Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on June 4th, 2008 at 1:48 pm
(Photo: Kate Gawf)
I came across an interesting account of a collision that happened two weeks ago in downtown Portland.
Kate Gawf was riding her bike south on
SW NW Broadway and noticed the aftermath of a bike-on-bike collision at Couch Street. Here’s how Ms. Gawf explains what happened (based on talking with onlookers, emphasis mine):
“One [bike] was zooming along Broadway, as one does, Broadway being a main arterial. The other apparently tried to dart across Broadway at a gap in the cars, but neglected to wait for a gap in the bikes.”
I have experienced this myself. I tend to focus primarily on motor vehicle traffic when I think about crossing a street. But the different speeds of bikes — and their smaller visual (and audible) footprints — can sometimes throw off my judgment.
Here’s how Gawf explains it:
“You’re waiting and waiting, you’re focusing on the cars, you finally get your chance, and your gap is filled with bikes. By the time the slow-mo bikes go by, you’ve got another wave of cars to wait for.”
Gawf says the problem is particularly acute when she’s trying to cross streets that have heavily used bike lanes and high car volumes (like when she’s crossing N. Vancouver or Williams from Thompson).
I have found that over the years of riding in traffic, I’m able to predict car behavior and traffic flow very well, but I have not yet fully adjusted my judgment for bike traffic (most likely because it has never really existed until recently).
As we’ve seen with “The Awareness Test” video, it’s hard to see what you’re not looking for, but with Portland’s streets becoming more and more multi-modal, we’ve got to adjust accordingly.