The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Fatality highlights need for education

Posted by on May 8th, 2007 at 10:19 am

The recent tragedy on SE Foster Road has sparked a dialogue in the comments about the need for education about the dangers of riding the wrong way in the bike lane.

Several commenters said they were taught as kids to ride facing traffic,

“Am I the only one here who learned as a kid always to walk and bike on the left side of the street, facing traffic? This is still a common myth in much of the country. It’s not common-sense, but it’s deeply ingrained. There’s a need for serious education and outreach about wrong-way cycling. People just have no idea, they think they’re doing the right thing.”

In a strange coincidence, while at the recent Oregon Bike Summit, I picked up an ODOT safety poster that deals with this exact issue.

ODOT Safety Poster. Click to enlarge

I would love to see this message spread across billboards on major streets that have bike lanes (like SE Foster). ODOT has a budget for these and I’ve seen them around town. In the past I’ve wondered why I’ve only see car-related safety messages on ODOT billboards, and never anything about bicycles. Here’s an example:


Photo taken from Broadway Blvd, looking south, a few blocks east of Williams.
File photo: 10/19/05

Perhaps now is a good time for someone to work with ODOT to make this happen.

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

  • Brad May 8, 2007 at 11:04 am

    I hate to admit this but it may be time for some sort of bike / rider licensing. Billboards and posters are well and good but having to test at DMV insures the education takes place and pleading ignorance goes out the window.

    I would propose that the bike license cost the same as autos ($60 for two years) with ALL funds earmarked for bike infrastructure and rider education. Riders 16 and over require the license. Those under 16 are required to take the written test, get their specially colored tags for $10/yr. and require a parent or guardian to accept liability for the minor’s actions. Those without the tags can be stopped and fined $242 like cars without valid plates. The tags could be made from plastic and designed to affix to the top tube where it will not contact the rider’s legs or create aerodynamic drag. (Like a triangle pack)

    This would be a good opportunity to teach basic road use laws and operating safety. I also propose that the same legislation also requires more bike / pedestrian questions on the DRIVER’S exam as drivers also require more education. It also helps quiet the anti-cycling crowd since we are now paying for our bike lanes, sharrows, signage in a more direct fashion.

    Considering the growing numbers and diversity of riders, I’d love to see a civil discussion about this and hear some constructive feedback as opposed to a flame war.

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  • Peter May 8, 2007 at 11:06 am

    I would think that it might be a bit more effective to place these types of posters in schools and bike shops instead of a the occasional billboard. Might as well inform the riders when they are purchasing the bike or instill it in them when they are young.

    This is one of those messages that needs to get out in any way it can.

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  • BURR May 8, 2007 at 11:19 am

    The only way a bicycle registration system would be equitable was if it was based on the weight of the vehicle.

    I might be convinced to pay a dollar a pound for bicycle registration if every motor vehicle was also required to pay the same dollar a pound.

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  • brettoo May 8, 2007 at 11:28 am

    I dunno if licensing is the answer, but some form of education is definitely needed. I’ve had too many close encounters with fools (invariably not wearing helmets) riding the wrong way in a bike lane, forcing one of us into auto traffic.
    Then again, sometimes this happens even when these lanes have arrows pointing in the proper direction for travel, so maybe education isn’t the *whole* answer.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis May 8, 2007 at 11:31 am

    I see the chief advantage of such a system as providing a sense of legitimacy for bikes on the road (an important perception issue, not reality).

    But you have to consider what the State’s interest is here, because the State is responsible for administering the whole thing. Without a substantial interest, the State will (properly, IMHO) avoid regulation.

    For example, the State’s interest in regulating motor vehicles stems largely from the fact that they require large expenditures in public funds for infrastructure and regulation helps manage other problems such as public and private liability. Those problems with regard to bikes are miniscule in comparison. The fact is that we don’t require large expenditures (relatively) for infrastucture and we don’t kill or injure others (with very rare exception). I think most of our Legislators and public policy analysts would find that the State currently has minimal interest in regulating this behavior and that interest does not justify any organized regulatory regime. This could change if we keep growing so fast, and I hope it does!

