Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

A call for patience and a new paradigm

Posted by on December 14th, 2006 at 8:52 am

As we debate stop signs, police enforcement, targeting of bicyclists (or not), and the definition of a brake, let’s clearly draw one distinction.

On the one hand, there is the idea, often brought out at times like this, that some (or most) bicyclists think they are above the law.

On the other hand, there is a growing upset in the bike community over particular laws, and the enforcement and interpretation of them in certain circumstances.

It’s important to untangle these two ideas if we’re going to move forward. The law, for most of us, isn’t an absolute that you can just accept or reject. Sure, you’ve got your libertarians, and you’ve got your anarchists. But the bicycling population for the most part are just ordinary citizens who want to get to work and to the grocery store without fear of being hit by a car or fined for something.

Traffic Enforcement Action NE 7th & Knott

Our streets have recently been inundated with bicyclists, and we’re in an adjustment period — which may go on as long as more and more people get on bikes. In the face of the growing cycling population, behavioral approaches such as enforcements actions will have limited effect — we need both widespread education and community-building efforts (this site is a nice example) about the real issues facing cyclists, and an adjustment of actual infrastructure, signage, and habits that inform our moment-by-moment decisions about when to stop, when to pause, and when to get the hell out of the way.

The Police Bureau, too, is clearly in the midst of shifting its paradigm for bicycle traffic enforcement, as its awareness of cyclists, and the laws that pertain to us, increases. This has led to wonderful things, like the Bike Lights program and a generally improved knowledge among all parties of what’s legal and isn’t on a bike.

But it also may be why some enforcement decisions lately have been baffling. For instance the continual police escort of Critical Mass and the vendetta against fixed-gear bikes both seem to be informed by something well beyond the mandate of public safety.

Where do traffic stings fit into this spectrum?

“Let’s all be patient as we work on ways to understand, and channel, the forces that are currently shaping Portland into the first-ever world-class cycling city in the US. “
–Elly Blue

It is difficult to say that they are not objectively fair, but there are subjective factors here that pertain. Yes, most of us cyclists need to get better and more conscientious at wielding our machines. Enforcement, I have to reluctantly admit, is a good tool for this — among many. Many of us probably ride a little more carefully because of recent actions, and that’s a good thing.

But still, the formality of stopping completely at a stop sign, while desperately vital for a car driver, is often for a cyclist a futile meditation on the ironies of urban riding. Fines and stern lectures can only do so much good when we are going to get right back on our bikes and have to navigate areas, such as NE Broadway and Flint, that are designed for the primary purposes of getting cars onto the freeway as fast and seamlessly as possible, with bike lanes put in as an afterthought to shunt us between fast-moving lanes.

We don’t need traffic citations on Broadway for our safety, we need decreased traffic speeds and better enforcement of speed limits and turn signals. And we need a hug and a pat on the back for putting up with roads like this for so long.

Besides, the fact that you can currently get a $242 fine for proceeding at 2 mph (the speed of a slow amble) on vehicle that weighs less than a child’s wagon is inexcusable, and the police should in good conscience either stop ticketing cyclists or give pedestrian violation tickets to cyclists until the ticket fee schedule can be sorted out in the legislature.

Let’s all be patient as we work on ways to understand, and channel, the forces that are currently shaping Portland into the first-ever world-class cycling city in the US.

In the meantime, I invite anyone interested from the Portland Police Bureau, the courts, and the Mayor’s office, on a bike ride to demonstrate some of the most persistent grey areas that are lost in translation between the law, safety, and the mechanics of riding a bicycle.

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  • Matt Davis December 14, 2006 at 9:18 am

    Elly, I agree. Try this for a new paradigm:


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  • Val December 14, 2006 at 9:20 am

    Elly: You have my utmost admiration and heartfelt thanks for consistently being the voice of reason and common sense. All cyclists, everywhere, are lucky to have you publicly cutting through the rhetoric and emotion that almost always obscure these issues. Have you thought of running for office? Not that I would wish that on anyone, but it would be a relief to see a sensible person involved in making decisions.

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  • adam December 14, 2006 at 9:55 am

    I will be the third in a long line of people to commend you for this piece. superb.

