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A life lost too soon: Photos and thoughts from the Fallon Smart memorial ride

Posted by on August 26th, 2016 at 9:21 pm

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Hawthorne Boulevard was open only to mourners of Fallon Smart during tonight’s memorial.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland failed Fallon Smart.

The bright and beautiful girl of just 15 years died on August 19th while walking across Hawthorne Boulevard. The person who killed her was driving 55-60 mph — more than twice the posted speed limit — and swerved around a stopped car just before impact.

This tragic event has shaken a large part of our community to the core. After a week of protests and visits to the scene of this tragic crime, a memorial ride returned to the site tonight.

It started at Salmon Street Fountain where several hundred people amassed and adorned their bikes with flowers before riding to Portland City Hall.

Many members of Fallon’s family were on the ride: her mom, her dad, her uncle, her grandma, her grandpa, her stepmom, and her little brother.

Fallon’s uncle, Shane Smart, spoke in front of City Hall. He said that, “There doesn’t have to be so much bureaucracy and red tape to make the streets safer.”

After massing at City Hall, the group was escorted by several Portland Police officers on motorcycles across the Hawthorne Bridge to the site of the collision at 43rd. (Special thanks to Portland Police for their help at this event. Their presence allowed us to ride to Hawthorne and 43rd without the indignity of taking side streets and they stopped traffic which allowed us to stay together as a group and take time to pay our respects to Fallon without worrying about any impatient drivers.)

At 43rd and Hawthorne there were several dozen people already there when we arrived. They were holding flowers and standing solemnly as groups of bicycle riders rolled up.

Just feet away from where Fallon’s body came to rest, her family members and friends from school bravely grabbed the microphone and shared their feelings in front of the crowd.

Fallon’s mom Fawn Lengvenis said that her daughter was very bright. She had tested off the charts for IQ and was a budding leader with that rare mix of smarts, humility and charisma. “She was one of those people,” Fawn Lengvenis said, “who would have progressed the whole society if she would have lived.”

Fallon’s dad also spoke. “Please… just… slow down,” was all he could get out before breaking down in tears and walking away.

It was an emotional night — a night that strengthens our resolve to do more to hold our leaders accountable and do everything we can to prevent this from ever happening again.

Below are more photos from the event…

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Fallon’s stepmom was passing out bracelets that read: Fallon Smart: Rest in Power.
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At 43rd and Hawthorne.
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Fallon Smart’s mom.
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The crowd was full of young kids and families.
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Fawn Lengvenis shared a few words about her daughter.
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I completely lost it when Fallon’s little brother spoke.
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A Buddhist monk led a chant for Fallon.
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Jessica Engelman from Bike Loud PDX gathered signatures for this letter to Mayor Hales and city commissioners.
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Once flowers were laid on the crosswalk across the entire street, people didn’t dare drive over them and the street was closed to motor vehicle traffic.

I cried a lot tonight. I was overwhelmed with emotion once I stopped taking photos and sat in the street while I listened to Fallon’s family and friends speak. It was a mix of things that brought the tears. I grieve for Fallon and her family and friends. But I didn’t know her, so I think my sadness comes from being mad at myself for not doing more to prevent her death.

I’m sick of covering rides like this. Our streets are dominated by killing machines and the absurdity of that fills me with rage.

Portland is at a turning point. We must fight against the onslaught of traffic violence that’s taking over our neighborhoods — or it will consume us and there will be many more memorial rides in our future.

Thank you to all the activists who are out in the streets trying to make a difference.

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

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Correction: This article originally misstated the name of Fallon Smart’s mother. Her name is Fawn Lengvenis, not Fawn Fallon. We regret the error.


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

52 Comments
  • Anne Hawley
    Anne Hawley August 26, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan.

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    • endo August 28, 2016 at 8:37 pm

      Agreed, this particular sentence really sums it up for me:

      “I’m sick of covering rides like this. Our streets are dominated by killing machines and the absurdity of that fills me with rage.”

      It’s about time we get cars, aka killing machines, OFF OUR STREETS.

