Ask BikePortland: Is cutting in line OK during bridge lifts?

Posted by on August 26th, 2011 at 10:24 am

Back-up during Hawthorne Bridge lift.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Anyone who has ridden a bike in Portland for long has experienced bridge lifts. When they happen, it’s common for a long line of people on bikes to queue up.

Reader Rick T. wonders about the proper etiquette for waiting in the line. Check out his question below and then share your thoughts…

“I ride the Hawthorne Bridge every day. When the bridge is up I get in the back of what appears to be a line. I consistently see riders pass on the left to go to the front. From my perspective, they’re cutting. Does BikePortland have an opinion on this?”

Do you cut in line, or do you take your place and sneer when someone else does it?

— Do you have a burning bike question that you’d like to pose to BikePortland readers? If so, drop me a line. Browse past Ask BikePortland columns in the archives.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

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michweek
Guest
michweek

Oh I cut, When a mass of people get going I don’t want to get stuck behind the wobbly slow poke. Not that there is anything wrong with being a wobbly slow poke, I just don’t want to be stuck on a narrow bridge with a crowd of riders trying to pass. Doesn’t matter how well the line is made it always turns into a glob up front.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

As a wobbly slow poke myself, I would respectfully request that you wait your turn! The most a slowpoke going to delay the pack of bikers is about 15 seconds until we’re across the bridge and there’s plenty of space to pass.

I do feel your pain – I used to be a fast rider. But the fact is, there isn’t enough space on that bridge for a whole bunch of fast bike riders to pass slow bike riders once bikers and walkers have built up waiting for the bridge lift.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Thinking about this again (inspired by Dave, below) I retract the above comment. Go ahead and go to the front of the line during bridge lifts, fast people! I was taking out my frustrations with unsafe / stressful passing during normal times on this bridge lift discussion.

Tacoma
Guest
Tacoma

I admire the courage you display to change your mind.

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

I just love the fact that the same behavior we show in motor vehicles we also show on bikes. Nothing changes. Ride safe!

Brock Dittus
Guest

Too true! I was thinking the exact same thing yesterday. Whatever mode of transport you choose, it seems that who you are inside will make its way out.

mabsf
Guest
mabsf

I think cutting is plain rude!

Scott
Guest
Scott

Time to start doping. As to your respectful request? Request Denied!!! Respectfully.

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

When bikes are stopped, isn’t that the safest time to pass?

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

That’s what I’m thinking..

was carless
Guest
was carless

I agree.

My commute requires me to cutoff and take a left off of the Hawthorne bridge westside offramp, which means I have to be at car speed to merge through 2 lanes of traffic as soon as I drop off onto the bike lane. Being stuck behind slow riders makes this a very dangerous maneuver, as most people ride too slow when getting off the bridge.

However, I try to respectfully cut, and appreciate people waiting for the fast, in-a-hurry people to get by faster.

Sometimes I am a slow-poke (weekends, when not going to work), and then I let fast people pass me. Common courtesy!

Jon Prettyman
Guest

I used to do that scary left off the Hawthorne bride – until I discovered that I can go down to the right and immediately hook two lefts on to Front street. There’s a crosswalk right there and there isn’t much morning traffic. What traffic is there generally stops for cyclists and pedestrians. Much lower stress this way.

Mark Allyn
Guest

Another question. . . .

How do you feel about ‘racing the gate’? I’ve seen cyclists racing when the gong sounds and going through the date when it as much as 1/2 way down.

I have even seen one hold the gate up (preventing it from dropping) to let a bunch of pals through.

I wonder if the gates are monitored at all and can sense if someone is holding them. . . .

sorebore
Guest
sorebore

Hey.. Lets see if every one could stay on topic, that would be AWESOME.jus’sayin. peace out.

A.K.
Guest
A.K.

On that subject, how do you feel about bumblebees and the recent hurricane/earthquake double-whammy on the East coast?

Scott
Guest
Scott

You’re off topic.

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

I love Steve Jobs.

eli bishop
Guest
eli bishop

it’s very frustrating. i’ve seen pedestrians do it, too.

R. Sewell
Guest
R. Sewell

And I’ll bet not a single one of the pedestrians was wearing a helmet either.

Allan
Guest
Allan

On a related note- why are we lining up single-file. perhaps that’s the real problem. If we were all massed up in a shorter but denser line this wouldn’t be an issue

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Traffic engineers will tell us that lining up single file is not efficient. Notice how many intersections will have two lanes while the road leading up to it will just have one. The same principle applies here. When the gate lifts, the fast riders on the left will move ahead of the slow riders, or find gaps. Why do riders not form two lines when the gates are down?

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Only problem is that everybody thinks they’re fast… The entire single-file line would just move over to the left side of the pathway.

Brock Dittus
Guest

Unless this has already been said, this reminds me of how Oregon drivers like to queue up on the freeways long before the lane ends. As the natural merge point, that seems like a good place to advance to. And yet drivers are consistently unhappy when people fill that available space. Similar feelings on the Hawthorne Bridge?

beth h
Guest

That “massed up in a shorter but denser line” is called a peloton in bike racing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t race when I commute, and I’d prefer that other commuters took a similar approach.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

This is an interesting question. I think I’ve actually cut in line before (sorry!)… which is something I’d never ever think of doing in car back-up. Somehow it seems less egregious to cut in a bike line than in a car. Or maybe that’s just me?

