Oregonian says cyclists are “treated like roadkill” in Oregon

Posted by on June 14th, 2007 at 9:42 am

A forceful editorial in today’s Oregonian gives a much needed push to the Vulnerable Roadway Users bill (H.B. 3314), which is (hopefully) just days from a final Senate vote.

The article is bluntly titled, “Bad drivers, dead bicyclists,” and it opens with this line:

“Let’s save for another time the argument about reckless bicyclists, the crazies who blow through stop signs, ride the wrong way and act like they own the road. Timothy O’Donnell wasn’t one of those cyclists.”


The O — whose relationship with bikes have ebbed and flowed through the years — uses the recent fatality of Timothy O’Donnell to illustrate the need to pass the bill.

The editorial goes on to say,

“This case has nothing to do with cycling behavior. It has everything to do with how Oregon law treats cyclists like roadkill, even when they are run over by careless motorists.”

The paper urges its readers to support H.B. 3314 (which they call “a start”) and closes the article with,

“Oregon is struggling to safely accommodate a growing number of cyclists. Accidents happen, and often cyclists are to blame. But when a cyclist is killed by a careless driver, this state must respond with more than traffic ticket.”

Browse my archives for extensive coverage of the Vulnerable Roadway Users bill and all the legislative action this session.

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Qwendolyn
Guest

Except for that first paragraph, it was a decent op-ed

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

Finally! I get so tired of seeing op-eds about how the state should do more for drivers. What about the rest of us who use the roads?

It\’s about time the O got with the times: they ran a full-page ad the other day in the Metro section about transportation and increasing livability in Oregon. It\’s about time they recognized that not everyone drives a car all the time, and that those who don\’t drive still use the road and are more vulnerable than vehicle drivers.

Cyclists and peds need more legal protection from those crazies who drive!

BikingViking
Guest
BikingViking

Great to have support from the O for a change. Don\’t know how influential it is anymore, considering how many of its recommendations do not come to pass (changing from the commission form of government, Francesconi (sp?), etc.)

ME
Guest
ME

Thank the big travel oriented corps. for that. It\’s tough, but not impossible, to raise revenue through advertising and keep all the hands that feed them happy. The car, tourism, airline people…plus many more.. can put a kabash on any stance the O takes that they don\’t like. Hopefully we\’ll (bike commuters/riders) get more support from the O in the future, but understand if we don\’t.

Prettybikelover
Guest
Prettybikelover

How can we help support House Bill 3314? Who has the info?

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

Great editorial! Nice to have the O\’s support.

That first paragraph validates something I\’ve been thinking about: that there is a consequence to grossly illegal moves (i.e. blowing through stop signs when there are people there to see you do it) that we haven\’t thought about. Does it hurt us politically and socially? When there\’s a bad crash, are people more likely to assume that the bicyclist must have done something wrong if they\’ve seen bicyclists run lots of stop signs? Do we lose a little bit of sympathy each time we flout a law? Maybe so.

A good reason to be not just safe but also careful about appearances when we\’re out there biking around.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

Find your Senator here – http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/ .. call and/or email them to let them know your thoughts about the bill.

I hope to get some advance word of when this bill is going to hit the Senate Floor. When I find out I will try and post something to help make a final push. Let me know if you have any other specific questions…

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

Michelle said;
\”Does it hurt us politically and socially? When there’s a bad crash, are people more likely to assume that the bicyclist must have done something wrong if they’ve seen bicyclists run lots of stop signs? Do we lose a little bit of sympathy each time we flout a law? Maybe so.\”

Maybe? no, definitely. in my opinion, the perception of scofflaw cyclists is one of THE major barriers our movement faces. And the saddest thing is that it\’s absolutely true. Way too many cyclists selfishly brake laws all day long, just fueling the fire of motorists (and cops).

bArbaroo
Guest
bArbaroo

Law breaker, law abider – I don\’t care; cyclists are HUMANS! All life is valuable and judgement of political, social, or religious behavior/persuasion should not be a consideration for respecting that life. Frankly, I struggle to understand the dehuminization of cyclists. What is it that happens in a motorists mind that causes them to stop seeing others as humans- as someone\’s friend, someone\’s spouse, someone\’s child, someone\’s parent? In my view, rare circumstances exist (well, maybe self defense) that justify causing harm to another person. Nice of the Oregonian to take a stand and I read the first paragraph as an awkward way of telling readers that lives ARE more important than frustrations caused by a bad behavior.

