Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Dutch Reach

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 10, 2017

Idiomation came across the expression Dutch reach in an article published by CBC Manitoba on January 10, 2017. The article reported that St. Boniface (MB) councilor was promoting the Dutch reach as a way to fight collisions between bicyclists and parked motorists. The article read in part:

Allard has authored a motion asking the city to work with Manitoba Public Insurance to popularize the “Dutch reach,” a manoeuvre intended to ensure people in cars don’t fling open their doors and into the path of oncoming cyclists without warning.

It was a topic of discussion on the Road Bike Review website in September 2016 with some cyclists supporting the concept while others felt it wouldn’t reduce the number of door prizes cyclists get while cycling city streets.

IMPORTANT NOTE 1: A door prize is the colloquial expression for a traffic collision in which a cyclist is struck by a car door.

The practice was mentioned in Martine Power’s article for the Boston Globe on September 22, 2013. The practice was also mentioned in a New York Times article dated July 30, 2011 and written by contributing writer Russell Shorto.

The practice however was not called the Dutch reach in either of those article even though the practice has been the law in the Netherlands for decades.

In 2016, retired American physician Michael Charney named the practice the Dutch reach. After the death of a cyclist in Somerville (MA) in the summer of 2016, Michael Charney, in partnership with the Somerville Police Department, promoted the “Dutch Reach’’ on an electronic sign board that was positioned outside the city’s Veterans Memorial Rink

IMPORTANT NOTE 2: Dr. Michael Charney swapping driving a car for driving a bike in 1992, and has been an ardent cycling advocate in Cambridge (MA) over the years.

This means that the term Dutch reach is about six months old even, and mainstream media and politicians are already making use of the expression in articles about car doors and cyclists. Idiomation therefore pegs Dutch reach to 2016 as attributed to retired American physician Michael Charney.


2 Responses to “Dutch Reach”

  1. A Correction: The June 2016 dooring death of the young woman which prompted the Dutch Reach grassroots anti-dooring campaign, occurred in Inman Sq, Cambridge, MA, USA and not in Somerville, MA, the city immediately adjacent. See: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/09/08/this-cyclist-wants-drivers-dutch-reach/V2Ei5bEiOCfU6ubxX1r8VN/story.html

    An Expansion:

    A detailed account of the founding of the Dutch Reach project and propagation as ideomatic meme can be found at: http://www.dutchreach.org/how-dutch-reach-got-media-mojo/ and http://www.dutchreach.org/about/

    Credit for the popularity of this new, idiomatic meme ‘Dutch Reach’ is in large part due to:

    1) Necessity: Cyclists’ real and widely felt fear of sudden smash ups with flung car doors. So demand for such a brilliantly simple free & universal solution — the far hand method, aka ‘Dutch Reach’, was and is very high;

    2) No ID, no go. Naming the far hand habit was way overdue. It’s dissemination had been crippled by anonymity. Once blessed with a short (and dicey) tag, it got legs;

    Nameless, no one talked about it, heard about it, could search, find, study, teach or push it. So this ‘duh’ 50 year old commonsense fix hardly got beyond Holland’s physical and linguistic borders. The Dutch couldn’t imagine other people doing otherwise. And never touted it along with their other street cures for bicyclist death or injury.

    3) Its name appeal. In English the term is short, punchy, has consonance, and a curious whiff of outre connotations, ie. media bait. Therefore and finally,

    4) Smut, Smirks, & Videotape: While the Boston Globe story first put ‘Dutch Reach’ in print, and PRI/BBC first radioed this term to The World, it was Outside Online’s faux risque video “The Dutch Reach – Safe For Work” that sent smiles & waves of “wow! so obvious, simple!” around the e-globe.

    Thank you for casting a curious ear!

    To learn about the Dutch Reach anti-dooring safety effort, go to http://www.dutchreach.org

    Yours truly,

    Michael Charney
    The Dutch Reach Project

    Cambridge, MA, USA

    • Welcome to Idiomation, and thank you so much for the detailed information not only on the history of the term but also on the need to raise awareness of, and implement, the Dutch Reach. Feel free to add additional information related to the Dutch Reach to this entry as it becomes available (i.e. more media coverage, awareness events, et al). Hopefully, we’ll see you back on Idiomation soon!

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