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Meet ‘Mr. Smooth’, PDOT’s new bike box spokesman

Posted by on March 26th, 2008 at 7:21 pm

I got an early look at PDOT’s new educational video — On the Move with Mr. Smooth — which is slated to debut at tomorrow’s bike box press event.

The 4 1/2 minute video (which sources say cost the City $2,500) is targeted at motor vehicles drivers and it introduces them to such memorable slogans as, “Stop at the line and the view will be fine,” and, “If you’re seeing green, survey the scene.”

I expect to hear more about how they’ll use this in their educational outreach strategy at the event tomorrow.

Give it a view and let us know what you think.

[Note: If you’re new to bike boxes, check out my new and improved Bike Box Special Coverage Page.]

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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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Tim Roth March 26, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Definitely cheesy, but it does the trick. The bike box flurry seems well-timed, as there have been many more attempts on my life in the saddle recently. Hooray for sharing the road!

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  • Carl March 26, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    \”Stop at the line, the view will be fine?!!\”

    What\’s next?
    That slogan on this billboard?

    Not sure how that line got past the censors. It certainly made Greg squirm (great performance!)…

    This city never ceases to amaze me.

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  • Austin Ramsland March 26, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    I though that the actor playing the driver, while conveying a subtle intensity and strong emotional power, seemed a little out of place behind the wheel of a car; reveling the hint of a deeper understanding of the complexity of bike/car interactions.

    This will certainly go down as an important work in the genre of the \”bike drama\”, and I look forward to seeing this actor in future films. He is clearly a rising star just waiting to be discovered.

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  • Matt Picio March 26, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Campy, but fun. Greg, awesome performance! Really, it\’s ok for these to be campy – if people are talking about how campy the short is, then they\’re talking about the short – maybe it\’ll even get someone to watch it that wouldn\’t have otherwise.

    In any case, these are WAAAAAAY better than the PSAs I remember in the 70s.

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  • dat March 26, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    The video is very painful to watch…

    It does not have any flow with the bike box campaign…


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  • Donald March 26, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    I really hope this video sees little play.

    I agree with an above poster, it was very painful to watch.

    Camp is one thing. Amateurism is another.

    I\’ve driven over and crossed by bike the current bike box and it doesn\’t make sense to me as a driver or a rider. I think others have noted that the timing of lights and the usual bike traffic flow there lead to rare situatiions where there is bunch up there.

    (Side note: Ban the right on red totally. Fine with me. That\’s how I grew up in Nebraska. Make sure you delete the left on red on a one-way, too. Both are dinosaur allowances if you ask me)

    I used to ride that intersection daily, 5 years ago or so, and it rarely presented me with a problem with traffic as I was up to speed with them at that point.

    Now I ride other intersections in N/NE daily and, really, I find them much more challenging. Let\’s face it. It\’s a deathrace some days. I feel lucky I survive my commute 3 days out of 5.

    So, when I see this nonsensical bit of film trying to explain a small part of the juggernaut I weave nearly daily, I just cringe.

    I feel it downplays the dangers I face and ups the ante in the car/bike conflict.

    Cute is fun. The roads I ride to and from work five days a week are not cute. And bilge like this threatens to make it less fun, in my opinion.

    I fault this production both at the artistic and functional level. I don\’t doubt the genuine intent of all the talented folks obviously involved.

    Good on ya.

    But it\’s effort lost on me.

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  • Curtis March 27, 2008 at 3:02 am

    Enjoyed the video. Great to see a familiar face (Greg) on it. I think it will be an effective way to teach how to use the new (to Portland) traffic safety feature.

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  • scoot March 27, 2008 at 7:53 am

    The video explained the bike box well enough, however goofy it was, but the bike box didn\’t have anything to do with what the driver was doing when he nearly hit the bike: Turning without checking over his shoulder for bikes.

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  • Joe March 27, 2008 at 7:55 am

    nice and smooth. i want to do a bike box ride, hehe

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  • bahueh March 27, 2008 at 9:11 am

    seriously…this is the best they can do?

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  • Spencer March 27, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Cost benefit analysis!

    How much did the production of this cost?
    How many people will see it?
    How many of those people will already know how to use a bike box?

    When Sam is asking for a multiple hundred million bond measure, just remember some of things that will be paid for. To prempt the \”those money\’s are tagged for media out reach\” argument, it is still money that has to come from somewhere and can be better spent on substantive infrastructure or maintenance.

    Thanks for your attension.

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  • Grimm March 27, 2008 at 9:45 am

    I never thought bike boxes and exlax could have the same slogan. 😉

    Good to see some educational material is really getting out there for the boxes.

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  • tonyt March 27, 2008 at 9:46 am

    The thing that I don\’t like about this video is that it conflates two separate issues and suggests that the bike box will fix something it can\’t.

    In the video, the guy\’s driving along and says he\’s going to turn right and supposedly almost hits a cyclist all while moving. The bike boxes have no impact whatsoever with this sort of encounter.

    As far as I can tell, the bike boxes only really address two things, bikes needing to get left in the lane at a red light so they can take a left turn, and keeping cars behind bikes at a red light so the bikes don\’t get blind-sided by a right turning car.

    A side benefit though is that all of these billboards and bike boxes will reinforce the notion that bikes are legitimate users of the road.

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  • steve March 27, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    So long as not a cent of taxpayer money was spent on this, I think it is swell.

    If we spent money on it, I would prefer that next time they pay some high schoolers to do it. There is no way it could be worse and at least we would not be pissing more money away to whichever public fund leaches produced this crap.

