Why & How It All Happened
450 Child Bike Ped Deaths & Over 3200 Total per Year Drove Decades of Reforms in Holland - & Likely the 'Reach'
In the late 1960's & '70's, the Netherlands was far from the pedestrian and bicycling mecca it is today. Road deaths numbered in the thousands.
The accompanying traffic death graphs tell a story of incredible half-century progress in Dutch road safety, one that is all the more impressive because deaths and injuries from motor vehicle crashes fell dramatically despite significant population growth and an exponential rise in traffic.
As documented by SNOV of NL in Road deaths in the Netherlands (2016), road deaths totaled well above 3200 per year at the peak of the traffic carnage (see multi-decadal charts, figures 5 & 6). That was a time when Holland's economic recovery from World War II was finally arriving. As it did, the flood of autos, trucks, mopeds and scooters were crashing themselves and mowing down cyclists, pedestrians and especially children. Yet politicians, government planners - with public favor or acquiescence -- were also keen on motorizing the streets.
Bicyclists, foot traffic and children at play paid the price. Figure 5 bar graph depicts annual fatalities by transport mode of victim - motorist, cyclist, scooter/moped, pedestrian etc. Figure 6 charts the age distribution of each year's road fatalities. In 1972 NL's population was 13.33 million; in 2016 its population was 17 M, over 1/4th more, and multi-modal road traffic has soared. Yet now, Dutch road fatalities number around 600 per year. Only several are deaths by dooring.
NL transport expert and anecdotal reports date the Dutch far hand method back at least to the early 1970s. Strict national vehicle exiting standards for licensing new drivers goes back many decades. It would be helpful to learn the political, legal & bureaucratic history answering when, why and how these standards were enacted. A history of this 'culture tool' has yet to be found in English. And it appears doubtful a recorded history exists at all, even in Dutch.
[But if you, Dear Reader, can help fill in this historical gap, please do share what you know, have or can discover with this Project by link, file, citation or contact!]
But my inference from this distance of time, continent and language, is that the Stop de Kindermoord road revolutionaries were part of the story. The rise of the Reach 'culture tool' coincided with demands for reform. Was the protest movement then instrumental in making far hand use a popular and perhaps officially favored practice in NL in the '70's? It did became so commonplace as to be thought merely "the way you open the car door."
That the 'Reach' practice has faded from practice and Dutch memory as NL's road culture and infrastructure transformed, making safety for all the norm and reality, should not be surprising. That today many Dutch citizens are unaware of the traffic carnage half a century ago, nor of those grieving parents and reformers who made Hollands roads now safe, is also not surprising. But this history is very much worth knowing, honoring and emulating.
Stop de Kindermoord is a lesson for the modern world. Protest and advocacy is essential to achieve universal and safe road sharing, by policy, enforcement, infrastructure, and culture change. Hopefully our work will be as successful but without so much loss and suffering.
Here is a sampling of sources which recount the 'Kindermoord' struggle:
Cycling the city - How Amsterdam became the bicycle capital of the world
In the 1960s, Dutch cities were increasingly in thrall to motorists, with the car seen as the transport of the future. It took the intolerable toll of child traffic deaths – and fierce activism – to turn Amsterdam into the cycling nirvana of today
In this article, a Brit considers the NL experience, and compares it to UK now, especially with regard to school aged children:
The most authoritative report may be this:
Stop de Kindermoord, Its in Wikipedia but, well, it's all in Dutch.
But for a fine overview in the English language Wikipedia, see:
Note: Again, if you have information or sources bearing on the question of the 'far hand' method in the Netherlands or other countries where the practice might have arisen or spread [? Denmark, Sweden, Germany, France, Belgium, etc.], we welcome your help! Please share your knowledge with us via Contact.
-- Michael Charney, Dutch Reach Project
Revised: 7 October 2017.