Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

On Williams Ave, a bike maneuver that ruffles feathers

Posted by on May 8th, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Conditions on Williams-3-2

Passing other people on bikes can be a risky
proposition on Williams Ave.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you’re one of the thousands of Portlanders who has spent time in the bike lane on North Williams Avenue, you have almost certainly seen this happen: When the bike lane is crowded, some riders will move to the left — out of the bike lane and in front of people driving in the adjacent lane — to zoom past slower riders.

This maneuver happens all the time, especially during the evening rush hour when the bike lane bursts at the seams with people on bikes. I’ve seen it first-hand on many occasions and I cringe when people do it without even looking over their shoulder and with seemingly no care at all about people driving cars behind them.

And it turns out I’m not the only one who has noticed this behavior: On May 1st, reader Laura Holloway emailed me her feelings about it:

“I want to share a concern with you. I bike up N Williams from Broadway to Ainsworth nearly every weekday, and lately I’ve been noticing a lot of cyclists cutting off car drivers. Obviously there is a lot of bike traffic, and faster riders are trying to maneuver around slower riders while motorized traffic whips by just a few feet to the left. So often that it has become a pattern, I’ll notice someone in the pack ahead of me jump into the car lane to pass other cyclists, seeming to not notice the car coming up quick behind them. Seriously — veering right into the path of a car moving twice as fast! Thankfully all the drivers have been very alert. Just hoping I could raise some awareness on this freakish behaviour. Hopefully we’ll have more bike-only road width soon.”

And then this morning, a friend of mine posted the following story on his Facebook page:

“Just had an elderly couple lay on the horn at me as I was using 1 of their 2 lanes to pass some bike congestion on N Williams. We exchanged birds [middle fingers] and when I (naturally) caught up with them at the next light, they rolled down the window and said “My car is bigger than your bike!” F****** a**holes.”

Reading these two accounts about the same issue in just one week makes it clear to me that this is something worth talking about.

For various reasons, many people ride very quickly up North Williams Avenue. I think it’s the same phenomenon that plagues all “Cat 6 commuters” (slang for people who treat commutes like races) or stressed out road users in general — a combination of impatience mixed with stress brought on by sharing a limited amount of space. In some ways, people on bikes are not immune to the irrational and inconsiderate behaviors people exhibit while driving cars (or, as stand-up comedian Louis CK masterfully pointed out in a recent bit, people have a “different set of values” when behind the wheel).

While this maneuver can be seen as rude by slower riders, and it’s definitely risky from a traffic safety standpoint, it is not illegal if it is done safely (which in the case of Laura’s experience it clearly wasn’t). ORS 814.420 (3) (a) clearly states that, “A person is not in violation of the offense under this section [Failure to use bicycle lane or path] if the person is able to safely move out of the bicycle lane or path for the purpose of: (a) Overtaking and passing another bicycle, a vehicle or a pedestrian that is in the bicycle lane or path and passage cannot safely be made in the lane or path.”

If you decide to leave the bike lane to pass, first make sure there’s ample room between you and the other people in the lanes around you. Then, check over your left shoulder before entering the adjacent lane. If possible, use your arm to signal your intentions and consider ringing your bell for the courtesy of other riders around you.

Changing the way humans act when faced with stressful conditions is all but impossible. “It seems the best solution,” wrote Laura Holloway in a follow-up email, “will be to just give bikes more room on the road.”

Thankfully, that’s exactly what’s planned. But remember, PBOT won’t break ground on the Williams Ave redesign until next spring, so watch yourselves out there in the meantime.

Do you do this passing maneuver? Have you noticed it? Share your experiences below.

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  • gl. May 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    this is one of the best part of buffered bike lanes, in my experience: it creates a safer passing lane.

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    • Craig Harlow May 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      I haven’t yet seen a determination by PBOT or PPB, but I would guess that bikes would not be legally allowed to encroach the buffer any more than cars would be.

      Does anyone know the legal–or procedural–answer?

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  • KJ May 8, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I do this, but I also check to see the lane is clear and signal that I am moving to the left and give the rider on the right as much berth as I can and an “on your left”. I haven’t had any issues with car drivers or fellow cyclists that I am aware of.

    I am used to being passed and it doesn’t phase me..on the left. But people who pass silently on the right in random gaps drive me bonkers. I am also aware of how unnerving it can be for folks who are unused to the close passing, hence my giving wide berth and a warning.

    It’s also par for the course. I get passed more than I pass. I think once everyone settles into their place in ‘pace line’ after those big bunch ups at certain lights, it’s pretty smooth. I do notice some people ‘cat 6’ing but most people just seem to want to get to a point where they are riding at a pace they are comfortable at. It’s too bad they coulden’t just make the bike lane a little wider or sharrow the right line.

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  • Bill Walters May 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    It’s really just a lane change to pass slower traffic. As with other locations and vehicles, it can be done safely or badly. Safely = verify the adjacent lane is clear, signal your change, make your change, pass slower traffic, verify the original lane is clear, signal your change, make your change. Just like anywhere else.

    And as with anywhere else where you’re temporarily using the “fast lane,” *don’t attempt the pass* if you don’t really, really have the horsepower to execute it quickly and cleanly.

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  • grumpcyclist May 8, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Jonathan said, “While this maneuver can be seen as rude by slower riders, and it’s definitely risky from a traffic safety standpoint, it is not illegal.”

    And quoted the ORS: “”A person is not in violation of the offense under this section [Failure to use bicycle lane or path] if the person is able to safely move out of the bicycle lane”

    But the first person who wrote in said:

    “I’ll notice someone in the pack ahead of me jump into the car lane to pass other cyclists, seeming to not notice the car coming up quick behind them. Seriously — veering right into the path of a car moving twice as fast! Thankfully all the drivers have been very alert. ”

    I’d argue that is illegal under the ORS and likely to lead to a collision. Yes, cyclists have every right to take the bike lane, but if they cut off a car in to do it then the cyclist is at fault.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm

      you’re right grumpcyclist. I edited the story to clarify that. Thanks.

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    • Esther May 8, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      I agree with this, though from a philosophical standpoint where does it become “cut off a car”? What if the car is a ways back, and still has to brake a little bit to avoid getting too close before the biker merges back, but the person isn’t substantailly engaging in illegal behavior? I’m just curious because I think drivers are not only frustrated by the really risky behavior but also ones that just seem where the person is “in the way.”

      I agree with the person above too who is frustrated by random bikers passing on the right. one person I know always remarks loudly: “Passing on the right – it’s so wrong!”

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      • Esther May 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm

        I guess I meant “take their foot off the gas pedal,” not “brake” because I think I’ve encountered drivers getting frustrated about this in general. (feeling perceived to be “cut off” because they had to slow down, not because they had to slam on tehir brakes to prevent a crash caused by reckless bike passing)

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        • John Lascurettes May 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm

          This was my thought exactly when reading the story. The email stated “Thankfully all the drivers have been very alert. ” Guess what, that’s every vehicle operator’s job (including the cyclists). If there’s enough room for them to slow down without excessively braking, there was enough room for the rider.

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          • Help May 8, 2013 at 4:45 pm

            “If there’s enough room for them to slow down without excessively braking, there was enough room for the rider.”

            What’s excessively braking? If the driver has to slow down, there’s not enough room to pass . . period. It’s the same if it’s only drivers as well.

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            • John Lascurettes May 8, 2013 at 6:18 pm

              “Without excessively braking” means the driver has time to slow down with or without tapping the brake but not having to stomp on it. What’s a driver to do when there’s a slower vehicle in front of them? Hint: slow down, not plow into them. It doesn’t matter if that vehicle is a truck, a car, a motorcycle or a bicycle – or quite frankly, an inanimate object. If a cyclist has signaled a lane change, and comes out when there’s time, that is legal and safe. However, my experience is that there’s still drivers that will rev an engine or race up to my hind side even though they were half a block away when I made my signal.

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              • BURR May 9, 2013 at 12:12 pm

                I would argue that braking could still be an appropriate response for a motorist upon encountering a cyclist using the lane to pass other cyclists, if the motorist was exceeding the posted speed limit.

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              • Help May 9, 2013 at 8:40 pm

                “If a cyclist has signaled a lane change, and comes out when there’s time, that is legal and safe.”

                There isn’t time IF the driver has to slow down. Period. This concept can’t be that hard for you to understand.

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              • John Lascurettes May 10, 2013 at 12:32 am

                It’s not hard for me to understand. You’re wrong.

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        • Dan Anderson May 8, 2013 at 3:14 pm

          It’s a major inconvenience for many drivers to have to touch their brake pedal slightly with their big toe for any reason whatsoever.

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          • Help May 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

            It’s a major inconvenience for many cyclists to have to touch their brake pedal slightly with their big toe for any reason whatsoever.

            Great job adding to the conversation.

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            • longgone May 8, 2013 at 10:44 pm

              Big toe, cyclist ? Coaster brake? Well, if you do use a coaster brake, Help, I can understand your concern. It is a pain to maintain momentum when you back pedal too hard on one.

