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UPDATED – ODOT says bikers, walkers, people with disabilities are “problem children” in work zones

Posted by on December 29th, 2015 at 2:07 pm

odot-workzoneslide
Slide from a presentation given by ODOT’s Traffic Plans Unit at a safety conference earlier this year.

For years now transportation advocates have been battling the tides of the Oregon Department of Transportation. It’s an agency — like all state highway agencies — that was born and raised in the automobile era yet now operates in an era where many people want to walk and bike and use our roads without a car. While there have been glimmers of reform, recent decisions have made it clear that the real changes many of us hope for are still a ways off.

Last night while I was doing research for upcoming stories on ODOT’s glaring safety gap on Lombard at 42nd where Martin Greenough was killed 17 days ago, I came across something that speaks to the urgent need to reform our transportation department.

This year ODOT’s Traffic Safety division hosted a conference and they posted all the presentations online. I noted a Bike/Ped section so I clicked a link titled, “WZ Bike Ped ADA Accommodation” without knowing what to expect. I soon realized “WZ” stood for work zone. The presentation was about how to manage access for walkers, bikers, and ADA accomodations during construction projects.

It was an interesting presentation. Then I came to a slide titled, “So, what’s the problem!?”. According to ODOT’s Traffic Control Plans Unit (who wrote the presentation), there are two “recurring problem children”: “ADA/pedestrian accomodation” and “Bicyclist presence with Work Area.”

The rest of the slides offered examples of how to build safe access for biking, walking and wheelchair/scooter use in work zones. There were tips on using “Pedestrian Channelizing Devices” (PCDs for short) and correct signage to use when a bikeway is blocked. All very important information.

But I kept coming back to the “problem children” thing. So I tweeted a picture of the slide.

Turns out someone at ODOT saw that tweet because today when I went to view the presentation again it was gone. The link now points to an error page.

I’ve asked someone at the Traffic Safety Division why the presentation was taken down but I haven’t heard back.

I’m concerned that ODOT staff chose to frame this very important safety issue by using the phrase “problem children” to refer to the need to accomodate users of our roadways who are not in cars. It’s insensitive. And more importantly, it offers yet another window into an agency with an organizational culture that is out-of-touch with what Oregonians want and deserve.

UPDATE at 3:12 pm: I just heard back from Shelley Snow in ODOT’s Public Affairs office. She apologized for the wording of the slide and says the Traffic Plans Unit staffers are working to revise it. Her’s the email Snow sent us:

“Jonathan, thanks for writing in – literally, we were just about to write you regarding the slide you found online when I got your email. We at ODOT want to apologize for the wording that refers to bicyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities as “problem children.” We agree that it is an inappropriate way to describe this group of travelers and we want to emphasize that this is not at all how ODOT or any of our employees feel about bicyclists, pedestrians, people with disabilities or any other users of the transportation system. It was a mistake to use this phrase to describe the areas in which we have actually been working extra hard to improve safety.

I talked to Scott McCanna, one of our work zone engineers, and he said it was never the intention to demean anyone with the description, especially because he knows first-hand how important it is for him personally, and his colleagues as safety engineers, to be especially protective of the transportation system’s most vulnerable users. He told me that — “ODOT has made significant advances in our design and construction processes toward safely accommodating bicycles and pedestrians in work zones. We’ve introduced new standards, new products, and new procedures to make passage through and/or around active work zones safer for users of other modes of travel besides motor vehicle.” He said the slide show as a whole shows some of these efforts, but we took the page with all of the conference materials offline and we’ve asked Scott and his team to review the slide show and make appropriate changes.”

UPDATE, 3:49 pm: Here’s the newly revised slide and the link to the full presentation PDF (11MB):

odotworkzone-revised

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

78 Comments
  • rick December 29, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    No wonder Bike n Hike is closing in Beaverton along ODOT’s BH Highway.