    To be clear, I am not against spending tax money for outreach, education and the like. I just think this video is amateurish and sort of pointless.

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  • vanessa March 27, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    this video is way better


    it is way better that the city of Portland is putting bike boxes in, while in Toronto the activists have to take matters into their own hands.

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  • Matt Giraud March 27, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Thanks for all the comments on the video (both pro and con), which I made with the help of PDOT.

    As Jonathan mentions, the paradoxically thing about the bike box video is that it isn\’t actually targeted at bicyclists. The folks at PDOT wisely (I think) figured that bicyclists would pretty much instantly get how they\’re supposed to use the bike box, so the idea was to focus most of the messaging in the vid at motorists.

    So my challenge was, with practically no budget, very little time, and no actual bike boxes to film (at that point), how to talk to motorists about why bike boxes aren\’t just another restraint on their god-given right to rocket around wherever they want. And in a way they\’d actually listen to.

    To me, that meant not grinding into the minutae – in this quick-cut world, there\’s only so much info people are willing to absorb. So finding a balance between getting the core info across, but not so much eyes start to glaze over, was key. For example, we figured that if all they got was \”no right turn on red,\” we\’d have succeeded.

    But to me, it also meant not lecturing, and certainly not scolding — would you sit through that? Sure, cars can be one-ton weapons when wielded by the clueless, but that\’s precisely why we need to talk to them in a way that doesn\’t instantly raise their hackles — shutting out the important info in the process, if not the reasons why all this is ultimately in their interest, if not at motorists, then as human beings.

    Anyway, that\’s why the vid comes in such a cheezy tongue-in-cheek wrapper, and why it\’s less about bikes and more about cars. It\’s the \”spoonful of sugar\” theory, for what it\’s worth.

    Will it work? I really have no idea, but here\’s hoping: there\’s so much info out there, any outreach like this is a Hail Mary. Everything will depend on how much it\’s passed around.

    So if you\’re a biker and you liked it, email it to your car drivin\’ friends. And if you thought it was \”amateurish\” — well, hold your nose and still pass it on!

    And thanks for giving it a view!

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  • David March 27, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    If you feel lucky to survive the bike commute 3 days out of 5 (as Donald posted above), why not ride on secondary streets and avoid primary streets? It would be better for everyone.

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  • Donald March 27, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    @ Matt #16: Thanks for chiming in. I shouldn\’t post when I\’m grumpy. I appreciate your work and my opinions are merely my own and even I find it hard to put much stock in them at times. Again, thanks for the effort to the cause.

    @ David #18: Ugh. Most of my close calls are on secondary streets. \”Better for everyone…\” Please.

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  • David March 27, 2008 at 1:45 pm


    Maybe it\’s you.

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  • Matthew March 27, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Yes, it is cheesy as hell, but I liked it.

    I don\’t know how many people are going to watch it in general, it is 4 minutes, way too long for a commercial, so that pretty much leaves YouTube users and people that surf the city of Portland\’s website…

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  • Jessica Roberts March 27, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Matthew #21, it was always designed for online distribution only. PDOT didn\’t plan for it to be a TV spot (and if they had, it would have affected the format from the beginning).

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  • BURR March 27, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    A side benefit though is that all of these billboards and bike boxes will reinforce the notion that bikes are legitimate users of the road.

    I disagree; three is some real danger that the bike boxes and all the PR will reinforce the notion that bikes only belong on the road if they are segregated into separate facilities.

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  • Clarence March 27, 2008 at 6:10 pm


    Although I would be the first to agree it is long, I think it is a pretty nice effort. I was entertained. Certainly goes into more explanation than my silly, with-little-thought one-hour/one night edit production on Streetfilms.

    And if Matt hadn\’t spelled it out before hand, I could have predicted the reason the approach was taken was because of the constraints of having no actual bike boxes to work with. I thought that solution was creative enough, draw your own out in a parking lot.

    Yes, I think the real challenge is if it is directed towards motorists, how do you get them to watch?

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  • Scott Mizée March 27, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    Clarence. The consensus in my house is that we still like to… BIKE BOX!

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  • Travis March 27, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    $2,500.00 dollars? wow.

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  • Kronda March 27, 2008 at 10:28 pm

    Here\’s the real \”Riding with Mr Smooth\” Amazing!

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  • Clarence March 28, 2008 at 7:42 am


    Glad people are still duking it out in the Bike Box. I have actually had people yell \”Bike Box!\” to me on the street in NYC. Not bad for a catch phrase I created on the spot.

    Here\’s ours in case people haven\’t seen:

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  • Anonymous March 28, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Matt, well done! Greg was perfect! \”I think we need a box for him!\” Nice!

    The only possible improvement would be a few more glinting teeth sparkles.

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  • marc March 29, 2008 at 10:15 am

    i wonder if he police will be out in force to ticket…i mean educate drivers on the new bike box system?

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  • PoPo March 29, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Yes, they are and will be. See previous bikeportland articles…

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  • Matt Giraud March 29, 2008 at 11:48 am

    I talked to two officers who attended the launch event, and they confirmed what I\’d been hearing – that the police have indeed been watching that intersection. But they also said that only 30% or so of the tickets they\’d written had to do with bike box abuse – in other words, and in their opinion, drivers seem to be getting it pretty quickly.

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  • Chzluvr March 29, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    I\’m not from Wisconsin, but I sure do love me some cheese! I think the volunteer actors did an awesome job! Entertaining and informative.

    Kronda (#27) — holy smokes, thank you for blessing us with that amazing Unicycle clip. I\’ll be dreaming sweetly tonight! Yowza!

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