yours points:

    1. “Sure, the Dutch Reach will prevent doorings as long as the motorist remembers to use it.”

    A. Yes of course, and the effort to achieve behavior change is formidable, though not impossible. In our life times we have seen smoking rates in the US cut in half; seat belt buckling increase dramatically from the time there were no seat belts as standard equipment; helmet use introduced and made popular; right on red introduced; and more people now sneeze into the crook of their arm and wash hands more during flu season, etc. So the challenge is clear, certainly up-hill, but not entirely quixotic.

    2. “Bicyclists who rely on the Dutch Reach are defining themselves as helpless victims, expecting the same motorists they fear to take all of the responsibility for their safety.”

    A. I would say “Bicyclists who rely on the DR are deeply misguided or extremely foolish to ever rely on drivers to use the Dutch Reach, and must therefore cycle defensively in the presence of parked or stopped vehicles.” On my project’s website I address this point directly with a disclaimer of trust. See: Dooring Self Defense for Cyclists at: http://www.dutchreach.org/dooring-defense-for-cyclists2-2-2-2-2/

    I welcome your comments and suggestions to improve this section and readily acknowledge your expertise in street smart cycling – and cite your guide specifically therein.

    2b. “Promoting the Dutch Reach perpetuates the idea that bicyclists are second-class citizens, motorists have a superior right to use the road, and promotes the construction of door-zone bicycle lanes which codify that belief.”

    A. Promoting the DR promotes safety in specific instances. Personally I do not see a connection between telling drivers and passengers to swap one thoughtless habit for a safer one should be read as telling motors they are superior, cyclists are inferior, or that public officials should construct bike lanes.

    Cyclists are vulnerable road users for reasons that are self-evident, which is why we all work to promote safer road conditions for all. Decisions made by government planning departments re: creation of bike lanes, is subject to political pressure largely independent of teaching drivers and passengers how to protect themselves and spare harm to others.

    3. ” Self-definition as a victim prevents bicyclists from understanding that they can take actions to improve their own safety.”

    A. I cannot agree with you more. But do not see the connection to teaching drivers and passengers — my target audience – as significantly affecting cyclists’ self-definition. Cyclist empowerment is absolutely important, and the Dutch Reach Project calls upon cyclists to use advocacy and outreach to change driver, passenger and official norms to improve our own chances for survival.

    4a. “Promoting the Dutch Reach as if it would make door-zone bicycling safe…”

    A: I promote the DR because when used it does make us all safer – cyclists who err into or are forced into the death/door zone, and occupants who might heedlessly exit into on-coming traffic. As you note in 1 above, when and where it is used, it can prevent harm, as in NL.

    4b. “…promotes the false belief that most car-bike crashes on urban streets are overtaking crashes.”

    A. I am not sure where found this truly false claim anywhere on my website or in public interviews given by me. Please kindly provide your citation and should such a statement exist in my name, I will correct it forthwith with gratitude.

    5. “In fact, these are rare. Bicyclists still have the other problems which result from edge-riding, and become uneasy. These bicyclists’ beliefs either trap them in the door zone or lead them to quit bicycling.”

    A. No disagreement whatsoever.

    6. “Most media outlets cover the Dutch Reach — as is usual with bicycling issues — out of context. Once again, as with helmets, bike lanes, etc. etc., a single measure, which has benefits and also which can fail, is described as if it is a be-all-and end-all and draws attention away from what could be a comprehensive and reasoned approach to bicyclists’ mobility and safety.”

    A. Again, I fully agree. Would that the scribbling class knew and wrote better however ain’t gonna happen. Any serious campaign to change dominant behavior must engage the media as it is, and try to work with it the best one can, if only to plant initial seeds of awareness, later to be fertilized and watered otherwise.

    The Dutch Reach has in the past 5 months seeded the idea into the minds of perhaps 2 M people worldwide. I can document 1.3 M of those from just the Outside Online video alone. That the UK Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (sic) has endorsed the method in an advisory to drivers and passengers will help water and fertilize future opportunities for institutionalized educational efforts and policy advances for licensing requirements.

