Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 22nd, 2010 at 12:30 pm
trap discovered at Ladds Circle!
(Screen grab from KATU-TV)
What started as a post to the Shift email list at 1:30 am yesterday morning has become the latest headline-grabbing story in Portland's ongoing fascination with the "bikes versus cars" dichotomy.
It started with this email from Lauren Hudgins:
I just biked through Ladd's Addition around 1am. Someone had set up clear tape like a trip wire across the road. Another biker and I stopped to dismantle it, assuming it was kids playing a prank and complaining about how dangerous it would be for someone on a bike, but not for cars. As we biked away, we heard a man's voice calling from the bushes in Ladd's Circle, "Thanks for stopping!"
KPTV led into the story with a "Bike Battle" graphic and announced that, "The battle between drivers and bikers reaches a boiling point..." After the intro, the story was actually quite solid and balanced. Kudos to reporter Andrew Padula for the nice job. KATU's story wasn't bad either. Both TV segments included footage of people on bikes and foot rolling through the stop signs without stopping and referred to the plastic-wrap hazard as being a dangerous, unacceptable act of vigilante justice.
Here's the KATU video:
Unfortunately, just as expected, the online versions of both TV stories are filled with hateful, anti-bike comments. Oh well. I guess some Portlanders have yet to move beyond this nonsensical and unneccessary hatred for other people based solely on their mode of travel.
The issue of people on bikes not complying with stop signs at Ladds Circle has been around for years. A quick look into our archives on this topic shows I first wrote about it in April of 2007. The Portland Police Bureau has carried out numerous enforcement actions (a.k.a. "stings") at these signs and has issued statements about their reasons for doing so. Interestingly, back in 2007, PBOT engineer Scott Batson revealed that they'd prefer to modernize the circle into a full-fledged roundabout -- a change that would include turning the stop signs into yields. Unfortunately, at that time PBOT did not feel the change urgent enough to warrant the $200,000 needed to do the upgrades.
In conclusion, here are my thoughts on this situation:
- Vigilante actions like this in the public right-of-away should be taken seriously by the police and could lead to someone getting hurt.
- Everyone knows that stop sign compliance by all modes is much less than perfect. A big reason why is stop signs are often installed as a result of politics (to quiet a citizen complaint for instance) rather than as a result of sound traffic engineering analysis (the example above and the removal of stop signs on Caruthers near OMSI are perfect examples).
- People riding bikes should take extra care to slow down and stop completely if neccessary when riding through Ladds Circle. There are a lot of people walking in that area, sight lines to the sidewalks are poor (several commenters more familiar with the area than I am refuted this assessment), and quiet bikes don't give as much warning as car engines do.
- The illegal use of mobile communication devices while driving deserves much more attention and is a much greater public safety risk.