The Classic - Cycle Oregon

Guest editorial: Riding with courtesy in a city of bikes

Posted by on April 3rd, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Roger Geller
(Photo © J. Maus)

[Editor’s note: This guest editorial was written by Roger Geller, Bicycle Coordinator for the City of Portland.]

“What does it mean to be exemplary? To me it means the two “C’s” of cycling: Courtesy and confidence.”

In the past week I’ve been noticing harbingers of spring: flowering magnolia, daffodils in full bloom, tulips beginning to push their way up, birds early in the morning, sun later in the evenings, and, on especially nice days, a city beginning to pop with bicycling. We are approaching Portland’s high bicycle season.

One thing that is helping cycling spread in Portland is its visibility. People interested in cycling can easily look around, see how it is done and perhaps imagine themselves riding rather than driving. There are more people on bicycles in this city than there have ever been before. This visibility and accompanying attention presents challenges and also gives us an opportunity.

So, it is in that light that I make a request of regular cyclists: be exemplary.

What does it mean to be exemplary? To me it means the two “C’s” of cycling: Courtesy and confidence.

Family riding on the Waterfront

Cherry blossoms in Waterfront Park.
(Photo © J. Maus)

When I think of cycling courtesy I think most often of people walking. Always yield to people on foot. They generally always should receive the right-of-way when there is the potential for bicycle-pedestrian conflict. Stopping in the presence of meanderers — especially the old and the young — is never a bad option. What does it cost you: a couple of seconds? What does it gain? Mutual respect and absence of confrontation

I believe courtesy also dictates passing at appropriate speeds. When it’s crowded, this could mean at little more than a walking pace. When passing another person on a bike, always pass on the left. In my experience, people walking also appreciate hearing a discernible audible warning. That generally means more than a mumbled “on your left.” A bell is best.

Courtesy also requires controlling your aggression. Displays of aggression seem to mostly invite aggression in response. So really, be courteous to everybody you find out there. Yield the right of way at intersections per the law; come to a complete stop at stop signs whenever anyone else is at or approaching the intersection, whether in a car, on foot, or by bike. Forgive those who err because they don’t understand how to drive in your presence.

At the same time, it’s important to ride with confidence. Confidence is knowing the law and your rights as a person on a bike. Take the lane when it’s safest. Don’t weave in and out of parked cars. Safely proceed when you have the right-of-way. Come to a complete stop at stop signs to demonstrate good behavior.

Story continues below


Family ride Portland spring

Bike counts and spring flowers tend
to come up at the same time.
(Photo © J. Maus)

I expect this to be an excellent spring, summer and fall for bicycling in Portland. The City is doing its part. We have more projects on the books than we’ve had for quite some time. This is an exciting time for bicycling in Portland, for the region, and indeed, for the country.

Nationally, Portland is leading the charge in demonstrating the effectiveness of bicycling as not only a means of transportation, but as a transformational tool of our very culture.

Let those of us who do bicycle regularly demonstrate how enjoyable it can be to ride in Portland. I want all my friends, family and acquaintances to ride often this year. There will be many people taking to Portland’s streets who will be new to using a bicycle for transportation. Be patient with them. Set a good example for them.

Because our infrastructure hasn’t yet caught up with the growing demands on it, it’s imperative that we do all we can to share well. Let’s make bicycling in Portland look like the pleasant, safe and fun activity it is. I do believe that collectively behaving in an exemplary manner will help attract more people to bicycling.

After all, when it comes to bicycling it’s accurate not only to say “the more the merrier,” but also “the more the safer.”

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Dag April 3, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    I’m not so sure that “A bell is best.” My experience has been that half the time pedestrians don’t even notice that I’m ringing my bell. When I yell ‘On your left’, I get a look over the left shoulder nearly every time. I’m sure it’s just a matter of training people to listen for it — boy did pedestrians jump out of the way when I rang my bell when visiting Holland. But here I’m considering removing my bell to get back some precious handlebar space for interrupter levers and a cyclocomputer.

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  • carlos April 3, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    This is a good a good article and something everyone should take to heart. I’ve written a couple of pieces like this on my blog, and it’s good to see this on a major media site.

    I will say though that, mumbling “on your left” is better than nothing. Especially when your out of breath and don’t have a bell.

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  • Lazlo April 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Well said, Roger. The two places on my regular routes where I see the worst cyclist behavior is on the Eastbank Esplanade and N. Williams Ave. Be kind, people; it only takes a second.

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  • beelnite April 3, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Bravo! OK fellow Hawthorne Bridge riders – and downtown waterfront roadies – this is our chance to honor Mr. Geller’s advice!

    Be kind to those Peds!!!

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 3, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    I think not giving an audible signal when passing is a huuge problem. It happens to me every day… especially on SE 7th going south in the mornings. Bells and/or a “hey there, on your left” are absolutely essential. i’d almost like to see a police sting or something and ticket folks to whiz by unannounced.

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    • Donna Cohen June 4, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      Unfortunately, some people are hard or hearing, or deaf. Leaving sufficient space between you and the pedestrian, and going slowly, is the only truly safe approach.

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  • seeking to legitimize! April 3, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    as a veteran activist who is used to the pressure of having to present an immaculate image in order to be considered part of a legitimate movement for political change, I want to thank the powers that be for opening up this dialogue.

    I and my friends are often dismayed by bicyclists disobeying traffic safety laws for no apparent reason than vanity and haste (casually crossing an intersection against the light while the rest of us wait patiently, &c).

    I am even more disappointed when fellow cyclists put me in danger by passing unsafely or other reckless behaviors. I’m a strong rider, but that’s such a quick way to get on my S-list it’s not even funny. don’t threaten our safety, please.

    let’s keep the dialogue going. it may be difficult to have dialogue on the streets, but perhaps calling out rogue cyclists as they are breaking the law is a start. (using non-violent communication, etc, is the best way to move forward).

    please don’t get mad at me because I am calling you out and pointing out that you’re breaking a law; also, I’m not talking about mommying others (“you really need a better light”). I am talking about holding cyclists to the same standards we hold drivers on the road in concerns to common courtesy.

    Yes, I do thank people for calling out “on your left” but I’d be even happier if others would stop buzzing me as they passed. that’s just a poor reflection of your upbringing, y’all.

    thanks again. ride safe.

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  • brian April 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    never confront a stranger. that is where all the problems begin. self-reliance is the key. bicycling is freedom.

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  • Andrew Holtz April 3, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    Nice statement, Roger, and good advice about how our attitude and behavior can strengthen the growth of cycling.

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  • encephalopath April 3, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    I believe the audible warning when passing only applies to bicycles overtaking pedestrians on the sidewalk, ORS 814.410

    Bicycles are not required to give an audible warning when overtaking bicycles or other vehicles in the street.

    If that were the case, then autos would probably also be required to give audible warning when passing bicycles, which would mean the horn.

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  • chad April 3, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    Roger has shown us the path to get the respect we want, it’s really that simple…strange how all it’s gonna take is more and more of us showing respect to other road/pathway users.

    Go figure…

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  • patrick April 3, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Well stated, Roger. Your support is very much appreciated. Your thoughts remind me of a saying I learned from a farmer I know:

    Patience is a shortcut.

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  • Lynne April 3, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    @9 – cars make noise. Bicycles are silent. I always appreciate an “on your left” or bell. Not required, but certainly courteous.

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  • P Finn April 3, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    I give the bell 3 rings, each about a second apart.
    This gives the “passee” an idea of your relative speed & location. If someone doesn’t hear or react to one ring, they’ll definitely react to 3.

    Especially on multi-use paths where one is passing and being passed nearly constantly, the “shoulder check” just doesn’t cut it.

    If you must listen to music while riding (both a bad idea and illegal), keep it down and try not to be totally oblivious to your surroundings.

    Wewease Wogew!

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  • Robert Ping April 3, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Well said, Roger!

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  • Dave April 3, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    Well said – let’s be an undeniable example of how to treat other people well. Sooner or later, people will have enough *good* experiences interacting with cyclists, that they will start to counter the reports of them being hooligans and misfits, and public view really will start to change.

    Thanks Roger – for this and for all you do for cycling in Portland – we appreciate living and riding our bikes here.

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  • Tony P April 4, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Nice article Roger. Thanks for putting this out there. I hope lots of folks take it to heart.
    P Finn–is it really illegal to ride with headphones? I find that I can hear traffic and am very aware of surroundings with the phones in. (Though I do usually take them off in busier areas.) I hadn’t heard of any laws prohibiting them.

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  • Honore April 4, 2009 at 8:40 am

    I really appreciate this dialogue and hope that I am a considerate rider as I commute downtown five days a week. I don’t run red lights, I use arm signals and I yieeld to peds.

    I am also confused about passing etiquette. Am I on “seeking to legitimize’s” S-list because I might ride faster than him? Perhaps there needs to be a section on this website dedicated to what readers consider to be proper riding habits.

    I feel like I’m harrassing other bikers to “Get Outta My Way” if use my bell every time I pass. Do you support ringing with every pass, Mr. Maus?

    I would like to the best biker I could be and hope that people continue to share the rules of the road.

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  • steve April 4, 2009 at 1:59 pm


    You want police to conduct stings on cyclists engaged in lawful behavior? WTF?

    This quote is delicious-

    “Courtesy also requires controlling your aggression. Displays of aggression seem to mostly invite aggression in response.”

    Yes, all you aggressive cyclists please stop pestering the poor wittle cars. Is this an April fools joke? Blame the victim much?

    I am sure similar articles addressing Auto drivers were submitted to the Oregonian and the local Television stations. Right?

    Welcome to Kindergarten in Portland. What a joke.

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  • Bjorn April 4, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Pfinn as has been previously noted on this site headphones while considered unsafe by many are not illegal in the State of Oregon, or the City of Portland.

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  • Dave April 4, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    @steve: aggression does invite aggression, I think that’s a perfectly logical statement. if you want someone to come after you with their car, the quickest way to make it happen is to yell at them, flip them off, intentionally cut them off, etc. they have license plates, if they do something illegal, call the cops on them.

    @Honore: I think if you’re riding with others in mind, that’s as much as people can ask. I think people who feel annoyed with having a bell rung near them is mostly due to them not being used to it, and as more people start doing it, people will start to realize it’s not about aggression (usually), but just letting them know you’re there. I’m personally a pretty slow cyclist, and I don’t mind at all if other cyclists pass me, as long as they don’t buzz me going significantly faster with no notice.

    But again, I think if you’re riding with other people in mind, most of the time you’re going to be ok.

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  • are April 4, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    first of all, Roger, thanks for this. what you are describing is how I ride, and I agree that things would be a bit smoother if “everyone” (including motorists) did the safe, predictable, courteous thing.

    that being said, there is something you (PBOT, the city) can do for the cyclist. in your editorial you say “take the lane when it’s safest,” and again, this is how I do ride, but . . .

    very often this means riding to the left of a designated bike lane, and as you know this is technically illegal. anything in a door zone or inside a lane from which a motorist is permitted to turn right, or next to a curb, or next to a roundabout, or over a storm drain, or where the lane has not been swept of debris, I am simply not going to use. (actually, I assert a “safe” lane position pretty much without reference to where the lane is striped, but I have observed that this tends to be to the left of the stripe.)

    and until you, PBOT, the city, makes a public statement countering the Potter decision and saying straight out:

    “we have not had a public hearing on any of these, and none of them is certified safe within the meaning of 814.420,”

    then you, the city, are creating a problem for me (and giving the police another tool to use in their seemingly arbitrary campaign against cyclists).

    thanks for listening. I do appreciate the article, really.

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  • bobcycle April 5, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Good thoughts. Thanks Roger. Like to add that maybe we need to think out side the box. What’s with these bike infrastructure designs? They put bikes out on busy roads, they are designed so that cars on the left are allowed to turn right, across their lane, and they put pedestrians and bikes on side walks together. Come on Platinum city give bicyclists just one path in all of Portland designated bikes only! No cars, no dogs on long leashes, no pedestrians. 2 lanes each way, slow bikes keep right. Sign me up for $50 registration fee if this would help make it happen.

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  • monkeyfender April 5, 2009 at 9:12 am

    I think some creative, bike etiquette “path art” might be in order, particularly for the Springwater Corrider. Think graphics on the pavement to the effect of “Race the velodrome, not the springwater” etc, etc. The situation on the Sellwood/Ross Island section on a warm day is positively dangerous for anyone in a stroller, on foot, etc, and as a regular bike commuter on the trail I feel embarassed by association because of the incresing tide of bikers who ride silently, head down and fast, as if everyone else is just a mere obstacle.

    I’ve sensed among some of my fellow commuters that the Springwater path was built as a “bike highway”, meant primarily for high speed bike use. That’s not the case. That perception is bound to create just as much bike backlash among peds/bird watcher/ stroller peddlers as with vehicle drivers.

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    • Donna Cohen June 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      Agreed. I don’t walk on Springwater Trail anymore because it is not relaxing. Too many cyclists whiz past just a few inches away from me. Nerve-wracking.

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    • Robert Burchett April 12, 2014 at 11:35 am

      Here’s a thought–in future, if a particular is meant to be a ‘bike highway’, give it smooth pavement, unobstructed lines, and obviously, appropriate signs and graphics. If a route is a MUP, use packed gravel, or sections of jointed pavers, to make it less attractive to fast riding.

      I would commute on route with an irregular surface (I ride NE Going St almost every day!) but wouldn

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      • Robert Burchett April 12, 2014 at 11:36 am

        . . .wouldn’t ride my road bike there.

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        • Donna April 12, 2014 at 12:20 pm

          Hi Robert, I can see where this can look very appealing, and it is, but for one big factor – a gravel path wouldn’t be ADA accessible for a wheelchair. 🙁

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  • a.O April 5, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I’m 100% in agreement with everything Roger says. I always ride this way.

    Now, where is the editorial written by a City employee asking motorists for courtesy toward pedestrians and bicyclists?

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  • Matt Kelly April 5, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Generally, I agree. But just to play devil’s advocate, I will say that vocalizing is, in my experience, a crapshoot. Three things might happen: 1) they ignore you/don’t hear you, 2) they are startled out of their own world or their conversation with each other and actually stray into your path, or 3) they might safely step out of the way.

    Predictability is the key to safety. If I say nothing, then I am in relative control of the situation and there is a low possibility that they will move into my path. If I call out, there’s that weird moment of them wondering what is going on, where they should be/what they should do, no matter how far in advance you call out or how clearly you announce yourself. Even just looking over their shoulder causes a veering effect, like when an inexperienced cyclist looks over their shoulder to check for a car and ends up veering off their line as a result. In my experience, pedestrians are more predictable when they are doing what they are doing, oblivious of me.

    Generally, I call out. But sometimes, I take a calculated risk and pass silently, giving as wide a berth as safety allows. For cars/bikes, it’s always safer when the cyclist behaves in a predictable manner. For bikes/peds, safer when the pedestrian is predictable. Sometimes, that means leaving them alone, at the risk of startling them (after you’re safely out of harms way in front of them).

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    • Donna Cohen June 4, 2013 at 5:51 pm

      Matt, I appreciate this. Not everyone hears well [or, at all] to begin with. And, I agree the warning can result in the opposite reaction than what you want – a startle response that puts the person directly in your path. Cyclists can never have _everything_ under their control. That is arrogance.
      Giving wide berth and going slowly is safest. Thanks.

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  • Joe Adamski April 5, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    We need a lesson in manners? Civil courtesy? I think not, gentle readers.

    Bells or voice, not scaring folks is a good plan. Managing your speed to not put others ( or yourself) at risk. Most rules of the road have a huge element of courtesy in them. When one goes out in public, one will encounter a larger number of nice people and an occassional twit. Smile to the nice ones, try your best to ignore the twits.

    I think I got it, Roger.

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  • Zaphod April 5, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    Well put Roger, thank you.

    For those that are disparaging the message, consider the messenger. This is coming from a guy who is fighting for us, for more infrastructure and support for the cyclist. There’s no question what side he is on. So read it again and consider it good advice to heed.

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  • Alicia Crain April 5, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    Thanks, Roger.

    Regarding audibly signaling that you’re passing to pedestrians, no matter whether I say “on your [right/left]” or use my bell, I am often thanked by pedestrians for letting them know I’m there. I don’t expect people to get out of my way when I signal because, well, they’re not in my way. We’re all using the same area in different ways and, by signaling, I’m really just being a decent and respectful shared path user.

