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20-year cabbie shares thoughts on Portland’s new traffic mix

Posted by on September 25th, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Ride along in a Radio Cab-1

Bob Wagner, ready to roll.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Bob Wagner has seen a lot from behind the windshield of his cab. For the 20-year veteran driver with Portland-based Radio Cab Company, dealing with the mix of downtown traffic is a daily task. And that task, according to Wagner, has gotten tougher in recent years with the influx of bicycles.

“The dynamic has changed,” he said, “just a few years ago there weren’t nearly as many bikes on the road. I also notice a much more broad cross-section of people on bikes compared to the old days.”

I ended up in the passenger seat of Wagner’s cab after Radio Cab contacted me. They wanted connect with the bike community. Why would a cab company be interested in me (or the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, whom they also contacted)? I asked Wagner the same thing.

“We reached out because, just like you, we’re all about mass transit and alternative ways of getting around. We’re essentially a mass transit vehicle.” Wagner also admitted that his company sees people who ride (especially those without a car) as a prime market niche.

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I suggested a drive-along. I was curious what daily life is like behind the wheel of a cab in America’s most bike-friendly big city.

Wagner picked me up from our office in the Central Eastside and we headed straight for downtown (where I assumed all the action would be). Almost immediately, he shared his frustrations. As he looked back-and-forth over his shoulders and into the rear-view mirror, he said “There’s such a mix of traffic… It’s kind of challenging.”

Ride along in a Radio Cab-6

Bikes on the road…
Ride along in a Radio Cab-5

a common sight for cabbies.

Wagner’s primary beef throughout our drive was that everyone — drivers, riders, pedestrians — suffers from a basic lack of understanding about the rules of the road. “The City has done a poor job educating people.” But that wasn’t his only issue. Wagner had a litany of things he wanted to share.

Ride along in a Radio Cab-2

This van on the right is making an
illegal right turn (one of Wagner’s
pet peeves).

On the new transit mall, Wagner expressed his frustration that cabs “can’t stop anywhere” (or they’ll get a $300 fine) and that double parking would cost him $70. (He lamented that one of this customers with a disability now has to walk a full block before he can be picked up.)

But coming back to bikes, Wagner thinks part of the problem is that they’re “unregulated”. “Perhaps” he said, “they should have licenses.” Thinking that he was about to go off on ‘those crazy messengers’, I asked what he thought of them. To my surprise, he said, “Messengers? As crazy as they are, they’re really skilled riders and they’re just doing their job.”

I told him I’d be interested in seeing some sort of operator’s license for professional riders (like messengers, pedicab operators, cargo delivery riders, pedal-powered food cart vendors, and so on), but that licensing all bike riders is a much more complicated issue.

Ride along in a Radio Cab-3

Bike parking at Radio Cab’s headquarters.

For its part, Radio Cab — which has 500 drivers and operates 120 cars in Portland — seems like a very bike-friendly company. Not only do they have thoughtful drivers like Wagner, but they’ve got a huge, secure bike parking facility in their main headquarters (which also houses the only indoor, open 24/7 gas station in Oregon). They also have a three-day training program that incorporates bicycle and pedestrian safety.

As we drove in congested areas downtown — like at the four-way stops near Powell’s and 12th — it was generally chaotic. It seems like it will take more than training, laws, the threat of tickets, or even new licenses to make a difference.

For Wagner, he just tries to stay alert. “Things have radically changed in the last 4-5 years. I have to be cognizant of 360-degrees around me at all times.”

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

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Peter S
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Peter S

I wonder if we will start to see taxis with bike racks and other services to promote dual method trips downtown. Maybe a company like Radio Cab could figure out a bike rental program downtown.

Matt Picio
Guest

“everyone … suffers from a basic lack of understanding about the rules of the road”

Amen. Yes, the current laws were made for cars, not bikes, but many people just don’t understand or know the law. Even if you don’t agree with it, you should at least know it – if for no other reason than being able to predict what other road users are likely to do. (contrary to popular belief, a lot of road users do follow the law – we just tend to remember the exceptions)

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

that’s a great idea Peter. I wonder if Radio Cab and other cab companies think about how they compete with Zipcar (who already have bike racks on some of their cars).

