northwest Portland from the hills.
A reader email we received yesterday struck a nerve because it brought up issues I’ve personally experienced and thought a lot about. The issue is bicycle access and interactions with other vehicle operators on busy roads during rush-hour where there’s no dedicated space for cycling.
The busy road in this case is NW Cornell.
Southwest and northwest Portland are jammed right up against some pretty serious hills on their western sides. These hills are criss-crossed by a number of roads, many of which are popular for both riding bikes and driving cars between downtown Portland and the major cities on the west side. Despite the presence of Highway 26 and Burnside — both of which are major thoroughfares for auto users — many people still drive on roads like NW Cornell, Germantown, and others in order to avoid backups.
Reader Rob A. recently experienced something while driving on Cornell that left a strong, negative impression on him. Here’s what happened, in Rob’s own words (emphases mine):
I drive Cornell every morning about 7 AM from the West side to NW Portland and back again about 4 PM. This can be a stressful drive in early morning rush hour because there are no street lights, the road is narrow with no shoulder, there are numerous blind curves, there is traffic in both directions, and yes, people can be in a bit of a hurry. [Note: Cornell is a relatively steep downhill in this direction.] This drive becomes even more stressful when there is a road bike on the road during rush hour traffic. The problem with Cornell; there is literally no room for slow moving bikes on the road (narrow, no shoulder) and they tend to initiate traffic jams because it is very dangerous trying to pass them with all the blind curves and oncoming traffic.
The other day I was at the end of a line of about 20 cars slowly working their way around this fellow on a very expensive road bike. He was not an urban PDX commuter. He looked very serious with his riding attire, goggle and headgear, expensive road bike, and athletic physique; clearly an alpha physical specimen. As I approached him, there was no one behind me, I slowed and very respectfully (and naively) asked him why he was riding this road at such a dangerous hour; I was curious. Big mistake! He pulled out his earbuds (yes, earbuds!!!) and looked at me. I repeated my question. Then he went non linear and started cursing me in a testosterone fueled, angry rage. I have never had anyone vent that kind of rage at me and it was very unsettling and uncivilized. If words could kill I would be dead. And if he could have climbed in my car it seems he would have attempted to beat me to death. This was obviously one very disturbed cyclist. Perhaps he had a history of these experiences on this road and just blew a fuse; who knows. But it was not my intention to trigger his rage. I decided this was not such a good idea and moved on.
Further down the road as I waited in line while approaching the first stop sign on Lovejoy, I saw this fellow approaching from behind at a very high rate of speed. I figured he wanted to catch up to me and have words; so I lowered my window hoping for a rational exchange. I tend to have faith that most people eventually come to good sense. I felt calm and unafraid as this angry man on a bike approached. Instead he blew by in the narrow corridor between the parked cars and the cars lined up for the stop sign, losing control as he entered the last sharp curve before Lovejoy straightens out. I was sure he was going to crash and be seriously injured; this guy was moving fast. But he managed an ungraceful recovery and complete the turn between parked cars and traffic. I am sure this enraged him even more as he blew through the stop sign and headed east on Lovejoy at a high rate of speed. That was the last I saw of this angry man. Clearly, road rage is not limited to drivers!
I have a message for road bike enthusiast, we don’t hate you; we don’t wish you harm, and we respect your right to ride. I am a rider myself, as is my wife. But your personal choice to put yourself and others (yes, others) in harm’s way on roads like Cornell during rush hour is simply irresponsible and self serving behavior. Please, exercise some common sense and wait until after rush hour to share these dangerous roads with us. In the meantime I am considering using my retirement years to pursue the construction of a safe passage bike corridor over the West Hills. Now that is common sense. Then I would seriously consider riding my bike to work in NW Portland.
Rob’s reaction to this experience is not uncommon. Just this morning, someone I follow on Twitter complained about a “dangerous moron” who was riding on NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd in morning rush-hour traffic.
Both of these situations exemplify what happens when a lack of adequate bicycle access combines with our basic human instinct to attach a negative reaction to someone we perceive as doing something out-of-the-ordinary or dangerous.
“Dangerous moron on Hwy 99 today. Bikes shouldn’t be on here, right?”
