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New PSA series to address safety and etiquette of “Bikes Riding With Bikes”

Posted by on September 10th, 2009 at 9:34 am

A new local livable streets group is taking on the issue of cycling etiquette. They have just released the first in a planned series of PSAs called “Bikes Riding With Bikes.”

The first movie, which appears to have been shot on the busy N Williams bike corridor, urges people to stop and help others who have a flat tire or are otherwise in trouble. Watch it on YouTube, or right here:

The project behind the PSAs is called Intersection 911. Its website describes it as “a project to document the spaces that connect and divide us,” and asks, “can we transform our roads into safe, pleasant spaces to interact, commute, and stay active?”

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Here is how the PSA maker describes the project, via a post on the Shift email list:

The first is about helping out riders who are stuck. This shouldn’t be a new theme to most Shifties, but I think it’s important to spread this good will around and rewrite the rules of community on the road. Our car culture has made us fear inconvenience and talking to strangers.

The next two will focus on passing in the bike lane (don’t do it) and passing on the right (don’t do it). Then a series on more etiquette style stuff like properly queuing up in the bike lane, how to pass pedestrians safely, etc. If anyone has ideas, particularly compelling phrases that will help educate cyclists about safe, friendly riding technique, I’d most welcome them. Let me know If you’re interested in starring in an upcoming PSA, or have an educational concern that you think could be addressed in a 1 minute (or less) PSA.

To get in touch or get involved with Intersection 911, check out their blog or contact Steve at coffeeisnice at gmail dot com.

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  • joel September 10, 2009 at 10:02 am

    The next two will focus on passing in the bike lane (don’t do it) and passing on the right (don’t do it).

    THANK YOU. every time i ride home on n williams i deal with people who need to learn to wait to pass safely outside the bike lane, on the left. its a simple courtesy, people. ive definitely had moments of wanting to box right-side passers into parked cars. grow a pair of something-or-other and pass on the left, in the vehicle lane. youll slow your commute down by a couple of seconds (god forbid!) and itll be safer for everyone.

    stopping to help people with flats, or at least asking if theyve got what they need, is a nice touch – im usually pretty good about it, and it reminds me, oddly enough, of growing up in an age when driving a porsche didnt mean you were some rich yuppie, and if you saw another porsche stopped at the side of the road (long shot, back in the mid-70s) you stopped to see if they needed help. jag e-types were the same way, as were vespas. if people in their motorcars can do it, so can we.

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  • TTse
    TTse September 10, 2009 at 10:10 am

    The simplest thing to ask is, “Do you have everything you need?” And don’t assume that someone does/doesn’t know how to handle it.

    I try to keep 2 tubes in my saddle bag and even keep a frame pump, a 700c tube and a 26″ tube in my car.

    It’s fun when you give someone a tube and tell them to just give one to someone else in the future. Makes a bad day good when you do something like that.

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  • Paul Tay September 10, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Playing the hapless victim of a flat tire is much easier when wearing a big floppy, flowery sun dress and wig on helmet.

    Even motorists want to help. I flatted on the Broken Arrow Expressway, a high-speed controlled access, the other day. Because of a motorist’s 911 call, a cop stopped to ask if I needed help, just after I finished replacing the tube.

    But, just in case a nice dress is not available, just lay down on the side of the road where motorists can see a “dead” body. Lights up 911 switchboard, EVERYTIME.

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  • Nick V September 10, 2009 at 10:30 am

    I always ask people who are working on their bike on the side of the road if they’re okay. Only once has someone said ‘No, Can you help?’ I fixed her flat and she was VERY appreciative. Turns out she worked for the City of Portland. At the time, I was an architect, so then I had a connection with the city to get permits!!!

    On the flipside, I usually take care of my own flats or mechanical difficulties myself, but it does make me warm and fuzzy when people at least offer to help.

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  • JV September 10, 2009 at 10:48 am

    Best part of that video: the high five.
    Second best part: Judd Nelson-esque fist in the air riding away.
    “Could you describe the ruckus, Sir?”

