Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Oregonian ‘green’ reporter “too scared to saddle up”

Posted by on May 23rd, 2008 at 2:01 pm

“Here in the thick, nervous mainstream, some of us may even be convinced that biking to work would be healthier, cheaper and better for the environment than the typical car commute. We just don’t do it.”
–Shelby Wood in the Oregonian

It’s a problem some of you reading this might be facing right now.

You want to be “green”, reduce your carbon footprint, get in shape, avoid gridlock, and join the exciting, sociable, sustainable, two-wheeled, human-powered transportation revolution.

You know going by bike is a great way to get around the city. Heck, these days it seems like everyone’s doing it. Yet you still leave the bike at home.

The reason? Fear.

Shelby Wood, a reporter with the Oregonian who covers the green beat and writes the PDXGreen blog, can relate. She published an article today that lays out the top three reasons she doesn’t ride to work:

    1. Fear of being killed or maimed by a car or truck.
    2. Fear of being killed or maimed by something I do that causes me to slam into a car or truck.
    3. Fear of arriving at work, or back home after work, stressed out by spending 30 sweaty minutes trying not to get killed or maimed by a car or truck.

Wood (and the “thick, nervous mainstream” she says she represents), are a challenging subject to bike advocates and planners. She leads an earth-friendly lifestyle, she loves bikes, she’s fit, and she actually wants to ride more for transportation. Yet even she hesitates.

The “interested but concerned” riders that Wood symbolizes are in every PowerPoint and presentation on bike safety given by PDOT bike planners. Everyone who works on bike issues, it seems, are trying to figure out how to get more of them to ride.

Hottest Day of the Year Ride

Nothing but blue skies
— and no fear — ahead.

Some of their solutions so far include developing more safe, low-traffic “bike boulevard” streets, arming citizens with information and maps on biking, and pushing forward with innovative measures (like bike boxes and painted lanes) to increase visibility and awareness between bikes and cars.

But even these measures might not be enough to persuade the masses to go by bike.

Wood’s fears may seem misplaced to some, but perception reigns (and it’s also very hard to change).

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet to alleviate the fears that accompany the prospect of riding a 30 pound bicycle mere inches from fast-moving, massive, multi-ton cars and trucks.

It will likely take a “thousand tiny cuts” approach to move beyond this fear syndrome. It won’t go away until we begin a massive re-purposing of our public right-of-way, or until we invest more in safer bike facilities, or until politicians take the bike advocacy reins and force real change.

On a smaller scale, there are lots of things existing riders can do to help change the culture of fear around biking. A great first step is to become a biking buddy to a friend who doesn’t yet ride. Encourage them, show them the ropes, and eventually they’ll go from “interested by concerned” to “enthused and confident.”

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  • Steve Hoyt-McBeth May 23, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    RE: Jonathan\’s recommendation for cyclists to be a bike buddy:

    Portland Office of Transportation\’s SmartTrips Downtown project has created a Bike Champions program where we\’ve recruited downtown bike commuters to encourage and assist their co-workers to give biking a try.


    I formerly worked at Southeast Uplift where we had a Bike Buddy pilot. The people we did partner up had a good experience, but it was very challenging to recruit would-be cyclists.

    That is partially what we like about Bike Champions, as one already has some level of comfort with their co-workers.

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  • a.O May 23, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    This is the ONE AND ONLY ISSUE facing bicycling. All other issues are either connected to this one or would go away if more people rode.

    If you want to see more people on bikes, your task is clear, yet difficult: Make it safer to bike.

    Where\’s the threat coming from? People who drive. Yes, it\’s that simple. People who bike can and do cause themselves and others harm, but the level of risk and the level of harm from drivers dwarfs all others.

    How do we make sure drivers behave more safely around bicyclists? Glad you asked:

    1. Much tougher penalties for injuring or killing vulnerable road users.

    2. Much better enforcement of existing laws that drivers routinely break to endanger the lives of bicyclists (e.g., speeding, passing too close, passing illegally, failing to yield to a rider in the bike lane).

    3. Better education of drivers.

    4. Better bike-specific infrastructure.

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  • Mmann May 23, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    We\’re reaching that tipping point now (at least in Portland) where cyclist have sufficient numbers to truly influence transportation policy at every level. Shelby\’s concerns are exactly why I lean more and more towards John Forester\’s thinking.
    Cyclist need to be thought of, planned for, and act like vehicles with equal rights to the road.
    In the meantime, what if all residential streets had a maximum ENFORCED speed limit of 20mph and high traffic through streets of 35mph? Would that make the fearful more likely to venture out?
    And fellow cyclist please, please, stop blowing through stop signs. I\’ve been watching more closely the last couple weeks and a lot of you are being very naughty and giving the rest of us a bad rep.

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  • Jeff May 23, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    a.O. — The other facet, though, if we \”really want to see more people on bikes,\” is to stop making it so easy, cheap, and convenient to drive everywhere. I really think we can accomplish both of those goals (improving bike safety and making it less alluring to drive) with some of the same techniques, like keeping bike boulevards as through streets for bikes, but erecting physical obstacles (e.g., planters) every five blocks that keep cars from driving through.

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  • JJ May 23, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Wood’s fears may seem misplaced to some, but perception reigns (and it’s also very hard to change).

    It\’s NOT a perception, it\’s a reality. Biking in this city is undeniably a dangerous thing.


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  • a.O May 23, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Jeff, I don\’t think it\’s a zero-sum game. That is, I think we can have safe streets without restricting access to the streets by motor vehicles.

    That said, I fully support requiring motor vehicle operators to pay the vast costs of the negative externalities of that mode of transportation that have thus far been pushed off onto the rest of us.

    And I think the end of cheap motor vehicle transport is an inevitability anyway. Peak oil will arrive soon if it hasn\’t already. Demand, particularly in Asia, will continue to increase without the supply to meet it. As a result, prices will rise exponentially.

    But if people keep driving like they do, without the consequences that behavior deserves, even a few people in motor vehicles will still do a lot of harm.

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  • Matt G. May 23, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    While I hate to include myself with the snobby, elitist view that in which cyclists sometimes find themselves, you have to just \”get over it\”. The trip of a thousand miles begins with the first pedal. Here\’s my plan/suggestion: (for the supremely paranoid/afraid to die folks)

    1) Pick a course beforehand.
    2) Ride the course *on a weekend*. Get a feel for the path with less traffic.
    3) Repeat the ride on a commute day. Compare traffic/lighting/etc. Give yourself as much time as you need to feel safe over getting to point B on a schedule.
    4) Rinse and Repeat, gaining confidence and increasing your speed to something comfortable that keeps you safe.

    For the truly paranoid, try *walking* the course first. or get a buddy to ride with (someone either as scared as you, or someone completely fearless).

    If your path chosen turns out to be too hairy for you, find another path. Don\’t assume the most direct route is the safest or the fastest. The freeway is direct and fast, but not for you on a bike.

    I don\’t know what makes people in cars think they are much safer than on their bikes. I feel safer on my bike because of maneuverability issues (slower speed being chief among them).

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  • Brad May 23, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Amen, Mmann!

    The last two times I have driven to work due to appointments requiring my car I almost killed two riders. The first time, fixie rider blew the stop sign at NW 14th and Johnson, crossed a 35MPH street as I was turning left at that intersection. Thankfully I had slowed for the turn and the anti-locks worked as advertised. Three days later at NW 16th and Johnson, hipster girl blows the stop sign going east as I am turning left on 16th. I slam my brakes to avoid carnage and little sweetie flips me the bird as thanks for not killing her.

    As a cyclist, I find the behavior of many Portland riders stupid and shameful. I can only imagine how non-riders feel about our community and concerns when confronted with the same idiocy.

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  • Allison May 23, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    I think this issue explains a lot of the gender disparity in bike commuting. Women are more likely to worry about the safety issue and ride with a buddy.

    Bike Boulevards seem so incredibly safe to me, I think that\’s gotta be where a lot of money goes. But only if they connect well and cross scary traffic better.

    As for saying \”drivers are the threat\” – I don\’t think that\’s a productive way to think of it. This animosity between driver and cyclist I think adds to the danger. I\’d really like drivers to see me and think, \”Yay! One more person I don\’t have to compete for a parking spot with!\” rather than \”self-important cyclist clogging up my street!\” Drivers aren\’t the enemy. They\’re other people who live in our community.

    Increasing penalties when a cyclist is injured is probably not going to be any more deterring than, you know, being responsible for hurting someone. I think more important is to have penalties when unsafe behavior (of both bicyclists and motorists) is engaged in and no one gets hurt – engaging in unsafe behavior without negative consequences lets people believe it\’s not unsafe behavior. I don\’t know that we can do that without putting more cops on the streets, but it\’s probably something someone with more education than me should consider.

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  • Zaphod May 23, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I echo Mmann\’s comment about stop signs. While I witness a number of cyclists blowing them at speed, it\’s more how the autos react to me. Frequently, drivers will slow and stop when they have the unambiguous right of way. They appear to drive as if they fully expect me to blow the stop sign. This kills my rhythm and generally adds complexity to what should be simple. I absolutely do not blame motorists for these actions. They have clearly been conditioned and are simply trying to be safe on the road.

    In a dream world, I\’d love to see the bike boulevards include car diversions and the like so that only super local traffic will exist on those roads. A perfect execution of this is Milvia Street in Berkeley, CA.

    While not a bike boulevard, 16th has such a diversion at Tillamook in NE. It\’s a nice way to roll when the kids are along, even without them, I\’ll opt for this.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com May 23, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    This is simply a symptom of the failure of the driver ed curriculum for not including bike ed.

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  • Allison May 23, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Stop signs:

    Yeah, but I hate coming to a complete stop, having to put my feet on the ground, and then having to start up again, especially when I just lost a ton of momentum.

    They\’re not appropriate traffic control devices, but I kind of wish we could have demand lights instead of stop signs at all the bike boulevard crossings. If there\’s no car coming, keep the light green and let me keep going!

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  • Diogo May 23, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Isn\’t fear, after all, the roots of ALL the problems??

    Seriously, it\’s because of fear that people make war, and subject to government control; its for fear that people sacrifice their entire lifes in jobs they hate; and its for fear that we demand police in every corner and rules and regulations for every action.

    So, it\’s good to create more infrastructure to make people feel safe and what not – but you know what, that won\’t do the job. Fear has its ways of justifying itself in the most unlikely situations.

    Not only that, but it seems that the more safety you create, more fearful people become – why do you think cars are getting bigger and bigger: it makes people feel safer.

    Therefore, I think we should be careful to not cater to people\’s fear too much, but instead campaing for people to face their fears and grow some spine. Otherwise you create a vicious cycle and any accident that happen will send people into panic (which already happens).


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  • Allison May 23, 2008 at 3:09 pm


    Do you remember drivers ed?

    I don\’t.

    \”Check your blind spot before changing lanes.\” \”The Two Second Rule\” – that\’s about it.

    Drivers ed isn\’t (in my humble opinion) enough to teach people how to drive in other car traffic, let alone the more complex multi-speed traffic that is bikes, buses, cars, stop lights, doggies running out into the street, and ice cream trucks.

    If it were politically tenable, I\’d say you need to pass a written test every 8 years – not just pay your $60 and get your picture taken.

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  • scoot May 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I don\’t think the threat is coming entirely from people who drive. A lot of Cyclists in this lovely town make biking really scary. I\’ve been on a bike for 20 or so adult years and the vast majority of my really disturbing close calls have been caused by other people on bikes. And the majority of those were caused by people in all the right gear.

    Not everyone rides for speed, whether commuting, doing errands, etc. Too many people ride through Portland with the attitude that there is no place and no time when slowing down might be a good idea.

    Peruse the forums here – anyone who gets in the way of speed, whether crossing a bridge or riding a lane or MUP, is often described with a withering list of the style or price of loser bike or lame clothing or lack of gloves or whatever.

    All of which is to say, there\’s a very visible lot of cyclists around who don\’t actually want more bikes on the road. If one of them blows by a newbie who\’s crossing the Hawthorne for the first time or clips the handlebars of someone getting their bike legs on the Esplanade, fear may keep them off the bike without any car fear ever coming into play.

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  • Derwyn May 23, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Of my whole commute the area I fear the most is an official bike boulevard (Ladd\’s addition). Despite the round abouts, low speed limits (could be lower) and numerous cyclist I have had more close calls here than anywhere else.

