Gravel - Cycle Oregon

Residents, riders come together on Skyline Blvd to discuss road safety

Posted by on November 11th, 2011 at 10:44 am

People who live and ride on and around Skyline Blvd in the hills above downtown Portland aired concerns about sharing the roads in a meeting Tuesday night.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Last night well over 100 people packed into the Skyline Grange to discuss road safety issues and to share experiences of roadway interactions from both sides of the windshield. Roads outside the Grange hall — like Skyline Blvd, Rock Creek Road, and others — are very popular for bicycling; but they’re also narrow, windy, and shared with people in cars who live nearby.

“I felt threatened. Had I not been a skilled rider, I could have gone into a ditch. People need to know the laws… There’s no excuse for making dangerous maneuvers.”
— Brianna Walle, PSU student

Concerns about safety and behavior on these roads have been simmering for years, but they boiled over in August after several alleged incidents of harassment and road rage against people on bicycles were reported to the email list of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA).

Hoping to foster dialogue and find solutions, the Skyline Ridge Neighbors (SRN) decided to bring people together to clarify legal obligations and talk about the issues. The turnout was about evenly split between people who live in the neighborhood and people who ride bikes through it. There were also several folks that live, drive, and ride in the area.

Expecting some heated exchanges, SRN brought in a conflict resolution expert from Portland State University to facilitate a discussion. In addition, local bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg and Multnomah County Sheriff Captain Monte Reiser sat on a table in front of attendees to serve as experts on legal and law enforcement issues.

Sheriff Capt. Monte Reiser and lawyer Mark Ginsberg.

Also in attendance were Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks, Chief Deputy DA Rod Underhill (who is also likely to become the next County DA), OBRA Executive Director Kenji Sugahara, Portland Velo President and Director Kevin Rhea, Multnomah County Transportation Planner Joanna Valencia, members of the SRN neighborhood association board and many residents and other concerned citizens.

Long time resident Les Blaize said people must use caution no matter what vehicle they’re operating.

Troy Sexton: “We shouldn’t be so beholden to one set of laws while ignoring other laws that govern our behavior.”

In a move that helped set a civil tone for the evening, the facilitator started the meeting by asking everyone to turn to someone sitting next to them and introduce themselves. The event also began with Captain Reiser and Ginsberg reviewing Oregon State Statutes regarding safe passing, impeding traffic, and other relevant issues.

Capt. Reiser reminded the crowd that “Driving is a privilege” and that people on bicycles, for the most part, must adhere to all the laws that govern motor vehicles. Ginsberg encouraged people to replace “bicycle” with “car” when they think about roadway interactions and collisions. “And if you think the situation is different, I’d ask you why? The rules are the same for all vehicles.”

To help clarify the laws, Ginsberg had passed around a sheet of paper with six applicable Oregon statutes.

One of the first legal issues to be brought up was whether or not someone in a car is allowed to cross over a double yellow line to pass someone on a bicycle.

“The simple answer is yes,” Ginsberg said, “The law is very clear. You can do it, you’ve just got to do it safely.”

As Ginsberg spoke about this, a man in the back of the room interrupted him with a different interpretation. He insisted that they had it wrong. Instead of cars being able to legally pass over the double yellow, he claimed, it was bicycle operators who were supposed to pull over — off the main roadway — to let cars pass.

“It’s pretty evident [according to the law] that a bicyclist needs to pull off the main traveled portion of the roadway,” the man maintained. “I’d like the sheriff to read it out loud so everyone can hear it.”

The man repeatedly requested that Capt. Reiser read out loud ORS 814.430 (2) (c), “Improper use of lanes”. In the interest of civil dialogue, the facilitator asked the man to identify himself.

“I’m Scott Wheeler,” he said, to which I heard several people in the crowd whispered to themselves, “Big surprise.”

Scott Wheeler, listening to a woman tell the crowd about how he harassed her with this vehicle.

Wheeler is the man accused of harassment and menacing behavior against people riding bikes while driving his truck outside his home on nearby Rock Creek Road. Wheeler has also filed several formal complaints with the Oregon State Bar against bike lawyer Ray Thomas for “circulating misleading legal information to the public” about the the passing statute.

At the meeting, Ginsberg disagreed with Wheeler, telling him that a “bicyclist is entitled to the full lane” and that, “as a slow moving vehicle they have nowhere else to go.” “I understand, Mr. Wheeler, you may not agree with that, but the law is pretty clear.”

Capt. Reiser added: “My understanding of the law, is that when you have a bicyclist riding solo, as safely as possible… and if you have a driver that comes across that bicycle coming from the rear and there’s no bike lane, that driver, if they make determination to do so, can go around that double yellow line.”

A woman who was videotaping the meeting (and who left with Wheeler well before the meeting ended) wanted to know who would be at fault if a car crossed over a double yellow to avoid someone on a bike and was then involved in a collision. Capt. Reiser and Ginsberg said there are too many potential variables to answer that question.

“What would happen if a car is
passing on a double yellow, they deem
it safe and then end up in an accident?
What happens to the driver? Who would be at fault?”

When she offered that her 16-year old daughter doesn’t have good judgment and could be at “higher risk” in a passing situation like that, someone blurted out “Then she shouldn’t pass!”.

Despite the repeated insistence by Scott Wheeler to rely on his strict interpretation of the law, the Sheriff and Ginsberg said that in reality, both the courts and police officers rely heavily on judgment and discretion when interpreting the law.