Has anyone out there used cabs and Zipcar? I wonder — for the person who only needs a car occasionally — which one comes out as the better option?

And Matt,

as for laws, I agree with you. The ORS is a huge mess and is far from keeping up with the amount and the nature of bicycle use. We almost need a separate Bicycle Vehicle Code instead of chipping away at a set of laws made for cars. … but that’s another topic!

Jeff Parker
Guest

Mr. Wagner touches on a really good point- everyone overall seem to be ignorant of rules. My top peeve is not even cycling-specific, it’s that few people seem to know what the crosswalk is. I’d like that detail and a few others to be stressed more on the DMV tests.

I think we’re in for a higher quality biking/driving/walking experience though when cellphone use by drivers becomes the law, I can’t wait for that.

Jeff Parker
Guest

Er… when NO cellphone use, I mean. Man, mandatory driver cellphone use would suck!

April
Guest
April

A few weeks I, er, overindulged at a party to which I had ridden my bicycle (just an advisory note: Lompoc Strong Draft is indeed strong). A friend of mine call me a cab (I’m sorry I can’t remember which company, probably RadioCab) and informed them that I had my bicycle with me. She ended up taking the cab as well.

The driver showed up promptly–with a van! He carefully put our bikes in the back and buckled them into seatbelts so they wouldn’t fall or slide around. He also took them out for us at our destination.

I don’t know if most cabs have racks or not, but the van driver obviously knew what he was doing, and I was grateful to get both me and my bicycle home in one (drunken) piece!

Oh Word?
Guest
Oh Word?

The black & white Radio Cabs have ALWAYS been good to me when I’ve been riding. They would slow down or do whatever it took to be courteous.

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

Small request, Jonathan – when you find yourself interviewing someone who thinks licensing cyclists is a good idea, could you ask them to explain what they believe the benefits would be? We see this come up time and time again, and I’m under the impression that some folks almost arbitrarily believe licensing would some how result in increased responsibility. I’d like to know who’s thought it out and what they think it’d accomplish (both for greater understanding and, uh, to further solidify my arguments on how licensing would accomplish little). Thoughts?

Mark
Guest

Three cheers for Radio Cab. They have safely transported us on many occasions and several times with a tandem bicycle on board. (We were headed to the airport.) Our experiences with promptness and courtesy corroborate April’s and others. In fact, they are the only cab company we call and cringe when we have to take another company for a trip from the airport to home.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

N.I.K.,

I hear you. This wasn’t an interview, so I didn’t come into with that lens on. I was just there to meet Wagner, let him share his perspectives, and possibly add some of mine when necessary.

We’ve been through the licensing debate at length on this site in the past (check archives and search Google).

That being said, I actually think bike riding professionals could gain a lot by organizing and licensing themselves.. but that’s a topic for a separate story.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Now if only Radio Cab and companies would stop parking wide at the taxi stand while waiting for their next call at the corner of SW Broadway and Oak, taking up half of the bike lane.

It’s ironic that he’s saying that others don’t know the rules of the road when I was almost right hooked by a cab twice this week across the bike lane on N Williams (admittedly not by a radio cab in either instance). Chewed one of those drivers out.