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  • Ted Timmons (Contributor) August 26, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    I felt the emotions when we passed the 18 wheeler that was unloading in the center lane, it served as a “gate” to the memorial gathering. Hundreds of people on the side of the road, all there for a shared concern.

    It seems we lost a really special person. I was especially glad that Fallon’s mom spoke and told us about her. I also noticed that the frustration at the traffic violence and the tragedy of Fallon were intermingled- in fact, perhaps the family and others spoke more forcefully than us activists about the bigger problem.

    I tried to thank the police, the family, the people at Ranger Station that closed their business last week to help with the immediate crisis, and everyone else I could. Having police presence helps but there were friendly waves and words from car drivers, and when people on the side of the road found out what we were riding for, there was a lot of love expressed. I think there were people in front of New Seasons (or somewhere through there) that were very vocal with their support.

    When we hit Chavez I was at the front, after we passed one of the moto cops was using his “alert” horn a few times, then I saw the SUV on the right that was beginning to back up into the procession. Terri D-M (I think) and myself got over there quickly, I instructed the driver to put the car in park. So dangerous to be sitting there with it in reverse. Ugh.

    Finally, there was an oncoming speeding car in the teens on Hawthorne. I was closer to the front but it looked like perhaps there was a bit of discussion with the officers near the back of the pack. Can anyone that was riding near the tail tell me about that?

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    • Spiffy August 29, 2016 at 8:16 am

      I felt the emotion of extreme anger as we passed that 18 wheeler illegally parked in the same center lane whose abuse was a contributor to this memorial ride…

      I’m sure the truck wasn’t cited, despite the mass amount of officers in the area…

      I’ll be reporting it to the company…

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  • rachel b August 26, 2016 at 11:34 pm

    Few people or organizations have done as much, as long, to advocate for bike/ped safety. You have much to be proud of, JM, and the last thing on earth anyone would think is that you haven’t tried or weren’t yet actively trying.

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  • Amanda August 26, 2016 at 11:56 pm

    Fawn’s name is Fawn Lengvenis. She’s referred to as Fawn Smart and Fawn Fallon in this article. Fix this please.

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  • Paula F August 27, 2016 at 5:32 am

    I have been losing it since last Saturday, since joining friends in the middle of Hawthorne, since meeting many who knew Fallon shared their heartbreak with me. This tragedy, this circumstance may be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Fallon, young, bright, with a lifetime ahead of her – representing all that is positive we want to see in the world. The driver, reckless, self-absorbed, placing speed and time over everyone else, representing that which we see as wrong in the world. We cannot accept nor allow this evil to win.

    Despite the negatives, we as a community of people – not peds, not bikes – came together to wash some of the pain and heartbreak off the street of Hawthorne and to paint back in some of the love of the community. I lost it several times at the memorial, seeing loss Fallon’s family felt, feeling the heartbreak of my friends tired of attending memorials – not another!

    In some strange twist of macabre, the night before this ride, I became, for the first time since riding as an adult in the 80s, a victim of being hit by a driver backing too quickly out of their driveway. The moment of impact is etched into memory. Just some vagueness before and after. How many more of these occur – unreported, unnoticed except by a few? I fill my thoughts with could I have done something different? Was it infra or skill or? Whatever I think, I know one thing, that I am fortunate enough to be here another day.

    I want everyone to be here another day and that is why Jessie and I put this ride together. And, as he said, this isn’t done just because the memorial ride is done. I hear there may be more guerrilla crosswalks. I know some will be back out in the center of Hawthorne the day after. Time for change.

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  • Adam H. August 27, 2016 at 9:00 am

    We need safer streets now. City hall has the tools and the plans to make our streets safe, but they consistently underfund any projects to make walking and cycling safe and prioritize auto-mobility. Will this outpouring of support for a life lost finally be their wake up call? Mayor Hales says we need to “show up” if we want change. Well, hundreds of us showed up yesterday in support: are you listening to us now? The silence from city hall on this preventable tragedy has been deafening.

    Paula, you did an excellent job planning and organizing this ride. I was very happy with how many people turned up! Here’s hoping we never have to do rides like this again.

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    • Paula F August 27, 2016 at 9:25 am

      Thanks, Adam.

