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PBOT urges riders to slow down and be aware on Mississippi Hill

Posted by on September 22nd, 2009 at 10:09 am

PBOT on Mississippi Hill-3

PBOT bribed riders with donuts and
coffee to share a safety message
on the Mississippi Hill this morning.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Oh, the life of a bike commuter in Portland. Last night, people riding east across the Hawthorne Bridge were serenaded by a harpist and offered chamomile tea; and this morning, people coming south on Mississippi Avenue were offered free donuts and coffee. Both events were meant to raise awareness of bike safety.

On the Hawthorne the issue is how to deal with congestion. On the Mississippi Hill, PBOT is concerned about bike safety because they maintain two yards full of maintenance operations equipment and the street is frequented by large trucks.

Story continues below


PBOT on Mississippi Hill-1

A series of signs warned
people of hazards.

Maintenance Operations staff have grown even more concerned about bike safety after PBOT installed a new bike lane and re-configured the roadway last month.

Engineers added an uphill bike lane and removed the center turn lane. That center turn lane is where large trucks used to be able to wait prior to turning left into the maintenance yard. Now, when they slow down and stop to turn into the yard, they are sticking into the travel lane — where some fear they could collide with people on bicycles who are going too fast to stop safely (the left turn area is also in somewhat of a blind corner).

PBOT on Mississippi Hill-2

Maintenance Operations Supervisor Kirstin Byer.

PBOT Maintenance Operations Supervisor Kirstin Byer — who works in the Albina Yard on Mississippi — was at the event this morning. “Our concerns are really just based on fear. We’re really just afraid that we can’t see everyone.” Byer says that the new bike facility has encouraged even more people to use the route and added that “we don’t want to hurt anybody.”

As bikes rolled by on their morning commute, Byer (along with PBOT Transportation Options Division staffers Scott Cohen and Jeff Smith) yelled, “Be careful of the big trucks down there.” Many riders stopped and were appreciative of the message (and the donuts).

[Note: You might remember Byer as the person behind many of Portland’s beloved bike lane characters.]

Also at this morning’s event, PBOT had placed temporary signs in the median adjacent to the downhill lane with messages like “trucks turning below”, “no room to swerve” and “slow down”.

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  • Steve Hoyt-McBeth September 22, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Hooray to my fellow bureaucrats. Be safe and don’t bomb Miss.

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  • Bahueh September 22, 2009 at 10:59 am

    maybe they can come to S.E. Lincoln between 39th and 20th next and attempt to convince people that running stop signs into the side of cars with the right of way is bad…like I witnessed some moron do last night. Dude is lucky to be alive.

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  • Boneshaker September 22, 2009 at 11:01 am

    Dang I would have made my way to Mississippi if I’d have known about cyclists congregating & donuts. Sorry I missed it!

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  • Vance Longwell September 22, 2009 at 11:03 am

    “Our concerns are really just based on fear.”

    Yup, and conjecture, and fallacy, and misinformation, and incompetence, and paranoia, and entitlement, and a complete and utter lack of experience or knowledge, with or of, bicycles.

    But don’t let that stop you from bothering public-right-of-way users, painting little lines everywhere, and just generally creating a mess where there is none. Oh, and can we please do all of this on the tax-payer dime? That would be swell.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) September 22, 2009 at 11:14 am

    Hey Vance,

    You seem to know an awful lot about traffic engineering. I’d encourage you to take the PSU Traffic and Transportation class and maybe pursue a career in it.

    Oh, and we also don’t appreciate the tone of your comments. You are free to criticize, but please do so intelligently. Calling someone that you don’t know “incompetent” isn’t very nice.


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  • Grimm September 22, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Some kind of permanent alert that big trucks will be entering/leaving the roadway would be good. Educating equipment operators (and maybe even have them ride the hill a few times with a big truck near by) could be really useful as well.

    Although I hate doing things on the taxpayers dime, the cost of a sign and spending a day educating drivers seems like a good investment compared to a life ended too soon and the lost work/contributions they could be doing.

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  • Vance Longwell September 22, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    What, you’re really going to just censor my rebuttal? Really?

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  • John Kangas September 22, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    @6 (Grimm) – I like that approach! It’a amazing how much prevention can be paid for with the same amount needed to clean up a wreck. And that’s just money. This approach also avoids the associated pain and suffering, while making community connections between traffic staff and facility users. Good stuff!

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  • Matti September 22, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Sheesh, Vance. If you are that bothered by what the City did to educate the public and proactively minimize a hazard, why don’t you go out there on the street and show the world what you think should be done? Constructive critique would be useful.

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  • kiwimunki September 22, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    If you’ve gotta say it, say it with donuts. Thanks, City! I appreciate the heads-up.

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  • Vance Longwell September 22, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Matti – I wasn’t aware that there has been a series of injuries and deaths here. Oh wait. There hasn’t.

    My constructive critique would be to advise that you don’t ride your bicycle into trucks, and visa-versa. My constructive critique would be that people earning tax-payer derived salaries should have better things to do with their time. If you don’t know, instinctively, that running into trucks will injure you, what pray-tell, is accomplished by informing anybody of this fact?

    I’m disinclined to spend public money on this false-humanism. There’s a liability issue here, or we wouldn’t be hearing a word about it. That’s an opinion, stated assertively. Deal.

    You guys are always on about Greenwashing, well, when are you gonna gripe about Bikewashing? PBOT doesn’t care about you they care about getting sued. This isn’t the best example of Bikewashing, but hopefully my point is made.

    I’m realizing now too, that the comment I’ve complained about being censored upthread, may have been, in fact, too many characters in length. My sincerest apologies for the resultant quip about censoring. If I boinked a system check that is my own dumbness. That was a great rebuttal though, and if you can retrieve that would be awesome.

    Man you are a judgmental lot. I’m a grumpy bastard because you all are destroying my life. Bikes ARE my life. I don’t have a minivan parked in the garage, I don’t have a spot in the scene. All I have is my bike. Literally.

    This blog, ostensibly that means you too J, supports organizations proactively stripping me, a cyclist, of my access to Oregon highways. You are working in direct contravention of 25 years worth of advocacy on my part. You all support flooding the streets with less than competent operators, and seem not to care what the safety ramifications of this will be.

    I’m really not an ogre. I have a tremendous amount at stake, and the attitudes here directly threaten my lifestyle. If you can’t see my point of view fine. But for Pete’s sake, don’t crawl up my behind because I’m bitter. I mean, you are quite literally destroying my lifestyle.

    Plus, it’s just words. I fail at connecting words to people frequently, my bad. However, I’m held accountable for everything I write, and then some, so tit-for-tat, c’mon. I DO ride a bike, and would love to be neighborly. But not at the price of joining you all’s little church. You got a pew for the non-believers? No? Well, then listen to ’em squawk about it.

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  • steve September 22, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    Jonathan, really.

    Your and Elly’s prior restraint and petty one upmanship with certain posters has become more distracting than the original posts ever would have been by themselves. Most of your readers are quite capable of ignoring provocative posts.

    This heavy handed moderation is starting to encourage other posters to jump right on in with the new found haranguing spirit. Incidentally, the hall monitor types are rarely chastised for their naughtiness, as they are comfortably representing the popular opinion.

    If you do not feel your readers are astute and mature enough to tolerate contrary and provocative opinions, perhaps you should disable all comments. Would be better than treating us all like children.

    If your goal has been to keep the topics from meandering, you are failing miserably. Just an observation and please feel free to edit/remove my post.

    “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”

    -Albert Einstein

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) September 22, 2009 at 12:52 pm


    Thanks for that comment. And yes, we do have a “pew for non-believers” and you’re sitting in it right now.


    Calling someone that you know nothing about incompetent is not “provocative opinion”… it’s just mean.

    thanks for the input.

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  • steve September 22, 2009 at 1:13 pm


    Engaging a known provocateur over the meanness of the word ‘incompetent’ is helpful in what way exactly?

    I can find literally hundreds of posts with equal or greater meanness on this sites comment pages. And perusing most other comment sections on the web, one can find much more grandiose and flamboyant meanness.

    It is clear that certain folks meanness is tolerated and near encouraged, whilst others are berated and muzzled. This moderation style is limiting discourse and demeaning to your readers. Though I am sure many are thrilled see those who challenge them stifled and chided.

    You (and Elly in particular) have clearly decided to hold some arbitrary line of discourse, most regularly against certain posters. Again, all of whom seem to be expressing contrary opinions.

    The meanness of the house sycophants is rarely if ever addressed. It is a sad sight to behold, particularly when wielded with the enthusiasm Elly exhibits.