Ironage corn-chowder w/pea
Guest
Ironage corn-chowder w/pea

Cabs are a total nuisance. Idling all day, parking in bike lanes, parking in traffic lanes among other things. Like other people who work all day out on the roads, often cabbies are possessive about “their” roadways and as such wind up treating cyclists as if they are “in the way” meaning lots of semi-aggressive behavior like not giving enough space when passing and tailgating. Obviously, not all cab drivers are this way but it’s a good rule of thumb.
As for the “bike licensing” bit. The last thing people need is more fees and taxes for doing something we apparently all encourage. What a terrible and unnecessary idea. Usually this comes from someone who is anti-bike out of spite. Hear this: NO one should have to get a license to travel in this great country by human power, period. When I’m required to have a bike license is when I start skateboarding everywhere. Then when I’m required to have a skateboarding license is when I start rollerblading everywhere, after that I’ll start skipping everywhere… until some cabbie who is angry about all those damned kids skipping around flouting the traffic laws complains and then skipping is “regulated” and licensed and taxed. I guess then I’ll start crawling everywhere.
Look, bikes are not cars, wow, I said it. Everybody say it with me… bikes ate not cars… again. The laws regarding our roadways are written for CARS! Not human powered bikes or rollerskaters. People who drive vehicles are going to have to realize that they now must surrender right away to ANYONE operating any vehicle under human power.
Yes, that includes soap box derby cars and those bouncy balls, pogo sticks and even sit and spins.
Adios.

John Lascurettes
Guest

For Wagner, he just tries to stay alert. “Things have radically changed in the last 4-5 years. I have to be cognizant of 360-degrees around me at all times.”

Might I just add that this is nothing new, in any city or for anyone driving a vehicle. You should always be cognizant of whats going on all around you, though most people don’t.

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

Terrific article, Jonathan.

Radio Cab’s initiative for wanting to reach out to the biking community is just one more reason they are the ONLY cab service I call.

Their drivers are always friendly and cordial and they never try to give me the “run-around”.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

But as a cyclist I’m not “unregulated”– bikes are issued traffic citations all the time.

Certainly more in Portland than in any other city I’ve lived in.

Jackattak
Guest
Jackattak

Jonathan –

On your comment regarding Radio Cab’s standpoint on how the compete with Zipcar, I will say this:

My wife and I sold our truck in 2008 and never looked back. We got tired of driving when Portland has so many terrific alternatives.

We use a plethora of Portland’s alternatives, from Radio Cab to Zipcar, to the MAX to the bus, to downright just walking (which is our primary mode of transportation as we live Downtown).

They all have their uses and I should hope that Zipcar doesn’t take too much competition from Radio Cab.

If I’m drunk walking out of the Slammer on the Eastside at 1AM, I surely cannot take Zipcar and none of the metro transit options are available at that hour. Guess who I’m going to call? Radio Cab.

Unfortunately, the above example isn’t too far from a regular occurrence. 😉

Spencer Boomhower
Guest
Spencer Boomhower

I’ve often wondered if cabs could pick up bikes. Good to know! I’ll put them in my cell phone, just in case.

“Things have radically changed in the last 4-5 years. I have to be cognizant of 360-degrees around me at all times.”

I’d say that a good thing, right? That’s what driver’s ed tried to drill into our heads, with all the constant mirror-checking and whatnot.

This is why having more bikes on the road makes everyone safer. Greg Raisman does a presentation that covers this: With greater bike mode share, bike rider injuries go down; a safety-in-numbers effect. Makse sense. But the really interesting part is that at the same time, car driver injuries also go down. The idea being that, with more bike riders on the road, car drivers have to be more alert. So despite provoking some complaints from drivers who got used to being able to cruise along on autopilot, all these bike riders are making them pay better attention, and making them – and everyone else – safer in the process.

coyote
Guest
coyote

Thumbs up for Radio Cab. I remember a rain soaked November evening trying to catch the last train back Eugene and talking with a Radio Cab driver about bike messengers downtown. “Well they are aggressive, but I never have much of a problem with them.”

Bike racks on cabs is a great idea. Hearing about Radio Cab reaching out makes creates a preference for using them when I need too.

Bahueh
Guest
Bahueh

N.I.K…licensing comes with a certain amount of education…requiring them is about the only way you’re going to educate the public about their mode of transportation…

you do have a drivers license don’t you?
you do remember taking your “test”? (I have a hard time calling that thing a test as it hardly required much studying). I’m of the opinion everyone should be required to be re-tested every 2-3 years no matter your mode of transport.