    I wonder, sometimes, if the current leadership has what it takes to deliver on our vision. I guess time will tell?

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  • Burr December 14, 2006 at 10:17 am

    Thank you, Elly!

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  • Martha December 14, 2006 at 10:47 am

    Well put, Elly!

    I’ve often wondered what it would be like if the “I Share the Road” concept actually got enough funding to put on a year-long concentrated campaign. What if there were billboards, public service announcements, fun events, and lots of messages everywhere about the importance of obeying traffic laws (aimed at all citizens, regardless of mode of transport). Everywhere you looked, there would be a message that we all need to be careful and treat others on the road with kindness and respect.

    Then what if the campaign were topped off by a month-long police effort where the police (on foot, in cars, on bikes, on horses) made a point to stop anyone doing something dangerous, but rather than handing out a ticket, the officer would explain the law and what that person should have done, explain how that person’s actions were dangerous, and let them know how much a ticket would have been. Call it a month of education. If the police don’t write tickets, they can spend more time on the street because they don’t have to spend time in court. It would give them the opportunity to improve their reputation, gain insight from the public (what if they even listened to the person they pulled over and heard their side of the story?), and help mend a lot of fences.

    And what if, before that month of ticket-free public education, the police had additional training to brush up on all of the various traffic laws (they’ve got a lot of laws to remember, so reminder courses couldn’t hurt).

    What if our society stopped calling them “accidents” and started recognizing that they’re “preventable crashes.” What if we stopped tolerating bad behavior on the roads, and we all took personal responsibility for making our roads safe for all users?

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  • bArbaroo December 14, 2006 at 11:03 am

    Education, in my opinion, is key here. I know that many choose not to stop, knowing what the law requires. However, I have had conversations with several folks that REALLY did not know that the law requires bicycles to stop. They are newbies that see what others do or read about rolling stops and incorrectly assume it’s ok to roll through stop signs.

    For those of us that support abiding with the current law, I suggest we all make a conscious effort to help educate our friends, neighbors, and co-workers that are new to cycling. Free resources are out there that can help too – from the city, BTA, and State (Oregon Bicyclists Manual). I happen to like the later and always keep a few extra around to hand out.

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  • John December 14, 2006 at 11:08 am

    Bikes should have to stop at stop signs… esp as we get more bikes on the road. I almost get hit weekly by bikers blowing stop signs in NE Portland. Why… because bikers are looking for cars, and just like cars they don’t see bikes.

    Bikers treating stop signs like yield signs is a terrible idea. If we as bikers break the law we should get a ticket, those laws are not just protecting cars, they are protecting bikes as well.

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  • Bob December 14, 2006 at 11:28 am

    Very well put.

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  • dayaram December 14, 2006 at 12:34 pm

    Bikes blowing off stop signs? YES!!! esp in NE where I ride the most. I’ve had close encounters with bikes while riding due to them not stopping or even slowing down at stop signs. What is the deal!?
    I sart thinking of the folks who think we are privledged as being “biking brats” Give them a ticket!!!

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  • Sam December 14, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    Yup. I think bikes do need to stop at stop signs (and red lights!). For our own safety if nothing else. I don’t like it when I see cars running stop signs and red lights. I don’t like it any better when I see fellow cyclists running stop signs and red lights. And I think it weakens our arguement for more motorist traffic enforcement to complain that we get tickets when we break the law.

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  • john December 14, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    Being able to transport yourself via your own muscle should ALWAYS be a basic human right. IMO, Walking, skating, cycling, etc, should always be viewed in that light and should have precedence over all other motorized transport on all LOCS!

    Precedence should be from most natural primitive and simple to most complicated.

    AND/ OR Precedence and level of law should be from least deadly to most deadly. The police and laws need to totally concentrate on that which can kill and harm.

    “Sure, you’ve got your libertarians, and you’ve got your anarchists.”

    If you are talking two extremes Don’t you mean Democrats/Liberals vs Anarchists ? Cause Libertarians are really close to being anarchists, or at least believe in very very limited goverment.

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  • MikeOnBike December 14, 2006 at 1:18 pm

    Idaho Law is a bit more lenient. Basically slow, look, yield, then proceed.

