Special gravel coverage

Portland Streetcar Inc. releases “When I Ride” safety video

Posted by on September 20th, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Still from “When I Ride” video.
– Watch it below-

With the big grand opening of the new eastside/central city loop extension of the streetcar being this weekend, Portland Streetcar Inc. (PSI) has just unveiled a new safety video.

The video features (and is narrated by) Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) Advocacy Director Gerik Kranksy; but it doesn’t just focus on bicycling. Titled, “When I Ride,” the video is made for all road users, from skateboarders to walkers and even drivers.

Here’s more from a statement released by PSI:

“The video was a collaboration of transportation and safety advocates who wanted to tell Portlanders how to not only navigate around rail tracks safely, but to also become more aware of their surroundings as they navigate the city by foot, in a car, on bike and using transit….You’ll see many situations on city streets presented in an easy-to-understand way and learn what we think is the safest way to get around.”

And here’s what the BTA says about it:

“The Bicycle Transportation Alliance has been working with Portland Streetcar Inc. to help raise awareness about how to ride bikes safely when sharing the road with streetcar. We were happy to partner with them to produce the following video discussing safe riding, driving, and interaction with streetcar rails.

Much of the discussion in Portland on streetcar tracks and bikes centers around crashes and challenges. We need to find a way to coexist safely. Part of our ongoing efforts include education and outreach like this video, but as a city we must also commit to building and maintaining a network of bike routes that prioritizes bike access and safety. The examples of safety concerns on the Broadway Bridge and NE 7th serve as a reminder that while we must deal with choke points we should also be investing in additional bike facilities that reduce the conflicts.”

One of the highlights for me was the unveiling of the new phrase “Portland Pivot” to describe the two-stage left turns that are recommended instead of veering left over streetcar tracks. I think that has a better ring to it than “Copenhagen Left”. Overall, this is a very well-done and high-quality piece of work.

Check it out below…

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  • Spencer Boomhower September 20, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Bob Richardson shot and directed the video, and I think he did a great job with it. I helped out with the animation. Note that the animation still you chose is from the “what not to do” section of the video. 🙂

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    • Owen Walz September 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Nice work Spencer. I think the cel shading works really well.

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      • Spencer Boomhower September 21, 2012 at 11:05 pm

        Thanks very much, Owen! I was trying to keep it simple, and resist the urge to over-complicate; the toon shading helped.

        Not to return a compliment with a compliment, but I followed the link in your name to your site, and really like a lot of the work there. The bike bag info cards, and Free Geek shirt in particular. Really fun and vivid graphical styles.

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  • Kiel Johnson
    Kiel Johnson September 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    Gerik has a natural narrator voice. I hope he comes out with a audio book of Jeff Mapes’ Pedaling Revolution.

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  • Bob Richardson September 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    What really makes this work are Spencer’s excellent 3D animations. I’m also thankful that those backing this project allowed us to have a bit of fun with the video, including a 3D reenactment of the infamous streetcar track / bicycle caution signs. 🙂 Thanks also to Gerik who, I understand, hasn’t done on-camera hosting and narration work like this before. He’s a natural!

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  • Randy September 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    I would just like to say that “Portland Pivot” is horrible, nothing like stopping in the bike lane and turning your bike at the bottom of a hill to cause everyone behind you to run right into you or swerve to avoid you.

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    • Chris I September 20, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      You shouldn’t position yourself in the “through” portion of the bikeway when you make this maneuver. Move over to the right as you travel through the intersection. You then cross the bike lane when the light changes. None of the marked boxes are placed in the “through” portion of the bike lane.

      FYI, this maneuver is also called the “Copenhagen Left”.

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    • Spencer Boomhower September 20, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      In the video the maneuver takes place at the terminus of a bike lane. You can see clearly here at about minute 1:26 of the video:


      …where just beyond the bike box there are parked cars. So in that case, anyone on a bike continuing on straight would have to swerve left anyway, because if they didn’t they’d run into the tailgate of the red pickup truck parked just beyond the box. You can see that in this screen capture as well:


      Perhaps a failing of the animation was that in the interest of keeping it simple and clean I didn’t bother with parked cars in that spot, making it look like there was a wide-open bike lane just beyond the box:


      And I suppose that might also suggest a real-world concern, that if the parking lane were to be devoid of cars, it might look like a bike lane to people coming down the hill. But the box has been there for a while, andif this was likely to happen, it would be happening. Not saying it’s not, I just haven’t heard either way.