Greg Raisman
Guest
Greg Raisman

I know that there have been times the Oregonian has left me scratching my head. However, I don\’t feel like it\’s fair to paint them as generally anti-bike. The best example that comes to mind is the staff editorial discussed in this post from 2005:

http://bikeportland.org/2005/10/17/the-oregonian-finally-likes-bikes/

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

Law breaker, law abider – I don\’t care; cyclists are HUMANS!

That\’s a completely rational perspective. Unfortunately there are a lot of decidedly irrational folks out there who are inclined to fixate upon negative examples of particular groups of human beings and use that as their basis for most dealings with those groups.

The toughest part is that these irrational folks are *also* human beings and we can\’t just dismiss them as a couple of mis-guided turd eaters. The burden then becomes ours to set a good example and help curb that negative image so there\’s less and less likelihood of that image coming across and seeming prevalent.

Note that this *doesn\’t* amount to kissing the butt of every motorist out on the road, but instead riding in a predictable manner and following the laws while they exist. This also doesn\’t mean that we have to say they\’re *good* laws, just demonstrate that we know we\’re subject to them until we get them changed into or replaced by sensible, useful laws. 🙂

It\’s not a lost cause. Big O running this piece is a pretty clear indication of that fact.

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

Here here, Barbaroo and NIK.

bicycledave
Guest

A couple of posts called this an Op-ed. This was actually on the editorial page and there is a significant difference.

The op-ed page is for guest editorials. An editor tries to get a good mix of opinions from outside the paper for the op-ed page.

The editorials on the editorial page are written by the editorial staff and reflect the official position of the editorial board.

This is huge to get this support from the Oregonian.

Logan 5
Guest
Logan 5

Way too many cyclists selfishly brake laws all day long

Was that (mis)spelling on purpose?

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

no it wasn\’t on purpose… just a mistake. ;-).

Phil Hanson (a.k.a. Pedalphile)
Guest

The Oregonian\’s Thursday editorial Bad drivers, dead bicyclists, nailed it as surely as Jennifer Knight nailed Timothy O\’Donnell. I would only add to the editor\’s statement about \”how Oregon law treats cyclists like roadkill\” that all too often cyclists are roadkill. It shouldn\’t be this way, and it doesn\’t have to be this way, but changing the status quo requires significant changes in the attitudes of some motorists and, indeed, some bicyclists.

The thing that really jacked my jaws was the ignorant comments, made by John Phillips, of Newberg, in The Oregonian\’s on Wednesday. In it, he suggests that biking on highways is almost always about recreation, not transportation. Excuse me? My other car is also a bike.

For me, a bike is not a luxury, and riding it is not my chosen sport. It\’s merely a way for me to get from here to there in the most economical and environmentally sustainable manner possible.

And, no, I won\’t be confined to biking only inside of urban growth boundaries; I\’ll ride whatever routes take me to my intended destination. Of course, I prefer dedicated bike lanes, and to that end I\’d support a $1 per gallon gas tax, effective immediately.

But until dedicated bike trails are built, motorists and bicyclists should reconcile themselves to sharing the roads, and doing so safely and responsibly

Phil Hanson (a.k.a. Pedalphile)
Guest

Dang it! The second paragraph of my post, above, should read:

The thing that really jacked my jaws was the ignorant comments, made by John Phillips, of Newberg, in The Oregonian\’s Letters to the Editor on Wednesday. In it, he suggests that biking on highways is almost always about recreation, not transportation. Excuse me? My other car is also a bike.

Martha S.
Guest
Martha S.

Senator contacted. Here\’s hoping this thing passes….

mommy
Guest
mommy

\”there is a consequence to grossly illegal moves (i.e. blowing through stop signs when there are people there to see you do it) that we haven\’t thought about. Does it hurt us politically and socially? When there\’s a bad crash, are people more likely to assume that the bicyclist must have done something wrong if they\’ve seen bicyclists run lots of stop signs? Do we lose a little bit of sympathy each time we flout a law?\”

Yes. If cyclists want to be taken seriously as vehicles on the road, they must take seriously the laws of vehicles on the road. Cars do not, even when it feels stupid to wait, blow stop signs or red lights and we all would feel the one who did deserved the ticket. If bikes want equal treatment, it must be the same for bikes.

Mark C
Guest
Mark C

I can\’t count the number of times I have been slowing as I approach a stop sign only to have another cyclist blow right past me and through the intersection. It really burns me up every time I witness this, as this type of behavior just justifies to motorists that they can dismiss us as having equal right to the road.

