The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Reader story: “I hit a kid with my bike yesterday”

Posted by on August 23rd, 2012 at 1:19 pm

Shared path Waterfront Park-1

Bicycling on the paths in Waterfront Park is how many Portlanders get from point A to point B. But they’re also popular with tourists, people strolling during the lunch hour, jogging, and so on.

Southeast Portland resident Anthony Thompson is a courteous and cautious bike rider. He’s one of thousands of people who rely on the paths along the Willamette River to get them where they need to go every day. Anthony’s daily commute entails sharing the paths in Waterfront Park with a wide range of other types of users — from people walking, to all manner of human-powered vehicles.

Yesterday he experienced something that I’m sure all of us who have ridden these paths have thought about. I’ve decided to share his story in his words, because I think it highlights some very important issues (emphases are mine):

“I commute from the SE daily and ride the waterfront regularly. When I ride the waterfront I consciously keep my speed down and try and set a safe pace. I’m pretty much the slowest rider and I rarely pass another cyclist. Even so, I hit and almost ran over a little girl with my bike yesterday afternoon. I was riding along slowly, carefully avoiding pedestrians and then suddenly a little girl about 10 feet in front of me leaves her family and bolts for the seawall to look at the river.

Just before I came to a complete stop she collided with the front of my bike and fell to her knees. Her thigh was just about to go under my
chainring and crankset. Luckily she was able to jump up and run into her Dad’s arms. I threw my bike aside and rushed over to see if she
was OK. She was crying hysterically, and I felt more than horrible.

Thankfully after a couple minutes she stopped crying and other than a small bump on her forehead, and a grease imprint of my chainring on
her leg, she was OK. I apologized profusely. I think they were visiting from somewhere in Europe. What a horrible way to welcome this family to Portland.

What would of happened if I was going just a little bit faster? I kept playing through horrible alternate outcomes in my head. She could of hit her head on the ground, and suffered serious head/brain injuries. I could of gouged her eye out with my brake levers. What a miserable experience.

What I do know is that my slow rate of speed is what saved me and this little girl from something worse.”

Thank you for sharing this story Anthony.

So often, this issue is framed in a way that focuses on how people on bikes simply need to slow down and be more courteous to others. I agree that’s true; but what Anthony’s story illustrates is that even when someone on a bike is operating safely, the potential for this type of incident remains. This is yet another example of how inadequate bicycle access leads to unsafe conditions, and then the consequences of those conditions are then blamed on people who bike (sound familiar?).

The City of Portland missed a huge opportunity to create good bike access near Waterfront Park when they failed to create quality bikeway in the $10 million Naito Parkway rehab project. I have confidence if that project were designed a few years later, we would have a physically separated bikeway through the park today. Instead, people who choose to ride a bike are faced with two bad options: Ride among tourists and people strolling leisurely on the riverfront (as they should be); or ride in a 1990s-style, narrow bike lane on a high-speed, four lane auto thoroughfare. Many people choose the former because riding that close to auto traffic is very unpleasant.

The Bureau of Transportation knows these crowded paths are a big issue (a fatal collision on a popular path in Texas in 2010 added urgency). They’ve done some “Share the Path” outreach and education work and there’s an ongoing coalition of advocates and staff from PBOT and Portland Park & Recreation discussing the Waterfront path issues. (I’m trying to track down an update on that group’s work.)

I applaud the education efforts; but I am skeptical of how much impact they can have. Just like the issues on Broadway/Flint/Wheeler, education and even enforcement yield limited returns when the true culprit is poor facility design. Visitors from other countries and people who just bike to work and don’t pay attention to (or care) about City outreach efforts, will be hard to educate. We need to expand the width of these paths to handle more capacity and we need to separate people on foot from those using bicycles.

Vancouver BC does this on their waterfront:

Vancouver BC-City Ride-3.jpg

There’s more than enough room in Waterfront Park to build a new path.