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  • Sam December 29, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    ‘Problem child’ is not the best choice of words for a government document but I think you are blowing it out of proportion. On the bright side ODOT is recognizing the existence of pedestrians, cyclists, and people with disabilities. Hopefully it is poor wording on a wonky PowerPoint made engineers and planners (not professional writers) who are actually trying to address the situation (i.e. problem that needs to be solved.)… Hopefully…

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 29, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks Sam. I’m really not trying to make this a huge deal… But I do think it was worth sharing more widely, especially after ODOT appears to have removed the PDF of this presentation from their site only after I tweeted it last night.

      I also agree that overall the information in the presentation is great and important and helpful (and mentioned that in the story).

      I’ve been thinking a lot about ODOT’s culture and the need to reform it lately. The fact that a staff presentation looks at “ADA/ped/bicyclists accomodation” as “problem children” struck a chord with me.

      And yes, I’m a very strong believer in the power of words and how the language we use shapes our actions and attitudes.

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      • 9watts December 29, 2015 at 3:40 pm

        “And more importantly, it offers yet another window into an agency with an organizational culture that is out-of-touch with what Oregonians want and deserve.”

        +++

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      • Eric Leifsdad December 29, 2015 at 3:53 pm

        I’ll agree that this isn’t something to get outraged at (any more than ever other thing a transportation department tends to do), but it is very revealing of the mindset: these people are “other” or lesser, certainly vulnerable and needing protection, but clearly not on the same level as anyone showing up to work in the zone. It’s not quite “bikes are toys”, but obviously someone in this place without the standard armor is a “pesky safety problem”.

        Maybe they’ll eventually conclude that a second layer of green cones (and/or barrels or concrete at the merge point) left of a bike/walk space reduces injury on both sides. Also, strict speed enforcement beforehand, but we already know that, so…

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      • Pete December 29, 2015 at 4:22 pm

        Good on you for calling this out! I’ve spoken with project managers three times in the past month over the repeatedly dangerous placement of cones and signs, including one that forced my wife off the road to avoid being run down. (She went back and moved the bollards over to where lines were painted where they were actually supposed to go, and I rode over the next day to do the same on the opposite side, then had to move other ones for the same work zone a week later).

        If the same thing is going on up there, you can tell ODOT that a highly likely reason for bicyclists within work zones is routing construction traffic with only automobiles in mind. The problem needs to be fixed with clear policies, personnel training, and project managers held accountable for contractor non-compliance.

        (By the way, the project leaders and administrators I conversed with on the problems we encountered were quite responsive and accommodating, but again, without a policy that’s well understood and a checklist to ensure contractors follow through, the problem recurs – I sent one administrator GoPro footage and she had it fixed immediately).

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      • Hello, Kitty December 30, 2015 at 12:22 pm

        I think you need to look at the phrase in the context of the larger document. It sounds like the document’s purpose was to improve conditions for cyclists and pedestrians, in which case the phrase just means “we’re having a recurring problem with these classes of users”. Which they are.

        I don’t find the phrase itself disparaging, and in this context, it really seems a non-issue.

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  • spencer December 29, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    nice catch!

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  • Erinne December 29, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    This just makes me want to act like a “problem child” every time I encounter a work zone.

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  • Todd Boulanger December 29, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    The link is still a 404

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  • Adam H. December 29, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    This was likely just a poor choice of words on ODOT’s part, especially since they provided solutions to the problems. It’s also possible that the word “children” is being misinterpreted here: it’s not that ODOT is calling non-drivers “kids”, but that the issues stated are children of the parent project (construction). “Parent-child” is frequently used in mathematics and computer science to demonstrate a dependent relationship between two entities.

    However, “correct signage to use when a bikeway is blocked” is not a proper solution to safely accommodate people riding bicycles during construction. There needs to be a comparable cycle facility (preferably physically separated), not just a “BIKES IN ROADWAY” sign put up at the start of the work zone.

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    • axoplasm December 29, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      It’s possible “children” in this instance refers not to cyclists and pedestrians but the infra associated with accommodating them.

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      • anne December 29, 2015 at 7:00 pm

        yes, I think axoplasm has it right…”children” refers to elements of the infrastructure in workzones that the ODOT Traffic Control Plans folks want to improve. I don’t see any intent to segregate users.

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  • Josh G December 29, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Adam, that technical usage of child sounds pretty unlikely to me, given the context. Engineers want to weigh in?

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    • Adam H. December 29, 2015 at 3:22 pm

      I was just throwing out ideas there. I also agree that it doesn’t make much sense. More likely, this was just a poor attempt at humor.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 29, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Heard back from ODOT. They’ve apologized and are working to revise the slide. Below is an email I just received from Shelley Snow in ODOT Public Affairs office in Salem:

    “Jonathan, thanks for writing in – literally, we were just about to write you regarding the slide you found online when I got your email. We at ODOT want to apologize for the wording that refers to bicyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities as “problem children.” We agree that it is an inappropriate way to describe this group of travelers and we want to emphasize that this is not at all how ODOT or any of our employees feel about bicyclists, pedestrians, people with disabilities or any other users of the transportation system. It was a mistake to use this phrase to describe the areas in which we have actually been working extra hard to improve safety.

    I talked to Scott McCanna, one of our work zone engineers, and he said it was never the intention to demean anyone with the description, especially because he knows first-hand how important it is for him personally, and his colleagues as safety engineers, to be especially protective of the transportation system’s most vulnerable users. He told me that — “ODOT has made significant advances in our design and construction processes toward safely accommodating bicycles and pedestrians in work zones. We’ve introduced new standards, new products, and new procedures to make passage through and/or around active work zones safer for users of other modes of travel besides motor vehicle.” He said the slide show as a whole shows some of these efforts, but we took the page with all of the conference materials offline and we’ve asked Scott and his team to review the slide show and make appropriate changes.”

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  • Michael December 29, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    It seems a clear indication that ODOT should hire some problem children. Problem children wouldn’t let ODOT use such descriptions. They’d rightly throw a tantrum.

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  • Michael December 29, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    On a more serious note, it is a real problem that ODOT sees the issue of accessibility provisions as a problem. until they see that different subsets of the population do have a right to use public spaces, then they will continue to create environments that render us vulnerable.

    Someone needs to educate them on the use of universal design.

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    • Dead Salmon December 30, 2015 at 12:29 am

      All features of a design are considered “problems” by engineers. That is what engineers do – they solve “problems”. The term is not meant to demean.

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      • El Biciclero January 1, 2016 at 11:10 am

        Yes, well, as an engineer of sorts, I solve problems for people. The people are not the problem, and grown-up people are not “children”. If “problem” isn’t demeaning, then calling me a “child” certainly is.

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        • Hello, Kitty January 1, 2016 at 12:03 pm

          ODOT didn’t call you a child or a problem. They said that providing good access for cyclists and others was a recurring problem, acknowledging that they were repeatedly failing at doing this.

          There is no shortage of real failings we can use as ammunition against ODOT. We should not waste our time on complaints that make us look hypersensitive. It is counter-productive.

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          • El Biciclero January 1, 2016 at 2:42 pm

            When one of the “problem children” is listed as “bicyclist presence”, they are not characterizing a failing of work zone planning, they are identifying my presence, if I am on a bicycle, as the problem. Granted, this is most likely a product of attempting to create terse bullet points, but I don’t think there is any harm in raising this questionable terminology to the level of conscious thought.

            “There is no shortage of real failings we can use as ammunition against ODOT.”

            This is definitely true, but many of the failings we see are a result of treating “bicyclist presence” as the problem rather than “road design”.

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          • wsbob January 2, 2016 at 1:17 pm

            “…we can use as ammunition against ODOT. …” kitty

            Your use of the metaphor ‘ammunition’ to make your point, is as unwise, worse really, as ODOT’s staff having originally used ‘problem children’ in its safety slide to make their point. Both are poor uses that are susceptible to misinterpretation and exploitation by people with a grudge.

            People as individuals, sometimes fail. Groups of people working together, sometimes fail at accomplishing what’s expected of them. To get them set back on the right course, is the better approach to criticize constructively with a summary of what could be better methods to have chosen, or…’attack’ them with disparaging remarks?

            There are way too many people apparently believing that attacking, is the most effective way to get ODOT to do good things for biking.

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            • 9watts January 4, 2016 at 9:26 am

              “There are way too many people apparently believing that attacking, is the most effective way to get ODOT to do good things for biking.”

              I think shaming is what is going on here, personally.
              But since you don’t like either what have you seen that works better?

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            • Hello, Kitty January 4, 2016 at 10:37 am

              I don’t object to the “problem child” metaphor, so perhaps ammunition isn’t so bad, either 🙂

              But I see your point. I agree that attack isn’t the best strategy with ODOT, but I’m not sure what else to do. I get the feeling that many individuals working there mean well, and some even share my values, but the organization is so rigid and immune to logic and reason that I don’t know what else to do.

              My favorite example (amongst dozens) is their refusal to do a speed study as part of their Inner Powell Safety Project, even after it was recommended by their consultants. How can you even consider safety without at the very least collecting some basic data on the single most important factor that contributes to safety (or the lack thereof)?

              The only conclusion I can draw from this is that they already know what the results of a speed study would be (to a first approximation, at least), and they don’t like the logical fallout from that. It’s no different than Exxon not acknowledging climate change because they know what that would mean for their business.

              This suggests to me ODOT needs a change of organizational attitude, which I think is impossible without change at the top. And a change in leadership requires demonstrations of how ODOT is failing at some of its critical missions, such as safety on its facilities. And I don’t know how else to demonstrate those failings without pointing them out in a public and visible way. And that somewhat resembles an attack.

              I will again decry complaining about the “problem child” remark because it makes critics look petty and detracts from those who point to ODOT’s more serious failings.

              So if “ammunition” is bad, how about “systemic points of failure”?

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  • 9watts December 29, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Years ago I noted in the comments here that it was ODOT’s paternalism that really chapped my hide. ‘Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself’ and all the rest. I got quite a bit of pushback at the time. But with that little gem you found, Jonathan, I think I’ll rest my case. Thanks for the chuckle.

    http://bikeportland.org/2013/06/17/odot-publishes-the-bicyclists-survival-guide-88529#comment-4118219
    http://bikeportland.org/2013/05/02/ride-mckenzie-pass-carfree-while-you-can-86254#comment-3985429

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  • nuovorecord December 29, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Anything other than a car or truck is a secondary…or tertiary concern to ODOT. I don’t think the intent behind the wording in the slide was meant to be derogatory. But people who aren’t in cars or trucks are seen as things to be accommodated, dealt with, given the minimum consideration allowable, but never prioritized. The slides wording merely reflects that ingrained philosophy that runs from top to bottom at ODOT. Yes, there are a few employees there that actually have an alternative view, but their positions in the agency don’t really give them any power to make change. Garrett is a political hack; a stooge of the trucking industry and the ports. ODOT needs a leader desperately.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 29, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    UPDATE, 3:49 pm: Here’s the newly revised slide:

    odotworkzone-revised

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    • Anne Hawley
      Anne Hawley December 29, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      That’s better.

      I worked around engineers for most of my career (civil and software), and it’s not hard for me to imagine the mindset and sense of humor that would casually use the “problem children” phrase in an insider presentation. Two things about this matter strike me forcibly:

      1. That the internal mindset is that somehow the internet doesn’t exist: that documents like this won’t be seen, or don’t matter, or will somehow remain hidden from public view. Every document produced in a public agency is a public document.

      2. That ODOT responded so quickly and, I think, appropriately, to a single tweet (albeit from a very important Twitter account :D).

      It’s like we’re seeing the organization shift – painfully, but at last! – into the 21st century before our eyes. And that’s a good thing.

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      • Brad December 30, 2015 at 12:10 pm

        For all the mistakes ODOT makes, they really are moving into the 21st century much faster than some of the freaking DOT’s in my midwestern homeland.

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    • Michael December 29, 2015 at 10:13 pm

      While some have argued their revised version is better, it still doesn’t cut it in my view.

      There are countless technical guides that have been produced to inform engineers, architects, designers, and developers on what needs to be done to ensure they are equipped to meet the “challenge” of the ADA.

      The real challenge is not the technical aspects of the ADA or “bicyclist presence” (technical fixes exist), rather the challenge is educating those professionals about what they need to adapt their approach to their work to ensure they are competent in their jobs and accountable to their constituents.

