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Crowds in the bike lanes? Today is first day of Bike Commute Challenge

Posted by on September 1st, 2009 at 10:58 am

Bike traffic on Broadway Bridge, as seen during the Bike Commute Challenge in September 2008.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Today is the first day of the 2009 Bike Commute Challenge. The event, put together each year by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), is a friendly competition between companies throughout Oregon and SW Washington to see who can make the most trips to work by bike.

Stats from the BTA’s Bike
Commute Challenge website.

In a press release, the BTA says more than 1,000 businesses, non-profits, and public agencies will take part in the competition. Last year, nearly 11,000 individuals logged over 1 million miles by bike. For some, it’s a fierce competition for bragging rights, but for many others, the Bike Commute Challenge is an excellent opportunity to try biking to work for the first time.

Each year, thousands of newbies hit the road during the month of September. They’re bolstered not only by peer pressure from co-workers, but from a series of Bike Commute 101 workshops taught by the BTA leading up to and throughout the event.

This year, the City’s Bureau of Transportation has unveiled several new bikeway facilities just in time to help those new commuters feel safer on the roads.

For more info, check out BikeCommuteChallenge.com.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Kronda September 1, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Since the BTA rampantly discriminates against the unemployed (/sarcasm), I started Team Jobless last year. I’m guessing even more people qualify this year based on the number of friends I have who’s lost jobs due to the recession.

    Anyone who’s unemployed (or a student, or freelancer) is welcome to join. 🙂

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  • Jessica Roberts September 1, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Yeah, and they are blatantly discriminating against the 9-months-pregnant-and-off-a-bike crowd too! Down with the BTA!!

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  • jeff September 1, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Oh right, that explains the traffic! Be nice, but watch your back for the newbies, going to be a lot of sketchy riders for a month.

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  • q`Tzal September 1, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Kronda #1
    Team Jobless has the unfair advantage off being able to bike nearly all day:)

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  • dan September 1, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Darn, telecommuting today. Maybe I’ll bike to a coffee shop or something.

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  • La otra September 1, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    OK, so yesterday, Westbound on the Hawthorne Bridge at about 7:45, I’m going on the part past the bus stop under the I-5 overpass when a guy pass me on the right. I called out “bad idea” to him since there is a solid line separating the bike side from the ped side, and for good reason, because there’s a blind corner where the Esplanade connector hooks up to the bridge. You really do have to go slow there. Seconds later, I see this fool trying to pass another cyclist on the right, except she feels someone behind her, and veers to the right, as she should, but in this case they nearly collide. I wish I could say that I held my tongue, but I called out “Hey pass-on-the-right-guy: jackass!” which got interpreted as “Hey, pass on the right, guy” and some other rider cussed me out. I hate not having the power to formulate the perfect response instantly, instead of five minutes later.

    Point is, it’s probably better to keep your mouth shut when you see an idiot doing something, or at least, keep it simple.

    Other point is: don’t pass on the right!

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  • Steve B. September 1, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Hi La Otra–

    I feel you! I’m currently working on a few PSAs for cyclists riding with other cyclists. Two of the issues I’m working on first are (1) People who pass other cyclists INSIDE the bike lane and (2) Passing on the right. The latter is violated constantly by cyclists who appear to be well seasoned. Time to correct some bad habits.

    I don’t think it’s possible to educate ‘on the roll’, and if you do get out something catchy, most people get defensive. I think the PSAs and other educational resources will help going forward.

    I think a catchy/rhymey line helps. I’m looking for a good one that effectively says “Be safe, pass on the left” or “ride like a car, pass on the left”

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  • Steve B. September 1, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    It also would be awesome to see some reminder/etiquette signs on street posts. You see on the highways “slower traffic keep right, left lane for passing only” and other caution signs for vehicular road users.

    If anyone has any information on (1) how much signs cost to produce and hang and (2) what’s the hold up? I’d love to learn.

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  • Jim F September 1, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Yeah! I love September with people pedaling 6mph on the far left side of the bike lane. Or folks riding 3 across and blocking all traffic. I am almost looking forward to the rainy season. Almost.

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  • Nick V September 1, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I’m not sure which is worse: when someone flips me off after I call him a —-head for blazing through stop signs and forcing cars to screech to a halt or when someone ignores me after the same thing. I think it’s the latter. People should listen carefully when I revert to middle school tactics.

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  • Jason September 1, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Jim F: More bikes = less cars = more better. Right?

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  • BURR September 1, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    @ Jim #9: most bike lanes are only wide enough for one cyclist, and I ride left in the bike lane to prevent other cyclists from passing me in in the bike lane.

    If you want to pass a slower cyclist in the bike lane, you’re supposed to do it by leaving the bike lane and passing on the left in the adjacent travel lane.

