Ever heard of the Dutch Reach? It has been described as a behavioral “nudge” that encourages riders to open the nearest car door with their far hand — usually their left hand — so they automatically swivel their body, positioning their head and shoulders such that they’re looking past the rearview mirror. This way, they’re able to quickly spot oncoming bicycles and cars.
The Dutch Reach is said to have originated in the Netherlands (hence the “Dutch” bit), which has one of the lowest rates of bike fatalities in the world, and the technique has since made its way into the U.K. Department for Transport’s official road-user rulebook and American driver’s ed courses. Now, ride-hailing conglomerate Uber is jumping on the bandwagon with a new feature, new videos, and educational efforts to “raise awareness on the importance of bike safety.”
According to a blog post penned by Uber road safety product manager Kristin Smith, the company will launch a campaign with partners like PeopleForBikes and local advocacy groups to teach riders ways to prevent “doorings.” Additionally, Uber will pilot a new in-app safety feature — Bike Lane Alert — that leverages publicly available mapping data to identify where bike lanes and shared roads are in a city. Uber users in San Francisco; New York; Washington, D.C.; and Toronto will soon receive push notifications indicating that their upcoming drop-off is near a bike lane or along a bike route and reminding them to look for cyclists before opening their door.
That’s good news for the estimated 2 billion bicyclists worldwide, needless to say. In 2011, the City of Chicago reported that 344 cycling injuries — a fifth of all cycling injuries reported that year — were caused by accidents involving obstacles created by the unexpected opening of a car door. In 2003, dooring was the cause of 11.9% of all cycling injuries registered in Toronto, and that same year 8% of all serious injuries to London cyclists were the result of a collision with a car door.
“As the experts say, increasing awareness of safe behavior increases safety. Along with the in-app notifications to riders, we will also remind drivers it’s illegal to stop in a bike lane in most cities and encourage them to safely coordinate pickups and drop-offs away from bike lanes,” said Smith. “This pilot is just the start. We look forward to continue working with safety experts to increase awareness and build safety products for everyone — regardless of the mode of transportation.”
Uber’s Bike Lane Alert comes on the heels of a similar feature introduced by Lyft last month.