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  • E September 10, 2009 at 11:54 am

    I found it hokey but sweet. I look forward to more of these. I don’t know anything about PSA effectiveness but hey it can’t hurt! Personally I will try to keep the message in mind – most fellow riders would probably be better off WITHOUT my help, but I do carry some supplies with me. :D

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  • Kronda September 10, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    This is so awesome. I have often wished I had time to stand on Williams during rush hour with signs telling people to play (pass) nice.

    As indicated by some of the responses to my forum post on the subject, a lot of people unfortunately just don’t care, or think if you complain about people passing rudely and unsafely that you’re just some scared cycling newb who needs to grow a pair.

    But there must be a few people who just don’t know any better and might change their behavior if they did. Kudos to I-911 for taking this on.

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  • Russell September 10, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    I hope the second one features someone clotheslining or elbow checking a right side passer. This one didn’t have enough action for me – I’m a product of a culture that ponders “Batman” like it’s an art-house movie.

    Less hugs and more fists please. Thank you.

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  • Rollie September 10, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Nice. I always carry supplies, so I never actually need help, yet I still feel a little empty inside if no one offers. 20 years ago, you used to see a lot fewer bikes on the road, so it was like an unspoken brotherhood or something, and it was almost unheard of NOT to offer help.

    Is it time to share breakdown stories? Just a couple weeks ago, I had a flat, fixed it, and had JUST finished pumping it up laboriously with my little hand pump, when up pulls some dude who just HAPPENS to have a big floor pump sticking out of his backpack. After thanking him and establishing a rapport, I started joshing him… “You’re late! Where were you 2 minutes ago?!?!”

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  • aljee September 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    i like the video. i stop and help folks whenever i can, if they need it. it would be great if more folks did the same. i do have one critique: ‘building a better transit network’ to me implies buses and trains. i bet it does to other people to.
    good job!

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  • TTse September 10, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I must say that there are some spots on Williams that just beg for a pass on the right.

    I find that flexibility, courtesy, and THINKING are what will improve things. Few tactics are always correct or always incorrect.

    Commence the piling on.

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  • aljee September 10, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    so, at Russell and Williams i notice people Always passing on the right. it urks me and if i tried, i don’t think i could actually articulate WHY it is a bad thing to do, it just doesn’t feel right. Discuss.

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  • Seager September 10, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I’d like to see one about cleaning up or calling in debris on bike lanes and bike paths. I sometimes carry a small broom and dustpan on my xtracycle so I can take care of small areas of broken glass on my commute (someone has to), and then have the city maintenance number programmed into my phone for bigger problems (debris blocked bike lanes, generally)

    I know now everyone rides a cargo bike, but if people called stuff in more often we’d have a nicer road and trail system for sure. (In Eugene, maybe Portland is already clean)

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  • Matt Picio September 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    What’s wrong with passing in the bike lane? Provided it’s safe to do so, of course.

    I mean, a 5′ lane – uh… no. But in the wider bike lanes, when someone is riding the right edge, I’ll pass them sometimes. Then again, I always give audible warning when doing so.

    Blanket prescriptions of behavior aren’t really the answer – being considerate, not a jerk, and warning the other guy (or gal) that you’re there are my preferred modus operandi.

    My biggest issue on Williams is the bike ninjas.

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  • RyNO Dan September 10, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    There is no biblical or constitutional objection to passing on the right. I think it’s a car-head thing. It’s always just stated as some kind of obvious fact.

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  • Russell September 10, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    Yes, anything that is not covered in the bible or the constitution is expressly permitted when it comes to any activity in life.

    10+1 commandments and twenty-seven amendments should be enough for anyone. Good point, and well thought out. I fully and wholeheartedly agree.

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  • El Biciclero September 10, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    “There is no biblical or constitutional objection to passing on the right. I think it’s a car-head thing. It’s always just stated as some kind of obvious fact.”