Brianna Walle courageously recounted her run-ins with Scott Wheeler.

The next person to stand up and share their perspective was Brianna Walle, the woman whose allegations of harassment against Scott Wheeler we detailed in back in August. Walle, wearing her Team Ironclad jacket, stood up, looked across the room at Wheeler and shared the two run-ins she had with him.

Walle recounted that she was riding on Rock Creek Road and heard excessive honking even though there was, “plenty of room to pass and visibility was good.”

“I felt harassed, so I stopped and he flew by, within a foot of my face.”

A month later, Walle continued, the same thing happened again; except that time she rolled up to Wheeler’s car to try and have a conversation. As we reported in August, the conversation didn’t go well:

“He started yelling out some statute… “You are a slower moving vehicle and MUST pull over to side of road since you are slower than traffic! I can’t pass you on a double line.” As I started to explain my reasoning, he drove off.”

“On those two occassions,” Walle said, “I felt threatened. Had I not been a skilled rider, I could have gone into a ditch. People need to know the laws. At the end of the day we all have some place to go. There’s no excuse for making dangerous maneuvers.”

Walle’s courageous testimony, with Wheeler staring at her just feet away while she spoke, set the tone for the rest of the evening.

After Walle’s story, a man stood up and said, “We shouldn’t be so beholden to one set of laws while ignoring other laws that govern our behavior.”

“Those bicyclists riding abreast, once they realize a motorist is behind them, they need to make a reasonable effort to move over.”
— Mult. Co. Sgt. Bryan White

The rest of the meeting was marked by constructive dialogue. Many of the people who showed up rides bikes and drive cars in the area. Several others who ride on the roads also live in the neighborhood. Those that don’t ride bikes had honest questions:

Is riding in the middle of the lane OK?
Is a driveway considered a safe place to pull over?
Is riding 2-3 abreast allowed?

Each question was responded to by the Sheriff (if necessary) and by people who ride, giving people a more intimate understanding of bicycling behavior.

On the issue of riding 2-3 abreast, Multnomah County Sergeant Bryan White (who patrols the area regularly) again said that it’s about discretion. “Do they have to move over? It’s going to depend on the situation.” Sgt. White said that the law about impeding traffic also comes into play. “Those bicyclists riding abreast, once they realize a motorist is behind them, they need to make a reasonable effort to move over.”

Throughout the exchanges, there seemed to be a lot of education going on for people on both sides of the windshield.

“If you’re riding downhill and you can’t hear me,” said a woman named Kate who lives in the neighborhood, “How could I alert you that I’m coming up behind you? I feel like if I get too close it’s scary, if I honk it’s scary. Practically speaking, I’m asking the bike community, what should we do?” (The general consensus was that a short toot of the horn would suffice.)

A woman who introduced herself as a mom and a neighbor was curious why people would ride two abreast or take the lane. “Is it a social thing? Do you ride in the middle because you think you won’t be seen?”

Tom Hoffman, who has been riding in the area for decades said that when he hears a car coming up from behind, he’ll wave them through to help them pass when it’s safe. “If I’m in the way, I trust that you’re human enough that you’re not going to hit me.”

Countering that perspective was a woman who said, “I don’t want to be told when to pass,” and another who was worried that a bicycle rider waving them through could lead to liability issues. In the end, the point was clearly made that it’s ultimately up to the person passing to determine whether it’s safe or not.

Putting another human face on the dialogue was Susan Peithman with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Peithman is not only a BTA staffer, she’s also a competitive racer who trains on the roads around Skyline Blvd. Speaking to the crowd she said, “I want to thank you for sharing your community with us. These roads are treasures and we have a vested interest in making sure you are all happy.”

While interactions at the meeting were very positive and cooperative, it was clear by the testimony of several residents that there remains considerable hard feelings toward bicycle riders among some locals.

“Most of the people who ride up here bring an urban biking mentality into a rural area,” said a man who has lived in the area for 30 years, “Most people I know are antagonistic toward bicyclists because they don’t ride bikes themselves… Even though the BTA says they love us, a lot of the residents feel like we’re being abused.”

Skyline Ridge Neighbors President Cindy Banks.

Even so, Cindy Banks, president of Skyline Ridge Neighbors made it clear to everyone that people like Scott Wheeler do not represent the neighborhood. The general feeling, she said, is that sharing the road with bikes and cars, “Kind of sucks and it’s kind of stressful but we all hope we can make it better.”

But what about Scott Wheeler? One woman who lives in the neighborhood and rides a bike wanted to know whether or not Wheeler had been flagged by authorities.

Ginsberg said that the Portland Police Bureau and Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department have investigated several incidents, but that Wheeler “hasn’t to be charged with any traffic violations or crimes” — “yet!” added several people in the crowd.

Capt. Reiser said in order to cite someone a Deputy must observe the infraction first hand. Otherwise they need a victim to sign a complaint against Wheeler. The Sheriff also informed the crowd about the citizen initiated citation process and Ginsberg urged anyone who is victim to harassment to call 911 and share as many details as possible.

Kevin Rhea, President and Director of Portland Velo cycling club.

Toward the end of the meeting, the discussion turned to concrete solutions and actions. Below are some of the ideas:

  • Widen the road in blind corners and/or create “safe passing zones.” (I like the idea of “slow vehicle turnouts” for bikes like are common on mountain roads.)
  • Start a PSA and messaging campaign to promote “common sense behaviors.”
  • Have Multnomah County conduct a road safety study and do more speed limit enforcement.
  • Request more roadside maintenance to remove weeds that end up narrowing the road even further.
  • If City won’t provide maintenance, do it grassroots style and have a clean-up day.
  • If County won’t invest in the road, create a ‘Friends of Skyline’ non-profit to raise the money for new infrastructure.

OBRA Executive Director Kenji Sugahara said he plans to contact every team leader to make sure they get the message to ride as courteously as possible on Skyline and surrounding roads. He tempered that commitment by telling residents, “There are cyclists who are jerks and there’s nothing I can do about that.”

When a member of the Skyline neighborhood board said they were hoping to do a signage campaign along the roads directed at people in cars and on bikes, Mark Ginsberg immediately pledged $1,000 to help make it happen.

Putting a sobering yet hopeful bookend on the night was Multnomah County’s Chief Deputy DA Rod Underhill, who happens to be a self-described, “avid cyclist.”

Chief Deputy DA Rod Underhill.

Underhill said this issue is on the DA’s radar. “Because of the things we’re hearing about, some of the events out here have gotten our attention. We’re listening.” He also described what an “awful” experience it is to respond to the scene of a fatal bicycle collision. “We don’t want to see these tragic situations to come across our desk.”

“The best thing possible has happened tonight. Dialogue. We got to put faces to each other tonight,” he continued, “Let’s keep talking, I think we’ll all learn from this as we go forward.”

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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

  • NW Biker November 11, 2011 at 11:06 am

    I live near Skyline and while I’m not fit enough (yet!) to ride up there, I wish I’d attended this meeting. Interesting that Scott Wheeler was honest enough to show up, even if he’s wrong on the law.

    As for ideas to lessen the tension, my only concern about building slow vehicle turnouts for bikes is that it might encourage people like Scott Wheeler and others like him in their mistaken interpretation of the slow vehicle statutes. It would be a mistake to give him the impression that he’s right. His behavior is already too dangerous to cyclists as it is.

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    • q`Tzal November 11, 2011 at 11:35 am

      Scott Wheeler had to show up to proselytize his message of bicycles not belonging on the road.
      It is very important to him and where better to find like minded people than at this meeting?

      NW Biker
      It would be a mistake to give him the impression that he’s right.
      He already believes this with every fiber of his being.
      Look at his face, look in his eyes.
      He could KILL a cyclist, be convicted and be thrown IN JAIL and he would STILL believe he was right.
      It’s that Great Santini/Dr Gregory House look I recognize first hand from my father and the mirror.

      NW Biker
      His behavior is already too dangerous to cyclists as it is.
      And there is no amount of education that will change him. The only option for this attitude is containment or exclusion.
      I hope Scott Wheeler stayed for where the sheriff also informed the crowd about the citizen initiated citation process. He is smart enough to behave around police so I suspect that it will take the “Death of a Thousand Stings” in citizen citations to contain or exclude him.

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      • NW Biker November 11, 2011 at 1:06 pm

        Agreed, on both points. For some people, being right is all that matters, and from those photos and his insistence that we be relegated to the ditch, it’s clear to me that he’s one. If he wasn’t so dangerous, I could almost feel sorry for him.

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    • A.K. November 11, 2011 at 11:36 am

      Ah I bet you could do it! Skyline itself is very gentle once you’re up there, besides one “hill” (maybe like 250 ft of climbing) between Cornell and Burnside.

      Getting up there can be the intimidating part, and depending on where you live “near Skyline”, you could have a beast of a road to get up there.

      An easy route (though it puts you at the very southern end) is to go up through the rose test garden, then up SW Kingston to the Zoo. Hang a right at the top, then a left up SW Fischer Lane, and you’ll pop out on Skyline blvd, near Burnside street. You can then continue on Skyline N as far as you want.

      Another good one is the Saltzman trail off of HWY 30, and since there are no cars you can stop whenever you need a rest.

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      • NW Biker November 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm

        Thanks! I fully intend to try, and I have the perfect bike for the hills: ‘cross bike with nice low gears that I bought in July. I’d also like to find the Saltzman trail. Like Banks-Vernonia, it’s nice to find places to ride with few or no cars.

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        • A.K. November 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm

          Your cross bike would eat Saltzman up. You should try it out sometime.

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  • jeff November 11, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Good to know what Mr. Wheeler looks like, thank you Jonathan.

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    • q`Tzal November 11, 2011 at 11:11 am

      Looks like someone with a severe case of mental constipation.
      He’s right, you’re wrong, get the #$%^& of off HIS road.

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  • Matt November 11, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Good story Jonathan. Thanks for the update.

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  • A.K. November 11, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Thank you very much for the detailed write up! I’m sad I didn’t get to attend the event, as I work out past PDX and I wasn’t able to make it to the Grange before it started. However, it looks like it was well attended!

    A few thoughts:
    -I never wave people around me, because I don’t want to be held liable for an accident (sometime in the past year a driver here in Portland was held liable for an accident after he waved another driver through and they struck someone).

    -Is it just me, or does it seem like a lot of these conflicts could be eased by people just driving a little more calmly? It’s pretty easy to pass over a double-yellow if you’re doing it where the road is straight, as you can tell there are no other cars approaching.

    -I was very surprised to hear that Mr. Wheeler showed up. I wonder if he’ll have a change of heart soon? I am bothered, however, that he thinks he knows better than a lawyer and sheriff regarding passing laws.

    Lastly, this comment really caught my eye:

    “Most of the people who ride up here bring an urban biking mentality into a rural area,” said a man who has lived in the area for 30 years, “Most people I know are antagonistic toward bicyclists because they don’t ride bikes themselves… Even though the BTA says they love us, a lot of the residents feel like we’re being abused.”

    I am not sure how this person feels like they are being abused by cyclists? And what is an “urban biking mentality”, does that actually mean “rude”?

    I’d like to know how cyclists “abuse” the residents, yet somehow the thousands of people in cars who drive through the area every day (but don’t live there) are less “abusive”?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 11, 2011 at 11:17 am

      I am not sure how this person feels like they are being abused by cyclists? And what is an “urban biking mentality”, does that actually mean “rude”?

      I’d like to know how cyclists “abuse” the residents, yet somehow the thousands of people in cars who drive through the area every day (but don’t live there) are less “abusive”?

      A.K., glad you brought this up.

      The person who said that was being very nice about it, and just trying to help everyone understand how his fellow neighbors feel.

      As for the “abuse”.. well just think about it. Many of the folks up there have lived their for many decades and the rate of bicycling has skyrocketed. Some people who ride up there can be jerks and it’s natural for residents to feel like they’re being trampled by outsiders. (Sort of feels similar to Williams Ave or SE Holgate situation huh?)

      Again, the person wasn’t complaining or trying to be mean about people who ride.

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      • A.K. November 11, 2011 at 11:28 am

        Jonathan, thanks for providing some context – I can certainly sympathize with them about changes to the place they have lived for so long. Again, I wish I could have made it, as it was on my calendar since the announcement over a month ago.

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      • sorebore November 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm

        On that point, I was passed over at the time by the mediator, and felt I had an interesting response. These roads, as all two lane roads across this country were laid long before ABS, 200-300 plus horsepower trucks and autos. They were also paved before McMansions. On the cultural side of the comment, I am a college educated ,city raised descendant of solid “Hicker-Billy Ozark Stock” . With that said, it is of my opinion that FEW people living in or around Skyline are so “Country” that this statement holds water. Nor are ALL the cyclists from a mere 5-8 miles away across the St. Johns ,as a GROUP so culturally hateful to be placed into a box that small. COME ON!!
        Grow up! share the road , ride and drive with respect. Common sense in our actions and awareness while out on our beautiful roads is what is needed.

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  • Jenny November 11, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Jonathan, thank you for this detailed writeup. I am also very curious to hear how the Williams Race Talks event went, where I believe you participated as a panelist? I wanted to go as a newbie bike rider who relies on Williams as a commuter route, but couldn’t make it. Will you be writing up that meeting as well?

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  • andy November 11, 2011 at 11:31 am

    To me, “urban biking mentality” translates to “riding in the center of the lane and/or riding 2-3 abreast.”

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  • canuck November 11, 2011 at 11:33 am

    “OBRA Executive Director Kenji Sugahara said he plans to contact every team leader to make sure they get the message to ride as courteously as possible on Skyline and surrounding roads.”

    Why does this only have to be relegated to “Skyline and surrounding roads”?

    Shouldn’t we all be courteous riders/drivers where ever we ride/drive?

    The message should not be about a specific area but about how we act in general.

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    • A.K. November 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm

      I imagine he probably said “to ride as courteously as possible on Skyline and surrounding roads.” since he was speaking directly to a group of people that live on/around Skyline, with the conditions on Skyline being the very reason for the meeting. Targeting to the audience and all.

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      • Kenji November 11, 2011 at 8:06 pm

        Correctamundo- I was talking to just those folks but I really think it applies generally. I’ll also send out the suggestions to the general membership beyond team leaders. I’ll likely end up sending it out to media too. We’re reaching out to a plethora of biking groups just so we can get the word out.

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  • dan November 11, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Maybe I need a jersey that says on the back “Pretend I’m a tractor”. There’s got to be some agricultural machinery using the roads up there, and despite traveling at similar speeds and requiring even more space to get around, somehow it’s never been a hot-button issue…why is that?

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    • was carless November 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm

      Tractors win against SOV’s.

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      • JAT in Seattle November 11, 2011 at 1:40 pm

        I don’t think that’s it (and I suspect you don’t either). I think that people attracted to life in near-urban rural areas welcome the sight of farming equipment on their roads as validating the realness of their American Dream; makes them feel slightly more country mouse than city mouse (despite their 45 minute commute to their job as a systems analyst).

        Tractor, School Bus, Ambulance, UPS Truck, the roads are teeming with vehicles which require extra care to pass, but those are work vehicles, while cyclists are perceived (and I generally don’t like to impute mental states to others…) as recreational and thereby somehow less valid.

        That’s crap, of course, nobody would assert that a minivan on its way to deposit kids at soccer practice has a diminished right to the road.

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        • Keith November 29, 2011 at 10:11 am

          Actually one of the real problems with folks in areas with mixed farming and residential is that the newcomers don’t necessarily like the smells, noises or hours of agricultural activities messing with their idea of rural life. Many of the folks that have issues with bicycles likely have issues with tractors as well.

          As someone who has both a home in Portland and rural property I can attest that a very, very small number of bicyclists do exhibit “urban bicyclist” behavior, of course there are drivers doing the same. The problem is that it doesn’t take many misbehaving people on either side of the bike/car road sharing issue to stir up the passions of both sides.

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          • Alan 1.0 November 29, 2011 at 1:07 pm

            Do you have specifics in mind when you say ‘”urban bicyclist” behavior,’ or just rude or unsafe riding behavior in general? Agreed that both riders and drivers are mostly polite and safe, that there are fewer of both in rural areas and that results in fewer conflicts, but I’m not so sure that urban/rural divide also divides good and bad behavior, at least not on a per capita basis.

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            • Keith November 29, 2011 at 1:36 pm

              Someone else had used the term in the thread as what I took to reference rude or unsafe behavior and that was how I meant it to be taken.

              Not meant as a slur against urban bicyclists.

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    • Machu Picchu November 13, 2011 at 11:22 am

      I would bet there are a lot more bicycles than farm equipment these days. And service trucks may stop a lot, but they’re nowhere near as slow as a bicycle on an uphill.

      I can imagine that a local resident returning home in a car might encounter bikes several times in a trip, each time being slowed to bike pace until it’s safe to pass. If tractors were encountered with this frequency, I think it would be a similar debate with different modes involved. In reality, traffic is not encountering tractors because this area is not truly as rural as it appears.

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  • wsbob November 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

    It would seem from this report that Capt Reiser declined Wheeler’s request to read ORS 814.430 (2) (c) out loud, which, if so, may have been just as well if nobody else seconded the request, since Wheeler might have been seeking to manipulate the discussion with his request.

    I’m glad to hear about the lady from the audience asking how people with cars approaching from the rear, people biking, might best alert people on bikes as to their presence. A couple short ‘beep-beep’s 50′-75′ is one of the answers somebody might have responded with. Too many people driving motor vehicles wait until they’re about 25’ away from a bike and then activate the horn in a long, blaring note.

    Amongst the discussion of concrete solutions and actions, maus reported on, this idea seems good to me also:

    “…Widen the road in blind corners and/or create “safe passing zones.” (I like the idea of “slow vehicle turnouts” for bikes like are common on mountain roads.) …”

    Maus…generally good report…with the exception of three of the same picture of Scott Wheeler used in the story. One picture of the man, might have been enough, or if it was necessary to tell important details of the discussion, additional different pictures of the guy. Your repeatedly posting the same picture of Wheeler in the story suggests a possible intention on your part to pillorize him in the public arena. I don’t see that being a constructive thing to do.

    Wheeler did show up, apparently conducting himself in a fairly civil manner, announcing his name when requested. That’s at least a bit encouraging for the future. Now everyone knows who he is, what he looks like and how he handles himself amongst other people.

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  • Andrew Holtz November 11, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Thanks for reporting on this meeting.

    The Multnomah County bicycle capital improvement projects for Skyline and Springville that I mentioned at the meeting are listed on page 18 of this document:

    There isn’t money available now for the full projects. But speaking for myself, I hope that the county and city will explore creating turnouts or safer passing zones (and then keep them clean). An example of one option is a section of widening recently put in by a developer on Skyline just uphill from Willamette Stone State Park (near the KGW towers). I use this new pavement almost daily to let drivers pass me on my commute. The downside is that gravel and other debris does collect here, though that’s not as bad a safety issue on a climb.

    I know that my fellow members of the county Bike&Ped Citizens Advisory Committee are interested in following up on the issues discussed at the Skyline Grange… with an eye to advising the Commissioners on how the county might help with solutions and improvements.

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    • matt picio November 13, 2011 at 10:49 pm

      Were you or any of the other committee members able to attend this? Also, with the many recent changes in Multnomah County transportation staff, were any of them in attendance? And is this issue directly on their radar?

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    • Mike November 15, 2011 at 10:16 am

      Let us know if our team can help out, we ride a lot in the area.

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  • John Lascurettes November 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    The rules are the same for all vehicles.

    Except that is not accurate. If this were the case, bicycles would not be required to use a side path, would not be allowed to ride two abreast and cars would never be allowed to cross the double-yellow to pass a bike (which is the thing Wheeler keeps sticking to his guns on). There are separate laws for bikes and motor vehicles. They are neither universally the same nor applied the same.

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  • kurt November 11, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    J, good stuff. Appreciate it.

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  • Paul Johnson November 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Good stuff. Wonder why Wheeler hasn’t moved since he’s clearly his own worst enemy and his own neighborhood seems to bring out the worst in him.

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    • John Lascurettes November 11, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      Because he thinks it’s his neighborhood and his roads. He’s probably wondering why bicyclists haven’t left yet.

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  • KRhea November 11, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Excellent recap and coverage of the event Jonathan. The best part about the evening was putting faces with the “problem” which helped humanize the situation as opposed to folks thinking it’s cars against bikes, it’s not, it’s about lives and keeping everyone as safe as possible on roads that are great for cycling in an area which is beautiful to live in for the residents.
    This challenge is not a “one way street” folks with the drivers being the “bad guys” and cyclists being perfect, law abiding angels nor vice versa. There are certainly a number of cyclists who treat Skyline and any other road they’re riding like it’s their own private roadway or just an extra wide bike land. That doesn’t work either.
    From the majority of Skyline residents, Scott Wheeler is a man on an island it seems and does speak for nor illustrate the attitude of everyone in the area. The remainder of the residents seemed like intelligent folks who wanted to find a solution to the challenges presented by cars/bikes and narrow, twisting turning Skyline Blvd.