      It probably helps that there’s that fairly obvious left-turn arrow in the box.

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    • gl. September 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm

      if you use that pivot like the video suggests, then yes, you’re absolutely blocking everyone else in the bike lane! i use crosswalks for this purpose so it gets me out of the way.

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      • Chris I September 20, 2012 at 9:58 pm

        Again, this is a unique situation, and probably wasn’t the best example. You will block absolutely no one if you do this maneuver as the video shows, but only at the intersection of Lovejoy and 9th. At any other intersection, you would want to shift to the right before you turn.

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        • Spencer Boomhower September 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm

          Yes, exactly. This particular example is one in which the bike box is in the path of the bike lane, but it’s at the end of that path, so conflict with through traffic shouldn’t be an issue.

          If the bike lane was to continue past the bike box, then yes absolutely you’d need to have the bike box be out of the way of the bike lane. As is the case with the bike box turning left from the Broadway cycletrack; that bike box is a little to the left of the bicycle travel lane:


          But at NW 9th and Lovejoy, westbound bicycle through traffic is directed to the right, north on 9th, and left on Marshall to continue west. Which isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but it’s the reason bicycle through traffic isn’t expected to plow into people doing the “Portland Pivot” maneuver as described in the video. The only people expected to cross 9th to the bike box are people turning left.

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  • Bob Richardson September 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    ‘FYI, this maneuver is also called the “Copenhagen Left”.’

    “Copenhagen Left” has been used to refer to a variety of two-stage left turns. However, in my experience I’ve seen it used most often (“often” being relative, of course) to refer to the type of maneuver where you turn RIGHT onto the side street, then swing around to the opposite direction.

    However, these bike boxes, also found on streets like SW Broadway, facilitate left turns without the swing – a quick pivot is all that is required. Given that most people haven’t yet heard of “Copenhagen Left” and because there’s some confusion as to just what that entails, it was helpful to suggest an alternative term for this specific treatment. Portland is known as a great bike city (and aspires to be even greater), so it seemed natural to name the pivot maneuver after our fair city.

    This also leaves “Copenhagen Left” as a term which can be used in the future to describe the right-then-swing maneuver, which may still be more appropriate (once legislative barriers are removed, IMHO) for a variety of circumstances.

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    • jim September 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm

      I would agree, a lot of people do not want to be associated with Copenhagen or the “Left”. A Portland name would be more suitable.

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      • HAL9000 September 21, 2012 at 11:46 am

        That may be why they called it the “Portland Pivot” in the video. You should actually watch it before commenting.

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        • Seth Alford September 22, 2012 at 6:01 pm

          The other term I’ve heard for this is a “box left.”

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  • sift September 20, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Needing to wait for up to two lights to go through one intersection is pretty inefficient. With more streetcar tracks, longer transit times will just make cycling less attractive, and more annoying. Will the option of simply making a left turn continue to diminish?

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    • Chris I September 20, 2012 at 10:00 pm

      You can still make a left turn at this intersection, but you have to wait for the left turn light anyway. If you have a green going straight, it is actually faster to do the pivot maneuver, because the left turn green light doesn’t come until after the cross traffic has gone.

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      • are September 21, 2012 at 1:12 am

        there is not a left turn arrow at the bottom of the lovejoy ramp. you are simply waiting for oncoming traffic to clear.

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        • HAL9000 September 21, 2012 at 11:47 am

          Have fun turning left across 2 sets of parallel streetcar tracks! Are you TRYING to wipe out or something…?

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          • sift September 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm

            That is precisely my point. As more streetcar tracks are put up, left turns which were easily made before the tracks are discouraged in lieu of time-consuming alternatives like the “Portland Pivot.”

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            • seager September 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm

              Are they recommending that people in cars also make a portland pivot? If not, we can see the inherent inequality that tracks bring to the game. Light rail is bad for bikes and inhibits our ability to use regular roads.