— Tweet from @nigelduara
Cornell is technically classified as a “neighborhood collector” street. It’s not meant as the regional arterial is has become due to people using it to avoid driving on congestion on Highway 26 and Burnside (and there’s actually a serious effort afoot to make it safer for all users). And in the case of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd (OR 99W), some people ride bikes on it because it’s the most direct and convenient way to get north-south in that general area (which is the same reason it’s so popular for driving on).
Is it “irresponsible and self-serving” for someone to ride a bicycle on these roads during certain hours of the day? I don’t think so. And I think you could make an argument that riding a bicycle — given its relatively tiny impact on the streets and other road users — is actually the more responsible and selfless thing to do.
This is also a matter of perspective: Perhaps the reason these roads are busy and “dangerous” is actually because there are so many cars on them. Driving cars in crowded urban areas takes up a lot of room and creates numerous safety and livability issues. If we flipped these scenarios and put bikes where the cars are, and vice-versa, I bet people would see cars as the “problem.”
In both cases, bicycling is completely legal, and for many people, reasonable. Except for freeways, our roads are not meant for only the fastest and largest vehicles.
I also noticed that in both cases, the people driving focused on the bicycle riders’ clothing choices. This is a common thing to do, but what a person is wearing (or what they’re doing, even if it’s someone with an “athletic physique” on a training ride) shouldn’t distract from the discussion.
At the same time, these feelings about the presence and behavior of bicycle riders on certain roads shouldn’t be dismissed or marginalized. They are real and I understand where they come from. As someone familiar with the emotions on both sides, I just want everyone to be aware that there’s always another perspective and that the “other” person is simply trying to get from point A to point B — just like you’re trying to do.
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I ride this stretch of Cornell in the evenings- often in the dark- once a week and always end up feeling scared as well.
Cornell road is an important connection for some trips between the east and west sides of the Tualatin Mountains (west hills). Bicycles can’t be expected to divert to other routes for some trips- that would add 4+ miles to a number of start/end pairs that simply can’t be considered given the terrain.
Often I find that the problem is that drivers don’t know how to behave in this scenario. They want to do the right thing but don’t know what it is. In my opinion, the right thing is to wait until the cyclist thinks it is safe to be passed, and then the rider should wave the driver past.
Asking someone who is in a high-stress situation why they are choosing to ride that route will, unsuprisingly, set some folks off. There aren’t any good options!
Paving bicycle lanes – especially uphill or just widening NW Cornell between Cedar Hills and Portland would go a long way to calming everyone down
Widening Cornell would have the effect of increasing the car traffic on the road, unless there were hard separators placed in the road to keep the cars from using the entire width.
Widening NW Cornell would be a massive financial undertaking requiring the construction of miles of retaining walls and acquiring right-of-way through one of the most expensive parts of the metro area. Unless necessary for vehicle safety there is no way this will happen.
There is clearly a need for better and safer bike connectivity through the West Hills. A far more cost-effective option would be to improve Leif Erickson Drive and Salzman Road. Either add a dedicated paved cycle path along them, or at least improve the drainage and surface treatment so they can be ridden in all seasons by folks on road and commuter bikes.
His letter is emblematic of a car-centric perspective and I would hope for more open-mindedness from someone who claims to support bicycle access.
Also, as a general rule, a driver asking a cyclist from a moving car why they are choosing to ride a bicycle right now is not the setting for a calm, intellectual conversation.
Most people assume that those outside of their car can hear and distinguish what they’re trying to yell out of a window. I assure you that no matter what you say or how calmly you say it, it sounds like angry gibberish on the other side of your window. I completely understand why the cyclist in this story thought he was simply being harassed.
To be honest, I no longer ride uphill on Cornell during rush hour because it’s too hairy. Bike lanes would help a lot, or enforcing about a 20 mph speed limit that would make it unattractive as a cut-through.
Local public road w/o adequate bike facilities = legal to cycle on and take the lane at any hour of the day.
A polite, safe motorist will slow down, not follow too closely and pass only when safe, without making any other contact, including verbal interaction.
Why do motorists think they have any right to tell cyclists whether their behavior is appropriate or not, especially when what the cyclist was doing was perfectly legal?