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      • J_R December 30, 2015 at 8:59 am

        I worked for a transportation agency, not ODOT, at one time in my career. The problem, especially when undertaking a major maintenance effort or almost any construction project, is that it is extraordinarily complex. Almost any action effects several elements and has negative impacts on some constituent/users.

        Want to close a lane of any type? What’s the delay on users? What’s the safety impact for users of all types and workers?

        How about doing the construction during night time hours? What’s the noise/lighting impact on neighbors? What’s the extra cost for doing it then?

        Your suggestion that all that is needed is education of the engineers to do it right ignores reality related to the complexity of construction projects and the greatest demand of multiple constituencies: “build it cheaply and don’t impact ME.”

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      • davemess December 30, 2015 at 9:01 am

        isn’t educating them what this slide presentation was about?

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  • nuovorecord December 29, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Ironically, ODOT is asking for input as they update their Transportation Safety Action Plan. Let your voices be heard.

    http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TD/TP/Pages/tsap.aspx

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    • Eric Leifsdad December 29, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      10am Tuesday

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  • Matt December 29, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Except “problem child” is a common English idiom. And it’s definitely diminutive/infantilizing. Use Occam’s Razor: The simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

    Jonathan’s right; this was a Freudian slip that revealed how the presenter really feels about people not in cars.

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    • Dead Salmon December 30, 2015 at 12:33 am

      As stated above: All features of a design are considered “problems” by engineers. That is what engineers do – they solve “problems”. The term is not meant to demean.

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  • kittens December 29, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    Surprised at the relative competency of their response.

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    • Matt December 29, 2015 at 8:53 pm

      Cool, they fixed their PDF and apologized.

      Talk is cheap. Let’s see them actually act like all modes of transportation are equally valid. Then I’ll be impressed.

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  • Tom Hardy December 29, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    Good catch and a plausable fix. Now if ODOT follows through with the contractors, It will be a big help. Now ODOT could designate trouble spots like 42nd and Lombard as “Work zones” and use removable barriers for as long as it takes to fix the strip of highway to be “Properly” modified until they are safe 24/7.

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  • Tom Hardy December 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Designating Powell from the Ross Island bridge as a work zone all the way through Gresham would work.

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  • Steve Scarich December 29, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    I am actually frequently a ‘problem child’. I walk a lot, and there is lots of road construction in Bend. When I get to the construction zone, I am confronted with two choices: either walk through the middle of the zone or detour a total of 3 or 4 blocks to another street. It is not a big deal when you’re on a bike, but when you’re walking, it is bigger, like 5 or 10 minutes detour. I always choose to walk through the zone, frequently getting quizzical or hostile looks from the workers, but never any hassle. Now, if I was slower, or less agile, I would be a real bother to them. I see the problem, and don’t have a solution. The one thing that is really irritating is when I am walking along a really busy street and then all of a sudden there is a zone; they sometimes put up a ‘sidewalk closed’ sign, but sometimes don’t, and then I am stuck.

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    • ethan December 29, 2015 at 9:05 pm

      I do the same. Some people were doing some work on a street near my house and they did not put up any signage. I imagine they assumed nobody would come through because their vehicles blocked all of the road except for a 4 or so foot gap in the middle.

      Rather than finding a detour (which can be difficult in this area), I rode through and took great joy in flinging wet asphalt all over their work trucks and clothes.

      If they didn’t want me biking through, they should have at least had some signs up and a detour route.

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  • PomPilot December 29, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    “problem child(Noun)
    Someone or something persistently difficult or vexing; a frequent source of trouble or annoyance.”

    Obviously whoever created the original slide was thinking along the line of “a frequent source of trouble”, but not thinking about the possible connotation of “a frequent source of annoyance”. However, an intelligent attorney, such as your contributor Ray Thomas, likely has already located the Google cached version, and saved a copy for future use as evidence in any potential proceedings involving ODOT.

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  • Kevin Wagoner December 29, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    We need to start making sure our Governor is tuned into how critical it is for ODOT to come through and start saving lives and capital on our roads around Oregon. Especially our High Crash Corridors that will continue to be maintained by ODOT as High Crash Corridors because they simply are not being proactive enough with our tax dollars (which I am happy to pay, but am frustrated by how passive ODOT is). I believe ODOT’s intentions with this side was likely trying to aim for solutions but they are simply going way to slow as we continue to see accidents pile up in our state. Our Governor needs to make a difference.