    If future meetings take place it would be in all cyclists best interest to try and attend. Those cyclists that did attend did all PDX riders a big favor and represented our community in a first class manner.

    Lastly, big props to Brianna, nicely done and every cyclist in that room had your back.


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  • Matt D November 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Thanks for reporting on this productive night. I like many others were not surprised that Mr Wheeler left shortly after what I felt was his attempt to turn the entire evening into a back and forth of “this is why you are wrong and I’m right.” Kudos to Mr. Ginsberg, Capt Monte, and our moderator for the evening for not taking the bait while allowing him the opportunity to make his point known.

    As mentioned in the article, the SRN does not hold the same opinion as Mr Wheeler, but they do realize something needed to be done before things got further out of hand. This was a great step and everyone who attended should be thanked for their efforts.

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    • John Lascurettes November 11, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      So Wheeler did leave well before the end?

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      • Kenji November 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm

        About half way through. I saw him leave. He wasn’t happy with the way the discussion was going.

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  • resopmok November 11, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    I don’t understand why it is so difficult for people to recognize that roads are a shared space and that it is in everyone’s best interests to exercise caution and compassion for our fellow human beings, no matter which mode of transport they are using. People who can’t make judgements about safe ways to operate their vehicle on the road should not be using it. People who are unable to establish sympathy for the safety of others while behind the wheel or handlebars should probably seek therapy for being mildly psychotic.

    Ask yourself this question every time you leave your driveway: is where I am going so important that it doesn’t matter whether someone dies so long as I get there as quickly as possible?

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  • dwainedibbly November 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Major kudos to Brianna Walle for speaking up at the meeting. That must’ve taken some courage.

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  • Jonathan Gordon November 11, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    “If you’re riding downhill and you can’t hear me,” said a woman named Kate who lives in the neighborhood, “How could I alert you that I’m coming up behind you? I feel like if I get too close it’s scary, if I honk it’s scary. Practically speaking, I’m asking the bike community, what should we do?” (The general consensus was that a short toot of the horn would suffice.)

    I’m surprised that was the general consensus. My suggestion would be: Please don’t honk, it will likely scare me as it’s difficult to ascertain whether that short beep is friendly or menacing. Instead, I’d prefer you to hang back and wait until it’s safe to pass. If the fact that I’m going downhill makes it harder for you to overtake me since our speeds are similar, perhaps that indicates that you’re unlikely to save more than 10 or 15 seconds anyway.

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    • wsbob November 11, 2011 at 7:18 pm

      Missed that bit in maus’s story about the general consensus approving a short toot of the horn for motor vehicle operators seeking to alert people on bikes prior to passing them. For people on bikes, sometimes wind noise overwhelms the sound of a motor vehicle approaching a bike from behind.

      This is one of the reasons people on bikes may not be readily pulling over from the middle of the lane to the far right side of the lane when the configuration of the road allows this to be safely done. A couple short beeps of the motor vehicle’s horn at a respectful distance from people on bikes can help make presence of the motor vehicle known to people riding.

      It appears Maus has now taken down two of the three duplicate pictures of Scott Wheeler and replaced them with some others from the meeting. That’s good…if he’s definitely the same guy that badgered people with a truck on Rock Creek Road, having to look at just one picture of the guy is enough.

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    • El Biciclero November 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm

      I sometimes have a section of my morning commute that involves a very fast descent in a 40mph speed zone. The road is extremely narrow, and my speed varies between 48 and 30 during the mile-long segment (I know, I shouldn’t be speeding, but it helps me keep the speed up later to annoy drivers less…) There is nowhere to safely pull out at 30mph to let drivers pass in the lane, so I use the full lane until very near the end of the run (@185th and Farmington in Beaverton). I have had drivers (seemingly angrily) cross completely into the oncoming lane (across a double-yellow) to pass me within 200 yds of a red light, only to have me coast past them up to the front of the line (there is a wide shoulder that starts about 100 ft from the intersection).

      I know that drivers get very annoyed that I am in the lane going 10mph under the speed limit, but there is literally nowhere else to be, except for a narrow “sidepath” that I can’t imagine was ever intended for anything other than pedestrian use–it certainly would not be safe at 30mph, let alone 45. I guess this is the long way of saying that even if somebody wanted to honk to make their presence known (I have a mirror, so I already know you are there, anyway), it wouldn’t make one bit of difference; I’m not moving anywhere until there is a safe place to do it. One lady in the story mentioned, in regard to a cyclist waving drivers to pass, “I don’t want to be told when to pass”. Well, I don’t want to be “told” when to move over–I’ll do it when it’s safe, end of story.

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    • JRB November 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm

      I agree. If you are behind me in a car, I can hear you. When you are on a bike, horns are really loud and therefore obnoxious and possibly dangerously distracting. Horns should only be used in an effort to prevent a collision.

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  • Kristen November 11, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan Gordon– that is exactly the answer I was hoping for, and the action I prefer.

    If I’m going downhill and a driver coming up behind me can’t tell if it’s safe to pass, THEN IT’S NOT SAFE TO PASS. Doesn’t matter if I’m on a bike or in a car. Period.

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    • A.K. November 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm

      Yeah, I think the default thinking by folks who don’t cycle is that bike = slow. That is certainly not true, especially going downhill. I’ve logged speeds with my Garmin at nearly 50 MPH, like when I accidentally turned down Cornelius Pass Rd when I meant to take OLD Cornelius Pass Rd, the first time I rode out there, so I shot downhill as fast as I could while taking the lane, so I could get OFF of that road sooner rather than later.

