Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Blogging TriMet bus driver gives bike riders good report card

Posted by on August 16th, 2012 at 12:04 pm

Portland City Tour ride -16

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

TriMet bus operator Dan Christensen is blogging again, and he’s just published his “Portland cyclist report card”. The good grades Christensen gives people on bikes (see them below) is quite a shift from last time we heard from him.

Dan’s name might be familiar to some readers as the driver who started a petition against allowing bicycle access through the Rose Quarter Transit Center because he was concerned his and other drivers’ views on the matter hadn’t been heard by TriMet. Then, in July 2010, Christensen got into hot water with TriMet for his infamous “Kill This Bicyclist!” blog post. The agency put him on leave after that episode.

Now he’s blogging again and he emailed me his latest — “A report card for cycling that I have seen over the last three years.” Here’s how the grades came in:

“Your actions speak louder than any advertisement campaign, or any spokesperson blowing hard in the media. So riders who are doing it right, you are winning the battle with your good actions… I’m proud of all you and I think that’s good enough grades to go up on the refrigerator.”
— Dan Christensen, TriMet bus operator

Lights: A- up from C-

“the fact is more lights equals more lives saved. Thank you cyclist.”

Sticking Up: B+ from D

“Sticking up is not robbing people, it means Cyclist telling Cyclist what the hell they are doing wrong… policing their own.”

Path Abuse: C from a C

“I’m talking about three cyclist out for a ride on a busy street all side by side, swerving in and out of a bike lane. I’m talking about making traffic swerve way out of there way just so you can talk to one another during rush hour. Giving a grade here is not as easy as it seems. There is more of this Path Abuse going on but there are way more cyclist today so it’s hard to know if this issue is becoming more frequent overall. I’ll give it a C, so it needs improvement but it’s passing for now.”

Helmets: A+ Up From B+

Courtesy Downtown B+ up from C+

“Three years ago getting a bus in and out of bike lane was difficult and dangerous. It was as if there was a competition, as if the bus was the man and every cyclist wanted to stick it to the man… There is far more caution by cyclist around big rigs in the crowded streets and this makes me smile every time.”

Hand Signals D+ up from F

“I see a trend starting… Like bike lights I feel this is going to burst into use in the next three years.”

While bike riders did well, and are improving on all the subjects above, Christensen did give downgrades in two subjects:

Speed Differential: C down from C+

“Yes there are times you can go faster than traffic on a bike and sometimes on a downhill slope you can go much much faster than the traffic. The danger is this, by increasing your speed you lengthen your travel time when something goes wrong… remember you are not Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China, reflexes will not save you if physics refuses to make an exception for your actions.”

Signal Adherence: C+ Down From B-

“Stop signs, lights and other traffic control signals should not be treated as cyclist optional… I know what it’s like, when I bike home at 2 AM it’s hard to fight myself into stopping and doing the right thing.”

Christensen also announced that he’ll throw a $1,000 pizza party for “all cyclists in Portland” if he counts 15 different people using hand signals in a one month time period. Let’s hold him to it! And invite other bus operators!

Check out his full blog post. It should be noted that Dan is a great guy, and his candor in dealing with the very important subject of bus/bike safety is an asset to Portland. Oh, and he’s super funny too!

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  • PorterStout August 16, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    “Cyclist telling Cyclist what the hell they are doing wrong… policing their own.”

    That goes over just about as big as Driver telling Driver what the hell they are doing wrong, and probably about as effective. Not disagreeing with his observations but let’s be realistic!

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    • Steve B August 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm

      Absolutely agreed. Educating “on the roll” tends to scare people, make them defensive and often leads to a lot of misunderstanding.

      Until we can improve our educational outreach, the best way to educate your fellow riders is to lead by example.

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    • Pete August 16, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      You beat me to it, my-two-favorite-beers-guy. The PYO argument is BS. I don’t even know how to get in touch with any of you to tell you what you’re doing wrong. Yet somehow you’re all “my own”. Aww, big group hug, my family!

      I’m a big fan of hand signals (and rider predictability in general) but apparently I can’t just ride in front of Dan 15 days in a row. Bummer.

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    • chucklehead August 16, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      But let’s be sure to yell at the drivers, because that goes over so much better.