Mark C
Guest
Mark C

Here\’s the kind of thing we\’re up against. I came across the following snip on the Portland forum at oregonlive.com:

5833.2. AHHH BIKERS!
by Agreed, 6/12/07 10:30 ET
Re: Naked Bike Ride by HybridsRule, 6/12/07
The Innocent and rather dumb Antelope of the Portland Savannah! Fresh meat for anything bigger than them! It is amusing to listen to meat squeal about road rights!

I hope never to cross paths with this guy as he barrels down the road in his jacked-up 4×4 with the \”Rush is Right\” bumper sticker. Hopefully, most motorists are not as outright hostile towards cyclists as this guy, but I think a good percentage of them are, at best, indifferent.

BTW, has anyone else ever browsed the Portland forum at oregonlive.com? The posts are pretty disturbing, even if a lot of them are lame attempts at humor.

Edward
Guest
Edward

Amen, Mark C. When that happens to me, and I happen to meet up with the cyclist down the road, I let them know how I feel: That their behavior doesn\’t make the rest of us any safer. I\’ve gotten a mix of reactions, from very brash \’Keep your opinions to yourself,\’ to people that seem to listen and take it in.

ME
Guest
ME

What\’s the deal… Why do 50% (say) of bicyclists feel that the streets are theirs and the stop signs are for motor vehicles? I wonder what other rules of society they ignore…Cutting in line, putting cans and bottles in the trash, unable to say please and thank you, and tipping in change. Portland is being infiltrated by scofflaw outsiders.

Drew
Guest
Drew

It\’s a good excercise to spend some time at an intersection that has stop signs. Watch how many cars actually do STOP when there is no cross traffic. Most all of them cruise thru the stop sign at bicycle speed. Stop-sign blowing bicycle riders are usually drivers too. Why do we catagorize people by their mode of transport? If you have ever rolled thru a stop sign in your car, why would you criticize a bicycle rider who does it?

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

Portland is being infiltrated by scofflaw outsiders.

Uh…can I get a grizzled old man on the porch with a shotgun in tow shrieking \”Go back to Californie!\”?

Seriously, as far as real-live traffic scofflaws go, I\’d just chalk it up to people who don\’t care, people who aren\’t aware, and those self-proclaimed rebels who think that blowing stops is a political act but won\’t take ten minutes to write a letter to their legislators as they believe in \”working outside the system\” or however they\’re putting it this week. Which is possibly the one reason why I\’m glad motorists *aren\’t* the minority out there – could you imagine the sharp increase of fatalities with that type of behavior from those behind the wheel of a car? Suddenly it\’s not just folks on bikes and defensless peds, it\’s whole families and big chunks of congregations getting mowed down (at certain intersections to remain nameless). ;P

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

Okay, heavy handed sarcasm aside: (w)rite, report, and above all else, ride.

Prettybikelover
Guest
Prettybikelover

I hope folks have also been writing in to the Oregonian to thank them for their positive bikey coverage in the editorial. Let them know who their readership base is, and hopefully they\’ll cater increasingly to them!

wsbob
Guest

Re; Phil Hanson, aka the pedalphile\’s reference (post 18)to the John Phillips, of Newberg, comment in The Oregonian\’s Letters to the Editor on Wednesday. The newbergian\’s comment was a classicly self-indulgent denunciation of cyclying that would seem to deliberately ignore any beneficial impact cycling has on transportation issues, solely for the purpose of reserving streets and roads to motor vehicle use only.

I don\’t have a the letter, but as I recall, Phillips, in his letter, literally equated cycling on streets and roads as \”playing\” on streets and roads, not being thoughtful enough to mention the many, many motor vehicle operators on the road for no other reason than to have fun driving around. And, if we\’re going to be petty, between the two, motor vehicles and bicycles, which one likely represents the greater danger to everyone?

On the part of motor vehicle operators, contempt for and impatience with cylclists sharing the road may truly be widespread. MVO\’s are used to driving largely unrestricted by slower moving vehicles. Also, their faster, heavier vehicles do pose a physical danger that at least some MVO\’s are aware of and concerned about. This represents potential stress that manifests itself in a variety ways.

I don\’t like dead stopping at stop signs while on the bike, but especially when there are cars and other people around, it\’s the best policy for a lot of reasons. For one, MVO\’s really need to know a cyclist is stopping before they get their own much heavier vehicles rolling, or that an intersection will be clear while a vehicle with right of way gets through it.