    7. “Would you as an MD advise your patients to come in for a yearly doctor visit and dismiss things they can do for themselves: healthy diet, avoiding smoking, exercise, monitoring for symptoms of serious disease? Would you ignore research which shows the importance of these practices? No.”

    A. Indeed, will I stop beating my wife? Let us dispense with rhetoric and address the issue itself:

    8. “No, but you are promoting a single practice which can address only one of many safety issues facing bicyclists, and whose promotion unfortunately reinforces common misconceptions and distracts from comprehensive solutions.”

    A. Let us see where we agree: Yes I am deliberately addressing a specific problem with a quite partial solution which will only bear safety fruit in direct proportion to the extent to which drivers and passengers ingrain this alternative habit.

    We disagree over your claim that this endeavor – or perhaps any endeavor which is not comprehensive – (and comprehensive of what I am not sure: all cycling hazards? right hooks, left cross? doorings only? potholes?) – that this endeavor fails and should not be pursued because it is the enemy of the perfect?

    Much as your own writing – with the clear eye of an engineer – addresses scores of discrete particular issues. So does this effort address a narrow issue with a particular contribution to its solution. If I or anyone is willing to dedicate their time and effort to a simple, obvious, relatively cost free improvement in road sharing practice, how does that constitute medical malpractice?

    One need not be a physician to find value in stop gap measures. I would recommend mouth to mouth and manual resuscitation if a ventilator bag and electroshock paddles were not available. The Dutch Reach habit swap fills a gap in current efforts to address avoidable dooring and exiting related calamities. It is not an excuse or reason to abandon other practical measures to do the same, whether they be ‘comprehensive’ or ideologically sound, expensive or time consuming, or just as free, easy or difficult as teaching old and young dogs new tricks. They just have to save lives and limbs from doorings.

    If you have something specific to recommend today to prevent a dooring tomorrow please get to it! Or please lay out your program and explain how you plan to effect it…as I do below in #9. Then let us compare and contrast your proposal with the Dutch Reach Project.

    Fair?

    I applaud, and will continue to applaud all your efforts to assure cyclists first class status on the roadways, to equip and empower themselves with all which is needed to get from A to B alive. I welcome your challenges to this intervention, but I believe the counter-arguments posed in the above critique are off the mark.

    9. Here is the program for the Dutch Reach Project:

    i. A specific arbitrary flawed practice is to be replaced with a safer habit across a target population.

    ii. A grassroots campaign is designed to seed awareness across relevant vector and target populations (cyclists & road safety individuals, organizations, educators, advocates, professionals & officials etc. as vectors; general motoring public and selected subsections as targets.)

    iii. Organizing agents are to develop resources and methodologies to empower vectors to utilize, replicate, improve and spread the grassroots educational, outreach & advocacy campaign, its tactics, resources and strategies.

    iv. The campaign/project seeks to be open source, horizontal, relatively low budget or costless beyond staff and volunteer time commitments.

    v. Shall have the potential to revise the “community standard” top down and bottom up, from childhood to drivers education to licensing, licensing recertification, public re-education and possibly required driver continuing education requirements.

    vi. Beyond its potential to become a performance requirement for driver licensing road tests (as in NL), should it become a “community standard” may have further productive ramifications: insurance company programs which retrain drivers; strengthening of civil liability tort claims of driver/passenger/corporate negligence in future plaintiff lawsuits for damages, with consequent heightened media awareness due to higher damage awards, trial publicity etc.

    Thus even though police enforcement of far hand reach behavior is nearly impossible to conceive, civil damages, increased insurance points etc. could have quasi-enforcement potential and reinforce social pressure for greater driver/passenger vigilance, with a spill over to accord cyclists greater regard and concern not to endanger them.

    I look forward to reading your counter proposal. I will be pleased to respond and will reference & link our dialogue on the Dutch Reach website.

    Thank you for the opportunity to respond. I look forward to your counter response.