John Lascurettes
Guest

Oops. Sorry about that up there on comment #13. I put a second opening blockquote instead of closing it.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Wagner’s description of messengers struck a chord with me. He referred to them as “skilled”, seems to respect their riding abilities and, perhaps, predictability as road users. In our efforts to convert the masses to bike use have we actually created some problems by encouraging people with little knowledge of bike handling and proper riding etiquette to just take to the streets? A nervous and unskilled rider can contribute to an accident in the same way an overwhelmed and undertrained driver can. Put both groups on the same roads and conflict is inevitable.

To NIK’s point, is the notion of licensing bicyclists just code for “skilled”? Presumably, obtaining a license entails some education about laws and legal responsibilities. A license endorsement like that required for motorcycle operation might be what most rational car drivers (not the nutjobs and bike haters) want to see. Creating a landscape where cars and bikes are fully aware of what the other is expected to do and the consequences of failing to follow the law might lessen tensions over the long haul.

I appreciate what Mr. Wagner had to say. Good insight from someone who drives for a living.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

17.

Drivers ed does try and teach you to be aware all around you. Its just that it is very difficult to for prolonged periods of time. One thing requires focus, and suddenly whats behind you is lost…

Reducing the need for it would be great (why I like the off street paths, its only whats forward and back, not to the sides too.)

huey lewis
Guest
huey lewis

cabbies are some of the only drivers on the road who i’m confident are good, attentive drivers. and they always seem to pass me with adequate distance. awesome.

joel
Guest

oh jonathan… you were doing so well, and then, just after your cabbie tells you that were pretty much the least of his worries, you go and say:

I told him I’d be interested in seeing some sort of operator’s license for professional riders (like messengers, pedicab operators, cargo delivery riders, pedal-powered food cart vendors, and so on), but that licensing all bike riders is a much more complicated issue.

anyone who wonders why we messengers dont always see eye-to-eye with the rest of the bike community – this kind of statement is one good reason – the willingness to offer us up as sacrifice. it cultivates a bit of resentment, and, occasionally, an unflattering martyr complex.

cabbies in this town are remarkably savvy and observant around bikes – having dealt with cabbies in various major american cities, theyre a breath of fresh air compared to most.

aside from that, jonathan, a great bit of insight into how a subset of drivers far too many cyclists reflexively see as “the enemy” views things. thanks to both you and mr wagner for that.

Blah Blah Blah
Guest
Blah Blah Blah

Never ever had a problem with a cab…It’s the a-hole bus drivers you need to look out for.

Patrick Valdez
Guest

I think that this was a commendable action taken on the part of Radio Cab. At least they are reaching out to the cycling community which is more than I can say for a lot of other companies that are on the road today.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Bahueh #19…are you referring to only the in-car drivers test, the written test or both? For lots of people, passing the written test requires study, and sometimes, taking it more than once.

People are left to their own means to get training in operating a vehicle in traffic, but to that end, there’s drivers ed in schools…some people take privately offered drivers instruction…and many people get in-car drivers instruction from friends, family members and such.

By the time they go to the DMV to take the in-car drivers test, they usually have some sense of how to safely make basic maneuvers in traffic. If they don’t have that sense, they fail the drivers test.

How many people in the early stages of taking a bike into traffic out in the streets ever get anything close to the kind of training many people get as they prepare for operating a motor vehicle in traffic? These days, more than in years past, because of increased awareness of the importance of having good bike in traffic skills, but I would tend to think the number that do is likely to be very small.

Maybe it’s happening, but I just don’t see, for example, parents setting out on bikes with the kid for a few hours on Saturday mornings over a period of weeks, riding around in downtown traffic to make sure he or she is learning to make proper lane changes using hand signals, watching for cross traffic, making eye contact with other road users and so on.

So, I tend to agree with Brad #21, and in some respects, the taxi driver in that the outlook riders of bikes in traffic are seen in puts a lot of rank amateurs out there….people with no training whatsoever in riding a bike in traffic. I expect this is the very kind of thing that has creating huge stress and misunderstanding amongst road users for a long while now.