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  • Dave September 1, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    BURR – you’re also supposed to try to be courteous and not unnecessarily force people out into traffic. I’m all for taking the whole lane when you’re cruising along, but if somebody faster is behind you waiting for an opportunity to pass, there is no reason not to be civil, move right, and let them by.

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  • RyNO Dan September 1, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Yeah ! On the Hawthorne bridge, I will be commuting at normal speed and will always be in the left (travel) lane. There’s a little graphic for bikes there, check it out.
    I don’t care how many times you honk at me (referred to as bell ringing), I’m not EVER going to get out of your way. Same with the cars that honk at me. If you have ants in your pants, it’s up to you to safely pass me, and that’s in the right lane on the Hawhtorne. I see totally predictable, safe, and normal right passing on that bridge every day. Print all the posters you want, your “bad habits” are my “normal cycling”.
    Happy Day !!

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  • craig September 1, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I celebrated the start of the Bike Commute Challenge yesterday by nearly being clotheslined by a thin retaining wire strung diagonally across the bike lane to reinforce a municipal road maintenance sign. I spotted the thing in time and skidded to a halt.

    This is a large electronic sign board mounted on a trailer which is parked adjacent to the bike lane on NW Cornell (eastbound), just east of NW Trail. The sign protrudes about 3 or 4 feet over the bike lane at a safe height, but the retaining wire runs diagonally from the bottom corner of the sign down to the base of the trailer, creating a perfect neck-level throat-cutter for a cyclist riding on the middle or inside of the bike lane. I have a photo, but nowhere to post it.

    I saw no contact info anywhere on the sign or trailer, so I called the 911 to report the immediate lethal hazard. After standing 10 minutes in the bike lane to warn off approaching riders, and no appearance by cops, I used my multi-tool to remove the wire myself.

    Anybody know which municipal org, DOT, or whoever would have deployed that road crew to put out the sign board and other road warning devices at that location? They also put three “construction ahead” signs with 5-foot wide bases directly in the bike lane approaching that intersection, which I happily placed on the sidewalk.

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  • Matt Picio September 1, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    RyNO Dan (#14), you’ve got a good point that people need to chill out when following others, and certainly if we follow the markings on the Hawthorne sidewalk, there really isn’t enough room for others to safely pass. I disagree, though, that others safely pass on the right on that bridge – they successfully pass on the right, which is not the same thing. If they give audible warning (which isn’t required by law, but a good practice nonetheless), it can be safe, but many of the cyclists who pass on either side on the bridge give no warning to their fellow cyclists whatsoever. Sure, that’s perfectly legal, but it’s not safe. In a world of increasing energy prices and increasing bike traffic, there are a lot of inexperienced cyclists out there who are easily startled and/or inexperienced at holding a line. Passing without warning can be hazardous.

    BTW, if I’m ever behind you on the bridge ringing my bell, I’m not asking you to get out of my way – I’m telling the pedestrian or cyclist that I’m currently passing that I’m there coming up on their left.

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  • Matt Picio September 1, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    craig (#15) – good job! The MUTCD requires signage and cones before taking a lane – if the crew wanted to take the bike lane, they needed to place warning cones and signage stating such – in Oregon, the bike lane is considered a traffic lane, and falls under the authority of the MUTCD. (attorneys please correct me if my interpretation of the law here is incorrect)

    Oregon frequently does NOT do proper lane closures, and is frequently NOT in compliance with the MUTCD – all jurisdictions have been guilty of it in the past.

    Full disclosure – I did freeway lane closures in the Washington DC area on a daily basis for 6 months in 1994. I’m not an “expert”, but I consider myself competent.

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  • craig September 1, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Audible warning IS required by law.


    “ORS 814.410, which provides that a person commits the offense of “unsafe
    operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk” if the person:
    • Fails to give an audible warning before passing a pedestrian while
    riding on the sidewalk”

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  • Cheryl G September 1, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    I ride the Hawthorne Bridge westbound during my daily work commute. My riding/passing strategy is to keep to the right side of the bike lane allowing faster riders to pass me on the left. When I want to pass another biker, I slow until the pedestrian lane is clear, then say “on your left” when I’m ready to pass. Seems to work out okay.

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  • craig September 1, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    better link:

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  • cyclist September 1, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    craig #18:

    That only addresses the passing of pedestrians on a sidewalk, it doesn’t say anything about giving an audible warning before passing another cyclist.

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  • craig September 1, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    bet ya that argument would loose in court, goes to intent of the law

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  • Dave September 1, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    It is nice to see they’ve kept the tradition of the almost unusably slow, buggy website alive.