Thankfully, PBOT is planning Portland’s first path that will separate walking and biking traffic on their South Waterfront Greenway Trail project. But the Waterfront is where we need help today.

Why don’t we approach this problem the same way we do when a portion of a freeway has safety and capacity issues? Safety and capacity are the key rationale for spending billions on the Columbia River Crossing, the I-5 widening at the Rose Quarter, the I-84 widening in east Portland, and so on. The Waterfront paths are non-motorized freeways. As such, they deserve the same engineering, financial, and political respect. Until they do, I’m afraid we will hear more stories like Anthony’s.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Mike August 23, 2012 at 1:27 pm

    Yes, we need more separation, seriously. Waterfront, Springwater, Sullivan’s Gulch trail. Especially for the last one, why aren’t we pushing for walking/cycling separation more before it gets too far into the design stages?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 23, 2012 at 1:30 pm

      I agree Mike. And you forgot the North Portland Greenway Trail. They are all, at least in these early design stages, too narrow and they lack separation.

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      • Arem August 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

        The Boise Greenbelt has the same issues where you get the opportunity to practice your agility skills in dodging people that may or may not be familiar with “path ettiquette” and, as I termed them after one very busy Sunday Parkways event, “kid-ballistic-missiles.” You know, riding along contentedly and a kid will very suddenly appear and dart directly into your path. Keeps the ‘ol reflexes primed!
        I remember getting a stern “watch where you are going” and “look before you go” from Dad as a kid whenever wound up in somebody’s way and gave them a scare or bumped something. Kids have to be taught to watch out for others and look where they ride/walk/run. Don’t really hear too much of that anymore…huh, weird.

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        • rain bike August 24, 2012 at 10:34 am

          “Path ettiquette” is important. I’m always on the lookout for runners who come down on the wrong side of the east-side ramp from the Hawthorne Bridge to the Esplanade. At least I THINK I’m supposed to be on the inside of that curve and switch over to the otherside only when on the bridge itself. Maybe somebody can correct me if I’m wrong, so I can stop harassing runners.

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          • lyle August 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm

            I think that, even if they aren’t breaking any hard and fast rules in terms of law, it still always is irritating and inconsiderate when they KNOW they’re on the wrong side of the bridge, and yet don’t hesitate to take up a gap and force you to slow down or dodge around… all the while looking right at you. Just another nice illustration of how self-centered people are capable of being.

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  • Janine August 23, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Just FYI, the separated paths in Vancouver are far from perfect – a good proportion of people have no idea that one side is bikes, one pedestrians, or they just ignore them. The only option on a sunny weekend day is to do the same as Anthony (go slow and anticipate unpredictable dogs and kids) or choose a different route.

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    • Jake August 23, 2012 at 1:41 pm

      Hmm, different people different experiences I suppose. This has only been a problem for me maybe once around Kits beach on the first sunny day of summer. Usually IMO people are pretty good about it. I also would argue it’s still better than one giant path.

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    • Mark August 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      Separation is great, in theory. However, it takes people on both sides to 1) know which path they should use and 2) care to use the correct path.

      I live in Seattle, and my commute takes me on the bike path along Alki beach. This path is separated (pedestians near the seawall/beach; bikes/skates nearer the road). At 7 in the morning, it’s great…no one’s on the path :-D…in the evening, the bike/skate path is crammed with pedestrians (while the footpath is near empty). Point out that it’s a bike/skate path, and where the footpath is, most will glare at your, or tell you to f–off.

      Quite honestly, I’m just happy with separate paths for motorized/non-motorized transport. If I have to share with pedestrians walking 10 abreast taking up the whole path…I’ll deal with it. At least I won’t be nearly run down by folks cruising in their rolling (crappy) speaker systems.

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      • Jacob August 23, 2012 at 6:31 pm

        I have the same commute along Alki and know exactly what you are talking about. Yesterday some people were taking a photo grouped against the water side, and when I was about 10 feet away all five of them bolted across the path to hug the cameraperson, or something. I ended up stopping just shy of them with my back wheel at about a 45 degree angle to the ground. And I have also been told to f-off by people when I politely let them know there is an empty sidewalk not three feet to their side.