Licensing and registration of bikes or their riders is something I really don’t at all want to see. If though, amongst members of the public in regards to bike use, it was generally regarded, as it is in the case of motor vehicle operation, that solidly established skills in making one’s way through traffic was a condition of being in traffic, the roads would likely be safer for everyone.

jacque
Guest
jacque

Yea! taxi cabs are fine to ride around, and fine to ride in. I like em.

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

Bahueh:

As a matter of fact, *no*, I actually *don’t* have a license -at 27, I’ve never learned to drive. I grew up in a rural area in the eastern US. I knew I was going to move to an urban area because I hated the isolation of “the sticks” and nearby suburbs. At sixteen, my folks told me, “You want to drive? You’re getting your own car, you’re paying for it, insurance, gas, etc.” I didn’t want to waste money from my after-school job on convenient transport for around two years when I needed to save for college. I still haven’t seen any immediate need to drive after nearly a decade of living in several different cities.

I don’t think there’s much benefit to licensing in general. The vast number of crappy road-users out there, drivers and cyclists alike (mentioned because many of them are also licensed drivers), seem to reinforce my impression that licensing tests are inadequate for what they’re meant to accomplish. The tests consist of memorizing some facts for a particular stretch of time, then driving safely and skillfully for a short period of time. You do good enough, you’re allowed to drive legally – don’t get *CAUGHT* doing anything stupid. Not effective.

But guess what! I’m not ignorant of the rules of the road. I’ve learned them because I want to have at least a decent idea of what other people are likely to do, and because I want to use the road predictably so as not to inconvenience or endanger others. Not getting a ticket is a nice bonus, but again, that’s the failing of the present system of licensing and “don’t get caught”-style traffic enforcement. Responsible, predictable road usage should be the aim of all road users. Staying alive and not pissing reasonable people off is a better motivation than dodging Johnny Law (who I’ve never had a problem with in the A to B to C).

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

Additionally:

Bahueh – I agree with your remarks that the testing process needs to be improved/tightened up a bit. I will add, though, that I’m not sure *how* to improve it. If you’re sober and have decent motor skills, I’m guessing the road test is a cinch if you’re attentive and don’t do anything stupid. There’s only so much the written test can do, sure, but considering that some questions wind up being along the lines of “how far can a canoe on the top of your car overhang the front of the car” instead of practical road usage is severely disconcerting.

Brad – Yes, to answer your seemingly-implied question, I *am* calling into question how much licensing is indicative of skill. My reason for bringing this up is not only that present driver licensing seems a bit inadequate in this department, but more importantly, that most people calling *for* bicycle licensing seem to be doing one of the following:

a) presenting it as the means to establish a sole “USER PAYS!”-style funding source for bike-related infrastructure and programs (to which I say, “ditch other transportation subsidies or shut your mouth”)

b) a means of providing greater accountability on the part of cyclists (which, as pointed out, isn’t that big of a jump – we can be ticketed/cited/arrested like everyone else already)

c) a financial means of keepin’ them thar shirkless hooligans and hobos off the road

Present a cyclist licensing program which adequately assess and measures skill, is practical in terms of cost (both to the individual and the municipality), *and* has the key points of it incorporated into driver licensing, to help clear things up for everyone on the road, and I’ll then be willing to take it as more than a tossed-off notion or closet-lobbyist tomfoolery (no implications about anyone in this conversation intended by the latter!).

eddie
Guest
eddie

great article, Jonathan. I think taxis are a great part of the solution. Down here in Key West, we have bike racks on over half our taxis.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Always had good experiences with Radio Cab. I’m glad to see they have some Priuses (Priusi?) in their fleet. Short-hop cabs are a great target for alternative motor power such as electric or hybrid, especially as they concentrate emissions in a local area. Plug-in hybrids could help a cab company’s efficiency, especially if they charge all day on a PV installation to be deployed at night to pick up all of you drunken bicyclists. 🙂

On another note (and to build on N.I.K.’s comment), so far I’ve only seen debates on mandatory licensing programs. I’d assert that a driver who’s also a cyclist is a safer driver, at least more attuned to watching out for threatening changes in road situations. Maybe progressive auto insurance companies will recognize this and offer voluntary testing and/or licensing programs (possibly in association with state DMVs) in exchange for premium discounts.