Todd
Guest
Todd

I’ll bet you’re wrong – you have “cut” in a car. Because cars have designated lanes, if you’ve ever come to a two lane road with a bunch of stopped cars (think Milwaukie just north of Powell when there’s a train), if you’re about to get in the longer of the two lines, and there’s no one on your side, you probably change lanes to get into the shortest one. I think it’s just human nature to want to “get ahead”.

Since bikes don’t have lanes, it’s not as clear cut. Personally, I say if I’m all the way over to the right, and there’s room, go ahead and “cut”. If I didn’t want you to cut, I’d bunch up at the front. When the gate goes up, you can fight all the traffic. I ride a bike to avoid traffic, so I’ll wait for the mass of people to clear out – me and the rest of the slowpokes will enjoy a casual, stressfree ride over the bridge.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

This relates to the “early” vs. “late” merging debate (one of Joe Rose’s favorite topics). It also points to the role irrationality plays in roadway conflict. Chris I points out that “Traffic engineers will tell us that lining up single file is not efficient.” Indeed, lining up single file, or “early-merging” on the freeway leaves almost half the available roadway space unused, unnecessarily elongating the back-up. The reason people leave such a huge amount of usable space “on the table”, unused, is that it goes against an irrational notion of “fairness” that we somehow carry over from kindergarten–not making fun, I feel it too.

The better example to follow is that of freeway entrance ramps that have metering signals and say “Form Two Lines”. Even though both of the ramp lanes feed into a single acceleration lane, people have no problem filling both of the ramp lanes, trying to get into the shorter line. The only difference between this behavior and “late” merging (or forming two lines on the bridge), is that in the entrance ramp case, the actual merging is governed by a schoolmarm signal that lends an air of “taking turns” and restores our sense of “fairness” to the whole affair; nobody is seen as “taking cuts”, because everybody has to wait for the signal. It also seems fair because everybody agrees that using both lanes and taking turns is the correct thing to do, as opposed to the organic freeway situation where early-mergers think lining up single file is the right thing to do, while late-mergers feel the opposite–and the earlies aren’t about to happily take turns, since they feel like the lates are cheating. Having a mix of beliefs and behaviors leads to a sub-optimal scenario.

I would love to see an experiment in which a white, dashed line was painted to some distance back from the bridge gates, and “Form Two Lines During Bridge Lifts” signs were posted. I’ll bet if we treated people more like cattle, we’d get great results. All we have to do is somehow make the most efficient behavior seem “official”.

Tacoma
Guest
Tacoma

El Bicilero’s reply should be the definitive answer to the question. After reading the comments (Dave, Thoughtful post. Tanja also.), I’m with Alex Reed and switching my vote for all the “fast” riders that wish to move on forward. Interestingly, Tom Vanderbilt discusses this very topic (“late merging”) in his book “Traffic”.

Brock Dittus
Guest

Moooooo

jeff
Guest
jeff

what is it with PDX riders that so many of them feel the need to cut to the front of any line, whether it be the bridge, the bike box, etc., especially after I just passed your slow butt like you were standing still a few blocks back?

whyat
Guest
whyat

Yes! Drives me crazy. I just passed you, am averaging a significantly higher speed than you, but you try to sneak around me at the next red light? WTF!? No, please let me pass you again. It’s clearly something you enjoy.

Brian
Guest
Brian

I think you could easily substitute CARS in that sentence too. Scheesh! There are some impatient drivers who rev their engines and screech around you, only to hit a red light a whole, oh, twelve feet in later.

JRB
Guest
JRB

That one really aggravates me. I say if there is room, line up and if you need/want to pass when bike traffic is moving again, take the lane and pass. If you can’t take the lane, wait until you can.
About the only exception I can think of is the light at Williams and Weidler where there is too much traffic coming up Weidler trying to button hook onto Williams for everybody to line up.

was carless
Guest
was carless

What aggravates me are riders who power up the eastside Hawthorne bridge ramp, then slow the heck down on the downhill side. I always pass them. If you can’t maintain a consistent speed…

But thats also because they are either a) dumb enough to use up all their energy going uphill, or b) riding a singlespeed and can’t go any faster downhill.

Regardless, I usually pass, even wearing a suit sometimes.

RIckT
Guest
RIckT

On the downhill side the bike path merges onto the sidewalk. Slowing down is the safe thing to do when sharing the path with pedestrians. See the editorial on the front page of the blog for reference. Also, there’s a blind corner where the sidewalk turns onto the Hawthorne Bridge proper and the ramp from the Esplanade merges. Accidents have happened on this blind corner. Slowing down on the downhill is the safe way to ride. Its also respectful to pedestrian to not ride by them at 20 mph as they walk around the corner. Passing in this area is reckless in my opinion.

Conversely, riding up the eastside ramp there is a bicycle passing lane designed specifically for people to pass at higher speeds. Its a safe place to pass and ride fast. Those folks passing you might just be riding at appropriate speeds for the conditions, passing when its safe, and slowing down when necessary to respect other sidewalk/mult-use path users.

sabernar
Guest
sabernar

if you feel the need to cut in line (on the bridge or a traffic light), maybe you should consider leaving 5 minutes earlier next time.

Brett
Guest
Brett

Same can be said for bikes running stop lights/signs only to be passed again by the same cars.

I’m waiting to safely pass you the first time. Then I stop at a red light and you just blow through it so I have to wait to safely pass you again. Frustrating.