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  • Scott Mizée August 27, 2016 at 9:16 am

    Thank you for sharing this important message, Jonathan. My heart goes out to Fallon’s family and friends.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

  • rick August 27, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Outraged and sad

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  • Thunderbeast August 27, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    I share the sadness of this tragedy. I am at a loss, however, to connect this expressed anger to another engineering solution. The consensus seems to be that a life was lost due to an engineering failure. A young man driving recklessly at 40mph over the speed limit commited an act of gross negligence resulting in a homicide. Short of putting Jersey Barriers across all traffic lanes, what would prevent this criminal (an habitual offender from what I read) from repeating this horrendous act. Is PBOT really to blame? Would a marked crosswalk or flashing yellow beacons have stopped this act? He was already driving at high speed with a suspended license in a prohibited area. Engineering can’t fix criminal behavior.

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    • Ted Timmons (Contributor) August 27, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      There is plenty of 10/15mph speeding that can be cured, and.. it’s bigger than this specific case.

      But if you want to talk on this specific case, yes, median islands would have stopped this, or at least required the driver to willingly drive into a concrete curb.

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    • was carless August 28, 2016 at 9:50 am

      Around 30 years ago, the city proposed bike lanes and a road diet for Hawthorne. Businesses on that street have been been some of the most vocal and consistently anti bike in the city. They have consistently stated a preference for more lane width for cars over larger sidewalks and are vehemently against bike and transit lanes.

      Which is why I have a lifetime boycott on everything Hawthorne.

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      • Middle of the Road guy August 28, 2016 at 11:11 pm

        Hi Middle of the Road guy,

        I have deleted some of your comments on this thread because I feel they are not appropriate given the context of this story. — Jonathan

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    • Middle of the Road guy August 28, 2016 at 11:13 pm

      Completely agree. A certain percentage of people are going to do illegal things regardless. That’s way we still have robbery, murder, rape, etc.

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  • Paula F August 27, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Cheap and quick? Those round, concrete planters placed to remove the temptation of those selfish, reckless few from using the center turn lane as their personal expressway.

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  • devograd August 27, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan, for covering this, and to Paula and Jessie and the others who organized the ride. My boys and I briefly visited the memorial site as the ride was arriving, and it was beautiful and moving. I wish we could have stayed longer to listen to Fallon’s family speak and to show our support.

    I’m glad that Fallon’s family and friends participated and found value in the event. After reading some vituperative comments on O-live before the ride, I was worried that it wouldn’t be received favorably; thankfully that was not the case. It was beautiful to see so many people come together; I just wish that it weren’t for such a sad, awful reason.

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  • G.C. August 27, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Have as many people that were on the ride with all of the signs etc in front of the courthouse when the criminal driver that killed Fallon is arraigned. Make sure the media is aware of it and even more importantly make sure the presiding Judge knows about it.

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    • Paula F August 27, 2016 at 3:19 pm

      If people do, next court date is the 30th. And be sure to show love and support toward the family as they go through this ordeal.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Ted Timmons (Contributor) August 28, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      While what he’s done was tragic and deserves strong punishment, I’m more outraged with PBOT than this specific driver.

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  • Steve Scarich August 27, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    I have been a bike commuter and avid pedestrian (I run all my local errands on foot in Bend, because riding my bike is too dangerous), and I feel I am an much greater risk walking than riding. I am out of the ‘flow’ of traffic, and, whenever cars turn right at a stop sign, they virtually never look to their right, because they are not thinking pedestrian, just are there any oncoming cars? I would guess that I have close calls once of twice a week. There is virtually no enforcement of ped laws here, except when BPD gets a special grant, then they do a high visibility enforcement. PPD and BPD are almost equally understaffed, so nothing will change with enforcement in either city. I don’t know what I am conveying, other than what my Dad told me when he was teaching me to drive ‘Drive as if every other driver out there is trying to kill you’…the same when walking.

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    • Ted Timmons (Contributor) August 28, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      also, “walk as if the media will say you were looking at your cell phone”.