    My point? I totally understand peoples fear. Green paint, speed bumps, stop signs, do little to curb a driver who is irritated. At some point we are going to have to give some roads to cyclist…that is not allow cars. Example: Lincoln, make it one way and give the other lane to cyclists.

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  • Diogo May 23, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    To Mmann, Brad and Zaphod:

    I blow stop signs and red lights! I do it proudly and have no FEAR about it. And I have no FEAR about what others think of me or whatever bad name I\’m giving to you. Who cares?

    Are cars stoping for you when they don\’t have to??? Good – it means that blowing stop signs works!! Let\’s exempt bikes from all stop signs (make it mean \”yield\” for bikes) and you biking an even more efficient mode of transportation when compared to cars.

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  • Allison May 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm


    What you say isn\’t terribly unreasonable – when I\’m crossing the Hawthorne in the late morning, I usually have pedestrians to contend with on one side and speed demon bikers on the other.

    On the other hand, the speed demons tend to be passing on the left – meaning they\’re in way more danger than I am. I almost ran someone out into the traffic on the Hawthorne Bridge because I didn\’t know they were coming (they didn\’t bother to say \’on your left\’), the jogger in front of me veered to her left to pass the walker in front of her.

    A cyclists hits me and I\’m just hurt enough to be super angry. A car hits me and I go to the hospital. Close calls with a car are much, much scarier. And much more deterring.

    That said, if I think a particular area is going to be crawling with the speed demons, I\’ll take another route. But there are few enough of them I can do that – it\’s hard to find routes that are zero car.

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  • Allison May 23, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    \”I don\’t know what makes people in cars think they are much safer than on their bikes. I feel safer on my bike because of maneuverability issues (slower speed being chief among them).\”

    I think it has something to do with being encased in steel.

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  • bahueh May 23, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    YOu\’ve got a good point. I would venture to say the majority of commuters in this town are terrible bike handlers and have little notion, respect, or understanding of how to safely negotiate city streets.

    I saw some a-hole today on a bike go left around a car that was…you guessed it, turning left, into a parking garage mid-block. He had to travel into oncoming traffic to do so. I shake my head at the stupidity sometimes…

    Allison, putting your foot down is an urban myth at a stop sign…brush up on your laws. All you have to show is ceased forward motion. Work on your track stand and quit blowing through red lights, you make the rest of us look bad.

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  • patrick May 23, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Maybe the day will come when people like Wood, and the nervous mainstream she represents, will be more scared of death or dismemberment while driving a car.

    After all, one is a lot more likely to be killed or maimed by a car or truck while IN a car or truck, than while on a bicycle.

    If only we could figure out how we were all brainwashed to believe that driving was a sane, safe activity… maybe we could re-brainwash ourselves to believe the truth.

    Bicycling IS safe.

    Driving a car IS dangerous.

    I agree, though, that bicycling would be a heck of a lot more pleasant, and quiet, without all of those automobiles roaring by.


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  • cyclist May 23, 2008 at 3:26 pm


    What sorts of close calls have you had in Ladd\’s Addition. I used to ride that route every day and can\’t think of a point along the way where I felt unsafe (and there are definitely places in the city where I feel unsafe on a bike). What are drivers doing that scares you? I\’m not in any way trying to criticize you, I\’m hoping there may be ways you can ride that will make you feel more secure.

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  • Robert Dobbs May 23, 2008 at 3:27 pm


    There is a big difference between feet flat on ground, a rolling WALKING SPEED stop, and totally blowing a stop sign like fixie riders do.

    I really hope they don\’t revise the law to let them slide w/o brakes. It only encourages this kinda of irresponsible riding.

    I\’m all for an Idaho roll-stop law, though.

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  • Robert Dobbs May 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm


    Please refer to Webster\’s and look up \”yield\”.

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  • girl on a bike May 23, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    I posted to the comments section after Shelby\’s article and offered to ride to work with her if she is truly interested in giving it a try. It sounds like we live in the same general part of town, and while I don\’t work downtown, it would probably only add a couple of miles to my commute to do this a few times. I really hope she considers it. I organize group bike rides a few times every year for my co-workers — I supply the meeting spot, the breakfast yummies, and act as the tour guide/safety teacher, and for a few days each year, there are eight bikes at the bike rack instead of one or two, and usually about seven fewer cars in the lot. It\’s super fun and very satisfying. I can\’t recall there being any time the entire group didn\’t have a great time.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com May 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Allison, driver ed was totally lost on me too. But, at least the State TRIED.

    Also, you wrote:
    \”They\’re not appropriate traffic control devices, but I kind of wish we could have demand lights instead of stop signs at all the bike boulevard crossings. If there\’s no car coming, keep the light green and let me keep going!\”

    Before automobiles, B.A., there were no traffic laws as we know them today.

    Beyond VC, vehicular cycling, there\’s a train of neo-thought that goes something like this: Obey traffic control devices only if there\’s motor vehicles in the vicinity to cause a really bad bike/car meetup. Otherwise, just look before blowing the light.

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  • J-On-Bike May 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Scoot – good observation.

    We talk about Portland being like Amsterdam (a place I\’ve never been)…so I\’d be curious to see if the style of bicycle commuting is as *aggressive* in European cities as it is here. Some how I doubt it.

    In as much as the local bicycle community may want to subvert the auto-paradigm of transit…the idea of speed seems to be pretty darn American regardless of the choice of conveyance.

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  • Diogo May 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Robert Dobbs,

    I know you are being condescending but I actually did look up in the dictionary following up your suggestion (I often times do use words wrongfully).

    In any case, what I meant to say is that bikes should not be required to come to a full stop at a stop sign OR a red light – unless he has to do it, according to the laws of physics, in order to avoid a collision.

    (But I suspect you suspect you understood me in the first time).

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  • Diogo May 23, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    \”the idea of speed seems to be pretty darn American regardless of the choice of conveyance\”

    You\’re wrong about that. In many European countries they have freeways with no speed limits. And, in Brazil people speed like MF.

    I don\’t think that speed is such an Americna thing – but this culture of fear, hell yeah, that\’s toatally American.

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  • steve May 23, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    I think the writer of the article in question is not being honest with herself, or her readers.

    This quote betrays her- \”Fear of arriving at work, or back home after work, stressed out by spending 30 sweaty minutes trying not to get killed or maimed by a car or truck.\”

    Notice the \’sweaty\’ part. Icky, sweaty, ewwww. Not to mention covered in road grit and rain! EWWW!

    And, you have to like pedal them and everything. It\’s so much harder than climbing in the car with my latte, stereo, heater, air-conditioner, cell phone, and mirrors to check my hair and make-up.

    This is the problem we face folks, not \’safety\’ It is safer to bike than drive. It is also HARDER. I never hear this discussed amongst advocates. It is always the fear factor. No recognition of the intrinsic laziness and \’got to have it now\’ mentality of most Americans. No one is ever going to admit to being selfish and lazy folks. They will always blame it on fear. And no matter what is done, they will never feel safe unless they choose to.

    I guess there is more money available in grants to attack safety, than narcism and laziness.

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  • Metal Cowboy May 23, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    If Shelby Wood foolows up this article by taking an actual biccycle ride and seeing how much fun and safe it can be, and writing about it in a future column, then she has done the community a service. If she does nothing else… then I fear this article could reenforce the misconception that bicycling is a high risk activity (it is not), which can only be undertaken by certain portions of the population (cycling is something that anyone can take up and do safely.)

    The article brings attention to a misconception and a viewpoint that people hold – that many think bicycling to work, school, errands is like going into battle. If she comes back with findings from some field research, then I will call it thorough journalism. If nott then it\’s simply planting more seeds of unfounded fear.

    On another journalistic note, the article about street clothes fashion and wearing something otherr than spandex to ride a bike – last week\’s O, reached a number of mainstream folks – I have had people come up to me and say that the article has them riding more b/c they realize now that they don\’t have to suit up in other clothing to pedal a bike.

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  • KT May 23, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    I guess I shouldn\’t point out to the article writer that by commuting to work by bike two days a week, I save a gallon of gas.

    Sweaty? Big deal. And I really think the level of danger/fear you feel really depends on where you ride. I don\’t feel danger or fear when riding down here in Tigard, but I think I would riding in Portland.

    Perception? Yup.

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  • Jason May 23, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    After I read Ms. Wood’s article this morning I spent my commute fuming over it and how she once again portrayed cyclists as scofflaws running stop signs, thus making the idea of joining the ranks of bike commuters even more unappealing to non-riders.

    She should consider that the rider she was following in her example may have felt threatened by her following (perhaps too closely) and felt it would have been dangerous for her to pass. Therefore, he ran the stop sign for fear she wasn’t going to stop and in an attempt to keep some distance.

    To that latter point, in NW Portland, it is the exception, not the rule that one will stop at a given stop sign. This goes for all vehicles including cars, trucks, bicycles, skateboards and scooters. I wonder if drivers who complain of cyclists running stop signs is a reflection of their own shortcomings and an attempt to justify their behavior.

    Anyway, Ms. Wood didn’t help anything and made herself look both weak and self-righteous all at once.

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  • Paul May 23, 2008 at 4:09 pm


    Your assumption is fairly correct. Bike traffic in Amsterdam, Germany and the Nordic countries runs at a fairly harmonized, mellow pace compared to here. It was nice. Everyone seems to be in a race in this country. Even bike commuters. Weird.

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  • steve May 23, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    The writer is not looking for reasons to ride. Or for ways to get around her supposed fears. Or discussing things that might assuage those fears.

    She is simply attempting to justify her decision to be lazy and drive. Nothing more, nothing less.

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  • Mmann May 23, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    I\’m going to hold back from second guessing and reading between the lines on Shelby\’s \”real\” issues and give her the benefit of the doubt that she\’s scared. But I\’m with Metal Cowboy on her journalistic street-cred. Saddle up and investigate your \”fears.\” Take advantage of the offer for company if you need to. Then write about it.
    Dan Rather said \”News is what someone somewhere doesn\’t want you to know. Everything else is an advertisement.\” At this point Shelby Wood has advertised her own fear. She has the opportunity to turn it into a news story. I hope she does.

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  • a.O May 23, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    steve, I think you are reading far too much into the motives of the author.

    Regardless, even assuming *her* primary reason for not riding is laziness, the data clearly demonstrate that the *majority* of Portlanders site safety as the primary reason why they don\’t ride.

    Perhaps someone can provide a link to that fact (I was a little surprised it wasn\’t linked in the story since it was referenced).

    So, yes, it really *is* about safety.

    And to those of you complaining about the stop sign runners: Yes, it\’s BS, but it\’s not the safety risk the people who don\’t ride are worried about. It\’s the one that kills ~43,000 people in the US each year.

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  • Tbird May 23, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    The only true solution is the creation of a separated bikeway network which places right of way for cyclists above all other mechanized transport. We must build and design to accommodate the weakest links in the chain.

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  • Paul Souders May 23, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Paul @ 34:

    They ride at a harmonized mellow pace in Amsterdam because they live less than a mile away from work. On roads where bikes have dedicated trafficways for bikes, with bike-specific traffic signals, and bike-specific traffic laws. Roads where the cars are driving at nearly the same speeds as the bikes.

    If I rode my bike at a leisurely 7mph it would take me an hour to get to work. That\’s an hour of riding my bike in the debris and gravel of the breakdown lane while cars tear by me at 45mph.

    Also, riding your bike fast is fun.

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  • toddistic May 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    yes, all fixie riders blow stop signs, grow up and get a clue and stop generalizing the fixies. we all know mountain bikers travel down the street the wrong direction, see how stupid that sounds?

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  • rixtir May 23, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Two days after the Ride of Silence, and people don\’t understand why the writer (and others) might be afraid to ride in traffic with cars?

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  • Jason May 23, 2008 at 4:44 pm


    I hear you. I just wonder if the reason people claim fear is that they know how they, as individuals, drive and reckon everyone else does the same.

    Maybe that\’s why people are afraid.

