Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Realities of bike traffic: The bike-on-bike collision

Posted by on June 4th, 2008 at 1:48 pm

Bike-on-bike aftermath in
downtown Portland.
(Photo: Kate Gawf)

I came across an interesting account of a collision that happened two weeks ago in downtown Portland.

Kate Gawf was riding her bike south on SW NW Broadway and noticed the aftermath of a bike-on-bike collision at Couch Street. Here’s how Ms. Gawf explains what happened (based on talking with onlookers, emphasis mine):

“One [bike] was zooming along Broadway, as one does, Broadway being a main arterial. The other apparently tried to dart across Broadway at a gap in the cars, but neglected to wait for a gap in the bikes.”

I have experienced this myself. I tend to focus primarily on motor vehicle traffic when I think about crossing a street. But the different speeds of bikes — and their smaller visual (and audible) footprints — can sometimes throw off my judgment.

Here’s how Gawf explains it:

“You’re waiting and waiting, you’re focusing on the cars, you finally get your chance, and your gap is filled with bikes. By the time the slow-mo bikes go by, you’ve got another wave of cars to wait for.”

Bike Back the Night-17.jpg

Bike traffic.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Gawf says the problem is particularly acute when she’s trying to cross streets that have heavily used bike lanes and high car volumes (like when she’s crossing N. Vancouver or Williams from Thompson).

I have found that over the years of riding in traffic, I’m able to predict car behavior and traffic flow very well, but I have not yet fully adjusted my judgment for bike traffic (most likely because it has never really existed until recently).

As we’ve seen with “The Awareness Test” video, it’s hard to see what you’re not looking for, but with Portland’s streets becoming more and more multi-modal, we’ve got to adjust accordingly.

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  • PdxMark June 4, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I was hit by a bike just yesterday.

    Your comment about the predictability of car traffic being different from that of bike traffic was exemplified for me yesterday when I as rear-ended by a bike on NW Broadway at Couch.

    As is common, there were a number of cars backed up on NW Broadway waiting for the light at W Burnside. As is also common, the backed-up cars left a gap for westbound cars trying to cross Broadway at Couch. Having had a near-miss or two there with cars darting across Broadway, I am very wary of the gaps between stopped cars at intersections.

    Sure enough, despite having slowed as I approached that gap yesterday, a car started through just as I approached. I hit my brakes to stop (as did the motorist), but the cyclist behind me was too close and not paying attention. He ran into me. It was at low speed, so nothing was harmed and no-one went down. Nevertheless, it was my first bike-bike collision.

    So, it\’s a good idea to leave some space between you and the rider in front of you…

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  • Elly Blue June 4, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Sometimes I catch myself listening for cross traffic more than looking for it. And cyclists often take me by surprise when passing me.

    Just this morning I was riding through Ladds and looked up to find that a guy in lycra on a racing bike had silently appeared about a foot to my left. If I had lost my line for a second for whatever reason we both would have had to think fast to stay up.

    I shouldn\’t have assumed nobody was there, and he probably should have given some kind of audible warning.

    It is funny having to learn all new riding skills…

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  • JohnO June 4, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    This might be slightly off-topic, but I had two near misses and a minor incident with pedestrians on Monday.

    One pedestrian just decided to jaywalk in front of me, so I had to go around her. The next pedestrian looked like a homeless guy, and he was walking diagonally, and even after I yelled at him twice, he still didn\’t clue in. I ended up stopped in the bike lane, between him and the curb, before he finally figured out I was there.

    And then was I was entering a bike path from a street, one side of the center bollard was full of a man walking his dog, and on the other, two clueless teenagers were standing in the way.

    Was it a full moon, or something?

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  • bahueh June 4, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    every interesection on SW Broadway has a TRAFFIC LIGHT…
    sounds like this didn\’t \”just happen\”…one of these bikers ran a red light or otherwise wasn\’t paying attention to basic traffic rules.

    it\’ll happen more often as more riders choose to blatantly blow stop signs and red lights in the name of \”time\”…

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  • encephalopath June 4, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Broadway and Couch…

    All sorts of crazy things happen at the intersection. I\’ve almost been hit when a car stopped on Broadway decided it didn\’t want to wait for the Burnside light, so it whipped over into the bike lane without looking to turn right on Couch. There were no cars behind this guy either. He had a full, clear view of me in his mirrors. No mirror check, no signal, no response to me yelling next to him as he almost right hooks me.

    Last week I stopped on Broadway to let a pedestrian cross at Couch. As I started moving again, a car also wanting to cross thought I was waiting for him or something and tried to push his way through the intersection. As if, because I had waited for a pedestrian, I no longer had the right of way to continue on in the bike lane. (It was the gesturing from the driver that made me think that more than anything else.)

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  • bahueh June 4, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    bike racers know how to handle bikes and ride close to people…very close.
    and race bikes don\’t have bells on them.
    ride in a straight line and everything will be fine.

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  • nate June 4, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    every interesection on SW Broadway has a TRAFFIC LIGHT…

    Too bad we\’re talking about NW Broadway, specifically Broadway and Couch which most assuredly does NOT have a traffic light.

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  • Moo June 4, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Bike racers need to keep it on the track and quit showing off!

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  • Paul Souders June 4, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Now we\’re getting a little appetizer of the traffic hell we\’ll be forced to endure once the Bike Nazis(tm) completely take over Portland. All those bike-on-bike and bike-on-ped accidents will leave thousands of elbows abraded.

    Seriously, I love that this is news. Every time someone whines about Random Cyclist Stereotype X riding the wrong way on a one-way street or blowing through stop signs or passing too quickly on the Hawthorne bridge I think \”what, you\’d be safer if that clueless jerk were in a CAR?\”

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  • no one in particular June 4, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    nate: You are correct, but give the commenter some slack. Jonathan\’s article incorrectly says \”SW Broadway\”.

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  • Liz June 4, 2008 at 2:55 pm


    not everyone is a bike racer. All experienced riders hold a line as is appropriate in traffic. I still don\’t want an experienced racer zipping up a foot or two to my side with no warning. Thanks for keeping the non racers in mind.

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  • N.I.K. June 4, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Too bad we\’re talking about NW Broadway, specifically Broadway and Couch which most assuredly does NOT have a traffic light.

    Too bad indeed, because then bahueh could\’ve made a completely valid point about how the old \”the only person I\’m endangering by running a stop sign or red light is me\” excuse is a crock.

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  • Graham June 4, 2008 at 2:57 pm


    That\’s good advice – if you\’re in a a bike race :). Bike races are controlled environments that limit unexpected obstacles that might cause one to have to swerve. City streets are a whole other story, even in quiet Ladd\’s Addition.

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  • amanda June 4, 2008 at 2:57 pm

    Davis is the safer cross street for NW Broadway due to the light but Couch is more direct between the Pearl and the waterfront bike path. Every morning that I bike, I choose between the two. I wish the connections between Old Town and the waterfront were better for cyclists — wider (to accommodate multiple modes) and better positioning of signaling. My heart goes out to those cyclists — that really sucks.

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  • Cpingenot June 4, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    This is a pet peeve of mine- I\’m a bike commuter, not a racer- I never signed up for the peloton.
    I always ride in a straight line…. except for where there\’s a giant pothole, or a jagged piece of metal in the lane, or a pedestrian jumping out to hail a cab, etc, etc.
    I\’ve often been startled by someone passing really close really fast without any warning and I always worry that if I had taken that moment to swerve around a 6\” deep hole we\’d both end up under a bus. How hard is it to say \”on your left?\” or even \”Hello?\” Is there some unwritten \”coolness\” rule that prohibits announcing your presence?
    Funnily enough, I never have this problem in December when it\’s the hard core commuters.

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  • david June 4, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    \”bike racers know how to handle bikes and ride close to people…very close.\”

    i\’m so sick of arguments like this. just because you can ride fast, doesn\’t mean you should. just because you can ride close to someone, doesn\’t mean you should. just because you can pass someone, doesn\’t mean you should. just because you can ride faster than someone else, doesn\’t mean you should. and just because someone\’s riding in plain clothes, doesn\’t mean they couldn\’t easily track you or out-sprint you.

    this holier than thou riding style is pretty much the only thing that detracts from the pleasure of my commute. i have a slightly different philosophy: commuters, with bells and lights, in plain clothes, know how to commute…so please let us do so without treating us like members of the peloton.

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  • GG June 4, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    This whole article is a bit ironic in an odd way.

    \”I tend to focus primarily on motor vehicle traffic when I think about crossing a street. But the different speeds of bikes — and their smaller visual (and audible) footprints — can sometimes throw off my judgment.\”

    Thats the inside of a drivers head, and it\’s scary that it\’s still true on a bike where we\’re less isolated from what\’s going on around us. We are hard to see but we often forget just how much when we\’re riding.

    I\’ve had bike-bike near misses but they\’ve generally been:
    1) the idiot riding the wrong way
    2) the idiot riding in the dark with no lights
    3) some breed of super idiot doing both at once like the guy that almost hit me head-on on salmon recently.