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      • are May 8, 2013 at 2:46 pm

        if someone passes me on the right, i just say “on your left”

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    • Spiffy May 9, 2013 at 10:58 am

      I disagree… if the car didn’t hit the cyclist then it was safe to pull out… obviously their was enough room… yes, sometimes the car has to hit the brakes… that’s part of driving…

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  • matt f May 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    The other day I was riding east on Hawthorne around 6th or so just past MLK/Grand. I’m in the bike lane and dude comes flying by me about a foot to my RIGHT. Really startled me. So I yell “Don’t pass on the right!” He just shakes his head.

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    • Craig Harlow May 8, 2013 at 1:24 pm

      Just keep doing that. I’m always optimistic that if a right-side-passer hears the same complaint enough times, they’ll have at least a subconscious aversion to repeating that behavior.

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      • Sunny May 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm

        What if it’s a wide bike lane and the front rider insists on sticking to the leftmost edge?

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        • Craig Harlow May 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm

          I guess then it’s good to announce “on your left” and only pass on the left, even if it means taking the next lane over (to the left–and safely).

          I stick to the left of the bike lane when keeping to the middle or right puts me in the zone for parked car doors to open in front of me.

          Also, I get pass on the right frequently on Williams, and nowhere on Williams is the lane wide enough to safely pass within the bike lane–i.e. no seven-foot-wide segments.

          Even if there were seven-foot-wide bike lanes, it’s dangerous not to audibly announce ones intent to pass within the same lane, because the person being overtaken may unexpectedly move left or right–sometimes (though not always) with good reason. Same as passing people on a sidewalk.

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        • pengo May 8, 2013 at 6:52 pm

          Then pass further to the left.

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    • Mark Allyn May 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      This also happens to me on Hawthorne. However, I want to point out that this has never happened to me here in Beaverton or Hillsboro (where I work and commute).

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  • longgone May 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Years of racing and riding, while possessing a keen sense of hearing (along with a neck that pivots) allow me, (along with the letter of the law) to move out and take the lane, if needed.
    I personally advise using proper hand signals to motorist’s , as I would do so in driving or riding a motor vehicle.
    If taking the lane makes you squeemish, move to the glass filled gutter.or perhaps a road where there is less traffic.
    I see little in the way of signals to motorists by others while out riding. It is a natural habit for me born of riding in pacelines with other cyclists.
    More than likely I have signaled long before I pass you, and were unable to see it when I swing around you.
    Basic bike handling drills can be practiced in church parking lots. It is a good idea to learn how to master these for self preservation.
    I certainly am not saying I am a better cyclist than others for maintaining this habit, but I will say it keeps hostility with narrow minded folks listening to AM radio vitorol in their cars at a minimum.

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    • longgone May 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      .. OH !, and BTW, I do not condone being a “Cat 6 bike lane masher”. That is rude, and sometimes dangerous.

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  • nathan May 8, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Two words: Shoulder check!

    Just look to see if it’s safe to pass. If not, it’s time to wait!

    I’ve also noticed a lot of people cutting in front of cars turning from eastbound N Wielder to N Williams. They turn onto the sidewalk in front of the apartments (Madrona or CCC Hooper). Then cross Williams while northbound traffic has a green light and while they have a no-walk signal.

    Something is wrong with the design/signage when you can regularly see people unknowingly riding in front of oncoming cars with a green light. Yesterday, my count was over five. I ended up yelling “stop crossing” to some people riding as I waited in the bike lane on Wielder at a red light.

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    • Emily May 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      This one drives me batty! I saw someone almost get his by a bus one one day. I am never in that much of a hurry to catch the light.

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      • Emily May 8, 2013 at 2:33 pm

        *hit. He almost got HIT by a bus

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      • daisy May 8, 2013 at 5:31 pm

        I think what’s tricky here is that, for folks who commute year round, you learn the light timing. When the light turns green on Weidler across Vancouver, you can (when it’s not super crowded) bike up to the sidewalk and ride in front of the stopped cars to do the Copenhagen left, and, without stopping, usually then get the greens across Weidler and Broadway. This time of year there are too many bikes for this timing to work, but it’s only been in the past two weeks that this has been the case.

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    • are May 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      it would help if they took out the parking slots there

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  • jeremy May 8, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I think this is pretty obvious on n. williams, but it happens all over the place. I see it/do it on Hawthorne coming off the bridge eastbound every night–I think the issue is a common one. I am pretty careful to check my shoulder first, and on Hawthorne I can go at or faster than the speed of the cars. The real problem then is that when a car pulls out in front of another car, the driver thinks “that a$#$% just cut me off!” When a bike does it, the driver thinks “those bicyclists are all such a#$%%$” Same movement, same effect, different response. Sigh.
    I love all the good weather riders, but just because I am on a bike doesn’t mean I want to toodlie-oodlie-oo to work. I believe I am a courteous rider, I ding my bell *nicely*, I say on your left, I thank people I pass–but I do pass people and i do ride quickly, sometimes so that I have to dip into the wider lanes to my left.

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    • longgone May 8, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      @ jeremy… bells ARE awesome ! 😉

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      • longgone May 8, 2013 at 12:36 pm

        …”On your left” has a nasty tone of condesscention for me. I perfer to just say “Howdy” as I pass.

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        • longgone May 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm

          .. prefer..oops.

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        • Champs May 8, 2013 at 1:10 pm

          Exhibit A for the argument that warnings are futile.

          Ask a hundred people about their audible alert preferences, and you’ll get a hundred different responses.

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          • longgone May 8, 2013 at 1:23 pm

            True, but are you saying on the giving or recieving end?

            I will firmly maintain that a bell rung with fair and ample foresight is far and away the most democratic.
            “On your left” still sucks.
            Personally you may do what you wish, I will be able to get around any wavering, weeblewobbling by others, as I am always seeking an exit line around them. I have never crashed out anyone I intend to pass.
            Besides, using the rules of the road,any THINKING rider should understand that the pass will be ” on the left”.
            If I were to “Cat 6” around you, going N. on Williams per say, and your fubar riding style dictates a pass on your right, I am not going to signal my intent to you at all.

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            • John Lascurettes May 8, 2013 at 1:56 pm

              I’ve just experienced that a bell is registered quicker and heard from a greater distance than an “on your left!” – but I am picky about picking a bell with a good tone and sustain (it’s got to go to 11).

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              • e2pii May 8, 2013 at 2:21 pm

                John, Do you have any favourite bells you can share with us? I use the Crane Brass Suzu Bell, and I like it, mostly- good looking AND good sounding– except in the rain. I have yet to find a bell (I’ve tried several) that is not severely muted in the rain. Have you had any luck? Thanks!

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              • John Lascurettes May 8, 2013 at 2:36 pm

                Rain does seem to dampen most bells. It’s amazing by how much. I don’t recall what my last bell was but my newer Incredibell Brass Duet seems to combat raindrops better. If anyone ever creates a rain-resistent bell and kicks it off on Kickstarter, I’m in.

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              • longgone May 8, 2013 at 11:09 pm

                Are you riding through rain, or under water?

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            • Bill Walters May 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm

              Maybe, when the headcount is sparse enough that the identity of the dinger and the dingee are not in question. Maybe that’s not always the case on Williams and other busy routes. (Who is dinging whom, and why?)

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        • whyat May 8, 2013 at 3:01 pm

          Anything is better than nothing. I think it’s rude when people don’t make any attempt to let you know they’re passing.

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          • ac May 8, 2013 at 5:32 pm

            i have to admit i don’t get this perception that silent passers are rude. if everyone is travelling safely, there’s really no need for an announcement. it happens thousands of times a day among pedestrians and motorists. why are cyclists so sensitive to being passed?

            i only feel like something needs to be said (or bells rung) if there’s any need for caution – passing in close quarters usually, or attention needed for special path users (small kids, people with pets, etc)

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            • ScoBu May 8, 2013 at 6:16 pm

              I agree 100%.

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            • longgone May 8, 2013 at 9:58 pm


              You are correct… Silent passers are not rude.
              Does one signal their intent to pass with any other form of transportation? No.
              Do you apologize when overtaking another rider?
              Then you are an overly sensitive, sentimental fool. Just pass them.

              Do you choose to say ” on your left” in a tone that mimics a Catholic Priest on a power trip?
              Then you are an ass.

              Have a bell mounted on your bars, use it dilberately, and with prudence.
              Most other cycling nations have required cyclists to use bells for years.
              There are many reasons for this.

              And remember…
              “On your left” sucks.

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              • Kt May 9, 2013 at 12:12 am

                It isn’t universally rude, no. But, signaling your intent to pass is a good habit to get into. My experience on North Williams has been that cyclists pass too closely. This is in keeping with the comment in the original post about people who move into the auto lane without really checking, which I’ve also personally observed. It seems like some passers are being impatient and entitled.

                Basically, if I’m in front of you, assume that I’m taking up the entire bikelane. I don’t know you’re there, about to graze my pannier. I could move to the left to avoid being doored, or a pile of dog poop, at any moment – happens all the time. If you can’t merge safely into the auto lane OR take a moment to use your bell or vocalize, then you haven’t claimed your space to pass.