And, everyone who prefaces their anti-cycling views with “I am a cyclist too”, with the implication that the cyclist in question is “not doing it right”, should just stfu.
“I’m a cyclist too” has the same effect as “I’m not a racist but” to my ears.
Yes! I was hit by a guy who told me he was a cyclist too – as if it should make me sympathetic. My reaction was “then you should have known better!”
5/6/12 “I don’t own or ride a bicycle — haven’t ridden one since I was a kid.”
4/3/14 “I am a rider myself, as is my wife.”
Seems Rob has started biking since his letter to the Oregonian in 2012. Cool! http://blog.oregonlive.com/myoregon/2012/05/share_the_right_road_cyclists.html
That’s deTECTive Carl to you, mister.
Seriously. Nice find!
Apparently Rob might need to find a new route to get to work.
Behold the power of the Internet:
The whole world is a small town where everyone can be that nosy old biddy carefully watching everyone’s every action in public.
Sometimes she’s just bored, sometimes she tips off the sheriff when it matters, mostly she just complains about whippersnappers, perceived promiscuity and that loud noise you call music. Same things she was guilty of when she was a kid.
But she’s always watching.
Please someone give that Oregonian article the #ReplaceBikeWithCar treatment.
True Detective: Season 2
You’re preaching to the choir here Jonathan. This happens every day. This is never going to change until our elected officials have the balls to educate the general public and put an end to the culture that makes it acceptable for roads to be ‘dangerous’
I’m still waiting for the City’s motorist re-education campaign
w/r/t cyclists’ legal rights to the road; going on 25 years of waiting now…
There is no time when talking to somebody on a bike through the window of a moving car is not a huge dick move. Don’t do it. Ever.
So asking a bicyclist for directions (happens to me fairly often) is a “huge dick move”? Alright then…
Well, when the question is: “How do I get to the freeway from here?” and you’re in downtown PDX where you are encircled by freeways it is a dick move.
That’s one of my favorites. Ask a cyclist how to get to the freeway! “Straight ahead, watch for the signs.” Fortunately there are no boat ramps or ferry landings downtown.
While in motion on a narrow, winding road? Yeah.
Hah! That reminds me of a ride a few years ago when I was biking up to Government Camp. A few miles before ski bowl, some international tourists pulled over and matched my speed (something under 10 mph) and one of them leaned out the window to ask for directions to Timberline Lodge.
I know they bore me no ill will, but it was very hard not to say “buzz off, I’m !@#@$#@ dying out here, and i’d like to do it in peace”
I’ve also been honked / shouted (“I love your bike!”) /gestured (thumbs up) at by people just showing some love. Clearly no ill will intended there.
I’m sorry, but unless the cyclist is on an urban freeway, NO driver has the right to tell them they have no right to be on the road, ever, no matter how much it irritates them.
You think we cyclist don’t get irritated by the hoards of motorists speeding down our bike boulevards day in day out, trying to shave twenty seconds off their car commutes?
Also: where was the cyclist supposed to be riding? What other myriad of streets allow cyclists to cross the West Hills? Oh! Wait! He should have gone TWENTY MILES OUT OF HIS WAY to use Newberry!
If the letter writer in this article is in that much of a fricking hurry, maybe he or she should get the hell off a narrow, windy road, traffic congested road like Cornell, and get onto HW26.
Or better yet, take the fricking MAX, and you’d be there by now.
If a driver had rolled down the window to ME and told me I had no right to be on a road I was legally allowed on, I don’t know what I would do or say to them, but it wouldn’t be pretty.
I’m sorry for all the exclamation points etc etc, but this kind of story really “gets my goat”, as the saying goes.
How about this scenario. During rush hour, the MAX trains get very full with people. Often times bikes are squeezed into any available nook or cranny which impacts the safety of others. Without being on a bike hook, a bike could get loose and injure people if the MAX abruptly stopped. Is it OK to put the safety of others at risk for your own convenience?
You are not serious.
This is a complete non sequitur. I will illustrate by modifying your statement slightly:
How about this scenario. During rush hour, people driving cars speed and run red lights. Is it OK to put the safety of others at risk for your own “convenience”?
