Strategy & Pushback

STRATEGIC OVERVIEW - THE HOW & WHY OF DUTCH REACH PROJECT

PROBLEM SUMMARY:

Dooring is one of the most common and concerning of urban bicycling crashes.  It can end a life or change it for the worse forever.  It is a major concern, a source of daily anxiety, which demands cyclist constant vigilance despite multiple competing concerns and distractions as one cycles amid traffic, parked and stopping vehicles, contending with traffic and road surface conditions, adverse weather, glare and darkness, deafening or startling noise, way-finding, poorly designed or signed infrastructure, and all other unpredictable and dangerous behavior by drivers, passengers, pedestrians, dogs, debris and other cyclists.

Minor crashes, direct hits or by swerve avoidance with or without loss of control and crash, constitute the major of incidents, but are often emotionally traumatic as wells a injurious, disruptive and costly nonetheless.   Recent statistical reports from a handful of cities find a range of  incident rates, between 8 and 20 percent of all cyclist crashes, which constitute perhaps a third of all vehicular/bicycle crashes on average.  Dooring associated fatalities are significantly lower than the other two major classes of vehicular/bicycle crashes -- hooks (particularly right hooks), and cyclists being hit from behind.   Speed squared times mass translates into effective blunt trauma.   Doored cyclists are thus at far greater risk of major trauma if they collide with an open door at high speed, or more likely, knocked or forced to avoid, swerve and crash and then run over by a truck or other vehicle whose own speed and mass produces the life destroying trauma.  Dooring is perhaps the most readily cited cyclist cited reason for demanding separated and protected bike tracks.  Bike lanes and sharrows themselves are recognized as creating a false sense of security, or by poor positioning close to parking lanes, actually increase risk to cyclists.

STRATEGIC PROGRAM FOR THE DUTCH REACH PROJECT / CAMPAIGN

Goal:   Introduce, educate and ultimately substitute the inherently safer far hand method for occupant exit of motor vehicles for the now prevalent and inherently flawed near hand habit.  This transformation will of necessity rely on education, outreach and advocacy to ingrain this advantageous habitual behavior into all motor vehicle drivers and passengers, inculcating it in the young, requiring use and knowledge thereof in driver licensing protocols and testing, and promoting general training and retraining of already licensed drivers and all current and potential passengers.

i. A specific arbitrary flawed practice is to be replaced with a safer habit across a target population.

ii. A grassroots campaign is designed to seed awareness across relevant vector and target populations (cyclists & road safety individuals, organizations, educators, advocates, professionals & officials etc. as vectors; general motoring public and selected subsections as targets.)

iii. Organizing agents are to develop resources and methodologies to empower vectors to utilize, replicate, improve and spread the grassroots educational, outreach & advocacy campaign, its tactics, resources and strategies.

iv. The campaign/project seeks to be open source, horizontal, relatively low budget or costless beyond staff and volunteer time commitments.

v. Shall have the potential to revise the “community standard” top down and bottom up, from childhood to drivers education to licensing, licensing recertification, public re-education and possibly required driver continuing education requirements.

vi. Beyond its potential to become a performance requirement for driver licensing road tests (as in NL), should it become a “community standard” may have further productive ramifications: insurance company programs which retrain drivers; strengthening of civil liability tort claims of driver/passenger/corporate negligence in future plaintiff lawsuits for damages, with consequent heightened media awareness due to higher damage awards, trial publicity etc.

WHAT RECOMMENDS THE DUTCH REACH ANTI- DOORING STRATEGY?

Here is a summary of what makes a Dutch Reach targeted strategy logical, practical and potent contribution to anti- dooring advocacy, outreach and education campaigning:

Basic position:

The Dutch Reach method works & as a behavior change campaign objective is compatible with multiple other, important though also partial strategies to reduce doorings:

0)  The far hand method is intrinsically safer than its opposite; most people can physically do it.
1)   Cyclists:  defend yourselves!!
2)  Drivers & passengers: protect yourselves on exiting,
3)  Safer streets policy advocates: please continue to advocate for protected bike tracks.
4)  Changing deep set habits is difficult but needed and should be promoted.
5)  Teaching children & youth this safer habit to begin with is critical.
6)  It will take decades to educate all from scratch; and may be impossible to re-train a majority of adult drivers. Passengers may be more susceptible to change; maybe not.