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    • Alex Reed August 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm

      I talk to other cyclists who misbehave at times. My favorite is to catch up with them at a future light and explain fully. But if someone blows through a red light at full speed while other people on bikes are patiently waiting, I go ahead and yell, “Red Light!” Do y’all think this is polite/effective/pointlessly raises my and others’ blood pressure?

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      • Spiffy August 16, 2012 at 2:23 pm

        I think that “red light” isn’t the best way to bring it up since they likely saw that it’s red and their attitude will be “yeah, I saw it, dumbass”… instead I would yell “careful” because that’s really why you wanted them to stop in the first place… maybe you’ll still get an “I am being careful, dumbass” response but you’ll seem less offensive and you’ll get people to slow down and look around…

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        • Alex Reed August 16, 2012 at 7:59 pm

          Good idea, Spiffy. Amazingly, “red light” was the most polite thing I could thing of 🙂 I’m going to give “Careful!” a try now.

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      • Jack August 16, 2012 at 3:27 pm

        It may not be well received, but if a frequent red-light-runner were to here it 3 or 4 times in a single trip, they might start to recognize that there is significant disapproval.

        Strong enough social pressure can sometimes compensate where law enforcement falls short.

        I don’t think it’s about “policing our own”. It’s about road-users policing road-users. People in cars are just a whole lot harder to catch up with and they can always roll their windows up. Head in the sand scenario.

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      • El Biciclero August 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm

        I think “Red Light” is just stating the obvious; they probably saw it was red before proceeding through it. If you want to get their attention without caring about being offensive, yell something like “Dead man rolling!” or “It’s your funeral!”.

        Otherwise, nothing–or something nicer like Spiffy’s suggestion of “Careful!” But expect to get berated or begestured in any case…

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      • SilkySlim August 16, 2012 at 3:50 pm

        I have policed others. My tactic is not to berate their actions, but explain how it affects me. Duh, they know they running a red light, they know it is a little dangerous, they know it is against the law – but they might not have made the jump to conclude that the car that saw them do it may offer an inch less passing room the next cyclist they see. Nobody wants to screw over other bike riders!

        So I say (not yell) as I roll up to them later, “hey, I commute on this route twice a day, and a big part of it being safe is knowing that cars are going to respect and give me enough space because they think I am just a normal dude.”

        I haven’t gotten any “F U!” retorts yet, and for the most part, pretty understanding responses.

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        • Alex Reed September 13, 2012 at 10:28 am

          I just copied your tactic for the first time, and I think it might have made an impression! Thanks for the idea & wisdom 🙂

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          • SilkySlim September 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm


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    • A.K. August 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      Yeah, last time I yelled at someone who thought the red light at Powell and Milwaulkie was optional, I was called a “fucking faggot”. He didn’t even get that far either – I quickly caught up and passed him once the light changed. I usually mind my own business, but I was waiting at the light, taking the lane as I should have been and it just cheesed me off to see someone else on a bike blow the red like it was a green.

      I think the police your own mentality is silly. The opposite advise is usually given in every other circumstance – “See something wrong/illegal? Don’t confront the person – they could be dangerous, call the police!!” is a pretty common message that I’m paraphrasing here.

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      • Alex Reed August 16, 2012 at 2:19 pm

        I have to say, I think people on bikes not yielding to pedestrians trying to cross the road are probably not going to pull a knife on me if I call them on it. I think they’re just acting rude and thoughtless at that moment, and I figure I may be able to get through to them and get them to at least think about acting differently if I talk to them politely at a future stop light. What do y’all think?

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        • A.K. August 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm

          You are correct – the likelihood of someone on a bike having a weapon on their person is much lower than someone in a car, not to mention the car itself being a potential weapon.

          However I’m of the mindset that people who show wonton disregard for others ALREADY know they are being rude, and probably won’t care to have it pointed out to them. But maybe I’m just jaded!

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          • A.K. August 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm

            WONTON. Really. Jeeze. Wanton. I’m going back to work now…

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            • Spiffy August 16, 2012 at 2:40 pm

              screw work, now I’m going to get Chinese food!