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  • Vance Longwell September 22, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    Can we go off topic? I mean, are we having it out?

    I think you want a forum here. I place faith in the notion that you act upon good intentions, and pure conscience. I don’t have to tell you, and I love this word thank you steve, provocative positions and ideas will arise.

    I agree a billion percent with the impetus being forcefully driven into productivity. Across the entire scope. Yes, we need constructive interaction. But when the message is homogenized by too much sensitivity, or disingenuous language, (Traffic calming, urban livability…), and further corrupted, and co-opted by the insistence upon chaining bicycles to a political movement, the whole thing is degraded anyway.

    Forget me. What about you? Your singling me out has become habitual. When are you guilty of shooting first, and asking questions later? Again, I have a bunch of faith in you, and suspect you’d hate that conclusion.

    Look you folks dug me outta my hole, not the other way around. My position is, “Leave it alone, it’s fine”. This position costs the tax-payers of Oregon zero. Your position is characterized by more spending, more resource allocation, and on and on. I feel like I’m explaining to a Christian that my atheism is not just another belief system. I am zero. Nothing. Nadda. I am not the addition of one. We don’t have competing ideas about how to allocate public money. I’m not siphoning off resources. There’s no need to treat me like I’m some Christian Right-Winger in here playing games.

    You don’t like the negativity? Man, how do you think I feel not being able to make a left-turn off of SW Broadway anymore? I started my own blog, by the way, just so I could offer a place to engage in off-topic dialogue. Alas, you people looking down your nose at me are so afraid to allocate me a page-view, you won’t even go there to bitch at me. Heaven forbid I should derive any benefit for my sacrifices. That’s real community. So, with that I apologize for being off-topic. I have made every attempt.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) September 22, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    first, sorry to everyone for cluttering the comments with all of this but I think it’s important to address.


    As I’ve said numerous times in the past, I do appreciate input on how we moderate comments, but we will decide how and when they happen. I do not agree at all with your claims of conspiracy that we have different eyes for contrary opinions.

    It just so happens that contrary opinions from some readers tend to veer into personal attacks against us, the subjects of our stories, and other readers more often and with more meanness than others.

    If you feel Elly or myself is playing any active role in squelching certain opinions and propping up others, I simply think that is not the case at all.

    We work hard to try and present many different perspectives on this site.

    I’ll just point out that, I didn’t moderate any of Vance’s last comment. I left it untouched and simply urged him to criticize with tact.

    Here’s a hint. If you want your comments to remain intact, just be careful not to make them personal attacks.

    we’ll try our best to make sure we moderate in as fair a way as possible.

    thank you.

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  • Bob September 22, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Education and awareness benefit all of us. Thank you, PBOT, for making an effort.

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  • steve September 22, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Since we are back on topic..

    What education and awareness programs are being offered to the drivers of these large, apparently dangerous trucks?

    It sounds as if their “accident” response is ready made. Here it is straight from the article- “We’re really just afraid that we can’t see everyone.”

    Sounds like an admission of inattention, or insufficient equipment to operate safely on the public roadway. How exactly is that best addressed by yelling this at cyclists (again from the article) “Be careful of the big trucks down there.”???

    And people are thanking them for this? Bizarro land, for sure.

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  • TTse
    TTse September 22, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Have to agree with Vance and steve on this one.

    Having lived in NoPo and ridden this route nearly every day from early 2001 to late 2008, this is an absolute NON-issue.

    Are cyclists breaking the speed limit here? Then why pre-tell this recurring compulsion to tell cyclists what to do? And why indulge this compulsion when in fact the cyclists are doing nothing wrong? We are not children in need of constant correction and redirection.

    Drivers see action like this and it only cements in their minds the image of us as a bunch of law-breakers in need of intervention. Heck we’re even a problem when we ARE obeying the law.

    Nothing has happened here other than perhaps a few truck drivers have been surprised to learn that cyclists can take this hill at the speed of a car. Well perhaps this lesson might prevent a future right-hook by a driver who up until this exposure, had been under the impression that bikes all travelled at 6 mph.

    If by some freak of fate I am actually involved in a collision here, are these “helpful” signs going to be held against me in court? Seriously. Will their existence be admissible as evidence of a problem which was
    so severe that it required an action like this?

    Please. There are actually problems out there. Why create them where they don’t exist.

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  • Duncan September 22, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    I think the problem is PBOT violating my right of way….