Particular merits:

The Dutch Reach campaigns promise a partial solution only. But it has unique, numerous and significant advantages and possibilities for advancement, which include:

a)     universality for locations of use;
b)     capable of immediate application;
c)     extreme low cost compared to other measures;
d)    likely limited or non-existent political or institutional opposition in most venues;

f)     being a simple, easy & obvious intervention which the vast public can understand & accept;
g)    reputably recommended by NL with 50 year record of use, as well as RoSPA UK; (& more to come);
i)     easy to market to the public as commonsense, to social & traditional media & decision makers;
k)    in prime-need locations of bike/vehicle conflict, finds ready advocates & proselytizers;

l)     has potential to shift more burden of liability to drivers, passengers, fleet owners & users.
m)  does as well as typical past bike-safety-vigilance campaign to raise public awareness and regard for cyclists' safety and rights as road users.
n)   shifts public perception from cyclist error to driver/passenger error & negligence,
o)   opens door for Registry of Motor Vehicle/DOT/DfT strengthening of driver education & licensing requirements',

p)   helps promote push for fleet & driver continuing education/re-training programs.
q)   draws motor vehicle insurers into the solution effort.
r)   local advocates can use it as wedge issue for better road sharing education in public schools; retraining of public fleet operators; federal occupational road operator standards, federal fleet training;
s)   stimulate inclusion of fleet training qualifications for eligibility to compete for public contracts.

t)   has a do-it-yourselves open source website up and running;
u)  has demonstrated international popularity & recognition:  is now trending across physical & linguistic borders - via articles & videos, not to mention tweets, face book posts & blogs, which have appeared in: USA, CA, FR, FI, JN, SA, AU, NZ, ES, PH, IT, BE, IE, RO, GE, ... & even the NL, and this list is very certainly incomplete.

[Note to Reader!~  If you have additions for this list, or critiques thereof, please contribute your thoughts.  Please use Contact.]

PUSH BACK AGAINST THE DUTCH REACH PROJECT - INFORMED & OTHERWISE

QUESTIONING THE RATIONALE & EFFICACY OF THE DUTCH REACH AS PRACTICE & PROJECT

Herein we address questions, skepticism, complaints, ideological concerns & attacks, alleged flaws & reservations etc. regarding the Dutch Reach grassroots dooring reduction project and campaign.  

Additionalinformed criticism is most welcome and will be addressed asap!  Please use:  Contact.

re: JOHN S. ALLEN's BICYCLE BLOG FAULTING "DUTCH REACH"

RESPONSE TO A CRITIQUE OF THE “DUTCH REACH” AS MEANS TO REDUCE DOORINGS.

Please first read John S. Allen's Bicycle Blog post:  The “Dutch Reach", dated  

The first comment is a point by point response to issues raised by Mr. Allen, and is reproduced here by its author.

Michael L Charney | February 5, 2017 at 1:09 am | Reply

Dear John Allen,

Thank you very much for examining and offering your informed opinion on the merit, questionable or otherwise, of attempting to alter driver and passenger door opening behavior for the benefit of public safety both for exiting occupants and on-coming traffic, cyclists in particular.

Addressing yours points:

1. JSA:   “Sure, the Dutch Reach will prevent doorings as long as the motorist remembers to use it.”

A. Yes of course, and the effort to achieve behavior change is formidable, though not impossible. In our life times we have seen smoking rates in the US cut in half; seat belt buckling increase dramatically from the time there were no seat belts as standard equipment; helmet use introduced and made popular; right on red introduced; and more people now sneeze into the crook of their arm and wash hands more during flu season, etc. So the challenge is clear, certainly up-hill, but not entirely quixotic.