    PS: 10. In addition to the above blog post, JSA sent me a subsequent criticism by a colleague alleging that the Dutch Reach Project was “an administrative fix”. Please post his full comment on your blog that I might respond appropriately. But my framing above I believe clarifies that your colleague’s claim fails in that the DR / DRP is not an administrative fix but relies on a diverse array of actors to promote a voluntary behavior change in the community of motor vehicle users.

    • Thank you for your response. I appreciate your engaging in dialogue. I’ve been very busy and so I am postponing reponding in full.

      Here are the comments about the adminstrative fix which you asked for. As I haven’t asked for permission, I’m not giving the name of the person who made them, though he may allow that, and then I’ll do that.

      The problem is that the Dutch Reach is trying to ameliorate an intrinsically hazardous situation with an administrative fix, i.e., using one’s cross-hand to open a door while bicyclists are riding alongside cars.

      In my sixteen years of having worked in a facility that handles hefty quantities of radioactive nuclear material, one thing we learn is that it is a bad idea to accept an intrinsically dangerous practice and try to mitigate it using an administrative solution alone. People intrinsically fail. In our world, that is the basis of Vision Zero–that people fail and its the job of the traffic professionals to not create high-consequence, failure prone situations.

      Even more of a concern for failure rates if one doesn’t have the ability to ensure that all of those who need to use the rule are all taught it, ensure they sign off on having received and understand the training, that they receive refresher training at reasonable intervals, and that there are consequences to not using it.

      So I see this as a poor substitute for getting cyclists out of door zones to begin with.

  2. The other thing about the Dutch Reach is that…

    It doesn’t work!

    Get in your car car and try it. If you reach over for the door handle what you get is a good view of the door pillar. From inside the car with the window closed you simply cannot see the space where door-zone cyclists are approaching from – you only get this view from the mirror. What is worse is that the maker of the video must be fully aware of this. Look at the video (at about 1:07). First we see the driver turn and you can see him staring at the door pillar. Then we see the driver’s eye view – initially a view of the door pillar plus a view straight out sideways. Then magically the cyclist comes into view at 1:08 – but only because the camera has been pushed out through the open window. Look at where the driver holds the door to shut it!

    To see approaching cyclists behind and close to the side of the car you really need to use the mirror – and that should be adjusted to give the best view from the normal driving position.

    I can see the point that the Dutch Reach could be useful for passengers getting out on to the sidewalk avoiding opening the door directly into a pedestrian, but as a way of avoiding approaching cyclists it is utterly useless. The only sure fire way to avoid getting doored is in our own hands – don’t ride in the door-zone: simple. Any campaigning efforts should be directed at persuading the authorities to remove daft cycle lanes that direct cyclists into the most dangerous position.

    • Pete, you’re right! I tried it like you said. All I got was a sore neck and a poor view.

      At best, I could maybe glimpse a narrow sliver through the passenger window. But I could see a whole lot more in the mirror.

  3. John,
    Thank you for providing the full text re: “administrative fix.” Taking one criticism at a time:

    1, “In my sixteen years of having worked in a facility that handles hefty quantities of radioactive nuclear material, one thing we learn is that it is a bad idea to accept an intrinsically dangerous practice and try to mitigate it using an administrative solution alone.”

    A. Of course it is a bad idea “to accept an intrinsically dangerous practice…” which exactly why I began this project. Just so, the near hand shove or push habit, while the current “standard of practice” & commonly accepted as sound were one to consult rear view mirrors and in the best case, strain and achieve a decent should check, is I believe intrinsically more error prone than the Dutch far hand reach. I deal with the comparative intrinsic flaws of the near hand method on my website at: http://www.dutchreach.org/dutch-reach-draft-101316-new-wikipedia-category-2-2-2/ There I compare the two methods on nine criteria for relative safety and effectiveness. I ask you colleague the nuclear engineer to review and comment after having read my analysis, on the specific measures used and applied.

    If by “practice” the nuclear engineer means ‘to accept having motor vehicle and bicycles use the same asphalt strips, well that’s our current situation. However prescribing universal protected bike tracks or ‘fail safe’ anti-dooring technology for all vehicles, while doable to some degree, are not immediately around the corner.