                Nothing is sadder than other bike commuters who see me like some motorists do, as nothing more than temporarily in their way.

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              • longgone May 9, 2013 at 10:07 am

                Sorry KT, but you may just be nothing more than someone in my way at times. Not all the time, but at some time.

                I do use a bell. Sometimes not all the time. I believe they are the one cycling piece that should be required by law. Even before helmets.

                Motor vehicles are not required to audilbly announce their intent to pass. If they were, It would be a MAD MAD world for sure.

                And I always assume you and your panniers taking up the bike lane will move into my path without warning, because I have been riding bicycle’s since LONG before the second bike craze in America, which was in the ’70’s. AND I do not trust you.

                Do you not see the contridiction of your statement about your own actions?

                Would you endanger riders that you know to be around you on a avenue such as Williams, just to keep dog poo off your Schwalbe’s?

                Are you the type of rider who white knuckes your bars through glass because you are lacking confididence to use hand signals to indicate your sudden line change? A line change YOU make without looking over your shoulder first to see if perhaps another rider is on your left?

                Then you could very well be the type of rider I assume undeserving of the knowledge of my intent to pass. For my safty and yours as well.

                I condone assertive,deliberate and gracious road sharing. Which includes the occasional use of a delightful bell.

                Remember, “on your left” sucks.

                I assume most people are lousy bike handlers, and it seems that Portland is still suffering LONG growing pains as a CYCLING city, it has quite a way to go still.

                have fun out there. peace.

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              • Slammy May 9, 2013 at 10:41 am

                Yes, people do signal their intent to pass in other forms of transportation. In a car, you use your turn signal to tell the driver in front of you that you are going into the other lane to make a pass…

                Please don’t call people asses for trying to be safe, and no one cares that you’ve been riding your bike for a long time. you are a braggart.

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              • longgone May 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm

                Slammy, Slammy Slammy,.. my ol’ bud use to say.” It aint braggin’ if its true.” My feelings are still intact, Thank you.

                Not since 1909 have road users been required to use AUDIBLE warnings for passing. Modern road use would be a complete horror if that were the case.
                The use of turn signals IS required by law, and I am aware of that.

                As a cyclist, I am NOT required to alert you of my passing. And to be honest, if you were paying attention, that issue is not what this topic started off as.
                You see, much like a needle skipping across an old worn out Ramones LP, people on this blog stray WAY off topic.
                But since we are at this point, and as long as J.M. allows me to post comments, I will continue to express my feeling about the condesending nature of many cyclist I see riding the streets of P-town.

                I choose to retain my energy on the road and watch in amazement at the spectacle that is cycling here. Many of you yell at others who run stops, or split lanes, OR ride in hemp sandals, sans helmets on “road bikes”, God forbid! Why? It only wears poorly on you, IMO.
                Just not my style, yo.

                Choose to lose “on your left”, and see if your enjoyment of sharing the road does not improve. Your not racing out there.

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              • longgone May 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm

                .. You are not racing, not your not. i hate that.

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          • speedi May 9, 2013 at 11:32 am

            i often find it more startling to have people say things to me before or as they’re passing, and would rather just have them whip by. for me it’s like “boo!”.
            cars don’t honk at each other when they pass.

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            • longgone May 9, 2013 at 10:12 pm

              Speedi, Say it loud, so everyone in class can hear you! You win the lose “on your left” Gold star for today! Congrats, and your mother should be proud!

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    • spare_wheel May 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      The other day on Hawthorne ramp there were 4 cyclists in the far left lane and only two in the bike lane on the right. Simply awesome.

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      • longgone May 8, 2013 at 1:43 pm

        Going East, or West ?

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        • spare_wheel May 8, 2013 at 2:16 pm

          east ramp.

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  • pdxpaul May 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I probably ride in the traffic lane about as much as the bike lane between Rose Quarter and Skidmore. Makes sense to me and makes it safer for the folks in the bike lane. I

    ‘ve tried riding with the pace of folks there and it just doesn’t work for me. I know the timing of the lights and am trying to make the lights so I don’t have to wait. I’m getting old and don’t want to spend that much time on the commute.

    But I am first cognizant of safety and will not pass when I am not certain it is safe (like betwixt Fremont and Failing – you need to get close to 25 on average to safely make that light from the dead stop at Fremont, so there’s no point if it’s clogged) – but if I can take the traffic lane to make it, I will definitely do so.

    But most days, for me, it makes most sense to take the Interstate hill and cross back over on Skidmore – the whole route, while almost a mile longer, is faster on average. But unfortunately, the Interstate hill is starting to get clogged and I don’t feel safe on Greeley…

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    • longgone May 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm

      I like Greely alot. Tons of shoulder,and going N., only one pinch point of concern . It is loud at times, as the speed limit is higher. 10-12 years, not one bad experience.

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  • Brian E May 8, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Some of these “non-look-back” riders might be using a mirror to look back. That’s what I do.

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    • joel May 8, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      to hell with that. same as you ought to do in your car. check the mirror, then shoulder check. i see just as many mirror-users pulling stupid passes on n williams as anyone else.

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      • longgone May 8, 2013 at 1:45 pm

        Grandpa always told me…” Son, you gotta be smart’r then the hammer.”.

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        • Granpa May 8, 2013 at 3:12 pm

          I don’t remember that……………. but it is wise!

          My concern is the eastbound ramp from Hawthorn Br. to McGloughlin. Drivers get frustrated waiting as the skein of riders dawdle past and frequently dart into a gap. Riders need to do the head check there. Someone is going to get creamed. 🙁

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          • longgone May 8, 2013 at 10:01 pm

            Sorry G-pa, I meant MY G-pa ! 🙂 peace.

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          • Miss Forpe Stubb May 9, 2013 at 11:43 am

            moral of the story – don’t get creamed! better facilities are coming, but in the meantime we are legions of bicycles busting the seams of the bike lanes. it takes extra smarts and caution to use the road system safely for what it wasn’t designed

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  • Backmarker May 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    It’s an awkward situation. Cars and motorcycles can all hit a marked speed limit with just the press of a pedal or twist of a grip. Meanwhile, bicycle cruise speeds (never mind Cat 6ers late for a meeting) vary from wobbligly slow to near-motor-traffic, all squeezed into three feet of bike lane.

    It’s important to be able to move out to go around, but you’ve *got* to look. To do otherwise is both stupendously dangerous and exceedingly aggravating to drivers whether or not they manage to avoid the rider.

    I used to pass people, on the left but still in the bike lane, too closely. It took a shouting match with an older gentleman to ultimately realize it was a terrible idea (I really hate arriving at the conclusion that I’m the a-hole in a given situation, but you’ve gotta recognize it when it happens). It would be great if people would hold a line and ride like Germans drive the autobahn or pedestrians walk in Tokyo (attentively, in a way I’ve never seen pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists do here in the US), but ’til then, you need to leave room for people to be human at inopportune moments.

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  • BURR May 8, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Leaving the bike lane to pass slower riders using the adjacent travel lane is the appropriate way to pass. Nothing irritates me more than someone trying to squeeze by in the bike lane itself, which is only wide enough for one bicycle. It is up to the passing cyclist to determine when and if it is safe to leave the bike lane to pass, and I don’t have a lot of sympathy for motorists who get annoyed by this legal behavior if and when it is done safely.

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    • Miss Forpe Stubb May 9, 2013 at 11:50 am

      All completely true.
      But on Williams, and any other busy street I’m sure, the problem is that both the bike lane and the traffic lane are full at peak times. This leaves riders that want to pass with few options – waiting (sometimes awhile) for an opening in the car lane that is big enough to use can be annoying, but better than being hit.

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  • Zaphod May 8, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    Comments indicate an unusually cohesive collective opinion. Pass only when the lane is clear and it can be done safely. I too have witnessed all sorts of riding and driving that is pretty bleak. But the collection of cyclists on the road is as disparate as humanity itself. Comments here will do something but not create dramatic shifts in culture on the road. I’d love for all commuting culture to simply show respect for all users and move predictably.

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    • longgone May 8, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      ..Or we could adopt the way of traffic culture in Bombay or Saigon. Either way I am good. In fact, I think I am ready to move somewhere else anyway.

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      • Slammy May 9, 2013 at 10:38 am

        Please do…

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        • longgone May 9, 2013 at 10:14 pm

          Gosh Slammy, seems were tied 4 to 4 thumbs up. Still not hurting my feelings, btw.
          Have a great day.

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  • AndyC of Linnton May 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    Yes, this happens everywhere in town.
    I think you have to adjust to traffic accordingly, no matter what mode.
    With regards to all the bruhaha around N. Williams, I feel like there could be an easy solution if we just had those “no parking between” rush hour signs and simply “sharrowed” the parking lanes for those hours. But what do I know?

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    • Oliver May 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      If only. The problems that could be resolved on our streets if we eliminated parking during the commute hours……..

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      • whyat May 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm

        Because no one needs to park when businesses are open.

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    • spare_wheel May 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm

      i would love to see advisory bike lanes all over portland.

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  • Bike Commuter May 8, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I am not sure what the speed limit on Williams is, but if it is over 25 MPH then it is too high. So the statement about pulling in front of something moving twice as fast is not true. However you do have the responsibility not to pull out without looking and ensuring that it is safe to do so.

    I also object to any driver threatening someone. That is road rage and should be considered assault. It is not at this time but maybe in the future. There are a small percentage of bad drivers who need to be removed from the road, and a similar percentage of bicyclists who should not be on the road either. We all need to learn coexist and treat each other with respect.

    If you are going to drive on a street with lots of bicyclists then you need to recognize that you are not on a freeway and that you should expect delays and need to increase your awareness because of the bicyclists.

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    • spare_wheel May 8, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      25 mph – 20 mph = 5 mph.

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    • Kt May 9, 2013 at 12:21 am

      Hmmm, maybe it’s pedantic to endulge the pedantic, but… If the limit is 25 (pretty sure it is higher), you can bank on cars going 30. On a flat stretch of road, not pressed for time, I probably average 15 mph. I pass some folks and get passed by others. Thus, for a decent chunk of people, this statement is relevant.

      Oh, wait, were we supposed to marvel at your speed?

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      • spare_wheel May 9, 2013 at 9:54 pm

        If you are reluctant to take the lane you are absolutely entitled to participate in the williams rush hour bike parade. However, most of those who are willing to take the lane on williams are capable of maintaining 20 mph for a minute or so.

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  • Martie May 8, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Just please signal if you are going to move into the car lane if there car traffic moving faster than you are. I was driving in the right lane the other day and a cyclist pulled out to pass other cyclists without signalling and without looking. I had to brake really quickly to avoid rear-ending him and my tires chirped on the ground. This no doubt scared the crap out of the cyclists in the bike lane right next to my car. I didn’t honk or flip this guy off when I passed him, though he may have got a little stink-eye.

    I do bike-commute, so I am ultra aware of cyclists when I do drive my car. I actively look for bikers all the time. But had I not been paying really close attention, I would have hit this guy. Many motorists aren’t as careful as I was that day. So please, if you are going to jump in the lane, please signal your intentions to the drivers.

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    • Miss Forpe Stubb May 9, 2013 at 11:55 am

      Exactly. Thank you for being an alert and responsible driver

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  • kbs May 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I ride Williams every weekday evening and Broadway (N/NW) every weekday morning. I’ve been pretty taken aback by the poor riding etiquette shown by my fellow bike commuters, especially since the weather has been getting nicer.

    Although I’m not always the most courteous of riders, I usually do a shoulder check and call out “passing on your left!” when I need to pass. There are also some places I won’t pass (like when merging onto the Broadway Bridge or making that awkward off-street right turn from Broadway to Williams).

    But lately I’ve seen lots of folks blowing past others on the road (within inches! in heavy traffic! on the right!). A few months ago, I witnessed someone knock over a woman with a child in a bakfiet while she was turning onto Williams from Broadway. I’m starting to hate riding down these bike routes and try to turn off whenever possible.

    So, dudes! Be patient out there! If you want to pass, wait for a safe opportunity and LET PEOPLE KNOW you’re passing them! Thanks.

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  • spare_wheel May 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    “a combination of impatience mixed with stress brought on by sharing a limited amount of space.”

    What a biased comment that completely misses the point of Cat-6 racing/interval training. I choose to compete …err…commute because its fun!

    “Seriously — veering right into the path of a car moving twice as fast!”

    “The horror of same direction vehicle traffic!”

    While I disagree with his stance on bike lanes, when Forester makes fun of those who believe that lane taking is dangerous, he is dead on.

    “and it’s definitely risky from a traffic safety standpoint”

    How many cyclists have died while riding INSIDE cycling infrastructure in PDX and how many have died while passing other cyclists? Also, cite please.

    “seeming to not notice the car coming up quick behind them.”

    How does Ms. holloway know that the rider did not notice? It *seems* to me that some cyclists project their own fears onto other cyclists.

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    • longgone May 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      Your final point is VERY true.

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  • Allan May 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I think with some serious pressure from the public this could be on the ground this fall… but maybe its not a good idea to have a project like this go online just as folks are putting their bikes away for the winter

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  • takeaspin22 May 8, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    On Williams, I find that unsafe passing is mainly an issue between Fremont and Skidmore. I think the combination of slow riders starting from a stop at Fremont, a busy commercial area, on-street parking with dooring potential, a narrow bike lane, and heavy traffic makes passing in this stretch difficult. I hope that the new project can make some improvements in this area.

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  • Champs May 8, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    In the city, I need a visual. There are too many stealthy hybrids and sources of background noise to trust my ears alone.

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  • JRB May 8, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    This seems like a no brainer to me. If you want to pass, make sure the lane to your left is clear, enter said lane, pass while giving ample clearance to the passee, and re-enter the bike lane when it is safe to do so. If you can’t do all of those things. Be patient and wait until you can. I don’t see a need to say “on your left” when there is four to six feet of clearance between me and the person I am passing.

    Don’t pass on the right, don’t pass in the bike lane, don’t go six inches outside the bike lane and think its okay to pass someone when you are giving only a foot or two of clearance. All it comes down to is not cutting anyone, including motor vehicles, off, and maintaining enough clearance that the passee cannot reasonably feel squeezed.

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    • spare_wheel May 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      “re-enter the bike lane when it is safe to do so”

      you had me up to the re-entry bit. i am a strong believer in holding my line and screaming wheeeeee! as a courtesy to let everyone know i am passing them.

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    • John Lascurettes May 8, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      I find it also unnecessary to give an audible if I’m passing with more than 3 feet of space (the same space a car “should” give me), in an entirely different lane.

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      • JRB May 8, 2013 at 3:21 pm

        Whenever I see a cyclist pass another cyclist with only a foot or two of clearance, I always think that person would be pissed if a car did that to them. Why does anyone think its okay to pass that closely when you are on a bike? Entitlement syndrome I guess.

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        • Spiffy May 9, 2013 at 4:35 pm

          2-tons vs 15 lbs… that’s why…

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          • JRB May 9, 2013 at 4:58 pm

            Oh, I didn’t realize that there was negligible risk of injury from getting sideswiped by another bike. Thanks for educating me. Not.

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  • Ken May 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for writing up this one. I have lots of personal experience with the passing issue both when driving and riding on Williams. For the most part, cyclists do at least check before taking the lane to pass, though more could signal their intent. As a cyclist who is on the slower end of the spectrum, I just hang to the right side of the bike lane to let the faster riders pass. Though I agree with others that those passing siliently on the right can cause problems.

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    • John Lascurettes May 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Careful of the door zone which is where hugging the right side puts you. I almost stopped a woman on Williams the other day that was riding with her handlebars less than 18 inches away from the parked cars on the right just to implore to her about the danger she’s putting herself in.

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      • Craig Harlow May 8, 2013 at 3:52 pm

        …herself, and everyone around her.

        Anytime someone has to swerve or brake suddenly to avoid a hazard, they can start a ripple effect that puts everyone in harm’s way. And that close to moving cars, the danger is deadly.

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  • maxadders May 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Today on Vancouver, the helmetless dude in front of me, wearing sandals and sitting atop a brand-new road bike, jammed his brakes to let a car turn towards the I-5 ramp. Then he yelled at me because my brakes squealed when I had to stop short for him: “Don’t ride people’s asses!” Uh, I wasn’t. Don’t break unexpectedly in a pack full of cyclists and expect everyone to be able to accommodate your recklessness.

    How many times have I said the following: “I’m done with Williams and Vancouver”? Must be dozens now. I think I made it until June last year before abandoning it for 21st / 28th / whatever– I don’t mind riding out of my way if the weather’s nice and time’s not a concern.

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    • yoyossarian May 8, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      I too can sometimes be seen biking in sandals and without a helmet, although my rode bike isn’t exactly new. I had no idea these were such defining characteristics…

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      • longgone May 8, 2013 at 2:04 pm

        ..Yes yoyo. I am with you. please see my response placed below by accident. |

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      • maxadders May 8, 2013 at 2:06 pm

        There’s people who are comfortable on bikes, and those that are not. This guy was not.

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        • nathan May 8, 2013 at 2:23 pm

          I take it you are describing approaching N Cook St. where there is motor traffic on both sides of the bike lane and where most cars are trying to cross the bike lane to get to the 405. That place can be scary and is probably a good place to prepare to make allowances for all road users.

          There are often these growing pains complaints in spring. More people are using the bike lanes. More allowances are needed if riding safely is important.

          P.S. Calling someone out for not looking like you’d like them to while riding only paints you.

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          • maxadders May 8, 2013 at 2:45 pm

            Funny, since this blog’s main purpose seems to be telling other people how they’re “doing it wrong.” Figured I’d join in on the fun.

            I’ll be sure to jam on my brakes tonight unexpectedly in your honor. Look out behind, I’m busy accommodating all road users by passive-aggressively putting them in danger. That’ll teach ’em.

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            • nathan May 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

              I’m not impressed.

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        • Miss Forpe Stubb May 9, 2013 at 12:06 pm

          Really? I wasn’t so comfortable when I first started riding my bike in traffic, but I sure am now. It warms my heart to see people that I think are new commuters.

