How to avoid hitting a cyclist with your car door

There's perhaps nothing more scary for a cyclist than the sight of an opening car door. That's because thousands of bike rides end in a trip to the hospital every year, due to people in cars not looking for bikers when exiting.

Accidents between bikers and car drivers happen more often than you'd think.
Accidents between bikers and car drivers happen more often than you'd think.  © NICOLAS MAETERLINCK / BELGA / AFP

There's something to be said for putting your pedal to the metal. But not when that bike pedal hits a car door.

There's one simple thing all car passengers can do to make things safer for cyclists: Open the car door with your other hand when you get out.

"This maneuver, known as the 'Dutch Reach,' will twist your body slightly and make checking easier," Australia's Bicycle Network explaind. It's just one of numerous bicycle advocacy groups calling for drivers to memorize the trick.

By reaching across your chest to open the door, you will automatically turn and look over your shoulder, meaning you will likely spot a passing cyclist before "dooring" them.

Experts also suggest getting into the habit of always checking your mirrors before getting out of a car, and then just opening the door just a little – so you can get a good look at the road.

Reports have estimated that around 750 cyclists die in fatal bicycle accidents each year in the US.

"It is against the law to open a car door into the path of a cyclist," New York Mayor Eric Adams tweeted after a fatal bike accident in Brookyln in 2019.

"Our lives are in each other’s hands. We must act like it. Rising cyclist fatalities are a crisis. We will do everything in our power to stop them."

Prominent cases of cyclists being killed by opening car doors have even led some countries, such as Australia, to introduce fines on negligent drivers.

Bike riding: What can cyclists do to stay safe?

Is there anything cyclists can do to protect themselves?

Cyclists themselves can hardly prevent "dooring" accidents. If someone opens a car door while you are cycling at a speed of around 12 miles per hour, then you would need to see it about 40 feet in advance in order to be able to brake in time.

That means you can only try to reduce the risk of an accident. Road safety experts advised cyclists to always keep a distance of at least three feet between themselves and parked cars beside them.

It also helps to pay close attention to warning signs like blinkers and brake lights in parked cars. Wearing bright clothes will also increase the chances that someone in a car will see you before opening the door.

Whether you're the driver of a car or bike, stay safe out there, and always be aware of your surroundings.


More on Guide: