Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

People on Bikes: North Vancouver Avenue

Posted by on May 2nd, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Welcome to the latest installment of People on Bikes.

This morning I rolled over to North Vancouver Avenue to take a closer look at who’s riding. My location was just north of Shaver and a few blocks south of the Going Street neighborhood greenway. The bikeway on this section of Vancouver is pretty nice; even though from an engineering standpoint it’s decidedly low-tech. The bike lane here is just a standard white stripe. No green paint. No protection of any kind. However, because PBOT made it extra-wide — at some spots it’s a comfortable 6 1/2 feet — it feels much nicer than other bike lanes in town. The Vancouver bike lane is also very popular (the most popular according to a 2007 PBOT survey) and feels relatively comfortable because it’s downhill and the speed differential between people on bikes and people in cars is minimal.

The crowd I saw out there this morning (scroll down to see them!) looked relaxed and stress-free as they basked in the warm, early-morning sunshine. Another observation was how young the average rider was. Almost everyone that came in front of my lens (about 100 people or so in 20 minutes give or take) was between 25 and 40ish. It also occurred to me that the racial demographic of the adjacent neighborhoods wasn’t reflected in the people riding. That’s noteworthy because Vancouver (and its sister street Williams Ave) runs through an area with many African-American residents. (The auto traffic, on the other hand, was much more representative of the local racial demographic.)

But the biggest takeaway from my observations this morning were all the people wearing headphones. I don’t recall ever noticing such a preponderance of audio equipment being used while riding. (For what it’s worth, I sometimes wear earbuds, but only on the non-traffic side so I can hear everything going on around me. I also don’t blast music and I only listen to talking news shows and podcasts that usually get drowned out if there’s any traffic around.)

So without further ado…

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-66-47

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-65-46

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-64-45

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-63-44

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-62-43

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-61-42

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-60-41

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-59-40

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-58-39

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-57-38

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-56-37

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-55-36

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-54-35

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-53-34

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-52-33

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-51-32

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-20-1

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-49-30

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-48-29

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-47-28

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-46-27

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-45-26

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-44-25

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-43-24

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-42-23

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-41-22

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-40-21

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-39-20

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-38-19

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-37-18

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-36-17

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-35-16


People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-34-15

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-33-14

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-32-13

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-31-12

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-30-11

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-29-10

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-28-9

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-27-8

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-26-7

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-25-6

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-24-5

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-23-4

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-22-3

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-21-2

People on Bikes N Vancouver Ave-50-31

For more People on Bikes (and fun commentary from readers in the comments), check out the archives.

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  • L May 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    “Without further ado.” “Adieu” means good bye in French

    *Oops. Thanks L. Fixed it. — Jonathan

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  • Matt May 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm


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  • John May 2, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I love seeing who is out riding, I work on Williams a block over and it is amazing in the evening how backed up the bike lane gets! I have also noticed many more cargo bikes than in the past few years on Williams. (I still have a hard time with these posts not looking out for my stolen bike from a few years ago, even knowing that it is probably in seattle or CA somewhere at this point.)

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  • fool May 2, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    Myself, Mykle H, and Steph N! Love that my bikeways are full of my friends =)

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  • Chris I May 2, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Love seeing the family on the Big Dummy. I just picked one up and I absolutely love it. Such a great machine.

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    • Matt May 2, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      Doesn’t it always seem to be women? Where are the guys towing tots all over the place? Or is it just me not seeing them?

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      • kj May 3, 2013 at 11:08 am

        I see em all the time! There are several on no po that I see regularly on m AM commute. IN addition to random bike-dad sightings elsewhere.They are out there.

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  • Danny May 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Wearing earbuds on the street seems to me to expose riders to additional danger. When I’m mixing it up with two ton hunks of metal, I want to have every warning sense that I have at my disposal. And lots of people don’t seem to like helmets, either. Again, seems like a big risk to take when wearing a helmet is so easy.

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    • spare_wheel May 2, 2013 at 1:57 pm

      “expose riders to additional danger.”