When I’m biking and a car passes me, I stop in line where I should (especially in absence of a bike lane). Then I don’t have to worry about those same cars trying to squeeze by me when I’m stuck between them and parked vehicles and other hazards.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Take all available space. 6 abreast may be overkill (but just doable) But unless people are more the 3 deep go for it.

It’s kind of like when you have a merge lane on the freeway where you have one lane completely empty and traffic backed up for a mile behind the merge point.

eli bishop
Guest
eli bishop

because i know some people want to dash as soon as the bridge lifts, i just wait until everyone has cleared, even if i’m on my way to an appointment. it’s not worth the jostle to save 30 seconds.

Dave
Guest

This happens with the Aerial tram too, and I always wonder why people are so insistent about forming a single-file line. Maybe we’re just trained to do that. We have to stay mostly single-file when driving. But things work much more efficiently while walking or cycling if we don’t stay single-file. 3-4 people can pass the plane of the doors on the tram at once, and when it’s really busy, they encourage everyone to just crowd in because they can get everyone in much faster that way, but people still fight it and line up in a long line.

In the case of a bridge lift, someone going to the front is going to have no noticeable impact on how long it takes me to get where I’m going, especially not compared to the time the bridge lift has already cost me. If that person is in more of a hurry than me, it will be less stressful for everyone if they go to the front. I don’t feel like they’re taking something that is rightfully mine by going ahead, nor do I feel like I have any more right to be ahead of them just because I happened to be there first. We’re all just going the same direction, so let’s all just go the same direction, whatever.

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

I guess you’re right about that. I think my earlier comment was taking out my frustration with people who stress me out with too-close/too-fast passing during normal bridge operation. Sorry bridge line-cutters!

Serena
Guest
Serena

I’m right with you Alex–my sister was almost pushed directly into traffic on the Hawthorne bridge when a self-involved speedster clipped her handlebars and never even slowed down to apologize. I don’t much care about cutting when the bridge is up. The key thing is safety the rest of the time.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

In Germany, people will form a line behind you if you stop arbitrarily and stand there.

Some cultures are just that way.

Zoomzit
Guest
Zoomzit

Cutting in line on Hawthorne, is sort of frustrating, but it’s really absurd on the Steel bridge, as people who are cutting are to the left of the people in line and directly in the line of opposite bike traffic as soon as the bridge comes down.

-J
Guest
-J

Completely agreed – there are situations where advancing to the front makes sense, but the Steel is so narrow that there is not enough room for safe passing if there is any oncoming foot or bike traffic. It really bothers me to see people trying to “beat” traffic by speeding up to pass, causing oncoming pedestrians to have to move out of the way and hug the rail…also, using a bell as a friendly warning that you are passing is cool. Aggressively ringing the bell to get a family with small kids to “move out of your way” is not, when there is no safe passing anyway. If people want to ride over the Steel at fast speeds during peak times, they should just take the upper deck.

Brock Dittus
Guest

You see that same thing happening when you’re on a long distance bicycle tour and vehicles play chicken to pass the cyclists. Unsafe conditions can be avoided, but many people don’t have the patience.

RIckT
Guest
RIckT

I’d say the same reasoning applies to the Hawthorne Bridge. There’s always pedestrians coming from the opposite direction that restrict bike traffic to single file. Not enough room to pass, and folks rushing to pass cause more congestion when they attempt to merge.

Ryan Howard
Guest
Ryan Howard

I think the bigger problem is passing during the rush that occurs immediately after the gates lift. I personally would rather have the speedy riders go to the front so they can take off faster from the start rather than wait in line and try to pass pedestrians and cyclists once everyone gets going.

I have even done this from time to time if I am in a rush to get somewhere. But most of the time I wait back to allow others to queue at the front if they have somewhere to be.

Ideally everyone would wait in line and slowly cross the bridge without passing until the congestion clears but there will always be those who are impatient or who are genuinely in a rush and will try to pass whoever they can no matter the danger. I for one would prefer to allow them to pass me while I’m stopped rather than while I’m crossing the bridge.

Ryan Howard
Guest
Ryan Howard

After taking a closer look at the picture I should clarify my position a bit. I now realize that I have apparently never been held up at a Hawthorne bridge lift during rush hour! When there are that many people waiting I would never consider jumping to the front. With a crowd that big everyone should be moving slowly across the bridge once the gates lift and those who are in a hurry just need to wait.

I suppose it’s really just a judgement call depending on the crowd but if there are as many people waiting for the bridge as in the picture above I don’t see any reason someone should think their time is more valuable than anyone elses.

sabernar
Guest
sabernar

Your assumption is poor. You assume that the fast people go to the front. Wrong. The rude, impatient people go to the front. You can’t assume that they are the fast ones. Plenty of gracious, fast cyclist wait their turn and pedal slowly in the large group biking across the bridge.

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

I absolutely agree with this. I think from the comments here we see a vast array of opinions and mentalities about how to operate in traffic, and I think it’s these differences tha lead to what a traffic engineer might call conflict , but what I call crashes and near misses and a pissed off cycling experience.

too much diversity! (not that I’m recommending homogeneity, but a little courtesy, even if it goes counter to your personality could be a great thing)

I remember driving in Florence (Italy, not OR) and at a stop light all the scooters and mopeds filtered to the front. When the light turned green they were off with a whine and a cloud of two-stroke smoke, but not much acceleration to speak of. And it happened all over again at the next light and the next; the whole mass of traffic got going a lot more slowly than it would have if people just took their place in the order they arrived.