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  • Russ June 4, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    While this intersection doesn\’t have a light, it\’s not uncontrolled. There is a two-way stop there. That doesn\’t necessarily mean that the cyclist who didn\’t yield the right of way ran the sign, but I\’d be curious to hear the story.

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  • bahueh June 4, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Nate..only know what the article states…and it said SW Broadway..

    David..you should put all that energy into racing…

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  • Kronda June 4, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I was going to respond to bahueh but now I can just say, \”what david (14) said.\”

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  • BURR June 4, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    bike racers know how to handle bikes and ride close to people…very close.
    and race bikes don\’t have bells on them.
    ride in a straight line and everything will be fine.

    no one wants to be surprised by a close pass on the street or the trail, passing distance should be a minimum of 3\’ unless you\’re actually in a real race.

    I am continually startled and annoyed by the racers and the poseurs passing too close without bells on the Esplanade/Springwater.

    This is what I\’ve got to say about it:

    Hey racer boy – pass safely: slow down, leave three feet of clearance, get a bell and learn how to use it!

    I\’ll be the guy in front of you deliberately weaving so that you slow down and keep your distance.

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  • Chad June 4, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Good points David #14…since the weather has gotten better it does seem that most of more unpleasant commute moments have come from bikes, not cars.

    I\’m starting to prefer the rainy winter commutes because it lacks most of the \”never-stop-novices\” and the fair weather racers.

    I love seeing more bikes out there, but the riders who are like aggressive Hummer drivers with two wheels make the roads less safe (and less fun) for everybody.

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  • KTesh June 4, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I\’ve had several near misses by other cyclists…

    Typically spandex clad, skinny wheels, headphones, and totally self absorbed.

    As much as you may hate it… Put a Goddammned BELL on your bike. You don\’t like giving warnings when you train? Ask yourself this: How well will you train when your leg is broken? What will your all important race time be after you heal?

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  • jeff June 4, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    As a \”bike racer\”, amongst other things, I feel confident saying that very few of us would behave in the manner bahueh described. A race is for racing, streets are for all. Not that you can\’t go fast on the streets, but you pick your times.

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  • tonyt June 4, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Yeah, all hail the uber-skilled, bell-free racers. Like the guy who chopped me yesterday on Interstate so he could catch up with his two racer buddies heading up to PIR.

    There are close passes and there are chops. That was a chop.

    Anyway. I had a near miss with a ped along waterfront park the other day. It was VERY crowded, so I was riding pretty slow, heading north toward the steel bridge, when a woman walked blindly (perpendicular to the flow of traffic) into the path of a southbound cyclist. She (the ped) then immediately realized that she was about to get hit, and instead of jumping back out of the way, she high stepped it right into my path, all the while still looking at the southbound cyclist. I hollered out, nailed the brakes and swerved. I still can\’t figure out how I missed her.

    She was pretty horrified at herself when all was said and done.

    Rubber side down. Take your turn at stop signs.

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  • tonyt June 4, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    bahueh #19,

    You should put all of that boundless diplomatic skill to use at the next BikePortland social hour.

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  • Matthew Denton June 4, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    That collision happened 20 feet in front of me:

    It should be noted that it wasn\’t just bike on bike, it was bike on bike while a pedestrian was crossing the street. I talked to the police officer afterwards, (they investigated, it took them about an hour to get around to taking statements,) and he wasn\’t sure who was actually at fault: The person on Couch had a stop sign, and therefor should yield to the traffic on Broadway. But you have to yield to pedestrians in unsignaled intersections, and the rider on Broadway should have done that, (although they couldn\’t see that there was one,) so the rider on Couch could have logically made the assumption that the bicycles on Broadway would have, and then gone…

    Jonathan could probably pull up the police report to see what it says: It happened on May 22nd at about 10am.

    Ultimately, if they made the bicycle lane on Broadway wider, it would also be safer, (not just from this sort of thing, but from doors and being able to avoid double parked cars/right turns/etc.)

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  • Zaphod June 4, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    My race bike has a bell. Threading the needle around commuters on surface streets is not cool.

    As my own sick little revenge, On occasion I get some joy when I\’m *not* on the fast bike and am instead riding with the forty pound boy sitting on the tank-like Xtracycle. If a roadie passes me in a disrespectful way I catch up and blaze past the \”speedy\” roadie while me and the boy ring our bells. I\’m less successful at this little game when the road points uphill. ;^)

    There\’s an advert by New Belgium Brewing that captures the essence of this. A guy in casual and stylish street clothes sans helmet passes a full on road racer on his carbon wonderbike while riding his 50\’s balloon cruiser uphill. It\’s brill.

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  • Stacy Westbrook June 4, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    We all need to be safe and courteous to each other if this whole \”biking is for everyone\” idea is going to work.

    Bells on bikes only work if A) nobody steals yours while your bike is parked outside, and B) if people don\’t have earbuds in and their music cranked so high they can\’t hear you ring the bell or yell at them.

    Take off the headphones, wear a helmet, get some lights, and start acting like the traffic we keep demanding people treat us as. We can\’t be our own demise!

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com June 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    In a really WEIRD, sublimely morbid way, I should think this would be quite the NICE problem to have, especially for the personal injury attorneys.

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  • Mike June 4, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    I\’ve only been hit by cyclists in plain clothes, like the guy last week wearing the \”I share the road\” bumper sticker on his helmet. Ironic. I wasn\’t interested in sharing that closely.
    It\’s a good thing I don\’t wear my lycra when I commute, I do not want to be accused of showing off on my morning commute. Although my race bike does have a bell.

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  • el timito June 4, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Look for this t-shirt, coming to a Hawthorne rush-hour commute soon:
    \”Can\’t slow down? Why you so weak?\”

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  • Meep June 4, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    My biggest obstacle recently has been parked cars and utility poles… I\’m only 166cm tall and use drop bars, so sometimes it\’s hard to see traffic over a parked car. It\’s especially bad if a car is parked too close to an intersection. But then I feel awkward getting too far into the lane because I could get hooked by a motorist.

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  • tonyt June 4, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    And on a positive note, my experience is that almost without exception, when I\’ve had close calls at intersections, it\’s ended with a smile, a sheepish grin, and a wave (all fingers extended). Something about NOT being incased in steel that keeps it on a more human level.

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  • Alan June 4, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Drive, I\’m RIDE, defensively.

    This slogan was the heart of a safe driving campaign when I was a kid. It was the core of our driver\’s training course in high school. Somehow, in the last 3 decades, it has gotten lost.

    Defensively means looking around to anticipate what could happen and leaving adequate space and time to respond.

    Following the next vehicle, car or bike, too closely is the opposite of driving defensively.

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  • a.O June 4, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    When you hear that bell that just keeps ring-ring-ringing and then you see that guy on the Trek Portland slowing down and gliding by at lest three feet to your left, you\’ll know that you have just been passed by the one and only \”a\” to the muthafunkin \”O.\”

    But seriously, I feel like I\’m the only dork who uses the bell – what gives? It\’s pretty handy for averting collisions, you know.

    I\’ve got a big fat one installed right at my fingertips.

    And I don\’t just use it when passing, but when approaching intersections, when I see pedestrians, especially kids, who have their back to me, and if I think there\’s even a remote chance the guy/gal in her/his car/truck can hear it.

    No one on a bike or on foot will ever be able to say they didn\’t know I was there…at least no one who isn\’t wearing headphones!

    Perhaps more importantly, re #26, when is the next Bikeportland social hour?

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  • k June 4, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    It\’s not surprising that this article came up. I\’ve been thinking about requesting a \”cycling etiquette\” post now that we\’re technically in the warm season.
    During my afternoon commute between downtown and north portland I find myself cursing under my breath at more cyclists than vehicles. With plenty of exceptions (I\’m sure), cyclists tend to be behavioral wild cards. Instead of following basic traffic rules, i.e. pass on the left, yield the right of way at least to other cyclists, allow proper following distance, etc. a lot of cyclists seem to be in some kindof commuting free-for-all, or maybe there\’s a commuting race going on that I\’m not aware of. I\’m not a proponent of stopping at every stop sign, and following all traffic laws by the book, but most of those laws are there for a reason- and a little more caution when breaking them, would keep everybody involved safer. Though mistakes happen, regardless of whether you\’re in a vehicle or riding a bike- if your carelessness injures me, you\’re still paying my medical bills.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com June 4, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Solution? Post a sign on bike: CRAZY DRUNK DRIVR ON BOARD. Problem SOLVED.

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  • Elliot June 4, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    I\’m more vocal than most at reminding road users of their rights and responsibilities. This varies from reprimanding drivers that run stop signs to telling pedestrians that yes, it is okay to use that crosswalk in front of me, and in fact that\’s why I stopped. I try to smile and give the \”thanks\” wave when people do the right thing.

    But I have had zero success when talking to bicyclists. Even though I stopped the practice of running 4-way stops a long time ago, I can remember the holier-than-thou rationale that we cyclists sometimes use to justify taking the right-of-way from cars when we don\’t legally have it. But in recent years, in the spring when bicyclists double like bunnies over the previous year, making an illegal move can snub another cyclist as easily as it can a car. It\’s rude regardless of who the victim is, but with a cyclist they can look you in the eye as you wrong them, and then there\’s no justifying or denying your guilt.