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  • Matthew Denton May 23, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Someone (okay, a troll,) once said that a lot of cyclists in this town act like we have PTSD. And while they were trolling, they were also sort of right: When I first started bicycle commuting the rush wasn\’t fresh air, or exercise, or anything like that, it was simply adrenaline from risking my life. Now that I\’m older and either wiser or more jaded that has gone down, but I do understand the problem…

    The worst bicycle accident I\’ve ever seen didn\’t directly involve a car, it involved two bicycles. (I blame cars anyways, but only because there are big and you couldn\’t see over/through them.) I crossed over the Broadway bridge into downtown during the morning rush hour, and I was second in line, (of at least 3 cyclists.) There was plenty of car traffic on Broadway. As I was crossing Davis the light at Burnside had just turned green and so the line of bicycles is speeding up, and the line of cars has backed up across Couch, but isn\’t blocking the intersection at Couch, (unlike normal.) In particular, the car in the right most lane just before the intersection has his backup lights on. And I thought that was weird, so I slowed down, and just as I would have entered the intersection if I hadn\’t slowed down, a guy in a wheelchair finishes crossing Broadway… I didn\’t see this guy until he was actually was in the bicycle lane, but I stopped in time to avoid hitting him. (And: no offense to him, he had the right of way.) The person in front of me (who didn\’t slow down) made it around that guy. At the same time, someone is riding west on Couch, and (I assume) sees that the intersection isn\’t blocked, (and that the wheelchair user, who wasn\’t very fast would have it blocked for a while,) and can\’t see the bicycles in the bike lane over the cars, and so they crossed Broadway. And so the person in front of me plows into the Couch rider at 20 mph. The person in front of me probably broke their collarbone and ended up in an ambulance. The Couch rider didn\’t get in an ambulance, although only walked 30 feet and eventually got a ride from the police, (I don\’t know to the hospital or not.)

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  • Peter W May 23, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Possible solution: Transit.

    I would suggest a gradual approach to dealing with the problem that people are afraid of all the cars.

    One tactic would be to drastically increase the number of transit riders (and *decreasing* the number of motorists). As people get out of their cars and onto busses, many roads can be redesigned and re-engineered to be car-free. As roads start to be more like car-free streets, it will be easy to get people to switch from transit to bikes.

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  • steve May 23, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    AO said-

    \”…the data clearly demonstrate that the *majority* of Portlanders site safety as the primary reason why they don\’t ride.\”

    I know they site that AO. In fact that was the main thrust of my argument. I do not believe people when they site safety as a reason to not ride. I think they are full of it, and are rationalizing away their obviously selfish choices.

    Find me some people who readily admit to their faults. All I ever see are people busy explaining why their negative traits are really okay, or simply not their fault. Or that they are nonexistent.

    It is not, and has never been about safety. The waistlines of our fellow citizens clearly show that. Being an American is a disease. Pretending that the symptoms are the disease will get us nowhere. As evidenced by everything that is happening and exponentially increasing all around us.

    I guess I just need to find a single issue to dedicate myself to, so I can be blind to everything else. Perhaps some identity politics is the cure!

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  • J-On-Bike May 23, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    They ride at a harmonized mellow pace in Amsterdam because they live less than a mile away from work.

    I\’d like to call *B*LLSH*T* on the one-mile claim. But I don\’t have any citations to back up my refutation. Not that posters to this cite are prone to hyperbole or anything.

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  • Pete May 23, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Matthew, I guess this begs the question: who was at fault? When a car hits a bicycle our community seems polarized against the driver and we perceive the public is polarized against the cyclist. So who\’s at fault in this scenario?

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  • David Anderson May 23, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    I can remember about a year ago taking my first bike ride at 9:30PM in the city. I was quite nervous because I had never done a night ride before. Now, I rather enjoy riding at night since there tend to be fewer cars on the road at that time.
    I have also ridden downtown during \’rush hour\’ and find the experience \’not frightening\’ as I thought it might be. If a 56 year old guy can do it – you can do it. It\’s really not that bad!!

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  • Pete May 23, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    I\’d love to ask Shelby what the basis of her fear is. Is it media coverage of bike accidents? The feeling of being exposed without the \’metal curtain\’ around? Things like Ride of Silence and Ghost Bikes? A personal encounter with a cyclist while driving?

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  • rixtir May 23, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    \”Find me some people who readily admit to their faults. All I ever see are people busy explaining why their negative traits are really okay, or simply not their fault. Or that they are nonexistent.\”

    Post 17 being a prime example.

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  • april May 23, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    It took me a while to get used to bike commuting without being scared. I probably also looked like an idiot for a long time. Hell, I still make stupid mistakes.

    My own relationship to lights and stop signs is weird. I never, ever, run red lights. I\’ve discovered that I will happily jaywalk with my bike or without it, but the second I\’m *on* the bike, I won\’t budge till that light is green.

    Stop signs? I run them all the damn time. But I look first. If I can\’t see far enough, I do stop. If a car is coming and they have the right of way, I stop. If it\’s a four-way and I wasn\’t there first, I stop. But a stop sign in a residential road with no one coming? Pffft.

    On the fear thing: I have coworkers who tell me they\’re just afraid. I\’ve offered to ride with them on a weekend day or on a weekday to help them learn a safe route–only one has taken me up on the offer, unfortunately.

    Heh. I\’m quite the bike evangelist where I work. It\’s fun.

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  • encephalopath May 23, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Changing one\’s mindset from exercise cyclist to commuter takes a little training. If you insist on pushing to your maximum output all the time in a commuter setting the results are going to be hair raising.

    Getting along as a commuter takes a bit more patience and forbearance and recognition that you have to give way occasionally to other road users. When the waters ahead had are troubled, it\’s OK to grab for the brakes and let things clear up a little before heading through (if I can be allowed to mix figures).

    I know those things (as do my fellow commuters I\’m sure), but I still struggle to ease up on the aggression and throttle down.

    It\’s hard to know what to do at all times though, mind reading being what it is. Sometimes the hard kick gets you clear of trouble, sometimes it gets you whacked.

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  • rixtir May 23, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Commuting by bike made me learn I had to leave for work on time– unlike when you\’re driving, when you\’re on a bike, you can only put out so much energy, no matter how late you are. So I learned to leave early, get there early, get cleaned up, and relax before my shift.

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  • Opus the Poet May 23, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    I\’m the one that said many of the posters to a certain thread looked like they had PTSD. I\’m a bike commuter that was hit and seriously injured 7 years ago and recently diagnosed with PTSD, also a Veteran and familiar with the symptoms of PTSD in other people. I was just calling them like I saw them. I recently attended a talk on PTSD at my church, and was told that a person doesn\’t even need to be personally involved in the traumatic event to be affected, that many jurors in murder trials come away from their experience with PTSD, also many journalists. That may be the problem with our journalist in question, she may have been to one too many wrecks and become traumatized.

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  • Jan May 23, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    I can totally understand someone being scared to bike. I think for many people it goes like this. They are driving to work on major arteries–crowded with cars, multiple lanes, people driving fast. They think, \”I could never do this on a bike. It would be so dangerous!\” And probably it would. But for heaven\’s sake people, you don\’t have to bike on the major CAR traffic streets. Find yourself a nice quiet parallel side street. Not everyone has to cross a bridge or ride in downtown traffic. Isn\’t there some stat about how most trips are less than five miles (two miles?). Many people live/work/play/go to school in their neighborhoods, and in close-in NE and SE, those neighborhoods are easily bike-able. You just have to look for the bike route (such as a bike boulevard) instead of the car route.

    A concrete example? If I drive my son to school, I drive on Alberta or Prescott and then 15th. If we bike? We go on Jarrett, then cross Killingsworth with a pedestrian light and ride on 20th. No way would I take him on Alberta or 15th, but the alternate route is fabulous.

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  • Mark C May 23, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    I have to agree with Steve. Maybe the writer is being honest and is really scared (she states that she does run), but I think the majority of people use the \”safety\” card as an excuse not to ride. Let\’s face it, most Americans are lazy and averse to breaking a sweat, and cycling, no matter how fun, requires physical exertion.

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  • hanmade May 23, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    I bought a bike 3 years ago to ride to work and never did it.  It took my high school son to start commutting to school on it to get me motivated to ride.  After he moved out I rode my bike to work (6 miles) on a Saturday and found it was doable.  Since then I have ridden to work a lot.  Initially with some trepidation, now woth a lot of confidence.  You just have to do it, with a lot of self preservation awareness.  The hardest thing is starting it. I think Shelby just rode to work in order to writ an article. She need s to do it at least 10 times before she can even begin to understand bike commutting. Her article is a diservice because it enforces a stereotypical attitude that is debunked after your experience in continual riding.

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  • N.I.K. May 23, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    The hardest thing is starting it. I think Shelby just rode to work in order to writ an article. She need s to do it at least 10 times before she can even begin to understand bike commutting.

    Indeed. The \”safety perception\” issue, whether genuine, a symptom of unwillingness to do something slightly difficult, or some combination of the two, will be best eroded when media types stop pushing the same old \”it\’s so scarifying!\” story and start pushing the far less-common \”I did it every day for two work weeks and here\’s what I\’ve found\” report. If you\’re going to write a \”human interest\”-leaning story, make it more than some non-committal puff piece. Journalism\’s supposed to be about doing in-depth investigation to get meaningful, worth-while stories to the readership, right?

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  • N.I.K. May 23, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    P.S.: Just re-read the story. I take back the \”non-committal\” remark as it seems Ms. Wood\’s actually going to make some effort towards it. Still, I think writing an article on commuting for a print column which isn\’t presented as a multi-parter and suggesting that bike commuting is scary or dangerous without having done much of it is slightly irresponsible -it\’d be like me extolling the terrors of gas cooking when I\’d been frightened by the woosh of flame when I\’d delayed ignition for too long the first time I tried it. 🙂

    Let\’s hope Shelby has a good experience and writes more on the subject as she tries out commuting seriously.

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  • synthcat May 23, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    I\’m on the fence regarding the perception of bicycling in the city to be horrifying or scary. On one hand, it seems somewhat premature to judge the act of commuting by bike to be a fearful experience for majority of the city\’s residents after just a handful of bike commutes. But riding into and out of downtown during heavy traffic hours can seem scary (having commuted from my inner SE apartment to my downtown office for the past 20 months, 5 days a week, I sometimes feel lucky that I haven\’t been serious accidents while riding in close proximity to speeding vehicles).

    I feel that fear is a legitimate reason for not initiating or enduring an activity. I\’m wondering, just out of curiosity, if public perception about safety of bicycling would perhaps change if there were more newbie-friendly, confidence-building beginner rides and/or instructional sessions (including traffic safety and riding etiquette) that are available to the public (and are publicized well)? I suspect that once bicycle owners (as opposed to \”bicycle riders\”) learn more about building confidence on their bikes and are able to master the beginner steps, they would be more apt to give bike commuting a chance.

    Even though I consider myself a moderately-skilled urban rider, there are parts of the city where I fear to ride–just like there are parts of the city where I generally fear when I\’m Zipcar-ing (traffic jams and Interstate ramps being examples).

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  • wsbob May 23, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Here\’s what Shelby doesn\’t say in her article that would have made all the difference to me: \’I tried commuting to work by bike, but it was just too….\’.

    Unless she\’s saving the subject of such an effort for another column, it could be that Shelby Wood, the Oregonian all things green reporter, has not even tried commuting by bike. The knowledge she would gain by doing that could be very helpful to her readers in terms of addressing the reasonable fears and anxieties that some commute routes may represent.

    The tone of her column leans a little much to the bubbly-happy side for me personally, but it is good that she brings up the topic of why people might shy away from commuting by bike.

    A lot of you commenting have made very helpful suggestions and encouragement to her, to try this commute thing out. Route planning is important. She could do that on the bike on a day off work. There\’s the group called the Westside Transit Alliance. They help people plan routes by bus, MAX, or bike. She could call them. Coming up in July, they have their annual Car Free Commuter Challenge going on for 7 days.

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  • cyclist May 23, 2008 at 9:58 pm


    I also ride to and from downtown for work 5 days a week, and I\’d hardly call the traffic downtown \”speeding.\” The lights are timed at something close to 10 miles an hour, and especially at rush hour you\’re lucky if you\’re going that fast.

    Granted, it could just be my route, but I just plop myself right in the middle of the lane and haven\’t had anything approaching a close encounter downtown (outside of downtown is a different story).

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  • BURR May 23, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Bicycling is safe, the fear is in your head

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  • lefty May 23, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    I used to commute by bike everyday – now I\’m working from home, but my bike is still my primary mode of transportation.