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            • Pete August 16, 2012 at 9:47 pm


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      • ric August 16, 2012 at 9:47 pm

        I love it when I catch up to someone who ran a red light I was waiting at. I thought you were in a hurry. Isn’t that why you ran the light.
        On my way to work today I was stopped at Broadway and Couch where they have flaggers controlling the traffic and as she flipped her sign from STOP to SLOW she said “Thanks for waiting.” The fact that she actually said that to me gave me the impression that a lot of cyclists weren’t stopping.

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        • lyle August 16, 2012 at 11:16 pm

          That’s one of the highlights of my cycling in the last year. Was going up Interstate from the RQ north. I passed a dude on a (it must be said) fixie… I proceed to get stopped at EVERY red light from the RQ to the hill leading up to the hospital, and he blows by me as I’m standing at every red light in turn. I catch him, he blows the next red light I’m at, and on and on, etc.

          We finally get to the hill, I blow by him again, I look back, and he’s actually keeping up with me now, with his front wheel literally ahead of my rear wheel and about six inches to the side at the most. I see this, scream at him to let him now how stupid it is to do this without letting the person in front of you know you’re there, he says, ‘Alright dude, I got you’, and I ditch him because now I’m rolling into a streak of green lights the rest of the way.

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    • JRB August 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      My thinking on the whole roadway etiquette thing keeps evolving. My observation is that there are very few people who are 100% compliant with the law when they are driving, biking, or walking. The degree to which the rest of us are willing to bend or break the rules is based on our individual judgment as to the risk of harming ourselves or others, and other adverse consequences, e.g. an expensive traffic fine. This leads to a wide spectrum of behavior on the roads.

      Because we are Portlanders, and self-righteous tends to be our middle names, we feel 100% secure in our judgment as to when it is okay to break the rules, but are quick to take umbrage when somebody else crosses a line that we wouldn’t. Case in point, I’m an Idaho stopper when it comes to stop signs, but my blood pressure always rises when I see somebody go through a red light, even when I can see there is no cross traffic in sight.

      I used to be one of those people who say things to other people whose riding habits aren’t consistent with my own. I eventually stopped because I could see that it was only escalating tensions. Now I am trying to take another step forward and keep my mental mouth shut as well when I see that even though somebody is doing something I wouldn’t, they aren’t creating an unsafe situation or trampling on someone else’s rights. To do otherwise just seem too hyprocritical, plus its hard to enjoy my ride to the fullest when I am grumbling inside.

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      • Spiffy August 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm

        I wish I could give you more than one thumbs-up!

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      • Alex Reed August 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm

        Uh a lot of the people breaking traffic rules *are* creating unsafe situations or at least being rude to other people. To wit – not yielding to pedestrians creates the danger of hitting a pedestrian. Not respecting other vehicles’ rights of way at four-way stops increases the danger of a collision. Running red lights increases the danger of a collision. (in my book, Idaho stopping increases the danger of a collision, but that’s so widespread that I don’t even care anymore). These are unsafe situations. Why should I stand by and say nothing while some people put themselves and others in danger, in addition to decreasing goodwill for people on bikes?

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  • Sarah August 16, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Overall, not too bad. $1000 pizza party for raising my left hand? I think I can handle that.

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  • Jeff August 16, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    I dunno, I’m still seeing a lot of piss poor behavior out there…

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  • Indy August 16, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Interesting. I use hand signals frequently, (and in the car I’m a nazi about it,) while I have been laxing on the stopping fully at stop signs more and more. I used to get so upset at other bikers that did this, now I guess I’m just as guilty.

    Helmets are not A+, by any means. How can he begin to state that helmet use is near perfection?

    Also I rarely see other bikers with lights, I think this could be much better. I’d give this the lowest grade.

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    • 9watts August 16, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      why does he care if we wear helmets? Should we care if he or others in automobiles wear them?

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      • Indy August 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

        Probably because if you kill someone [even accidentally/without fault] it impacts the lives of the person comitting manslaughter incredibly.

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        • Spiffy August 16, 2012 at 2:44 pm

          so you’re saying YES we should care if bus and auto drivers are wearing a helmet…

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        • Chris I August 16, 2012 at 2:47 pm

          But no one is going to get charged with manslaughter if “the cyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet”. Do you think we live in The Netherlands or something?

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          • Randall S. August 18, 2012 at 12:14 pm

            Let’s be honest: no one is going to get charged with manslaughter regardless of whether the person they mowed down was wearing a helmet or not.

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    • spare_wheel August 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      “I used to get so upset at other bikers that did this, now I guess I’m just as guilty”

      it often takes years of cycling behaviour modification to overcome safety-nanny syndrome.

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  • encephalopath August 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Hooray for confirmation bias.

    Dan my be a great guy, but his grading of other people’s actions based on his “observations” is utterly useless.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      I disagree.

      Dan has been around the block a few times and has seen a lot from his seat driving a bus over the years. He’s willing to share his observations and I think he’s a genuinely good guy and his observations have merit. And they’re just that — his observations.

      I respect that he’s expressing this stuff so publicly. He’s a potential bridge into the hearts/minds of TriMet bus drivers and he’s coming forward, getting engaged in a very public way. I see a lot of value in that.

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      • encephalopath August 16, 2012 at 1:25 pm

        I see 15 hand signals from cyclists every day. If he struggles to see 15 in a month then he is an unreliable observer. Full stop.

        Everything else he says should be evaluated by the same measure because what he says he sees has very little connection to reality.

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        • tonyt
          tonyt August 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm

          I fully agree. He is seriously missing something.

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    • Chris I August 16, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      I want to see a detailed methodology.

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  • q`Tzal August 16, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    … reflexes will not save you if physics refuses to make an exception for your actions.”

    Gravity does not apply if I don’t look down.

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  • Matt August 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    To be blunt…who cares what this guy thinks? He might be getting better but he’s got an awful track history. And who does he think he is to grade cyclists?!? Are you kidding me? Does this piss anyone else off or is it just me? I’ve seen horrible, dangerous driving by bus drivers on a fairly routine basis. Speeding. Running red lights. You name it. I’ve emailed Tri-Met and they basically say, “Get the bus number and let us know when you see it again” aka we’re not going to do anything about it.

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    • Dan Christensen August 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      Matt I hear what you are saying and to be sure Bus Drivers do have a lot to answer for when driving, there is no doubt about that. I’m not holding up bus drivers as some Iconic scale of excellence. So you are 100% right about that.
      I’m just calling them as I see them. I have seen great improvements in cycling and Powered Vehicles interacting. It’s not perfect but I just wanted to point out what I observe in the long hours I spend behind the wheel.
      As far as who is listening to me, well counting my family just about no one, but it is still fun and perhaps productive to discuss these issues don’t you think?
      I’m very proud of our city, our transport system, our cyclist. I have great hopes for the future.

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      • Matt August 16, 2012 at 3:55 pm

        I think grading people is extremely condescending.

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        • Alan 1.0 August 16, 2012 at 7:57 pm

          I’d grade your post “thumbs up,” but…

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    • resopmok August 16, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      Even where the pavement is smooth and level, try signaling a left turn while going 2mph waiting for oncoming traffic to clear without losing your balance. I can almost 1-handed track stand now, but this isn’t a skill most people possess.

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  • Dan August 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    What is the grade for people signaling while driving a car?

    On a side note, it is MUCH easier & effective to signal while in a car. There are sections of road in Portland I won’t ride one-handed.

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    • A.K. August 16, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Yeah I try and be good about signalling but sometimes it seems dangerous to remove a hand from the bars. For example, the right turn from 11th onto Clinton st right after the double-set of RR tracks. You have the tracks, a street in bad condition, a turn onto a skinny side street, and the turn itself often has gravel on it.

      Sorry cars following me, I don’t signal there.

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      • Dan Christensen August 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm

        Signals are not always safe to make to be sure and the law says that I believe. Still if the roads are so unsafe that almost no one signals… I question that a little. I would just like to see more, I’m not a cop, I’m not looking down my nose at anyone. I try to signal more when I ride and guess what, I don’t always do it. I just wanted to raise awareness.

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        • A.K. August 16, 2012 at 2:21 pm

          I think you present a fair assessment regarding hand signals. I think mostly people get lazy and think it has no consequence – I know sometimes get lazy and sloppy about it as well. Complacent would probably be an accurate term.

          I get annoyed when drivers don’t signal since it’s literally a 1-inch finger movement to do so – when riding we could at least have the same courtesy to strive and signal movements, and I believe that being predictable in your movements (which includes signaling) is one of the keys to safe urban riding.

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          • A.K. August 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm

            Ugh, poor typing. That should say “I know *I* sometimes get lazy and sloppy about it as well.”

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  • Rol August 16, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    I think I’ve heard more than enough from this guy for my lifetime.

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    • Dan Christensen August 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Sorry If I have offended you.

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  • davemess August 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Pertaining to “Path Abuse”. What are the laws for riding 2 or 3 abreast in Oregon? I found this from 814:430, which seems completely subjective (“normal and reasonable”).

    (e) When operating a bicycle alongside not more than one other bicycle as long as the bicycles are both being operated within a single lane and in a manner that does not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

    Clearly Dan does not find ANY two abreast riding normal and reasonable.

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    • Dan Christensen August 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      That is not true, I was trying to be brief. I have no issue with cyclist riding next to one another in general its a matter of when and where that seems to be in question. Just like driving slow or fast there are places and times for where you have to modify what you are doing to the conditions. Most cyclist I see are very aware of that. I am not taking offense to your observation but your deduction as to what I believe is not correct. Thank you

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      • davemess August 17, 2012 at 7:08 am

        My apologies, perhaps next time you’ll want to change the header to something other than “Lane Abuse”. Just sounds too negative from the get go. Maybe “People riding three abreast”. When I hear “lane abuse”, all I can think about it two people riding side by side on a 4 lane road, and a car going nuts because they have to get over to the left lane to pass, which is what they should be doing anyway.

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    • Spiffy August 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      well his article did mention “three cyclist out for a ride on a busy street all side by side”… he didn’t mention having issues with riding two abreast…

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      • Dan August 16, 2012 at 4:37 pm

        I have an issue with cyclists riding two abreast up the Hwy 26 bike bath when there are cyclists coming downhill towards them. Downhill cyclists in this area can reach speeds of 25-30 mph here, and cyclists coming uphill two abreast are taking up more than half of the path’s width. These combined factors create a dangerous situation. I’m not talking about kids or casual riders here (who I’m more than willing to slow down for), I’m talking about experienced riders in full team kit just being rude about sharing the path.

        I make space to let you bomb downhill towards me in the morning, sure wish you’d do me the courtesy on my way home in the evening.

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  • Adron August 16, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Hell, I’d pitch in on the $1000 pizza party. I’m not a driver of anything, but I cycle all the time and would LOVE to see more hand signals. I see far to many “almost incidents”. I signal like my life depends on it (I was also one of those wierdo motorists that used to signal like crazy too), which sometimes it does.

    But here here, to the improvement in ratings! …and cheers to Dan, he is indeed and awesome dude! 🙂

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    • Dan Christensen August 16, 2012 at 2:04 pm

      Don’t think I won’t remember this offer.

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  • David August 16, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    [I posted this on Dan’s site too]

    I like the “sticking up” grade. I commute from NE over the Broadway Bridge into downtown everyday (by bike). Since cyclists tend to bunch up going down Vancouver and toward the bridge, I’ve noticed more disdain from the majority of cyclists when they see one get tired of waiting for a light and running a red.

    A couple weeks ago one guy pushed his way to the front and tried to do a ridiculous track stand for awhile (on a normal road bike) and eventually just road through the red. A few of us in the pack who were stopped at the light (probably about 9 of us) just started laughing at him, and one yelled, “Where is he going??”

    And today same situation, but on Broadway on the west side heading into the hotel district–cyclist passes a bunch of us on the right through empty parking spaces to blow through a red. One of the guys actually yelled at him this time, a really sarcastic “WOOOOO!” as he ran the light.

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    • Jennifer August 16, 2012 at 8:03 pm

      I like it too. As much as cyclists don’t want to hear about bad riding habits, they are much less hostile to it coming from other cyclists than from drivers.

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  • John Lascurettes August 16, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Hand Signals D+ up from F

    I hope he doesn’t count those wimpy little arm twitches I see most cyclists make as attempts at showing their intentions for a turn. Even as another cyclist behind them, I’m thinking “what the hell was that? was that actually a signal?” half the time.