We all want to get where we’re going, but it’s not a race – it’s traffic. You’re not “stuck” behind a “wobbly slow-poke” any more that the guy driving a Camero is “stuck” behind you. You can pass when it’s safe or you can act like an entitled brat, but I know I’ve got my preference…

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

If you want to rest your foot on the railing, you run the risk of people coming up to your left. You trade on convenience, being in front, for the other, a nice railing to lean on.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

This is a trick question. Cyclists NEVER do anything untoward.

Perry Hunter
Guest
Perry Hunter

Interesting. In Japan, Germany or Denmark, for example, this question would be unnecessary. Americans in general need more training in, and respect for, civility and manners.

Champs
Guest
Champs

These advanced civilizations have great wisdom to share—so what’s the answer?

Perry Hunter
Guest
Perry Hunter

Respect others, wait your turn. The 30 seconds you save by pushing through is not of greater value than the respect you demonstrate by restraining yourself.

Tacoma
Guest
Tacoma

Or if passed, wave and smile.

Rebekah
Guest
Rebekah

I agree, show some etiquette and a bit of curtsey for your fellow man. I think a smile and wave if done well could be a very tactful way to pass. I also think this cut in line problem is juvenile, and I like the person who spoke up about the leaners choice to stray behind the pack.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Don’t tread on me…Individual Responsibility…I make my own luck…I’m not dependant….I’m not entitled.

Take your pick, it’s the American culture.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

The rudest people I have encountered while traveling have been the Italians and southeast Asians. They will cut in line constantly, and freak out if you call them out on it. I think we are pretty good here, for the most part.

rider
Guest
rider

Ha! Clearly you’ve never seen Germans queue up.

Perry Hunter
Guest
Perry Hunter

Depends on where you are…Berlin is a zoo, Munich is far better behaved. Honestly, I think most of the issues people have on either side of the cars vs bikes vs peds wars would be solved if we all just had a little more respect, and cared just a little more about how others perceive our behavior. Nowhere is perfect, but we are in the bottom third.

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

Talking about America has a homogeneous entity isn’t going to get us very far.

Scott
Guest
Scott

Have you ever ridden a train in Japan? There is none% of zero ettiquette. I would also like to place a moratorium placed on the “it’s so much better over there” argument. It’s boring and a complete and total over simplification and generalization.

Perry Hunter
Guest
Perry Hunter

Yes I have, and while I’ll agree that things get worse at rush hours in Tokyo, the basic civility and effort that goes into just getting alongis impressive. In Japan, if I protest someone cutting in front or otherwise behaving badly in a crowd, I expect to hear a polite “sumimasen” instead of the “f-you…” growl or an extended middle finger.

I didn’t say it was better (there are other, more distasteful issues in every society), and I’m sorry you’re bored to be told such things, but the way people treat each other in these places is significantly better then anywhere I have been in the US and in my opinion, something to learn from.

Derwyn
Guest
Derwyn

Go anywhere that has many cyclists (China for example). Bikes don’t line up in a single file. It’s just not an efficient use of space. Think about the bike box, the design of the bike box screams “Don’t line up! Just bunch up!” and it works…at least until the light turns green and everyone has to get over.

As the bike population grows it will be necessary that we rethink the single bike scenario. Already we are seeing the bike lanes widen. Back to China, when I was in Chung Du the bike “roads” where 15 abreast and when we stopped we all bunched up. Some ride slow, some ride fast, some are carrying hundreds of baskets. 🙂

JRB
Guest
JRB

Bike boxes are not wide to encourage cyclists to line up horizontally. They cover the whole car traffic lane so it is, hopefully obvious, to cars that they can’t stop in that space on a light and be less likely to right hook somebody when the light changes.

Brad Hawkins
Guest
Brad Hawkins

Different riders ride different speeds and every rider knows how fast they go. It’s time consuming to wait for riders who are not in a hurry and only postpones the inevitable passing to when the oncoming clot waiting on the other side comes by. It’s much more efficient to let people size up their abilities and those around them, and cue the bridge line accordingly. When I’m on a speedy bike, I pass those who look slow and wait behind those who look faster than I. When I’m pulling a trailer or kids, I wait back with those who are in the same speed bracket, like the back. Sometimes I’m wrong and either pass or get passed but it cuts down substantially on the required passing for all parties.

I don’t mind waiting and I don’t mind someone shoalling ahead of me though I reserve the right to smirk at or razz anyone who shoals ahead of me only to get passed by me after the bridge goes up. I also give a meek apology or compliment if I do the same to another.

It’s not a race, but bridge etiquette should note the tabula rasa of a bridge raising that will shuffle the deck on cyclist speeds. Let people through; it’s not a deli.

Michael M.
Guest

I feel more-or-less the same as Brad. I don’t really care if people cut, but it irritates me when people cut in front of me (at bridge stops or traffic stops or anywhere people on bikes are waiting) only to travel so slowly that I end up having to pass them. My own guesstimate about my typical travel speed is that I’m middling, probably going faster than the majority prefers, but not as fast as the fastest 1/3 or so likes to travel. Seems to me that people make a lot of assumptions about others’ rate of travel that aren’t necessarily valid. That’s why I rarely cut, only in instances where I might have been behind somebody and already know I want to pass them, or when people are riding with children.

Zoomzit
Guest
Zoomzit

That’s probably part of the problem of cutting during a bridge lift. You have no idea if your faster or slower than the person that you are cutting in front of, because everyone in line is standing still.