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    • Craig Harlow May 8, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      Sorry, maxadders, he was right, you were wrong. Same as in a car, follow at a safe distance for current conditions.

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      • jered May 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm

        true… but he did not rear end the cyclist, so he was following at a safe distance, safe enough to avoid an accident. Squealing breaks are not a sign of anything but poor toe adjustment (I rock the squeal out of lazy break tuning).

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        • Craig Harlow May 9, 2013 at 1:02 pm

          Sure, I understood that he didn’t rear end the other guy. I was addressing his mistake about recklessness: “Don’t break unexpectedly in a pack full of cyclists and expect everyone to be able to accommodate your recklessness.” It’s not reckless to brake suddenly, it’s reckless to follow too closely for braking in time when a rider ahead brakes suddenly.

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  • joel May 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    n williams is infuriating, really. i find the bikes to be generally worse than the cars. now, granted, ive been playing in traffic professionally for the past 2 decades, so im more used to close cars and whatnot than most – but seriously… the level of sheer obliviousness, and general lack of courtesy for all other road users i see from cyclists using this route for the evening commute makes me want to pull my hair out some evenings. passing in traffic without looking, passing too closely to other cyclists, double-passing, passing on the right, not yielding to peds in crosswalks, you name it, its all there on any given evening. frankly, all of this can be said from nw broadway up the bike route to n williams as well. inbound vancouver/broadway in the morning isnt much better, but these days i leave for work 30 minutes earlier than i need to simply because it allows me to finish that commute before the idiocy really starts – even the difference between heading in at 7:20 versus 7:10 is quite noticeable. its a bunch of people riding their bikes in the same manner they complain about car drivers driving their cars.

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    • JRB May 8, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      I’ve noticed the same thing, but I would chalk it up to people being people. I think you see equivalent behavior when people in cars are similarly jammed together like cyclists are at the Broadway-Williams pinch points during the rush hour. I think it just goes to show that cyclists as a class are not necessarily any more patient or considerate of other road users than people in cars. I see both exhibit the best and worst of people, with the one caveat being that when people in cars act rude or stupid out of frustration or selfishness, the risk to every one else on the road is much greater.

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    • Dave Miller May 10, 2013 at 5:48 am

      I’ve ridden Williams/Vancouver at commute time only a few times, but every time I am struck by the vibe. It’s way more aggressive than my Ankeney commute between Mt Tabor and downtown. My best guess is that it’s about space. Given enough, people are not stressed and in a state of mind where they are bothered by innocuous things like other people’s footwear, helmet use, brake noise; passing on one side or the other with or without a bell or the proper verbiage. Without enough safe space we get stress and this weird aggro micro-culture.

      I think Jonathan’s mention of PBOTs plan/timing for changes on Willimas/Vancouver is very relevant here.

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  • longgone May 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Why did you have to say “helmetless dude” ? Is that the reason you lost focus of your following distance? Too concerned for his lack of safety, perhaps? To busy looking for his toe jam?
    Hey, by the way, adjust your squeely brake pads, will ya. That IS annoying.

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  • Sunny May 8, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Anyone else notice the 30 mph sign on the left side of the picture is upside down?

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  • Stephen Gomez May 8, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I’d also add that now that’s its race season at PIR there are fast-moving fully kitted racers hauling up Williams Mondays and Tuesdays. A very fast-moving group flew by me about two inches off my left handlebar this past Monday–not a word of warning from one of them.

    I recognized one of them and caught a few race numbers but not going to call them out here. Just want to ask people on bikes–racers or not–to treat other people on bikes (or people in cars or people walking) just like you’d treat your mom. Don’t be a jerk and be respectful. Next time a racer buzz’s me I’ll pass the race number over to Kenji at OBRA and you can ‘splain to him why you’re giving racers a bad name.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 8, 2013 at 3:13 pm


      That’s a great point that I forgot to mention in the post. Yes… on days when there’s racing at PIR there are definitely more racers in the mix… And I mean racers… not your average cat 6 commuter. 😉

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      • joel May 8, 2013 at 5:49 pm

        cat 6 commuters, racers acting like cat 6 commuters – tomato, tomatoe.

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        • longgone May 8, 2013 at 10:54 pm

          Hey.. Two Cat 6 racers went into a brewpub on Williams,…

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    • El Biciclero May 8, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      Far away from Williams, on the uphill leg of my commute (Montgomery Dr.), I was cranking away, doing a solid 8 or 9, when a guy comes churning past me on my left. He gets about 20 ft. in front of me and slows to a crawl such that I catch up and am about to ask “dude, what was that?” as I pass him, but then I hear “beep-beep-beep-beep-beep…” and he takes off again just as my front wheel gets about even with his crank. That’s when I realized, “oooOOOoohhh. Intervals”. In retrospect, it’s no big deal, but at the time, my first thought was “Come on! I’m just trying to haul my steel bike and 15 pounds of work junk up this hill, and you’re going to race in front of me on your carbon frame wunderfiets just to slow me down??”

      I guess my only point is to reinforce the sentiment that if you’re out training, you may have to sacrifice some of the precision of your routine or maneuvers to account for us poor shmucks who aren’t elite athletes.

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      • Sunny May 8, 2013 at 5:39 pm

        I just picture the racer looking direct at you and making the Roader Runner “meep” “meep” before speeding away.

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        • El Biciclero May 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm

          Heh. That’s about what it looked like, I’m sure…

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    • longgone May 8, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Congrats S.Gomez! You maintained your composure, along with your line. The racers passed you as they planned, and you were not hit.
      Rack this up to a job well done by all.
      In addition, you are building brain/musclememory/conditioning that will keep you sharp on the streets in the future!
      It sounds like you experinced a true “win-win”!

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  • Charley Gee May 8, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I just did this just yesterday coming east off of the Hawthorne Bridge. With the nice weather there were about six times more riders than normal all bunched up in the bike lane at the light. I checked, took the lane, and kind of expected a group to follow me to clear the bunch up but no one did, so I passed and then merged back into the bike lane. Later, my wife caught up to me she said that all those riders shot me dirty looks. Interesting to see the perspectives of others on this practice. I certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone and I don’t think that I would ever be perceived as a speed racer rider by any means.

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    • dan May 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      Honestly puzzled by that…what could other riders have to complain about if you passed them in the right-most car lane with sufficient space and didn’t cut anyone off when you re-entered the bike lane?

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      • maxadders May 8, 2013 at 3:01 pm

        Biggest complaint here seems to be it’s scary and someone could get hurt.” I’m all for people taking care of themselves. If you want to pass, do it on the left and take the lane if needed. It’s your call, and as long as you don’t put others at risk, I don’t care. I’m not going to argue for some imaginary rule based on uptight blog commenters’ experiences. Everyone prattles on about having an open mind while spending all day every day fuming about how others around them aren’t acting exactly how they’d act. It’s pointless.

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        • longgone May 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm

          “It’s pointless.” maxadders

          Yes, but it’s also like rubber neckin’ a car fatality. We just cant seem to help ourselves.

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      • Charley Gee May 8, 2013 at 3:07 pm

        I think a lot of people think it is illegal.

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  • are May 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    from at least russell on up it really does not make sense to think of the bike lane as anything but an occasional refuge. the safe place to ride is several inches to the left of the outside stripe of the bike lane. motorists are welcome to take the left lane to pass. and the rest of this discussion becomes moot.

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  • JL May 8, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    If there is a good 3 feet for more on the right I have been known to pass cars AND bicycle riders on the right in certain situations.
    It can be done safely and legally and I have stopped being concerned whether people perceive it as being dangerous.

    I am surprised this hasn’t been brought up already… and am interested to see what people have to say about it.

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    • spare_wheel May 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      and JL opens can of worms. reza are you out there?

      as far as i know passing both cars or bikes on the right is legal in or.

      i occasionally pass on the right. for example, i do it on the hawthorne bridge when someone cycling at stall speed on the left side does not move aside (on a wide open bridge). i pass on the right far more often in vehicle lanes. for example, if there is a cyclist on the left side of a vehicle lane i have no problem passing him safely on the right. ironically, i have passed someone in this circumstance (e.g. ~8 feet away) and had them shout “no passing on the right”. it made me giggle.

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      • Reza May 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm

        Got called out!

        I never pass to the right in 99% of situations when I have a vehicular lane on my left available for me to use (when it’s safe). I never pass in the bicycle lane (within inches of other riders) because I think that’s incredibly rude. FWIW, I’d rather get passed on the right by a wide berth than within inches on my left from someone who is afraid to take the lane and provide the necessary clearance.

        The Hawthorne Bridge is a different beast altogether, and bicyclists who straddle the walk and bike zones in the middle of the path to allow (not really) other cyclists to squeeze by to their left make it more dangerous for everyone.

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        • BURR May 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm

          “…bicyclists who straddle the walk and bike zones in the middle of the path (on the Hawthorne Bridge) to allow (not really) other cyclists to squeeze by to their left make it more dangerous for everyone.”