    Motorists were never my biggest problem or worry, bicyclists blowing stop signs caused almost every close call I\’ve had on a bike in Portland. At least slow down folks…

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  • Matthew Denton May 23, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Downtown traffic is safer/less safe depending on your route. I use the bicycle lane on Broadway because it is fast, (the cars are jammed up at rush hour, but the bicycle lane traffic is traveling at the speed of the lights,) but it isn\’t particularly safe. If I was going to go to the Oregonian building (1320 SW Broadway) and didn\’t want to be sweaty and wanted to be safe, I\’d go down waterfront park and then take the lane on Jefferson/Columbia. But the first time you realize that you can (and should) just take over the center of the lane on your bicycle is a real learning experience…

    And Opus: Sorry, I was mistaken, I shouldn\’t have called you a troll. Although, as I said, I agree…

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  • Cameron May 24, 2008 at 12:54 am

    I love SW 4th Ave during morning rush hour. No bike lane and all the cars are going 10-15 so I am traffic. I can make every light, although sometimes the Max upsets the cascade.

    When I first started riding I didn\’t know how to flow with traffic- I was terrified that cars would run me over so I did dangerous things like not holding my line in the lane which just made it so that when I went around parked cars I suddenly infringed upon what drivers thought to be their right of way.

    There are certain streets in town that aren\’t all that fun to ride on and I still don\’t feel safe, SE 39th, 82nd etc.. and i hate riding in suburban Beaverton even with the bike lanes. Drivers In these places pass way to close.

    Now I\’m rambling, my point is that biking is a skill, it\’s doesn\’t come your first time, but it\’s easier than learning to drive. Anyone who isn\’t nervous the first time riding in traffic must be a natural born bomber and that\’s not most of us.

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  • israel May 24, 2008 at 6:32 am

    I rode my bike to work for the first time yesterday (my first time riding a bicycle at all since I was a kid), and it wasn\’t that scary. I didn\’t take the most direct route, but the one that was the safest for my experience level. I think steve was right, it\’s just easier to tell people you don\’t feel \’safe\’ than \’it just looks like too much work\’.

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  • Vance May 24, 2008 at 7:37 am

    steve #30. Amen man, amen. Harsh perhaps, not for me to say. If this is a legitimate fear for some, it is an irrational one. Irrational because thousands of people, day in and day out, do this, \”thing\”, without incident.

    I\’m suspicious that there is an element within the cycling community who believe that ubiquitous infrastructure legitimizes the bicycle as alternative transportation. I further believe that this element started off thinking that this notion enjoyed unanimous support, but has come to realize there are other opinions held in mass-regard. One opinion that is more prolific than the element about whom I speak seems to realize is that of the bicycle being, having been, and likely always will be, a perfectly legitimate mode of transportation. It\’s a class issue anyway. Maybe the affluent friends of a successful journalist view the cycle as a kid\’s toy, but not all do.

    We\’re being told that infrastructure needs to be built by people who own bike shops, build hand-made bikes, write bike blogs, draw salaries from bike advocacy groups, plan elections around bicycling special interest, and on and on. I don\’t think this is an intentional conflict of interest, anybody who even knows Jonathan Maus should know better than to lay that at his feet. Nonetheless, I still believe I see a pattern emerging amongst the supporters of infrastructure, that suggests the issue of anxiety could be a red-herring.

    My speculation is completely unfair to Ms. Wood. I have no reason to suspect that she is not indeed frightened, and it is less than sensitive to dismiss her fears as a ploy. On the other hand, consider her particular case as a hypothetical, and tell me that there is not a possibility there is a little good-ol\’-fashion fear-mongering going on.

    I personally don\’t believe this fear thing, reasonable or not. From Ms. Woods, or anybody else. I don\’t believe it because I possess strong anecdotal evidence that there is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Naturally, in a case where I believe that reality is being misrepresented, I seek answers as to why. It always comes back to, \”Let\’s build a bunch of stuff.\”.

    It\’s perfectly fine to grow the industry from which you make your living. It\’s not okay to use too much public resources to do it. You can\’t argue that without infrastructure, urban cycling will die, because the numbers grow everyday without it. Furthermore, it is asinine to route bicycles past the right-hand side of right-turning cars. This is just the kind of thing that happens when the knee-jerks, and poorly designed safety features get deployed.

    The biggest threat to me everyday are the Ms. Woods and their bicycles. Safety features that take away my ability to use my judgment, and are flawed in design. Motorist hostility inflamed by the cycling community and it\’s sense of entitlement. Let\’s not forget the kids on brakeless BICYCLES with headphones blasting the soundtrack to their rock-star existence, while they navigate, and share the same public right-of-way that we all use.

    Ms. Wood fears urban cycling. I fear Ms. Wood. That\’s a push, anyway you slice it. I simply can\’t support fear being a good reason to do anything. I won\’t support infrastructure just because that\’s how they do it somewhere else. I will support the urban cycling craze by getting out there on my bike, and covering real-estate. Thereby setting an example for all who would choose to leave their dinosaur-burner at home. I will never, ever, support a movement that feels entitled to encroach upon other\’s personal freedoms, and choices; or one that feels more entitled to public money than the people dying of exposure, and starvation in our streets.

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  • Metal Cowboy May 24, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Congrats Israel! #67 Stick with it, find those routes that let you feel good and build confidence and you won\’t regret a moment on two wheels.

    Hell, pretty soon you\’ll be singing Italian/French? opera and drafting trucks along the Indiana countryside… no wait, that\’s a classic scene from the movie Breakingaway. Sometimes I confuse that film for my real life – a young Dennis Quad is my best friend, we have a falling out and tearful reunion during the final race, but I digress –

    Israel, just good to hear you took the first step and your candor about fear verses inertia is refreshing. Steve has me wondering how much of the \”fear\” issues are rationales. Not discounting the fear perception for some, just has me wondering.

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  • DrMekon May 24, 2008 at 9:40 am

    This is exactly why someone needs to take Jennifer Dill\’s research on perceptions associated with utility bike use and turn it into persuasive communication fit for stencils, posters and the suchlike.

    There must be some other health promotion/behavioural medicine/health psychology/intervention epidemiology-types who read this stuff and think the same.

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  • I walk, I drive May 24, 2008 at 9:46 am

    I\’d like to jump in here and give you my reasons for not cycling.

    First, a little background. My two primary modes of transportation are driving my small car, and walking. I bought a house as close to downtown as I could get without actually being downtown, so that my commute would be lessened. I live 4 miles from my job. Let me also say that my interest in biking is purely for the environment – I have never liked riding a bike and I have no interest in doing so for exercise or entertainment (I get those other ways!) Ever other behavior I have in my life reduces my impact on the environment. But I still drive my car.

    Let me also say that when driving, I follow every single rule of the road. When walking, I also follow all of the rules.

    Soo, Why don\’t I bike?

    1) I have a job that has alot of appointments. I also have many after work obligations that I couldn\’t get to without my car. (I either have to carry too much stuff or I can\’t get there on time) Timewise, I\’m lucky in that the direction of my commute involves very little traffic.

    2) I don\’t understand the logistics. If I were to ride a bike, When I got to work I would be sweaty. (At least my hair would, which by far to me is the worst part to be sweaty). This might sound petty, but I can\’t sit and work with my high stress job and have an itchy head all day. I would have to shower. I have nightmare hair, which means that in order to maintain a professional appearance, I would have to do the drying and combing etc. that I usually do at night, in the morning at my office shower. In a competitive work atmosphere, looking professional is important (at least at my job). So at any rate, my 8 minute car commute has just turned into an hour and a half (8 minute bike ride assuming I could get there in the same amount of time as my car, roughly 1 hour and 22 minutes for shower, dealing with nightmare hair, and makeup – Yes, I know that length of time seems ridiculous, but it\’s true). Hey, I\’m just trying to be honest here.

    3) The bike community has made me so angry, so many times, that I don\’t want to be associated with it. From the amount of times where I have been nearly forced into an accident through no fault of my own (Cyclists running lights or stop signs is usually the main culprit here), or the amount of times I have nearly been mowed down while walking on sidewalks downtown (including the one time I actually WAS hit, and the dude just kept on riding), I\’ve been so frustrated that I can\’t get on board with it. Also included in this is the attitude I\’ve seen displayed here on a regular basis.

    So for me, fear doesn\’t factor into it. I know I would ride responsibly – I know that I\’d watch out for other people making mistakes or being careless, just as I do now in my car or on my feet.

    Just my two cents.

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  • steve May 24, 2008 at 10:52 am

    You know what you can do with your two cents right? Try not to muss up your hair while you are at it princess.

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  • suburbanite May 24, 2008 at 11:13 am

    First, congrat\’s the Israel for taking that first step. I don\’t know about you but I still remember my first commute ride. It was only 6 miles, but when I got to work I just laid on the floor in my cube and wanted to puke. It was hard. Keep it up. It only gets better.

    I can\’t speak to other peoples fears or behaviors, just mine…

    When I was 16 I refused for several months to get my drivers license out of fear. I was truly scared to get out on the road and drive a car. It wasn\’t out of fear that I couldn\’t cope, but that the other drivers were going to kill me. That was then. Something, and I\’m not sure what it was, happened in my mid 20\’s.

    When I was 25 I discovered crotch-rockets and spent several years riding around rural Oregon at death-defying triple-digit speeds. I would get butterflies before epic 700mi weekend rides, but once riding there was absolutely no fear, even when there really should have been. I was very-very lucky on a multiple occasions.

    In my 30\’s I discovered bicycling and bike commuting.

    Now, in my 40\’s, fear is no longer a deterrent. I live in the exurbs (Sherwood, about 1/4 mi from the southernmost UGB) and commute to Cornell and Hwy 26. My commute takes me through rural Washington county and all the way through Beaverton. I ride fast. I ride the main arteries (Roy Rogers, Scholls Ferry, Murray). I do not fear traffic. I wear spandex. I\’m a speed freak and dress like one. But… I never, ever blow red lights. I always stop at stop signs, even though many of my riding friends do not. I talk to other commuters. I\’ve even had brief friendly conversations with drivers who could not drive faster than I was riding in rush hour. I ride to stay fit. The way I ride is largely determine by my situation, a 30mi round trip and a large appetite. Things might be different if I lived and worked close together and/or closer in toward the city, something my wife and I are considering. But at this point, I will be a speed freak until my body won\’t let me.

    As other have mentioned, I experience drivers everyday who anticipate that I\’m going to run stop signs. They\’ll just sit there as I approach and wait for me to run it. I stop. They go. We\’re all happy…and safe. One more driver isn\’t pissed at me.

    I had two accidents while commuting. One involved slamming into and vaulting over a car at 23mph. It was the drivers fault as they turned left across my bike lane. Nobody, not even the driver contested that. Again, I was very lucky and walked away essentially unharmed, just sore. (The bike didn\’t fare so well, but was rebuilt and ready for the inaugural PDX LiveStrong ride 6 days later).

    What really scares me today is, in fact, the lack of fear that I feel when riding. Fortunately, whenever I starting feeling scared, all I have to do is go out and ride…

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  • wsbob May 24, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I walk, I drive, (comment #71), have you ever actually thought for a second what your route from home to work on a bike might be like?

    4 miles, unless you\’re climbing the West Hills from Portland to Beaverton, is not so much effort that you\’re going to break into a major sweat. For example, riding from SE to NW is not that big a deal.

    You get to work, wash your forehead and your neck with a wash cloth, throw on your office gear, and you\’re good to go. You actually have an office shower? What a luxury…only a dream for many bike commuters. You ever think about a change of hairstyle?

    You could at least check into whether you could make your appointments by bike, and whether all those after work obligations might be arranged a little more efficiently. If you really need to carry around stuff, you can do that with a bike; on board bags and racks, even lightweight trailers.

    Why do you let the idiot cyclists determine for you in part, that you just can\’t handle the challenge of negotiating a bike through traffic from home to work? You\’re missing out on some great riding weather. Look at it this way; if there\’s more, responsible bike riders like you say you would be, out commuting, the pressure brought to bear upon idiot cyclists to get their act together would be greater.

    Whatever kind of professional you are, from what you write, it sounds like you\’re willing to give up too easily. How can that possibly work for you in a professional working environment?

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  • steve May 24, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    She is not giving up Bob. She has never tried. She is using her supposed green lifestyle, to align herself with cyclists, so she can openly disparage us without retribution.

    She sounds like she would fit in over at the comment section of the Tribune nicely.

    She walks, she lies.