    It’s a traffic-flow thing. Call it car-headed if you want, but “slower traffic keep right” is the general rule, which implies that faster (overtaking) traffic should keep left. The higher the speeds, the more important this kind of a convention is. For pedestrians, it pretty much doesn’t matter because the speed/differential isn’t that great. It’s all about consistency and predictability. If I see somebody in my rear-view barreling up on me and I decide to move right to get out of the way at the same time they decide to dodge right to pass…

    For those that like to chant “hold your line”, or “get some bike-handling skills” at those who want more wiggle room in the bike lane, ask yourself when the last time was that you traveled a completely smooth and debris-and-storm-drain-free bike lane. Allowance MUST be made for any cyclist to dodge a sudden patch of broken glass, large-ish stone, dead squirrel, storm drain, opening car door, etc. If I have a choice to dodge left or right, which way should I go by default, when there is no time to check over both shoulders and do a full analysis of who is where behind me?

    With no conventions that most everyone agrees to, it would be pretty hard to get anywhere. Just look at the folks who think “One Way” doesn’t apply to bike lanes.

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  • Breesa September 10, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    I love this video. I hope that it reaches a broad audience, particularly people who travel heavy-traffic bike routes. A week or so ago I was passing (on the left, in the car lane, halo plainly visible :)) a woman toting a kid in a trailer on Williams. Simultaneously, a guy in spandex raced up behind both of us and (unsafely) passed her on the right. It was not TOO dangerous, but it was rude AND he didn’t signal with a bell or even a shout. What is up with the silent racer/commuters? And why is it completely impossible to say something? I feel as though it would almost be equally rude for me to say, “Hey buddy, please signal that you’re passing with a bell or a shout.”

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  • John Lascurettes September 10, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    The few times I’ve stopped to repair a chain or adjust a barrel nut on a derailleur, I’ve had someone stop to ask if I’ve needed help. That’s always been very cool. Haven’t had to cash in on the generosity yet, but to all those somebodies that do that: Thank You!

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  • lR September 11, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Please do allow a little wiggle room when you are stopped at a red light in a lane and a bike wants to make a right hand turn. It is strange to me when folks pull off the bike line, into the parking lane, and block fellow bikes from doing a right turn (off Williams or other bike laned streets). I agree on using a bell or letting someone know you are passing; but in some cases it creates a greater hazard (try doing that on the waterfront); the bell mostly works but if you say on your left or something to a group of peds, they often scatter. Seems like the slow/stealthy/wide clearance has some merit in that situation.

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  • […] rest assure there are those putting positive, if not slightly Freddish vibes into the universe. A Portland non-profit is putting together a series of videos to educate cyclist on good cycling etiquette. Here’s their first video on stopping to help […]

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  • Disastronaut September 11, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    I always take at least two spare tubes, a patch kit, pump, tire levers – basically everything required to avoid having to push my bike home ever again.

    Plus I always make sure any stranded looking cyclist has everything he needs to fix the situation, whether it bet equipment or aptitude.

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  • El Biciclero September 11, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    “Please do allow a little wiggle room when you are stopped at a red light in a lane and a bike wants to make a right hand turn. It is strange to me when folks pull off the bike line, into the parking lane, and block fellow bikes from doing a right turn (off Williams or other bike laned streets).”

    I would bet people do this not to block those wanting to make a right turn, but to block those that would fly by (going straight) on the right either just as the light turns green or to blow the light completely. It encourages passing on the left for those that don’t care or don’t know any better than to pass on the right. It is the same reason that cyclists might move farther into the “car” lane at an intersection to avoid right-hooks by making it impossible for cars to pull up on their left. The problem, unfortunately, is that our fellow road users cannot be trusted to know the rules, pay attention, or stick to conventions that make life easier for everyone. Commuting by bike is not a sport, but those that treat it as such tend to impose inconvenience on everyone else.

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  • Amanda September 11, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    When I’m biking, the “safe zone” tends to be on my right -curb, dodge onto sidewalk, whatever. If something happens — flat tire, bug in my eye, etc. — odds are, I’m going right. And I do that because it’s the “safe” area and I really don’t expect someone to be passing there.

