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About this blog: I developed a special interest in helping seniors with their challenges and transitions when my dad had a stroke and I helped him through all the various stages of downsizing, packing, moving and finding an assisted living communi...  (More)

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The Dutch Clutch

Uploaded: Jan 7, 2020
I just read a year-end-type newsletter from some friends who shared the sad news that a close friend had been killed on his bicycle when a driver in a parked car opened the driver's door without looking to see if any bikers were passing by. What an awful thing, and not that uncommon. It happened to me riding on University Ave in Berkeley many years ago. Fortunately I survived. Many don't. The friends included the sad news as part of imploring folks to practice the Dutch Clutch (also called the Dutch Reach). It is a simple, life-saving practice taught from a young age to all Dutch children and adults. Here's a good description:
The Dutch Clutch (Reach) is a practice for drivers and passengers where, rather than using your hand closest to the door to open it, you use your far hand. This choice sets off a series of 5 linked actions: reach, swivel, look back, open slowly, and then exit. Some folks tie a bright ribbon on the door handle to remind themselves.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by parent, a resident of Midtown,
on Jan 8, 2020 at 10:37 am

I am shocked that Palo Alto has installed many bike lanes immediately adjacent to car parking areas, which invites the "dooring" homicides that you write about. While the person opening the car door is legally at fault and deserves to be convicted of homicide, the victim is still dead (or if lucky, injured). We have taught our children to never ride their bicycles in the "door zone", even if that is a marked bike lane. Always ride at least 4 feet from parked cars. Riding in the center of the street where you are very visible to cars approaching from behind is much safer. In a bicycle safety lecture, a police officer once told us "if you never ride in the door zone, you will never get doored".

Posted by Michael Charney, a resident of another community,
on Jan 8, 2020 at 7:08 pm

Very sorry to learn of your losing a close friend to that most avoidable & senseless type of bike/vehicle crash, caused by all too common carelessness on the part of drivers & passengers who don't realize doors can kill.

But I write to ask who told you it was called the "Dutch Clutch" and do you know who coined it or how that name came about. I ask because the Dutch themselves do not have a name for this life sparing far hand method. They simply call it "How you open a car door". While it is less practiced now in The Netherland as they have made so many improvements in road sharing safety since the 1960'a & '70a when NL's traffic deaths numbered ~3300/year, 4-500 being children. [See: "Stop de Kindermoord" here: Web Link ]

A retired Massachusetts MD coined "Dutch Reach" in 2016 specifically to promote the nameless Dutch safety advice.

Wikipedia has a definitive entry on the Dutch Reach but does not mention calling it the Dutch Clutch. viz: Web Link

It's been called other names in various cities across the globe prior to the DR coinage eg. the Amsterdam or Northern European Cities' method, the Opposite Hand Trick, or Cross Check, none of which apparently caught on or were not promoted in a sustained way.

So if you know anything more about the Clutch coinage, I hope you will share it here in the comments and send an email to the Dutch Reach Project You can find the email address under Home > Contact

Regardless of its name, it works - and thank you for sharing it with your readers. Perhaps some activists in CA will take on the task to getting it into the CA state driver's manual or code, following the examples of MA, PA, WA, IL, South Australia, New Zealand and soon the UK.

Yrs truly,
Michael C., Dutch Reach Project

Posted by Max Greenberg, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jan 9, 2020 at 12:23 am

Max Greenberg is a registered user.

Michael - Thank you very much for your comments and providing more information about this life-saving practice. I really can't recall where I first heard it, but I have always called the Dutch Reach method the Dutch Clutch. It seems to be a natural combination of words that just rolls off the tongue and may be helpful in getting more people to take notice of the concept and the method and start using it regularly.

Best of luck to you in continuing to spread the word and encourage the practice to save lives.I agree a good start would be for all drivers-ed courses to teach it, and all state auto license tests to include it.

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