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  • Slick May 24, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    I know the world is out to get you and everything, steve. But you should still probably read the article before you start to tell the world how this person is an evil, lazy lier. Did you notice that she said she was about to do women on bikes so she can learn how to ride? Read the story. Jumping to conclusions doesn\’t help to bring the real craptastic nature of the world to light.

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  • caitlin May 24, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Dear #71,

    Pull your hair back in a neat ponytail and hop on your bike. It sounds like you\’re so concerned about what others will think of you at work or by being associated with the \”bike community\” that you\’re missing out on life\’s pleasures. As a curly haired girl who converted to bike commuting about a year ago (I ride 6 miles to work and there are no showers), I guarantee that after a week or two of riding you will love the freedom, the exercise and even the bit of well deserved sweat.

    On the other hand, I\’m sure the polar bears are impressed by your refined appearance.

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  • suburbanite May 24, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    #71, the argument that you don\’t want to be part of the bike community because they continually put you in harms way doesn\’t hold any weight. If that were valid, then you surely wouldn\’t drive your car either because you wouldn\’t want to be part of the car driving crowd. Unless, of course, you\’ve never had another car do anything stupid that might have put you in harms way…

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  • rixtir May 24, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    @ 78, Sure it carries weight. If driving were a voluntary, more difficult way of getting around, and it was easier for her to bike, but she wanted to give driving a try for some altruistic reason, she might nevertheless not want to be one of \”those\” people if drivers were commonly perceived as people who deliberately– note I said \”deliberately\”– ignore the traffic signals at intersections (thereby endangering others in a smug and misguided demonstration of their moral superiority.

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  • pjt May 24, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    I take NW Johnson (bike Blvd) all the time and I nearly got killed – on the weekend – by two drivers not paying attention. One nearly blew a stop sign and then looked annoyed w/me for taking my right of way. The other nearly ran into me pulling away from the curb and not bothering to look til I screamed at him. It makes me not enjoy riding as much as I would like. So, she is not wrong in her observations but it is a lame excuse not to ride.

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  • Matthew Denton May 24, 2008 at 11:46 pm

    Hummm, sounds like #71\’s hair in more important than the planet. It it s free country, people can make that choice, although if it was up to me, I\’d skip the hour of washing in the evening, and go to bed an hour early so that I could wash it in the morning after my commute.

    PS. Car drivers killed more people than terrorists last year. Have fun \”avoiding\” the bicycle community.

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  • Sarah Bott May 25, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Where does she live?

    Maybe a BikePortland enthusiast could \”adopt her\” for a couple of weeks to commute with her and show her safe routes.

    Would also make for a good story for her or Oregonian blog topic.

    If she lives near me in NE Portland I would be willing to adopt her for a commute – at least part of the time!

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  • Joe Rowe May 25, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Perception is 9/10 of the law of reality. As someone said, these very valid fears are the #1 barrier to more people using bikes. … Heck, cars are so out of control that even buildings are not safe. In the last year 2 bike shops have been heavily damaged. The BTA should focus on getting more of these people on bikes and more of their fearful concerns validated in public and solved in policy.

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  • dailycommuter May 25, 2008 at 9:44 am

    I at first like to give people like Ms. Woods the benefit of the doubt when they cite safety as their prime concern, but as I read down her article, it became pretty clear that she\’s probably not all that interested in bicycle transportation/commuting. Her article quickly devolves into non-sequiturs about the supposed anarchy of the Portland cycling \”community\” (whatever that actually is) and her not wanting to be affiliated with it.

    I agree with Steve and Vance, I don\’t think she\’s really all that interested in bicycle transportation, not to any useful extent or dedicated level. She\’s merely repeating the politically correct responses to survey questions that don\’t reflect reality. Many of these people don\’t really want to get into bicycle transportation, deep down they want to see other people do it (including many of our car-driving urban planners). Furthermore, when they think of cycling, they really are thinking of \”bicycle riding\”, perhaps riding on a warm sunny day in the park with no traffic and somehow want that transplanted into their everyday commute.

    Personally, I think bicycle transportation is packaged and sold to the average non-cyclist by advocates as being far easier than it actually is. I don\’t mean to say that\’s it\’s very difficult, but you do have to enjoy cycling and be dedicated to it as an activity to really get into bicycle transportation. To an extent you have to enjoy riding in bustling traffic, riding in pouring-down rain, getting sweaty and all the other challenges that go along with it. For many people, and for me, that\’s the fun part. So when people say they want to get into to it just to be \”green\”, I just laugh.

    The danger part is also silly, at least in my opinion. The only danger is that that comes from our DOT redesigning our roads and intersections to make new cyclists feel \”comfortable\” at the expense of eviscerating experienced cyclists\’ rights and increasing the real danger. Until our DOT and planners stop shooting themselves in the foot (and essentially lying to beginner cyclists) with this approach and start actually designing the streets to be as safe as possible, while simultaneously funding some bicycle safety education to instruct new riders on how to use them safely, we\’ll always be chasing this 60% \”interested but concerned\” dream.

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  • steve May 25, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Slick post #76-

    I was speaking to \’she walks, she drives\’ in post #71, not the author of the original article.

    Thanks for the tip on reading comprehension and not jumping to conclusions. You should try it out sometime!

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  • Slick May 25, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    steve you \”betrayed yourself\” in comment 30.

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  • steve May 25, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Good, you can read! In post #30 I was without a doubt speaking of the original author.

    2 gold stars for you.

    Remind me what your point was again?

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  • Anonymous May 25, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Steve: seriously. Stop attacking other people for being honest.

    You don\’t know She Walks. None of you here know what sort of challenges she faces just in getting ready for work. \”Put your hair in a pony tail\”? Indeed. My hair is too short for that. Maybe her hair is texturally unsuited.

    She sounds like she works in an industry where there is a more formal dress code than most of us here are used to.

    Get off your high horses, please. It does you no good to come off sounding like a pretentious a$$, and does nothing to further your \”cause\”.

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  • Slick May 25, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Your short term memory has been effected as much as your paranoia. Check out post 76. I waited for you to carry your snarky and flat out wrong barbs through the post before I broke down and let you know how much you bring the conversation down. I usually just ignore your knee jerk negativity. For some reason I let myself read it this time. Your trash talking on everything you comment about is an enemy of biking.

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  • Steve Pappert May 25, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    bicycling is safe in the same way that cigarets are. I\’ve been smoking them for years and nothing bad has happened to me. -yet.
    There are a ton of good reasons to bike and only one good reason not to — It\’s dangerous! it\’s not just a \”perception\”. bikes and cars can no more share the same road as a mouse and a snake can share the same cage.
    I think the bike bulivards are great, its simple and efective, you just eliminate an intersection every ten blocks and the cars just go away on their own.

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  • Russ May 25, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    To everyone jumping on I walk, I drive:

    The comments section of this site is the place to go for some high quality condescending holier than thou righteous energy. Until every one of you Luddites gets to zero personal emissions and commits to tubal ligation or vasectomy (cause lets face it, the real environmental problem is exponential population growth) why jump on someone who just doesn’t want to ride a bike, but is still not sitting in her Hummer, listening to Limbaugh, chomping on a cigar, and laughing at all of those “enviro-nazis”?

    Some people are sub-contractors and haul 200-300 lbs of gear around from one job site to another for a living. Some people are social workers with case loads of 65 or more they have to manage, and some people just don’t wanna bike. None of these people are Satan, they just can’t or won’t. Get over it. If she’s paying attention when she drives and isn’t right hooking me, I don’t have a problem with her, and I’m glad this site is getting so popular it’s pulling in non-bikers who aren’t just here to flame or threaten.

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  • Shelby Wood May 25, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Wow. Ninety comments. And I thought I got a lot of emails about this column.

    Thanks to Jonathan for posting a link to the column, and for his thoughtful commentary. I appreciate the BikePortland commenters who challenged my take on bike commuting, too.

    Just to clarify, I am gearing up to commute to work by bike. I haven\’t done it yet. I\’m still figuring out my route, how to fix a flat, etc. Once I give it a decent shot — six weeks? two months? how long is long enough to judge? you tell me — I will write another column.

    I\’m fascinated by the commenters who don\’t \”believe\” I\’m scared. I think I sound kind of dorky in the column, talking about my fears…it\’s not really the kind of thing a person would lie about. Also, we\’ve got showers at work, so the sweaty thing is, truly, secondary (perhaps I should\’ve just left that out). Peter asked, and answered, his own question…what is she really afraid of? It is, in fact, the fear of being exposed without the \”iron curtain\” that surrounds me when I\’m in a car. Honestly, I am nervous about getting knocked off my bike or squished up against a parked car. But I am going to attempt to get over it.

    Lastly, here\’s a link to the City of Portland data that support the \”60 percent interested but concerned\” assertion in the column. A couple commenters questioned where I got it from:

    Your favorite scared (or is she just lazy?) Oregonian reporter,

    Shelby Wood

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  • lisa May 25, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Safe or not safe, perception or reality — the fact is that once gas starts inching up past $4 a gallon and on toward $5 (maybe what it really costs to produce it, BTW) then bike riders are gonna start choking up the streets the way cars do now. Swear-to-god.

    It\’s already happened at my house…….

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  • wsbob May 25, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    Anonymous (#88), your comment: \”She sounds like she works in an industry where there is a more formal dress code than most of us here are used to.\”

    She says as much, but why would she be content to allow the substance of her comment to be framed as an excuse for not commuter cycling rather than one of reason? Probably in part because people like the O\’s writer, suggest similar excuses in their writing, making that rationale, to some people, seem like an easy out.

    I have an idea that commenter \’I walk, I drive\’ is a lot tougher and more resourceful than she lets on. She could probably work out a safe bike commute that wouldn\’t take that much longer than it takes to drive her car to work, at least for the better weather days. 15 minutes to drive 4 miles in a car is not that speedy. It probably would be the same time or quicker by bike. Appointments? She should at least check to see whether she could work them out by bike before summarily dismissing any thought of doing so.

    One of the greater benefits of having more working people commute is the first hand knowledge they as members of the public, would have of the realities of negotiating the urban cycling infrastructures. It\’s much easier to make a case for improvements in that area when people understand by having been a user of that infrastructure, thereby knowing personally, its strengths and weaknesses.

    If they can be persuaded to try bike commuting, people like \’I walk, I drive\’ could be the next wave of riders whose newly found awareness could really help to advance improvements in bike-pedestrian infrastructure. I hope we hear back from her that she\’s reconsidered her feelings about the biking to work, and will give it a try this summer.

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  • n00b May 25, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Hi all,

    This is a timely and welcome thread on a topic I\’ve been hoping someone would bring up. Like Ms. Wood, I\’m new to using cycling as a primary mode of transportation around here, and I can vouch for the fact that it\’s pretty hairy at times, sometimes enough that I wonder why I\’m taking the risk.

    The bike boulevards are pretty great, whenever it\’s possible to use them to get to one\’s destination (which isn\’t always the case). I can appreciate those who said upthread that lots of practice is essential for confidence-building — yet I\’m also in agreement with everyone who said it\’s essential that we improve bike-friendly infrastructure, driver awareness and fellow-cyclist awareness alike (I almost got steamrolled by a speedy Spandexed dude on a bike the other day and only found out after relating the story to my SO that they should have said \”on your left\”). As far as infrastructure goes, a good first step might be for city planners to hop on bikes and try to follow the bike lane \”system\”, and notice how often it dumps cyclists into the middle of car traffic as the lanes abruptly end.

    It\’s also frankly intimidating not only to see all the posts on the Tribune site, etc. saying we need to take our toys off the roads and get out of the way of drivers, but to know from reading news reports how many cyclists have been deliberately targeted by raging drivers, not to mention injured or killed by careless ones.

    The buddy program sounds really good.

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  • Zaphod May 25, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    I think Jan #55 has a very important comment regarding route finding. I\’ve witnessed bikers on major arterials and I imagine non-bikers make the leap that those are the routes that one needs to take.

    It takes a mental shift to consider route based upon bike friendly criteria. When has a full-time motorist considered anything except the most expedient route?

    A experienced cycling guide to show the least intimidating, nicest routes will go a long way in getting people out of their cars.

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  • DT May 25, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    My husband and I bought bikes 2 years ago (in a knee-jerk response to learning about Peak Oil), but for months we were afraid to ride them except around our North Portland neighborhood. Know what finally convinced us we could ride on the street for real? The Bridge Pedal. Call me crazy, but getting out there and riding the 6 Bridge route with a bunch of 10 year olds made me feel like it wasn\’t so scary. I rode my bike all the way downtown to work the very next day.