          LOL, good luck with that. My best advice would be to slow down and enjoy the view, or perhaps get a bell, and learn how to use it.

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      • longgone May 8, 2013 at 10:59 pm

        Circumstances at times warrant and require a pass on the right.

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    • Craig Harlow May 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      Legally? Please cite. (sorry for double comment–failed originally to reply-to)

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      • JL May 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm

        ORS 811.415

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        • Craig Harlow May 9, 2013 at 1:16 pm

          Thanks JL–I’m glad to know about that.

          However, I guess it would depend on whether the actual conditions allow that the person passing “…may safely make the passage under the existing conditions”

          I wonder if it means, “it’s legal to pass on the right if nobody actually crashed,” or whether it means, “it’s legal if a reasonable person would say that the conditions were safe for passing on the right.”

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    • Mindful Cyclist May 8, 2013 at 7:50 pm

      I pass on the right at least once a week it seems going up the Burnside Bridge heading East. There is plenty of room if there are not cars parked on the side and I am guessing I am giving a good 8′ of space.

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  • JT May 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    After reading all of this I thought about what to add. There are just too many riders that flirt with danger on N Williams (specifically endangering other riders in the process). Also many riders that flirt with smaller violations that, while not illegal or dangerous, are rude. So I decided my approach would be to check myself. So instead of worrying about what that other cyclist is doing wrong, I’d just make sure I was doing everything possible to make sure I was doing the right thing whether in terms of safety, the law, or my fellow rider. I can only change my own actions and attitude, and not always those of other riders. ~cheers

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  • Craig Harlow May 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Legally? Please cite.

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    • spare_wheel May 8, 2013 at 4:05 pm


      (c) Overtaking and passing upon the right is permitted if the overtaking vehicle is a bicycle that may safely make the passage under the existing conditions.

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      • dan May 8, 2013 at 9:22 pm

        Ha! A good reminder of how auto-centric our driving laws are. Dollars to donuts they’re thinking about a bike passing a car on the right…not squeezing past another bike in a bike lane.

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        • Sunny May 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm

          “Bicycle” was added to 811.415 specifically to address the legality of bicycles passing on the right, regardless of space (eg. when squeezing past cars on the right at a stop light — not very smart but legal).

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      • Craig Harlow May 9, 2013 at 1:22 pm

        thanks…see my add’l remark above

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  • pdxcommuter May 8, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    It’s a long time issue on many bike boulevards not just Williams particularly heading east off Hawthorne bridge from MLK to 20th with riders not only passing other riders in the auto lane without regard to vehicles, but jumping across 3 lanes to make the left turn at SE. 7th ave.

    All of which is legal as noted but those who choose to do so should show a little respect to their fellow riders and cars as well which goes a long way towards everyone’s safety.

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    • spare_wheel May 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      i completely disagree. in my experience the mix of cars and bikes on lower hawthorne works amazingly well. the biggest issue with lower hawthorne are the bike boxes. i’ve seen very nasty looking accidents at 11th.

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      • longgone May 8, 2013 at 10:28 pm

        Funny, I am still on the fence with the bike boxes. I find myself not using them, as I watch inexperienced, (my perception) cyclists roll into them with aplumb, only to take off with uncertainty while causing duress for any one behind them.
        I feel in many ways they instill bad habits in new cyclists.
        This thought will get poo poo-ed, I know.

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  • XYZ May 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    My favorite recent Willams Ave move was the two hipsters on fixies, one riding in the bike lane and the other riding in the middle of the right traffic lane, having a conversation. Oblivious to the traffic around them. Rode like this from Alberta all the way to Killingsworth. They were going about 9 miles an hour too. As a cyclist, that one made me cringe.

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    • are May 8, 2013 at 5:46 pm

      was the left lane open?

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      • longgone May 8, 2013 at 10:35 pm

        They do not remember,they were too busy thinking disparagingly about unfettered youth.

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  • sd May 8, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    I appreciate the cyclists that take the lane and pass on the left when I am on my bike, walking or in my car. It is great when their presence outside of the bike lane slows down car traffic. There is nothing wrong with a car having to slow down to allow bicylces to pass other cyclists. Cyclists who are not comfortable riding > 16 mph or leaving the bike lane to pass may experience distress seeing this happen but will become use to it after more experience riding. Just keep your line, pass on the left and enjoy your ride.

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  • Mike May 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    It always amazes me to read these hot threads on BP — I’m really glad I don’t drive and ride in the city described by most of these posts!

    As a motorist and a Cat 4 non-commuting cyclist, I’ve managed to have a positive experience out there 99.9% of the time.

    My approach — 1) drive/ride defensively without being afraid to pass, 2) do so only when space allows, 3) do so only on the left, 4) check your blind spot twice — once before contemplating the pass, once before initiating. No need to notify anyone of your intentions if you follow 1-4.

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    • longgone May 8, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      So, I take it that you and the Wizard ride/drive to Oz on the Yellow brick road of guiless joy?

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      • Mike May 9, 2013 at 11:09 am

        Ha! Something like that, yes… 😉

        I merely state that a) I don’t observe as much strife out there as described in these posts (perhaps I’ve been statistically lucky), and b) I’ve had great success with my method (as measured by an absence of accidents, people yelling at me, etc.).

        The recurring themes in this thread seem to be space and notification.

        If you’ve got plenty of space between you and the pass-ee, whether car or bike, then notification is moot (IMO). Everyone goes about their day whistling their merry tune (“follow the yellow brick road”).

        If you don’t have plenty of space, don’t pass. “On your left”, bell ringing, “g’day sir/madam”, arm waving, or anything else is also moot. You don’t have enough space. Just wait until you do.

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        • longgone May 9, 2013 at 10:30 pm

          Thanks Mike.., I was just kiddin’ ya. I have ridden thousands and thousands of miles in Kansa , and have never found Oz, or that confounded YBR. 🙁 oh well.

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          • Mike May 10, 2013 at 7:59 am

            No worries… There’s still time to petition for yellow paint on the new Williams bike lane… 😉

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  • 100th Monkey May 8, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    I was going to put my 2-cents worth in here in my own words but instead choose to share this with you all; one of the best essays about road etiquette. It was written by Max Leonard on Rapha’s web site.

    “It’s a paradox that the bicycle – after all, a machine of metal or carbon – confers humanity upon its rider. People on bikes are generally more aware, more considerate. Bikes bring out the best in us. This is something we recognise in the camaraderie of winter training or the élan of a spring morning in the lanes, yet is more difficult to remember in town. One of the pleasures of urban cycling is connecting with the city, becoming part of the lifeblood running through its veins. But when riding in the fumes, grit and traffic, squeezing between buses and lorries, sweaty and late for work, it is easy to treat everything impersonally, and goodwill can be hard to find. City cycling is an opportunity to engage with your surroundings, and connect with people you encounter. Just because we are in the city doesn’t mean we should forget our manners.

    Good etiquette is often about showing respect to others. Some cyclists say respect anything that’s bigger than you – principally those metallic, clumsy objects on four wheels that can unintentionally injure the unwary. Others tell you to respect pedestrians: smaller, slower and with a propensity to step into the road without looking – trusting their ears have told them everything they need to know about what’s happening behind them. Or, worse, oblivious: listening to music, texting or talking on the phone. Nevertheless, pedestrians are the most vulnerable group, so it is right to prioritise them on the road. Try to give them right of way and, if you do find yourself cycling towards someone, aim to pass behind them. If we all deferred to things softer than ourselves, we would have a fair hierarchy based on fragility. Yet we, in the middle, must look both ways.

    It is etiquette that distinguishes confidence from aggression – although it is not surprising that our actions are sometimes interpreted as such. Surrounded by cars, in an unfriendly environment, vulnerability can manifest itself as hostility. To make ourselves visible in the space we share with cars, we must project ourselves larger than we are. Old-school messengers riding New York’s avenues, threading through the traffic up 6th or down 5th, have a habit of trailing their fingers along the sides of vans and buses, up above their heads in sight of the driver’s mirror – and even of banging on the sides, to make their presence known. For the rest of us, who do not live and work in the blind spots, this is probably OTT, but a good city cyclist is assertive, both occupying and creating space, placing him or herself out of the gutter – and further into the flow as speed increases. Signalling goes without saying, and manoeuvres should be purposeful: if you’re unsure what you’re doing, nobody else will be either.

    Hand signals are courtesies that can be used for more than turning. Cars and other riders also appreciate a discreet signal to show them, say, on which side of a slowing car you’re going to pass. More and more riders, too, must now understand the roadie’s code of pointing out obstacles and holes: useful, given the state of some city roads, and the close quarters some riders think it a good idea to keep. It is bad form, and dangerous, to sit on somebody’s wheel through town, as is overtaking on the inside – habits which tend to develop together. Always leave plenty of room when passing; a rider popping up on your shoulder unannounced in the hubbub can be a shock. And although it’s less likely than on a weekend training ride that you’ll be carrying a full set of tools – not even sometimes a spare tube – nevertheless, it’s good to stop and help cyclists out if they look in trouble. Clacking along the high street in cleats with a broken bike is no fun.