    At least, it feels that way to me. But the other cyclists I\’ve been cut off seem to have hearts of coal, or are too embarrassed to say they’re sorry! Even equipped with a front strobe and a bell on an otherwise dark and silent night, I was cut off by a biker at the 4-way stop at 34th and Lincoln a few days ago while riding my girlfriend home from work. \”You have a stop sign,\” I reminded him, as he rode in front of me after I had stopped, looked, and entered the intersection. \”Uhhhh, right,\” he replied. As in, \”I\’m way too cool for stop signs, and my time is more important than yours.\”

    If any of you out there still think like him, be warned. Eventually, I won\’t be able to stop for you in time, and when a crash results, you\’ll be liable. And you\’ll be paying my insurance bills, plus a little bit on top for my pain and suffering. So either start saving your money, get some bike insurance, or STOP BREAKING THE LAW.

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  • Elliot June 4, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    k, it seems you and I were thinking alike, and writing simultaneously.

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  • bahueh June 4, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    funny how everyone here jumps on me personally…when I don\’t do the things described, I only provide justification…thanks for assuming however. I was simply saying some racer folks do..some don\’t…
    and I also did NOT describe any sort of behavior…talk about jumping to conclusions. I simply told someone that it happens and to ride in a straight line (totally unreasonable, I know!).

    this \”us\” vs \”them\” argument..how ironic.
    doesn\’t appear as though either of those bikes in the collision described approve was a race bike….now does it? I for one at tired of morons blowing through stop signs right into me or cutting me off by running stop signs(happens in SE 3-4 times a week).

    Stacy, you\’re a wise woman. Funny how everyone here jumps on the \”lycra clad\” guys for simply being faster than they are…when its actually the morons running stop signs without helmets with headphones on who are the problem with legitimacy and safety.

    Tonyt, I have no interest in being diplomatic for idiots running stop signs and/or putting my health/safety in danger simply because they can\’t handle riding a bike in a straight line or in safe manner…I\’ll say it here just as I\’d say it at any \”social hour\”.

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  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com June 4, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Eliot, #38, your approach and delivery is all WRONG. Try speaking softly and impersonate Santa.

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  • a.O June 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Well bahueh, that\’s because you implied that it\’s safe to pass someone \”very close[ly]\” because the passer knows how to \”handle bikes.\” But that doesn\’t account for the other person\’s (the passee\’s) skill, so it\’s still not safe regardless.

    It\’s not a race, where skill and risks are assumed. It\’s the public roadway, where (for better or worse) the lowest practicable skill level must be safely accommodated. And it\’s your duty to exercise due care given those circumstances.

    And, just so you know, my Trek Portland didn\’t come with a bell – I put one on it. My road bike didn\’t come with a bell, either, but I put one on that too. And my mountain bike didn\’t come with a bell, but, yep, I put one on.

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  • Paul Souders June 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    What a lot of anger over what is, when you think about it, a GOOD problem (\”too much bike traffic\”).

    This is like complaining about how heavy your wallet is.

    Anyone can wear whatever crazy clothes they want, and ride as fast as they dare, on whatever bike they care to ride; and everyone should ride courteously, give good passing width with a pleasant warning, and obey the laws of the road. These are not mutually exclusive propositions.

    Our diversity of speeds and abilities is a fact of life, the way to deal with it is through tolerance and courtesy in equal measure.

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  • a.O June 4, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Oh, and if you come to the bikeportland social hour, I\’ll buy you a beer.

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  • Alan Cordle June 4, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Today I rode home from PCC-SY to NE PDX and probably a dozen cyclists passed me. Only one announced his presence on my left. WHY????

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  • PoPo June 4, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Recently read a police report from another bike on bike crash at that same intersection. Motor vehicle traffic on Broadway had stopped to allow a pedestrian and and a person riding a bicycle to cross, but another person on a bicycle heading southbound in the bike lane neglected to stop and hit the crossing bicycle.

    Love a.O\’s bells. I use one too and was worried that people might take offense when I ring before overtaking pedestrians, but the only responses I\’ve gotten are people thanking me for the warning.

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  • chris June 4, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Not bike on bike, but poor signals.

    Today I saw a bicycle rider signal a RIGHT turn with her RIGHT right hand.

    Somethings look so wrong, even when you know what they are trying to do.

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  • Dag June 4, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    I like to go fast. It\’s not because I want to get to my destination faster, it\’s because riding hard and fast is fun, and because it\’s good exercise.

    I have a bell, but it\’s unfortunately not easily accessible from my usual hand position on the brake hoods. (any tips?) I usually yell if I can\’t reach the bell, and I definitely yell if I\’m passing on the right. I don\’t pull out my measuring tape when passing, but I try to leave a comfortable distance.

    Regarding stop signs, I really think that stop signs are generally bad traffic control devices for bikes, and I wish the law worshipers would chill out. Why the hell does someone sitting on their porch care if I ride through a stop sign after checking for cross-traffic, or if a group of riders passes a stop sign as a group instead of each yielding separately?

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  • Lisa June 4, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    The only near misses with other bikes I\’ve had are with people who blow through stop signs and/or zoom out of side streets without looking (and yeah, there was a crazy wrong-way rider with no lights). Most of these, I think, would probably fit into the category of \”fair weather cyclists\”, lack of awareness and experience combined (as well as lack of lights, etc). Being hyper-aware with maybe a good portion if intuition, too, lets you predict their behavior, just like their auto equivalents, and you can time yourself to get just close enough without danger of colliding, enough to say \”Hey, that was a stop sign\” while ringing your bell. Hurray for fellow bell-users.

    On the other hand, very few peds even look up at all at the sound of a bell (and mine is a loud one) while in the process of crossing in front of you last minute, mid-block, without looking. (Now if they are at a corner, no-problem, I\’ll completely stop for them.) In about 30 recent cases, only one such jaywalking person, a young Asian woman if demographics mean anything, actually heard and acknowledged my bell, stopped and apologized and said she wasn\’t looking.

    The ones I really don\’t understand are the motorists who do the stop, look right at you so you think they see you, hesitate a moment and then pull out right in front of you anyway. It\’s like they\’re doing a token stop on automatic pilot instead of really looking and seeing what\’s there.

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  • april June 4, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    My only really bad close call was Burnside and Couch–some driver waiting to turn left onto Couch from Burnside got sick of waiting and turned straight into my lane, where I was waiting for an opening. He screeched to a stop a foot and a half from my front wheel. It was terrifying.

    I need a bell on the bike I\’ve been riding. Yikes.

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  • Jason June 4, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    #48: Signaling a right turn with your right hand is expressly permitted in the ORS. Get over it.

    In general, I\’m fascinated with how much traffic this thread has generated so quickly. We\’re talking about ten per hour…

    I\’ve already rang my bell (so to speak) over on the forums about pod people (people riding with their ears covered). Beware, I\’m going to ask the legislature to make this illegal.

    Although there is some risk from those danged stealthy silent bicyclists (shouldn\’t they be required to blaze 150 watts of light and generate 65 dB on sound?), my experience out in Beaverton is that if everyone behaves themselves (obeys traffic lights and makes a point of really looking at stop signs, you\’ll be safe. I\’m not making the \”full stop\” argument; when you have a stop sign, you have to exercise judgment before you proceed, regardless of whether you track stand, go through it backwards, or on your head.

    This time of year the phlakes are going to come out. Jonathan has already pointed out how annoying some of them are to talk to. Hopefully none of those people are reading this!

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  • Carissa Wodehouse June 4, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Oh gads, that\’s my intersection! I got nailed in the middle of the road in November by a driver who ran the stop sign going North on Couch. He was turning West onto Broadway and trying to beat traffic and T-boned me while I was crossing Broadway on Couch. There\’s just so many factors right there: the drivers turning fast off Burnside, the drivers coming off the bridge and the bikers flying along between. They should light the area better and take out some spaces so that cars can\’t park so close to the intersection. Couch needs more visibility for everyone. Now I almost always go a block down where there is a street light.

    Also, a little aside–Jonathan was the very first person to email me the next morning after the accident. A reader had tipped him off and he pulled the police report and recognized my name and wrote a nice note. Go reporting!

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  • girl on a bike June 4, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    I think people who ride fast with blinking headlights in the dark need to realize that other people (both in cars and on bikes) do expect a generally slower speed for bikes. So race training in the dark on the average Portland street isn\’t too smart. I pulled out from a stop sign last winter on a very dark night at a residential intersection in SE packed with parked cars (45th, where it intersects with Taylor, I think) and had a close call with a racer who was going SO MUCH faster than I expected him to. I saw him before I started, but the blinking light on a very dark night makes determining distances and speed really difficult, and he was easily more than half a block away when I started. The guy screamed \”dumbass\” at me for pulling out in front of him, but I can\’t help but think he\’s the dumbass for thinking he should be able to go that fast (he was easily doing twice the average street speed for a cyclist) under those conditions. Hell, I forgive cars that pull out in front of me under conditions like that, because we can all only see so far down a narrow street lined with parked cars. Under circumstances like that, I think everyone needs to be willing to yield a little bit when you\’re riding around on cramped, tightly packed residential streets, regardless of what training time you\’re trying to clock. And more courtesy when passing another rider is definitely helpful. Bell or no bell, most of us can speak up loudly enough to be heard. And should.