    Granted, my own (self-induced) bike injury a year ago and having to commute past Brett\’s ghost bike scared me off my bike in a way that I am only now starting to overcome. And the only thing that is working? You got it – suck it up and ride. I probably ride more conservatively than I did before, and some of the fun of riding is gone for me, but consecutive, uneventful rides to and from work (16 miles round-trip) are the best reinforcement for me. (And I feel lucky that I have had uneventful rides thus far to build my confidence.) And I ride with my own safety – not speed – as my primary concern.

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  • Bike Week Review May 24 | meme patch May 26, 2008 at 6:48 am

    […] In her words fear, fear and fear (that link may expire or roll to another article) try this fear, fear and fear summation from Jonathan Maus. It’s the kind of article that directs people to just how afraid they can […]

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  • shishi May 26, 2008 at 9:55 am

    Shelby. It is great that you are gonna give it a try. My guess is you\’ll really like it after a few weeks.

    Good luck.

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  • zilfondel May 26, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

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  • Opus the Poet May 26, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    I don\’t read the comments here often enough. I mentioned that I was seriously injured in a commuting wreck, and was diagnosed recently with PTSD, but what I didn\’t mention was I didn\’t give up riding transportationally. Yes it sometimes scares the whee out of me to be on the road, but I don\’t let my fear rule me.

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  • brettoo May 26, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    I appreciate Shelby\’s attempt to commute and her honesty in admitting her fears and hesitations. Many of us experienced riders forget what it was like when we were first starting. And those who never have been a little worried should remember that if we confine bicycling to the hard core few percent of fearless, sweaty riders, we\’ll never have the kind of true bike culture you see in Europe. Without that , er, critical mass, the city will never spend the money to make the changes needed to really get cars off the road and reduce our impact on the planet.

    In other words, let\’s try to be a little more friendly and welcoming to the great majority of would be riders (including many of my friends) who won\’t commute unless they\’re assured of safety, whether their fears are \”rational\” in some people\’s eyes or not. Rational or not, if they\’re afraid, they won\’t ride. We need to address those fears.
    The city and BTA do offer excellent commuting tips and advice, and Shelby might want to consult her colleague David Stabler, who commutes to the Oregonian and also does serious recreational writing (such as CycleOregon), as he\’s blogged about before.

    FWIW, I bike a lot around downtown and the inner east side, and have learned how to ride differently — slower, wary, taking the lane when needed, more predictable — than when I\’m on a rec ride. I feel quite safe even when riding in the middle of the lane because car traffic moves pretty slowly in those areas, but I\’m also alert to possible oblivious drivers, just in case.

    The more people like Shelby Wood who bike part time, the safer all of us will be, because when they do drive cars, they\’ll be more aware of bikes and how they work in traffic. And the more bikes on the road, the more drivers will be aware of bikes.

    Portland is trying to become the first American city to build a true bike (and alternative transport) culture for regular folks, not just hard core bikey types like most of us, and addressing the concerns of people like Shelby Wood will help determine whether it\’s successful. I appreciate her efforts.

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  • Mary Sue May 26, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    You know, the first time I took my bike out this year was the weekend after we got Platinum status. My derailer gave up the ghost at about 5th and Salmon.

    I had my (bright orange) bike upside down in an empty car parking spot and was cussing and wrestling with the chain, and no less than 18 people on bikes whizzed past me with nary a glance or a \”Are you ok?\”

    8 of those people, by the by, were riding in a group with the name of a large local bike shop plastered across various parts of their anatomy, including their bums.

    I walked the damn thing home for two miles (I know it sounds like a bad joke, but IN THE RAIN! UPHILL!), and when I got home, I discovered all I needed to fix it was a pair of pliers.

    Of course I haven\’t taken my bike out since that day. What if something else breaks? I obviously can\’t count on my fellow bicyclists to help.

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  • Cezar May 26, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    The real issue here is that people think that cycling is much more dangerous than driving. It\’s not, they are about on equal ground.

    Look to: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/health/risks.htm

    My hypothesis is that car travel the interstate much more. At those speeds, a small accident becomes deadly. On a bike you will rarely go 70mph+.

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  • mark May 26, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    I don\’t know if it\’s because I\’m so used to riding a bike or what, but I just don\’t feel unsafe when riding my bike. yeah, there\’s been close calls, but honestly I feel safer on my bike than when I drive. I think for one, drivers and bikers need to respect each other. The roads don\’t belong only to cars or bikes, they\’re ours to share! So I think it\’s great when people who drive also ride bikes. It\’s easier to remember to look out for those on bikes when you\’re in a car when you know what it\’s like to be out there on a bike, expecting every car to try to kill you. But I just don\’t get that feeling.

    I used to live in Dallas, I got honked and yelled at simply for not BEING IN A CAR! They acted like I was just being a jerk slowing them down and making them have to pay attention to someone other than the chick jogging down the street, or their phone and half-caf venti latte. So, to move somewhere where you are one of thousands instead of one of a few dozen does wonders for your confidence. Think it\’s scary riding a bike here? Try it in Dallas or Houston, or even Austin where they are coming a long way towards promoting biking. Like someone else said, it all starts with one foot on the pedal. Start with short trips and work up from there. You\’ll get used to it, and before you know it, you\’ll be comfortable riding anywhere and all the extra attention and checking for cars and debris in the road and people walking and other bikers will be second nature.

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  • Matthew Denton May 27, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Mary Sue,

    You need to look like you need help. Wave your arms, say something as people are going by. I, (and many other people,) do stop for people that look like they need help, and I even have tools. But if you look like you have it under control, (upside down and fiddling with the chain tends to look like you have it under control,) people tend to not bother you…

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  • Dave May 27, 2008 at 8:01 am

    No worries–our cycling future can only get better. Americans will soon be competing with Indians and mainland Chinese a those two countries increase their car use (India\’s Tata Motor will soon be selling a $2500 car in their home market) which will probably near double the world\’s pool of car owners
    without increasing the world\’s oil supply one whit. Get used to patching tubes and recycling parts.

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  • jamie May 27, 2008 at 8:08 am

    blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.vvblahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.blahbity, blah, blah, blah.

    I write this response with a helmet on, ensconced in bubble wrap. It\’s a dangerous world out there, be afraid, be very afraid.

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  • Vance May 27, 2008 at 9:30 am

    mary sue #103 – I was curious, is your post intended to imply that your own particular source of, \’fear\’, is that of bike-failure? This is actually a fairly good point that I hadn\’t thought of while being a jerk about people\’s fear of urban-cycling. I was focused on being fearful of the traffic, but you\’ve kind of got me thinking in different directions.

    I wonder, a bike isn\’t as secure as a car, does anybody ever feel vulnerable to personal assaults while on their bike? A broken bike, coupled with a long walk for some, sure seems like a legitimate, \’fear\’, I suppose. Now that I think of it, there are quite a few sources of anxiety for novice riders that I have honestly not considered. I\’m self-contained, and completely autonomous on the road. Probably safe to assume that not everyone enjoys the same peace-of-mind that I do.

    I get flamed a lot because I\’m a jerk. But I also get flamed a lot because I\’m not very good at writing the language I was born speaking, I\’m prone to deploy subtle humor without a facial expression to go along with it, and am pretty much bad at the whole human-interaction thing. So I can certainly understand when some one else perhaps misspeaks, or says something unintended.

    With that, I\’m inclined to point out that your comment implies a sense of entitlement that is a little offensive. It begs the response, \”What have you done for your fellow cyclists lately?\”. Plus, maintenance is key, is your ride tip-top? If you feel entitled to a little repair work on the road, you are then obligated to reduce the chance you\’ll have a failure on the road, by at least properly maintaining your bike.

    Plus, speaking only for myself, I am a male and I sometimes feel that I am expected to solve my own problems, just because of my gender. It\’s a gross generalization, I know, but I do feel that women are under no such obligation. As such, I\’m sometimes a little less than sympathetic, especially on the road.

    I\’m super sorry you had your fun cut short, that\’s just crumby. I\’m just as sorry you got ditched. But I think there are plenty of people out there, myself included, who would have helped you out. Maybe it was just bad luck you didn\’t encounter some one like me that day. I would urge you to reconsider the following statement:

    I obviously can\’t count on my fellow bicyclists to help

    I don\’t think that this statement is even remotely true, and I only say this because categorically alienating a large group of cyclists is only going to feed a cycle that will only served to make sure this statement does indeed become reality. Now, I know a little something about bicycles, and I can tell you without the slightest hesitation that a properly maintained, quality bicycle is reliable to a point that I don\’t feel that the fear of it failing on a ride, is a justified, or rational one.

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  • Qwendolyn May 27, 2008 at 9:39 am

    you make some good points, jamie.

    very insightful, well-reasoned, perhaps a bit long-winded, but nevertheless some very good blah-blah blahbity blah.

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  • MB May 27, 2008 at 10:06 am

    It is absolutely a matter of experience. I remember my first time biking on a busy street, and I didn\’t feel completely safe. But in no time, one gets used to riding in car traffic, and learns how to safely/intelligently maneuver. And, with the rate of car-to-car accidents and fatalities, people shouldn\’t necessarily feel safer when driving. We can and should improve biking infrastructure, but until then people need to stop using fear as an excuse and just get out and try it. It\’s really NOT THAT BAD.

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  • Lynne F May 27, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Re: #103, Mary Sue. Too bad no one stopped to help. But a little self-suffiency goes a long way, as well. It is entirely possible that anyone who might have stopped would not have pliers along with them.

    Take your bike into a local bike shop and pay to have it tuned up.

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  • zora d. May 27, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Vance (109) in response to Mary Sue (103), vance, thank you for your complex, considered thoughts, and not just vance, but many folks: i appreciate how much deeper the conversations are getting lately on here, with less of the one shot, snarky comments that don\’t really help us (as a human race) get anywhere in the long run.

    There are many parts of this conversation I could address, but there\’s one point I really need to respond to. Vance, I get what you\’re saying about the gender thing. As a woman, I have always tried to be super self-sufficient and hate asking for help, and I see how it can be annoying when others can\’t handle simple things themselves. But as far as women being \’under no such obligation,\’ there\’s a piece you\’re completely missing. There\’s a systemic trend at work here, most men are taught mechanical and technical skills and habits from a young age, most women are not. It\’s not that as women we don\’t want to know these things, most of us hate feeling stupid for not being able to do things ourselves, it\’s that we were not given the same opportunities to learn.

    That said, I appreciate your offer to get over that and help her with her bike, but I just needed to put that out there.

    thanks again, everyone!! great discussion.

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  • Vance May 27, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    zora d. #113. Excellent comment. Here I go off topic. I was hopefully clear that humans, bikes or no, legs or no, arms or no, all colors, shapes and sizes, can count on me! I will inconvenience myself, lend resources, just about anything to help some one. I was describing the difference, really, of walking away from an encounter gratified, and thinking that I helped; and walking away disappointed somehow. Either way, I\’m, \’walking away\’, from a situation where I did stop to help. Help from me is always there. There are just varying degrees to how gratifying it is for me to do it. Some one who expects, or does not appreciate it, is sort of a let down; but they get helped regardless.

    Thanks for the civility, gender issues are hotter than heck, and can inflame tempers so fast. As to this:

    most men are taught mechanical and technical skills and habits from a young age

    My completely emotional, and in no way representative of reality, response to this, is that I don\’t think it\’s entirely true. It\’s unfortunate it\’s not, because many men struggle with insecurities arising from this expectation. In fact, it is the minority of men who are given this sort of instruction. But true too, I agree that women are fairly shut-out of this loop. Point taken, just polishing a little.

    But consider the interest level, men AND women for that matter, have in dry, technical reading, and instruction. I am a competent mechanic because my father was, to be sure. But I also have a very real interest in bikes, that not all share. The degree to which I feel compelled to be knowledgeable is much more a factor in my knowledge-base, than the instruction I received early on.

    So. Is it that women are shut out of all-things-mechanical, or are they perhaps less interested in the subject in the first place? Both could explain the generalization that women are less mechanically inclined, and capable. These are generalizations, mind you. Plus, social-conditioning could certainly serve to retard a passion a woman may develop, with the same net effect. Please, don\’t get me wrong I\’m seriously interested in this is all.