    It’s funny, in Illinois I rarely did not hear all swift-moving users signal their passing on a shared path…here, in the most bicycle-friendly city, I almost never hear it. Makes me wonder: are we the most friendly bicycling city?

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  • matt picio April 6, 2009 at 8:48 am

    steve, you’ve missed the point entirely. The point was courtesy and confidence. You can be a confident rider and claim all of your rights as a cyclist and still be courteous. It’s not the law to alert cyclists when passing them (perhaps it *should* be), but it’s courteous.

    Courtesy breeds courtesy, unless the other guy is a total jerk, in which case you wouldn’t gain anything by being a jerk back, since that’s what the jerk expects.

    In fact, being courteous usually just pisses them off more, so if your goal is to make them feel as poorly as you do, the best route is courtesy.

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  • Carice April 6, 2009 at 9:10 am

    As a former long distance runner I’ve seen this from both sides. Although I never wear headphones, it’s easy to zone out 10 miles into a run, and it’s really alarming to be buzzed by a fast moving bike. As a biker I find that the most civilized, and effective way to alert pedestrians is to yell out “Good morning! (evening). followed up by “on your left” once I’ve gotten their attention. You sound like much less of a jerk yelling out a greeting, so you can really put some volume in it, plus it gives people a moment to orient to you so that they’re more likely to be able to process the follow up.

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  • dcufan April 6, 2009 at 9:34 am


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  • feralcow April 6, 2009 at 11:08 am

    well said beelnite, what is it with all the lance armstrong types going across the bridge in the morning… dude, your going to work, you can’t be in that much of a hurry.

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  • Travis Wittwer April 6, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Fantastic article. I could not have said it better so I won’t. I will pass on your wonderful words and thoughtful thoughts. I hope the article gives others pause on how they can improve the image of a person on a bicycle.

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  • matchu April 6, 2009 at 11:52 am

    This is somewhat of a response to post #6 by “seeking to legitimize!” and the general attitude of other do-well-cyclists. The quote in particular which summoned the thought can found next: “I and my friends are often dismayed by bicyclists disobeying traffic safety laws for no apparent reason than vanity and haste (casually crossing an intersection against the light while the rest of us wait patiently, &c).”

    Have people spent time in Oakland or San Francisco? Cyclists, like many of the auto drivers there, disregard traffic laws regularly. People would ride against autos on multiple lane one-way roads, blow through stop signs without slowing down, and ride without lights at night with a high frequency in some areas. It’s a stark contrast to the overly well-behaved cyclists in Portland. I told people there about the situation here in Portland, about how police conduct stings against cyclists for rolling through stop signs or not having bike lights. Most people’s eyes grew wide and produced a rhetorical question in response, “Don’t they have more important things to be doing??” I don’t know if they do but we can speculate.

    Assault and other violent crimes in San Francisco are about the same as in Portland per capita -actually just less than Portland. So this made me consider why cyclists and their critics in Portland make such a big deal about infractions against traffic laws by cyclists. One San Franciscan summed up the general attitude towards driving and cycling by saying, “The basic rule of the road here is ‘don’t hit or get hit’.” It makes sense although I wasn’t sure if I agreed fully: Do no harm to others.

    That Idaho stops are not permitted at red lights when no one else is using the perpendicular direction of traffic is baffling. Be safe and courteous – absolutely – but we should not be so quick to abandon reason in the face of laws designed for an entirely different class of vehicle: Autos.

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  • April April 6, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    I find that pedestrians love it when you stop for them. They have the right of way, give it to them.

    If you’re on a bike, a pedestrian is the more vulnerable person.

    I try and make a point of stopping for pedestrians. Many if not most of them tell me to go ahead, but I often get smiles from them, and that makes both our days better.

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    • Donna Cohen June 4, 2013 at 5:53 pm

      Pedestrians are the more vulnerable people. Especially kids and seniors. Thanks.

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  • dan April 6, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    As if we needed more incentive to be courteous to pedestrians, remember that it’s easy for someone who’s startled and ticked off by a cyclist passing too close could easily reach out and push you away, likely leading to a wreck.

    Giving pedestrians a wide berth is for self-protection as much as courtesy.

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  • 180mm_Dan April 6, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Good article.

    Riders of lower Steel Bridge: Slow Down!

    It’s one-lane each way for everyone.

    (yes, I’m a biker rider too)

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  • Bill Stites April 7, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Couldn’t agree more – thanks for taking the time to write this Roger!

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  • Steve April 7, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Give me at least 3ft of passing space whether you are a BIKE or a CAR, otherwise you better give me a heads up that you’re there.

    Some of the fastest and most experienced bicyclists turn out to be the rudest and most ignorant when they fail to signal they are passing. Be considerate and safe out there folks, especially to your fellow bikers. We’re in this together.

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  • 007 April 7, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    It would be nice if slower riders would ride off to the side of the bike lane instead of hogging the whole thing.

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    • Robert Burchett April 12, 2014 at 11:43 am

      007–bike lanes aren’t designed to include passing space. That gap on my right? That’s where folks chop you with a car door. Passing on the right is tacky, go there at your own risk.

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  • Pete April 8, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I ride the Hawthorne Bridge most weekdays but occasionally, I walk with my wife and kid. As a ped, I find the bell ringing and ‘on your left’ calls a tad obnoxious. The bride is clearly layed-out, as to who should be where and most bridge users abide by this.

    As a cyclist, I try to slow down, pay attention and pass when safe, without a bell of call. If a ped is in the way, I casually wait until they move rather than demand it of them. I also agree with the poster that said ringing and calling can sometimes cause confusion, ie “Ahh which, is my left,” and actually make an ordinairly seemless pass and awkward one.

    Last thought, Peds should have priority and right of way on these narrow-bridge paths but lots of cyclists still ride like we are hammering through a bike lane on the road.

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  • Ryan Good April 8, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    @ Pete, #41:

    “The bride is clearly layed-out…”

    Freudian slip?

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  • Ryan Good April 8, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Sorry for my last comment, couldn’t resist. But seriously folks…

    I think one of the problems is that a bicycle can operate (sort of) as a pedestrian, and (sort of) as a vehicle, so people don’t always know which one they should treat you as. I try to behave like the one that’s appropriate to the situation I’m riding in. When I’m riding in traffic, I ride like I’m a vehicle. When I’m on a shared path, I ride only barely faster than walking pace (when in the presence of pedestrians). Essentially, I’m behaving like a pedestrian on two-wheels. Some cyclists I see do this; most don’t. In fact yesterday, in Waterfront Park, I was almost run-down by two middle-aged racer women- high-end bikes, lycra-clad- as I was pedaling at walking-pace behind a clot of walkers on the path under the Burnside Bridge (where it’s crimped down between the construction and Naito). They came flying up behind me, one yelled at me for going too slow and getting in her way, then they screamed past me yelling “ON YOUR LEFT!!! COMING THROUGH!!!” right through a big group of pedestrians walking both ways. It wasn’t a polite notice, it was an imperative “GET OUT OF MY WAY!!!” and very rude (not to mention dangerous). From the comments I heard from those pedestrians, I don’t think too many of them are going to be supporting the bicycle side of issues anytime soon. They won’t remember me (and several other cyclists as well) politely pedaling behind them, they’ll remember the two lycra-ladies who ruined their evening walk. Couldn’t they have slowed down for the 50 feet where it’s tight until the crowd thinned? I guess not. I found myself cussing them under my breath, “Damn cyclists…”

    On the other hand, I find myself plenty of times saying, “Damn pedestrians…” I ride downtown a lot, and it seems to me that the only way to ride safely is to ride with the flow of traffic, at traffic speed. I’m operating as a vehicle right? I can’t count how many times I will be cruising along at 20-25 mph going through a green light, and people will (jay-)walk right out in front of me. I don’t know if they don’t see me, or they assume that since I’m a bike I’m not going very fast, or that maybe since I’m only a bike it wouldn’t hurt if I hit them (it would- I weight 215 and my bike weighs 25, so that’s 240 lbs slamming into you at 20+ mph- not a pretty picture for them or me..). Whatever the case, they clearly aren’t understanding that I’m operating my bike as a vehicle. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, but sometimes I swear it seems like they just think that I should have to stop for them or go around them. Or they’re too busy talking on their cell phone or texting to pay attention. In a few of those cases, I must confess I’ve yelled “COMING THROUGH!”