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  • Nate August 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    My SO was hit by a pedestrian (yes – not the other way around) on the Esplanade last week. A group of guys was standing on the edge/middle of the path near the fire station at dusk, smoking. She had her lights on, slowed down to maneuver around them, and one whipped around and stepped right into her, basically T-boning her and knocking her off her bike. She was fairly beat up, bike was fine.

    She said it was obviously an accident and he was profusely apologetic – “I just didn’t look and didn’t see you!” But he was a big dude, and she didn’t have a chance.

    As Anthony said, these paths require us to slow down and be super careful, but even so, people do stupid stuff sometimes. I don’t know that there is a solution, even when – as Janine said – the paths are seemingly designed “right”. We can only lead the horse to water, as it were…

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    • Nikos Tzetos August 23, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      I had a pedestrian jump into the bike lane on NE Broadway to go to her ride who stopped to pick her up, in the car lane. She did not check for bikes and I ran into her, suffering a 2nd degree AC separation and having both my wheels destroyed.

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      • spare_wheel August 24, 2012 at 10:34 am

        kamikaze pedestrians are one of the reasons i never ride the broadway cycle track.

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  • Kerry August 23, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    I take Naito all summer despite the narrow lane and my conviction that drivers are screaming “use the bleeping path you bleeping BLEEEEP!”

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    • SejSEPDX August 24, 2012 at 8:28 pm

      Same here – There’s room on Naito to have 2 way bikeway along what is now the Northbound lane. No reason to stop for the lights there and it would be a way to keep peds & pedalers separate.

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  • Dan L. August 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    On the waterfront, when I see kids toddling about, as I slow, I gently use my bell to let mom & dad know I’m coming. They seem to corral their kids in an understanding and thankful way when I do this.
    Another path for bikes & skaters only, separated from the seawall path by a strip of grass would be a huge safety improvement from Salmon St. fountain to the Burnside bridge.
    How about using some of that sewer money for this? It’s one of the most visible and used areas in the entire city.

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    • Spiffy August 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      yes people, use your bell!

      I wonder if Mr. Thompson gave the required audible signal when approaching these pedestrians… (if they were traveling the same direction…)

      I always get many thanks and compliments from pedestrians when I use my bell to alert them that I’m coming up behind them…

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      • dr2chase August 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm

        I NEVER get thanks and compliments from pedestrians for using my bell. Nonetheless, I use it, more now than I used to.

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        • Brian August 24, 2012 at 9:56 am

          I get thanked about half the time. Also, I try to give at least two seconds of warning and watch that they respond (some don’t). I have a bell and I am not afraid to use it.

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        • Mike Fish August 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm

          I run along the Waterfront and over the Hawthorne Bridge a lot. Though I don’t always make a gesture, I’m always mentally very appreciative of fellow cyclists that give a shout or bell before they pass. Separate paths would go a long way to helping the issue though. Especially on the bridge.

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      • K'Tesh August 24, 2012 at 8:08 am

        When I’m on the trail, I’ll be banging my bell like a destroyer hunting for an enemy submarine. Occasionally I’ll see someone start to drift into my intended line, only to have a friend gently pull their elbow back to the group. Also, I actually do get people saying thanks

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      • rain bike August 24, 2012 at 8:15 am

        Some runners give a little wave after hearing my bell. I like that. Lets me know that they know I’m passing. Nice two-way communication.

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      • Tony Fuentes August 24, 2012 at 4:12 pm

        Definitely use your bell or your voice. I am always surprised by cyclists not doing this on share paths. I also get a lot of “thank yous” and acknowledgements of my audible warnings.

        On a related note, I would encourage cyclists to remember to provide an audible signal when passing other cyclists on paths and on street.

        I take the auto lane to pass others in the bike lane but still give a audible warning to the cyclist I’m passing. However, I have had a few times where a cyclist has passed me in the same bike lane I was riding in (btw- is that legal?) without warning. It wouldn’t take much for an accident to happen in those situations.

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  • daisy August 23, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    I avoid the Waterfront unless it’s dark and awful out, when folks are less likely to be out there. A nice day? Forget it.

    I’d rather take my chances taking the lane on 10th.

    I do ride my road bike down the Eastbank Esplanade sometimes as a fast way to the Springwater, on longer road rides, but I go much slower along the river than I do further east.

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  • spencer August 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Couldn’t agree more. The East and West banks are only suitable for riding in the winter months, otherwise, its just a pedestrian esplanade (as it was designed). The West bank needs separate and adequate bike infrastructure (~ 15 ft). In addition people need to use bells. I often ride Naito and dodge cars because I dont like to trackstand all the way down the esplanade.

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  • peejay August 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Even worse is the part of the path that connects (and I use the term loosely, because it doesn’t quite make it all the way) between South Waterfront and the Sellwood Bridge on the Westside. I take this route North every evening, and it’s hard to navigate a five foot wide (sometimes four foot wide) path that is supposed to accommodate both directions of walking and biking traffic. And, there really is no alternative, unlike Naito/Waterfront, since Macadam is completely unsuited for bikes.

    These type of facilities reveal how unseriously our transportation planners view walking and biking as actual transport.

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    • was carless August 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      No kidding. It also proves that it has only been the past 10 years that Portland has taken cycling seriously. Gotta keep the pressure up for improvements.

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    • Paul Souders August 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm

      I ride this path almost daily in the opposite direction. Its obvious unsuitability used to bug me. But after 5 years I’ve never even had a close call, unlike on the esplanade/downtown waterfront. I once heard someone say: the eastside path (Springwater) is like I-5, the westside path (Willamette Greenway) is like Hwy 101. I treat it that way (take my time and enjoy the scenery)

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  • Champs August 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Sure, a 20MPH speed limit for neighborhood greenways, but no such sense of excess speed on busy promenades “if only the right concessions were made”.

    The bad news: those concessions don’t work. To echo Janine, they’re also a problem in Minneapolis, even on its vaunted Midtown Greenway trail (but very little of its sprawling cousin, the Cedar Lake, a nominal “bicycle freeway”). Riding at speed along its lake and river paths at any decent time of day is an exercise in futility and/or being a jerk.

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  • Joe August 23, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Today I had a mom and 2 small kids in the blind spot near OMSI wrong side of the path. I slowed way down and this could have gone way bad.

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  • Travis Fulton August 23, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Maybe we could have a separate path (and bridge) for the 4-person pedal car rentals as well.

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    • jram August 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      I could rant for hours on the 4-person pedal cars, but for now i will save my breath and my blood pressure.

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    • Spiffy August 23, 2012 at 3:18 pm

      I thought about buying one but their legal status is iffy… they have more than three wheels… they’re not a bike and they’re not a car…

      of course the ORS states that if the wheels are 14″ or less is size then it’s also not a bike… so unsure what kind of ticket you could get for riding a kid’s bike on the street…

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    • Randall S. August 23, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Those things are hilarious. I love when I see people on them, all wearing helmets (for “safety”) as I jog past them at 2x the speed they’re moving.

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    • ConcordiaCyclist August 23, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      Ugh- those things are a complete menace for all.

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  • Paul Hanrahan August 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    My bell has kept me from numerous collisions. If you ride these various shared paths, it is critical to have and use one.

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    • spare_wheel August 23, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      meh. my voice is louder than you bell and its free.

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      • K'Tesh August 24, 2012 at 8:11 am

        bells don’t go (or ever get) hoarse. Best idea, use both

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  • JRB August 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    I am so sorry for Anthony and the family involved. I encourage anyone who can to use an alternate route unless and until they improve this area. I completely avoid the the west side river path because I get frustrated with the chaos of walkers, joggers and cyclists all trying to use the same inadequate space and because I a deathly afraid of being involved in an incident like Anthony unfortunately, and through no fault of his own, found himself in.