      “Again, seems like a big risk.”

      i hope some day we can move beyond this blame the victim mentality. cycling in portland is quite safe and it could be made far safer if motorists took their responsibilities more seriously (as they do in the netherlands).

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      • dan May 2, 2013 at 2:13 pm

        Yeah, I really don’t care what safety procedures other riders choose to follow – personal freedom, right? However, I would have limited sympathy for anyone who actually gets in a wreck because they couldn’t hear something, or falls and hits their head sans helmet.

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        • Dweendaddy May 2, 2013 at 2:55 pm

          Biking without a helmet and fall: limited sympathy.
          Walking without a helmet and get hit: I’m sure there would be full sympathy.
          Driving without a helmet and crack your head: I’m sure there would be full sympathy.

          Why no love for the bikers? On bikeportland or all places!

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          • dan May 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm

            When you’re in a car, the car is your helmet. I would have the same limited sympathy for someone ejected from a car in a crash because they didn’t wear a seatbelt. As far as walkers, you got me there. I guess given the low speeds when walking, I’m less concerned about potential injuries than I am while biking. Anyway, feel free to have limited sympathy for me if I fall down and hit my head while walking unhelmeted. 😉

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            • spare_wheel May 2, 2013 at 5:47 pm

              the only speed that matters is the one on the cage dashboard dial.

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        • John Lascurettes May 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm

          Except, even with earbuds, I can still hear my tire on the road and the clicks and creaks of my bike. I can hear my surroundings better than a driver with the windows rolled up and the radio OFF (and how many drivers drive with the radio off?). I can hear cars coming up behind me.

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          • dan May 2, 2013 at 4:10 pm

            Note that I didn’t say “biking with earbuds,” I said “couldn’t hear” — I used that language specifically because I understand there’s a difference between “I’m cranking up the volume in my earbuds until I can’t hear what’s going on around me” and “I’m listening to music at a low volume and can still hear traffic.”

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      • balance sheeyit May 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm

        @sparewheel-“blame the victim mentality?” I laughed out loud at that one. The last time I destroyed a bike helmet, there were no motorists in sight, although there was a wet streetcar track. The helmet before that was sacrificed to a tree. A member of our family crashed his bike on the sidewalk in front of his house sans helmet and left his widow to pay for months of expensive ICU, hospitalization and nursing home care. Point being, cars don’t need to enter the picture. If blaming the victim mentality somehow equates to taking responsibility for oneself, I’m all for it.

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    • gutterbunny May 2, 2013 at 5:28 pm

      Don’t even think for a second that some of us don’t wear helmets because it’s a “personal choice” thing. Some of us don’t wear them because they are ineffective, even when worn properly. They are designed as fashion accessories. Few ever pass Consumer Reports yearly tests. Read the instructions for your helmet there are always disclaimers, and it’s well know that they are useless once you get moving at about 10 mph.

      For nearly 100 years no one ever wore helmets. I grew up riding without helmets, lights, reflective gear at night/early morning (I was a paperboy in Detroit MI- definitely not bike friendly-hit three times) daily for years. Never even thought about get one once when growing up. Likewise my bike and Tri-met were my sole transportation options in the early mid 90’s and never thought to wear helmet then either. And I still haven’t ever seen the need for one.

      Helmets simply don’t work and don’t prevent injuries. Lets not forget the dozen or so people (usually kids on playground equipment) a year who inadvertently hang themselves with them as well. Funny how they never make the stats on helmet safety, wonder if they count in bike accident totals?

      The stats that are touted for improved “safety”with helmets don’t mention that all the studies were conducted where mandatory helmet laws were taken place. They are quick to point out that there were less injuries when these laws took effect (usually 84% is quoted, but if you look at the study numbers it’s only a few less fatalities/injuries), however they never mention that ridership decreases by roughly 1/3 ridership. 1/3 less riders with only a couple less injuries/fatalities actually increases the chances that you will suffer an accident.

      This is why many of us that don’t wear helmets don’t, because more riders means more safety, not more protection. The more you actually read the research on both sides the more clear it becomes that helmets are a non factor in all but very minor accidents.

      And lately there is even some anecdotal evidence that riders with helmets are less cautious, drivers give them less room, and in some situations they might even make some injuries more severe.

      As is stands now bicycling is BY FAR the safest mode of personal transportation period, safer per million miles than even walking (per DOT stats).

      Where a helmet – or don’t, I don’t care. Just don’t call out people that choose not to, I don’t make fun of you for wearing one. And my I feel sympathy for all riders that get hit regardless of what they wear.

      If you really want a piece of safety equipment wear a motorcycle helmet, but even those have been failing badly lately as well as seen on the front page of the Oregonian this last Sunday I believe.

      Can’t say I totally disagree with ear buds though. I don’t wear them. But I’m not going to condemn someone who does.

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      • Mike Fish May 2, 2013 at 10:43 pm

        I dunno, I’ve smashed two helmets and I definitely feel my head would have been worse for wear without them…

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      • anon May 3, 2013 at 7:48 am

        Um. Helmets are clearly not “fashion accessories.” In fact, the decision to NOT wear a helmet is generally about looks. You just keep rationalizing your decision to prioritize vanity over safety.

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      • PorterStout May 3, 2013 at 12:40 pm

        Let’s go from the general to the specific. I have a friend that got hit by a car that turned into her at an intersection just one week ago. She flew off the bike and landed on her (helmeted) head in the street. An ambulance took her to the hospital; she was banged up but okay and went home. I don’t care if this helmet wouldn’t have passed the Consumer Reports test, if she hadn’t been wearing it she’d probably still be in the hospital or maybe worse. Stuff happens that’s hard to prevent, but there are things we can choose to do to try to minimize the consequences. Don’t wear one for whatever reason you want, but don’t try convincing the rest of us they don’t work. You’re wrong. I still have the friend to prove it.

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        • gutterbunny May 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm

          Incidental evidence is the equivalent of standing in the middle of a Kansas wheat field and declaring the world is flat because it looks flat.

          Truth is that neither you, nor I can say if that helmet had any effect on the extent of her injuries. And neither can anyone else, including the “safety” industry.

          You can take it or leave it, but every single study that proclaims that bike helmets work have been proven as flawed at best. Most are just plain misleading especially those from within the industry. Funny that few question these bike industry people shouting that the sky is falling should you ride without a helmet, but many of those same people will go into fits over Monsanto and the FDA studies on GM foods, or adding fluoride to the water etc……

          But you don’t have to take my word for it just read:


          (note: none of these sites are for profit – and their primary purpose is to make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.)

          At the very least before you condemn anyone for making a choice you should at least understand what you are talking about. And anyone that goes out of their way to make a point of safety and bike helmets isn’t speaking from a place of any kind of knowledge of the subject, or they’re just dishonest.

          My goal is safer streets for riders and pedestrians, which means more than anything else we need more riders and pedestrians. And if wearing a helmet makes you “feel” safer than by all means wear one when you ride. Just don’t be all condescending to those of us that decide not to.

          But don’t think that what seems like such a small decision as to wear a helmet doesn’t have potential implications, because wearing helmets does imply that the activity of cycling is dangerous to those around you, and that does impact ridership levels. Especially in the demographics that matter for increasing ridership levels (younger adults, women, and teenagers).

          And it’s not a matter of “vanity” for me. I personally don’t appreciate a business (from manufacturers to shops) or industry that lies or makes false proclamations for the sake of increasing profits through unnecessary add on sales. I’m quite positive that most would find the world a prettier place if I were to wear a Mexican wrestlers mask or something similar when I ride (at least I don’t wear bike clothes that would be even worse).

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          • anon May 3, 2013 at 2:58 pm

            A person who doesn’t wear a helmet “because they don’t work” is a person who hasn’t crashed and fallen on their head yet.

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    • Don J May 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      So deaf people shouldn’t ride bikes then?

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  • Craig May 2, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Be awesome to apply facial expression tech to Bikers and car drivers. All these people just look “content”.