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  • are April 8, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    007 comment 40, is that some kind of joke? there is no requirement for the overtaking cyclist to stay in the lane, jeez. Roger, are you listening to this? PBOT needs to disavow 841.420 and/or get rid of the striping. see my comment at 21.

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  • El Biciclero April 9, 2009 at 9:56 am

    “It would be nice if slower riders would ride off to the side of the bike lane instead of hogging the whole thing.”

    If you really are talking about bike lanes here, and not bike paths, then I would have to disagree. I don’t think we would want to expect slower riders to stick to a more dangerous part of the lane just so us faster riders can pass within the bike lane. The following exceptions to the mandatory sidepath law make it perfectly legal to leave the bike lane to pass another rider:

    (3) A person is not in violation of [failure to use a bicycle lane or path] if the person is able
    to safely move out of the bicycle lane or path
    for the purpose of:
    (a) Overtaking and passing another bicycle,
    a vehicle or a pedestrian that is in the
    bicycle lane or path and passage cannot
    safely be made in the lane or path.
    (b) Preparing to execute a left turn at an
    intersection or into a private road or
    (c) Avoiding debris or other hazardous
    (d) Preparing to execute a right turn
    where a right turn is authorized.
    (e) Continuing straight at an intersection
    where the bicycle lane or path is to the right
    of a lane from which a motor vehicle must
    turn right.

    I have opportunities to exercise patience all the time when I come up behind a slower rider in a bike lane and traffic is such that there is not a good gap in which I can leave the bike lane to pass. In those situations, I try to act like I would if both the other rider and I were both driving cars–stay behind until a passing lane is sufficiently clear to use for passing.

    I find another thing that helps when I start to feel the frustration of dealing with peds and such–having to slow down, yield, or stop frequently–is to imagine myself having a superpower. I am Clark Kent, and nobody realizes what I could have just done in a given situation, but I chose to maintain my secret identity and stop for you, or slow way down and wait to pass–even though I could have blasted by, or bowled you over, or whatever.

    Here is a bell anecdote: I gave three dings as I approached and overtook a runner on my residential street yesterday on my way home–not to warn her to get out of the way, but just to let her know I was coming up from behind. I passed with plenty of room, and she even said “thanks” as I rode by. People’s perceptions of bells do vary, though. I wonder if there is any such thing as a friendly ding vs. an “aggressive” ding? Sort of like a light tap vs. leaning on the horn in a car?

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  • Lenny Anderson April 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    I ride by three rules:
    1. don’t get hit
    2. be courteous
    3. don’t loose momentum
    Always remembering that as someone over 50 I need to ride my bike as much like a auto as possible, or I might start driving my auto like its a bike!

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  • brettoo April 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    One of the great things about biking is that you really can have human contact — not physical, I hope — with other riders and walkers, especially when biking through downtown or the inner east side or NW, which is where I do most of my riding. I confess to having been rude to peds when in a hurry, but since I got my upright city bike (much easier to go slow on one of those, which makes sense if you’re gonna be stopping at lights and stop signs a lot anyway) and decided to leave 5 minutes earlier and slow down, I find myself enjoying my rides a lot more. Because I’m not so anonymous as I would be in a car or biking fast, now I sort of feel like an ambassador for bikes, so I try to make eye contact with peds and drivers, and it’s really fun to see them smile and actually acknowledge me. As noted above, peds are often pleasantly surprised when I allow them to cross the street even in situations where they have the right of way, and drivers will as often as not let me through even though I have a stop sign and they don’t. (This applies mainly downtown.) In both cases, it lets me feel like a nicer guy than I probably am, and when I see their smiles, I feel like I’ve won a little cred for bike riders and maybe that’s one less person who’ll vote or advocate against things like spending on bike infrastructure or sane laws like the Idaho stop. Really, it feels like every encounter like that is a possible chance to win a convert for the idea of sharing the road and the city, and I actually look forward to them. It’s not like I can’t be unthinkingly rude or in a hurry sometimes, but when I ride with this attitude, I sure feel less stressed when I arrive at my destination.

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  • PoPo April 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    This is beautiful, Roger.

    And I’ve also received nothing but appreciation for dinging my bell as a warning.