2. JSA:  “Bicyclists who rely on the Dutch Reach are defining themselves as helpless victims, expecting the same motorists they fear to take all of the responsibility for their safety.”

A. I would say “Bicyclists who rely on the DR are deeply misguided or extremely foolish to ever rely on drivers to use the Dutch Reach, and must therefore cycle defensively in the presence of parked or stopped vehicles.” On my project’s website I address this point directly with a disclaimer of trust. See: Dooring Self Defense for Cyclists at: https://www.dutchreach.org/dooring-defense-for-cyclists2-2-2-2-2/

I welcome your comments and suggestions to improve this section and readily acknowledge your expertise in street smart cycling – and cite your guide specifically therein.

2b. JSA:   “Promoting the Dutch Reach perpetuates the idea that bicyclists are second-class citizens, motorists have a superior right to use the road, and promotes the construction of door-zone bicycle lanes which codify that belief.”

A. Promoting the DR promotes safety in specific instances. Personally I do not see a connection between telling drivers and passengers to swap one thoughtless habit for a safer one should be read as telling motors they are superior, cyclists are inferior, or that public officials should construct bike lanes.

Cyclists are vulnerable road users for reasons that are self-evident, which is why we all work to promote safer road conditions for all. Decisions made by government planning departments re: creation of bike lanes, is subject to political pressure largely independent of teaching drivers and passengers how to protect themselves and spare harm to others.

3. JSA:   ” Self-definition as a victim prevents bicyclists from understanding that they can take actions to improve their own safety.”

A. I cannot agree with you more. But do not see the connection to teaching drivers and passengers — my target audience – as significantly affecting cyclists’ self-definition. Cyclist empowerment is absolutely important, and the Dutch Reach Project calls upon cyclists to use advocacy and outreach to change driver, passenger and official norms to improve our own chances for survival.

4a. JSA:   “Promoting the Dutch Reach as if it would make door-zone bicycling safe…”

A: I promote the DR because when used it does make us all safer – cyclists who err into or are forced into the death/door zone, and occupants who might heedlessly exit into on-coming traffic. As you note in 1 above, when and where it is used, it can prevent harm, as in NL.

4b. JSA:   “…promotes the false belief that most car-bike crashes on urban streets are overtaking crashes.”

A. I am not sure where found this truly false claim anywhere on my website or in public interviews given by me. Please kindly provide your citation and should such a statement exist in my name, I will correct it forthwith with gratitude.

5. JSA:   “In fact, these are rare. Bicyclists still have the other problems which result from edge-riding, and become uneasy. These bicyclists’ beliefs either trap them in the door zone or lead them to quit bicycling.”

A. No disagreement whatsoever.

6. JSA:   “Most media outlets cover the Dutch Reach — as is usual with bicycling issues — out of context. Once again, as with helmets, bike lanes, etc. etc., a single measure, which has benefits and also which can fail, is described as if it is a be-all-and end-all and draws attention away from what could be a comprehensive and reasoned approach to bicyclists’ mobility and safety.”

A. Again, I fully agree. Would that the scribbling class knew and wrote better however ain’t gonna happen. Any serious campaign to change dominant behavior must engage the media as it is, and try to work with it the best one can, if only to plant initial seeds of awareness, later to be fertilized and watered otherwise.

The Dutch Reach has in the past 5 months seeded the idea into the minds of perhaps 2 M people worldwide. I can document 1.3 M of those from just the Outside Online video alone. That the UK Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (sic) has endorsed the method in an advisory to drivers and passengers will help water and fertilize future opportunities for institutionalized educational efforts and policy advances for licensing requirements.

7. JSA:   “Would you as an MD advise your patients to come in for a yearly doctor visit and dismiss things they can do for themselves: healthy diet, avoiding smoking, exercise, monitoring for symptoms of serious disease? Would you ignore research which shows the importance of these practices? No.”