It is never okay to put some else’s safety at risk for your own convenience. That is why auto drivers should always slow down and wait to pass when it is safe to do so.
RH, I’ve ridden the MAX Blue/Red Line over the West Hills at least 2000 times, and never once in all these years have I experienced a stop so abrupt that a bike would go flying down the aisle. Also, cyclists are required to stand with any bike that is not on a hook, and in my experience they nearly always do so because it’s impracticable not to.
Your scenario is implausible.
I’ve seen it happen. A cyclist was balancing his bike vertically in the crowded middle isle and the MAX slammed to a stop. He and the bike toppled over a few people. FWIW, I am a daily bike and MAX commuter, car-free. I often sense the frustration with MAX commuters who share a crowded space with cyclists blocking the isles, etc… Much like the cars in the above story. If we could all share the space peacfully, it would be a utopia.
I’m a Max commuter AND a cyclist. I don’t understand how you say that there are cyclists on the Max who are separate and distinct from Max commuters.
And, just like the letter writer would have riders wait until after rush hour to go where they need to go, would you prefer that those with bicycles just wait it out until a train with an open hook shows up before making their way to work or home? I know you would never ask that of the mother with the double-wide stroller, would you?
How about this scenario. During rush hour, the MAX trains get very full with people. Often times strollers are squeezed into any available nook or cranny which impacts the safety of others. Without being in the designated space, a stroller could get loose and injure people if the MAX abruptly stopped. Is it OK to put the safety of others at risk for your own convenience?
A street professor was standing at the front of the Max. He had brought a bike on with him. He turned to the rest of the riders and said;
“Hey, I don’t even care if I don’t have a hook. I’m a libtard and going to set my bike right here.”
Seeing this libtard have no regard for the safety of anyone else, God, or country, Marine Todd jumped up and knocked the libtard out. He threw his unconscious body and bike out of the Max train, hitting a drum circle and jam band at the same time. Then he turned to the train and said;
“I hate socialized healthcare!”
Everyone on the Max train cheered Marine Todd. They hated Obungler too.
Also: I used to commute by bike upNW Cornell and onto Westover each morning a few years back.
I’m here to tell you: one little cyclist is not the problem with traffic congestion on that road.
If you want to know what causes traffic congestion, as a motorist, you might want to look a little closer to home. Biking up the hill each day, I would see car traffic heading down the hill towards downtown backed up for a mile, mile and a half at 7:45am all the way to the stop sign at NW Lovejoy. And there were funnily enough, no cyclists around to blame for THAT congestion. Oh, the pity!
Isn’t it funny how many people do not understand that traffic is simply caused by TOO MANY PEOPLE DRIVING THEIR CARS ON THE SAME ROAD AT THE SAME TIME? Put a bike lane in next to them and they’ll still either complain that it’s wasted space used by too few (other) people bicycling, or that the few people biking on it are somehow causing the miles of cars creeping along at sub-optimal speeds. Just add lanes… that’ll make all the traffic magically disappear!
That’s probably the best part about this letter. The author has the perception that the cyclist is slowing them down and thus, making their commute take longer. Yet, the cyclist is able to catch up to them while they are waiting in traffic a few minutes later. If the author of this letter had slowed down and just followed the cyclist at a safe distance, he would have reached his destination at the exact same time. It’s like accelerating towards a red light. You just waste gas and brake pad life. Slow down and enjoy the trip!
I live now in a high-density suburb in Silicon Valley where there are traffic lights everywhere. I’ve never seen so many people hit the gas so hard, even when you can look down the road and see a red light less than a half-mile away. When I drive these roads, people frequently pass me impatiently, only to have to nail the brakes that much harder; often they think I’m slowing them down, but they don’t even get fully around me before having to stop in the next lane anyway. It’s exactly the same behavior described in this letter, except that the ‘slow’ guy happens to be on a bicycle (wearing spandex, yada yada yada). Incidentally I suspect there’s a correlation to our gas prices being some of the highest in the nation (and coincidentally bike mode-share rising dramatically here now).
Rob A. seems to think writing letters will somehow dissuade people from cycling on roads he commutes on. If his goal is to reduce traffic on these roads, ironically, he’d be more effective by encouraging more of his fellow motorists to take MAX or ride their bikes!