I’d say that I’m relatively quick, but I stay in line during the lift, which translates to lots of passing once the bridge comes back down.

fiat_luxe
Guest
fiat_luxe

Sorry, but you’re not going to change my mind that a group of 4-5 be-spandexed riders are in the wrong when they come up to the bike signal on the east side of the Steel Bridge crossing (Oregon and Interstate) and cut in front of 20+ riders patiently waiting.

RIckT
Guest
RIckT

I disagree with your efficiency argument when it comes to the bridge lift. There’s generally a line of pedestrian waiting at the other end of the bridge. When these folks are accounted for, there is essentially one travel lane for bikes after the bridge opens up. With pedestrians on the sidewalk, no one should be riding very fast. So the differences in speed should be minimal until space opens up, which is generally when the bike lane returns to the roadway. Its also hard to tell who can ride faster and who needs to get someplace. When the bridge is up, its pretty presumptuous to assume one person is the fastest and has the most urgent appointment. Efficiency would dictate that everyone moves slowly through the constriction point, which is generally where the bike traffic meets the pedestrian traffic coming from the opposite direction. Self sorting by speed and urgency won’t change this.

Also, throughout this thread commenters appear to be assuming that the efficient thing to do is the same as the right etiquette. Given the small increments of time we’re dealing with, I don’t think efficiency is the best way to look at this.

Tanja Olson
Guest

Dave
This happens with the Aerial tram too, and I always wonder why people are so insistent about forming a single-file line. Maybe we’re just trained to do that. We have to stay mostly single-file when driving. But things work much more efficiently while walking or cycling if we don’t stay single-file. 3-4 people can pass the plane of the doors on the tram at once, and when it’s really busy, they encourage everyone to just crowd in because they can get everyone in much faster that way, but people still fight it and line up in a long line.
In the case of a bridge lift, someone going to the front is going to have no noticeable impact on how long it takes me to get where I’m going, especially not compared to the time the bridge lift has already cost me. If that person is in more of a hurry than me, it will be less stressful for everyone if they go to the front. I don’t feel like they’re taking something that is rightfully mine by going ahead, nor do I feel like I have any more right to be ahead of them just because I happened to be there first. We’re all just going the same direction, so let’s all just go the same direction, whatever.
Recommended 0

I totally agree. However, no one has mentioned the pedestrian factor. This is a shared path and there isn’t room for bikes to ride two abreast and leave room for the pedestrians. As much as we want to claim the bridge as our own, it isn’t. And then there are the bikes and pedestrians moving against the flow of traffic (another pet peeve of mine). Although I grumble and move over to let them pass, it is much more of a problem after a bridge closure. Now there is only room for one line of bikes and pedestrians. Sometimes the best answer is for us all to walk. I hate to put a damper on the cyclist, because I am one, but there doesn’t seem to be a easy solution to this problem.

Dave
Guest

Tanja,

Of course, there is no blanket statement that will cover all situations, except to be respectful and careful at all times, whatever that means at the time. I’ve seen everyone, cyclists and pedestrians, all clump together, and have it work out well once the bridge comes back down, because everyone was watching out for each other – that’s the key. You can’t just “hit the gas” as soon as the gate opens and just go no matter what, you have to go in a way that allows you to mesh with everyone else who is there, or carefully separate yourself from them.

Babygorilla
Guest
Babygorilla

Sure, its okay to move to the front of the line as long as there’s space and pedestrians are given the right of way. Although if I see a bridge lift on the Steel when its crowded, I’ll hang back and wait on the waterfront (not the bridge path) until the glut of people on foot and bikes pass – too many inconsiderate riders who try to weave in and around foot traffic right after the gates are raised instead of slowly pedaling and waiting until its clear to pass (I’ve seen riders graze other riders and peds this summer!)

And, on a slightly related note, if you are approaching a red light and go into super slow wobble / half hearted track stand mode 20 or 30 or 40 feet behind the line, don’t be shocked when you are passed (this happens all the time at the Rose Quarter and is annoyingly frustrating).

Mike
Guest
Mike

I’ve done it and had it done to me. I don’t mind either way. I do it when I’m in a hurry, or when it’s obvious I’m going to end up behind some bikers that are slower than I am. I’m going to pass them anyway, why not do it when no one is moving?

ps- I hate the new effect on the website that dims/fades my screen anytime time I click anywhere.

chad
Guest

Is it really “cutting” if the people in the “line” are not waiting for a limited resource? If there were 10 Timbers tickets on the other side of the bridge and the first 10 people got them, then “cutting” would not be OK. It’s a First in first out queue (FIFO to geeks). However, since there isn’t really a limited resource on the other side of the bridge, other than pavement not currently occupied by another human, this doesn’t really fit the bill of when “cutting” is inappropriate. It’s just efficient use of space. So IMHO, if you want to get out of the gate faster, go to the front. If you’d just like to enjoy the view, kick back and wait the extra 25 seconds.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Agreed. Much like the ridiculous way that just about everyone insists on crowding up by the gate at the airport, even before their allowed to board. It’s as if they think there might be another person who’s boarding pass says Seat 23C! The airlines need to higher some kindergarten teachers to punish such childish behavior with public humiliation.

Faster riders should make their way to the front as it will be more efficient for everyone. Slower riders should stay to the right to allow the faster riders to get by…just like driving on a highway.

Zoomzit
Guest
Zoomzit

That could work if the people who cut were faster. Too often the people who cut are impatient…and slow. Meaning that they are just creating a bottlenck for everyone behind them.