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  • Sunny August 23, 2012 at 2:16 pm


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  • Dan V August 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    +1 on bell usage (ring early, ring often). If we are building the South Waterfront Trail with a nice separation, it only makes sense that it continues when it connects to Waterfront Park (otherwise, it’s like the bike lanes that suddenly end in a row of parked cars).

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  • was carless August 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I’ve been playing “Dodge – a kid” every morning on my way to work while biking through Oaks Bottom. Every day this summer there have been school groups with preschool aged kids on field trips down there, makes for an interesting experience.

    However, they do like to cheer me on when I bike by. “Awesome bike!” comments really get you going in the morning! 😀 😀 😀

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  • lavie.lama August 23, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    During the summer months there is a festival going on pretty much consistently in the Waterfront park, and the organizers push their fences all the way to the curb of Naito, and you end up with w whole ton pedestrians walking on the street in the bike lane. I’ve had to take the lane to avoid hitting them countless times. If the space is already so cramped that pedestrians are being forced onto the road, do we actually have the space to separate modes? Maybe a cycle track in place of the current Naito bike lane?

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  • Chad Berkley August 23, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Not only are the bike lanes on Naito completely deficient in width and protection, they also double as storage areas during the many concerts and festivals that take place in Tom McCall park during the summer. During the Rose Festival, it was impossible to stay in the bike lane because they were storing those large orange traffic barrels in the there. Part of the fence was also setup in the bike lane. I called the SAFE hotline, which at this point I’m convinced is just a forgotten voicemail box in the basement of city hall, so of course, it did no good. Those bike lanes should be removed and replaced by real bike facilities. There is plenty of room and plenty of bike traffic to warrant it.

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  • Bikesalot August 23, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    When in Vancouver, BC, I observed that the cyclists VERY strongly corrected peds who were on the bike side of the path. I don’t think it typically takes very long for the message to get across up there.

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    • Sunny August 23, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      That works well on the moody cycletrack. Swear words really get people moving.

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    • anon August 23, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      I don’t have a bell on my bike, but I do call out “on your left!” with ample time to spare. I’ve gotten some dirty looks from people for “yelling” at them, but hey, better that than a brake lever up your ass.

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      • dr2chase August 23, 2012 at 7:07 pm

        A bell is better than “on your left”, by a long shot (based on my unscientific sample of trying both). Kids notice a bell. Other problem with “on your left” is that you might be tempted to generalize, and say something like “on your right”. Bad idea. People hear “On your …” and start moving right; only time I almost got in a crash with a jogger, was when I called out “on your right” (there was ice on the right, I had studded tires, I figured it was the polite thing to do since I would not slip and fall and the jogger might. Nope, bad idea, bell is better. Slowing down in the face of ambiguity doesn’t hurt, either.)

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  • Scott August 23, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Good thing they were European and understand that things like this can happen. If they were American, the scope of the legal battle would have been awesome. The company that extracted the ore for your chain would have even been sued.

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  • spare_wheel August 23, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    some of these comments have a tinge of speedism. when the pedestrians are not around and i have a clear line of sight i have no problem with spinning the big ring on a mup.

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  • Alexis August 23, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    I had a similar situation that ended in a near miss on the Hawthorne, the section where you’re approaching downtown and people are starting to merge. A little boy darted out and fortunately my speed was low enough that I was able to stop, but it was terrifying.

    Well said on education and enforcement not being effective when the facility design is poor. One E is not a substitute for the others.

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  • dwainedibbly August 23, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    I’m glad it turned out ok and that everyone is ok.

    Did the little girl have a pedestrian license? That would have prevented this.

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  • Adam August 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    I bike the waterfront path each night, and it is the most traumatic part of my bike commute by far.

    If the Naito Gap was closed (the freaky-scary section with no bikelanes under the Steel Bridge) then I could stay on Naito the whole time, but since it isn’t safe, I have to get onto the waterfront path.