BTW Rob A., if your point was that this cyclist was out for a recreational ride during commute hours, keep in mind he could have come from a training ride on the way into his office where he keeps his business clothes. Just because he isn’t carrying a backpack and riding a hybrid doesn’t mean he’s not commuting to work like you are – not that it changes his right to ride on that road.
How would the driver feel if the cyclist rode up to his window and asked him what the heck he was thinking by driving on this narrow, winding road during rush hour and putting cyclists lives at risk (because, yes, that was what he was doing)?
I think that would put the driver on the defensive… whodathunk!
FWIW, Portland’s Transportation System Plan classifies both NW Cornell and NE MLK as City Bikeways, indicating that these roads are integral to the bike network for one reason or another.
The classification of roads for bikes is a bit counter-intuitive, and often correlates a little too well with auto classifications. But bikes belong on these roads, should be expected on them, and are even encouraged to ride along them (in our planning documents if not yet in the design of the streets).
If the city had any cojones at all, there would be sharrows painted right in the center of the lane every 50 yds in both directions on NW Cornell.
“Share the Road.” Ha!
“…they tend to initiate traffic jams because it is very dangerous trying to pass them with all the blind curves and oncoming traffic.”
“The other day I was at the end of a line of about 20 cars slowly working their way around this fellow on a very expensive road bike.”
“Further down the road as I waited in line while approaching the first stop sign on Lovejoy…”
What’s the point in trying to pass a cyclist here if you’re just going to end up in a long line at the Lovejoy & 25th intersection anyway? This video shows a cyclist passing 53 cars waiting at that intersection. Clearly the cyclist isn’t the one holding you up.
This is the real point. The cyclist wasn’t slowing anybody down at all. The driver could have stayed behind the cyclist for the entire drive to Lovejoy and arrived at the same time.
That’s where the education needs to happy. Speeding by the cyclist doesn’t actually save you any time. When people start realizing that, they can slow down and enjoy the scenery a bit more rather than stressing over getting to the back of the line at the stop sign 30 seconds faster.
This is the odd, racing mentality of driving. I suffer from it at times, too. The same thing happens on 26 in the morning when folks want to go 70 from 185th until they hit the backup (which they know is there) at 217 or Sylvan and then go 15 the rest of the way into town. What people tend to focus on is not how fast they are going, but how many others they can pass and “beat” to their destination. Most of us loathe being “behind”, even if we’re stopped–and to be behind a cyclist is downright perverse.
I, too, find it interesting that this driver claims that occasional bicyclists on Cornell “tend to initiate traffic jams”, yet the hundreds of cars he is stuck behind as this particular cyclist passes (at a “high rate of speed”, mind you!) the queue bear no responsibility for causing a “traffic jam”.
Roads are public spaces, and as such the public is allowed to their use regardless of mode of transportation.
Drivers, not cars – are what make the roads dangerous (its the old guns don’t kill people arguement). Most people know how to drive, they even pass tests. But they don’t know how to do it well, you aren’t tested on that.
It helps if you think about traffic like a garden hose and cars are water molecules. If you turn the hose all the way up, you get pressure because you cause back up. That is why the water shoots out farther when it leaves the hose. However, that isn’t the pressure which would fill a bucket up the fastest.
To fill the bucket up fastest, you need to find the sweet spot where there is maximum water molecules running through the hose with the least amount of resistance.
If you want to ease gridlock on the freeways while driving, the best thing to do is to slow down and increase your gap. Try to go at a pace in which you don’t have to use the brake but don’t gain on the gap with the car in front of you. The more people that do this the more the speeds level out. Sure you won’t be 70mph on the Sunset doing this, but if everyone did it, it’d easily be a steady 45 MPH+ without the stop and go.
To ease gridlock in town, make sure you don’t block intersections or crosswalks at the lights (even if it means you’re sitting through a green).
And in Portland, for most (though not all) the major roads Downtown and East side driving about 3 mph UNDER the speed limit and you’ll make the greens. Of course other traffic will hinder this, but short of grid lock you can compensate for this by going slower. It’s super easy to time the lights downtown, you can watch the cycle for 10+ blocks, put yourself in the greens and relax and enjoy the ride. (You can do this on a bike as well).