As others have essentially said, even when other MV\’s are not at an intersection a cyclist comes to, when a cyclist blow through a stop sign or light, it allows for a really negative psychological impression on people nearby that see this.

erik the Viking
Guest
erik the Viking

Sure, on a bicycle I regularly blow stop signs, and generally take the law as mere guidelines. The difference is that on a bike you can merely mess up an SUV\’s paint job, and maybe cause the driver to drop a phone call or a venti mocha… Generally, we cyclists pay more attention, and have much more to lose. Since our bikes are not 6500lbs, travelling upwards of 100mph, we cannot be as lethal, so the silly tit-for-tat arguement that \”cyclists are law-breakers, so…\” ought not apply…

The law says bikes are vehicles too, and can, for example, use any lane they want! Tell that to your average motorist… Strange double standards from both camps.

Till we all learn to get along, I will cotinue to ride like a militant, with more regard for my life than the law, and keep my u-lock handy!

We are traffic too!

mommy
Guest
mommy

\”It\’s a good excercise to spend some time at an intersection that has stop signs. Watch how many cars actually do STOP when there is no cross traffic. Most all of them cruise thru the stop sign at bicycle speed. Stop-sign blowing bicycle riders are usually drivers too. Why do we catagorize people by their mode of transport? If you have ever rolled thru a stop sign in your car, why would you criticize a bicycle rider who does it?\”

Hmmm… is this really true? Am I the only goody two-shoes that stops? I have a hard time believing this. I might not stop for the full 3 seconds, but I definitely reach zero momentum before pressing on the gas again. Bicyclists sometimes don\’t even slow down.

Brian Ratliff
Guest
Brian Ratliff

\”That\’s a completely rational perspective. Unfortunately there are a lot of decidedly irrational folks out there who are inclined to fixate upon negative examples of particular groups of human beings and use that as their basis for most dealings with those groups.\”

The \”scofflaw cyclist\” rant is a pure rationalization for those people who know that it is not right to treat another person as road kill, yet are looking for an excuse to do just that.

You cannot fight a rationalization by trying to make the object of the rationalization go away; people looking to rationalize treating a human being as road kill will just look to another rationalization. There are an infinite number for them to choose from.

No, the way to fight the treatment of cyclists as subhuman is to make _all_ rationalizations irrelevent. Quite focusing on the excuses people come up with and take a hard line on their _actions_!

Nothing matters except their actions; trying to take away a single rationalization is just to take the argument off on a tangent, which is exactly what the rationalizers want. _Anything_ which takes the focus off their actions will do. It doesn\’t matter the content of the response. It is the response itself they are after; anything to take focus off their own actions, which they dreadfully don\’t want to talk about.

VR
Guest
VR

The law says bikes are vehicles too, and can, for example, use any lane they want!

Not true.

In Oregon a single rider must ride as far as is safely possible to the right side of the road unless they are avoiding hazards such as parked cars.

Single riders may also ride as far as safely possible to the left on one way streets.

If multiple riders want to take up a lane they may do so, only if they do not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic.

ORS 814.430

814.430 Improper use of lanes; exceptions; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of improper use of lanes by a bicycle if the person is operating a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic using the roadway at that time and place under the existing conditions and the person does not ride as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway.

(2) A person is not in violation of the offense under this section if the person is not operating a bicycle as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway under any of the following circumstances:

(a) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle that is proceeding in the same direction.

(b) When preparing to execute a left turn.

(c) When reasonably necessary to avoid hazardous conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or other conditions that make continued operation along the right curb or edge unsafe or to avoid unsafe operation in a lane on the roadway that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side. Nothing in this paragraph excuses the operator of a bicycle from the requirements under ORS 811.425 or from the penalties for failure to comply with those requirements.

(d) When operating within a city as near as practicable to the left curb or edge of a roadway that is designated to allow traffic to move in only one direction along the roadway. A bicycle that is operated under this paragraph is subject to the same requirements and exceptions when operating along the left curb or edge as are applicable when a bicycle is operating along the right curb or edge of the roadway.

(e) When operating a bicycle alongside not more than one other bicycle as long as the bicycles are both being operated within a single lane and in a manner that does not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

(f) When operating on a bicycle lane or bicycle path.

(3) The offense described in this section, improper use of lanes by a bicycle, is a Class D traffic violation. [1983 c.338 §701; 1985 c.16 §339]