One thing I’ve found silly is having a different set of roadway rules on a state-by-state basis. Granted weather and some conditions might be a factor, but for the most part it seems like opportunism. Why not have a federal standard for testing and licensing drivers? As it stands now, road rules between Oregon and California (the other state I now live in) are in some cases radically different, particularly regarding bicyclists. Ironically, I was right-hooked far more in Oregon where drivers aren’t allowed to enter bike lanes early for right turns. Who knows, maybe someday instead of an “Idaho Stop Law” we may have an “American Stop.”?

Beefa
Guest
Beefa

Jonathan said.: “told him I’d be interested in seeing some sort of operator’s license for professional riders (like messengers, pedicab operators, cargo delivery riders, pedal-powered food cart vendors, and so on),”
So you would like the most skilled riders to be regulated (all 50 of us), while the thousands who cannot ride in traffic to save their lives are not? Its been a while since I have visited this site Jon, precisely because of your attitude toward my industry. I will not be clicking on this website again.

Please see my response to this comment. — Jonathan

Steve B.
Guest

If you think cabs are frustrating here, you should really ride a bike around east coast cities.

In Portland, I am pleasantly surprised by the courtesy, politeness, and respect put forward by cab drivers. It’s unreal! I salute Radio Cab for reaching out even further, and it is great to see they have a training course for new drivers. Wow!!

For Wagner, he just tries to stay alert. “Things have radically changed in the last 4-5 years. I have to be cognizant of 360-degrees around me at all times.”

I think this is a blessing and curse. On the one hand, making drivers more and more attentive is a good thing, but that’s also making an assumption that everyone is as aware as this cab driver. It takes awhile to get used to intersections with poor visibility and mostly 2-way stops.

I hope we see more coverage of perspectives from drivers!

tankagnolo bob
Guest
tankagnolo bob

I don’t think bicyclists should have to be licensed, but I do think we cyclists should be ticketed when we clearly break the law, especially when we cut a cars, or other cyclists right away and then, I as I have seen, flip the other person off for getting angry about it.

I cycle and drive and have had other cyclists put me in danger by just flat out taking my right away and acting like they deserved it.

I would like to see mountain bike cops with blue lights and the whole deal, pull over cyclists that are driving stupid. Most of us will float through a stop sign, or ride the wrong way on a sidewalk, but we should do so with the idea that we might not be seen coming the wrong way off a corner, be aware that WE may be the problem, not the person who’s right of way we just took !!! – Bob Out !!

eric
Guest
eric

I’d just prefer the PPB do a little bit of downtown traffic enforcement of both cars and bikes, just to remind people of the rules.

Also, for every miserable driver, there’s plenty of miserable bikers, because they’re the same thing. If only there was some sort of resource or training available…

😉

ian
Guest

A few years ago a radio cab driver was driving behind me coming east bound on NW everett and 20th. He started honking and yelling to get out of the lane. I was riding right around the speed limit of 25.
He pulled next to me still yelling, and he had a fare in the back. he speed up to maybe 45 and then turned left on 14th. I caught up to him at Glisan, and grabbed his arm sticking out the window. After a few profanities from me and twisting his arm to where he couldn’t move, I told him to give me his business card.
I called radio cab, and left a message for the manager. I assumed they wouldn’t do anything, but they called me back an hour later and said they had a few complaints about this driver, and really appreciated me calling. The next day i received a call from the cab licensing devision and took my statement. Two days later called me again to tell me his license had been revoked.
Then radio cab called me again to tell me the same.
I was amazed out how great they handled it, and that they don’t want any bad driving representing them.