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  • are September 22, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    I would have thought that Vance’s objection and Steve’s would have been to striping the uphill lane to begin with, which has resulted in removing the center turn lane downhill. on the other hand, of course, the downhill traffic lane is much wider, which in theory allows a cyclist to pass on the right a truck that is stopped, waiting to turn left — which has not much at all to do with driver inattention, but instead with accurate risk assessment by the overtaking cyclist. so, okay, the p.r. campaign is possibly appropriate, but the situation was created by PBoT itself, striping the uphill bike lane.

    on the subject of hall monitoring: it might be helpful, Jonathan and Elly, to post some list etiquette on a page somewhere so enforcement does not give even the appearance of being arbitrary. not sure if it is all that helpful to have the editorial presence be so visible, either. maybe just cut what you want to cut and be done with it.

    and to Vance and Steve (and others) let me suggest that this is a privately owned, commercial site, and they are not required to let anyone post at all if they don’t want to, though of course having all this back and forth is part of the commercial appeal of the site, but certainly they are well within their rights to set the rules of discourse.

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  • Steve B. September 22, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I’d much rather PBOT be proactive than wait for the first fatality. collisions with trucks on this stretch is a real possibility, even if it hasn’t happened before.

    They’re not telling people what to do, they’re suggesting bikers use caution. I appreciate the care they put into this. Thank you, PBOT!

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  • old&slow September 22, 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Agree with Vance on this one. I also am one that elly has “moderated”. It is your site and you can do what you want. I have stopped posting except for one the other day on the hood river ride. This site has a point of view which is fine, which is to get everybody there can be on bikes. I have to follow them at 5 mph on the Hawthorne bridge. I have to follow them at 5 mph on the new cycle path on Broadway. Sometimes more is less and trying to make downtown city streets safe for children to ride on does not encourage cycling as a transportation alternative.

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  • TTse
    TTse September 22, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Steve B.,

    Let me address the degree of PBOT’s “proactive”ness in the form of a question.

    What sort of education have they offered their drivers about this stretch and how to deal with it?

    And one email or some flyer posted on a bulletin board doesn’t count. Show me the money. If they’re really afraid of hurting somebody, what are they expecting from themselves and their drivers? That to me is much more proactive than putting the onus on other road users.

    Given the fact that Byer said the following, “We’re really just afraid that we can’t see everyone,” it seems to me that the issue that concerns them is not cyclists coming ripping up behind a stopped truck, but them pulling out in front of us. This is something that has been likely for as long as PBOT has had their facility there. And it so far has not been much of an issue.

    And then we have Byer saying “the new bike facility has encouraged even more people to use the route and added that ‘we don’t want to hurt anybody.'”

    If there is going be an increase in ridership due to a new “facility” it’s only going to be uphill bike traffic since that’s all that has been facilitated. Lack of downhill facilities will likely leave that traffic unchanged. But it seems that the focus of the attention is focused on downhill traffic.

    I don’t know, I just think that this is an example of PBOT being afraid of something, but not really being sure of what it is and what to do about it. Somebody said something to somebody and eventually after it filtered through the system, it was reduced to “cyclists should slow down.”

    I’ll also chime in on the “prior restraint” that steve spoke of. I think it has become more frequent and while most people are aware that someone of “authority” is usually reading the comments, recent interventions seem to be detracting from the feeling of an open forum of ideas. Some people/organizations ARE incompetent BTW and while it might not be an appropriate thing to say at times, it seems that aiming it at a governmental organization isn’t exactly “mean.”

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  • wsbob September 22, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    “…And then we have Byer saying “the new bike facility has encouraged even more people to use the route and added that ‘we don’t want to hurt anybody.'”

    If there is going be an increase in ridership due to a new “facility” it’s only going to be uphill bike traffic since that’s all that has been facilitated. Lack of downhill facilities will likely leave that traffic unchanged. …” TTse

    Do you really believe that people representing the increase in riders Byers mentions will make the uphill section of Mississippi part of their route, but not the downhill, simply because the downhill side doesn’t have the same marked bike lane that the uphill side has? Shouldn’t be too hard to figure out whether or not the downhill side is experiencing an increase in use similar to that Byers says is happening on the uphill side.