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      • Middle of the Road guy August 28, 2016 at 11:15 pm

        Hi Middle of the Road guy,

        I have deleted some of your comments on this thread because I feel they are not appropriate given the context of this story. — Jonathan

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    • Steve Scarich August 29, 2016 at 7:22 am

      An added factoid to my comment; I just learned that in Bend, a city approaching 90,000, there are two traffic patrolmen and one traffic sergeant.

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  • Pete August 27, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Oh, god, Jonathan. Your story brought tears to my eyes, too. Fallon’s tragic and senseless death was more than enough in itself. Then came your sensitive story and evocative photos. Together they triggered memories of my own young daughter who was killed by a 6-time convicted drunk driver. I am so, so sorry for the pain that Fallon’s family is experiencing. Yes, the killing must end.

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    • Ted Timmons (Contributor) August 28, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Pete, I’m really sorry to hear about your daughter :/ Reading stories like this must be difficult.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

  • David Lewis August 27, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Cities should have a default speed limit of 30 km/h, or 18 mph in imperial. There is no good reason to drive faster than that in a city, but the streets were clearly designed for higher speeds and few pedestrians or other vulnerable road users. These are the gifts of previous generations that keep giving because of week political leadership to change. Why Portland named itself cycling-friendly is beyond me. It isn’t!

    Not only is Portland entirely unpatrolled by law enforcement, but the existing speed limits are not practical. Take the Clinton greenway, which has a 25 mph speed limit. Huh? Simply calling a place a greenway doesn’t make it so! Make it for local traffic only, remove all parking, widen sidewalks, add greenery, etc. Just dropping an old concrete planter in the middle of the street and celebrating is disingenuous.

    And possibly the largest political obstacle to safer streets is to stop prioritizing drunk driving and hit-and-run prosecutions and letting every other offender off. There are no accidents, and people should be held accountable for ignoring Newton’s Law, whether or not they hurt someone.

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    • Middle of the Road guy August 28, 2016 at 11:06 pm

      Hi Middle of the Road guy,

      I have deleted some of your comments on this thread because I feel they are not appropriate given the context of this story. — Jonathan

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  • Andy August 27, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    One doesn’t get any confidence from reading PBOT’s 2015 traffic safety report that they have a workable plan. “Data shows that 73% of Portland pedestrian fatalities occur during low-light and dark conditions. It is critical that pedestrians and drivers operate with care in low-light conditions…” A few beacons and streetlights seem to be about it. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/563991

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  • Michael Reams August 28, 2016 at 8:00 am

    You had me right up until “killing machines”.

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    • Dan A August 28, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      38,300 in 2015.

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      • Middle of the Road guy August 28, 2016 at 3:47 pm

        Out of how many? A number means nothing without context.

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        • inwe August 28, 2016 at 7:51 pm

          Means nothing?? We’re talking 38,300 violent, unnecessary deaths. We’re talking about people’s lives! When we’re talking about that number, any number more than zero means everything.

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        • Spiffy August 29, 2016 at 8:26 am

          you sound like you’re ok with one of your loved ones dying in the street…

          these aren’t statistics, they’re people… how many are you willing to lose because the numbers look good?

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  • Chezz August 28, 2016 at 8:47 am

    How about get the freaking cars off the streets? The city of Paris has removed cars from popular pedestrian areas — permanently in some areas, weekly or seasonally in others. I believe Bogota and London have done similar things, to the delight and safety of residents and tourists. Portland wants to be a great city — how about extending Sunday Parkways to Everyday Parkways in several neighborhoods? Take big steps toward making the city car-light and then car-free. Save the cars for highway trips. Walk, bike or take public transportation in the city, not just on the Tillikum.

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    • Ted Timmons (Contributor) August 28, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      Bogota does it every Sunday for large stretches of boulevards. They started over 30 years ago.

      Sunday Parkways is relegated to minor streets so it doesn’t possibly offend drivers.

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      • Middle of the Road guy August 28, 2016 at 4:00 pm

        Ted, I have been volunteering with SP for years. I assure you, drivers DO get offended.

        You seem to have some inside knowledge about Bogota, can you prove to us that drivers don’t get bothered there or is an assumption that since it has been going on such a long time that nobody there gets offended anymore?