    I also agree with BURR that any fee system should be used to internalize the costs of the externalities of motor vehicles, i.e., hazardous air pollution, global warming, and high potential for serious injury or death through collision, and to incentivize/subsidize people for using our much more pro-social mode of transportation.

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  • Tomas Quinones May 8, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Seeing that people are really tight with money and can hardly afford or even want to pay $10 for a helmet, how or why would they even want to pay any type of registration fee? For some people, if not for their free bike they wouldn’t ride at all.

    Although I can see the merit of teaching people the rules of the road and safety awareness, don’t we start to get into legal grey areas about insurance at this point?

    Now if registration were completely voluntary and gave some kind of advantage such as better chances of bike recovery in the event of theft, lower health insurance premiums due to generally better health of regular riders or tax breaks of some sort. If not, then I don’t see the incentive for anyone to want to go through this, especially if they own multiple bicycles.

    However, I do agree with the point that the driver’s license test should have more questions concerning interaction with bicycles and pedestrians. When I took my test in 2005 for an Oregon license, there were NO questions in this area at all.

    Personally, I would like to see more safety awareness aimed at cyclists and pedestrians reminding them how to interact with vehicles and each other rather than have this constant campaign of vehicular hate and finger pointing as to who is at fault.

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  • SKiDmark May 8, 2007 at 11:43 am

    One of the great things about cycling is that it can be done for free. The best thing about it is that the most destitute person can have effective transportation. Homeless, indigent and just plain poor people have enough to contend with beside addeding licensing fees and registrations to their bikes. It would give the Police one more reason to harass them, and give them yet another ticket that they can’t pay.

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  • SKiDmark May 8, 2007 at 11:45 am

    Also Brad it would cost ME 600 bucks to have all my bikes on the road. I could buy a nice BMX bike with that $$$.

    Maybe you should join Mr Kulongoski and try to subsist on 3 dollars a day so you can get some perspective.

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  • Dabby May 8, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Cycle Licensing will not work, nor will it be a proper solution…

    Imagine having to stand in line with your three year old before he/she gets to ride those training wheels.

    This is the smallest of reasons not to have cycle licensing..

    There are so many more big ones that , luckily for us, it will never, ever happen…..

    By the way, they have tried a few times to force licensing of bicycle messengers in this town, as a order of control of the uncontrollable.

    Just using those failed attempts as an example, we should drop the idea entirely….

    The real solution is billboards, community service anouncements, education, larger than life warnings that unless you have your eyes closed, are impossible to miss.

    Damm, use stupid Tri Met and paste it all over buses and trains, we supplement them anyway, let’s at least get something back for our money….

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  • BillD May 8, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Since “billboards” for folks in Bike lanes don’t need to be huge, how about putting that poster on the back side of the Bike Only sign shown on the poster?

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  • tonyt May 8, 2007 at 12:14 pm

    My interest with no registration is two-fold, I own more than one bike (many current or former bike shop employees more than likely have a similar collection) and putting out the money for each one would be some serious freakin cash that I do not have. I’ve got my cruiser that I only really ride each morning to the park with the dog. A license for that?

    The other aspect for me is preserving SOME aspect of life that does not involve the government. I’m no paranoid libertarian, but heck, it’s just some metal tubes and two wheels and I want to get on it and explore my world. Does the government really need to get into that equation?

    As long as I’m playing well with others, leave me alone. We don’t license sticks, but we seem to get the notion across that you shouldn’t hit people with them.

    This is an education AND an enforcement issue.

    I would heartily endorse more enforcement aimed at wrong-way and no-light riders. The problem is that these infractions occur here and there and aren’t as easy to snag as a sting at a particular intersection. I think the cops like the fish-in-a-barrel stings. Less work, more coffee drinking.

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  • ME May 8, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Start registering bikes and see where it stops. Skateboards, rollerblades, blah…Just add another stencil to the bike lane signage with an arrow and “only” somehow put with it. One forgets that there was driver error involved too. We are all taught to look both ways before entering a roadway for anything… bikers, kids, animals- whatever. For most of us it is ingrained in our brains, for others it’s only a matter of time before “splat!”