A. Indeed, will I stop beating my wife? Let us dispense with rhetoric and address the issue itself:

8. JSA:   “No, but you are promoting a single practice which can address only one of many safety issues facing bicyclists, and whose promotion unfortunately reinforces common misconceptions and distracts from comprehensive solutions.”

A. Let us see where we agree: Yes I am deliberately addressing a specific problem with a quite partial solution which will only bear safety fruit in direct proportion to the extent to which drivers and passengers ingrain this alternative habit.

We disagree over your claim that this endeavor – or perhaps any endeavor which is not comprehensive – (and comprehensive of what I am not sure: all cycling hazards? right hooks, left cross? doorings only? potholes?) – that this endeavor fails and should not be pursued because it is the enemy of the perfect?

Much as your own writing – with the clear eye of an engineer – addresses scores of discrete particular issues. So does this effort address a narrow issue with a particular contribution to its solution. If I or anyone is willing to dedicate their time and effort to a simple, obvious, relatively cost free improvement in road sharing practice, how does that constitute medical malpractice?

One need not be a physician to find value in stop gap measures. I would recommend mouth to mouth and manual resuscitation if a ventilator bag and electroshock paddles were not available. The Dutch Reach habit swap fills a gap in current efforts to address avoidable dooring and exiting related calamities. It is not an excuse or reason to abandon other practical measures to do the same, whether they be ‘comprehensive’ or ideologically sound, expensive or time consuming, or just as free, easy or difficult as teaching old and young dogs new tricks. They just have to save lives and limbs from doorings.

If you have something specific to recommend today to prevent a dooring tomorrow please get to it! Or please lay out your program and explain how you plan to effect it…as I do below in #9. Then let us compare and contrast your proposal with the Dutch Reach Project.

Fair?

I applaud, and will continue to applaud all your efforts to assure cyclists first class status on the roadways, to equip and empower themselves with all which is needed to get from A to B alive. I welcome your challenges to this intervention, but I believe the counter-arguments posed in the above critique are off the mark.

9. MLC:  Here is the program for the Dutch Reach Project:

i. A specific arbitrary flawed practice is to be replaced with a safer habit across a target population.

ii. A grassroots campaign is designed to seed awareness across relevant vector and target populations (cyclists & road safety individuals, organizations, educators, advocates, professionals & officials etc. as vectors; general motoring public and selected subsections as targets.)

iii. Organizing agents are to develop resources and methodologies to empower vectors to utilize, replicate, improve and spread the grassroots educational, outreach & advocacy campaign, its tactics, resources and strategies.

iv. The campaign/project seeks to be open source, horizontal, relatively low budget or costless beyond staff and volunteer time commitments.

v. Shall have the potential to revise the “community standard” top down and bottom up, from childhood to drivers education to licensing, licensing recertification, public re-education and possibly required driver continuing education requirements.

vi. Beyond its potential to become a performance requirement for driver licensing road tests (as in NL), should it become a “community standard” may have further productive ramifications: insurance company programs which retrain drivers; strengthening of civil liability tort claims of driver/passenger/corporate negligence in future plaintiff lawsuits for damages, with consequent heightened media awareness due to higher damage awards, trial publicity etc.

Thus even though police enforcement of far hand reach behavior is nearly impossible to conceive, civil damages, increased insurance points etc. could have quasi-enforcement potential and reinforce social pressure for greater driver/passenger vigilance, with a spill over to accord cyclists greater regard and concern not to endanger them.

I look forward to reading your counter proposal. I will be pleased to respond and will reference & link our dialogue on the Dutch Reach website.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond. I look forward to your counter response.

-- Michael L. Charney, The Dutch Reach Project, Cambridge, MA, USA

[Note:  As of this posting, 13 Feb., 2017, Mr. Allen has not provided his counter responses.  Further push back against the advisability and practicality of the Dutch Reach and its Project strategy has been posted as Comments 2-4 beneath the JSA Blog post.   

Point by point responses & rebuttals to Comments 2-4 were submitted shortly after their posting by MLC, but have not as yet been approved by John S. Allen for publication.  These submissions by MLC  may appear on this page as time permits.]