Tasha
Guest
Tasha

There is a HUGE difference between \”rolling\” through the stop signs (which I do in both my bike and my car), and just not slowing at all and literally staying at the same speed all the way through the (which another cyclist did this morning as my husband and I biked down Skidmore – we almost ran into her and I had to say \”Oh, I\’m sorry, I think you are the one who had the stop sign, which just received a dirty look – cyclists being mean to other cyclists?). If I fully stopped on my bike coming home on Skidmore street at every single stop sign (which is every other street), it would take me an hour or more to get home. I think the key is being AWARE of your surroundings, slowing and if there are no cars, bikes, pedestrians, etc. slowly moving through the stop sign does no harm… It\’s that sense of \”it\’s my right to do whatever the hell I want\” that is wrong, whether a cyclist, pedestrian(ever see one walk aimlessly onto MLK, with a death wish?), or motorist. Isn\’t this just common sense? How can you say you share the road if as a cyclist you aren\’t aware of other traffic, no matter what that traffic is? I guess because I do it all- public transport, bike, drive, walk, etc., I can see all sides and feel empathy for all traffic. I\’m very aware of cyclists when I drive and very aware of cars when I bike and aware of everything when I walk! It\’s just respectful to be AWARE. And to be safe… Just my two cents (with lots of parentheses)….

mommy
Guest
mommy

Tasha, I had a similar experience the other day with a biker who was clearly in the wrong giving me a dirty look. My kids were playing on the empty sidewalk outside an ice cream store. A cyclist crossed the street and decided to ride onto the sidewalk. I quickly got my kids out of the way and apologized while he gave me a dirty look and rode off down the sidewalk. The second he was gone I realized that my kids had teh right to be on the sidewalk and he didn\’t! And what was I doing apologizing to him???

And the same thing happened on a different street going for a walk with a dog and a stroller and a couple of kids. A cyclist came up on the sidewalk and had to wait while we hurried to move our entourage to the side so he could get by. He looked very annoyed, but there was a BIKE LANE right next to the sidewalk!!! The friend I was with made the comment that \”the bike lane is not just a suggestion.\”

I think there is some weird sort of the victim becoming the bully thing going on. Cyclists are treated like roadkill by drivers, so they turn around and make the sidewalks dangerous for pedestrians. Nice.

SKiDmark
Guest
SKiDmark

You can take a lane all by yourself in this circumstance, which exists on any sidestreet in Portland that has on-street parking:

\”to avoid unsafe operation in a lane on the roadway that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side.\”

Streets like this usually have a stop sign every two blocks, where you can stop and allow the cars to overtake you if need be.

Alan
Guest
Alan

I don\’t know about your experiences, but I think car drivers and peds have become much more bike-friendly over the last four years. I used to get yelled at monthly by drivers – more often than not, I couldn\’t figure out why, but it scared the crap out of me. That hasn\’t happened in a lonnng time. As for peds, now they *apologize* to me and jump out of my way even when I\’m on the sidewalk. I know, it\’s crazy.

I\’m not saying its a bike paradise out there. A lot needs to be done to better protect peds and cyclists. But the atmosphere on our roads is just so much better than it used to be. And you don\’t have to have an elephant\’s memory to see the difference.

Ken
Guest
Ken

eric (#29), the problem with your philosophy is that it is very selfish and egocentric. Me, me me. I, I, I. As long as you ride that way, it makes drivers think that they have a right to make my life more difficult because I get lumped in with you as a \”cyclist\”.

I would also point out that while it is true, you have more to lose in a collision, it is not just \”scratched paint\” that will be damaged if you slam into someone because you are breaking the traffic laws. Accidents usually leave people with psychological trauma in proportion to how bad the accident was. Not how bad the damage to their vehicle was but how bad the accident was. If a cyclist were to ever crash into me, I don\’t care if I was completely in the right, it is going to have an effect on me in a negative way.

Lastly, I\’ve read several posts (not on this thread) by cyclists who say \”I don\’t have to slow down, I can hear traffic coming from a mile away.\” I have a hybrid car and when I am going slow the engine turns off and I run off a battery. The car is totally silent except for tire noise which is minimal. No less than a half dozen times in the two years that I\’ve had the car have I had people step right off the curb (in front of banks, grocery stores, etc.) right in front of me, not looking. They always say the same thing \”Ohhhh, sorry, I didn\’t hear your car\”. Don\’t ask me why they are listening instead of looking while they are talking on the phone, in a conversation with someone else, or just plain not paying attention. So please, for everyone, be aware you can\’t always hear these new cars from a mile away, or sometimes even yards away (in my case even feet away).

I\’m happy to see most people posting here are like I am and want to see cyclists get the respect we deserve as an equal road user. The laws, as annoying as they often are, are there for a reason. I would guess that many cyclists who like to ride by \”their own laws\” would not be happy if drivers did the same thing.

Natron Bomb
Guest
Natron Bomb

I live near the Zoo and can tell you my neighbors and other non-biking friends associate all cyclist with the Zoo bombers (running stop signs ect.)that infest the other wise quite area. I wonder how can we seperate law abiding cyclist from this catagory and eliminate the hate.