    TITLE 49
    49-720. STOPPING — TURN AND STOP SIGNALS. (1) A person operating a
    bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing
    to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to
    any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely
    as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving
    across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a
    person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if
    required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection
    without stopping.
    (2) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a
    steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection
    and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may
    proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a
    person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if
    required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a
    one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to
    other traffic.
    (3) A person riding a bicycle shall comply with the provisions of section
    49-643, Idaho Code.
    (4) A signal of intention to turn right or left shall be given during not
    less than the last one hundred (100) feet traveled by the bicycle before
    turning, provided that a signal by hand and arm need not be given if the hand
    is needed in the control or operation of the bicycle.

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  • Aaron B. Hockley December 14, 2006 at 1:27 pm

    You wrote: “the police should in good conscience either stop ticketing cyclists or give pedestrian violation tickets to cyclists until the ticket fee schedule can be sorted out in the legislature”

    NO! The police do not get to choose which laws to enforce, or make up their own interpretations. If the problem is the law, fix the law. Don’t take it out on the police. All of this anti-police anger should really be directed at your state representatives and state senators.

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  • brad December 14, 2006 at 1:47 pm

    “Don’t take it out on the police. All of this anti-police anger should really be directed at your state representatives and state senators.”

    well, some of it at least. but don’t forget that the ppb ordered this thing to happen, and the officers carried it out. saying that the police hold no responsibility is like saying that soldiers hold no responsibility in a war.

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  • josh m December 14, 2006 at 1:48 pm

    “NO! The police do not get to choose which laws to enforce, or make up their own interpretations.”

    Uhm, this happens all the time. I.E. all the instances we see motorists breaking the law in front of officers and them not doing anything. Or allt he times I break the law on my bike in front of officers and they don’t do anything.
    Or how about the infamous fixed gear issue, that is up to interpretation… is it not?
    your comment holds no weight.

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  • Carl December 14, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    While I agree that the big change needs to come from Salem (and post 13 illuminates an obvious template for that change), there’s no denying that cops choose what laws they’re going to enforce.

    Let’s be realistic, here, Aaron. If you’re a cop, you’ve got a book of laws and you’re surrounded by people breaking them. The legislature doesn’t dictate which laws you enforce. You, the cop, decide.

    The traffic division chose to put 5 motorcycle cops on a stop sign that bikes tend to roll through. That’s a choice. I think Elly is just suggesting they make different choices.

    Here’s what I’d like to see them do: call Jeff Bernards, ask what his favorite spot for handing out bike lights was, go there at night, hand out some tickets for morons riding around with no lights.

    Even though they might not be able to rack up as many citations during such a sting, that, in my opinion, would be a wise and justifiable CHOICE.

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  • Elly December 14, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    I’m actually not certain that police officers, at least most of them, are able to act entirely according to their own impulses while on the job. Rather, there’s a hierarchy, a decision-making system, that is currently undergoing changes in regards to how it deals with bicyclists on the roads.

    My hope is simply that we can all work together to sort this out on all levels, so that public safety and efficient travel are best served. And we all need to think outside of the box on this one. That’s all.

    Re/political philosophy terminology, aren’t libertarians on the far right, and anarchists on the far left? It may be I’m mistaking the anarchist punk kids around here for lefties. Democrats and liberals are certainly not anywhere near the far left. Can anyone help us out here?

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  • Cecil December 14, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Anarchy is a political theory opposed to all forms of government and governmental restraint, relying instead on voluntary cooperation to satisfy social needs. Because of its inclusion of a communitarian ethos, it is considered by those who need to label things by direction as left-wing

    Libertarianism calls for individual exercise of free will without any government restraint, much like anarchy, but lacks the communitarian ethos of anarchism, and therefore, is considered right-wing.

    As for whether “Democrats” or “liberals” are “anywhere near the far left” – it depends on which Democrats or liberals you are talking about. Some are, some aren’t. That’s the problem with political labels – they overshadow the ideas that led to the labels in the first place, often to the point that neither the label nor the idea garners any respect.