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            • Bob Richardson September 21, 2012 at 5:08 pm

              Point taken… However I will add that the Portland Pivot is also useful in many circumstances where there are no tracks around. Turning boxes like these will assist wherever true cycle tracks are on one side of a multi-lane street. A few (limited, not a full cycle track) examples of this configuration can be found on SW Broadway by PSU, and at least two are shown in the video.

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              • Seth Alford September 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm

                You are making seager’s point for him. Bike boxes are most definitely a two edged sword. It makes it easier to turn left, but only in situations where the road has been re-made to be hostile to making a vehicular left turn, such as with the streetcar tracks or segregated infrastructure like a cycle track.

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              • Bob Richardson September 23, 2012 at 1:08 am

                Do I read you correctly that you view installing cycle tracks as creating a hostile environment for cyclists?

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    • Nick Falbo September 21, 2012 at 8:06 am

      I do a two-stage turn often when turning from SE 7th southbound onto eastbound Hawthorne, usually just because I’m too lazy to bother with a vehicular left turn. Sometimes the congestion at the intersection is bad enough that the two-stage turn is faster than it would have been to be stuck behind cars at the light.

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  • The Cowbell rides a folder September 20, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Can we get one of those bright, animated “turning vehicles yield to bike lane” signs from the end of the video I stalled on the east bound 99e crossover of the Hawthorne bridge please. Seeing as that was the site of my worst introduction to the hood of a car I am all for more aggressive signage.

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  • The Cowbell rides a folder September 20, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    The Cowbell rides a folder
    …end of the video I stalled on the east bound…
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    “installed”. Not “I stalled”, though once the ford focus removed me from my seat and placed me on the pavement it still would be an accurate statement

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  • dwainedibbly September 20, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    I generally like the video, but it would be better if it contained some advice for people driving automobiles on how to stay safe around bicyclists, pedestrians, etc. Perhaps the next video can be “When I Drive”?

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    • Spiffy September 20, 2012 at 6:58 pm

      I doubt that will be the focus of any videos coming from a company called Portland Streetcar Inc…

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    • Bob Richardson September 21, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      I would have liked to include even more “When I drive” examples… The ones already in the video relate primarily to new situations and new infrastructure. The original concept was a video that was 3-5 minutes in length, so that viewers would not tire of watching and therefore miss out on the message. As completed, it’s already at 6 minutes. You could cover more issues in that time frame, but the coverage would be so brief that the message wouldn’t have time to sink in

      If I thought people could stand an even longer video (you could really do an hour program on all the issues out there on our roads), high on my list would be the topics of avoiding “dooring” when parking in proximity to cyclists and very high would be avoiding “right hook” collisions.

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  • Spiffy September 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    it’s unfortunate that this video won’t be seen by the people that really need it…

    I guess they could play it at the DMV like they do with the bike box video…

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  • Kris September 20, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    I generally prefer crossing streetcar tracks to resorting to a Copenhagen left (you’ll never get me to call it a Portland Pivot…). I’ve never gotten stuck in tracks, and there are enough lights to stop at in this city without having to stop at some of them twice.

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  • Peter O. September 20, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    I just avoid the streetcar tracks whenever I can. Its not the flangeway thats gotten me, its the wet track. That sucker gets slick when wet.

    “Portland Pivot” is cute. Same maneuver done whenever I can’t safely get into the left turn lane due to traffic anyway.

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    • JRB September 21, 2012 at 8:34 am

      Agreed. I bit it because of a wet rail last winter when I was trying to avoid making a two step left when the northside Broadway MUP was closed due to streetcar work.

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  • Jack September 21, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Seems like PBOT and Portland Streetcar should at least be apologizing to everyone for the danger they’re introducing for people who ride bikes. The video sure makes it obvious that they’re well aware of how dangerous they’ve made the streets.

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    • Chris I September 21, 2012 at 8:41 am

      PBOT has slowly paved over countless miles of old streetcar and freight rail tracks around the city, particularly in NW and the Pearl over the past few decades. I remember riding over tracks a lot as a kid (in the 1990s). Perhaps AAA and the major auto manufacturers should also be appologizing for creating vehicles that are so large and dangerous for other road users?