Hollie
Guest
Hollie

Ironage, #12:
“Cabs are a total nuisance. Idling all day, parking in bike lanes, parking in traffic lanes among other things. Like other people who work all day out on the roads, often cabbies are possessive about “their” roadways…”
As a cab driver (and cyclist), I’d like to politely point out that when you see us parking in bike or traffic lanes, we’re WORKING. We can’t very well push people out of a moving cab. The fact of the matter is there usually isn’t anywhere else to stop but the street. While I hope the driver has their flashing hazards on to warn others, you do live in a city. Vehicles, bikes and pedestrians will cut you off, stop suddenly, block your path or just generally get in your way. Believe you me, I share your frustration. But that’s how it goes.
Furthermore, I hope you consider drunk drivers – and cyclists – a greater nuisance than a cab, and you do realize that taxis (and pedicabs!) keep a fair amount of these folks off the road.

As for anyone else reading this, remember your bike lights, please! But should you decide to call a cab, don’t forget to mention if you have a bike; some drivers don’t take them and they could be dispatched to your call. Bonus points for a front quick-release.

Dan Hawk
Guest
Dan Hawk

Beefa, It is not that crazy of an idea to license people who make their living piloting a bicycle in heavy traffic. Think about how many other professions require licensing…Insurance, Barber/stylist, Financial Planner, Commercial drivers, teachers, construction.
Most would argue that the licensing process doesn’t necessarily make them good at their jobs, but the rest of us benefit from the added accountability that the licensing process provides. It isn’t really about your industry, it is about insuring that in the pursuit of a money-making activity, public safety and responsibility stay important.
I’m not saying that I’m necessarily for Licensing of commercial bicyclists, but the argument that being “the most skilled” should mean that licensing is unnecessary doesn’t really hold true in many other professions.

beth h
Guest

In 1997, I was seriously injured when I got “doored” by a pickup truck in Old Town. Because I was uninsured and couldn’t afford an ambulance ride, I asked the EMTs to pull my wallet out of my back pocket and tell me how much money I had (my arms were scraped up pretty badly and one was totally immobilized). They kindly obliged, told me I had twenty bucks, and asked if they could call a cab for me.

Ten minutes later a large, older Radio Cab pulled up — I found out the EMTs had asked for a car with a big trunk! — and the cabbie kindly loaded my bike and me into the cab and whisked me off to the hospital for x-rays. At the hospital I asked the cabbie to help me remove the correct amount from my wallet. She removed twelve dollars and was about to hand me fifty cents change. “Take fifteen,” I urged her. “You’ve been very helpful.” And she was.

beth h
Guest

@ # 32:

>>”…I’d assert that a driver who’s also a cyclist is a safer driver, at least more attuned to watching out for threatening changes in road situations.”

*******

You have far too much faith in licensed automobile drivers. And that right there is why I don’t support licensure for bicyclists. Earning a license doesn’t mean you’ll be safe OR law-abiding, it just means you know how to pass tests.

Instead of asking bicyclists and pedestrians to adapt to the automobile paradigm we should instead be finding ways to subvert the automobile paradigm and make the roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

JR
Guest
JR

The lack of understanding basic rules of the road goes back to our inadequate education system. Some people can’t read, write, or perform even basic math, yet somehow they get through elementary school. Similarly, you’d have to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to get a driver’s license in this state. I truly hope this city and the nation as a whole takes the “safe routes to school” program more seriously and consider this as a basic set of skills/knowledge that students leave elementary school with. This of course assumes we begin to take education itself seriously.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“Earning a license doesn’t mean you’ll be safe” beth h

People with drivers licenses often make the choice to disregard what they had to learn to get the license. Still, motor vehicle licensees have had at least some study and instruction related to safe travel on the street. There’s no similar requirement for people that ride bikes on the street.

Borrow, buy, or steal a cheap bike and someone without any previous related experience whatsoever can be out… unaccompanied by an experienced person monitoring what they do…in traffic, on that bike.