    It sucks.

    I would like to see a separated bike/ped path along the waterfront. The volume of ped & bike traffic here really makes it a necessity.

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  • staborrez August 23, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I’m glad no one was hurt too bad. but…..

    No offense riders, but I’m always amazed when I ride the MUP’s (Mostly Springwater and both sides of the river) how few a times I hear a bell, horn, or vocal warning when I get passed.

    I’ve gotten so many “Thanks” from pedestrians that I pass for using my bell to warn them of my approach, that I assume that this is a fairly rare occurrence. And yes I do it to all of them I pass.

    Nice thing about a bell over the verbal warnings is that I seldom have a pedestrian do the turn and look to see what’s coming, where as verbal warnings almost always result in a glance over the shoulder often accompanied with a step or two to the left. Most simply move to the right of the path without looking when they hear the bell.

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  • Patty Freeman August 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    First, that is Portland Parks who did the study lo’ these many years ago and determined that there was really no path wide enough (waterfront park is like 18′) and that separation of modes was the way to go. Not PBOT, who don’t do off-road bike facilities.
    Second, my experience biking in Vancouver BC is those separated paths work pretty darn well.
    Third, there is no substitute for audible warnings. Why, oh why, don’t more people say “on your left”?????? This is a pet peeve, I confess. A bell is good too. Whatever you do to let people know you’re there – it makes a huge difference! Just plain courtesy so you don’t startle people, but also accidents averted. Said my piece!

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  • jim August 23, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Did she collide with the bike or did the bike run into her? It seems to me she would have been ok if this guy hadn’t been riding his bike in an area where he probably should have been walking it.

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  • Patty Freeman August 23, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Peejay, I agree with the inadequacy of the westside trail in some locations. The good/bad news is those incredibly narrow areas were built umpteen years ago when no one believed bike use could be this great or bikeways/shared routes should be this wide. In my years building trails it has been clear than any type of connectivity (bike lane, decent road, trail, etc.) creates a level of bike use unforseen 20-30 years ago. Every new bit of better connectivity (however we may critique it) increases use exponentially.

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  • ConcordiaCyclist August 23, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    I ride this five days a week for work. I undertsand going southbound on the waterfront because the south Naito path is a complete bitch with poor timing and car crossings. Frankly, it is slow and unsafe. But northbound is super fast and (outside of festival season) has few hazards until the Steel. I don’t understand those who choose to use the water front path northbound in that section. Honestly, I just can’t wait until November when the casuals and the joggers are gone from the water front.

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    • Alex Reed August 24, 2012 at 7:36 am

      Even Northbound on Naito feels uncomfortable and unsafe to me, being inches from 35-mph cars. I use the eastbank esplanade or other routes when possible in the summer but still find myself using the path from time to time because I’d rather be the 8-mph menace on the path than be menaced by 35-mph cars on the road.

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  • peter haas August 23, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Anthony’s story isn’t a sad tale, but a success. Not because a little girl didn’t get hurt but rather because she wasn’t hurt seriously. Anthony was riding under control, his speed was appropriate for the conditions. He was alert and aware. Kids do crazy stuff…bad things can happen. No amount of infrastructure will prevent it. Riding safe, under control and managing the risks doesn’t mean bad things wont happen it just stacks the deck so the outcomes are usually better. I think Anthony’s story is a case in point.

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  • Joe August 24, 2012 at 8:56 am

    How about the segways. LOL

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  • Ted August 24, 2012 at 9:38 am

    I started riding 2nd avenue (Hawthorne bridge to Pine) into work for exactly this reason and it is totally wonderful. The lights are perfectcly timed for a comfortable roll, so I never feel that I’m fighting with traffic. I use the center lane. Obviously I would be for good separation on the waterfront or Naito.

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  • James August 24, 2012 at 10:40 am

    Unaware pedestrians are an every day occurrence in France. If you don’t make your presence known via bell or voice, pedestrians pay no attention. You, as a cyclist are responsible for any collision.