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  • Steve B September 12, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Many thanks Elly, BikePortland, and the BikePortland community for your feedback and ongoing discussion related to the PSA and the complexities behind the themes we are tackling.

    What I’m proposing with this series is to simplify the rules in order to help riders digest, learn, and adjust. There are morals and values we all subscribe to, but on the road things get a bit blurry. I think it helps to have educational resources that advocate for SAFE, FRIENDLY, and PREDICTABLE riding technique. How we interpret those guiding principles is going to be different, these videos will provide some suggestions.

    Some of this is code/law stuff, but a lot of it has to do with etiquette. You don’t have to ask a rider if they’re OK to be a safe cyclist, but you’d be spreading the energy of community support.

    Part of the impetus to this series is the idea that cyclists don’t have a space to spread this type of education, and most of the PSA-esque documentation I have seen has to do with bikes vs. cars. Here in PDX, our numbers are great, so the conversation needs to include riding with other cyclists.

    I’ve learned that reminding someone about the rules ‘on the roll’ is not effective, adrenaline is high, road rage is latent, and defenses go up. This is where the slogan catchphrases *might* help, but at the end of the ride, someone might be able to reference resources like these to help steer the conversation.

    Much more to come, thanks for your support!

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  • Steve B September 12, 2009 at 10:08 am

    Regarding the concern about passing other cyclists *within* the bike lane, it is about safe passing distance. I haven’t seen a bike lane in this city that I feel comfortable sharing with another cyclist. The one exception is if you’re riding predictably with a buddy, in which case two abreast on a wide lane (i.e. Vancouver) can work OK.

    Cyclists are entitled to the full width of the bike lane for themselves (as they are a regular street lane), and considering the dangers that threaten cyclists in the bike lane (glass, opening doors, exiting and entering cars, right turn hooks, etc.), I think the best strategy is to advocate leaving the bike lane to pass, as you are legally entitled.

    I also believe most cyclists should be hovering to the left of the bike lane, and just because someone is hovering right, doesn’t mean they won’t need to hover left. So let’s ride like we want cars to drive, by giving the appropriate space to pass safely. If there is oncoming traffic to the left, it’s time to sit back, relax, and wait for a safe opportunity to take the next lane.

    Thanks for the critique, they are necessary for making these videos more effective.

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  • naess September 13, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    steve b (#26)- the problem seems to be a split mentality as to what a cyclist is. on the one hand you have people yelling “i’m traffic too!!” then on the other they bemoan any attempt to enforce the usual conventions of vehicular traffic as “those *&!@ cagers are taking my freedom!”

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  • Dianna September 14, 2009 at 10:14 am

    The way I tend to conceive of the passing right/passing left issue is not in terms of rules, but in terms of risks.

    If a bike is passing another bike, one of them, by definition, is going to be closer to the fast-moving cars in the lane to the left (you can reverse this for streets with the bike lane on the other side). If you want to go fast and pass someone, it seems only reasonable that you absorb that risk and put yourself next to the cars instead of putting the other bike there — after all, if you’re able to pass them, it means they’re less fast, less aggressive, or just less interested in traffic hijinks than you.

    Plus, of course, the area to the right of a bike lane will often sprout parked cars and curb extensions when you least want them. If you try to pass in that area and find your way blocked partway through your maneuver, you’ll find yourself swerving back into the bike lane and presto, the passee gets pushed into car traffic. Impolite. Not too safe. Puts an awful lot of risk on the person who wasn’t involved in the decision to pass.

    I have been known to innocently (whistling, watching the birds, wearing an expression of uncalculating goodwill) hog the right side of popular passing-on-the-right spots, so as to encourage would-be passers to go politely on the left. Better, I think, than letting them pass right and then hollering angrily about why it’s wrong.

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  • Dan October 1, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    It is cool to ask if they have everything they need, and you can’t cheat Karma, but at the same time, don’t I deserve the long walk if I ride off with no pump and patch kit?

    (Should I also offer my emergency Clif Bar to whoever looks hungry? :-)

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