    A1b: “and try to mitigate it using an administrative solution alone.”
    Again it is not clear to me what the adjective “administrative” means here though “alone” I do understand – and I am already on record in agreement that the far hand reach habit “alone” is not sufficient and is but one partial solution to doorings and injuries upon exiting by occupants.

    Again, the Dutch Reach Project is basically about swapping a relatively poor habit for a relatively safer one, for free, now, if people can be persuaded to practice and habituate it.

    Should we not attempt this habit change while Mr. Nuclear Engineer works for or waits for society to appropriate all the necessary funds and draw up all the necessary plans, and win the necessary political battles to install protected bike tracks on every road where cars are parked parallet, where bikes other wise pedal, where Uber/Lyft passengers pop out from the left as well? There are other partial solutions as well, some listed here: http://www.dutchreach.org/solution-way-to-prevent-doorings/ and for the present, all are worth attempting.

    The Dutch Reach may be stop gap, but in the short term (which in many places could be very long) when used, it is in general safer than opening as most Americans do now.

    2. “People intrinsically fail. In our world, that is the basis of Vision Zero–that people fail and its the job of the traffic professionals to not create high-consequence, failure prone situations.”

    A. Yes to err is human. This is why safety experts — such as those training police or military recruits to handle their weapon – to turn best safety practices into deeply ingrained habit. It’s engineering a preferred behavior.

    I agree that traffic professionals should not engineer dangerous situations. While we wait for them and local governments to follow this sound advice, the public is best advised to take matters in their own far hands.

    3. “Even more of a concern for failure rates if one doesn’t have the ability to ensure that all of those who need to use the rule are all taught it, ensure they sign off on having received and understand the training, that they receive refresher training at reasonable intervals, and that there are consequences to not using it.”

    A. I am in perfect agreement. The method must be used if it is to work~!
    And it will only benefit society in the proportion it is adopted. The goal is to inculcate the practice from childhood, to teach it and requirement for drivers education and licensing, and to attempt to retrain currently licensed drivers and the general passenger public. As mentioned earlier, police enforcement is difficult even to conceive, but peer pressure and heightened fear of liability can add to fear of guilt for causing heedless harm. Instituting continuing driver education and re-licensing is a worthy goal of course.

    Cultural change happens, and where a practice is found useful it often propagates spontaneously. Notice how many more cyclists now wear hi-vis — ten years ago it was rare.

    4. “So I see this as a poor substitute for getting cyclists out of door zones to begin with.”

    A. a) Of course it is far wiser to cycle outside of door/death zone. Of course it is far safer to cycle on protected bike tracks. As stated on http://www.dutchreach.org and earlier above, cyclists need to stay out of harms way. But #4 is easily said, but not easily done — given our current roads, infrastructure and traffic.

    but not all “substitutes” however seemingly advantageous in theory, is really a purely preferable or workable substitute in reality. One must go beyond arm chair pronouncements for an ideal solution.

    So I ask the nuclear engineer, what can you do to prevent a dooring tomorrow? Or what is your program – and what are its advantages, costs and difficulties to implement? Yes we must teach cyclists self-defense. Yes we must engage in the significant efforts to implement door zone free cycling, and introduce tech fixes as they become available. But it’s not either/or but all of the above or what ever works. The Dutch Reach will likely work more safely than the near hand push tomorrow if you use it.

    —–
    re: Pete Owens & Michael Graff’s independent research….

    I am sorry that they seem unable to replicate the simple and obvious Dutch method to their standard of safety satisfaction. But to err is human and no doubt I am misguided and biased.

    However, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents; the Dutch Cycling Embassy, the Netherlands’ professional transport experts, legislators and the general populace who have practiced it for 50 years and whose ‘RMV’ includes it on their licensing road test; Victoria, Australia’s VicRoads program; Cambridge, MA’s “Street Code”; and many drivers in Sweden, German, Denmark, Belgium and France, appear to find otherwise.