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  • 9watts May 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    #19’s my favorite.
    Not sure what lens you’re using but that car looks pretty close.

    Helmets: 9+18

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    • John Lascurettes May 2, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      I’m pretty sure the rider is passing a parked car. It’s blurry because Jonathan was tracking the rider with his camera (making the car appear blurred and the rider sharp). It’s a common technique. So, it’s not a case of the rider being passed too closely by a driver, but rather the rider passing (possibly) a parked car within the door zone.

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  • skodt May 2, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    I made it on the list finally (!!#4) but Jonathan, you cut out my puppy in the doggy trailer in tow 🙁

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  • Joe May 2, 2013 at 4:04 pm


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  • Ted Buehler May 2, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    The bike lane here is also comfortable and popular because the car lane is very wide. So there’s a de facto buffer, since cars tend to drive in the middle of the lane. The wide car lane also allows opportunities for faster bicyclists to overtake slower ones, just like how faster biclyists use the buffer as a [substandard] bike lane for overtaking.

    I think this used to be 2 car lanes + bike lane, didn’t it? Then road-dieted down to 1 car lane + bike lane?

    This in my mind makes it a distinctive, well-designed road. It might appear “low-tech”, but it was carefully engineered to make it safe and comfortable for bicyclists.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Joann Noll May 2, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    # 34 We LOVE the precious cargo on the Big Dummy!

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  • o/o May 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm

    Picking on people wearing earbuds or not wearing helmets by commenters is getting old. Jon, thank for cool pictures. Peace out.

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  • Sho May 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Not too sure why the racial demographic is noteworthy, especially considering it is one of the main bicycle veins in nopo and that portland is quite “white”.

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    • longgone May 3, 2013 at 10:08 am

      Im not sure if the helmet/no helmet debate, or the intentional baiting of Jonathan’s “latent racicism” is the more apt issue people bring to inspire me to shoot myself in the face!

      Geez… I believe he was calmly pointing out that this corridor of P-town has tradionaly been an area where African America familys have/and do reside/lived. I also BELIEVE, he would love to see more of them pedaling along with all the white folk, and share in the joy of cycling in this wonderful city.

      There,does that help you with understanding what he wrote? Or do you need to pick off scabs on an old argument?

      PLEASE STOP WITH THE INSANITY PEOPLE !! arrrg ! Cant we all get along?
      I think I will go smoke a bong…

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    • Esther May 3, 2013 at 10:10 am

      Sho, I think it is noteworthy considering it is a core issue around the N Williams bike plan.
      Also, though Portland is majority non-Hispanic white (72%), thatmeans almost 1/3 of Portlanders are NOT white. The sooner we accept that and understand our city is diverse, the sooner we can get to work hearing and meeting the needs of all the people people who aren’t “quite white.”

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  • pengo May 2, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    #27 has me seriously confused. I see the fancy spandex biking gear and I’m intimidated away from cycling because spandex, but then I see the fixed gear and the pannier and I’m all like “wait, riding a bike is totally approachable and okay because fixed gear and pannier and not fancy”. Just before I can mount my unfancy new steed though, I notice the helmet and am all “oh wait, if I fall off my bike and hit my head I might get hurt and that’s a total dealbreaker because I was heretofore completely oblivious to this risk and helmet and scary.” so I don’t know what to do. Then I notice the front brake and it’s like “oh hold up, cycling is so dangerous that I might need to stop short sometimes?! eff this!”. And THEN I see there’s no earbuds and I’m totally “but if cycling were safe at all, Radiolab would be blasting into those ears nonstop. double eff this!”. So then I bought a car. Some ambassador for cycling we have here. Probably hasn’t even heard of Copenhagen.

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  • pengo May 2, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    (seriously though, good job on the photos)

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  • Gracie May 2, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    @spare_wheel: What’s wrong with doing whatever you need to be safe? It would be great to live in a world where cars are the minority vehicle and drivers respect bike riders and pedestrians, but we aren’t there yet. Someday we will be.

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    • spare_wheel May 3, 2013 at 8:36 am

      “What’s wrong with doing whatever you…”

      Absolutely nothing.