    You learn quickly to expect anyone to suddenly dart out in front of you with no warning and without looking. They only notice sound, like from an approaching car. The only defense is to make your presence known. Works wonders, parents call to their kids and those who are not wearing headphones or talking on the phone, respond by turning in your direction. A really loud shout works when all else fails.

    Seems to be a universal issue. Pedestrians have no regard for the danger of approaching cyclists.

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  • Terry D August 24, 2012 at 11:25 am

    The need for more separation on the waterfront is a symptom of a larger problem….we keep building for the bike traffic we have, not for what we WILL have. Without more separation or alternative routes accidents with pedestrians will happen more and more.

    Not that you can blame the planners of the west waterfront since it was done in the 70’s, but look at the Eastside Esplanade planned in the late 90’s. The lower deck of the Steel bridge was such a wonder when it opened and everyone was thrilled. At the time I thought…boy it narrows here where the lift span is, it will become a problem some day…..Now it it a total bottle neck a decade later. We need consistent north-south routes to pull commuting traffic away from the waterfront.

    The separate paths for the South Waterfront will be nice when it is done but it does not go very far with only stage one being planned right now. Once it is finished and a complete circle is built….west waterfront path to the Sellwood, then back north over the Light Rail bridge and back again…when that circle is finished there is going to be a LOT more bike traffic. The estimates around the Sellwood are from 100’s per day to several 1000 as soon as it opens. Then everyone will be complaining about access to the west, hence why I am so frustrated that I can not get an answer out of the city as to whether ROW has been preserved to build a future ramp from the Gibb’s street overpass to the future waterfront path. We need to build for future bike capacity.

    This is also why I like the Greenways so much. Once the network is built, if you need more capacity for bikes all you have to do is remove a row of residential parking and poof…you have another 8 feet of space. This is a very cheap way to get future capacity, whereas in a MUP extra capacity costs a ton. They are nice for casual rides and families, but not for commuting. We need alternative routes for that.

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  • Ed August 24, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    The separated bike/ped path on SW Moody is a great example of a shared space.

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  • guest August 24, 2012 at 8:09 pm

    I walk to and from work on the waterfront and bridges, and bikers who ride at safe speeds or with the least bit of consideration for pedestrians are rare exceptions, not the norm.
    There is a bike lane on Naito barely 50 yards away, but bike commuters prefer the park because there is no speed limit, there is no traffic law enforcement by police, and there are no traffic light.
    The author’s whining that he/she is forced to use a pedestrian right of way for safety betrays the huge selfishness at the heart of most bike riders. Given the choice, they will without hesitation trade a pedestrian’s safety for their own convenience in a heartbeat.
    I walk on the grass as much as I can because that is the only remotely safe place to walk on the waterfront. And I walk on the left because I want to see you jerks coming. I’m tired of bikes whizzing past me with no warning and their handlebars a few inches from my elbos at 20 mph.
    and now we come to winter dark rush hours when bikers turn their blinding headlights into our eyes so we can see nothing else (again, trading others’ safety for their own convenience), and then get upset if we are not moving out of their way fast enough.
    But don’t let me ruin the mutual reach around party you all are having on here for saving the planet with your precious pedals.

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    • Over and Doubt August 26, 2012 at 1:01 am

      You’re guessing rather badly about why bike commuters prefer the park. For instance, do you really think a mere mortal bike *commuter* can break the 40 mph speed limit on Naito, which is pretty well flat (not downhill)?

      (Even your mention of 20 mph is a bit overstated. It happens, but on level ground it’s too ambitious to be sustained by most.)

      A more likely reason, at least for a good share of bike commuters: The northbound bike lane on Naito doesn’t begin until *after* the Hawthorne Bridge.

      Um, as for headlights, you would prefer night riders with no lights?

      I somehow get the vague impression that you might also scorn the piercing shriek of a bell or the willful menace of a voiced “on your left.”