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  • q`Tzal December 29, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    I think ODOT greatly underestimates just how much of an inconvenience us legal road users they “lovingly” refer to as “problem children” can be.

    ODOT:
    Critical Mass has faded out of favor for more conventional activism. You want a perfectly legal “temper tantrum” in your work zone? Keep refering to us as 2nd class citizens.

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  • Scott Kocher December 29, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Not to hijack the thread, but this post reminded me finally to send this question to AskODOT. I’ll let y’all know the response.

    Dear ODOT:

    I have a question about ODOT’s work zone policy. Some while back I was riding my bicycle on an ODOT facility (Hwy 30 just west of Portland). ODOT workers were performing necessary maintenance (clearing the rocks and debris that annually slides down the west hills into the ROW). They had closed off the bike lane and one traffic lane with cones for their work zone. It seemed to me that if they had placed the cones five or six feet over from the lane line they still would have had enough room, and people riding bikes would not have been put into traffic (or ended up riding within the coned off area). I talked to the workers, who were very courteous. They suggested riding in the coned off area. I generally don’t do that. (Once I did out of necessity, and ended up crashing in a freshly poured cement panel. Long story.) I asked if they could put their cones a few feet over so people riding bikes would have room and not be in the 50+ mph traffic lane. They said ODOT policy doesn’t allow coning off part of a lane. I’ve seen PBOT do that in work zones and it’s actually great for bikes. So, my question is, does ODOT policy allow placement of work zone closure cones a few feet over aka closing “part” of a lane? It seems like a great solution that isn’t used enough. Curious to know what the policy is around this issue. Thank you. Scott

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  • Scott Kocher December 29, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Also FYI construction zone safety is a priority identified by Oregon Walks and BTA in their March 2015 joint Vision Zero report. Stay tuned.
    http://oregonwalks.org/sites/wpcwalks.org/files/images/Vision-Zero-Report.pdf

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  • Randy December 29, 2015 at 6:58 pm

    PDX lags… as Germany grows green bike highways

    http://phys.org/news/2015-12-germany-green-bicycle-highways.html?

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    • Mossby Pomegranate December 29, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      Hey we have green paint! We are platinum!

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  • B. Carfree December 29, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    I’ve never heard the term “problem child” used in any manner that was not intentionally demeaning and indicative that the “child” needed to change his/her behavior. It’s clear to me that ODOT is not serious about making the roads they are charged with caretaking safe for anyone not caged.

    Worse yet, these animals are writing statewide standards. (Yes, I am being intentionally demeaning. Unlike ODOT, I’ll own it.)

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    • wsbob December 30, 2015 at 9:58 am

      “…(Yes, I am being intentionally demeaning. Unlike ODOT, I’ll own it.)” b carfree

      You admit that you’re being intentionally demeaning. You also sound mean and vindictive. Unjustly so, I’d say, and by a number of comments to this story, it rather looks like other people reading here also may think you’re out of line in taking that stand.

      This bikeportland story reports that ODOT’s staff became aware of an error someone with the department had made, and promptly set about correcting the error. Nobody had to be demeaning to, or mean, or beat anyone with the department to get it to make the correction.

      ODOT’s spokesperson personally contacted bikportland’s owner-editor to graciously and apologetically for the error, advise him of the changes being made to the slide in question. That speaks well for the department.

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      • Spiffy December 30, 2015 at 2:36 pm

        I agree with B Carfree… yes, there are varying opinions stated here…

        ODOT had to be demeaning to get ODOT to fix the slide… somebody had to complain to get it fixed…

        the spokesperson’s attitude speaks well for the spokesperson… the slide spoke for the department’s attitude…

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        • wsbob December 30, 2015 at 7:17 pm

          The original slide’s questionable wording (now revised.) doesn’t speak to ODOT’s attitude, and that’s why the dept changed the wording.