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  • matchu April 10, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Re: #45

    Absolutely. I try to keep this in mind while cycling and I see slow cyclists in the bike lane or cautiously using sidewalks (outside of the downtown core): Everyone should be able to cycle per their individual level of confidence and comfort. As such, I too take the auto lane when it is safe to do so to pass slower cyclists -often give a ring of my bell before doing so if the space of passing looks to be less than three feet. The other day a cyclist passed me in a regular lane from the cycling lane after giving a whistle. I thought it may have been a catcall initially but it did cause me to look in the direction and notice the passing cyclist -bravo to him for the courtesy.

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  • steve April 11, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    You must not ride very much then PoPo.

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  • Kathy April 17, 2009 at 12:39 pm

    Wow, I agree with Roger. I wish we would all ride with courtesy and within the law. I commute into downtown from the eastside every day and see bad behavior by fellow cyclists, pedestrians, and cars alike. I figure that I can only control myself and my behavior when riding/walking/driving so I do my best to be aware and courteous at all times no matter my mode of transportation. I actually don’t mind other bikes passing me without warning as long as they give me some room. I admit, I pass people on Ankeny without warning – but I NEVER do this when there are cars around and I give them tons of room. I’m not scaring anyone by my presence (I hope.) And on the Burnside Bridge heading east – man that hill kills me every time – I also prefer people passing me there to not warn me because their yelling “on your left” or ringing their bell tends to scare the s#@$ out of me when I’m riding just to the right of cars traveling at 40+ miles an hour. Usually cyclists pass me so fast I barely even register them until they are already past. And honestly, as I ride everyday, very few people are saying “on your left” or ringing their bell.
    I agree with other commentators that the Eastbank Esplanade/Springwater Corridor are both OUT OF HAND with the lycra-clad pelotons. A couple of weekends ago when it was super nice outside and seemingly all of Portland was on the Esplanade/Corridor, the lycra pelotons were in full force in the afternoon, buzzing by at furious speeds past pedestrians and cyclists alike and all at very uncomfortably close distances. I saw one almost mow down a little toddler right by all those “BIKES SLOW” signs around OMSI. I almost fainted at the near miss. The cyclist gave no sign at all of being even remotely perturbed by almost maiming a child. I think those lycra cyclists who do these things are giving us all really horrible PR. And they also scare me to death.
    And I will finally say that for every car that ignores a stop sign or accelerates when they see me walking across a crosswalk, there are many more who wave me through intersections and smile at me as I go by.

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  • Roger Geller April 5, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    And stop for red lights. Tonight (4/5/12) I watched a guy (safely) run 3 reds in a row: at the north end of the Rose Quarter transit center, across the freeway on-ramp to I-5 south and across Weidler. What did it gain him? Probably some ill will from the motorists who saw him; a solid contribution to the reasons some people don’t like bicyclists and are ill-inclined to support bicycle transportation. What it didn’t gain him was any time. Following along behind him at a relaxed pace I still caught up to him not very far down the road because, of course, you’ll eventually run into a signal that you just can’t run.

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  • Donna Cohen June 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks, everyone. It’s nice to know you folks [most of you, anyway 🙂 ] are out there. I wish every cyclist would heed these words. And, remember one other thing – kids and seniors are much more vulnerable. Kids are, obviously, little. And, for seniors who fall – given bone density loss – the results can be devasting. A senior who break a hip, for example, has a significant chance of dying within a fairly short period of time. Please, folks, remember how vulnerable peds – and especially, kids and seniors, are. Think about your little brothers and sisters, and your grandparents [or, mothers, depending on your age] 🙂


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  • Tigue April 11, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    I find ringing my bell well in advance of me passing doesn’t surprise the walker and seems more appreciated by them.

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    • Donna April 12, 2014 at 7:12 am

      I appreciate this. “well in advance” is the key. I do hope you wait for some discernible indication that the person has heard you, though. Some people are hard of hearing [especially older folks ] or don’t hear at all. Thanks.

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      • Tigue April 12, 2014 at 10:30 pm

        Yes always. Also….Donna I just realized I made a comment on a 5 year old post. And some one actually read it.

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        • Donna April 13, 2014 at 7:42 am

          And, still a relevant discussion! 🙂

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