    It’s intriguing that a number of people commenting here are inclined to conclude that this awareness effort on the part of PBOT might actually be intended to substitute for proper training of the bureau’s drivers. Could it be that PBOT drivers actually are receiving proper, good driver training, yet the bureau in recognizing the realities of sharing the road with small, swift moving vehicles…bikes…, still has reasonable concerns that drivers of comparatively larger motor vehicles face may not be seeing everyone on the road?

    It seems to me that PBOT has the right idea here. Steve B’s comment #22 says it well enough.

    I’d be curious to learn more about what the training PBOT drivers receive consists of. What’s it take to get some info on that? Nothing about it on their website.

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  • sabes September 22, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Vance, maybe you would be taken a little more seriously if you didn’t have lines like this in your blog:

    “I don’t believe the wholesale oppression of minorities occurred in this country.”

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  • anonymous September 23, 2009 at 12:25 am

    @ Vance. You complain about wasting taxpayer money, however, that is exactly what you did when you pestered a system analyst for portlandonline to list your ***deleted by moderator** blog on their links page.

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  • TTse
    TTse September 23, 2009 at 1:26 am


    I don’t know about you, but I often take one route in one direction and another route in another direction. I think it’s especially true in this case.

    It’s a relatively steep hill for a lot of people and I know a few who avoid it and take either Interstate or Williams to get to NoPo. They’ll take Mississippi down but not up. The bike lane changes little for them.

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  • Vance Longwell September 23, 2009 at 7:04 am

    are #21 – Ya, I pitched a fit then too. Plus, there’s other history germane to the off-topic thread here folks. In J and Es defense, they have other valid reasons for singling me out. I had hoped rather than that, we’d have something else worked out by now. Alas.

    In my ignorance I used the word, “incompetent”, to characterize PBOT personnel. I made this statement with the erroneous belief I was stating fact. As my egghead friend points out, ‘incompetent’ is in fact a personal judgment, my not knowing this a side-effect of my lack of education.

    26 and 27. You raise good points. 26 your presumption that I have an agenda (Being taken seriously) is false. Being taken seriously is a matter for those I’m speaking to, not me. It is my intent to speak only for myself, and then only to articulate ways in which I feel my personal freedoms are being encroached upon or curtailed altogether.

    27 I don’t think you’ve made a point. Plus, I haven’t requested a link like you are talking about, I’ve asked after the policy. It was my intent to exercise my judgment, and decide if I wanted to meet their standards, or skip it altogether. As you may have noticed, that part was ignored in lieu of proceeding directly to the assumption you’ve made, and issuing a resounding, no.

    Both of which are things beside the point. Which would be that you are commenting about my blog, on another person’s blog. You are both intending to be personally insulting, and you’re not even on-topic. These digressions far surpass anything I have participated in; and I don’t think you’ve made your case that you are somehow better than me.

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  • BURR September 23, 2009 at 8:40 am

    city employees are required to have a valid driver’s license suitable for the vehicle they are driving (e.g. CDL for heavy trucks) and are required to take a defensive driving class every three years. That’s about it AFAIK. Up until recently the city didn’t even track the driving records of their employees, although I believe they currently do.

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  • sabes September 23, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Vance said, “and I don’t think you’ve made your case that you are somehow better than me.”

    You’re right. I think, perhaps, you made that case all on your own.

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  • Vance Longwell September 23, 2009 at 9:04 am

    BURR #30 – Have you ever studied for a Class A? I don’t know man, those are some pretty comprehensive tests. I wouldn’t say the same for allowances people are given, but the tests themselves seem pretty tough to me.

    I also find it hard to believe that one can’t even deliver a pizza without submitting an MVR to their employer, but that the city doesn’t do the same for their employees.

    Plus, and I think that this was even reported on here, didn’t they do all the stuff with the wheel-guards, and the mirror deployment, and whatnot? Wasn’t that all extra training directed at their operators?

    None of which is me asserting that PBOT operators couldn’t use more training, but it’s a stretch IMO to downplay that which they do.

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  • Vance Longwell September 23, 2009 at 9:48 am

    “Here’s a hint. If you want your comments to remain intact, just be careful not to make them personal attacks.”

    “@ Vance. You complain about wasting taxpayer money, however, that is exactly what you did when you pestered a system analyst for portlandonline to list your crappy blog on their links page.”

    Hmmm. So how much, “care”, we talkin’ here?

    Thanks for pointing that comment out Vance. I’m going to edit that one. Point taken. — Jonathan

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