Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 22nd, 2013 at 2:37 pm
From a livable streets perspective, Williams Avenue has a lot of problems. Its outdated bicycle lane is so inadequate that the City of Portland prioritized it for an upgrade a few years ago. That upgrade won’t happen until next year, and thankfully, that’s not the only thing that will be be changed. The North Williams Traffic Operations and Safety Project will also come with many other design changes that should make it nicer to walk and bike on the street.
In the meantime, a longtime BikePortland reader who frequently walks on Williams says the way many people ride on the street has made him a “weary, weary pedestrian.” He wrote us via email to share his perspective and I’ve pasted it below:
I have lived off of Williams (N of Skidmore) for over 10 years and fully embrace anyone riding a bike on Williams or anywhere for that matter. I’m a huge bike fan and love nothing more than admiring a great vintage bike or beautiful lugwork on a frame.
Unfortunately my love of bikes is slowly diminishing due to more than a handful of cyclists who choose to ignore traffic signs and markers. I can be found walking my dog, or by myself, at all hours, and find myself more and more astounded by the behavior of folks who fly through stop signs, lights, around corners and most especially through very visible pedestrian crossing areas all over Williams.
I’d love to acknowledge this is nothing more than the musings of one cranky late 40s guy, but more and more folks in our neighborhood are starting to take notice and wondering how to take action about this reckless behavior. It’s not just 20 somethings riding fixies while wearing headphones who do this – it goes across the spectrum of riders. (Although I will exclude cargo bike people because they tend to be the most aware riders out there.)
Any thoughts, ideas, recommendations about this? I’m tired of cyclists nearly hitting me and or my dog on an all too frequent basis. Not an easy question, I know, and I am not expecting you to be the ambassador for all things bike related in Portland, but any input you have would be greatly appreciated.
I shared with T.B. that the new design changes coming to the street might help a little. When people ride (or drive for that matter) on streets like Williams (with relatively high speeds and lots of other vehicles), they become stressed and anxious. That stress can lead to illegal actions and lack of respect for others. I’d like to think that the design changes arrived at by PBOT and the project stakeholder committee will improve behavior; but I’m not convinced they will.
And of course it’s not all about design. There are larger cultural forces at work here having to do with how people treat each other in public spaces. I’ve noticed that many Americans ride bikes the same way they drive — with speed and selfishness defining the experience.
What do you think? Do you walk on/around Williams much? If you do, do you experience the same thing T.B. does and what (if anything) can be done to make things better?