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        • Ted Timmons (Contributor) August 28, 2016 at 5:14 pm

          My experiences in Bogota and Quito are that drivers don’t seem to be bothered. It’s part of normal life.

          That’s not to say drivers are kind or especially careful around pedestrians on non-closed streets.

          I can totally believe that drivers at our SP are offended.

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  • Middle of the Road guy August 28, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Streets are filled with killing machines?

    That’s a bit hyperbolic, JM. That sounds as if cars (I assume that is what you are referencing) were designed to kill.

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    • rick August 29, 2016 at 8:30 am

      jaywalking was invented in the 1920s

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    • Spiffy August 29, 2016 at 8:32 am

      ever heard of “cancer sticks”? they weren’t designed to give you cancer, but they kill 10x more people than cars… when things kill a lot of people we tend to give them appropriate names and put a lot of restrictions on them…

      killing machines seems too short and sweet… I usually call them 2-ton explosion-powered weapons… and I think we need a LOT less 2-ton explosion-powered weapons on the street aimed at our citizens every day…

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    • bikeninja August 29, 2016 at 8:51 am

      It does not have to be designed to kill to be a killing machine. It was not long after arriving on the roads of the world that people noticed that cars killed with far higher frequency than peds, bikes, horses or streetcars. At first people objected to this, but there was too much money to be made, too much commerce and too much happy motoring to be had. A sane society would have tried to mitigate the danger of 4000lb hunks of steel hurling down the road at breakneck speed. They could have been quarantined to a few fenced off highways,they could have been governed to 20 mph top speeds, but instead we decided that the lure of rapidly speeding from the newly designed “cracker box” suburbs to the fry shacks and chip warehouses was too important to be impeded by safety. We all forget that it was not long ago that public streets were safe zones for strolling, kids playing, animals and not unregulated zones of danger. We accepted this insane tradeoff, and made a faustian bargain. A bit of speed, a bit of convenience in exchange for killing machines prowling the earth, ready to snatch us to our “deaths” at a moments notice.

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  • soren August 29, 2016 at 9:17 am

    And I view that statement as too soft.

    Drivers are the killers, not the machines.

    We have a culture that normalizes violent death and serious injury on our roads. We celebrate and promote dangerous driving and car-centric violence in movies and advertisements. We prioritize the transitory convenience of a driver more the health and lives of human beings. People walking and biking are often seen as deviant “others” who interfere with “traffic” and their abnormal behavior angers many of us. I don’t think the pervasive dehumanization of people walking or cycling will change until we as a society become less car-centric. Driving should not be viewed as inalienable right — as something more important than the right to life and health.

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    • bikeninja August 29, 2016 at 9:39 am

      I agree. It is no mistake that nearly all car commercials show drivers sweeping through empty mountain roads, or speeding through empty city streets as this is the fantasy that is promoted. Cars are sold as the answer to every emotional need or insecurity that modern consumers have. It is not unexpected that people react with anger when bikes, pedestrians and sluggish traffic arrive on the scene to ruin the fantasy that has been emotionaly ingrained in them.

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  • bikeninja August 29, 2016 at 9:48 am

    Maybe we have been going about this wrong. Perhaps the best way to get people out of their cars to to cut of the emotional lure. We could inact laws that ban the glamorization of automobiles in advertisements. For every death caused by cars a fine would be payed by the auto industry in to a pool that could be used to fund adds that fight the consumer image of the freedom and power of the road. Once people see cars for the dangerous, unhealthy and expensive appendage that they are things may begin to change.

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    • Adam H. August 29, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Make every car commercial more realistic by showing frustrated, tired people stuck in traffic.

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      • Eric Leifsdad August 29, 2016 at 10:16 am

        Ban smoking in motor vehicles on streets. Maybe more people would ride a bike if we didn’t make it so easy to sit on the couch and smoke on the way to a free parking spot.

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    • Dan A August 29, 2016 at 10:27 am

      Apply large stickers to the backs of vehicles to indicate traffic violations they have been involved in.

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      • bikeninja August 29, 2016 at 10:54 am

        How about Heat Brands like Cattle in the old West.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 29, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Thank you everyone for your comments. I’m closing this thread now. We’ll have more posts to discuss these issues in the future.

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