          Had people with the dept, having overriding responsibility for how the department interacts with the public, believed the wording well represented the integrity of relationship ODOT must maintain with the public, I think they definitely would have declined to change the slide’s wording.

          In the manner of addressing his objections to the wording of the slide prepared for the ODOT presentation, B. Carfree …is being petty and mean.

          ODOT Public Affairs office’s Shelley Snow, was more than decent in her professional correspondence with Maus of bikeportland. Is B. Carfree and his pals, too small of character to return the gesture in kind? By his remarks, it would seem so.

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          • 9watts December 31, 2015 at 8:01 am

            “The original slide’s questionable wording (now revised.) doesn’t speak to ODOT’s attitude, and that’s why the dept changed the wording.”

            So how do you explain the original wording, then?

            “Had people with the dept, having overriding responsibility for how the department interacts with the public, believed the wording well represented the integrity of relationship ODOT must maintain with the public, I think they definitely would have declined to change the slide’s wording.”

            I have a very different interpretation. Words don’t come out of nowhere. The folks who work for ODOT are surely as smart and articulate and anyone. They chose those words because, in fact, the attitudes to which they point are prevalent at ODOT. We’ve had ample opportunity to confirm this over the years. But… when called out for a particularly egregious, or at least undeniably clumsy phrase, ODOT obligingly saw an opportunity for damage control. Which says nothing about the underlying attitude(s), and everything about PR.

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            • Hello, Kitty December 31, 2015 at 9:48 am

              You are way over analyzing this. “Problem child” is a common phrase for a recurring difficult situation, and clearly wasn’t intended to be insulting.

              Showing our community to be hypersensitive about things like this will only make it harder to get attention for more serious issues. And there are many such issues.

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              • 9watts December 31, 2015 at 10:48 am

                I agree that problem child is a common (even innocuous) phrase, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t—in this instance—also revealing of ODOT’s problematic, paternalistic attitudes toward those not in cars which we’ve already had occasion to observe.

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            • wsbob January 1, 2016 at 1:51 pm

              ““The original slide’s questionable wording (now revised.) doesn’t speak to ODOT’s attitude, and that’s why the dept changed the wording.”

              So how do you explain the original wording, then? watts

              I can only guess… . To me, the original slide’s wording doesn’t sound as though it was intended to be mean or sarcastic, or that it was driven by resentment and animosity held towards members of the public that ODOT’s and other work crews interact with regularly as a part of their job.

              The wording likely was just intended as a light hearted effort to grab the attention of people attending the safety meetings, and help engage their thinking towards means being presented to manage serious safety situations.

              ODOT’s quick, informative and gracious response to bikeportland’s owner editor, speaks excellently of the dept’s regard for the public it serves. Is there room for improvement in the way the dept does certain things? There may very well be.

              I think we of the public that rely on the dept to keep roads and streets working well, are going to get much more accomplished in that regard, if we concentrate on suggestions of substance towards getting this done, rather than exploiting missteps as opportunities to be mean and abusive towards the dept and people working with it.

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  • Buzz December 29, 2015 at 10:44 pm

    FTS

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    • q`Tzal December 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm

      BVD

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  • Dead Salmon December 30, 2015 at 12:20 am

    Rumor in the legislature is that cyclists will be required to have licenses soon. Rumor includes a fee for bike licenses, designed to discourage short bike trips. The rumor says that if you can walk, that is more environmentally friendly, more racially equitable, and more cost effective than cycling because:
    1) bike manufacture is fairly energy intensive compared to shoes/boots
    2) bikes cause congestion resulting in more fuel burned in cars, thus more CO2 release into the atmosphere
    3) bikes require mining of metals, refining of plastics, etc which harm the environment and VOCs released in carbon-fiber manufacture are cancerous
    4) walking generally puts out less CO2 than riding
    5) space for bike parking is costly and parked bikes attract thieves and can be a trip hazard
    6) walking is more equitable since most minorities can afford shoes, but perhaps not bikes
    7) female members of religions who wear dress-like garments are somewhat discriminated against because biking is difficult for them

    So far it’s just a rumor, but we’d better stay alert in case they try it.

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  • Ted Buehler December 30, 2015 at 2:21 am

    The “Problem Child” terminology aside, I think the presentation is pretty good.