You have to adjust your speed (usually I don’t apply any gas for turns, and I’ll hit red for a couple seconds at the first light after the turn)for each turn you make because you are not just changing roads, but also changing light schedules as well.
And in either situation (highway or roads) changing lanes as little as possible makes things better for everyone as well. Some problems with gridlock is from impatient people block two lanes while they muscle themselves into a lane that they think will get them that extra 10 seconds.
People doing this at rush hour just make it worse, since the first person blocks two lanes, others behind them then try to avoid that back up, and they start blocking two lanes. Only takes a couple of people doing this within a couple miles and traffic is at stand still behind them. (You can watch for yourself I’d recommend 205 round Mall 205 or Gateway overpass if you don’t believe me).
I discovered all this while I was a cab driver a decade ago. Doing these things made me a safer driver, lowered my gas consumption dramatically, and even lowered my fares for my customers since they didn’t have to pay much while the meter ran at the lights, and I got everywhere just as fast as before.
Enough driving lessons…this is after all a bike blog.
I’ve read many studies proving this, and I drive this way and it not only increases my gas mileage but lowers my blood pressure. I’ve always believed that 1) we should have a national standard for traffic laws and education and eliminate state-specific DMVs, and 2) driver education should include efficiency (like you describe) and not just etiquette and safety. Bike blog or not, thanks for putting it out there.
I occasionally descend Cornell from Greenleaf on my longer commutes. Every car that passes me, I pass again when they’re at a dead stop somewhere between Westover and Lovejoy … and then I pass 20 or 30 more after that.
Cars must stack up 5-10min or more at that intersection. How this is faster end-to-end than Hwys 26 & 30 or Burnside is beyond me.
I’m totally in favor of another bike highway connecting the westside to downtown, BTW. The path on Hwy 26 is great. Build one further north of 26 and I’ll use it.
Back in the day, before I started to ride, the cyclists on Cornell made me hate all bicycles. Yes, I know hate is a strong word. No, I’m not saying that it was an intelligent thought.
Now that I ride, I understand that the road must be fantastic, both the ascent as well as the descent, but it is still seems like a dangerous option. Someday I’d like to give it a shot, though.
Has anyone here ever had a close-call (or worse) while riding Cornell?
One time a truck pulled out from Thompson right in front of me while I was going 48 mph or so — I had to cross the yellow line to keep from rear-ending this guy and then he yelled at me for being next to his driver-side window
Another time I almost hit a deer going like 35-40. My brakes stopped me < 20 feet away
wow, that’s a fast deer! c(:
FWIW, Highway 26 itself is legal to bike on in the eastbound direction from the west side right up to the Jefferson St. exit, which essentially delivers you pretty close to downtown.
Wait, this happened going DOWNHILL?????
Hmm, it does kind of read that way, doesn’t it? If someone pulled up next to me at 40 mph going down Cornell and tried to start a conversation, I would also be less than friendly. If that’s what happened, it’s astonishingly clueless behavior by the motorist and makes me wonder about whether the letter writer really rides a bike.
West side to NW Portland would implicate a general downhill direction.
Well, it depends where he starts – you have to go up before you can go down. But it does suggest that he passed reasonably close to the stop sign at Lovejoy, where the cyclist would have been doing 40ish. I usually take the lane at those speeds, maybe the cyclist’s error here was staying far enough to the right that motorists thought it would be OK to pass.
Somehow I get the feeling that “I am a rider myself, as is my wife.” might mean “I drive my bike the bike path once every couple of months and do an hour or two”.
There is often a big disconnect between recreation cycling and commuting/transportation cycling. You would think these two would understand each other a little more, but alas they have different goals/priorities/ideals/etc.
I just hate the “I’m a cyclist” argument people throw out as some kind of cred. to justify their opinions.
If a car pulls up to me (especially when I am kind of holding up traffic) and rolls down his window and tries to talk to me, I pretty much am not going to care what he has to say, and view it as an aggressive, offensive action. Period. Not the right time or place to have a “rational” discussion.