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  • felix May 8, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Licensing is about the dumbest idea ever.

    What would that help? Brad, I wish stupidity was painful.

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  • N.I.K. May 8, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    So where would the money for paying for everything required for a registration program come from? If it’s out of that $60 fee, that’s money I could’ve instead have been donating towards BTA or any number of community-oriented bike projects and stood more of a chance of accomplishing something. If it comes from elsewhere, I’d be afraid of people being quick to assume that registration and test-taking alone solves a whole slew of problems and funding from the state and/or city get reduced as they’d be taking $60 from every legal cyclist.

    I also don’t particularly relish the thought of some guy who can’t afford a license having to steal my tag for his dumpstered cruiser just so he can get around, or some mean-spirited asshat simply swiping my tag to legally immobilize my bike.

    Look, I somehow managed to read the laws all on my own and obey them. Why? Because I don’t want to get ticketed and I don’t want to ride in an unpredictable manner and put myself at risk by confusing others on the road. If we had more consistent enforcement, the threat of punitive recourse would be more real to more people. Spend the funding that’d be needed to run the registration program directly on education and public campaigning instead.

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  • Matt Picio May 8, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    There’s another good argument against licensing – it’s hard to find instances of licensing programs being rescinded, and it’s easy to find incidents of designated funds being repurposed. There’s a good chance that any such program will run just fine for 5-10 years and then the state government will decide that there’s plenty of bike infrastructure and the registration money should instead fund schools, or law enforcement, or public retirement benefits, etc, etc, etc.

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  • BURR May 8, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Brad’s whole premise is to blame the victim. Cyclist got killed? Make it more difficult to bicycle! A freakin’ motorist did it! If the streetscape wasn’t dominated by cars, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. Most of the modern ‘rules of the road’ were made necessary by the unpredictable and deadly nature of motor vehicles when misused.

    I think cyclist education is fine, but I think motorist education is much more important. The City Commissioner with the cojones to tackle this issue has not yet been elected.

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  • Dabby May 8, 2007 at 2:33 pm

    As much as a car killed this victim, the victim’s actions leading up to this accident lead directly to his own demise……

    I fully agree that Brad’s stance is wrong, but, sadly, so is yours..

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  • Aaron May 8, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    @ME, tonyt, Dabby, skidmark:
    Brad wasn’t talking about *bicycle* licensing, he’s talking about *cyclist* licensing. One license per person, regardless of how many bikes you own.

    Presumably, such a bicycle operator license would only be required to ride on a roadway, not a bike path or trail. If you’d like to make it even easier, I’d say only require it for riding on roads with a speed limit of 30+ mph, so kids can ride around their neighborhood without a license.

    The cost of such a license shouldn’t be any more than the cost of a regular (non-driving) ID, so as not to be a financial burden.

    This would give legitimacy to cyclists who do share the road with drivers, and ensure kids are prepared to ride safely when they do start riding with traffic. It’s hardly a drastic proposal.

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  • Martha S. May 8, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    I DO NOT think having licensure for bicycles is a good idea. I in fact think it is an excedingly BAD idea. However, what if bicycle safety were to be made a regular part of, say, the 5th grade curriculum? So that to go on to the 6th grade a child would have to pass a safety test on a bicycle? The safety classes that are part of safe routes to school could be used as a model. Yes, safety education is very important, but licensure? NO!

    A large part of the apeal of cycling is that it’s cheap. Most people learn to ride as children, but stop riding when they gain the ability to drive regurally. We want the transition to cycling to be an easy one to make; not something that requires a commitment like paying to get a license.

    Maybe we should all shoulder a bit of the responsibility for education here… I’m not talking anything big, just say something if you see someone riding the wrong way.

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  • Martha S. May 8, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    I do like the idea of getting those sign up as flyers/posters/whatever. Having them up in the local bike shops in and of itself could make a difference; and posting them on streets like Hawthorne could also have an impact.