    • This strikes me as an example of the emperor’s new clothes. Yes, all those organisations support what appears to be a superficially sensible idea (in the same way that the emperor’s courtiers admired his non-existent clothes that were only visible to the ‘intelligent’). But then they all unquestioningly support the door-zone cycle lanes that cause the problem in the first place.

      Now when I first saw the video I too thought it was a good idea. The thing is I actually got in my car and tried it – so I can see for myself how useless it is. By reaching over I can’t see behind me through the door pillar – and nor can I see anything in the mirror from that position. I can only assume that you don’t own a car or you would realise this for yourself, rather than recycling claims made by other organisations.

      What is worse is that the video is fundamentally dishonest – A LIE. During the filming process he must have realised that he couldn’t see anything, but rather than stop at that point and reconsider – he filmed though his open window to make it appear that the technique works. Nobody is going to leave their car with the windows wound down.

  4. Addressing Mr. P. Owens’ critique with the detail it deserves:

    P.O. claims: “It doesn’t work!”

    In fact it does work – certainly in the opinion and findings of other authorities besides Mr Owens. And doing the safer Dutch method is only slightly more difficult than finding your way out of a stopped car, or using the near hand method.

    So I am grateful to P.O. for reminding us that not all drivers
    a) bother to use the mirrors, nor
    b) do they open partially and look back through the cracked door before fully opening their door (which overcomes “pillar block”).
    c) nor do they do a shoulder check nor execute a continuous over the shoulder direct view back before or throughout their exit maneuver.

    As preached on my website and elsewhere, the Dutch Reach properly includes use of the side view mirror – (the City of Cambridge’s diagrammatic guide instructs use of the interior rear view mirror AND side view mirror .

    Would that all drivers and front passengers did both. Would that all rear passengers had rear view mirrors to use.

    But even with mirror use, as I point out in the Dutch Reach Review Article cited above, the utility of mirrors is transient – the moment you turn your head the reflection back is lost. The mirror may be misaligned, wet, dirty or conditions of glare or darkness may compromoise it too. Many side view mirrors are on the door itself – so when it opens the view back is again immediately lost.

    And cyclists can come on fast, while drivers may dawdle before pushing or worse, flinging open the door.

    Opening with Dutch Reach addresses the issue of delay & flinging:
    a) Reaching across to the door with your far hand makes it difficult to fling open the door.
    b) But it DOES position you to use the side view mirror. And the mirror, however blind-spotted or temporary, is an essential aide (and some new mirrors are quite (even dangerously) large and protruding and may have a second small convex section.
    c) And after the mirror become useless, the Reach allows a continuous direct view of on-coming hazard through to exit facing rearward.

    It is the case that often heedless and lazy drivers do not bother to consult their mirrors at all, and just push or fling, and exit facing forward.

    The Dutch method turns the user so they cannot but have the chance to view the side mirror as they turn, and hopefully turn fully back through the partial view of the windows before commencing to open.

    Peter Owens concedes some of the above when he acknowledges:
    “To see approaching cyclists behind and close to the side of the car you really need to use the mirror – AND THAT SHOULD BE ADJUSTED [caps added] to give the best view from the normal driving position.”

    To err is human. And very vigilant and cautious people are not the main problem. It is the impatient, rushed, heedless, tired, inconsiderate, feckless, impulse disordered driver or passenger, with or without a properly adjusted mirror, or during compromising environmental or traffic conditions (consider on coming headlight glare when trying to use a side mirror, or cyclists without headlamps) — which the Dutch Reach helps compensate for – by baking in a better method with

    — A CONTINUOUS DIRECT VIEW OF ON-COMING TRAFFIC WITH
    — A SLOW & ABORTABLE PARTIAL OPENING BEFORE FULL OPENING
    — WHICH ENCOURAGES EXITING FACING REARWARD,
    — MAINTAINING ONE’S VIEW OF ON-COMING TRAFFIC THROUGHOUT.