    This is the time of year I can get pretty crabby with the droves of cyclists not stopping at four-way stops on Clinton. I totally understand not stopping fully … but it\’s just plain freakin\’ rude to continue to roll through in packs when there are cyclists stopped in the other direction, trying to cross at 34th for instance. Go ahead, jerks. Eat up my right of way for minutes on end because I\’m decent enough to not just barrel into yours. That wave of fair-weather riders can be endless at certain times of day in the summer … obviously a great sight to see in some ways, but it\’s pretty annoying when none of them are apparently seasoned enough to yield to other cyclists when it\’s time.

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  • Todd Boulanger June 4, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    This type of crash will become more common sadly…as we become more successful (the same with bike parking messes).

    …a co-worker of mine pedaling home to Portand from Vancouver across the 5 bridge was hit by another bicyclist head on behind the Safeway on the chocked section fo the path by the exit sign pole(5 years ago-ish). Actually the other rider\’s helmet went right into his face (he is tall). He was out for a long time with facial reconstruction surgery.

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  • Vance June 4, 2008 at 7:28 pm

    I find it humorous to see folks talking about fast-and-slow cyclists. The argument to date has always been about, slow. Nice! I wanted to chime in and point out to the slow-poke, overly-entitled, I\’m weak and insecure about it, I\’m doing it for environment types, who seem to feel a bell gives them physical control over as many as a dozen, or more, people at a time – Um, hello, if you argue that you are inconvenienced, or bothered by those faster than you, the converse of this statement can be true as well.

    A little common courtesy is in order. If you are riding a 35lb.+ bike with another 100lbs+. of crap on it, and sporting 20%+ body fat, does it not seem polite to stay out of the way? Even a little? Now, we\’ve all got an earful about your rights, however, there are other riders, of varying capabilities, with as many rights as anyone else.

    I\’m really trying to type this while laughing and shaking my finger, but c\’mon. The road surfaces we ride on are, for the most part, designed to be navigated by giant behemoths, at minimum speeds greater than even the (Now I know), \”villainous\”, racers can even ride. Fast is simply not the problem here folks. The day I see a bicycle speed limit sign…. Oooooh, I swear!

    This is technically the source of a lot of problems. Motorists, and bicyclist now too, are saying the same thing, over and over. WATCH WHAT YOU ARE DOING, AND STAY OUT OF THE WAY! I\’m not directing my comments, really, at any specific riding style. More to those who feel entitled to enter into this thing with no consequences, with no commitment to blend, just, \”Get out of my way, I\’m entitled to be here.\”. Oh, and they usually start this demand by ringing some annoying bell.

    In the end, I guess I\’m with some other commenter(s) here. These are some great problems to be having. I just wish I saw a little less entitlement coming from those who are, for the most part, causing the problem. I can only speak for myself, but I\’m glad to see a lot of people starting to ride. But you\’re doing a thing tons of people have been doing for a very long time. Stay right, be aware, and for Pete\’s sake, don\’t get mad at somebody you just knocked out of their cadence. Oh, and before I get dogpiled, I smoke a pack a day, and usually have a cig hanging out of my mouth while saddled up. Even I can ride big gears, so there\’s really no excuse. And I\’m old. Oh, and I\’ve banked on all my bike-on-bike action. My fave attorney lives on the flesh of newborn infants. Tourists aren\’t all bad.

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  • Rick Glos June 4, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    #48 – Unless I\’m misreading your comment. That is the correct way to signal a right hand turn. By pointing in the direction you\’re turning with your right arm.

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  • Vance June 4, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Hand signals are always made with the left-hand. Driver\’s side of the car and all. Right-hand signaling doesn\’t do much in a car.

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  • Lisa June 4, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Yes, of course, except for all of the UK drivers, but this is BIKE Portland and we are talking about signalling while on a bike.

    Page 9, Oregon Bicyclist Manual: \”..To signal a right turn, either hold your right arm out, or hold your left arm up, with bent elbow.\”

    Both are correct on a bike.

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  • encephalopath June 4, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Signaling a right turn with your left hand makes sense if you\’re driving a Model A, not so much when you are riding a bike.

    Put your right hand our there and point. It\’s way more visible.

    Using your left arm in the 90 degree configuration… are you scratching your head?

    I\’m a little teapot, short and stout… what?

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  • BURR June 4, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    vance it\’s not as if all the fast bikers have been around forever and the slow ones just came to the party.

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  • Keith June 4, 2008 at 10:04 pm

    So, when your cleaning the gutter on the right, and a auto driver behind you or beside you is positioned on the left side of the lane, which arm is going to be more visible. And if said driver doesn\’t know what a left arm bent at 90deg. means, he is most defiantly not going to know what any hand signal means. Also, if during my right turn with my signal \”on\” I am am going to jam my rear brake and not my front if something unexpected happens in the intersection.

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  • chad June 4, 2008 at 10:09 pm

    On the back of the Portland Office of Transportation bike maps it says that the left hand is to be used for a left hand turn and your right or left is to be used for a right hand turn.

    The belief that you can only use your left hand for signaling right is a hand-me-down from motorcycles as your right hand is your throttle hand and can\’t easily be removed from the handlebar.

    It\’s as simple as that.

    What was the original topic again?…looks like this thread rode a little out of the bike lane.

    Oh yeah, not five minutes after I posted above (#22) I almost got hit by a helmet-less moron riding through a stop sign…talking on a cell phone.

    back in the bike lane…

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  • Bill June 4, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    Having ridden into a parked car (my fault) and been right-hooked (not my fault) I\’m beginning to have a deeper appreciation of the physics involved in bike-car collisions. It\’s pretty one-sided, and pain is not apportioned on the basis of fault. No bike-on-bike or bike-on-ped action yet; that sounds miserable all around.

    Now, when I drive, I pretend that I\’m operating a piece of dangerous machinery. Which happens to be true. So if I\’m driving and I see a blinky light on a dark night, I don\’t try to pull out ahead of it – I wait, because if I\’m wrong about how fast he\’s going, I could be responsible for causing a tragedy. The consequence of being wrong just once outweighs the benefit of saving 30 seconds many times. And I would feel like a dumbass for doing such a dumbass thing and maiming someone. If I do something dumbass, I \’fess up and try not to do it again.

    When I\’m riding and there are cars around, I assume that they\’re going to do something that will kill me – because the consequences of being overoptimistic just once, outweigh the benefit of being oblivious hundreds of times. With over 10,000 miles of riding, I still get surprised sometimes by how long it takes to stop.

    I ride fast because I can and it\’s fun and legal (I\’m not fast enough to break the speed limit). I wear spandex even though it looks geeky because on my half-hour, twice a day, 200+ days a year commute its way more comfortable than wet denim or anything else I\’ve tried – and let\’s face it, I\’m not going to look cool no matter what I wear.

    I\’ve been careful (usually) and lucky (so far) and hope to keep doing so for a long time. I hope you all do the same. I like seeing new riders on the commute – not so long ago, I was a fair weather rider myself. If I pass you, I\’ll try to say hi and leave some room. If you pass me, I\’ll try to hang if I can – that\’s fun too.

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  • 3-speeder June 4, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    I saw a bike-bike accident about a week ago. No severe injuries, fortunately, but I found it troubling.

    Eastbank Esplanade going northbound approaching the Burnside bridge – the accident occured at the jog to the left just before going down the ramp to the floating bridge. I was riding about 30 feet behind (the two riders in the accident as well as myself were all heading northbound), and I saw the entire event unfold. About 5PM, sunny skies, dry ground, no other bikes or peds in the immediate vicinity to complicate any decisions made.

    Bike in front was was painted bright orange – no way for it to camoflage into the surroundings. The rider (I later found out) is a novice adult rider and was going slow, but not terribly so. She had been riding left of center and made the veer to the left – perhaps somewhat sooner than many riders might, but her actions were in the realm of predictability.

    Bike in rear was going significantly faster. Obviously wanted to pass without slowing down. (I didn\’t notice if it was a fixie or not, so I don\’t know what sort of braking system he had.) For some reason, he moved to the left to pass and continued to stay on that track even as the woman in front obviously was veering to the left. It should have been obvious to him there was a problem brewing, and it should have been of minimal inconvenience for him to move to her right to pass on that side. (With prompt enough action, he probably could have done this without braking, but even minimal braking would have enabled him to take this action once the oncoming collision was imminent.)