    I\’m a damn good mechanic. I\’ve worked really, really, hard for my knowledge-base, and to think that people feel it was just given to me, by virtue of the birth-lottery, is a tiny bit irksome. It takes work, and none-too-little passion, to be a capable repair-person, and I just wonder if folks realize that sometimes? I promise anybody that if all you are interested in is saving money on mechanics you don\’t trust, this usually won\’t get you through a 650pg copy of, \”Shimano Small Parts\”, sanity intact. Sorry to be off topic J. This post really got the juices going.

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  • beth h May 27, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Let\’s get back to the fear issue. If you grew up loving the convenience of a car that is a hard, hard thing to get away from. But it can be done.

    My sweetie, born and raised in El Lay, was car-dependent to a T. I wanted us to ride bikes together more. She was reluctant but curious. What did it take to help her move beyond hesitation?

    I became her bike buddy.

    I didn\’t berate her for owning a car (we\’re married now, but it\’s still HER car, not ours). I didn\’t preach. Instead, I INVITED her to go to local places with me, in nice weather at an easy pace, on days when time was not of the essence. I selected residential routes with less traffic. If there was a hill, I taught her to shift down and spin in an easy gear to save her knees. Most importantly, I made sure we stopped somewhere along the way for coffee or a snack. In short, I did everything I could to make bicycle riding a pleasant experience.

    Today, my LA-bred sweetie ASKS if we can go for bike rides together in our neighborhood and has begun riding her bike alone to farmers\’ markets and the like. She has even talked hopefully of finding a job (she\’s looking) that would allow her to commute using a combination of bike and bus. She\’s not ready to sell the car — she IS from Los Angeles, after all, and these things take time — but she is in a very different place with bicycle transportation now than she was several years ago.

    All it takes is PATIENT encouragement and support from people who already ride.

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  • Metal Cowboy May 27, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Mary Sue,

    I can\’t tell you how many times I have asked fellow cyclists if they needed anything when they are stoppedd on the side of the road. i\’ve given away so many patches tubes etc. and had the same done for me. I think you need to ride more and you\’ll experience the outpouring of help that the cycling ccommunity, by and large, has to offer. Give it anotherr go, but before you do, equip a pannier full fo stuff you\’ll need to help yourself – you\’ll end up helping someone else most likely who needs it. But if you have equipment along, other cyclists can stop and help you fix something , even if you can\’t do it yourself – yet. CCC and other groups all over town offer classes on all of this stuff.

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  • kraken May 27, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    To Diogo (#17)- Selfish people are selfish people no matter what type of vehicle they drive. Using someone else\’s rule breaking as an excuse to break any rule that you want just makes you look like a l**ser.

    If we cyclists REALLY want other people to begin riding bikes we HAVE to ride responsibly. Most of my non-biking friends have the notion that every single biker in PDX is a rule breaking maniac. Are they? No, but riders like Diogo constantly cement that view just like every car that blows through a red light cements the view on this board that all car drivers are bad. Do you think drivers enjoy almost hitting bikes that can\’t maintain basic rules of the road or basic right of way (#8)?

    Right now we are around 3% of commuters. Imagine the mayhem if we were 10% of commuters and no cyclists felt the need to follow any traffic rules? The overwhelming majority of my close calls come from other cyclists. Have I almost been run over by a car? Yes. It happens regularly. Have I also almost been creamed by bikers like Diogo? Constantly. And when you call them on their lack of riding ability you get the finger, cussed out, spat at (after they almost creamed you). Cars can kill you. So can bikes. If you don\’t believe me go sit in the middle of the bike lane at night dressed in black. See how a set of handlebars feels on your skull at 20mph. Pedestrians are killed every year by bikes. More bikes equal more bike on bike and bike on ped collisions. Not pretty.

    Meanwhile, I am constantly waved through intersections and streets by cars who have the right of way. I constantly have cars sit a stop signs waiting for me to blow through them, and then sit there with their jaws dropped when I wave them through because they have the right of way.

    There are bad drivers and bad cyclists. I\’m not gonna make excuses for my riding because some a-hole in a car did something bad on my morning commute. Have a little common courtesy

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  • Becky May 27, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    I am one of those out there who is scared of riding with all the traffic. Portland is an amazing place for bicyclists providing bike lanes and boxes, education, and groups.
    I\’d love to be able to bike to work and school. But I think I would feel safer if I had a bike buddy to take me out and about, and then maybe make the commute to work. 🙂

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  • E May 28, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    Let me explain the fear to those of you who don\’t get it because I completely understand it, I have it. I have a bike that goes unridden most days for a whole list of reasons. I will list a few.

    1. I am unathletic and uncoordinated. I am afraid of falling by my own fault. Even when I was 13 and rode my bike all over town as this was the only way to meet up with friends independently of parents, I was the kid to get off and walk down steep hills, up steep hills, when the path was too narrow, across busy streets, etc. I know this type of fear is incomprehensible to many of you, but it is something that I (and many of my female counterparts) seem to be genetically encoded with.

    2. Compound this fear with being out of shape and what will I do if I\’m only halfway home and have to climb a huge hill and have no energy left?

    3. Add to that living in a city, surrounded by hills, with totally bizarre and inconsistent traffic patterns that confuse drivers and cyclists alike. OMG – the city planners from 50 years ago need to be questioned and tortured. And having to share streets that weren\’t ever meant for cars with cars that are bigger than cars were meant to be.

    4. Hearing stories of bodily injury about every 6 months from the people I know who DO bike daily. I am not fond of bodily injury. Pain is not my friend.

    5. The social fear of hearing from elitist bikers who like to laugh at people who don\’t have the right gear,ride too slow, etc. Because I don\’t have the right gear and I probably look like a dork. Getting too old to care, but I know you are out there and I can feel your disapproving smirks.

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  • wsbob May 28, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    E, get on that bike! Defy adversity! There are people on bikes now that at one time, thought of themselves just like you do. You\’re missing out by not riding, especially this, the best season for riding in Oregon.

    You can totally suck at athletics, be uncoordinated, and ride a bike just fine. That would be me. Could be you don\’t like downhills because your bike doesn\’t fit or your brakes never worked well. Bike won\’t be stable if it doesn\’t fit. You can nearly climb walls with gearing that a lot of bikes have today.

    You could be in much better shape in about 3 months if you start riding. If you learn to climb off the saddle, you can build your upper body too.

    You might take those water-cooler stories people are telling at work about their bike injuries with a grain of salt. Not that they aren\’t happening, but in that setting, sometimes people are inclined to dramatize, just a little.

    Anyone laughing at a person making an honest effort to get in shape, on a bike or any other way, is an idiot. Wear what works for you, laughing, know-it-all idiots be damned. If you need advice about what gear to get, just be careful who and where you ask, because sometimes those idiots are lurking in the very places you\’d think you should be able to get good advice.

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  • scoot May 29, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    E (#119):

    1. The more you ride, the more athletic and coordinated you will become. I\’m saying that from experience. I suggest humming while you ride at your own, careful pace. Your confidence will rise with every single trip, even if it\’s just to the corner store and back.

    2. I\’ve been riding bikes for years and years and sometimes I ride myself right up onto the sidewalk and get off the bike and walk it up a hill. Because I\’m tired. You\’ve got every right and are free to do that.

    3. Some areas are way worse than others… I don\’t know where you\’re riding to/from, so I can\’t say anything about what horrors you\’re facing. Downtown is easy – even in rush hour(s), there are quiet streets you can take.

    4. I haven\’t fallen off my bike in 30 years. I have fallen over walking a couple of times, though. Just momentarily forgot how to walk, I guess.

    5. Seriously, we need you. We the dorks in all the wrong gear, that is. I don\’t like the smirking, either, so it is my plan to outnumber them. There are more of us than them (or would be, if the rest of you would get out there and dork it up with us).

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  • Eileen May 29, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Bob and Scoot, thanks for the encouragement!
    And guys, I don\’t doubt that you are right. No one ever said fear was always rational – in fact, it\’s often not.

    It\’s like when I was little and I was afraid of the dark (among many things) and all kinds of people spent a great deal of time trying to convince me that nothing in the room was different with the lights off, that my eyes would get used to it, etc. Well that really did nothing for the panic attack that ensued when forced to \”sleep\” in a dark room. I did not sleep for a whole week at camp one summer because it was too dark and I had to stay alert all night. Yes, I\’m neurotic, but I have had this conversation with many adults who completely understood what I was talking about. With the fear thing, you either have that gene, and you get it, or you don\’t.

    Now, I am not afraid of the dark anymore and I know that the bike thing can get easier, but I just think it\’s important to point out that we are not all wired the same.

    I really WANT to though and I will keep trying to make it happen.

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  • steve May 30, 2008 at 11:31 am

    So it is genetic then Eileen? Who ever would have guessed! Hooray for Biological Determinism and Eugenics!!

    I would gladly trade both those flawed ideas for some personal responsibility. Wouldn\’t you?

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  • Russ May 30, 2008 at 11:40 am

    The kind of “fear” the writer was talking about I believe is defined as “concern or anxiety; solicitude: a fear for someone\’s safety.” We’re not talking about crippling anxiety here either, she understands the risk isn’t high enough to discount bicycling all together, she is just concerned about her safety.

    There are rational fears and irrational fears. An irrational fear is that you are going to be gassed today on the Max or a plane is going to fall out of the sky and land on you. A rational fear is that you will be hit by a car while riding your bicycle even if you are attentive and careful.

    Risk analysis is a daily endeavor for anyone who’s passed the adult threshold of understanding his or her mortality. We take all kinds of risks, from the mundane to the foolish, but they are all processed by possible consequence. This is especially applicable if there are people in your life who depend on you to feed and clothe them. For most of us interacting with cars and trucks will be one of the most dangerous situations we put ourselves in, and with the greatest frequency; Well, those vegan non-smokers amongst us anyway.

    “Concern or anxiety” that motivates us to analyze the risk, chose whether or not to take that risk, and then protect ourselves from that risk by behaving in an educated and self-preserving manner is not foolish. Comparing someone who is concerned about safety while commuting with auto traffic on a bicycle to someone who has irrational fears is just silly.

    I watched a car right hook my girlfriend. I saw her bounce off the hood and the pavement and the blood and bruises, and was thankful it only took weeks to completely heal. I got nailed on the shoulder by an F-150 side view mirror and rocked face first into the sidewalk after spinning out. We still bike as our main mode of transport, but I have “concern or anxiety” that someday either she or I could be eating through a straw thanks to a car or truck with a reckless or careless driver. Call it fear. I don’t care. It may not “rule” me, but I don’t trivialize the risk.

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  • steve May 30, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    48,000 dead per year in car collisions.

    If your \’risk analysis\’ is not including that sobering reality, then yes I would say you are being irrational.

    How rational is it to support totalitarian regimes, oil wars, and terrorism through the continued purchase of oil?

    How rational is it to actually know and believe all of that, then say \’But I just don\’t feel safe!\’?

    Perhaps you are right, it isn\’t irrational at all. It is selfish, it is lazy, and it is easy. Sounds like the perfectly rational American brain at work. All that is left is to blame the problem on someone or something else to deflect responsibility!

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  • Russ May 30, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    We\’re not talking about your leftist quasi-religious political beliefs Steve. We\’re talking about her safety concerns commuting by bike.

    If you want to equate car deaths or injury with bicycle deaths or injury you have to control for both the ratio of use for each mode, and remove deaths that are not city-commute centered in both cases. In my case, I would also remove highway commuting deaths from that equation due to the fact that I wouldn\’t need to ever drive the interstate if I chose to commute my five miles by car.

    So the analysis for a typical inner city bicycle commuter is not 40,000+ vs. # of bike deaths, but 40,000 minus all deaths that did not occur on highways and were on main or side/residential roads with 35 mph speed limits or less in an urban setting and are also controlled for the higher ratio of car commuters to bicycle commuters.

    A simpler way to put it would be to look at bicycle deaths vs. car death (since that is the authors stated primary concern) per 100 million miles controlled by the type of road traveled.

    Once those filters are in place (in other words, we\’re looking only at city commutes of 10 miles or less on city streets for each mode) I believe one would come up with numbers that are a bit different than the 1 in 7700 car and 1 in 410,000 bike I see used a lot.

    I\’d love to see the Mathematical Analysis Division of the NHTSA getting right on that… or better yet, PDOT for local numbers.