    P.S.: personal preference (and totally legal and defined as such in the ORS), I prefer to use my right hand to signal straight out for a right turn (instead of the upright “L” with the left hand) as it’s much clearer in intention and visibility. It’s that usual left-handed right-turn signal that is so half hearted. Still, the way some riders signal a left turn too could also be construed as a stop signal.

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    • Spiffy August 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm

      I also prefer using my right hand for right turns… plus I do an over-arching movement that starts at my neck/shoulders so the movement really draws people’s attention…

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    • OnTheRoad August 16, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      I much prefer right arm for right turn. The cocked left arm looks like you’re waving hi to someone.

      The right-angle left arm for a right signal is a vestige of when cars didn’t have signals and drivers couldn’t stick their arm out the right side to signal a right turn.

      That said, there are some instances where I will use the cocked left arm if I think it will be more noticeable to a nearby driver.

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      • John Lascurettes August 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm

        Exactly. It’s all about communicating intention in the clearest way possible.

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        • OnTheRoad August 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm

          At least people on bikes don’t have their signals going without knowing it!

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          • John Lascurettes August 16, 2012 at 4:40 pm

            That guy you thought was a bike nazi really just left his signal on.

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      • Paul August 16, 2012 at 5:59 pm

        Yep. The turning right signal with the left arm bent was for drivers before autos had built-in turn signals. It doesn’t really make much sense while riding a bike, and I too think people are waving sometimes. In Denmark this signal means you’re stopping.

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  • Bjorn August 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    This is the same guy who didn’t think Sandi Day should be held responsible for running over 5 people in a crosswalk while making an illegal left turn right? Something about how she was short and there was a blind spot?

    Police your own indeed!

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  • El Biciclero August 16, 2012 at 2:22 pm


    I signal left turns with gusto and military precision in arm placement and alignment. I stopped signaling right turns a few years ago. I used to have frequent close calls due to drivers pinching me while attempting to pass me during a right turn, or [oncoming drivers] turning left into me because they assumed I’d be hugging the curb of my destination street. In my experience, signaling right turns invited more close calls than it prevented. My only exception is if I know there is another cyclist behind me–to avoid being passed on the right as I slow down for the turn…

    Well, and on the rare occasion, I’ll signal for a driver waiting to turn from my destination street to let them know that I am not intending to cross their path (knowing that they are not able to cross mine, either)

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  • Spiffy August 16, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    Helmets: odd, I’ve started wearing mine less and less… so I guess that means that about two other people have started wearing theirs more…

    Hand Signals: we’re not required to use them if our hands are needed to control the bike… and usually when stopping you need both hands on the brakes… of course you have no excuse if you roll the stop…

    Speed Differential: I’m not going to slow down to a crawl simply because motorists and pedestrians are negligent… if they can’t tell if they have enough time then they should wait…

    Signal Adherence: unexpectedly? I see the same level of non-compliance across all modes: pedestrians, bikes, buses, and cars… expect it…

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    • tonyt
      tonyt August 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      Please clarify the “they should wait.” Pedestrians have the right of way at all crosswalks (provided they have the walk sign if it’s a controlled intersection). If you’re up to speed on Oregon law this means any public intersection, not just where there are stripes on the road.

      Are you saying that pedestrians should not exercise their right to cross the road because you might have to slow down?

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      • John Lascurettes August 16, 2012 at 9:33 pm

        He said “if they are negligent”. It is not legal for a pedestrian to “jump out” in front of a vehicle in the road (which has a green or otherwise uninterrupted path such as uncontrolled intersection or mid-block crosswalk) if it means there is not enough time for them to reasonably stop or to do so in a safe manner. That is the law.

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        • tonyt
          tonyt August 17, 2012 at 4:29 pm

          John, I appreciate your input, but I was asking Spiffy what he MEANT. I know what he wrote. I’ve had more than a few animated conversations with motorists who insist that if they have to hit their brakes, then I’m the negligent one. They can be 150 ft away when I enter the road and have plenty of time to casually brake, but they do not, drive straight at me, and then berate ME for having the temerity to cross the street. In their mind, I am the negligent one if they are in the least bit inconvenienced.

          If having the right of way at intersections means that I have to wait til there are no cars or bikes, then the right of way is meaningless.

          This comment “if they can’t tell if they have enough time then they should wait” is what I was addressing. What is “enough time?” It is different to each person and I was asking Spiffy what he meant.