    On the left the rear rider pressed to pass through the narrowing gap. To the left the front rider moved, completely unaware of the rider behind. (He later mentioned he should have used his bell – I took this as an indication he gave no audible signal to the rider in front.) As the front rider finally cut off the rear rider\’s lane, the rear rider ran smack into the rear tire of the front rider. The rear rider flew off his bike and landed quite hard on the concrete. The front rider was not knocked over, but she was pretty shaken up. Furthermore, being a novice, she felt that she was at fault.

    The rear rider eventually rolled over and sat up and was obviously shaken, but apparently had no severe injuries. He did make a comment about feeling lucky he didn\’t get badly hurt – it was not a graceful fall. He eventually walked his bike away, and I happened to see him riding about 30 minutes later.

    I was on the scene immediately (as was one pedestrian who was at the top of the ramp when this all happened). I let the novice rider know that she was in no way at fault, that her actions had been predictable, and encouraged her not to let this incident dissuade her from riding. I told the rear rider (after he had recovered a bit) that he needs to be more considerate of other riders and give more margin for error.

    To my eye, the rear rider had no excuse whatsoever for this collision. Great visibility. Excellent conditions. He merely put his own convenience (of not changing speeds) over safety.

    I ride quite a bit (I\’m on my bike for errands and/or exercise almost every day), and I have certainly seen my share of knuckleheads on bikes acting without considering the bike/ped traffic around them. Or maybe considering it but figuring that it is OK to dash though that 2 ft gap between peds because they know they can, even if the peds might be startled.

    I wonder if the novice rider might reconsider her choice to give biking a chance because of this bad experience.

    As biking numbers continue to grow, bike-bike collisions will occur more frequently. I fear that there are a nontrivial number of riders out there without the maturity level to make sound decisions to ensure safety to the riders and peds around them. To them, all that matters is their own amusement.

    It has been well documented that one of the largest impediments to get people onto bikes is that it feels unsafe to be around motor vehicle traffic. But as our bike numbers swell, will we create a new impediment – that is feels unsafe to be around BICYCLE traffic?

    I think this is an interesting question to ponder.

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  • e June 5, 2008 at 12:37 am

    \”i\’m so sick of arguments like this. just because you can ride fast, doesn\’t mean you should. just because you can ride close to someone, doesn\’t mean you should. just because you can pass someone, doesn\’t mean you should. just because you can ride faster than someone else, doesn\’t mean you should. and just because someone\’s riding in plain clothes, doesn\’t mean they couldn\’t easily track you or out-sprint you.\”

    Amen to this! I spent my entire childhood with white knuckles holding on for dear life while my father, rather adeptly, drove his car as fast as he could get away with and insisted he was aware of everything around him. As an adult, since I rarely ride with him anymore, whenever I do I am shocked at how tense it is to ride when someone is constantly making quick moves and passing, etc. Sure, he is probably not going to get in an accident because he is skilled and amazingly still has very quick reflexes, but it causes tension for EVERYONE else. Everyone riding with him and everyone who has to share the road with him. I think this is even harder on bikes when people ride like they are in a race – it just makes for a very tense commute. Ride fast when you have a straight clear, stretch of road, otherwise, what\’s your hurry?

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  • no one in particular June 5, 2008 at 12:59 am

    otherwise, what\’s your hurry?

    Riding fast is more fun, plain and simple. And slowing down is a loss of kinetic energy and I have to build it all back up again. Driving in a car is different. I just put my pedal on the gas. Riding a bike means I have to expend a whole lot of energy to get going as fast as I was before.

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  • DrMekon June 5, 2008 at 2:34 am

    Perhaps if cyclists were mindful of where they are, and not fixated on where they are going, there would be less pressure to maintain momentum.

    A little mindfulness training for cyclists sounds like it\’s in order.

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  • rixtir June 5, 2008 at 2:45 am

    Vance, #58:

    You\’re making the same argument motorists make about all cyclists.

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  • rixtir June 5, 2008 at 2:46 am

    Oops, I meant Vance at #56

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  • rixtir June 5, 2008 at 2:51 am

    Re hand signals: On right turns, Oregon law allows cyclists to signal with either the left hand, as drivers do, or with the right hand. Personally, I think the right hand makes more sense, visually. As somebody above pointed out, the reason drivers signal with their left hands is because nobody would see the signal if they used their right hands; on a bike, that\’s just not a problem, and I think visually, the right turn signaled by the right hand is less confusing to others on the road.

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  • Duncan June 5, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Slower traffic keep right.

    And as to the bell. I would need longer handlebars to put one more thing on there. I will use my airzounds if you really want me to, but I usually save that for cars.

    On your left works when needed.

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  • Rex Mammel June 5, 2008 at 7:37 am

    I am really surprised that no-one has mentioned use of the rear-view mirror. I find it to be my most valuable tool in keeping track of what is happening.

    I also think more flashing lights on front and rear would prevent accidents. Sure they are annoying but at least people are aware I am there.

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  • Kt June 5, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Re: Hand signals:

    Signaling a right turn with the upraised left hand in \”teapot mode\” is more recognizable to the motorists out there as a hand-turn-signal than pointing with the right hand.

    As a driver (with no knowledge of that option being available to bikey people) I might think that you are pointing out the sights or something like that instead of signaling.

    I like to be predictable to the drivers out there sharing the road with me; that means using hand signals they know and understand.

    And yes, slower traffic keep right; faster bike traffic, please pass safely and with enough room to accomodate any swerving by slower, maybe less-experienced bike riders.

    Use common sense, people. That\’s all the rest of us out there are asking.

    And yes, I have bells on all my bikes. I use them. I also use my voice either with or instead of the bell. Depends on how out of breath I am. 🙂

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  • Moo June 5, 2008 at 8:01 am

    Re #65- seems the esplenade is getiing more of its share of bike v bike and bike v peds. incidents. And as the weather starts to get nicer, and bring out all the fair weather folks, there is bound to be more- especially at both sides of the ramp. the city should address this with signs, lines, or whatever it takes to keep people on the right side at these points. Sooner or later this will get the unwanted designation and memorial of \”a biker/ped. was killed here\”.

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  • Vance June 5, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Hand signaling: Okay, okay. I went and looked at the ORS, and you folks are right, I am wrong. Here\’s why I made the mistake. Again, bicycles are given a special set rules that are different from every other road user. ORS 811.395 outlines proper hand-signaling. Which is done with left hand, in every vehicle EXCEPT a bicycle. Even motorcycles are supposed to use the left-hand. Furthermore, the only difference for bikes is the right-hand turn, from which they are exempted. Without knowing for sure, I\’d wager this exemption is unique to Oregon, too.

    Whether right, or wrong, I\’ve heard the same thing over, and over, during my life. \”Same road, same rules\”. This is not the first time I\’ve been wrong about something like this, recently. It\’s a little disturbing to have complexity introduced into something that is supposed to be uniform and simple.

    #61 BURR, and those who are saying pretty much the same thing. Actually BURR, I mean good point and all, but it\’s just as accurate to say, \”Yes, yes they have.\” I\’ve lived here a long time, and we\’re simply not talking about a couple of encounters a month. An incident where an oblivious, entitled person on a bike, is taking more than a necessary share of a lane, and traveling significantly slower than any one else, is something that happens to me several times every time I ride. Not so, even 5 years ago.

    I\’m not wishing to communicate that I don\’t want slower riders on the road, as some of you seem to want to lay at my feet. I\’m suggesting that slower riders need to be more aware of their surroundings, and less aware of their entitlement to be there in the first place, is all. Bad drivers, and bad bikes are a menace. They\’re a menace because they can\’t seem to be bothered to play by the same rules every one else is. That\’s a little frustrating. This is a human thing, not a bike thing, that I\’m complaining about.

    You want to harass me for passing you in traffic, fine. I want to harass you for being in the way, fine. Seems like a push to me. This whole thing is starting to sound like the skier/snow-boarder issue all over! Established users vs. new users. It just seems logical that those who are entering into this, oughta be prepared to integrate, instead of demanding that established users do so.

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  • kg June 5, 2008 at 9:11 am

    I find it useful to remember that no matter the mode of transportation the operator is still human and therefor unpredictable. As a \”fast\” rider I always try to look out for slower riders, just like in a car it is the person to the rear who is responsible for avoiding the person in front of them. Intersection like the one on Broadway and Couch will always require extra care so if you don\’t want to become a statistic keep your head up, slow down and keep your hands on the breaks.

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  • Chad June 5, 2008 at 9:18 am

    #67…why are you on a bike if your legs are that weak? Does your mom give you a push out of the driveway when you start riding every day?

    Let me guess, you don\’t stop for red lights either…you\’d have to \”expend energy\”.

    Grow a set(of quads).

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  • B.C. June 5, 2008 at 9:30 am

    I feel that riding to work and riding for fun/exercise/recreation are two different things.

    When you are riding to work, you may need to break cadence because there are going to be significantly more people on the road then when you are riding 40+ miles for recreation after work or on the weekends.

    Vance, I agree that people need to be more aware and not have a sense of \”entitlement\” as you call it, but getting mad at them for being in the way in not helping the situation. When I ride up Williams after work, there are always much slower riders than me. Sometimes I approach them very fast, but I always check to see if there is a car behind me in the right lane. People are riding in the bike lanes, closer to the left stripe to avoid being \”doored\”, so there is little to no room to pass in the bike lane. I don\’t think people should pass unless it is safe.