      I don’t think drivers expect you to be able to go that fast.

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  • q`Tzal November 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Good story Jonathan. Thanks for the update.

    I need to second that.
    Thank you for putting up with Portland politics to bring us coverage on the issues important to us.

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  • Opus the Poet November 11, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    On the passing on the double yellow and having a wreck issue, I don’t see what the confusion is. If you pass on a double yellow and you hit someone, anyone, then you failed to pass safely and it is the fault of the passing vehicle driver for the wreck. While you are allowed to pass a bicycle on the double yellow the onus is on the passing driver to make a safe pass. If you have a wreck (even a minor one) then you failed to make a safe pass. QED

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    • Machu Picchu November 13, 2011 at 11:36 am

      Indeed. And it doesn’t really matter whether the line is solid or double, right? A skip line indicates moving to the next lane to pass is legal when safe, not that you can move at will and be absolved of all liability.

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    • esther c November 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm

      It is amazing how many people do not grasp the simple concept that if you’re behind a bicycle and its not safe to pass you just slow down until it is safe to pass.

      That is the entire rationale behind taking the lane, to force them into doing that, instead of forcing us off the road when they pass too close. But I guess some people are so dim that taking the lane doesn’t work. They’ll pass anyway no matter what is coming. Then they want to blame the cyclist.

      Words fail me.

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  • BURR November 11, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Taking the entire lane, especially when going downhill, is simply the safest thing to do on a bicycle. And you have the right of way over anyone coming up behind you.

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    • Machu Picchu November 13, 2011 at 11:48 am

      Agreed. I’ve mentioned before, and to disagree with wsbob, there’s no polite way to honk at a person on a bike to let them know that you want to get by. If I could ride to make it any easier for a car to not be riding my a**, then I would already be doing it. If I’m in the lane, it’s for a reason, and I got here first. Obviously. Wait your turn, pass when safe. Whether it’s because I pulled over or you got an opening by other means. But as far as communication that you’re behind me, I don’t care. When else in traffic do we have to make decisions or manuevers to accommodate parties behind us?

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      • wsbob November 13, 2011 at 12:04 pm

        Just reading the comments when your latest appeared.

        A number of people have commented, objecting to the idea that people driving motor vehicles might find themselves in certain situations where a discreet beep-beep of the horn to a person on a bike could enable a safer passing action.

        That’s why in raising this point, I attempted to be very careful to describe specific conditions where use of a car’s horn to indicate presence of a motor vehicle; reasonable distance, possible wind noise interference…maybe a couple other things which I’m not remembering at the moment. So actually, I’m not even suggesting that use of a car’s horn with regards to someone ahead on a bike, should be an instruction or order for that person to move to the far right side of the road or pull over to allow the motor vehicle to pass.

        If it’s not safely possible for a road user to move over, pull off the road or speed up to satisfy the desires of a following road user, nobody’s obliged to do so.

        “…But as far as communication that you’re behind me, I don’t care. When else in traffic do we have to make decisions or manuevers to accommodate parties behind us? …” Machu Picchu

        Avoiding unnecessarily holding up traffic is always an important consideration for all road users.

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        • Machu Picchu November 13, 2011 at 5:35 pm

          Right. I could rephrase: When else in traffic would you be perceived to be “unnecessarily” holding up traffic, that you would need it brought to your attention by the person who has overtaken you? I’m asking for an example, Bob, but rhetorically, because we just don’t really do that for tractors, slow trucks, people in wheelchairs, et cetera. I work in traffic every day, and I don’t see it. People honk at other people when they perceive an imminent threat, or when they’re pissed off. I hate the sound, and the chronic insinuation that it could ever be a friendly way for a person in a car to “communicate” with a person in the open air is really tiresome. A person in a car should address his/her communication disability by getting out of the car, or by keeping the message to him/herself.

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          • wsbob November 13, 2011 at 6:22 pm

            Machu…Somewhere in an earlier comment to this thread, I’ve already given a specific example relating to riding on Skyline, because this road is one where I’ve experienced the very situation I described.

            To restate it, that would be one where I was riding along…long, generally straight, gully stretch…lots of viewable distance ahead…think it’s the section of road just east of Skyline Memorial. I take the middle of the lane if I’m not aware cars are behind me, pull over to the right third of the lane if the road conditions safely allow it, which it does on this section of Skyline.

            It can be a fast section for bike travel, meaning wind noise in my ears can overwhelm the sound of cars approaching from the rear (sorry, I don’t like to use bike/helmet mirrors and so far have been able to avoid using one). I’ve had cars pull up behind me on this section of the road and not be aware they were there, until I turned my head around to look for them.

            I certainly wouldn’t want to mistakenly appear to be encouraging people that drive to commonly use their horns to alert people on bikes of their car’s presence. It seems worthwhile though, to convey to people that drive, that in certain instances, if done considerately, it may be possible to alert people on bikes as to the presence of cars behind them that the people on bikes may not have become aware of, without overly startling or abusing the people riding.

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            • jbloe November 24, 2011 at 8:51 am

              Not using a mirror, especially when riding in groups or with autos, is simply dangerous. They require mirrors in cars for a reason. Cyclists require them for the same reason.

              My .02.

