The Dutch Reach Can Save the Lives of Bicyclists in Providence

71-DSC_7273-300x240Bicyclists abound around Providence. With the launch of the city’s first bike-share program, more bikes are appearing on the streets of Rhode Island’s capital. It’s a great boost for rider’s health and a plus for the environment. It will take automobiles awhile to get used to sharing the road with more bicyclists, and both drivers and cyclists alike will need to heed extra caution. The personal injury lawyers at Tapalian Law in Providence see severe injuries occur to bicyclists when they collide with a vehicle. We know that bicycles are no match for a car or truck. Bicycle accidents can cause serious injuries to the brain, broken bones, abrasions, lacerations, and fatalities. Bike accidents transpire more frequently in urban areas like Providence so with the upsurge in bicycles in the city a corresponding spike in bike-related personal injury may take place. Statistics clearly show that cyclists are much more likely to be injured or killed by a car than by anything else on the road.

“Dooring”: Car Door Related Accidents in Providence

A “dooring” is a type of traffic collision where a cyclist rides into a car door or is struck by a car door that was opened without checking the side view mirror for cyclists. Dooring is unfortunately a very common occurrence among cyclists and one that personal injury lawyer David Tapalian sees frequently. It is not only scary, but can be deadly. A car driver doesn’t normally intend to open their car door to hurt a cyclist, but the results can be tragic nonetheless regardless of intention. The opened door may hit the cyclist causing them to crash head-on or if the bicyclist is able to see the door opening quickly, they may swerve into traffic to avoid the open door, thereby crashing into a moving vehicle or falling off their bike. Either way, the outcome can cause detrimental injuries to the bicyclist and to other cars, passengers, or pedestrians, on the road.


What is the Dutch Reach?

Not many Rhode Islanders are familiar with the term “Dutch Reach”, but we should be. The practice can be lifesaving. A phrase referenced by Dr. Michael Charney, a retired physician and avid bicyclist, the Dutch Reach is a maneuver a driver can adopt prior to exiting their car to prevent a dooring. It is widely practiced in the Netherlands, a country that relies heavily on bicycles for transportation. Generally, a driver exits their vehicle by opening the car door with their left hand. Instead, by reaching across our body to use the opposite hand to reach the door handle, the Dutch Reach, this causes us to turn our bodies toward the side view mirror, out and back over your shoulder to spot an approaching bicyclist or pedestrian. Only after seeing a clear view, the driver or passenger should then open the car door slowly. This slight pause can save a life or prevent serious injuries caused by a dooring crash.

Who is Responsible for Car Dooring Accidents in Rhode Island?

Many states have laws related to car dooring, including Rhode Island. You may have a valid personal injury case if you, along with your bicycle accident attorney, can prove negligence on the part of the driver who opened the door even if it was not done with the intention to cause injury.

Rhode Island Bicycle Law Pertaining to Dooring

Universal Citation: RI Gen L § 31-21-14 (2012)

  • 31-21-14 Opening vehicle doors. – No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the roadways, streets, or highways of this state, available to moving traffic, unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including pedestrians and bicycles on sidewalks, shoulders, or bicycle lanes. No person shall leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic, including pedestrians and bicycles on sidewalks, shoulders or bicycle lanes, for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be fined as provided in § 31-41.1-4. 

An experienced RI bicycle injury lawyer like David Tapalian can assist you with your bicycle injury case and help determine if the defendant (ie. person who opened the car door) was negligent and failed to use reasonable care which resulted in your injuries. In Rhode Island, you will need to prove that the defendant owed you, the cyclist, a duty of care to safely open the door. If they did owe you a duty of care but failed to carry out this duty therefore causing you injury that resulted in damages, you may have a valid personal injury claim.

Contact a Providence Personal Injury Lawyer for Your Bicycle Accident Injuries

Tapalian Law has helped numerous clients injured in bicycle accidents in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Bicycle accident attorney David Tapalian is experienced with the types of personal injury that can transpire from a bike accident and has been successful in winning compensation for numerous bike accident clients who have suffered both minor and traumatic injuries when their bike collided with a vehicle. If you or a family member were hurt in a Rhode Island bicycle accident, you may have a valid personal injury claim and may be eligible for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, emotional distress, and other associated costs related to the injury. Call the bicycle accident injury lawyers at Tapalian Law at


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