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  • adam December 14, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    call your senator and whatnot, they understand the party(system)

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  • max December 14, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    left vs right really doesn’t cut it for describing politics, if that is all you have stalin and ghandi look the same. Check out http://www.politicalcompass.org for a more accurate barometer.

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  • PFin December 14, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    good point, elly

    I can get a car ticket but I can’t leave the bike lane? blacksheepnomore!

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  • rixtir December 14, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    It’s not a “car” ticket. It’s a traffic ticket, and by definition, a bicycle is subject to the traffic laws. In fact, bicycles were subject to the traffic laws before cars, because bicycles were here before cars.

    As far as “changing the law,” Why?

    Why should the law be changed? In Idaho, it’s illegal to blow a red light. And yet many of the people whining about the injustice of the Oregon law blow red lights. If Oregon were to adopt the Idaho law as its first order of business tomorrow morning, these whiners would still be breaking the law, and they’d still get cited for it.

    So why change the law?

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  • Cecil December 14, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    Max, thanks for the link to the political compass – I used to have it bookmarked but lost it. It’s a pretty interesting tool. Although some of the questions are frighteningly similar to the MMPI, it is still a fun test. I am pleased to say that I fall somewhat to the southwest of Gandhi . . . 🙂

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  • Bjorn December 14, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    Many people are saying that bicyclists should not oppose these kind of specific targeting efforts because we are traffic, same as cars, etc. A little internet research shows that AAA the nation’s largest car owner organization routinely opposes programs to ticket drivers, including red light camera’s in new york, and automated speed traps in Washington DC. I don’t see why we should expect any less of the BTA and other cycling groups than to oppose enforcement targeting bicyclists engaging in behavior that while technically illegal is basically safe.

    Also I have noticed that they only do the stings along bike boulevards, which seems counter to what the city is attempting to get cyclists to do (ride on the boulevards). At this point you can say a lot of things about sandy boulevard being scary or unsafe to ride on, but I certainly havn’t seen a sting with several officers waiting to ticket me.


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  • rixtir December 14, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    Elly wrote:

    “Besides, the fact that you can currently get a $242 fine for proceeding at 2 mph (the speed of a slow amble) on vehicle that weighs less than a child’s wagon is inexcusable, and the police should in good conscience either stop ticketing cyclists or give pedestrian violation tickets to cyclists until the ticket fee schedule can be sorted out in the legislature.”

    First, a bicycle and adult rider easily top 100 pounds, and often top 200 pounds. That comparison to the weight of a “child’s wagon” is what’s inexcusable, Elly. You’ve totally blown whatever credibility you might have had when you misstate the facts to support your position.

    Second, where do you get this 2 MPH figure? I’ve seen cyclists blow red lights downtown at high speed– probably 25-30 MPH. Most do it at less than high speed, but I have yet to see one cyclist blow a stop at anything remotely resembling 2 MPH. Again, you’ve sacrificed your credibility for the sake of propaganda.

    Elly, you’re implying that a bicycle is a light-weight, slow-speed vehicle that by its very nature is incapable of harming anybody, and therefore, it shouldn’t be ticketed at the same fee schedule as vehicles which are capable of harming somebody.

    Nonsense, Elly. Nonsense.

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  • Carl December 14, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    I’m not a fan of calling people out, but come on. What would you rather be hit by, a car or a bike? Don’t nitpick. Elly’s point, though slightly exaggerated, stands.

    Your dismissal of the Idaho stop laws as futile (because some people blow red lights?) is also ridiculous. Yesterday’s “sting” would’ve been a total flop with those laws on the books. The Idaho stop law would allow cyclists who are currently riding safely, to also ride legally.

    If we need laws, they should aknowledge complexity.


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  • Dabby December 14, 2006 at 4:50 pm

    I believe she means that when stopping at a light, looking before going, like you should if you plan to go through a light.
    In this scenario, you would be going under 5 miles an hour when proceeding through the light.
    This makes sense if you look at it in the way she presented it now doesn’t it?
    The main problem with this is that at such low speeds, you are unable to manuever as well as you would at higher speeds if a car was to cut you off, or you it off.

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  • rixtir December 14, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    Well, I just lost my response due to the storm….