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  • matchu May 8, 2007 at 3:48 pm

    I’d oppose Brad’s proposal tooth and nail if it were put into effect -wouldn’t display the tags and would refuse to pay the fees incurred for refusing to buy into yet another system.

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  • matchu May 8, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Jonathan Maus’ idea of utilizing a system already in place (i.e. the ODOT and billboards) is good for conscious raising in the places where we need awareness the most: the roads where cycles and automobiles interact each and every day.

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  • coyote May 8, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Brad your proposal is nonsense. Licensing cyclists will have no more power to educate cyclists, than divers licenses have the ability to educate divers. Once you pass the test, you don’t keep reading the drvers manual do you? Since most cyclists also hold a divers license, couldn’t the same minimal education benefit be accomplished with a modification of the divers license exam?

    BTW parents already have liability for their children’s actions.

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  • tonyt May 8, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Wrong Aaron, here is what Brad said,

    “Those without the tags can be stopped and fined $242 like cars without valid plates. The tags could be made from plastic and designed to affix to the top tube where it will not contact the rider’s legs or create aerodynamic drag.”

    That most definitely refers to something akin to a car tag.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis May 8, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    “BTW parents already have liability for their children’s actions.”

    No, it’s not that simple.

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  • Tbird May 8, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    I have to say I think is some merit in both sides of this discussion.
    Generating funds for bike specific infrastructure= good.
    Requiring both cyclists and motorists to be more educated about traffic and how to behave/interact on the roadways= good.
    Keeping Big Brother out of your life= good.
    Keeping cycling as a pursuit of freedom= good.

    What bothers me is the name calling and derision of another based on his proposal to help change something ( hopefully for the positive).
    I hope we can come together and use the recent tragedy as a catalyst. If we do need to ‘pony up’ some funds to get more specific, dedicated infrastructure, then perhaps we should look at some way of getting the bike community to provide some of those funds. After all the fact that we ‘don’t pay road taxes’ is argument numero uno from the the ‘cars first’ crowd. So maybe we should be taxed at some level.
    just my $.02

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  • Curt Dewees May 8, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    How about voluntery bicyclist licensing–except that in order to apply for a motor vehicle driver’s license, you first have to be a licensed bicyclist with a clean (bicycle) driving record? Thus, anyone who drives a car would already have a demonstrated knowledge of bicycling and bicylist safety!

    (Cue music from “The Man from La Mancha” … now.)

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  • BURR May 8, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    Tbird – it is a common misperception that cyclists don’t pay ‘their fair share’. This is patently false. Yes, PDOT gets gas tax money, but local roads also receive funding from other revenue streams including the general fund that all residents pay into regardless of whether they own and operate a motor vehicle or not. In addition, I dare say many if not most cyclists also own a motor vehicle and so contribute in that way as well. Finally, there are benefits to cycling resulting from (1) avoided road maintenance, (2) avoided traffic congestion, and (3) avoided parking demand, all caused by people cycling instead of driving. Of course, the JAMs never think of these things when they complain about funding and construction of cyclist-specific infrastructure or even having to share the road with cyclists (god forbid!).

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  • Matt Picio May 8, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Tbird – except all of us *do* pay taxes, unless we’re unemployed. Part of the general income tax goes into the federal highway budget, and that funds almost every road project. Most of us also own cars, and part of the fees and taxes from that also funds the budget. Also, chainsaws, lawn mowers, ATVs and snowmobiles burn gas (and pay a gas tax) even though they don’t use roads.

    And let’s not forget, the first paved roads were for bicycles. Cars came later.

    The vast amount of wear on the road system are caused by the million or so cars and the tens of thousands of trucks that drive these roads every day. We pay more than our fair share in taxes and fees from payroll and income taxes, property taxes, and the gas taxes from the engines we use that will never see a single road.

    That’s a tired old argument that the pro-motorist crowd digs out whenever they want to complain about not having a 6-lane superhighway.