Ryan Howard
Guest
Ryan Howard

I would say it IS cutting if your impatience delays others trips. If there is a large hold-up at a bridge, everyone will be forced to proceed at a slow pace and you will just be putting yourself before others if you jump to the front. That’s cutting!

If, however, there are only a few people and you know you will be traveling faster than the others and will not be slowing others down by jumping to the front, then proceed with caution.

Jim
Guest
Jim

Whatever. I’ll go to the front on my fast bike, queue up on the cargo.
That’s life in the not-so-big city.

Ken Southerland
Guest
Ken Southerland

I pass on the left because I don’t understand why people have made a single file line when a blob is perfectly reasonable. If everyone formed a blob then we would all go in turn as I you would have no choice but to pull up to the end of the blob. Why be 1/4 mile back from the gate when we could all be closer?

k.
Guest
k.

I say just give everyone bats and the last man/women standing gets to be first across the bridge.

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

Just bunny hop it.

Timothy Whalen
Guest

For me it’s mostly about the margin of collective safety. If it’s diminished somehow by someone riding up to the knot of cyclists near the gate, I’m concerned. If it’s not, then go for it. As for etiquette in this setting, this is unlike many instances where humans queue up, in which folks may miss their turn if others cut. Here, it’s not as if some cyclists will be denied their opportunity to proceed once the gate goes up.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

on a bridge like the Steel people generally need to stay in line so that they don’t face oncoming traffic once the gates open…

on the Hawthorne there’s no oncoming bike traffic, only some pedestrians, so it’s not as big of a deal…

however, I’m a slow casual rider so I’m used to people passing me all the time, even when we’re both stopped… I just laugh at the people in a hurry on a bike…

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

What’s so funny?

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

Sometimes people have places to be and people to see… and they’re on a bike! Bikes aren’t just for leisure rides!

Cychosis
Guest
Cychosis

It’s definitely shoaling. It is irritating that people feel they are faster, or in more of a hurry, or somehow just more important. These people drive the same way on the freeway during rush hour, I guarantee it. Bikesnob NYC, as usual, covers the topic well:

http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2009/10/indignity-of-commuting-by-bicycle.html

I always let people know when they’re shoaling, in as non-confrontational manner as possible. I might call out, “Just FYI, that’s called shoaling!” 🙂 I end up having to pass, repeatedly, 7 of 10 people who shoal me and that is frustrating to say the least.

Jack
Guest
Jack

If you said that to me on the road I would be left unsure of what you’d said. Where did this new meaning for the term ‘shoaling’ come from? It certainly does seem to have any relation to the original definition of the word.

So, if you see me on the road riding like a jerk, you should tell me I’m being a jerk. If you call me a jerk for riding up on the left on Hawthorne, I’ll probably stop to ask why you think I’m a jerk.

PDXbiker
Guest
PDXbiker

Must be a slow news day

Jim
Guest
Jim

Cat 6 license holders, please barge up the left.
Gentlemen bikers, you know who you are with your Sheldon Brown beard, you may queue right.
Pretenders, it will all sort out very shortly.

thefuture
Guest
thefuture

OBRA should start keep records on daily morning and evening commute results for Cat 6 ‘racers’.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Nah. If I’m in line for a sandwich, then yeah, but I could care less if people queue up in front of me.

Alexis
Guest
Alexis

If there are also people walking who are waiting (usually true during rush hour) I think the bunching/passing can contribute to an unsafe situation as everyone tries to progress and riders need to be a single line in order not to impede walking traffic. But in general, making a kind of staggered bunch is a pretty good approach to times where a large group of people riding needs to wait.

deborah
Guest
deborah

Brad Hawkins
Different riders ride different speeds and every rider knows how fast they go. It’s time consuming to wait for riders who are not in a hurry and only postpones the inevitable passing to when the oncoming clot waiting on the other side comes by. It’s much more efficient to let people size up their abilities and those around them, and cue the bridge line accordingly. When I’m on a speedy bike, I pass those who look slow and wait behind those who look faster than I. When I’m pulling a trailer or kids, I wait back with those who are in the same speed bracket, like the back. Sometimes I’m wrong and either pass or get passed but it cuts down substantially on the required passing for all parties.
I don’t mind waiting and I don’t mind someone shoalling ahead of me though I reserve the right to smirk at or razz anyone who shoals ahead of me only to get passed by me after the bridge goes up. I also give a meek apology or compliment if I do the same to another.
It’s not a race, but bridge etiquette should note the tabula rasa of a bridge raising that will shuffle the deck on cyclist speeds. Let people through; it’s not a deli.
Recommended 2

Whole-heartedly agree with this comment. I never wear bike-shorts or clip-in shoes so I often get sized up inapporpriately, even though in the end I’m fairly fast. That’s fine – I’ll take that.

But I also understand that passing, especially on the bridge, poses some dangers to fellow bikers and peds, so I want to make sure I have to pass as few people as possible. I am doing a slower rider a favor by moving forward so that a pass doesn’t have to happen later. I certainly don’t want to piss people off by falling out of a perceived ‘line’. But at the same time, I feel like the concept of lining up tire to tire isn’t quite appropriate for the mode either.

Rain Panther
Guest
Rain Panther

“I am doing a slower rider a favor by moving forward so that a pass doesn’t have to happen later”

While I agree with your overall stance, this sentence gave me pause. It strikes me as the same sort of frame of mind that leads a motorist to think they have no other choice than to A) pass me a few inches from my left shoulder or B) drive into oncoming traffic, forgetting the option C: just wait a few seconds. You’re not doing anyone a favor by not having to pass them later; you don’t HAVE to pass them at all (at least until you’ve crossed the bridge.)