    So… I think Dabby’s point is well-made. On the other hand, I’ve seen some really stupid stunts with racing cyclists and red lights, and I have no doubt that another cyclist or a pedestrian could end up seriously injured or killed. It happens, even if it hasn’t happened in Portland (yet).

    I also have to say, from reading past posts by Dabby, that at the least, he accepts responsibility for his own actions, rather than looking for somebody else to blame when he gets cited, and that is refreshing to read.

    As far as the relevance of this sting under the Idaho law, cyclists could still be cited in a stop light sting, and we’d still be reading complaints about the injustice of the city actually expecting us to– Gasp!– obey the law.

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  • beth December 14, 2006 at 6:33 pm

    I really wish I could get all up in arms about all the stings and tickets and lawsuits and other stuff that seem to make it look like it’s The Whole World Against Bicyclists. I’d certainly feel less lonely out there in bicyclecultureland.

    But the truth is that I get far fewer “cool” points for riding safely and predictably every time I’m on a bicycle. In my bright silver helmet and yellow jacket with reflective piping, bike decked out in lights and reflective tape, my hands flashing clear turn signals, waiting my turn to go through an intersection, well, then I’m just a lovely safety nerd.

    Fine. Whatever.

    In over 30 years of dedicated bicycle commuting, I have had NO traffic citations, and only ONE serious injury from an accident. And while some of came from luck, I believe that far more of it has come from being the safety nerd that I am.

    When I see more of Portland’s bicycle commuters assume the same level of personal responsibility for their actions that I do for mine, I just might take all the whining about fixies and traffic stings and Critical Mass “escorts” and conspiracies a little more seriously.

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  • SKiDmark December 14, 2006 at 9:06 pm

    I’ve been riding for 25 years and I didn’t get a ticket until this year. This includes my BMX days in Boston and Minneapolis, riding on city architectural elements like ledges and embankments, jumping stairs etc. basically a complete disregard for traffic laws and property. It also includes 4 years of Zoobombing.

    When I ride a regular road bike I obey most of the rules of the road. I am older so I don’t take the chances I used to. At night I have a headlight, a red rear reflector AND a blinking red light, which more than satisfies the law. Also I rode motorcycles for many years so I understand the value of riding safely and predictably.

    When I got pulled over it was on Burnside at Broadway, I took a left onto Broadway which is of course no left turn. I plead guilty when I went to court because I was.

    The thing that gets to me is I have witnessed a crack deal in daylight less than three blocks away and at the MAX stop after I got my ticket someone offered to sell me drugs. Apparently it is OK to make a living committing felonies downtown but taking a left turn when you are not supposed to will garner the immediate attention of the Police. Sorry but that is the definiton of “selective enforcement” or less politely: bullshit.

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  • josh m December 14, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    Beth, just because you’ve not had a citation doesn’t say much.
    I freely admit I break laws. I roll stop signs, red lights, split lanes, ride on sidewalks, I don’t use turn signals(it’s a fact most drivers don’t even know what they mean), etc.
    I’ve never recieved a citation and every accident I’ve been involved in w/ a car I have been in the bicycle lane and the car crossed my path. The most serious accident I’ve had was from myself trying tricks.

    If I ever recieve a citation, sure, I will bitch to my friends about the price, but I will still suck it up and pay it.
    Also, the level of responsibility you take has nothing to do w/ the whining about fixies. You could ride a fixed gear bicycle w/ out hand brakes and follow all the rules and still be fined simply for that.

    You’re welcome to feel self-righteous for following all the set rules, but it really doesn’t mean shit.

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  • adam December 15, 2006 at 12:52 am

    I am with the majority, here, beth – I am on record as a safe cyclist. sorry that you got hit by a car but you only loose points around here for baseless argument, not for your riding style.

    beth, are you telling us all that you have never, ever, violated a “law”? stings are for bees, not for us.

    and, jonathan, still waiting for the data….when are you buying lunch for the good lt next? maybe I want to see him, man to man?

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  • beth December 15, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    >>beth, are you telling us all that you have never, ever, violated a “law”? stings are for bees, not for us.


    I certainly don’t break traffic laws for convenience’ sake. If that makes me look like a nerd, an old fart, or whatever else, I don’t really care.