    What’s next? Tax rowers? Skateboarders? Inline skates? Horses? Here’s a rule of thumb: If the motor is a human being, don’t tax it or license it. When a human powers a device, there is direct feedback – you know how much pressure you’re putting on the controls (pedals and handlebars). When you use another power source (steam, internal combustion, nuclear energy, zombies) and have some sort of “power assist”, a little bit of pressure from your hand or foot can have devastating results. The former doesn’t need an operator’s license, the latter certainly does.

    Otherwise we may as well all line up to pay annual license fees for our shoes, and have a pedestrian operator’s license.

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  • Tbird May 8, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    BURR and Matt P- Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that I think cyclists don’t contribute SOME amount to road projects. I’m sure we do. Sure it’s a tired old excuse, but it STILL gets a lot of mileage.
    What I was trying to get across is that IF we as cyclists want to grow our infrastructure and also increase the road safety awareness of non-cyclists, then perhaps the best way to do that is thru direct funding and education of some sort. I don’t think that is a bad thing.

    Like it or not there are lots of people against bikes being a viable transport option, and these are the one who will say we are taking “their” road money for bikes. If we fund it then who can complain?
    (I’d be happy to continue this discussion on the forum, so we don’t hijack this post)

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  • Matthew May 9, 2007 at 2:57 am

    The fees for car plates/drivers licensees barely pays for the cost of the plates, testing people, and staffing the DMVs/administering the related databases for police/HSA/etc… And while bicycle licenses probably wouldn’t have to qualify for REAL-ID or other really expensive requirements, I still doubt much of the money would actually make it bicycle programs, it would mainly get eaten up by overhead. (And, I like the current system, where I give the BTA $50, and they convince the city/county/metro/state to spend about $1k… 🙂

    Back to the issue of education: Why can’t the police do a sting on say, the Hawthorne Bridge or any other high traffic area, for a few hours after dark/before dawn, and give everyone without lights a ticket? It wouldn’t be any harder than Ladd’s, in fact it would probably be easier cause they could just slow down everyone and just verbally tell the ones without lights to stop, and not even have to “chase” them. They could even put up signs before hand, like they do with photo radar units. It would get the message across: people need lights.

    Wrong way riders will still have to be caught the old fashion way, by police out on patrol seeing people riding the wrong way and chasing them, (possiably down a one way street, so probably with full lights and sirens,) and giving them a ticket. I think the only reason they don’t do that now is that it isn’t that big of a priority for them, but if we complained enough, it would get attention. (That was how Ladd’s got the action it did: residents/businesses complaining.)

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  • Severt May 9, 2007 at 9:49 am

    What’s sad is that the only reason its dangerous to ride in the wrong direction in a bike lane is that automobile drivers are either too lazy or too ignorant to look both ways when pulling out of a driveway or when entering an intersection. They can’t follow that most basic of responsibilities yet it is the cyclist that needs education or licensing? I guess its easier to correct the victims than the perpetraters, eh?

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  • Brian E. May 9, 2007 at 9:55 am

    I propose that we require an operators license to operate a vehicle on public roadway, which include bike lanes. Wait, we do that already…..

    This would require adding a new class, HPV. No age requirement.

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  • Matt Picio May 9, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Brian E. – assuming you’re not being sarcastic, see my previous comment (#29, last 2 paragraphs)

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  • Jason May 9, 2007 at 11:57 am


    My impression is that nowhere in ORS 811 is it actually _illegal_ to ride the wrong way in a bike lane.

    Accordingly, I have been terribly conflicted seeing _both_ articles in the Oregonian in factual error claiming that the cyclist was operating illegally.

    I am conflicted because I would love for there to be a law against this, and I’m tempted to promulgate the impression that it _is_ illegal 🙂

    Caveat idiots.

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  • Matt Picio May 9, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Jason –

    811.295 Failure to drive on right
    (1) A person commits the offense of failure to drive on the right if the person is operating a vehicle on a roadway of sufficient width and the person does not drive on the right half of the roadway.

    814.400 Application of vehicle laws to bicycles.
    (1) Every person riding a bicycle upon a public way is subject to the provisions applicable to and has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle concerning operating on highways, vehicle equipment and abandoned vehicles

    Ergo, he was operating illegally.