“I just hate the “I’m a cyclist” argument people throw out”
It always sounds to me like “Some of my best friends are …” [gay, black, immigrants, etc.] or “I’m not racist/homophobic but …” You just know whatever comes out next is gonna be racist/homophobic…
What if he has a legit question or something pleasant to say?
wrong place wrong time. Wait until we’re stopped at a light. I ride defensively, and I just assume that EVERY car (even the ones my wife happens to be in) are going to do/say something derogatory to me. That’s just the way it is. Same way that honking a horn is rarely viewed as a friendly gesture.
Other people on bikes or pedestrians, you get face to face contact and it doesn’t seem as condescending.
Focussing on the clothing choices of the cyclists confuses me. How they dress doesn’t really convey anything. I commute in all sorts of ridiculous outfits (spandex, rain gear, sundresses) as I work in surgery and change into scrubs when I get to work.
I’m so irritated by the notion that cyclist shouldn’t be riding during “driving times”. I’m frustrated that car drivers see bikes as a horrible obstacle, but have no problem being stuck in a long line of cars at a stop sign. I’m angry at being told I should add several miles to my commute or only ride on a bike path (which doesn’t start near my home or end at my place of work) so I don’t scare or inconvenience car drivers.
I agree. If the driver believes that info on what the cyclist was wearing/riding is so important, why doesn’t he tell us what he was wearing and driving. I mean, if he was wearing shorts/sandals and driving an old Civic, then I can totally relate and think that he was probably in the right. However, if he was wearing an expensive suit and driving a Lexus, well….
Well to be fair, at least on the West side in Beaverton, most of the bicyclist who are blatantly ignoring the laws are dressed in Spandex, and have expensive bikes. They’re obviously not commuters and are training.
They’re the people who make it bad for the rest of us. And I’ll sure as heck yell at them when they blow through a stop sign I’ve stopped my own bike at, or not in the bike lane at all. Or are engaging in other behaviors that make them unpredictable to drivers.
Anyone remember the old Disney Short with Goofy “Mr. Walker and Mr. Wheeler?” The same principle still exists.
Good question. If so, and if the rider was as strong and fast as Rob A. claims, then the driver were hauling ass and clearly not the model citizen and stalwart icons of decorum that Rob pictures himself to be.
Still the story reminds me of a time I was in a bike shop and some “alpha physical specimen” on his high-end unobtanium bike comes barreling into the bike shop and tries to execute hard braking as a demonstration of his prowess. The front end washed out and he biffed right in front of the power bars. Nice entrance Lance was all I thought. Rob A is wrong thinking, but cyclists can still demonstrate their own douchbaggery.
Someone somewhere was a douche bag at some point. Oh, and he happened to be riding a bike. So what? People can be douche bags regardless of how they get from A to B, and we all know that. I can’t see what that has to do with the article and the issues it raises.
Based on Rob’s entire description I have to seriously question his ability to judge whether a rider “lost control” or not.
The cyclist is “putting himself in harm’s way.” Of course, the driver is the source of the potential harm, but the writer removes himself from the whole equation. The subtext I read is that vehicular traffic on this road is inevitable, organic, and normal; bicycle traffic is foolish, obstructive, and selfish. I don’t see any reasoning for why the driver is privileged and the rider is not, though.
Bottom line. If any driver were actually interested in putting the safety of others ahead of their own convenience, they would either be walking or taking the bus. Period. End of argument.
I am sure that most drivers see a bike on the road as a “must pass” situation even if they are going to be waiting in a line up in a few minutes. Funny the same thing happened to this lovely gentleman as the guy that he desperately needed to pass after rudely chastising.
There is an issue specific to Cornell that results in the significant level of AM/PM peak traffic. Cornell is classified as a neighborhood collector in Portland but as an arterial in Washington County. The Washington County policy and land use feed cars to their arterial Cornell and then on to Portland’s neighborhood collector Cornell. Further, I’ve been riding through the NW neighborhoods in the AM to the Pittock Mansion for some exercise and I’ve been shocked to see how many cars are using the neighborhood as a cut through to avoid the congestion on Cornell/Lovejoy. The issue will only get worse unless Washington County re designates their side of Cornell and discourages folks to use it as a bi-pass to Burnside and 26. Oh and Germantown Rd will suffer a similar fate.
