‘Dutch Reach’ to be added to UK Highway Code to protect cyclists

Dutch Reach sees drivers open car door from inside with left hand, forcing them to look behind for approaching cyclists

Drivers and passengers will soon be encouraged to use the ‘Dutch Reach’ when opening car doors from the inside. The Reach, made famous by policy in the cycle-friendly Netherlands, sees drivers open their car doors with their left hand (passengers with their right) when exiting a vehicle. This forces them to look over their shoulders for approaching cyclists, who might otherwise crash into an opening car door.

The news comes as the Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed it is conducting a review of the Highway Code, which will now encourage drivers to utilise the Dutch Reach when opening their door. New guidance that requires drivers to allow plenty of room when overtaking cyclists will also be introduced. 

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The Highway Code currently advises drivers “should” give cyclist “at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”, but the use of the word “should” makes that advice, rather than a legal mandate. While the precise wording of the new legislation has yet to be confirmed, legally binding rules in the Highway Code are preceded by the word “must”.

Announcing the changes, Under Secretary of State for Transport, Jesse Norman said: “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world, but we need them to be safer still for all – and particularly for cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users.”

Road and cycling safety experts welcomed the new rules. The RAC’s, Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy, said: “We support the introduction of the ‘Dutch reach’ principle to the Highway Code, a small change every motorist can make when exiting their vehicle that can make a huge difference to the safety of passing cyclists.

Lyes added: “it is also important that efforts are made to try and end the ‘us versus them’ narrative, whereby drivers are pitted against cyclists and vice-versa, when the reality is that motorists and cyclists are simply road users trying to complete a journey safely.”

Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns at Cycling UK said he was “delighted” the Highway Code was being reviewed with cycling safety in mind, adding: “Close overtakes and people opening car doors in front of cyclists are not only dangerous, they also put people off riding a bike.”

The DfT launched a call for evidence into cycle and car safety earlier this year earlier this year, while police forces have previously cracked down on drivers who don’t leave enough room when overtaking cyclists.

Are you pleased to see the Dutch reach technique added to the Highway Code? Let us know in the comments…

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