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Is a fix in store for the “dangerous dance” on N. Williams (and elsewhere)?

Posted by on August 3rd, 2009 at 1:00 pm

The dance on Williams begins as a bus
moves right across a bike lane for a stop.
(Photos © J. Maus)

As noted in a story we published last month, bike traffic on N. Williams Ave. is at an all-time high. One of the main issues with biking on that road is how bikes and buses interact. With a bike lane sandwiched in between buses and bus stops, there is a constant leap-frogging that takes place.

This “dangerous dance” as one reader recently referred to it, is stressful for bus operators and a major concern for people on bikes.

Since our story, I’ve personally experienced this several times. Just this morning, while biking east on Hawthorne (N. Williams isn’t the only place where this is a problem), a bus signaled and then swung right — directly into the bike traffic lane I was in. Luckily, I was ready for it and was able to brake and move to the left without incident.

And I’m certainly not the only one who has experienced this. Reader Joshua Cohen included me on an email sent last week to the Mayor of Portland, City Commissioners, local media outlets and and City of Portland bike coordinator Roger Geller.

Portland City Tour ride -16

Cohen’s email was a plea for help to fix a situation he feels is a ticking time-bomb.

After dinner on July 29th, Cohen walked his bike to the bus stop at N. Williams and Beech (he had forgotten his lights at home and “felt safer” riding the bus). In the email, Cohen wrote that after signaling for the bus to stop, he “cringed” as he, “watched the bus pull across the bike lane, just a few feet ahead of a small cluster of blinking lights.” Here’s more from Cohen’s email:

“Thankfully, there was no collision, but the lead rider had to swerve wildly to avoid hitting the back of the bus. A few seconds later, I heard someone (presumably one of the riders) yell “Asshole!”, just outside of the bus drivers window.”

When Cohen walked on board, here’s how he describes an exchange with the operator:

Driver: “Hurry up… All your bike brothers are out there breathing my oxygen.”
Me: ‘”They aren’t my brothers, they’re just people… traffic.”
Driver: “They’re an obnoxious, poor excuse for human beings.”

Cohen immediately noted the route number, bus ID# and everything else he remembered about the incident. He said he was initial “shocked and angry” at the behavior of the bus operator. But then, as he thought more about it, he became less angry with the driver and more concerned about the street design that caused the incident to occur. He wrote:

“It’s not hard to imagine how this frustrating situation could cause a bus driver to make mistakes, with potentially tragic consequences.”

On that note, Cohen then reminded City Commissioners and Mayor Adams that in 2007, they “took immediate action” to fix the dangerous intersection at N. Greeley and Interstate after a high-profile fatal crash and serious injury collision just weeks from each other. Cohen feels that the traffic situation on Williiams is “more dangerous than Greeley ever was.”

random shots need to edit
Keeping buses to the right is a good idea.

Cohen wants the Bureau of Transportation to immediately modify N. Williams. If nothing else, he writes, “Even a simple meeting could have a positive effect if TriMet drivers, bicycle riders and traffic engineers got together to air concerns and suggest solutions.”

All of this had me wondering what exactly bus operators are being told to do in this situation from TriMet management. Back in June, I asked TriMet GM Fred Hansen about it. He said that when people on bikes are present, operators are being trained to not signal at all. Hansen:

“If there’s a bicycle around, operators are not supposed to signal prior to crossing over [a traffic lane] to service a stop. The idea is that you stop in the traffic lane, then when the bikes have cleared you service the stop.”

Since it seems like many bus operators haven’t gotten that memo, I wanted to confirm existing TriMet policy for this situation. This morning, TriMet’s designated bike guy Colin Maher confirmed that buses have to wait for the bike lane to clear before crossing it to serve the stop. Maher said if this fails to happen, you should report the incident by emailing customerservice@trimet.org or by calling 238-RIDE (note the location, time, bus line, and the 4-digit # on the back of the bus if you can).

As for Cohen, so far he’s gotten one response to his email; from Mayor Adams’ Transportation Public Advocate Dan Anderson. Anderson copied TriMet on the message (noting that it’s their policies and employee conduct to deal with), and he also told Cohen he’d ask PBOT staff to get in touch with him directly about “steps they plan to take so that N Williams is as safe as possible.”

Anderson has heard these same concerns from others, and he rides up Williams himself. He told Cohen that a “reexamination of this corridor may be necessary.” Anderson also copied City traffic engineer Rob Burchfield and Roger Geller.

I agree with Cohen that this issue will likely never be fixed with education and training alone. The solution to successfully mixing bike traffic with other modes — on N. Williams and beyond — will come on several fronts and it must include a re-allocation of space and a re-thinking of how our roads are engineered.

— Read more about this issue, including a lot of suggestions on how to fix it, in our previous story.

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Comments
  • Meghan H August 3, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I would LOVE it if the buses on Hawthorne (not just Madison) had their own lane on the right side of the road they could stay in all the way up to 12th. I don’t know why PDOT didn’t also change Hawthorne when Madison was re-striped this way oh-so-long ago.

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  • John Russell August 3, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Well, I’m going to throw out my suggestion again. It’s one-way, so here’s an idea:

    Take out the on-street parking on the left side and then move the bike lane to the left side of the street, widening it with the newly reclaimed parking lane. Now you have an ultra-wide bike lane without the threat of dooring on the opposite side of the street from bus traffic, preventing any of this leapfrogging that always occurs.

    Other than the opposition to the removal of a parking lane, is there any reason why this wouldn’t work? I often prefer left-hand bike lanes on way way streets for some reason. Maybe it’s the fact that drivers can more accurately judge how much room with which they can pass.

    Any other suggestions?

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  • Matt Picio August 3, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I would rather that Tri-Met policy not encourage drivers to blatantly violate the rules of the road. We expect vehicles to act like vehicles – if a Tri-Met bus suddenly stops in the lane when I am 20′ behind it in the bike lane, I am not going to squeeze into a 5′ space between that bus and the curb if I can see someone waiting at the stop ahead, because I don’t know that bus driver’s intentions.

    This is a dangerous policy, if it is indeed the current Tri-Met policy, and it’s confusing to cyclists and motorists alike.

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  • Matt Picio August 3, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    and I agree with and echo John Russell (#2) – a left side bike lane would be ideal for Williams.

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  • jv August 3, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I have experieced this as well. Why couldn’t we have the bike lane on the left side of the street? Obviously due to bus design they have to have the busses stop on the right. PBOT could remove the parking on the left side of the street, re-mark and widen the bike lane,and this would be fixed.

    Also, another dangerous dance on that corridor is the interection of Vancouver and Cook near the hospital. Numerous times both on bike and in car I have almost been hit there by someone trying to quickly cross straight eastbound onto Cook. It is crazy that Vancouver is two lanes and merges into one right there at an intersection that has difcicult visibility. That intersection should be right turn only for vehicles travelling east on Cook. End of rant.

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  • Joe August 3, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    A friend and I were riding up belmont between 12th and 20th yesterday and faced this problem. But, the bus driver was very courteous. She waited in the traffic lane at each stop (about 6 times total) for us to pass until she pulled over. There was even one stop when we were pretty far behind her where she waited for us to pass. By the time we turned off I felt a little bad for making her wait each time. But, it was also nice because I never felt to be in harms way.

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  • peejay August 3, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Most bus drivers do all they can do to avoid conflict and watch for bikes. There will always be inconsiderate jerks driving buses, and riding bikes. Nothing you can do about them (well, I suppose you could discipline the bad bus drivers). The problem is in the design of the bus stops and the bike lane. I don’t have an easy solution on that one. I do know that it’s super dangerous to put a bus stop at the end of the block, just before an intersection. For all the same reasons that it’s (supposedly) illegal for vans and trucks to park in the end-of-block spaces, a bus stopped there creates a huge visibility problem for crossing traffic, and greatly imperils bike traffic. Even worse is the habit of bus drivers to park their vehicles just in front of intersections while they take their breaks. Perhaps the most dangerous example of this is at SW Jefferson and 16th, where the buses sit in the bike lane at the bottom of a steep hill for most of the day, giving absolutely no view of Jefferson traffic to crossing traffic, or vice versa. I have narrowly avoided crashes there several times.

    TriMet needs to step it up and take responsibility for the dangers inherent in the operation of very large vehicles on our streets.

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  • Nicky V August 3, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Jonathan,

    I’m curious: Why not go up either Lincoln or Salmon instead of Hawthorne? I live right off Hawthorne but avoid cycling on it at all costs.’

    Because I was just east of Grand, right before SE 7th. –Jonathan

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  • cyclist August 3, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    John:

    Is parking removal really necessary? Couldn’t you just remove the bike lane on the right side, shift the lane marker over a few feet, then paint the bike lanes in on the left side? You might face pushback from businesses in the area if you advocate for parking removal. If the goal is simply to get bike traffic away from buses, then a simple moving of the lane over to the left side of the road would seem to suffice.

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  • Anonymous August 3, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Use the UK solution – combined bus/cycle lane. It doesn’t solve all potential conflicts but it will remove the right switch across the cycle lane to the bustop.

    By and large it works ok, with rare exceptions caused by either driver or rider error.

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  • John Lascurettes August 3, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    John, the only conundrum I’ve heard regarding the left-side bike lane on Williams is how do you get the bikes over there. It might be easy to get bikes there if they’re coming up Williams from south of Weidler. But how do you get the right-turning bikes from Broadway in to that left lane safely?

    I think it’s doable, and I’d love to see it happen. It’s a great idea.

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  • kww August 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    You could still have parking on the left with a bike lane on the left and it would still eliminate the bus stop/bike issue down a 1 way street.

    Further, I have asked at a Trimet function on bikes, that annunciators be installed so that close by bicycles would have a warning of a lane change. It could be hooked up to that special ‘yield’ light that many buses have (which is hardly legible in the daytime).

    kww

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  • buzz August 3, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I do like the idea of moving the bike lane to the left hand side of the street, but understand that it can be hard to get bikes to move to that side. And, I think removing parking is a big concern and will be met with a lot of businesses.

    What I like about putting it on the left hand side is that drivers have to take a much longer turn to get into the right hand lane when making a left. And, a cyclist is closer to the driver’s eyes and it could possibly increase the likelihood of seeing a cyclist. I know I would be more likely to see someone outside the drivers side window than the passengers.

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  • Ptld August 3, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    I have a similar situation riding to work in the morning on Halsey. Apparently this bus driver for Tri-Met takes his break (or reads the newspaper) at the bus stop in the bike lane and part of the right hand car lane on 102nd. Since there is no sidewalk (and he isnt moving for a very long time) I have to swing out into the road with other frustrated car drivers who have to swerve as well to avoid the stationary bus.

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  • Zaphod August 3, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    This is not a new problem. Surely there are examples of how to resolve this engineering problem elegantly from other cities from around the world. Why wouldn’t we pick the top several designs and then adjust them to work specifically for PDX?

    I have to believe that the collective PBOT expertise could generate a draft in a two hour working session… or less.

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  • Joe August 3, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    maybe some nice bike friendly signs on the back of the bus would help, I run into issues here with SMART. wow! gotta have skillz these days. always let the larger object get away from you if possible.

    blind spot fest!

    be safe all.
    Joe

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  • E August 3, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Why not remove the right-side parking and make it a bus lane? I haven’t seen anyone suggest that yet; is there a reason why not?

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  • Mike August 3, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Re: 8

    I know why I would rather bike up Hawthorne: faster, no stop signs.

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  • davide August 3, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    So I have a question. Is a bike lane an actual lane of traffic? (A striped lane, I mean.) I don’t know.

    My deeper question is: on a street/road/etc. like Williams or Hawthorne with effectively 3 lanes traveling in the same direction, do all lane rules/laws apply?

    Two scenarios: A vehicle crosses a ‘lane’ of traffic to make a right turn. Is this legit? A vehicle proceeds in an empty ‘lane’ to line up with other traffic at a light. Legit? The answers are different depending on the answer to Ques. 1.

    Any traffic lawyer out there know the answer? I don’t.

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  • aljee August 3, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    @buzz, 13 – i think you have a good point there. when i was trying to imagine, i actually thought the opposite – drivers would be less likely to see me on the left since they are so used to checking the right side. if they have passed me on the right (and I am in a left bike lane) though, i agree they are more inclined to notice.

    also, if you kept the parking on the left and moved the bike lane to the left, it would cut the chance of getting doored by SOV’s. BUT it would greatly increase the chance of getting doored by a passenger, since they are much less likely to check for bikes in the rearview.

    as i have mentioned before, VW is a proposed streetcar corridor. putting streetcar on the left lane keeping the bikes on the right would solve the bus fiasco.

    i personally don’t really mind the situation on williams that much. the busses aren’t that big a deal for slower riders like myself (in terms of leapfrogging, not the blindspot-checking). i wish cars went slower and that dumb crosswalk island (a bit north of Russell) was not there making the road all narrow.
    i generally feel safe with much room for improvement.
    and for GOD SAKE PEOPLE USE A BELL when you pass. that’s a big problem, especially when db’s try to sneak past in the narrow bike lane.

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  • 007 August 3, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Tri-Met policy? “If there’s a bicycle around, operators are not supposed to signal prior to crossing over [a traffic lane] to service a stop. The idea is that you stop in the traffic lane, then when the bikes have cleared you service the stop.”

    That’s a laugh. I have never seen this happen. SW Madison downtown for instance, buses don’t wait for us to pass, and there are a lot of us in the bike lane. This section between SW 6th and the Hawthorne bridge definitely is asking for trouble. Take out a car lane IMO (if they’re taking the bridge, they could easily park somewhere and walk over the bridge or take public transportation) IMO, put the buses on the right. Ever since the buses were returned to the usual bus mall, this has been a dangerous section during afternoon rush hour.
    Once in a while I ride the #9 and #33 buses and I look out the window for cyclists behind us in the bike lane. Bus drivers invariably cut in front of them and NEVER stop in the car lane to wait. That would impede someone in a CAR. We can’t have that!

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  • KJ August 3, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    I bike downtown, mostly, I am often on Madison, Main Columbia and Jefferson. Generally I have no issue with buses, but I did recently have a situation that prompted me to write Trimet.
    I had an issue with a particular driver, and it was unusual enough to make me feel uncomfortable and unsafe. Trimet responded to me and they were upset too.

    I strongly suggest documenting instances where you have had an interaction with a particular bus and letting them know, nicely. Usually it’s the driver not Trimet that is the problem.

    I made note of the time and location and the bus #.
    That way they can pinpoint who was driving that bus at that time. If we all made and effort to do this, they will find out who the problem drivers are.

    I also gave an exhaustive account of my interaction in fear that of they asked the driver what happened they would go with his story. But I don’t think that is necessary for all instances.

    Maybe Trimet could set up a tip line or email form for cyclists to report unusual and/or dangerous encounters they experiences. It not only would pinpoint problem drivers, but also particularly dangerous areas of road.

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  • Paul S August 3, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    “If there’s a bicycle around, operators are not supposed to signal prior to crossing over [a traffic lane] to service a stop. The idea is that you stop in the traffic lane, then when the bikes have cleared you service the stop.”

    Sweet fancy Moses, that’s a terrifying prospect. No way I’m gonna thread the needle between a bus and the curb without any sense of its intention.

    FWIW in my neighborhood (outer SW), and in 6 years of daily commuting, I have never ever not a single time ever seen a bus yield to bikes in the lane. I see this downtown and on the east side so I know what it looks like.

    I assume all buses in SW will bully their way across my lane, and they never disappoint. This actually makes the whole situation easy to negotiate: when a bus approaches a stop, I take the lane in front of a car if possible (that car’s more visible than I am, and I know they’ll see me because I’m directly in front of them). Then pass the bus on the left. Other cyclists usually stop well behind the bus, or bypass on the sidewalk (yikes!) which fortunately isn’t always possible out here.

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  • TTse August 3, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    My issue is with the TriMet drivers who seem to be confused and think that they are driving an emergency vehicle and get to do whatever whenever. I have lost count of how many times this “pass and move right to the stop” thing has happened to me. The worst was when a TM bus started to pass me and then came back over, not even for a stop, just pinching me into a parked car. Contact on both sides. I had nowhere to go. Scary as sh*t. And the driver seemed baffled when I chased him down and confronted him. He acted as if he couldn’t help it. You know, as if it were an “accident.”

    I called TM and reported it. Nothing came of it as far as I know. I wish I could say I now realize that I should have called it in as a collision, but we all know how seriously the PoPo take this sort of thing. Hell, they would have probably come to my house and tazered me.

    If it’s any consolation though, the last time a bus did this to me I was in a car. This happened downtown. He passed me until I was immediately to his right, and he just started coming over. I had to slam on my brakes to avoid getting crushed. And that was in a damn car.

    I’ve taken direct action in the past but have mellowed a bit and now simply have the TriMet # in my phone, ready to go.

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  • john s August 3, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Not signaling ?? What the hell, I rely on traffic signals to stay alive. Wouldn’t you like to know if someone had a gun pointed at your head or not ??

    Here’s an idea: Rather than put burden on bus drivers, make it illegal to pass a bus on the right. Problem solved.

    I never ever pass a bus on the inside. I either wait or pass on the left.

    If the bus gets around me and has to move to the left. no problem, they put on a signal (WHICH IS CRITICAL) and i either wait or move around on the left.

    Practically speaking a person can only be responsible for that in front of them, within their field of view. It’s simple if its in front of you, DON’T HIT IT.

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  • TTse August 3, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Joe #16,

    I really don’t think this is a blind spot issue since most of the time, the offending bus has just passed the bikers that it about to run over.

    The concept is known as “object permanenceobject permanence.”

    Most of us get it by the time we’re 2.

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  • Scott August 3, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    I don’t see why buses should be different than any other vehicle. If a bus is ahead of me and signals a right hand turn to service the stop, I yield the right of way. Very predictable.
    Scott

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  • buzz August 3, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    I did think of a possible solution to get people over to the left side of the street as #11. One of those “bike lights” could be installed like on Interstate and the Esplanade. Perhaps give a green to the bikes and allow them to cross and cut over to the left hand bike lane. I really don’t travel that stretch unless I am just touring around so I have no idea if that would be feasible at rush hour, but just throwing the idea out there.

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  • TTse August 3, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    Scott #27 and John # 25 both seem to be missing an important part of this issue.

    Often times the bus hasn’t even completely passed the cyclist when they start coming over. Making it illegal to pass a bus on the right does nothing to address this issue. Nor, if the rider is to the right, is he/she in a position to simply let a bus get over. They are actively getting run off the road.

    Imagine that you are driving along and another car starts to pass you and then just starts to come over when they’re still next to you, or guns it and does get past you, but then jumps in your lane and then hits the brakes and pulls to the curb. And this is your fault???

    The majority of times that I’ve encountered this issue is when the bus driver puts all of his/her effort into making a stupid pass and then cuts right and nails the brakes.

    It’s happened to me a number of times when I was the only one on the road. This was not an issue of them trying to break into an unyielding crowd of cyclists. They could have simply and easily just tucked in behind me and gotten over for their stop. But instead they just HAD to get around the bike, even if the next thing they do is cut to the right and stop. It doesn’t end up saving them any time and it endangers lives.

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  • Alan August 3, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    The downsides I see to a left-side bike lane have to do with it being the mirror-image traffic flow of what bikes and cars are accustomed to. Usually faster traffic merges left, with faster bikes approaching the speed of slower right-lane motor vehicles. But in the left-side bike lane, slower bikes riding on the right side of the bike lane are adjacent to faster cars, making a considerably higher speed differential with proportionally increased hazard. And bikes making left turns out of the left-side bike lane either cut across other bikes on their left or impede faster bikers as they merge left and slow. And neither bikers nor drivers are as used to checking for bikes on the left side of the road.

    Those are just downsides. I don’t mean that they preclude a left-lane solution, but just that they need to be considered for an overall evaluation of what will work best.

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  • toddistic August 3, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    So there was a three car crash in the bike lane today on Williams. I talked to a guy who saw the aftermath, including jaws of life to open up a car. He said he was glad it wasn’t 20 minutes later, otherwise they may have been dealing with bikes too. Thankfully there were none around.

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  • Roll August 3, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    Many people avoid the situation on Williams by riding north on Rodney which is way more chill. The problem with that is where Rodney t-bones into Fremont. There should be a pedestrian signal and cross walk there. I live on that corner have witnessed countless close calls over the years, but now its really bad. How about a bike boulevard on Rodney?

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  • al m August 3, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    “”””Driver: “Hurry up… All your bike brothers are out there breathing my oxygen.”
    Me: ‘”They aren’t my brothers, they’re just people… traffic.”
    Driver: “They’re an obnoxious, poor excuse for human beings.”””””
    ~~>I’m sorry, I have a hard time believing this!
    ==================================
    “””“It’s not hard to imagine how this frustrating situation could cause a bus driver to make mistakes, with potentially tragic consequences.””””
    ~~~>See the little vignette i wrote 7 years ago on this topic.
    =====================================
    “””“If there’s a bicycle around, operators are not supposed to signal prior to crossing over [a traffic lane] to service a stop. The idea is that you stop in the traffic lane, then when the bikes have cleared you service the stop.””””
    ~~~>Actually what I used to do was stop in the middle of the street!
    ======================================
    “”””Take out the on-street parking on the left side and then move the bike lane to the left side of the street, widening it with the newly reclaimed parking lane.””””
    ~~~>BINGO!!!BINGO!!!BINGO!!!
    And why would this EXCELLENT recommendation NOT BE POSSIBLE?
    =============================
    “””But, the bus driver was very courteous.””””
    ~~~>Surely you jest!! A decent bus driver? In Portland? NOT POSSIBLE!
    =======================
    “””There will always be inconsiderate jerks driving buses, and riding bikes.”””
    ~~>Aint it da truth!
    +++++++++++++++++++++++
    “”””Why not remove the right-side parking and make it a bus lane? I haven’t seen anyone suggest that yet; is there a reason why not?”””
    ~~~>Another great idea!
    ====================
    “”” Bus drivers invariably cut in front of them and NEVER stop in the car lane to wait”””
    ~~~>SEE I TOLD YA, THERE ARE NO GOOD BUS DRIVERS IN PORTLAND, JUST ASK THIS GUY!
    ====================================
    “”””My issue is with the TriMet drivers who seem to be confused and think that they are driving an emergency vehicle and get to do whatever whenever.”””
    ~~~>YET EVEN MORE EVIDENCE THAT THERE ARE NO GOOD BUS DRIVERS IN THE CITY OF PORTLAND!
    ===========================
    “””I don’t see why buses should be different than any other vehicle. If a bus is ahead of me and signals a right hand turn to service the stop, I yield the right of way. Very predictable.”””
    ~~~>SWEET JESUS SAVE ME! A BICYCLIST THAT ACTUALLY THINKS FOR THEMSELVES AND DOESN’T BLAME ALL THE OTHER TRAFFIC!!!
    =====================================
    “””Many people avoid the situation on Williams by riding north on Rodney which is way more chill.”””
    ~~~~>MORE INTELLIGENT BICYCLISTS!
    **********************************************

    Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen the following facts presented by BIKEPORTLAND.ORG.

    1-THERE ARE LIKELY NO GOOD BUS DRIVER IN PORTLAND.
    2-THERE ARE OBVIOUS SOLUTIONS TO THIS PROBLEM.
    3-THERE ARE BICYCLISTS SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW TO AVOID PROBLEMS!

    As a humble bus driver, I thank you for this valuable insight!

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  • rl August 4, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Passing a bus on the left is a problem when it is straddling the bike lane and the traffic lane. Last nite, on Williams, I and the guy in front of me did this. He cleared the bus but it started to pull out just as I got to the back of the bus. Thankfully I’d just checked and the 2nd lane to the left was clear and I could swerve. Otherwise my options were skid stop, or hope I’m seen. Made me want to ride the sidewalk. I’m guessing that’s not practical b/c it would make entering the next intersection a bit blind, but I often look at those empty sidewalks on both sides of the street and wonder…

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  • bicycletothesun August 4, 2009 at 12:59 am

    N. Williams is not really that big a deal nor is it exceptionally dangerous. If a rider can’t be proficient in predicting vehicle traffic, knowing at all times where buses are, and possess the riding skills required to be on a busy street — perhaps they shouldn’t be on N. Williams? Buses moving into the bike line are so incredibly easy to avoid. Leap frog all you want, check the right & behind for approaching cars — and blow past that unsightly TriMet bus. It’s like a video game (R Type delta perhaps) where you are the super elite space ship avoiding obstacles for the victory. The problem is the majority of riders found on N. Williams — by and large it is people crawling <10-12mph. Of course buses can ‘sneak up’ on you at such speeds!

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  • TTse August 4, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Attention employees, we need an ALL CAPS clean up in aisle #33.

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  • al m August 4, 2009 at 11:11 am

    If the caps comment is referring to me I could use HTML for emphasis but caps is so much easier to deal with.

    We are always happy to get feedback from our loyal customers!

    Thank you for your time and trouble!

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  • TTse August 4, 2009 at 11:44 am

    al m,

    An occassional-all caps works for emphasis. Excessive use though is the visual equivalent of shouting and as is the case with those who shout all the time, people stop paying attention to them.

    Just sayin’

    And yeah, I’m sure you’re interested in feedback. Your sincerity warms my heart.

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  • Hardly dangerous « bicycle to the sun August 4, 2009 at 11:44 am

    [...] Is a fix in store for the “dangerous dance” on N. Williams (and elsewhere)? As noted in a story we published last month, bike traffic on N. Williams Ave. is at an all-time high. One of the main issues with biking on that road is how bikes and buses interact. With a bike lane sandwiched in between buses and bus stops, there is a constant leap-frogging that takes place. [...]

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  • bahueh August 4, 2009 at 11:47 am

    al m…I don’t think the folks here are your customers per se…

    some of them have lost a basic understanding of traffic laws and rules, you are correct…but most of us haven’t and we’re just trying to get home from work or school like everyone else, without dying…..

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  • Steve Bozz August 4, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve found irresponsible, rude bike commuters on this stretch to be more threatening than any of the buses I’ve encountered on the route. Sounds like the bus driver in question is one bad apple.

    I think by and large, as Jonathan proposed earlier, this street needs to provide adequate space for the enormous amount of bike traffic. How wonderful would it be to have exclusively busses and bikes only on both Williams and Vancouver, directing arterial traffic to MLK, only several short blocks east – where bikes seem to be defacto unwelcome.

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  • ms August 4, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I ride Williams every night, thankfully a few minutes before rush hour, so it’s usually just a few bikes, me, and the bus. I see responsible and irresponsible bikers as well as bus drivers – and I have seen busses stopping in the traffic lane (as per TriMet policy) many times. If you ride up Williams and haven’t seen it, I doubt you’ve been paying much attention. However, it is confusing for bikers and bus riders, who often step into the street wondering why the bus has not pulled up to the curb. So now the bus is stopped in the traffic lane, causing bikers and cars alike to whip around it to the left, as well as some bikers that choose to assert the bike lane, “threading the needle” between the bus and the curb – where an old lady with her shopping bag is wandering into the bike lane in front of us hoping that if she walks up to the door, the bus driver will open it.

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  • al m August 4, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Once again, we appreciate your feedback.
    We will place your feedback into our data base for future reference.

    We here at AL M BLOG HEADQUARTERS strive to provide the best customer service possible!

    Feel free to contact us again if the need arises!

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  • al m August 4, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    After reviewing the facts regarding this case our has decided that we here at al m headquarters should redesign the original post so as not to offend the bicyclists any more than they are already offended!

    The revised post follows:
    • “”””Driver: “Hurry up… All your bike brothers are out there breathing my oxygen.”
    Me: ‘”They aren’t my brothers, they’re just people… traffic.”
    Driver: “They’re an obnoxious, poor excuse for human beings.”””””
    ~~>I’m sorry, I have a hard time believing this!
    ==================================
    “””“It’s not hard to imagine how this frustrating situation could cause a bus driver to make mistakes, with potentially tragic consequences.””””
    ~~~>See the little vignette i wrote 7 years ago on this topic.
    =====================================
    “””“If there’s a bicycle around, operators are not supposed to signal prior to crossing over [a traffic lane] to service a stop. The idea is that you stop in the traffic lane, then when the bikes have cleared you service the stop.””””
    ~~~>Actually what I used to do was stop in the middle of the street!
    ======================================
    “”””Take out the on-street parking on the left side and then move the bike lane to the left side of the street, widening it with the newly reclaimed parking lane.””””
    ~~~>Bingo! Bingo! Bingo!
    And why would this excellent recommendation not be possible?
    =============================
    “””But, the bus driver was very courteous.””””
    ~~~>Surely you jest!! A decent bus driver? In Portland? Not possible!
    =======================
    “””There will always be inconsiderate jerks driving buses, and riding bikes.”””
    ~~>Aint it da truth!
    +++++++++++++++++++++++
    “”””Why not remove the right-side parking and make it a bus lane? I haven’t seen anyone suggest that yet; is there a reason why not?”””
    ~~~>Another great idea!
    ====================
    “”” Bus drivers invariably cut in front of them and never stop in the car lane to wait”””
    ~~~>see I told ya, there are no good bus drivers in Portland , just ask this guy!
    ====================================
    “”””My issue is with the TriMet drivers who seem to be confused and think that they are driving an emergency vehicle and get to do whatever whenever.”””
    ~~~>Yet even more evidence that there are no good bus drivers in the City of Portland!
    ===========================
    “””I don’t see why buses should be different than any other vehicle. If a bus is ahead of me and signals a right hand turn to service the stop, I yield the right of way. Very predictable.”””
    ~~~>Sweet jesus save me! A bicyclist that actually thinks for themselves and doesn’t blame all the other traffic!

    =====================================
    “””Many people avoid the situation on Williams by riding north on Rodney which is way more chill.”””
    ~~~>More intelligent bicyclists’!

    **********************************************
    Ladies and gentlemen, we have seen the following facts presented by bikeportland.org.
    1-there are likely no good bus drivers in Portland.
    2-there are obvious solutions to this problem.
    3-there are bicyclists smart enough to know how to avoid problems!
    As a humble bus driver, I thank you for this valuable insight!
    ******************

    We sincerely hope that you can now see that some bus drivers are willing to cooperate, thank you and have a good day!

    al m (small letters)

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  • al m August 4, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Move the bike lane to the left!

    Problem solved!

    Is there some stupid regulation that prohibits it?

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  • Lenny Anderson August 4, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Why so much trouble on Williams and not on Vancouver? Perhaps its the two traffic lanes on the former that encourage faster traffic. The Transportation Bureau has data on speeds on Williams as part of a safety project funded by the Interstate Urban Renewal Area. The URA should fund a re-striping of Williams to slow traffic with one lane for general traffic and one big lane for bikes and buses. It will make this “Main Street” safer for all, including kids and elderly who need to cross it.

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  • jered August 4, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    The only sketchy part of the left side bike lane to me would be the 405 backup and chaos at N. Cook and Williams. Maybe the zero parking would increase visibility enough to allow cars to see the bikes better, but given the crazy speeds on Williams auto traffic tuning left onto Williams from Cook, Fargo, or Monroe is sketchy at best. Minus parking + bikes on the left and I THINK you end up with a bad situation…

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