    It is funny that the city can make us intolerant of other cyclists, when we might feel more fraternal. However, Cat-6 racing, as competitive commuting is sometimes known, is an established tradition and brings its own set of rules. Firstly, choose your opponent carefully. Do not race a ringer. A friend, a pretty handy road racer, used to delight in breezing past guys riding expensive road bikes who took him on. He would let them overtake then, cheerfully waving, overhaul them on his clanking upright old Triumph – all rusty gas-pipe tubing and malfunctioning Sturmey-Archer gears. Train heavy, race light, or so they say. Neither is it dignified to race those clearly unprepared or obviously much slower than you. Then again, if they make the first move, forget it: they’re fair game. Above all, it is obligatory when Cat-6ing past fellow competitors to soften the brow and regulate the breath. Looking like you’re trying means failure, as does red light jumping simply to gain a few seconds.

    Which brings us to the issue of the law. If you’re doing something illegal (and a bike in the city gives you the freedom to use your intelligence rather than follow pointless rules) make sure your intentions are clear. Often, hopping a kerb or shooting a red light is expedient. Only sometimes is it the considerate thing to do, so, if you aren’t correct, make sure at least that you are doing no harm.
    In the end, cycling etiquette is an extension of style. Ride smoothly and with foresight, use your judgement and take responsibility. React to each situation on its merits, and try to keep your cool, however provoked by idiotic behaviour. Remember that you are faster and freer than anything else on the city streets, and rise above the stress. There are many cyclists who act irresponsibly – hurtling through junctions or riding in the dark without lights – and many non-cyclists who’d like to tar all riders with that brush. If etiquette is about expectations, then the best we can do is to confound the low and exceed the good. Talk to people as you pass, or at red lights. Look pedestrians and car drivers in the eye; always say thank you. And smile, you’re a city rider.”

    I find it rather amusing that here in the US there are 5 Categories of classification, with Cat 5 being Novice and Cat 1 being the highest level for a non-professional paid/sponsored bicycle racer. What does that say about “Cat6” hmmmm. 😀

    During my 4 years racing track at Alpenrose and Marymoore, except when on a fun ride with friends, like a Critical Mass, I rode every ride as a “training and endurance ride”, (especially my normal commute home from Montgomery Park to Beaverton, via Council Crest), but NEVER, (at least as far as I can remember) displayed the types of behavior exemplified by the Cat6ers on Williams Ave. or the Hawthorne Bridge; the most noteworthy places that we all have seen this daily. Also, other than my daily commute rides, most of the time I would train on country roads SW of Beaverton and into the coast range and NOT IN TOWN… too much pollution! One of my mantras while riding the last few years is “Breath with diaphragm not chest, RELAX upper body, BE AWARE 360”.

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    • spare_wheel May 9, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      “exemplified by the Cat6ers on Williams Ave. or the Hawthorne Bridge”

      leonard should know better than to tar all cat 6ers due to the actions of a few poseurs. in my experience the typical close/dangerous passer is a low tech noob who would have difficulty lapping a fire hydrant. moreover, racing in or near a bike lane is a huge points deduction.

      i also need to say that if i see someone wearing a rapha blouse and knickers on montgomery/vista/fairmount the game is on.

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  • wsbob May 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    “…If possible, use your arm to signal your intentions…” maus/bikeportland

    For people riding bikes, signaling intention to turn isn’t an option…it’s a legal obligation, one that riders especially shouldn’t be failing to meet in busy traffic situations like the heavily traveled Williams Ave commute route.

    Riders, for example, in the bike lane, that, for whatever reason, can’t give at least…a 3-4 second hand signal to traffic…that they’re going to make a lane change, before actually changing lanes, should sit tight until they can signal.

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    • spare_wheel May 9, 2013 at 8:19 am

      despite the fact that i am shaking my left limb perpatetically i get cut off by motorists swooping illegally around me into a left turn lane every other commute.

      there are cities where motorists pay attention to cyclist signals and portland is NOT one of them. s

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    • are May 9, 2013 at 9:29 am

      there is, however, an exception to the strict rule of maintaining a signal the full hundred feet, etc., if the cyclist requires both hands to manage the steering.

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  • Hugh Johnson May 8, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Time for bike licensing.

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  • Jim May 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    As a business owner on Vancover at Mason with big storefront windows, we see it all most mornings during rush hour. Tons of kooks blazing down Vancouver with no regard for fellow cyclists, especially now with the nice weather. We’re all in the same boat, please treat your fellow cyclists win respect! No passing on the right!! Remember that moving into the auto traffic lane during rush hour is just going to piss off the drivers even more…please do so with courtesy and caution. I’ve ridden Williams and Vancouver for over 10 years and the courtesy to fellow cyclist is disminishing rapidly…

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    • Hugh Johnson May 9, 2013 at 5:28 am

      Jim, there are a lot of self centered folks in this city and we are all bearing the brunt of it now.

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    • Chris I May 9, 2013 at 8:02 am

      As a business owner, how do you feel about drivers using your street as a bypass for I-5? Should we be afraid of pissing off drivers that view the street as a bypass? In my experience, drivers that are using the street to access homes or frequent businesses along it are much more cautious and understanding. The people honking and speeding are the ones using it as a bypass.

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  • Gabriel Amadeus May 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    I’m the person in the second account that Jonathan posted. For the record I don’t believe I’m a reckless cyclist. I ride long distances through the city most days and stop and wave cars through intersections on every ride, use signals when turning/changing lanes, and generally ride in a polite and efficient manner.

    In this particular case traffic was leaving the the intersection at fremont when the light turned green as I approached the slower cyclist ahead of me I checked over my shoulder, saw the car a ways back, signaled, merged lanes, and quickly re-entered the bike lane when I overtook the other cyclist. Right as I did this is when the car caught up to me and started honking.

    Make of it what you will, but I don’t see any actions on my part that I will try to do differently if a similar scenario happens again. Except try to avoid the middle finger. That was rash, but… a large car making an agressive gesture leads to an irrational response.

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  • jim May 8, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    I sometimes see 2 bikes riding side by side in the bike lanes, or almost in the bike lanes. This means drivers have to move over into the next lane to get past them. Sometimes there is no room for a car to move over a lane.

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    • are May 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      sometimes i have to wait for gratification

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    • BURR May 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      Sorry, but it’s legal to ride two abreast.

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      • Jerry Garcia May 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm

        I hear “Share the road” It goes both ways…….
        Legal doesn’t make it courteous to those around you.

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  • David Huntsman May 9, 2013 at 8:24 am

    Everyone’s ignoring the motorist contribution to the hazard, which is the speed cars are traveling adjacent to a bike lane. A motorist shouldn’t be traveling so fast he couldn’t stop safely for a cyclist who “falls over” into his lane. So a motorist should not be overly troubled by bicycles merging into his lane, unless the bike rider is truly merging into the car’s right front fender. A cyclist should never rely on a motorist to practice safe driving, but the motorists do need more education. Most will point to the 30MPH sign and think that is how fast they can go. But that’s only the speed limit when there is no other traffic on the road.

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    • El Biciclero May 9, 2013 at 5:22 pm

      “A motorist shouldn’t be traveling so fast he couldn’t stop safely for a cyclist who ‘falls over’ into his lane.”

      Shouldn’t be, but isn’t legally obligated not to. Safe passing distance laws are nullified in the presence of marked bike lanes or at speeds less than 35 mph.

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  • dweendaddy May 9, 2013 at 8:55 am

    Let me summarize these comments about warning that you are coming up to pass:
    On your left sucks.
    Howdy is good.
    Bells are good.
    Anything is better than nothing.
    No need for announcement.

    Ask 100 bicyclists what they like, you get a hundred answers.

    This bike lane, like most in the US, is too narrow, simply put.
    Path width in the Netherlands: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2011/06/how-wide-is-dutch-cycle-path.html

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    • longgone May 9, 2013 at 11:04 pm

      Lets summarize your summary, shall we?

      “On your left sucks”, esp. when used as a method to berate.
      “Howdy” is good all the time, IF you dont scream it in their ear.
      Bells are good. ..And are legally required in the far away lands of dreamy bike paths. Not required in America, but should be because, “on your left sucks”.
      “Anything is better than nothing”. Only for the squeemish road cyclist that needs coddling.
      “No need for announcement” Truly the choice of all accomplished and able cyclists that possess the internal wherewithal and grit to ride in complete confidence around anyone else, especially wankers who cannot hold a line.

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  • Topher May 9, 2013 at 9:04 am

    If it IS legal “ORS 811.415”, to pass safely on the right, then why do people keep parroting the don’t pass on the right mantra? N Williams rush hour commute is the perfect example. Full bike lane of wildly varying bike speeds, left lane clogged with auto traffic, HUGE open empty parking space for blocks, and you still rather be passed on the left. Unbelievable! It it’s waaaaay safer for all involved for the passing cyclist to overtake you wide to the right in the available open parking space. Obviously not through intersections or a place where another cyclist would be making a right turn, in which case they would be signaling their intentions:). The space is there, use it people.

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    • Psyfalcon May 9, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      Because most people passing on the right aren’t in an open parking spot.