Other than that, I say just let’s just be careful and be sure to make way for pedestrians.

andy
Guest
andy

Bike on bike crime, oh no! Where’s the humanity??

Champs
Guest
Champs

Just take your place in line; it’s not a race.

I understand why people on bikes would self-select a spot in the queue, but most don’t make sense. To keep your heart rate up, you should’ve chosen a different route. If you’re running late… um, you’re biking, and the bridge was most of the delay. Besides, the cramped section over the river just isn’t that long, and there’s plenty of space to open it up when you get east of the river.

What I’m not saying is that you can’t pass. You just have to do it conservatively, like on a two lane highway—linger over the centerline too long/pull out without looking, and someone’s gonna get knocked onto the roadway.

thefuture
Guest
thefuture
Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

This isn’t shoaling (and thats a miss applied term…)

The Hawthorne is split between bikes and pedestrians. Bikes to the left. Why is everyone lining up on the right?

As for shoaling, just don’t stop in front of me while I’m looking for traffic at a stop sign, if you block my view, you’re a —

John Lascurettes
Guest

I have no problem with someone cutting provided they do all three of the following:

– Don’t fiddle with your clips/SPDs off the line. Either be clipped in already or do it when you’re up to speed. It amazes me how bad some of the people with the nicest rigs are at clipping in. I can blast off the line and clip in mid-rotation with one try. And I’m on a shitty commuter.

– Be in the right gear to take off (so, single-speeders/fixies, hang back please).

– Go fast. if you’re not fast, don’t get to the front, because you’re just going to be blocking and frustrating someone else that is going to want to pass you. If you’ve just been passed by someone on the road, definitely don’t cut in front of them.

I am a cutter. But I obey my own rules above. And sometimes that means hanging back behind someone I recognize as faster than me (but unfortunately that guy usually turns out to be the carbon-frame jerk that doesn’t know how to clip in).

Colin
Guest
Colin

I’m a cutter as well, and agree with your “rules”, especially

> Be in the right gear to take off (so, single-speeders/fixies, hang back please).

I’ve noticed quite a few times at the intersection of Madison and Grand (heading West to the bridge), I’ll be waiting for the light in the bike lane and I’ll have a fixed gear rider make a big effort to get ahead of me going up the hill. But as soon as it starts being a downslope I’m right on their ass without changing my riding speed. At that point however the bike lane on the bridge onramp is narrower so it’s more difficult to pass them, usually have to wait until we get to the bridge itself. All the while the fixie rider’s feet are going around at a ridiculous rate and I’m stuck staring at their ass in skinny jeans. /rant

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

This “problem” will fix itself in about 2 months when all the fair weather cyclists magically disappear.

Nick V
Guest

When people cut in front of you in line, no matter where it is, they’re telling you that their situation is more important or urgent than yours and it’s rude. However, this being Portland, there are more and more cyclists especially in the summer and therefore more rude cyclists. One has to expect such behavior.
Sure, maybe they coasted in front of you in line, but maybe you can catch them and leave them behind to gasp up the next big hill.

Colin
Guest
Colin

I don’t think that’s always a correct interpretation. I ride the Hawthorne bridge almost every day and have encountered quite a few times when the bridge is up. There’s plenty of times when the cyclists will stop around the area where the cars are stopped, but the gates and the “stop here” sign for bikes/peds is further up. So if everyone is stopped back by the cars I’ll go ahead to where the gates are. I don’t see why I should just queue up behind everyone else if they’re queueing up in the wrong spot.

I just don’t feel comfortable passing slow/wobbly riders on that bridge. I’ve had too many instances where a slow rider is weaving left and right, not giving me a clear indication of which side I should pass on. Or They’ll ride just left of center, leaving me a small area to pass on the left but not giving me a clear indication that they’ll hold that line and not move one way or the other. Throw pedestrians into the mix and the whole situation can get hairy. If I can get to the front of the pack, based on my experience I’d say the majority of the time nobody is going to repass me (not trying to sound like a jerk or egomaniac, just my observation based on having rode around Portland every day for years).

So waiting behind a pack of slower riders only to pass when it becomes more dangerous for everyone seems like the worse decision to make. Especially now that there are more riders out and about, many of whom are not as experienced with how bicycle/pedestrian traffic works on the Hawthorne bridge.

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

I’ve never been at a closed bridge during rush hour, but at other times when up to 10-15 people have been stopped at the Hawthorne I’ve gone close to the front. If I can see that I’ve been going faster than some of the other cyclist it does them no disservice to slowly pass them while they’re. It’s the safest way to pass! Why wait for everyone to start moving and trying to pass when we re-mix with motorized vehicles? Sometimes I see bicycles stopped behind pedestrians. What’s the logic in that??

I agree with those who’ve said most people have a pretty decent idea of their speed and can often accurately judge when it is and isn’t appropriate to pass. I’m just happy to see so many people out on bicycles, whether they’re going 15 mph or 5mph – but that doesn’t mean I feel obligated to pedal behind the slowest rider. If I can safely pass someone then I’ll do it (whether or not it’s on the bridge). If I can’t, then I won’t. If I’ve identified someone as a much slower rider, I feel absolutely no guilt passing him/her while s/he is waiting for the bridge.

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

oops, I meant “…while they’re stopped.”