    By passing in the right lane, causing a car going to speed limit to slam on the breaks is sense of entitlement from the passing cyclist that he owns the road.

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  • Paul Vincent June 5, 2008 at 9:32 am

    \”bike racers know how to handle bikes and ride close to people…very close.\”
    I have some friends that race sport cars. I\’ve noticed that they are some of the most courteous drivers on the road. They don\’t race on the road. Might be because racing behavior on the road is against the law. I\’ve some acquaintences that race bikes and have done some group rides with them. Courteousness to other riders and drivers – not so much. I won\’t ride with them anymore. They are especially prone to ignoring stop signs, speed limits and other traffic control devices. MOMENTUM IS EVERYTHING! is their motto. How pretentious.

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  • k. June 5, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Yikes, popular subject here.

    I\’ve been waiting for this to crop up, most especially when ever there is a fatal auto/bike accident and all the militant pro cyclist sorts step up and imply everything is always the autos fault. So, what is it when it\’s two cyclists? It\’s not quite so easy to point fingers is it? I\’m still waiting for the first fatal bike on bike accident.

    These incidents should make it much more obvious that the more bikes we have on the street, the more we need to pay attention to traffic laws and some sort of control. We\’ve got to be predictable, not just to auto traffic, but to other cyclists as well. Just something to think about. At some point in the progression of bicycles taking a more visible role in society, we\’re going to have to stop defending the zoo bomber types and start taking our role a bit more responsibly.

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  • Vance June 5, 2008 at 9:58 am

    rixtr – you\’re right, of course, buddy. Don\’t think that I don\’t notice. Don\’t think that I don\’t get a sick feeling in my stomach every time I do. I\’ve been unintentionally siding with motorists a lot since becoming a regular reader. While this could be accepted at face value, I urge you to look a little deeper. There is a majority/minority relationship at work here, as well as, car v. bike, slow v. fast etc.. I find, by sheer coincidence I hope, that I usually agree with the majority. Most times this aligns me with motorists, but occasionally bikes too. This just happens to be an instance where my personal position places me at odds with newer users.

    Bottom line, we\’re talking about the difference between my feeling inconvenienced, and not. Not a life or death thing by any stretch of the imagination. If I don\’t have enough room to safely pass somebody, bike, ped, skater, it doesn\’t matter, I don\’t pass. I don\’t want to get hurt, or hurt some one else, so I wait. Just like all people, I am frustrated by having to wait on some one else\’s lack of competence.

    Cars are saying it. Emergency Service workers are saying it. Pedestrians are saying it. Professional drivers are saying it. Politicians are saying it. Now even other cyclists are saying it. \”If you are on a bike, stay out of the way, and follow the rules.\”. Here we have a thread full of people refusing this demand, and justifying it with the paper-thin excuse that they are entitled to be there, go around.

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  • Zaphod June 5, 2008 at 10:08 am

    It seems that the core issue is that those on bikes have grown accustomed to not being significantly impeded by traffic. We generally are allowed to flow through it as if it\’s essentially not there. We can roll to the head of a long line of cars. Most of us know all kinds of faster routes where stop signs and signals are pointed to our advantage. We love our efficiency of movement. Cycling is a beautiful thing in this regard.

    As bicycle traffic increases in volume, we\’re confronted with a new concept for us and nobody likes it: waiting. Waiting on a bike for something beyond a traffic signal feels wrong, feels weird. I thought only poor suckas in cars sat in lines as the minutes ticked by.

    So now here we are in situations where we wait. We now need to wait to pass or wait for a lane of bikes and cars to start moving.

    If you\’re a fast rider, the slow riders are like the tractor riding along the country road and you\’re waiting to pass in your car. Conversely, you may be the tractor and fear that some knucklehead is going to cut it too close. There can be a false sense of urgency to making the pass.

    It seems some compromise and common sense is in order. In the same manner I won\’t blaze past a tourist with a camera on the Esplanade who will undoubtedly step backwards without warning, I\’ll slow or even (ack) wait for a big gap to pass a slower rider. On streets with bike lanes, this means waiting for a gap in the cars and taking the lane. If this becomes such an issue, I\’ll look for an alternative route. In the case of bridge crossings where options are limited, I\’ll settle into the walking pace that is often required in these shared spaces.

    When with the family or on the cargo bike, my role switches and now I\’m hoping that other riders pay me the same respect.

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  • T Williams June 5, 2008 at 10:11 am

    In my opinion, when on bikes we are traffic, often operating on controlled streets. We need to start riding like we are traffic, operating on controlled streets.

    This point of view, and taking the lane when necessary, has kept me out of trouble (knock on wood).

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  • B.C. June 5, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Zaphod: Well said.

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  • Vance June 5, 2008 at 10:20 am

    One more thing. Mandated liability coverage for cyclists is one kind of argument when we\’re talking about cars and bikes. Never been an issue because a bike simply can\’t cause enough property damage, or injure a motorist, so no liability. But bike-on-bike crashes can result in serious injury. So, as the rate of bike-on-bike collisions go up, look for mandatory licensing, registration, and liability insurance to be introduced to solve the problem.

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  • Russ June 5, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Bike or motorcycle or car – The most important rule is to ride safely given the conditions.

    Tearing ass through the Esplanade while it\’s busy; cutting in and out of traffic with no hands on your bars while talking on your phone will both impress me with your skill and amaze me with your stupidity.

    If you are riding in a lot of commuting traffic, you are gonna have a hard time holding a cadence: Welcome to urban commuting.

    That being said, I\’m not unnecessarily married to VC, but I do think that bicyclists shouldn\’t be forced into the \”bike infrastructure\” we\’re building. If I can ride with traffic, I shouldn\’t be forced into a 3\” wide lane where I can get doored, or stuck behind someone traveling at 7 mph on a cycle track.

    The only problem I have with the \”if we build it, they will come\” crowd is you forcing those of us who were already here before you built it to use the infrastructure designed to bring in newbies many times at the cost of speed and/or safety (ironically to make the new rider \’feel\’ safe).

    Forcing cyclists with widely varies degrees of skill, fitness, and bicycle types into a space that can only safely fit one bicycle isn\’t good design or policy.

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  • Keith June 5, 2008 at 11:15 am


    \”So, what is it when it\’s two cyclists? It\’s not quite so easy to point fingers is it? I\’m still waiting for the first fatal bike on bike accident.\”

    It doesn\’t get talked about much including that neither was wearing helmets


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  • Mark June 5, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Talking about racers v. non-racers is pointless. Like many of you, I ride thousands of miles per year. 85% or more of those miles are commuting, fifteen percent, maybe in a good year, pleasure riding and racing. I have lycra and cleats, and I also have regular shoes. I use both on my bikes. It\’s really no one\’s business why I choose to ride one way or another. Which is the disguise or the pretension? For goodness sakes, talk about something real.

    One thing we do too seldom in these discussions is talk about experience. We\’re so thrilled when Co-Worker decides to get a bike and commute that we can\’t don\’t bring up the fact that said person\’s entire bicycling experience until now involved the bike as a toy or as a minor recreation. Or that, as advocates for the activity, we have to find ways to be patient with and ride in an environment that becomes less safe the more people do it.

    Co-worker may be taking up commuting for reasons that have nothing, per se, to do with cycling — price of gas, maybe — and is therefore not necessarily interested in being a \’cyclist\’ with all the good and bad things that come with that identification. He/she may not even be self-righteous about their fitness . . . or even their green-ness!

    Co-worker will likely be, for very good and rational causes, a squirrel on the bike for several months until he/she gains the experience to understand and anticipate some of the things that routinely happen during even a short commute.

    He/she will overreact when someone rides too close to them, he/she will make a bad situation worse by using the brakes based on what they see in front without considering what\’s going on behind. He/she will choose to slow down even when going more quickly might actually be safer.

    Caution is not an abstraction, it\’s a set of techniques and the awareness of what\’s around you, what it looks like, what it sounds like, how to assess and anticipate the next things that are likely or unlikely to happen. It may be related to personality traits, but it\’s not about racers or non-racers or lycra. We can hope at some level it\’s about civility and patience.

    And yes, racers, if you\’re going to ride your $8,000 carbon fiber trouser snake on your commute you do probably want to put a bell on it or at least commit to using your voice in consistent and civil ways. Racing bikes don\’t have bell? When I commute on mine, it has a bell. Is it that humiliating for you?

    Commuters or racers, sometimes it seems like cyclists as a group are overly concerned with cycling fashion. Or anti-fashion, because that\’s the same thing, basically.

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  • steve June 5, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Dozens of posts demanding that others use bells. Several tales of riders \’silently\’ materializing behind, or next to someone.

    Not one post recommending a MIRROR!

    Everyone be sure to honk when you pass! Honk! Honk! Ding! Ding!

    It is like transportation solutions for Kindergartners in here. Don\’t forget the helmets and knee pads you special little people!