      Which leaves us just with spacing, which I agree is everything. On the waterfront path and on the Hawthorne Bridge, I’m careful to pass only when I can give the widest possible berth. That’s way better than assuming an audible warning gives license to squeeze by closely, putting three or four humans abreast. To the extent possible, I’m looking waaaay down the path to adjust my speed and set up my passes—looking out for your safety and mine. But I know many others are not.

      Good for you, though, adopting a consistent position (on the left). So many people on foot are wholly unpredictable and functionally deaf due to earbuds or bluetooth, making my caution far less effective.

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    • jim August 26, 2012 at 9:35 am

      I agree with you that there are a lot of inconsiderate riders that assess their risk combined with my risk incorrectly. I don’t like bikes buzzing me, they don’t know when I might reach my arm out to stretch, change my direction. This is a park, children are moving about, they do not move in straight lines. When bikes are in these situations they should dismount and walk their bike. There should be more enforcement of laws on cyclists breaking such laws as the basic rule. If they get too many citations, let them walk.

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  • Craig Harlow August 27, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Wherever space is shared for people on bikes and on foot, unpredictability reigns supreme.

    A woman on a bike crashed and was hurt when she nearly creamed my 4-year-old son on the waterfront path. This was a few years ago when we were picnicking under the cherry blossoms near the Japanese American Historical Plaza near Couch.

    My son darted out onto the path after a ball or something, and the woman was going too fast to stop safely. She hit the brakes hard on her mountain bike and she went airborne somersaulting over my son and landed on the pavement on her shoulder. She was really banged up. She was riding a mountain bike and wearing a helmet, gloves, etc. She apologized a lot, and we apologized a lot.

    I don’t blame her and I don’t blame myself or my son. I blame the design of the shared path (too narrow, modes not separated) and the inadequacy of the Naito bike lanes, which encourages people to bike on the shared waterfront path. People riding there are often in a hurry, riding at commute speed or athletic-workout speed. I ride there too, but nervously and at a speed that allows me to stop within 5 feet, i.e. under 10 mph.

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  • Bjorn August 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

    I just rode the waterfront and around stanley park in Vancouver this weekend. The path is much better when it is separated as shown but some parts of the trail are narrower and mixed and it does create a very crowded place. All of the trails were too narrow for the demand though. When we build our bikeway I hope that it will be wide enough to allow side by side riding in both directions, Vancouver’s is not and it would be much more enjoyable to ride if you could talk to someone you were riding with.

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  • Alan August 27, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Separation is helpful, but needs to be backed up with some form of enforcement.

    I live in NYC, and the West Side Bike Path up Manhattan Island often has separate tracks between cyclists/bladers & pedestrians. That doesn’t stop tons of pedestrians, whether oblivious or asinine, and especially runners, from clogging up the lanes, even with a lovely walkway a few feet away. I guess I need to swear more at idiots more, and more loudly.

    And then there’s the Brooklyn Bridge, a 12 foot wide pathway split by a line of paint between cyclists and literally all of the oblivious pedestrians in the world.

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  • mizzlwe August 28, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Why not get off the trail when yiou have a bike lane along Naito? So many bikers on the waterfront path but nobody using the bike lanes…. hmm.

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  • Brrr August 30, 2012 at 1:59 am

    I long ago stopped giving any audible clue to my intention to over-take, and I did so out of self-preservation. I’ve had too many instances where my ringing bell followed by a loud “passing on your left” was met with the pedestrian suddenly leaping to their left, right in front of me.

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  • dk September 6, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    If my experience with divided paths in SF and Chicago are any indication, a separate bike path just creates more room for peds, rollerbladers and skateboarders that don’t want to deal with the tourists.

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  • jen September 7, 2012 at 7:05 am

    I read this article and the comments directly after reading “A vision for bike access on Hawthorne Blvd”
    And find the commentary from motor vehicle drivers regarding bike riders eerily similar to the comments of transportation based bike riders regarding pedestrians, children, and leisure bicyclists.

    It’s nice to be able to look at things from one another’s point of view sometimes.

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