    I can count the times I’ve been forced to break a traffic law on one hand in the last year — all of them either because a driver was coming on too close/too fast to be safe; or because I was in an unfamiliar place that turned out to be a poor choice for bicycle-riding and I had to get out of there quickly.

    In the former case, if I can get a license number of an offending driver I will. If I can’t, I can’t. In the latter case, I make a mental note to study the intersection on a map later, and figure out why it’s a bad place for bikes to be. Sometimes it’s worth bringing to the attention of PDOT, that a particular place could be made safer for bicyclists. Other times, it’s too close to a freeway or other high-speed motor traffic area for me to ever feel totally safe there; and I will seek out alternative routes.

    I’m definitely NOT saying “I’m the greatest bicyclist” here.

    What I AM saying is that I’d really like all these bike-car discussions to move out of the “us vs. them” phase; and into the areas of better education for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers and more informed citizen involvement at all levels.

    And I’d like the scofflaws on bikes to stop running lights — every time a bicyclist runs a red light for convenience’ sake, it gives drivers unspoken permission to take all bicyclists less seriously. That can’t ever be a good thing.

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  • Burr December 15, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    The city’s bike safety plan is supposed to have both an education and enforcement component. Unfortunately, almost all we’ve seen so far is the enforcement component, and the city has admitted in the recent past that it’s education efforts are lagging.

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  • beth December 16, 2006 at 8:29 pm

    Burr: Good point.

    So, rather than waiting for the city to play catch-up, we have an opportunity here to be pro-active, civil and positive on our own.

    Let’s continue the discourse here. How can WE help to educate not only our family and friends who drive cars, but those we know who ride bikes as well? What would you do if you stopped to wait for a red light, and a bicyclist behind you simply passed you to run the light? What’s the most positive, pro-active approach to something like this? And how would you proceed in a way that gives the offending cyclist pause to think without making him/her want to flip you off?

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  • adam December 17, 2006 at 8:36 am

    education is very helpful. this is why I spend so much time volunteering and teaching young people.

    however, I am not a cop.

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  • Elly December 17, 2006 at 12:26 pm

    About personal responsibility and safety vs legality — I waver back and forth on this all the time.

    It usually doesn’t bug me that much when people driving cars or riding bikes slow down to a walking speed to go through a stop sign, so long as they’re alert and on the ball.

    Some days it bugs me a lot, mostly because people doing this in cars seem to be usually talking on the phone and not alert at all. And I’m aware of the need to set a good example.

    BUT it’s always always always a problem when people — in cars and on bikes — blow stop signs as though they weren’t even there. This seems like the real danger and ought to be the enforcement and education priority for both modes. It’s probably a result of ignorance and/or inattention in both cases, and people need to wise up.

    It seems like the old California Stop (or should we call it the Idaho Stop?) might be an occasion for a warning rather than a ticket — if enforcement is going to be consistent.

    I know the purists out there will disagree with me, but why be unnecessarily draconian? Let’s change that law so bikes can move more efficiently by taking stop signs cautiously, and continue to crack down on people biking or motoring in a truly reckless manner.

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  • revphil December 18, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    thanks to those who keep using this forum as a place to learn and share.

    If I saw someone breaking a law that bothered me I might try and catch them and talk to them about it. In that situation it is hard to be polite and genuinely concerned for their safety and not sound demeaning. Alas I doubt this scenario would play out well, even for me. Asserting that someone is not responsible for his/her own safety is insulting.

    Getting people to be in less of a rush might help. Maybe those people out there who really want to change peoples lives should look a the bigger picture. You could partner up with the slowfood people. Alas my chosen lifestyle doesn’t match up well with this behavior, and I don’t want to change. I like riding my bike fast.

    beth, I totally wish we all would take more personal responsibility for our actions. And yet, taking personal responsibility does not mean taking all blame. Regardless of your excellent behavior I would love for you to felt more empathy for people who are doing their thing, not harming others, and are still reamed by a system slanted against them.

    the argument for trying to get drivers to like/accept us by following the letter of the law sounds to me like staying with an abusive lover. Maybe if we are totally perfect we might not get beat down.

    btw, beth you don’t want a www. in front of your url. clicking on your name 404rd me.