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    • wsbob August 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm

      “…Hand Signals: we’re not required to use them if our hands are needed to control the bike… and usually when stopping you need both hands on the brakes…” Spiffy

      I believe the law does say people on bikes don’t need to signal if they need their hands to control the bike. That’s a realistic and reasonable exception to the requirement to hand signal indication to turn and stop while riding. It’s possible though to do quite a good job of hand signaling, consistently for all but abrupt or panic stops, and on rough road surfaces where two hands on the bars are required for control.

      Beginning the signal significantly in advance, is part of the trick to good, safe signaling. Feathering the brake the free hand is operating, to slow down gradually, rather than jamming on them, is the second part. Both hands on the brakes are often only needed in the last 10-15 before the stop/turn. Still, sometimes it’s necessary to just have both hands on the bars and brakes; if the situation calls for doing that, by all means do so.

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  • Joe August 16, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I think using hand signals while riding causes some drivers to just speed up.

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    • John Lascurettes August 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      Same as signaling a lane change on a freeway often does. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

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  • Fred Lifton August 16, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I try not to be a safety nanny (I rode like a banshee in my youth so it would be kind of hypocritical), but lately I’ve been experimenting with booing loudly when someone blatantly runs a red in front of a whole group of stopped cyclists. My hope is that some of the others stopped with me will join in.

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    • JRB August 16, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      Even though I am trying to be more tolerant, I don’t think I’ll ever be tolerant of shoaling. I also am seeing more communal shaming of dangerous scofflaws in the form of derisive laughter etc rather than angry epithets. I think a group of fellow cyclists erupting into laughter is far more likely to be effective than a single cyclist yelling “Asshole” at another cyclist who blows a light and cuts somebody off.

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  • Joe August 16, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Hello Fred have you ever rode behind someone that jams on the brakes or
    shoots around at stop lights, prolly yes, I think what happens is some ppl ride bike like thier in a bubble.. aka car. I make my choices based on the
    time and place, but hear ya loud and clear. 🙂

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  • Travis August 16, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Daily, I count a minimum of 3 – 4 deadly traffic accidents involving motor vehicles. TriMet drivers, at no-fault of cyclist or car drivers, have caused more high-damage accidents than cyclist. Are cyclist perfect? No. Should we care what Dan Christensen says? Yes. But only to note the degree to which our community wants to find (dis)approval of bikes on the road. When will be through justifying and excusing (all things considered) the sanest form of commuting in Portland proper? I believe, as a community, once we accept the notion that biking makes sense and is not a renegade endeavor, we can start to isolate problem cyclist in commentary like we do hot-dogging Subaru drivers, drunk drivers, and Nook reading bus drivers. ‘Cause seriously, if anyone cared to rate TriMet drivers based on non-scientific observations, who would take it seriously? The general perception is we trust TriMet to not squash us. Some how, Dan believes, despite the perceived odds, that bike riders must prove themselves and it is only at the expense of motor vehicle drivers that more cyclist aren’t injured. Everyday, cyclist as a whole are probably the the safest people on wheels –nonscientific.

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  • jd August 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I like the generally positive tone of his post, and it’s good to hear that he thinks more cyclists are acknowledging that a bus full of 1-50 non-driving alternative transit allies might have a right to merge back into traffic at some point.

    For most of the observations, though, a report card like this would be more welcome from another cyclist, and I hope Mr. Christensen sometimes joins us down on two wheels, to see that perspective. In safe areas like Ladd’s Addition, I see plenty of signaling. In scarier areas, with damaged roads and buses merging, you want both hands on the handlebar, so you exercise your legal right to opt out of signaling, for safety reasons. I’m sure he would do the same.

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    • 9watts August 16, 2012 at 10:11 pm

      well said!

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    • C August 17, 2012 at 10:40 am

      He states in the blog post that he is also a cyclist.

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  • GlowBoy August 17, 2012 at 11:11 am

    I can’t say I’ve seen ANY wholesale changes in the behavior of my fellow riders over the last couple of years.