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      • Jack September 21, 2012 at 9:21 am

        Yes, they should.

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  • peejay September 21, 2012 at 8:11 am

    As someone else mentioned here recently, if Portland Streetcar built in some feature on the streets of this city that caused cars to crash unless the drivers took extra care and completely changed their habits, well, let’s just say there would be no streetcars in Portland.

    But it’s ok for people who ride bikes to be put in danger, and anyway we should quit our whining, why are cyclists such hypocrites when it comes to public transit, etc.

    All part of the idea that if any group has to compromise for the sake of change, it will never be the users of automobiles.

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    • JRB September 21, 2012 at 8:36 am

      Peejay, I am curious. Do you think there are ways to make the streetcar infrastructure less of a hazard to cyclists?

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      • Mike September 21, 2012 at 9:13 am

        More importantly – is there a way to do it so that the cost isn’t so high that 1 – they are not built or 2 – the cost of riding them is still manageable?

        The alternative to street cars is more automobiles or more buses.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 21, 2012 at 9:28 am

          Huh? Why is the alternative to building streetcar more cars?

          What if we planned for, and built, bikeways with the same degree of rigor and relative financing? Imagine if we had dedicated bike corridors along major roads. It would transform Portland in a way that streetcar is simply unable to do and it could be done at a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately it’s hard to see this type of vision because we don’t have one single demonstration anywhere in Portland of what a fully connected and separated bikeway can be. This is what I hoped we would do on N. Williams, but alas, that project was compromised from the beginning and now it’s not even sure when/if we’ll ever see it built.

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          • HAL9000 September 21, 2012 at 11:50 am

            Well, we could build uber-expensive subway lines! Or elevated light rail, like they do in Vancouver BC. That actually might not be a bad option… but, as they say, the horse is already out of the barn…

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            • Alan 1.0 September 21, 2012 at 12:23 pm

              Or trac-less (comment awaiting moderation…). And the horses being out of the barn should at least be acknowledged by TPTB (generic). The first one, Pearl/Downtown, could maybe be written off to being a bit too early to take advantage of emerging technology, and of what was then a pre-nascent bike scene, and to some great cheerleading of it as a retro-tech solution. But by the time the Eastside Loop was up for consideration, all the flaws were obvious and there were viable alternatives (but not highly or well promoted). That second phase was an opportunity to minimize investment in the problematic rail part of the system while still building streetcar function and permanence into development areas, but that time TPTB were willfully blind to the severe problems they’d created, and to alternatives. So, is that how it will be decided for subsequent extensions in the years to come? Or will someone actually look at the pros and cons, costs and benefits, of a streetcar system that is in most ways equivalent to a rail system but simply lacks the rails?

              Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to rip out the new lines now, but what about after a decade or two of amortization? What about new additions? Or does the lost opportunity cost (not to mention injuries!) just keep piling up forever, getting bigger each time a new streetcar track segment is added?

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        • Alan 1.0 September 21, 2012 at 9:32 am

          Sure, trackless trolleys, even cool, high-tech ones with driverless navigation. The problem (apparently) was, at the time tracks were chosen, someone didn’t have the foresight and imagination to do it. Now Portland’s stuck with the sunk costs of the existing lines including the cost of lack of mode flexibility.

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        • Seth Alford September 22, 2012 at 6:12 pm

          I’d rather deal with the additional buses and cars than the streetcar tracks.

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      • Alex Reed September 21, 2012 at 9:14 am

        Well personally, I think installing attractive and safe bike infrastructure on the same streets as the streetcar (ex. buffered bike lane or cycle track) that only intersects the tracks minimally and at safe angles would be a great thing. Most people on bikes would use the bike infrastructure and therefore not be in much danger from the streetcar tracks.

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  • Steve Hoyt-McBeth September 21, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Great job Portland Streetcar with this video and what a hunky narrator Gerik makes!

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  • Rol September 21, 2012 at 9:57 am

    “The Portland Pivot” sounds like a Voodoo Doughnut. Little did I know, I’ve been doing it for years, in situations where something (usually heavy car traffic) prevents me from making a straightforward left turn. It’s a lesser-of-two-evils kind of thing. “Beats crashin’!” Bravo?

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  • John Landolfe September 21, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Great work. Between orientations, the web, and the tram, we could get this product in front of a few thousand commuters (this won’t show up as YouTube hits so you’ll just have to take my word for it ;-).

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    • Bob Richardson September 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      The monitors at the Tram landing are an excellent idea. Can you suggest a contact there?

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  • HAL9000 September 21, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Argh!!! At 1:34, it is 95% of the way to the famous Dutch-style bicycle intersections: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA

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  • HAL9000 September 21, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Ok, I actually spent the time watching the video. And I must say, I thought it was a very well done, unflinchingly-good piece giving excellent advice on how to better share our roads and deal with streetcar tracks.

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  • Jim Lee September 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    BTA = PSI

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  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson September 21, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Someone should pitch the idea of an LID on the Williams/Vancouver couplet from the Rose Quarter to Killingsworth to fund a first class cycle track. PCC, New Seasons, Emanuel and the Rose Garden just might do it.
    It would be a great demonstration project to show the positive impact of bike riders on how our city can continue to build. There is a good case to be made and a project ready to go. Its how Streetcar got started in the 90’s.

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  • Seth Alford September 22, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I think that I fall between what the BTA terms “Strong & Fearless” and “Enthused and Confident”. I term myself a Reform Vehicular Cyclist in that I like a lot of what Forrester has to say, but I’ll take a plain old bike lane, please. You can keep the cycle tracks and MUPs.

    With this video, once again, the BTA disappoints me. Once again, I’m glad I let my membership lapse. And I’m not renewing any time soon.

    I would be OK if they produced a video which started with the narrator saying, “OK, you and I don’t like street car tracks. Tracks running parallel to the direction of travel represent an unacceptable hazard for bicyclists. We here at the BTA are actively working to keep any more tracks from being built. As the opportunity arises, we will lobby to have the tracks removed and the streetcars replaced by trolley buses. Street cars are an expensive boondoggle that wastes money which would otherwise be available for bicycle infrastructure. Having said all that, here’s a video that shows how you can cope with the obnoxious tracks.”

    Instead, the BTA attaches their name to a video which apologizes for anti-bicycling infrastructure.

    The BTA used to have the phrase on their web page, “Opening minds and roads to bicycling.” In my humble opinion, street car tracks close roads to bicycling. Or at least the lanes which contain the tracks.

    Maybe it’s time for an alternative bicycle advocacy organization that actually advocates for transportational cycling, that actually yells bloody murder when unfriendly-to-bicycles infrastructure like street cars gets planned or built? Maybe call it “Bicycles Are Traffic?” “Vehicular Cycling Association?” “Vehicular Cyclists who think Bike Lanes are OK Association?”

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    • Steve B. September 25, 2012 at 12:57 pm

      Instead of tearing out the tracks and the streetcar, we could retrofit the lines to have high-quality, separated cycling facilities running alongside.

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  • Ted Buehler September 24, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    So, uh, what’s the deal with encouraging drivers to drive off-center in their lane? crowding the bike lane? WTF?

    It’s only a 10′ lane, there’s not a whole lot of wiggle room in any case.

    & if they’re going to be encouraged to straddle the tracks, I’d much rather have them crowding the other cars rather than crowding bikes.

    I looked through the Oregon Driver Manual, but didn’t find anything that instructed drivers where in the lane to position their cars.

    Does anyone else have a resource on this?

    Ted Buehler

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  • Ted Buehler September 24, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    Also, did anyone vet the “Portland Pivot” naming process? The bicycle world needs a good unified name for that movement, that can be applied in all cities in all circumstances.

    Other names have been:

    * “two stage left”

    * “Copenhagen left”

    By adding a third name to a single turning procedure, they’re really complicating the issue.

    If they would have just stuck with one of the existing names and normalized it, then we could have ODOT/MUTCD-approved signs in advance of the left turn “turn boxes” that would say:
    “[Bicycle picture] TWO-STAGE LEFT AT WILLIAMS
    “[Bicycle picture] COPENHAGEN LEFT AT WILLIAMS

    With the “Portland Pivot” we’re getting further from getting a needed bit of signage institutionalized.

    Ted Buehler

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