Although its possible for a cop to hold responsible and cite a person on a bike for disregarding traffic regulations, cops have a greater ability to do this where motor vehicle operators are concerned.

SteveG
Guest
SteveG

Jonathan-

Re your question:

Has anyone out there used cabs and Zipcar? I wonder — for the person who only needs a car occasionally — which one comes out as the better option?

Cabs are great for one-way trips (e.g. to the Airport, if you can’t take MAX), and for long-duration, medium-distance trips (e.g. a full-day meeting, or a long visit with friend in the ‘burbs) that are too far to ride a bike and inconvenient for transit. In those cases, using a Zipcar would cost a lot, at $8/hour, would cost more than taking a cab.

Zipcar’s way better (and more convenient) for running errands, because the cost per hour is much less, at $7-$12/hour) than hiring a cabbie for a similar length of time.

Summary:
– bike whenever possible
– transit as second option
– cab for one way trips, or short-distance, long-duration trips that req

SteveG
Guest
SteveG

uire a car.

Seager
Guest
Seager

I feel for the guy. I was up in Portland this weekend (from Eugene, where I only bike) in a car, and it was horrible. It’s a very hard town to drive in if you aren’t used to it, and the bikers are much ruder than in Eugene.

I saw two bikes go up to a light that had just turned green with a line of cars. (I was 4 cars back) – they split up, went around both sides of the car that was first and just starting to accelerate, and then cut him off from both sides in the intersection. This was at night. What the hell were they thinking?

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

RE: my reference in the story to licensing bicycle delivery professionals:

Beefa (comment #33 said):

So you would like the most skilled riders to be regulated (all 50 of us), while the thousands who cannot ride in traffic to save their lives are not? Its been a while since I have visited this site Jon, precisely because of your attitude toward my industry. I will not be clicking on this website again.

Hey Beefa. I can see you have very strong feelings about this topic. I would encourage to not judge my “attitude” on any topic based on a few sentences in one blog post.

I happen to have a lot of respect for bicycle delivery professionals. I’m merely trying to think of ways to help your industry and make your life easier.

It seems to me that if professionals had some sort of identification, they could then lobby for special laws. For instance, when Senator Ginny Burdick decided to shoot down the fixed-gear brake law, I bet she could have been easily convinced to add, “… fixed gear bicycles must have a hand-brake, unless the operator is a licensed professional.”

With a special license, perhaps bicycle delivery people could make more types of turning movements on the new bus mall, or legally ride against traffic on some streets, or legally ride on the sidewalks downtown, or….

A license could separate real messengers from fakengers and I think it would bring a higher level of respect to your industry from law enforcement and from the public.

I also think that the bicycle delivery industry should and could be thriving much more than it is… but with any organizing tool united riders together, it will never reach its full potential.

I would NEVER support some sort of license that would be detrimental or punitive to your industry. In fact, I would probably be your strongest ally in fighting against it.

Just remember, a few lines in one story does not an attitude make.

Thanks, and I hope you give this site another chance.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

The trend in Europe, especially in the north where there are more bicyclists, is not more rules, signs, etc., but fewer. Indeed they now have intersections with NO signs whatever where every user from pedestrian to truck “negotiates” use of the space, proceeding more slowly and thoughtfully via eye contact and hand signs.
The increase in bicycle and pedestrian density is moving us in this direction in spite of our desire for “order, rules and control.” Chaos is actually safer and more efficient.

twistyaction
Guest

@N.I.K.: Very well articulated and I totally agree. Especially the part about people striving to be courteous and law-abiding, not just avoiding getting caught and otherwise disrespecting other road users.

In the meantime, while we wait for most road users to be less selfish (could be a long wait), PLEASE make it harder to get a driver’s license in this country, state, city…

For those who are riled up about the general ignorance displayed by many road users, please watch this amazing display of bike love and be happy.

Mike
Guest
Mike

So he just now decided that he needs to pay attention to what´s around him? Geez.