    A lot of cyclists wear helmets, and a lot of them don’t. I don’t know how we get an “A+” when every third or fourth rider in the inner eastside thinks they’re too cool for a brain bucket. Not that it should matter: IMO that’s their business, and doesn’t endanger other people on the road in the slightest. Chastising others for not wearing helmets is the height of Portlandia-style buttinsky self-righteousness. A lot of Portlanders are earnestly trying to do the right thing all the time, which can be great. But too often it leads to berating someone else for failing to follow YOUR personal code of conduct, and this disease is getting to be one of the few real drags about living in Portland.

    A fair number of cyclists still run stop signs, but most don’t if there are other users approaching the intersection. Most cyclists do not run red lights, but a few do. A pretty fair number of cyclists use their signals, and I don’t know how it can be hard to spot 15 cyclists who signal. The law says you should signal only if it is “safe and practicable” and I think that’s pretty clear.

    Most cyclists obey most of the OTHER traffic laws, but some don’t. Of course the ones who don’t are the ones who are noticeable, and that leads to availability bias, and the widespread (and faulty) perception that cyclists are all total scofflaws.

    I’m wondering if Dan Christensen is seeing “improvement” because he’s less subject to availability (and confirmation) bias: either because he’s making a more conscious effort to pay attention and also notice the law-abiding cyclists, or maybe because he’s riding his bike more and seeing the other side of things. Because, really, I’m not seeing that much of a difference out there on the streets.

    As for PYO, are you effing kidding me? I stopped scolding other riders for running red lights years ago, when I realized that it inevitably leads to defensiveness, anger and confrontation (at least among the perpetrators who didn’t appear to be mentally ill or challenged, which turned out to be a significant percentage). I could see that if I kept doing it, it would eventually lead to a physical confrontation. One that I would lose. If you big, tall, beefy guys want to keep doing that, fine. I’ve got less brawn than brains, so I’ll keep the focus on my own behavior, TYVM.

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  • spare_wheel August 17, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    i call out motorists all the time. when someone speeds i always chase them down and tell them that they could have killed a puppy or a toddler.


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    • Alex Reed August 20, 2012 at 1:56 pm

      Personally, I do the “I’m putting down my imaginary phone, you should put down your real one” gesture pretty frequently to motorists.

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  • TriMetBusDriver August 21, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    This is refreshing to see. As a TriMet Bus Operator, I’m often shocked (and somewhat offended [being a bicyclist myself]) by the vitriol I hear spewed by fellow drivers regarding bicyclists.

    A few months ago, on the way back to the garage, a driver behind me saw a bicyclist illegally cross a very busy street right in front of my bus. When we got back to the garage, the other driver said we should put big stickers on the back of all the buses that have pictures of bikes with a circle/cross through them. I said, “No! We should not!”

    That incident with the bicyclist is the only such incident I can recall in the last 6+ months. And that’s with driving a bus at least 5 days a week. With motorists, I have close calls and see them do incredibly dangerous and stupid things on MULTIPLE occasions EVERY SINGLE DAY.

    I like to ask the anti-bike drivers, “How many people were killed this year by bicyclists? How many were killed by cars? How many people were killed or seriously injured by drunk bicyclists? How many by drunk drivers?” It’s amazing how many of my fellow drivers (and just drivers in general) have become so acclimated to the horrors caused by automobiles that all the deaths and injuries they cause don’t seem to phase them at all… but then one bicyclist cuts them off and it’s all about the “war on cars” and the annoying bicyclists that shouldn’t be allowed on OUR streets. They fail to see that bicycling is the SOLUTION, not the problem.

    Finally, I just want to mention that, although many drivers are courteous to me when I’m driving my bus (such as yielding when I’m pull out from a stop [which is required by state law, but ignored by many]), I generally notice far more courteous bicyclists than automobile drivers. A good example is on the 14-Hawthorne, which I drive every weekday morning during rush hour. At SE Madison & Grand, just before the Hawthorne Bridge, there is a bike box, with a bus stop directly behind it. Almost every morning, I stop at that stop on a red light (leaving the bike box clear, of course). And every morning, without fail, once the bike box is full of bikes, the bikes still in the bike lane to my left stop and wait for me to merge across the bike lane and back into traffic. It’s a little dance we do together every morning, and it ensures the safety of everyone involved. It’s one of those things that I sometimes take for granted that would be very unlikely to happen in any other city.

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