    The City of Cambridge certainly thinks mirrors should be used as part of the the Dutch Reach. See page 9 of the Cambridge Street Guide: Rules & Etiquette for Getting There Together (Dec. 2016): http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/News/2016/12/~/media/9EC803500FCE4B2CACFCCA0FC4E93E4C.ashx

    Mr. Owens again:
    “….as a way of avoiding approaching cyclists it is utterly useless. The only sure fire way to avoid getting doored is in our own hands – don’t ride in the door-zone: simple. Any campaigning efforts should be directed at persuading the authorities to remove daft cycle lanes that direct cyclists into the most dangerous position.”

    1) Yes, cyclists should avoid door/death zones when they can, and if they are savvy enough. Perhaps Mr. Owens is now also campaigning and working to teach children and new adult cyclists how to bike on city streets. Is he? Where?

    2) ‘Any campaigning should be directed to authorities to remove ‘daft bike lanes’ etc.’ Fine. Are you doing it? Please direct me to your campaign headquarters. But daft bike lanes aren’t the only cause of doorings, as already noted. All stopped vehicles adjacent to cyclists are potential dooring sites, and traffic and parking practices must be significantly revised and/or limited street width fought over to physically allow safe road sharing [+/- parking ].

    When can I expect your comprehensive solution to be up and running?
    At what costs in politicking, appropriations, planning and lives lost while implementing?

    Such advice is nice if you own a car — But I’m car free, so how long must I wait before getting back on my bike?

    I look forward to reading Owens & Graff’s further contributions to solving this dilemma. Meanwhile I hope they will assist by practicing the Dutch reach themselves until its become their own habitual way of exiting, and by urging their friends and family, as well as ‘the authorities’ to do likewise. Everyone can help!

    The Dutch Reach Project website is filled with useful graphics, videos, and other resources to help you advance this on-going international campaign and commonsense habit.

    With warm regards,
    Michael Charney
    http://www.dutchreach.org

  5. Once again I welcome Dr. Charney’s willingness to engage in dialogue, and I also thank the other commenters. Issues about the Dutch Reach have received a good airing here.

    Bicyclists’ riding in the door zone reflects deep-seated problems of perception, behavior and misunderstanding of risk. The fear of being struck from behind is primal. Humans may easily perceive themselves as prey when large, noisy vehicles are behind them — but unlike animals which evolved in this condition — rodents, equines, ungulates, most birds etc. — we are primates, descendants of tree-dwellers for which forward stereoscopic vision was crucial. So, we have eyes in the front of our heads rather than the sides where they would offer a 360 degree view. (Dr. Charney may have more or different things to say about this issue, as he is a psychiatrist.) Overcoming the “fear from the rear” is difficult, requiring instruction, long experience, use of a rear-view mirror, or some combination of these. Bicyclists also may feel that they are interlopers on the roads, and that motorists have superior rights, buying into the so-called culture of speed — see http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/2009/08/04/the-culture-of-speed-vs-the-culture-of-trust/.

    My concern as a cycling educator is for bicyclists to be able to ride with safety and confidence. As much as the Dutch Reach campaign and other campaigns directed toward motorists may reduce the risk of doorings, they do not eliminate it. Much less do they eliminate the other hazards of riding too close to a line of parked cars. Neither do these campaigns address the persistent unease that results from knowing from experience that safety in the door zone relies entirely on the attentiveness of strangers — while believing that riding outside it is even less safe. So, my answer to the problem is to promote the style of riding which reduces the risk to a level I find acceptable, and removes the unease: lane positioning with control and release, as described in the CyclingSavvy curriculum (http://cyclingsavvy.org/) and use of a rear-view mirror, and I have an article about that — http://bikexprt.com/bicycle/mirror.htm.

    If drivers learn to check for overtaking bicyclists, well, good, but when bicyclists expect that this is the best which can be done for their safety on streets with parking, and they can do no better for themselves, then only completely separate bikeways will address their unease. These must also avoid crossing and turning conflicts, but what is more common is half-baked installations which placate fear from the rear while only increasing conflicts at intersections and driveways — where most car-bike crashes in urban areas occur — and also increase delay, and with it the temptation to take risks.

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