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  • Loren June 5, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    TWEEKERS! I\’m SO tired of TWEEKERS!!!!

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  • Matt Picio June 5, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Vance (#56) said \”A little common courtesy is in order. If you are riding a 35lb.+ bike with another 100lbs+. of crap on it, and sporting 20%+ body fat, does it not seem polite to stay out of the way?\”

    That depends, Vance. Speaking as a 20%+ body fat person, who rides a 38lb. bike at an average speed of 10mph, I stay to the right when I can, except on downhills, where I outrun pretty much everyone. I always give audible warning when passing pedestrians and other cyclists, and I give at least 3\’ of room between me and other cyclists. If I can\’t safely pass on the Hawthorne Bridge, I slow down until a passing opportunity presents itself. I consider all those common courtesies. If you consider that \”staying out of the way\”, then you and I are substantively in agreement. OTOH, if staying out of the way means that I should always get over for faster riders under all circumstances, then I do not agree at all. Just because I ride slower than some does not mean that I must be the one continually inconvenienced by circumstance. That would be like saying all cyclists must stay out of the way of cars, because they are faster, and it\’s just \”common courtesy\”.

    We all have a right to equal access to the infrastructure. While that means that slower riders should stay as far right as practicable (and on the Hawthorne, that may be the middle of the path, since the right side is given preference to pedestrian traffic), it also means that faster traffic must take slower traffic into account and accommodate them as well. You\’re right, fast isn\’t the problem here, it\’s \”fast\” plus \”silent\” plus \”close enough to elbow someone\” that is the problem. At least the giant metal behemoths make enough noise that we aren\’t surprised.

    For the record, I frequently ride with a miror, and some of these guys still manage to get up beside me and blow past without me having any idea they are there.

    I mean, really, when someone tells you \”you scare the beejesus out of me when you pass next to me at high speed with no warning\”, is the appropriate response really \”get bent\” or \”tough s#1t\”, or a set of choice expletives? Your advice basically boils down to \”tough it up\”. Where\’s the empathy and consideration in that?

    BTW, there are already bike speed limit signs – the westside Willamette Greenway path being the most glaring example.

    no one in particular (#67) said \”And slowing down is a loss of kinetic energy and I have to build it all back up again\”. Well, I\’ll probably catch flack for this, but basically that argument boils down to \”I\’m lazy\”. It\’s the same reason why a lot of people can\’t be bothered to do a lot of different things – too much effort.

    I\’m not saying that I\’m never similarly lazy, I\’m just saying let\’s be truthful here.

    Kt (#74), re: \”teapot\” more recognizable to motorists – I find it difficult to believe that pointing right with the right hand is not an intuitive hand gesture for anyone qualified to be behind the wheel of a motorized vehicle. If they can\’t figure that one out, they really shouldn\’t be operating anything on the road.

    Vance (#76) – Agreed, but I want to add that fast and slow riders are equally incognizant of their surroundings, and both need to be more aware. Fast riders have a shorter window of reaction time to deal with any unexpected situation, and it\’s not fair to put the burden of dealing with that solely on the other road/path users. A fast rider bears the lion\’s share of the burden since it was his/her decision to ride at that speed in the first place.

    As for the rest, I quibble in that there are plenty of established users who ride slow, and fast/slow does not equal established/new.

    and (#82) – except that they *are* entitled to be there. They\’re not entitled to hog the whole road, but the faster/bigger/more experienced drivers/riders must accommodate them, because it\’s public infrastructure, and they have a right to equal acess. (what they don\’t have is the right to impede your access any more than you impede theirs) If we remove that right for the sake of convenience for others, then that same reasoning can be used by motorists to remove bicycles from the roadway entirely.

    Russ (#87) – This is exactly why we need to prompt the legislature to remove the mandatory provision from the bike lane law.

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  • Matt Picio June 5, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Steve (#90) – Mirrors are great (I have one), but they aren\’t a panacea – they have blind spots, and unless you\’re looking directly into it, even something that is square in your mirror can fail to register in your consciousness.

    Sometimes I think everyone would benefit by reading up a bit on attention, awareness, optical tricks, and how the brain processes information.

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  • BURR June 5, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    On streets like eastbound SE Hawthorne below SE 11th, the amount of bike traffic today justifies widening the bike lane from the substandard 4-foot wide door-zone bike lane to a full 8 to 10 foot lane, to accomodate the amount of bike traffic present, and allow for speed differentials between cyclists.

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  • BURR June 5, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    I also agree with the need to repeal the mandatory bike lane statute, the City of Portland and the BTA should be leading the way on this, where are they?

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  • N.I.K. June 5, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    except that they *are* entitled to be there. They\’re not entitled to hog the whole road, but the faster/bigger/more experienced drivers/riders must accommodate them, because it\’s public infrastructure, and they have a right to equal acess. (what they don\’t have is the right to impede your access any more than you impede theirs)

    Damn straight. Someone\’s riding slower because that\’s the best they can do or feel safe doing, or don\’t want to break into a torrential sweat? Fine. Someone riding fast because they need to get where they\’re going in a timely manner? Fine. Someone riding too fast for conditions? Someone doing the slow-wobble ride while talking on their cell phone, fumbling with a cigarette, or being like dude with the ice cream cone around 16th and Tillamook? Each an illustration of irresponsible, discourteous, and friggin\’ stupid willful ignorance of one\’s surroundings. Just pay attention and be mindful of what\’s going on around you and things are better for everyone. Any other mindset is based on self-centered garbage about \”who wins\” and \”who loses\” in collisions. You don\’t want to be one of those, do you? 🙂

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  • jeff June 5, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Amen NIK. That should be the last word here. It\’s about responsibility. Not stupid stereotypes about who goes fast and who goes slow…

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  • bahueh June 5, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    oh, a.o., you\’re sweet.

    my point is this..I ride in a straight line..always. I\’ve learned this skill from thousands upon thousands of road miles over the past five years of training and racing.

    I do pass most people considerately and with care, at reasonable speeds. However there is a growing number of idiots on bikes in this town which have attempted to cause me personal harm through their inattention and lack of comprehension that someone may be approaching them from behind. (see above story)

    One such incident was about two months ago coming down the N. Greely hill. There was an older gentleman on his brand new commuter bike heaving all over the bike lane as I approached him…I was maintaining a good 25mph so I took the FAR LEFT side of the lane…whereas he decided to pull a freakin\’ U-TURN coming down N. Greely without even looking behind him for cars (If I were a car, that guy would honestly be DEAD). I missed him by about 12\”…the collision would have sent us both to the hospital.

    and ironically, just yesterday coming off SE Lincoln I had some bonehead in front of me do something very similar…looking over his right shoulder and veering his bike left into oncoming traffic and ME while I passed him (more than 3\’ on my initial vector) on the left…he was about one second from having me correct his path by grabbing his bar drops which would have put him on the asphalt…he asked what I was doing…my response wasn\’t friendly.

    riders need to start paying attention to themselves and those around them or these conflicts will continue to rise in prevalence, trust me. ride in a straight line, everything will be fine.

    I don\’t have bells or use verbal ques as I cannot count the number of times I\’ve used \”on your left\” in the past…and the pedestrian or rider moved left. its almost as though people turn their stupid brains off somedays.

    my race bike has no bells…never will.

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  • Dan June 5, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    There\’s a lot to be said for teaching by example. New riders will be watching the more experienced to see how to behave in various situations. If we ride courteously and predictably, they\’ll tend to do the same.

    I\’ve noticed, for instance, that other riders are more likely to stop at Ladd Circle (or at least slow down) if they\’re behind me and they see me do it first. Peer pressure can be a useful tool for shaping behavior in a positive way.

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  • rixtir June 5, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    \”Get out of my way or I\’ll buzz you!\”

    Now where have I heard that before?

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  • rixtir June 5, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Here\’s another good one I\’ve heard before:

    \”The slower vehicle needs to pull over to let the faster vehicle pass.\”

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  • a.O June 5, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    \”oh, a.o., you\’re sweet.\”

    You heard it here, folks. The first and probably the last time anyone on bikeportland will ever refer to me as \”sweet.\” And, given the typical usage of this term in modern parlance, is it possible that bahueh is a female?

    But seriously, I\’m generous with the beer at the bikeportland social hours…


    \”[T]here [are] a growing number of idiots on bikes in this town [who] have attempted to cause me personal harm through their inattention and lack of comprehension that someone may be approaching them from behind…

    Like Pavlov\’s dogs, they respond well to bells…

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  • Kraken June 5, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Life is much eaiser if you follow the golden rule. Treat others as you would like yourself to be treated. Want respect? Give a little. Following this one rule above all will make your biking safer and smarter. Wearing a helmet doesn\’t hurt either (your brain wants to be treated in a safe fashion).

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  • bahueh June 5, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    ah, yes, the age old gender guessing game online…

    thanks for the editorial. hope you didn\’t use billable hours for that..