      “…to be safe.”
      “…but we aren’t there yet.”

      Cycling in portland IS safe.

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  • Gracie May 2, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    What’s wrong with doing whatever you need to be safe? It would be awesome to live in a world where cars are the minority vehicle and drivers respect bike riders and pedestrians, but we aren’t there yet. Someday we will be, but until then, I’ll wear my helmet, eschew the earbuds, and use lights at night. That isn’t blaming the victim–that is just liking my life and not wanting to mess it up.

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  • Adam May 3, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Love the photo essay!

    Is it bad though, that when I look at these photos, the first thing that comes to mind is… “Wow, that is a LOT of badly fitted bicycles!”.

    While it is encouraging to see the trend of more upright bars, and frames that even remotely fit, this photo set illustrates very clearly that the majority of riders are practically bent over double on their bars – good for racing. But for commuting with a heavy backpack??

    I used to ride a bike like that, back when I didn’t know any better. The $4000+ I’ve spent on massage, rolfing, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and yoga to try and alleviate my back pain is a constant reminder of it!

    Jonathan – as the cycling season gets into full swing, I would LOVE to see an article about how to purchase a well-fitted bike, even if it is second-hand.

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  • melody May 3, 2013 at 10:35 am

    Despite your own illustration that bike lanes are white lanes, your “biggest takeaway” is that people are wearing headphones? Interesting, especially knowing the emotional situation you cover only a block away.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 3, 2013 at 10:58 am


      I am well aware of the race issues in these neighborhoods. And the demographics of who’s riding in Portland is not a surprise nor is it new to me. Therefore that aspect wasn’t my biggest takeaway. The headphone thing was genuinely surprising for me, hence it was the thing i remembered most about being out there. Thanks for the comment.

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  • ride-bi May 3, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    So, in a somewhat random sample of daytime riders, n=47, 17% (8) of them wore no helmets, and 4% (2) wore earbuds. If helmets were cheaper, would more be worn? Emmanual hospital will be holding their annual helmet sale within the next month or so, where for $5 a Bell helmet can be obtained. Spread the word. Oh, and for those who ride hands-free in traffic, … tsk, tsk. Too bad no photo of that was obtained. Readers would be all over that one. How about a night-time photo shoot to see how many ride with adequate lighting?

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  • Gregg May 3, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    #34 One of my favorite mamas!

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  • Paws May 4, 2013 at 1:25 am

    Great photos, Jon. I love seeing all the bicyclists up in Portland from my bike-unfriendly spot down here in southern oregon.

    My thoughts: Want to wear earbuds and listen to music, do it. Don’t want to, don’t do it.

    Want to wear a helmet and think it makes you safer, awesome! Don’t want to wear a helmet, awesome!

    Both sides need to stop being so self-righteous and let people make their decisions and live with the consequences. Me, I wear a helmet sometimes, and other times I don’t. I wear my headphones sometimes, and other times I don’t. I will never be one of those folks who berates someone for their choice, unless their choice directly impacts me. And please don’t give me the health insurance thing. I’ll gladly pay a few cents more on my premium to preserve people’s freedom of choice. Besides, people are costing me much more on my premiums by abusing pain meds and alcohol than by not wearing helmets and getting in bike crashes.

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    • Johnny Tenspeed May 8, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      I feel the same way about people who insist I would be “more comfortable” riding upright bars instead of drops.

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  • Hart Noecker May 4, 2013 at 4:28 am

    I didn’t even notice if they were wearing helmets or not, because I was too busy looking at their bikes. C’mon, give it a rest with the self-righteous ‘everyone needs a helmet’ nonsense, people.

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  • locals only May 6, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Wouldn’t people feel much better on this ‘relatively comfortable’ commute if they were sitting upright rather than hunched over their drop handlebars?

    Also, guy on fixie(?) #39 has the brakes on the wrong wheel.

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  • Gasper Johnson June 2, 2013 at 9:12 am

    so glorious seeing my portland peeps rollin strong after being away for so long!

    Thanks J-mon!

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