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  • swpdxbikecommuter September 1, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    What frightens me on the Hawthorne is people traveling eastbound on the north side of the bridge, then coming down the northside ramp to the Eastbank Esplanade and dang near running me off the path as I come up the ramp to the bridge (save for the railings).

    Or people renting those ginormous car/bike thingies down by the Salmon Springs fountain and taking up the whole path at any given point on the east or west bank Esplanades, oblivious to the fact that others are also using that space–most likely tourists who aren’t used to bike/ped congestion.

    And give a break to the “newbies.” They may seem to be clueless, but they are likely more careful and we were all newbies once so be nice and try to share the road/lane. And yes, more bikes=less cars=great!

    I always holler “on your left” when I’m passing and people frequently thank me for doing so (usually peds).

    I like Steve B.’s idea for reminders and signs–good educational opportunities for those who are unaware, and a reminder for those who should know better than acting like Hummer drivers on bikes…

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  • Matt Picio September 1, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    craig (#22) – I’d wager that it would hinge on whether a bicycle counts as a vehicle or a pedestrian when it is on a sidewalk, something which, AFAIK has not been determined in the courts.

    In any case, it’s a legal gray area, whereas the pedestrian aspect is not. My point is that whether or not it’s required, it’s a good practice, and it’s neighborly. We’ve previously established in prior comments on this site that many of us who argue for good behavior on the roads fell that there are 2 types of operators, regardless of mode – “normal people”, and “jerks” – and that “jerks” walk, drive, take transit, and bike. It has nothing to do with the mode used, and it’s the jerks that we all remember when we think on what we hate about mode X.

    People who fail to alert others of their approach may or may not be jerks – people who pass others at less than a foot, while wearing headphones and double-passing on the right with no audible warning are pretty clearly in the “jerk” category.

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  • BURR September 1, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    @ Dave #13. We want motorists to courteously pass us with 3 feet of clearance, and I expect the same of other cyclists. 99% of the bike lanes in Portland require you to leave the bike lane to do so.

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  • jeff September 1, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Amen BURR. If you’re fast enough to pass, take the lane. Just don’t get pissed at me when I’m in the middle of the vehicle lane and don’t call “on your left” like that bozo the other day. I’m ten feet away from you man! 🙂

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  • dan September 1, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    OK, Bike to Work challenge etiquette question. I telecommuted today…should I:

    1) Claim today as a non-work day
    2) Claim today as a day on which I worked, but did not bike commute (thereby dinging our company’s average)
    3) or ???

    What says BikePortland?

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  • craig September 1, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    I believe it’s…check “I worked” and don’t check “I participated”. Telecommuting, transit, walking–none of these count as participation. Stephanie, can you confirm?

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  • Steve B. September 1, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    @Jim F #5, actually, I’d recommend all cyclists, no matter what speed, stay to the left of the bike lane to avoid dooring and maintain visibility.

    If you want to pass a slower cyclist, you should leave the bike lane rather than hugging it with another cyclist (even if they ride to the right and give you room). I understand that might slow the passing process, but it’s the only safe way to do it.

    How apropos, I just uploaded a draft of my first PSA addressing this issue. Did I mention it’s not finished?

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  • Steve B. September 1, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    @Dave #13 — fair enough, certainly on a street without a bike lane, this should be practiced.

    However, no one should ever have to compromise their own safety for this. If you want to overtake another cyclist, look over your left shoulder and ensure no traffic is coming. Signal that you’ll be moving left with your left hand, increase speed, ring a bell or give a holler that you’re coming up on the left, and after you’ve passed about 4-8ft in front of the cyclist, re-enter the bike lane. I admit it’s a bit scary the first time you do it, but it gets easier every time.

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  • kitty September 1, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    i think it is great we are having this little argument about passing. much better than bikes v. cars. But lets keep perspective, it is a good thing there are new people out there. everyone just needs to chill. if it was all bout getting from A to B fastest we would all keep driving wouldn’t we?

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  • Nick V September 1, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Kitty #32,

    It takes me at least 30 minutes to drive home and it takes me only 20 to bike home. Just saying……

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  • Kevin Wagoner September 1, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I’ve been really impressed with Con-way the last few years. I don’t work there anymore but they do a great job supporting their local riding community. I ran into a few of them this morning (with their Con-way jerseys) biking into work for a free breakfast outside one of the companies secured bike facilities….I should have finished the ride with them to grab some food!

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  • Shetha September 1, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Between my coworker and myself we logged 86 miles today. Too bad we can’t do this every day!!! Will be interested to see how much we rack up in the end… we never really keep track.