Louie
Guest
Louie

Also, why is it that the people who jump the lights seem to be the slower riders? I used to be impressed by their enthusiasm, but then they settle into a piddling pace and just look silly.

jim
Guest
jim

This whole question is a bit ironic as bikes being slower than cars allways end up in front of the faster moving cars at each light. After trudging along behind a slow bike for some time untill you finally get to pass there is anther red light and that slow bike ends up in front of your car again. If any of you feals this is right, then by that standard on the bridge you should let all of the slow bikes gather at the front of the line, that way they have a better opportunity to get going and the faster bikes can pass when they have a clear opportunity

gumby
Guest
gumby

When they have mass starts for running races, they stage the fastest people at the front and the slowest people at the rear. It doesn’t matter who got to the race first. I see this as the same scenario. If you’re faster than me, you’ve earned the right to be at the front of the pack.

jim
Guest
jim

If you follow the same rules as cars (bikes are required to do so). Racing is illegal, as is displays of speed. There are places for that kind of activity, not on the street

Nick V
Guest

But how can you really know that you’re faster than the person(s) you cut in front of in line?

scoot
Guest
scoot

Please by all means go right ahead and roll past me while we’re all waiting. I’m not slow, but I’m rarely in a hurry and I much prefer looking at your speedy butts riding away from me to being buzzed by the handlebars of riders who see any rider in front of them as a challenge and obstacle that must be overcome immediately.

I don’t even think of it as cutting, I’m happy for the less aggro space.

deborah
Guest
deborah

Rain Panther
“I am doing a slower rider a favor by moving forward so that a pass doesn’t have to happen later”
While I agree with your overall stance, this sentence gave me pause. It strikes me as the same sort of frame of mind that leads a motorist to think they have no other choice than to A) pass me a few inches from my left shoulder or B) drive into oncoming traffic, forgetting the option C: just wait a few seconds. You’re not doing anyone a favor by not having to pass them later; you don’t HAVE to pass them at all (at least until you’ve crossed the bridge.)
Other than that, I say just let’s just be careful and be sure to make way for pedestrians.
Recommended 0

I hear ya Rain Panther. I’m fine with sitting behind someone until it’s safe to pass, and ok with it if that point never comes. Don’t wanna hurt anyone to get one length ahead.

That being said, you’re not going to hear me complaining if someone moves to the front of the crowd that is obviously faster. Being safe ultimately comes from realistic impressions of one’s own ability.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Being safe ultimately comes from realistic impressions of one’s own ability.

This is so true. This is what makes it difficult for me to ride in traffic with someone that I know is a fairly novice traffic navigator. I am always afraid I’ll do something that is normally safe and routine for me and lure them into something that is beyond their range of experience, making it dangerous for them. Cycling in traffic is tough to pull off as a group activity.

dan
Guest
dan

Cutting in line when the bridge down is definitely rude. It’s somewhat less rude if you are in fact faster than every single person who you cut in front of, but that is almost never the case.

Sam
Guest
Sam

Just because you and your bicycle are capable of going fast, does not give you the right to do so is all cases. Usian Bolt can’t sprint do a city sidewalk safely. A Ferrari driver can’t legally drive 100 mph on Skyline. Speed is not your birthright.

That said…I like the slow/fast lane approach. People just need to honest with their riding skills and courteous.

JF
Guest
JF

I don’t get it when joggers/walkers move to the front of the line on the Steel Bridge. That makes me more frustrated then anything else.

jim
Guest
jim

its because they can, just like bikes can move in front of cars

Paul in the 'Couve
Guest
Paul in the 'Couve

Most of the comments here, and the entire topic reflect the fact that Portland is still in the process of becoming a dense “real” city. People here still wait for the next Max train if the car is standing room only! NY, DC, Chicago you will find people are much more used to crowds and the idea that you “line up”is foreign unless it is a bathroom or a check-out line. Portlanders are still just too polite or afraid to behave as a mob.

Scott
Guest
Scott

Portland isn’t even close to a real city yet. There is no way to get Chinese or any kind of food delivered at all hours. NOT REAL CITY-LIKE

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

Meh.
Ever wait for a bus in London?

This notion that a city must reach some sort of threshold of density, crowding, tolerance for rudeness in order to be deemed “real” is yet more bogus east-coast-centric crap. As for the below comment, you couldn’t get Chinese food delivered any time of the day or night in Ancient Rome, which was clearly a “real” city…

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

oops comment above, apparently.

commuter
Guest
commuter

I’m the opposite..I’m actually a very fast rider and wait until the bridge clears before I get going again. This usually takes just a few minutes for most of the chaos to sort itself out. This way I avoid slow riders in the bike lane passing all the peds that have accumulated during the stoppage. Its just not worth the time saved to get in some slow speed collision with a swerving cyclists or an unaware pedestrian.

Scott
Guest
Scott

So instead of “wasting time” going with the flow you create the thing that cyclists and pedestrians have to navigate around. Bully for you.

Brian
Guest
Brian

If the bridge is raised and people are stopped on bikes, I have no problem with other cyclists passing to be in front of me.

What is really rude, and messes the whole thing up, is the impatient cyclists who try to pass and line-hop as soon as the bridge is back down and the gates open.

Dude. You’re on a five-foot wide pathway. There are bikes everywhere. Pedestrians and runners heading right towards you. You might think you are shaving a whole oooh, six seconds off your commute. But all you are really doing is getting in a lot of people’s way. Just wait it out for twenty seconds til you are off the bridge! Chillax!!