    I’d be delighted to have PBOT and ODOT engineers be assigned to read this and make sure folks on bikes and folks on foot can actually get through construction sites safely.

    Ted Buehler

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  • A Lynch December 30, 2015 at 6:15 am

    I’m glad ODOT recognized that ‘problem child’ was not the best choice. Now, can they do something about the gawd-awful ugly looking slide? C’mon, good design isn’t that hard.

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  • Spiffy December 30, 2015 at 7:14 am

    to me it seems that trying to redirect deadly 2 ton explosion powered machines through a work zone would be the problem and that redirecting people and people powered machines would be the easy part…

    not only was their original wording dismissive but their entire concept is dismissive…

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    • Hello, Kitty December 30, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      Not at all — cars don’t slip on gravel/debris, are more tolerant of holes/other poor conditions, and are easier to direct than pedestrians or cyclists. Ensuring access for pedestrians and cyclists that is ADA compliant is far more difficult than just putting out a couple of flaggers and directing drivers through whatever 12ft section of roadway is open at the moment.

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      • Scott H December 30, 2015 at 1:50 pm

        Moving cars through a work zone is incredibly more difficult than simply moving people through. The only reason the prospect of directing pedestrians and cyclists is daunting to ODOT is because they can’t comprehend how to prioritize them over cars.

        If you designed a work zone to prioritize pedestrians/cyclists from the beginning, the entire operation would be safer. Car throughput would suffer, but that should be an acceptable price for having everyone make it home alive and uninjured.

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        • Hello, Kitty December 30, 2015 at 2:10 pm

          I disagree — if you have grooved pavement, gravel, or other obstacles, you need to make sure your ped/bike/ADA passages are kept clean and clear. It’s doable, but harder than not doing it. The difficulty has nothing to do with who to prioritize, but how to keep the work area navigable for users who are more sensitive to challenging conditions.

          Cars can be directed to use pretty imperfect roadways without incident, if speeds are kept low.

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          • Scott H December 31, 2015 at 12:56 am

            I’m not really sure what you disagree with. I’m referring to the many types of construction zones. You seem to be referring strictly to a collection of potholes.

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          • Scott H December 31, 2015 at 1:20 am

            Really though, if you’re trying to argue that cars fair better on rough roads, grooved pavement, gravel, etc, which account for just about all of our roads, we may as well all sell our bikes and drive cars. What we doing on bikeportland?

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            • Hello, Kitty December 31, 2015 at 2:53 am

              All I’m saying is that on most ODOT-class construction zones I’ve seen, it would be harder to provide bike, pedestrian, and wheelchair access through the site than it is to provide auto access. I was disagreeing with the idea that providing auto access is somehow more difficult. You need a smooth continuous surface to get a wheelchair through. You also need a good surface to walk or bike on. You can direct a car over a rough, unfinished, under-construction surface, over fresh pavement or mud, or whatever surface is available in your construction zone. Even ones that are a collection of potholes.

              I agree with the notion that ODOT treats non-motorized uses of its facilities as third-class citizens in general, and as non-citizens in construction zones. The slides in question seem to recognize this fact, and urge improvement. This is a good thing.

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  • The Bike Concierge December 30, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Yeah, poor wording on the slide. I will say that when I rode the Oregon coast route last January I felt safest in the work zones. Knowing there was construction on the route, I contacted ODOT before the trip and had a very pleasant and helpful conversation regarding bikes in work zones. Not everyone at ODOT is the enemy.

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    • Scott H December 30, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      Different ODOT region?

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  • Jason December 30, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    Sometimes I feel like this whole town is full of tattle-tale babies, man. Hey guess what, not everyone who rides a bike in this town is a big whiney baby!

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    • 9watts December 30, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      You’re not whining – or are you?

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  • mark December 31, 2015 at 9:58 pm

    If I wrote that on a slide describing my customers as “problem children”, I would be an unemployed individual. Period.

    Geeze. What arrogance.

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    • 9watts December 31, 2015 at 10:22 pm

      And it is worth remembering that we are not just ODOT’s customers but their bosses, too: the ones who pay their wages and pensions.

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