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  • I'm no lawyer, but... June 5, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    \”I don\’t have bells or use verbal cues\”

    ORS 814.410 Unsafe operation of bicycle on sidewalk; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk if the person does any of the following:

    (b) Operates a bicycle upon a sidewalk and does not give an audible warning before overtaking and passing a pedestrian…

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  • Shanana June 5, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    \”…I cannot count the number of times I\’ve used \”on your left\” in the past…and the pedestrian or rider moved left. its almost as though people turn their stupid brains off somedays.\”

    That used to be me as the pedestrian, before I rode a bike. My brain wasn\’t turned off, I just didn\’t know the lingo. Usually I could only hear \”your left\”, so I moved left. I couldn\’t figure out why people were getting pissed when I moved left like they asked. Now that I\’m a rider and understand the lingo I choose to say \”passing on your left.\” It\’s a bit more descriptive to your average pedestrian.

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  • Dabby June 5, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    \”I also agree with the need to repeal the mandatory bike lane statute, the City of Portland and the BTA should be leading the way on this, where are they?\” (Burr)

    Don\’t you know there is a fine loophole in the bike lane usage rules that allow you to abandon the bike lane if you consider it, or something near it, a hazard?

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  • Dabby June 5, 2008 at 3:53 pm
  • a.O June 5, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Bitter regardless of gender, that\’s for sure.

    And as for #105, anyone care to guess where ORS 814.410 applies?

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  • a.O June 5, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    \”Don\’t you know there is a fine loophole in the bike lane usage rules that allow you to abandon the bike lane if you consider it, or something near it, a hazard?\”

    Yeah, don\’t you?

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  • Dabby June 5, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    I guess I worded that weird.

    I was simply trying to be informative…

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  • BURR June 5, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    \”Don\’t you know there is a fine loophole in the bike lane usage rules that allow you to abandon the bike lane if you consider it, or something near it, a hazard?\”

    Sure, I know all about this. But I\’d rather not get the ticket and have to spend the time in court explaining myself to a judge who is already biased towards the cop. Add to this the fact that 50%+ of the bike lanes in this town are safety disasters due to poor engineering design, and the city is using new unsafe experimental designs such as the green bike boxes, and I think it behoves the state to let us ride where we want.

    Ask yourself this: is there a statue that requires a motorist with one or more passengers in his vehicle to use the HOV lane if one is present?

    Of course not, it\’s up to the motorist to make that choice. It should be the same for bike lanes.

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  • BURR June 5, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    that should be statute…

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  • a.O June 5, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    That\’s fine Burr, I\’d rather not be in court fighting the ticket either. But perhaps given that you know the statute does not say that you have to be in a bike lane you\’ll agree that it\’s a little inaccurate or disingenuous to describe it as the \”mandatory bike lane statute\”?

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  • BURR June 5, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    spoken like a true lawyer. the fact is, it is the mandatory bike lane statute as far as Barnum and Balzer are is concerned.

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  • a.O June 5, 2008 at 9:06 pm

    Denial aint just a river in Egypt, burr.

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  • Dabby June 5, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    The Barnum and Balzer Circus does not make statutes. They certainly misinterpret them though.
    This is why we go to court and explain the truth of the matter. They have gotten away with a lot so far, but if we keep standing up against them, it will change.

    Though it does not surprise me that you use two of the worse/ most corrupt police on patrol in Portland to support your statements.

    It does surprise me that you continue to use the words \”fact\” and \”mandatory\” where they do not at all belong.

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  • Todd B June 5, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    I find that the most efffective use of hand traffic signalling in Vancouver (less so in Portland as the years go by) is rarely that approaching head on drivers seem to understand the left hand signaling … it still works because they seem confused and slow down at the unknown.

    More bike traffic will place demands on the bike lanes to be wider…much as PDOT has done recently.

    Also bikes are different than cars in one aspect as to slow and fast speed traffic passing. With bikes the human engine it is important to keep momentum up especially when preparing for a hill (with limited gears). It can be difficult to slow and stall out behind a slow rider.

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  • rixtir June 5, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    If I may throw some gasoline on the fire…

    The decision as to whether the bike lane is safe to use is a personal, subjective decision. However, that subjective decision must still meet an objective standard of \”reasonableness.\”

    I.e., if you can demonstrate a safety hazard that a\”reasonable person\” would agree is a safety hazard, yu are in compliance with the bike lane statute by riding outside the bike lane, for as long as the hazard prevents you from riding there. If a \”reasonable person\” would not agree with your assessment of the \”hazardous condition,\” you will be found in violation of the statute.

    So who is that \”reasonable person\”? A person hypothesized by a jury, but more often, a judge.

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  • Russ June 6, 2008 at 8:44 am

    More than likely a judge who doesn\’t bike and thinks you need to be in \”your place\”.

    The bike lane statute needs to be repealed, regardless of whether or not there is a \’loophole\’ to argue out of the ticket.

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  • a.O June 6, 2008 at 9:59 am

    Not gonna happen, Russ.

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  • El Biciclero June 6, 2008 at 10:16 am

    Not to bring up the signaling diversion again, but I followed a guy for a while on my way home the other day and noticed that he signaled right turns with BOTH arms at once: left arm raised in the standard fashion, and right arm extended in the \’new\’ style, so it looked pretty much like Lo_. Kind of cool, if you\’re willing to do some hands-free riding for a bit…

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  • Dabby June 6, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Many years ago, I am sorry as I do not recall the exact facts, a case was defeated by a cyclist in Portland that dealt with signaling turns.

    I do however recall that a decision was made (in that case, and at that time) that it was safer to keep your hands on the handlebars than to take them off and signal.

    Sorry, I pulled it out of the vault, and don\’t have the memories to back it up much. I mainly bring it up as an amusing reference to signaling on a bike.

    I personally use eye contact (when possible) combined with very obviously pointing the direction I am planning to turn.

    I once again do not recommend relying on mirrors. Some people have them as a backup, which can be good. We all see, and probably personally know, drivers who rarely turn their heads, and rely almost solely on mirrors. I have seen this mistake made by many cyclists as well.

    But nothing says safe like good ole\’ head turning and eye contact.

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  • Hillsons June 6, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    there hasn\’t been a social hour since I turned 21, I don\’t think.

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  • Matthew Denton June 6, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I\’ll admit that I don\’t tend to say anything when I\’m passing another bicycle on a street, (I do on the bridges, waterfront, and places like that.) But if I\’m passing a bicycle on the street I give the mandatory 5 feet-ish (enough room for them to fall over and me to miss them) that a car would have to give (and only pass if there isn\’t a car there,) and I figure that I\’ll see them in time to avoid them if they start to come my way… And on the divided bike lane on the Hawthorne approach, I generally assume that if you are in the right lane you\’ll stay there, and I can pass in the left lane without staying anything, and that if I want to switch lanes, I need to make sure that it is clear for me to do so by looking. And I don\’t ride in a straight line, in fact, most people don\’t. I\’m weaving to avoid potholes, rough pavement, drain grates and everything else. In general, if you want to pass someone, give them plenty of space…

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  • […] I ride pretty slow while commuting. The days it stops raining I have to start being hyper-aware of all of the unsafe riders that come out of the […]

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  • Matthew Denton July 8, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    The Broadway rider plead guilty this morning to crossing a crosswalk while the traffic next to her was stopped for a pedestrian. She\’ll have to take a share the road class and pay $20 or something like that.

    Both people seemed like they were okay shape: The one that declined transport to the hospital (the one on couch) didn\’t have [health or car] insurance. I didn\’t talk to her, (she left the courthouse when it became obvious that the case wasn\’t actually going to get tried,) but she looked like she was doing fine. The one on Broadway did have insurance, and went to the hospital with what was indeed a broken collarbone. She is healing…

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  • rom July 8, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for the update, Matthew. I saw this collision. I was about a block and a half away, on Broadway heading south, and in the distance spotted four wheels and two bodies tumbling through the air. It looked like a particularly nasty collision. When I got to them, I was surprised to see that no cars were involved. Both were laying flat on their backs, and seemed to be in pain.

    But… I was late for work, and a lot people seemed to be taking care of the situation, and so I pedaled on.

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  • Josh July 9, 2008 at 9:53 am

    On the whole \”mandatory bike lane use\” argument: see ORS 814.420 section (2), which states that you are not required to actually comply with the law unless a public hearing first determines the safety of the bicycle lane in question.

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  • Paul Tay July 9, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Oh fo\’ shure. While on bike, I almost got nailed by another bike. And, I\’ve also did a near-miss at 28th/Sandy Lane too.

    But, the bike parking shortage got to be really ANNOYING. Next time I\’m in PDX, I\’m just gonna squat a car parking spot. But, why should bikes have to pay car parking rates, when we only take up 1/12th the space.

    Hey, PDOT, suppose you guys do discount parking for bikes? Naaaaaaah.

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  • Deb July 9, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    I\’m with # 37, \”cycling etiquette\” guidelines should be handed out with every new bike purchase. Post snippets of cycling etiquette along the main bike routes, like the poetry in motion project that was on 12th Ave SE a few years ago.

    And please, no spitting while in heavy bike traffic, I did not enjoy that shower!

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