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  • steve May 30, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    That is a lot of words to essentially say that you know nothing.

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  • Russ May 30, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    In that case, here is some language you might be able to understand:

    Including highway, interstate, and rural deaths for the entire nation for your car collision figure and then comparing it to bicycle deaths is apples and oranges, and just plain bad math. It\’s a flawed argument to use those numbers to claim riding a bike is safer than driving a car on city streets.

    It\’s the same as if I looked at two fields, one with 30,000 goats and another with 2,000 cows. I then saw that the goat farmers sold more milk than the cow farmers and proclaimed: Goats obviously produce more milk than cows.

    If I want to assess my risk of death riding from SE 39th to downtown at 7:30am weekdays, I really could give a damn how many people died in rural back roads in Mississippi at 3am last year.

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  • wsbob May 31, 2008 at 12:47 am

    Eileen, let us hear how you do on your efforts to get some biking in this summer. Why not try start a thread in the forums, or post a comment on this one:

    The Odyssey Begins…by chubbybiker

    Sure, many people know all too well about the fear thing. So now, just do something constructive to deal with it: pull the bike out of the garage; take 30 minutes of laps around the neighborhood, and keep your eyes open for everything and anything that can help you learn a little about what can make you feel less anxious about riding.

    Trust me…just do this, and all the ignorant static will be lost with the wind.

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  • Non-aggro Steve May 31, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    I\’m probably too extreme a case for anyone here to find useful, but the slow-steps-into-the-kiddie-pool method wsbob describes above worked for me.

    I don\’t drive- I never even learned how- but wanted to transition from taking the bus to riding a bike. The only problem was that I hadn\’t been on one for 30 years and even back then had never gone so far as to cross an intersection. Let\’s just say that I\’ve got some nervous issues regarding my ability to control a vehicle. But I felt like the time had come to give it a try, so I went to the nearest bike co-op, sat on a bunch and wound up with a big old 3-speed Schwinn that felt more comfortable than anything else they had.

    So now I had to learn how to get around on the thing. Sunday mornings in my neighborhood are super quiet, so started then, staying on sidewalks and getting off and walking the thing across the busier streets. I\’m sure I looked goofy as hell, moving insanely slowly and hitting the brakes for no reason because I could hear a car a couple of blocks away. I nearly fell a few times trying to turn at my crawling pace on narrow sidewalks, and decided that maybe it was worth try going a block or two on the actual street. I indeed did ride like I had PTSD, but nothing bad happened. I made small goals for myself, and rewarded myself for making them. \”Go downhill on a steep street for the first time and you can spend an hour goofing around playing pinball at the coffee shop at the bottom of the hill.\” It worked. I ride more often. I bought rain gear. I tried out the ramps and the path under the Steel Bridge. I\’m getting better at piloting the thing around, and more and more of my ride is in the street.

    I ride to my office downtown several days a week now. I still mostly stick to quiet residential areas and ride on the sidewalk on streets like MLK, where the road is busy but the sidewalk is dead. Sometimes I have to get off the bike at Broadway and walk it a block or two. No big deal. I\’m getting around a lot faster than I used to on foot. For drivers, moving to bike generally means accepting a slower pace. For me, it was like moving from dial-up to DSL.

    More importantly, it\’s been one of those personal-growth, climb-the-mountain kind of experiences. Objectively, I\’m still a fat white guy on a cheap bike. But for me this is a big deal, and it feels great. I was scared of something. Now I\’m not. I\’ve been riding for over a year, and I love it now. I hope I can do this for the rest of my life.

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  • Ken June 1, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    I you are interested in objective data on bicycling safety, you may want to read the article at this link:

    The authors are two academic urban planners at Rutgers. They wrote the article using data from government sources. They concluded the following about the risks of death while cycling and walking in the USA:
    1. on a per trip basis both cycling and walking are about 3 times more dangerous than driving
    2. on a per kilometer travelled basis, cycling is 11 times more dangerous than driving and walking is 36 times more dangerous than driving.

    This article was criticized by Ken Kifer in the following link on the basis that a better comparison would per hour of activity:
    It should be noted, however, that after Ken wrote his criticism, he was killed by a drunk driver while riding his bike.

    I would like to believe that cycling is very safe (so that I could start commuting again myself). However, in 1 year of serious riding, I was hit once intentionally by teenaged drivers (with no injury) and once by accident in a left hook crash (with moderate injuries that required about $5000 worth of medical care). In my conversations with serious cyclists, all but one that I spoke with have been hit by cars while riding. Any time one has a collision with a car, the risk of serious injury or death is high.

    I think the journalist is correct to be scared. Before I will start bike commuting again, I will need to see signs that it is becoming safer. Those signs would include:
    1. lower cyclist death rates in Portland
    2. conversations with drivers that no longer are diatribes against \”crazy bikes\”
    3. seeing drivers be careful around bikes (which they are not)
    4. seeing a lower concentration of large trucks and SUVs (which are invariably driven badly by hyperaggressive drivers who are trying to compensate for something)
    5. seeing a commitment by the cities of Portland and Lake Oswego to create bike paths that are separate from car traffic and that will provide most of a route to work for me.

    I would love to commute by bike. I\’m not afraid of getting wet, dirty, or sweaty (in fact, I welcome it). I am afraid of spending my life using a walker, being on a ventilator as a quad, or being turned into a drooling traumatic brain injury patient. Anyone who is not afraid of these things needs to come to my hospital and see what it\’s like for the people it happens to.

    For those that continue to commute, Godspeed but please be careful … I hope I can join you again someday.

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  • Russ June 2, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Thanks for the links Ken, I\’d forgotten about the tragic irony in regards to Ken Kifer\’s death. Although his killer was dumb enough to mess up the sweet two year sentence he was handed as a gift (I \’fear\’ Jeremy Johnson will get a similar sentence), there is little satisfaction other than it keeps another drunk off the road until 2023, although not in our neck of the woods.

    It seems like most of the studies I see (or arguments about the study) are by those with and axe to grind. One guy wants to arrange the data to argue it is dangerous to ride a bike with traffic in order to gain more funding for separate bicycle infrastructure. The next guy wants to mangle death statistics to argue that bicycling in traffic is as safe as sitting on your porch so that more people will get over their \”fear\” and ride.

    Without an impartial study on how much more or less dangerous it is to ride a bike rather than drive a car within a 5, 10, and 15 mile radius of downtown Portland, I think it\’s difficult for people to make an educated assessment when deciding whether or not to commute by bicycle.

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  • wsbob June 2, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Forget the studies. All studies have a certain, inherent bias. People commuting to work, riding for fun and fitness, errands and so forth, should not need, or should not rely on a study to tell them whether riding their bike on the route of their choice is dangerous or not.

    It would be a far more intelligent and reliable thing to do to personally take your bike out and explore your route; learn proficiency in handling your bike in the traffic conditions you see, or, choose another route that better serves your comfort level.

    I\’m concerned that people will dismiss the idea of trying out riding a bike for transportation because of reactionary and panic remarks made by some people.

    People that care about safer cycling conditions have to actually be out there riding, offering their input about riding conditions. When people are dissuaded from cycling, grass roots momentum to improve traffic conditions for cycling becomes that much harder to build.

    People opposing the presence of bikes on streets and highways know that. They know they can intimidate and discourage people from riding a bike on busy streets and thoroughfares through citing vague studies and the telling of scary stories.

    Use your brain: learn how to handle your bike, go out and explore your route for yourselves. In so doing, you\’ll be making a small but important move towards making improvements in cycling for everyone.

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  • girl on a bike June 2, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Non-aggro Steve,

    Your story is the most inspiring one I\’ve heard about transitioning to bike transportation in a long time. I really hope you keep it up … but for some reason, I have no doubt that you will!

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  • brettoo June 2, 2008 at 8:13 pm

    The fears expressed throughout this thread and in the original post just underline the need for physically separated cycle tracks along major commuting routes and other heavily biked streets (and those we want to be more heavily biked). Bike lanes, sharrows, and all the other ideas we\’re putting in place in Portland will boost biking, but I don\’t know anything that demonstrably overcomes the fear of bike-car collision the way cycle tracks have in cities that have adopted them.

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  • Eileen June 11, 2008 at 12:26 am

    I don\’t know why I came back to this thread, but most of the comments from \”experienced cyclists\” confirm for me that there are a lot of self-indignant snobs on bicycles in Portland. It is always a challenge to understand why someone has a hard time with something that you don\’t. I, for instance, have never understood the counter-productive test anxiety that so many people get. That\’s not to say I\’ve never had a bad test or a stressful test experience, but gosh-darned it I just got right back on the horse and kept going to school and taking tests. If I can do it, anyone can! Anyway, I\’m using sarcasm in case you thought I was serious. I was just trying to point out that you can never know what it\’s like for another person to go through anything, even the same thing you went through, and so there is just no point in us judging each other or telling each other what is wrong with the other or what we SHOULD be doing.

    It is difficult to even admit to fears like these and, like I said in my original post, I am a genetic scaredy-cat. I can trace the gene through my mom\’s side. My dad and siblings are all daredevils. My kids are scaredy-cats. It is recognizable from a very young age – the kids who actually look before they leap, the ones you can trust not to fall off the jungle gym, the ones who sleep with a night-light. Yeah, you know. If you don\’t possess this gene, well, um.. you might be my big brother. He was kind of mean.

    I appreciate those who shared what worked for them and offered encouragement to those of us who are struggling. That is positive, helpful and constructive.

    WSBob, I will let you know how I do with the biking. I can add that to the list of things I should be blogging about… lol. So far, since I posted originally, I haven\’t managed much. I am a teacher so next week things will calm down and I will run out of excuses. Monday. Okay, I posted that on a public forum. If nothing else, I will drive down to oaks park and ride along the path from there. I need just a good long ride without any traffic to worry about to help me feel comfortable. Monday. Hope it doesn\’t rain. Weatherbug says sunny. Darn it all!

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  • Eileen June 11, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Oh, and Steve, more of what makes us who we are is genetic than any of us ever thought. Temperament is definitely genetic. For someone who apparently knows the answers to just about everything, I\’m surprised you don\’t know that.

    I am really offended that you assume I don\’t take personal responsibility without knowing a thing about me. You have no clue where I have been, what I have done, what all I have had to overcome to get to this point in my life, and your comments are rude and arrogant. You are telling me to \”just get over it\”, well get over yourself!

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  • Carissa Wodehouse June 11, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Gee whiz, what kind of a welcome to the bike world is this? A bunch of yammering about stop signs and attacks on her journalistic cred, with occasional props hidden in the midst of it all? For any reader who migrated over from the Oregonian, I truly hope the takeaway isn\’t that bikers are agro and unwelcoming to newbies. But it sure reads like that. Speaking your mind, fine, but attacking someone for trying to break into cycling, on a cycling forum? Jerky and counterproductive.

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  • Carissa Wodehouse June 11, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Also, here\’s a quote from her article, which it appears few people read (partially due to lack of direct link, I\’ll give you that, so here it is: http://blog.oregonlive.com/pdxgreen/2008/05/top_three_reasons_not_riding_bike.html):

    \”First, I\’m going to attend \”Women on Bikes,\” a series of city-sponsored clinics for freaked-out female wanna-be cyclists. I\’m told I can ask all sorts of stupid questions without getting laughed at by some guy in a tight jersey who thinks he\’s the next Lance Armstrong.\”

    This comment thread is the equivalent. Frequent readers know the general tone is much nicer, and the frequent posters are well intentioned. But for someone popping in for the first time, this is exactly what she\’s talking about.

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  • Pete June 12, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Carrissa (#138): easy to see where you get that impression, but understand the \”bike community\” is not all on the fringe of law and reason. I wrote to encourage Shelby and she\’s told me she hasn\’t taken many of the comments here seriously and has had a great time bike commuting and it wasn\’t as scary as she thought, though still hairy in parts. I\’m looking forward to her follow-up article and hope it inspires others to see past the few jerks that make it seem like an \”us versus them\” thing.

    (I started racing this year and encountered the \’next Lance\’ she referred to, but most racers are very supportive of newbies – as long as I don\’t crash into them or pass them ;).

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  • Pete June 12, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Oh and Eileen (#137): just get over Steve and good luck in your endeavors… 🙂

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  • Hillsons June 12, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Carissa, everyone should take these responses with a grain of salt. All of the readers who attack others prevent these comments from representing this cycling community as a whole

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