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  • Steve Brown November 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    I am continually impressed by a large number of the members of the cycling community who spend the time to get involved in these items that effect us all.
    From what appears to me as a meeting to discuss how the community should deal with Scott Wheeler, the cycling community seemed genuinely interested in promoting a share the road attitude for the greater Skyline Community as a the area is a great resource for many riders. It is always tough when your neighborhood becomes popular. I know these are public streets, but this is where you live. It also seemed a great opportunity for cyclists to show they are concerned about traffic and fitting into an ever growing crowded space. And I am still never amazed at how far we need to go before the greater portion of the motorist understand bikes are traffic.

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    • Kenji November 11, 2011 at 8:14 pm

      I think we all did a good job to show the neighborhood association that we cared. I had really good conversations with some of the folks afterwards. Some that didn’t bike were surprised at “how normal we looked” when we weren’t dressed in spandex. 😛

      The main takes away- whether you’re in a car or on a bike. Don’t be a jerk. There’s a lot at stake including people’s lives. Be safe. Be courteous.

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    • jbloe November 24, 2011 at 9:00 am

      This is not a ‘Skyline Issue’. This issue extends to all areas of travel. As cyclists need to be mindful of how we interact and impress the auto community. Since most of us also drive cars, we are aware of how we interact with cyclists in that role. This issue is important all the way around.

      Be the change you want to see in the world.

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  • Hugh Johnson November 11, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    Wheeler looks like an older Sam Adams with a beard.

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  • Kevin Wagoner November 11, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Cool, way to go Brianna.

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  • Kevin November 12, 2011 at 6:15 am

    “Well over 100” in attendance, indeed. I counted 147 just as the meeting started.

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  • marilyn November 12, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    How about passing a law prohibiting bikers riding 2 or more abreast? It’s extremely dangerous on narrow, curvy, rural roads, yet bikers insist on running in packs. Single File would make motorists feel less threatened and more confident to pass.

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    • Paul Johnson November 14, 2011 at 6:57 pm

      We have that. It only comes into play when there’s not enough room in the same lane to ride two abreast without obstructing overtaking traffic or taking the lane marker.

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  • esther c November 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Its very scary how certain drivers can menacing cyclists but nothing can be done to prevent him until he actually injures someone. It makes you wonder if there isn’t some sort of restraining order protecting all cyclists that could be put on him or something and if he breached it his license could be taken away.

    I mean, its really frustrating that everyone knows there is a good possibility that this could end badly but there is nothing that can be done to end the behavior until someone gets injured or killed.

    When they have informed the police that they do not agree with the law and won’t abide by it, it seems like they could be stopped before they break it.

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  • mm November 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Something I find hard to understand is why we focus on the law as much as we do. We all know what is right and wrong. We all know what we would like to have done to or for us. We don’t need to be told or have it defined in some book somewhere. Do we? I allow cars to get in front of me when driving – when I don’t have to. I allow bikes the right-of-way when I don’t have to. I give cars the right-of-way when I don’t have to when I ride my bike. Like everyone else, I want to get home safe. I want you to get home safe. The laws and rules we all live by help facilitate that – getting home safe – but they don’t define how we should do that in every case.

    I enjoy Skyline area on my bike. People like Wheeler make me nervous. He’s got an agenda and I hate to think about the consequences of him not getting what he wants.

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  • Paul Toufar November 15, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I am looking at the photos of Scott and the women I believe is his wife. From there body language and facial expressions they just look to be dark and angry people. I am pretty sure cyclist are not their issue. We are just being skapegoated for Wheelers own internal issue. Unfortunatly that is something that we can’t fix. Thanks to all the Skyline ridge people that are willing to share the road.

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  • esther c November 15, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Interesting point Paul. Might be interesting to ask them what they’re really so angry about.

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    • wsbob November 16, 2011 at 1:37 am

      He’s probably under a lot of stress of some sort. Many people are. Maybe riding around unobstructed on country roads in a big pickup truck is one of the few things that lets him get away from that stress, and he can’t help feel that people on bikes out on those roads slowing him down, puts a wrinkle in his little bit of relaxation.

      I hope he can find a better way to relax. Especially on beautiful roads like Skyline and Rock Creek, or Mountain Home Road over Chehalem Mtn, slo-o-o-w-ing down when driving is one of the more relaxing things to do…or should be, except for all the impatient under pressure drivers that stack up behind you when you try doing that.

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  • WheelTalk November 16, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I have also been in contact with the same inconsiderate jerk coming down Germantown Road a couple months ago. He forced me off the road in his truck even though I was easily going the speed limit down Germantown from Skyline. He actually had to speed up to an unsafe speed in his truck to pass me on a corner and went out of control and into the gravel shoulder. Had I not pulled over 100 feet earlier he would have crushed me. Please contact me if anyone can use my story against him.

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  • Joe McFarland November 20, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    This is an excellent presentation of the problems when bikes compete with cars. I live on Sauvie Island and bike there as well as ride up and onto Skyline. I find Skyline more frightening because of the drop off of the pavement wide of the fog line. The island road is better maintained and visibility is better for all.

    For me, biking became a lot safer when I mounted a side mirror on my helmet. I never take my eye off a car approaching from the rear. I hate surprises on a bike. I would never go out again without the ability to see what is coming and how fast they are going.

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  • rick January 2, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    Fantastic update about potential lower speed limits for NW Skyline for the future from PBOT ! Possible.

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