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  • Matt Picio May 9, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Hmm.. on reflection, 814.400 refers only to highways, not roadways. Regardless, I believe 811.295 still applies. As always with the law, consult a lawyer, et. al. Contents may settle during shipping.

    The bike lane is supposedly a traffic lane and part of the roadway, but I don’t know where that is specifically defined – do any of the attorneys who frequent this site know where that’s defined?

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis May 9, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    Matt, I charge $180/hour for legal research. Just kidding. I’m not sure, but you can find it (or something similar) by poking around in the general vicinity of 814.

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  • peejay May 9, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Severt (#42):

    I don’t understand how you might come to the impression that the only reason not to ride to wrong way is because of cars not looking. Going the wrong way is wrong no matter how you slice it. In fact, most of my interactions with wrong-way riders has been on the Hawthorne Bridge, where cars are not a factor. They disrupt other cyclists, pedestrians, everybody. And if there were fewer cars on the roads – and more bikes – wrong-way riding would be even more disruptive.

    There is no inherent advantage to operating vehicles on the right or left side of the road (that’s why the practice is split about 50/50 across the world), but once one direction is decided for a given country, EVERYONE needs to follow it, including cyclists. How can you possibly think otherwise?

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  • Gene May 9, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    For an interesting discussion and exploration into the rules of the road for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic, check out the essay “The Science and Politics of Bicycle Driving” at bicycledriving

    It is really well prepared and provides an instructive historical perspective.

    I am saddened by this person’s death and my sympathy goes out to his family.

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  • Severt May 9, 2007 at 5:01 pm


    >I don’t understand how you might come to the impression that the only reason not to ride to wrong way is because of cars not looking.

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  • SKiDmark May 9, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    So, what you are saying Matt, is that he deserved to die for riding the wrong way in a bike lane, and that the driver should have just drove off like they hit a squirrel?

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  • Hawthorne May 9, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Goodness. How quickly the puritanical American mindset is put into action.

    Is education good? Yes. Would some bicycle education be good? Yes. Is that the problem? No.

    The problem is that our cities are designed around cars and the needs of drivers. As a cycling community we should never lose focus on this root issue and work to change it. Safety will come by designing our cities for people, not designing our cyclists and pedestrians to withstand cars.

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  • peejay May 10, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Look, people, can we agree on some things?

    1. Don’t ride the wrong way. Don’t do it now with cars everywhere, and don’t do it in the future, with bikes everywhere.

    2. If you’re driving a car, have some understanding of what it can do. Take care not just for others who are obeying the law, but also for those who may not be. That is: look both ways. Always.

    3. If you are involved in a crash, regardless of whose fault it is, stick around. Help out. Take responsibility, if you have any.

    4. Let’s stop building roads that give overwhelming preferential treatment to the operators of large, destructive vehicles.

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  • Jane July 2, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    I found your site in my search for rules of the road for bicycle use in the City of Portland and contingent areas.

    My issue is: twice in as many days having to dodge bikes driving on the sidewalk around SW Jefferson Street in downtown Portland.

    On 6-28-2007 a young lady who was riding on the sidewalk – SW Columbia in front of the Marriott – clipped me as I was coming to the sidewalk intersecting along lst and Columbia. She was riding an \”upright\” model and was not wearing a helmet. There was no traffic on either street so averting dangerous traffic did not seem to be an issue. She seemed oblivious to my right to walk on the sidewalk and didn\’t stop or slow down after clipping me.

    The second rider today (7-2-07) was riding South on 1st between SW Jefferson and Columbia. He did have a helmet, but was riding on a sidewalk full of foot traffic. Granted, there was vehicle traffic in the street. However, another bike user following a block behind guy riding the bike on the sidewalk was walking his bike.

    I am grateful to the many people who are using alternative transportation (as opposed to cars/trucks). I salute everyone who is trying to find solutions to our global economic and ecological problems through promoting human power. I am especially thankful for the opportunity to ask those of you with influence in the biking community to pass on the word to learn the rules of the road.

    Thanks to the above contributor, Gene, who recommended the essay on rules of the road.

    Be safe – and a sincere thanks again.

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