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  • WillB May 9, 2013 at 9:10 am

    I was driving my minivan on the highway and all of a sudden this slow moving semi truck moved over into my lane cutting me off just so he could pass another even slower moving semi. But I didn’t care, I was in a minivan.

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    • Chris I May 9, 2013 at 1:15 pm

      Did you speed up and stark honking at him?

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  • pdog May 9, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I ride on Williams regularly and I’ve witnessed this also. What troubles me is that on some occasions slower riders don’t alway stay to the right. Add a Cat 6 commuter to the mix, not looking over their shoulder and yikes! Its easy to see how angry confrontations can escalate. Its tough to accept some policing of our own, but I firmly believe that some form of education is needed. Not to sound like an old crank(no pun intended) but I’ve been riding and commuting regularly for over 30 years, in Portland, and in cities far less bike friendly than Portland. I worry that the amazing level of bike friendliness we have in Portland brings out a level of entitlement to assume that we sometimes have the right-of-way in more situations than we should.

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    • spare_wheel May 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm

      i am very glad that slow riders avoid the door zone.

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  • Fiat_luxe May 9, 2013 at 10:48 am

    “On your left” sucks? Sorry, I don’t see how it differs materially from a bell and I always appreciate either from other riders. I also always give a “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” as I’m passing. Does that suck too?

    I occasionally take the lane on Williams to pass other riders, but only after a head check, signal, and an “On your left.” Also only if there’s a spot right ahead in the bike lane for me to slip back in. Even when pulling into the lane well ahead of a car, I’ve had the experience of late of motorists hitting the gas as soon as I signal, coming up hot behind me, then aggressively riding my tail till I get over.

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    • BURR May 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm

      “I’ve had the experience of late of motorists hitting the gas as soon as I signal, coming up hot behind me, then aggressively riding my tail till I get over.”

      This would probably qualify as menacing in addition to failure to yield right-of-way, but good luck getting a cop to write the motorist a ticket.

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  • BURR May 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    What this whole discussion points to is how the growth in cycling in Portland has far outstripped the city’s ability to keep up with providing the necessary infrastructure required for public safety on the affected streets.

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    • David Huntsman May 9, 2013 at 1:40 pm

      Would it be entirely wrong to turn that equation around and say that if there were dramatically fewer cars, and/or if motorists were content to drive much more slowly, then the infrastructure would be decent enough for cycling?

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      • BURR May 9, 2013 at 1:57 pm

        Personally I’m not a huge fan of expensive separated infrastructure, but IMO, ‘dramatically fewer cars’, while certainly desirable, is probably not all that realistic in the near future.

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  • Deeebo May 9, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    The whole “Cat 6” term is really meaningless. I average 15 mph on my commute because it is 8 miles and I have things to get done. Should I somehow feel bad about that? If we’re talking about people being jerks then lets call them what they are: jerks. If you are riding/ driving in a way that endangers others for your own convenience you are a jerk. The thing is people in cars, just like me, are often trying to get somewhere and opt to use that mode of transportation for the functional reason of it being faster. When you slow them down they are inconvenienced, not because they must lift a toe, as was stated, but because they may need to be somewhere and they need to get there faster than you have chosen to travel on your bike. We have separate lanes for a reason: cars and bikes don’t play well together, so lets limit that interaction. If you pass/ hang out in the lane for your own convenience you are a jerk. If you ride 2 wide with a buddy so that you are half in/ half out of the bike lane you are a jerk. This works for bike on bike interaction as well. This time of year there are A LOT of people beginning to ride and thats great but many of them are largely clueless. Have some situational awareness and try to realize it is not all about you. Perhaps slower riders would not have negative interactions with faster ones if they would make a bit of room, ride in a strait line and generally pay attention instead of being all gee golly aint this grand and generally acting like they’re riding through fields of daisies in some kind of REI magazine. I know this may be hard to grasp as people in Oregon don’t even know what a passing lane is on the highway but its like this: right lane – saving gas, left lane – haulin ass. Apply this to cars, bikes, peds, whatever and the world is a better place.

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    • takeaspin22 May 10, 2013 at 10:32 am

      “The whole “Cat 6″ term is really meaningless.”

      I agree. I think a lot of people incorrectly assume that fast riders are Cat 6 racers. Just because someone passes you doesn’t mean they are racing you. There may be all kinds of reasons besides racing that someone is riding fast and passing.

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    • El Biciclero May 10, 2013 at 2:14 pm

      “If you pass/ hang out in the lane for your own convenience you are a jerk.”

      “Hanging out” is one thing, but if you legally use the “car” lane to pass (after signaling and allowing enough room for drivers to react), and a driver has to slow down behind you before you’re done, I have to say that’s not “being a jerk”. What it sounds like you’re implying is that motorist convenience trumps cyclist convenience; I should remain in my place (in the bike lane), inconveniently going 5 or 10 under what would be my normal travel speed–for who knows how long–in order to avoid causing a motorist to possibly go 5 or 10 under their normal travel speed for 5 seconds?

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      • John Lascurettes May 10, 2013 at 6:57 pm

        Even if you’re “inconveniencing the motorist for more than 5 to 10 seconds”, N. Williams has multiple car lanes, there’s plenty of space for that driver in turn to drive in the left-most lane to go around you. If there’s not, then Williams is truly working “at capacity” and they should STFU and wait until there’s more room.

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  • Ben Grimm May 9, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Today while I was driving a woman on NW 16th needed to take a left turn from the bike lane. She stuck out her left arm and wiggled her fingers in some sort of jazz-hand-magic-way as if to will my truck to yield. I of course did yield. But I am perplexed how people don’t think or know how to look over their shoulder.

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    • John Lascurettes May 10, 2013 at 6:54 pm

      She shouldn’t even be taking a left from the bike lane (assuming it’s on the right). She should take the lane well before the intersection and make the left from there. So: left lane change, then left turn (two left signals). If she can’t handle that, she should do a two-stage left turn (a.k.a. Copenhagen left).

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  • Dan May 10, 2013 at 10:20 am

    The thing is people in cars, just like me, are often trying to get somewhere and opt to use that mode of transportation for the functional reason of it being faster. When you slow them down they are inconvenienced, not because they must lift a toe, as was stated, but because they may need to be somewhere and they need to get there faster than you have chosen to travel on your bike.

    I ride a lot of small-shoulder country roads regularly, where cars need to give safe passing room. When I’m in a blind corner, it’s appropriate for a driver who has come up behind me to wait a couple of seconds until I’m around that corner before passing, and I’m always sure to wave thanks when they do so.

    Then you get your ‘guy in a hurry’ who needs to pass you immediately. As a driver myself, I can sense that impatience rising when I have to pause a bit during the drive. When you’re in a car, removed from the temperature, the wind, the smells, the sounds, and the EFFORT it takes to get anywhere, anything that requires any extra thought or movement at all becomes a chore. You expect to be able to drive the most direct route at the fastest allowed speed all the time, and not have to avoid obstacles in your lane of travel like I do ALL THE TIME on my bike.

    Now, the ‘guy in a hurry’ could help make the world a better place by waiting a few seconds and passing safely, but instead he chooses to pass on the corner anyway, either endangering you or himself and any oncoming traffic. All of that for a couple of seconds that he’s going to squander as soon as he arrives at his destination.

    I don’t think it’s genuine hurry that is causing the angst. I think it’s IMAGINED hurry.

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    • Dan May 10, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      Darn, I always screw up the quote. My thoughts began with “I ride a lot…”

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  • Dabby May 10, 2013 at 10:40 am

    I have much to say here.
    Instead of boring you I will redirect you to this:

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    • longgone May 11, 2013 at 9:20 am

      Your re-posted article should have been the published op-ed to accompany this piece… Then, all comments should have been shut off!
      Your thoughts are far from boring, and serve as the proper “last word” here.
      You should also contribute more on BP.org, in my opinion.

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  • disastronaut May 12, 2013 at 7:42 pm

    “For various reasons, many people ride very SLOWLY up North Williams Avenue.”


    The majority of people utilizing N. Williams ride at around the same speed, it’s the slowpokes during the evening rush hour that really make things dangerous.

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  • esther c May 13, 2013 at 7:06 am

    I’m always amazed by the cyclists that think drivers are horrible when they complain about cyclists driving slowly on the road but then complain about people that cycle slower than them.

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    • longgone May 13, 2013 at 8:15 am

      True. Humans are and will always be contadictory in actions and will.
      The point here is, and never was ( to begin with) ones right to ride slowly.

      The crux of the original post, was the percieved danger of others taking the lane while being of risk to motorists behind them, while leaving little margin for those they are passing.

      Riding slow in the bike lane is your right. Many ,many cyclist who may pass others have no problem with that.

      The crux of the original post was based on FUD conjecture, IMO, and therefore brought on a host of opinions and unrelated non-sequitars.

      Unlike riding fast, riding slow in the bike lane seems a bit like having a tattoo. Those that have them, do not care that you do not.

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      • longgone May 13, 2013 at 8:22 am

        …oops, “riding fast in the lane, unlike slowly in the bike lane…”

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