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  • Patrick Valdez September 1, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    So I know I should be Polly Positive about the Bike Commute Challenge but a lot of these people only make the effort to get on a bike and out of their cars for this one single event. There is a lot of insincerity surrounding some of these teams. And what’s with these people who say we rode so and so many miles today but we can’t do this every day? Why not? A lot of us do it day in and day out year around.

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  • Shetha September 1, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Well for us, we commute by bike 2 days out of the 4 days we go to work. But if we take a vacation or travel for work, we don’t do that commute. I would do it every day, but time is a factor. My coworker’s commute is 30 miles each way and mine is a (meager) 12.8 miles (each way). The minutes add up day after day…

    I’m glad anyone’s making an effort to do it. I hope more people start ignoring their own excuses and just seeing how possible it is, even in the rain or dark.

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  • Mark September 1, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Craig (#15)

    Cornell & Trail Ave is (I’m pretty sure) Washington County. I “think” that is part of the construction going on at Murray Blvd. (not sure if they are connected)
    So either Wa County Road Dept or probably faster to talk to the crew working. I know one contractor there. Shouldn’t be hard to see a couple of trucks or other signage.

    Glad you are Ok

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  • gutter bunny September 2, 2009 at 8:48 am

    to the noobs out there running lights: just get back in your car. You do more harm than good.

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  • Kt September 2, 2009 at 9:01 am

    Re: buggy Bike Commute Challenge site:

    If you are trying to log your trips first thing in the morning or last thing at the end of your day, you’re hitting the site at the same time a huge number of other people are.

    I complained about the lagginess last year and was told that I should try to use the site in “off peak” hours. So now I go log my trips around the middle of the morning, which seems to work pretty ok, except that this year I sometimes get “bad gateway” errors. I refresh and it seems to work okay.

    Re: New bike riders: more bikes=less cars=more better, indeed, but us more experienced riders need to be encouraging the less experienced riders so they gain the confidence to ride more, and not just in September during the Challenge.

    New riders, a message for you: ride like you drive; that means ride with traffic, signal your intentions, and obey the traffic laws. It doesn’t get much easier than that! Oh, and while you’re waiting at that stop light, strike up a conversation with the riders around you, you’ll learn a lot that way! And: keep it up– your 12-mile commute might take a bit of time now, but the more you do it, the more in shape you become, and the quicker your commute-by-bike becomes. Trust me on this one.

    I like the idea of signs, especially ones that read “RIDE WITH TRAFFIC, NOT AGAINST TRAFFIC”. That would be nice.

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  • El Biciclero September 2, 2009 at 9:32 am

    “I like the idea of signs, especially ones that read ‘RIDE WITH TRAFFIC, NOT AGAINST TRAFFIC’. That would be nice.” — Kt

    Such things could be painted in bike lanes, where they exist. Some “WRONG WAY” stencils oriented properly might reinforce the message that a bike lane is one-way. The large directional arrows are apparently too subtle for some. “^-PASS ON LEFT” might be a good one to put in a few places, too. There could even be some along the lines of “WARNING, DRIVEWAY” (or something) to alert riders of upcoming potential hazards.

    Welcome, new riders! Don’t be intimidated by other folks out there (on bikes or in cars). Do your own (legal) thing in your own way, but always be open to learning and improving. Please don’t assume you need to run lights and signs to “be cool” with the other riders out there. Yes, many do those things, but don’t give in to the negative peer pressure!

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  • craig September 2, 2009 at 9:33 am

    Mark, I looked for crew (commuting after 5pm) and for other identifying info on other signage but found neither.

    I found the contact info for Wa Co Land Use and Transpo dept, and I’ll call them on my next break.

    If anyone else out there rides along this section of NW Cornell on your commute, please call as well to complain–contact info is here: http://www.co.washington.or.us/LUT/index.cfm

    1) sign wires strung across bike lanes
    2) “construction ahead” signs plopped down in the middle of bike lanes

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  • Boneshaker September 2, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Love the Bike Commute Challenge, but there is a part of me that appreciates the wide open bike lanes of December – May.

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  • chelsea September 2, 2009 at 10:41 am

    how about “go to the left when you pass, or else your going to look like an ass”? this is by no means a newbie problem. i wish i could tell people to stop being idiots without being offensive AND have them actually consider changing their ways. i too am torn between being really genuinely happy to have more bikes on the road, and also having a small, selfish, soft spot for the wet, empty roads of winter.

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  • Malex September 2, 2009 at 11:44 am

    @Dave (#13), I don’t want to move to the right, potentially into a door.

    I ride to the far left of bike lanes when they’re next to parked cars (which is most of them). Sometimes I ride on the lane-marking line or slightly outside of the bike lane if cars are parked badly enough or the bike lane is small enough.

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  • carlos September 2, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    here’s a sign for ya:


    (patent pending)

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