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  • adam December 18, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    rev, what is wrong with “abusive lovers”…sometimes it seems like I have 5 or 6 of them.

    other than that, excellent points as usual.

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  • beth h December 18, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    RevPhil: Thanks for the thoughts, and for the advice (though I’m semi-illiterate when it comes to computers and don’t know what 404rd means).

    I guess on the one hand I want to raise awareness for both car drivers and bicyclists. On the other hand, I recognize that the landscape we move through is designed for cars and that perhaps it’s too late in this country to ever really and truly “fix” that. We will never turn any American city into Amsterdam.

    I think that all any of us can do as adapt and do our very best each day. I don’t want to get down on anyone in particular, but I also don’t think that crying “the law is an ass” will be of much help here, either.

    As for what to do when I encounter a bike or car scofflaw, I don’t really know. I have tried the friendly and concerned approach face-to-face and been soundly rebuked (sometimes menacingly!) enough times that I admit I now hesitate taking action. It seems that both here and on the street, people would rather I just keep my mouth shut and not offer anything, even out of concern. So the silence and the averted eyes proceed on many counts — including mine on this thread.

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  • adam December 18, 2006 at 10:21 pm

    beth – it is hard to read your post when you imply that revphil was “crying”.

    you maybe only semi illiterate but it is wise to read your own post. if you want to respond, I won’t be offended.

    404 is the computer thingy for “the web address you gave me sucks…”

    stop hesitating. take action.

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  • Macaroni December 18, 2006 at 10:49 pm

    it’s hard to respect the law when the law doesn’t respect us, i.e., allowing drivers to run us down in the bike lanes and not ticketing them for it.

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  • Jacque December 18, 2006 at 11:52 pm

    Carl, Elly, my good friends…
    Have you ever been hit by a bike? It hurts, and it can really mess you up for a few days.
    I use the road in pretty much the same way whether on bike or by car, and somehow you got the idea from that, that I’m a purist “never break the law type”. I’m not. But I don’t get the whole stop sign issue- I probably would if I commuted every day though. Anyway, as they say… I don’t have a dog in this fight.
    But I would like to point out that it really sucks to get hit by a cyclists blowing through a stop, or doing other unexpected maneuvers like going the wrong way on a street. Never mind the cars… they’re big and noisy and pretty easy to spot, but please I think people forget to watch out for other cyclists at intersections etc. We’re quiet… ya gotta look.

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  • Jacque December 19, 2006 at 12:48 am

    I don’t know why I addressed that to Carl and Elly.
    Ignore me.

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  • Val December 20, 2006 at 11:25 am

    As long as we’re throwing New Paradigms into the melting pot for consideration, how about this (from the Seattle City Traffic Code): “Section 11.44.120 RIDING ON A SIDEWALK OR PUBLIC PATH. Every person operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk or public path shall operate the same in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the amount and character of pedestrian traffic, grade and width of sidewalk or public path, and condition of surface, and shall obey all traffic control devices. Every person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or public path shall yeild the right-of-way to any poedestrian thereon,, and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian.”
    I certainly don’t mean to imply that this eliminates all problems between peds and bikes in Seattle, but for the most part, it seems to work pretty well. I know several riders who never leave the sidewalk, as they consider the streets too dangerous, and they don’t seem to cause or encounter any serious problems, unless you consider taking a bit longer to get somewhere serious. Most of us consider the sidewalks a useful option in a variety of situations, and use our best judgement to determine when to use them. I did once get a citation from an officer who honestly thought that it was illegal to ride on the sidewalk, but it was dismissed on being challenged. A provision such as this one, along with an Idaho style stop sign law, could go a long way towards promoting cooperation between various road users, as well as enhanced mobility for the bike riders.

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  • adam December 22, 2006 at 10:10 am

    beth – were you calling me out for saying the “law is an ass”? or, who, exactly, are you calling out? passive agressive is as offensive an argument style as it is dangerous as a riding style. and, yes, I am suggesting that you are passive agressive, just to be very clear.

    I don’t remember saying that, but, that statement could be argued for and against. I would argue for. I think my rationale is a matter of public record. beth? you still reading? answer my questions…thanks.

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