The biggest take away I got from this story is that the bicyclist eventually ended up passing and overtaking all the cars that passed him. The writer of this letter gained absolutely no benefit from passing this rider, other than the short term satisfaction of going the speed limit head long into a backup of queued up cars down the road. Hard to remind yourself that that’s what’s going to happen while intercity driving. Deep breaths help.
” Despite the presence of Highway 26 and Burnside — both of which are major thoroughfares for auto users — many people still drive on roads like NW Cornell, Germantown, and others in order to avoid backups.”
So the driver doesn’t know why anybody would want to drive on that road at that hour. But the sentence above indicates that the author doesn’t want anyone to drive a car on that road at that hour.
Both are equally prententious attitudes. It’s a road, meant and built with cars in mind. Bikes can use it too. But don’t expect cars to forgoe it for the benefit of the random cyclist.
That’s not what I’m saying at all. I think you’re misunderstanding me. I’m simply pointing out the reason why many people drive on Cornell and I’m telling people that there are other routes available to them.
The expectation isn’t that “cars forego it”, but rather that the drivers of those cars behave in safe manner. Passing cyclists closely on narrow roads is unsafe, regardless of how much of a hurry you’re in, especially combined with rolling the window down to have a ‘rational’ conversation with the cyclist on the way by about why he is the one behaving unsafely (aka “deflection”).
Um, it’s a road, meant and built with People in mind. People can use cars on it and people can use bikes on it.
it boggles my mind when people lose sight of this.
I’ve only ever ridden down Cornell once in my life (and never up from the NW) because if I’m going that far out of my way I want to also hit the dirt in Forest Park, but except for that bit near Audubon (where you’re supposed to slow down anyway) I recall it being a pretty fast ride. If was held up by an “alpha physical specimen” on this downhill, this Rob A****** guy must have been driving WAYYYY too fast.
And as others have said, the cyclist’s reaction is exactly expected. Imagine the reaction if you rapped on the average driver’s car window and asked them why they were out driving and contributing to congestion that morning? Might be a liiiiitttle hostile too. This Rob person doesn’t have any more right to the road as the cyclist in question – and maybe less, given the evidence of his inability to share.
So fixing the language above, here’s my retort to Mr. A:
Your personal choice to put others in harm’s way on roads like Cornell during rush hour is simply irresponsible and self serving behavior. Please, exercise some common sense and wait until after rush hour to if you can’t share these dangerous roads with us.
I ride this road a fair amount and this observation is 100% accurate. Cars are in a huge hurry to pass when they are only going to be stopped at the next stop sign anyway. I think this has a lot to do with drivers just being impatient and not knowing how to drive.
What I don’t understand is: where are they in such a hurry to go ? You used to be able to see this mainly at RUSH HOUR, but now it’s all day.
Are they off to get a sugary/caffeine bomb ? The new iDevice ? Is everybody now working non-standard hours ? Have a quota of gas that must be consumed every month ?
When you are a 40hr. drone, the traffic chaos may not be so noticeable, but when you have discretionary time ..it’s very evident.
I’m not saying anybody’s right or wrong, but I do wonder why anyone would *choose* to ride on Cornell during rush hour if it wasn’t necessary. Maybe it was.
That time of day, I’d probably avoid anything connected to Skyline and find somewhere else to ride.
When I worked in Hillsboro, I rode through the West hills during rush hour (via Cornell, Skyline & Germantown) on a daily basis — most of the time in full Lycra. The assumption that this was a joyride based on this cyclist’s attire is completely unfounded.
You clearly missed the sentence “maybe it was [necessary].”
I’d love to be able to ride Cornell in & out of the city. It would reduce my commute by 28%. But I stay off of it because of the heavy & dangerous car traffic.
Rob A doesn’t know what real inconvenience is.
That’s an extra 8.2 miles a day. You’re welcome Rob.
Wow! Cornell during rush hour is bad, but maybe not “eight miles out of the way” bad by my standards. I respect yours, though.
Maybe it’s too late to clarify myself now, but I’m simply trying to analogize between rush hour Cornell and a certain package of toilet paper in our utility room. Somebody is buying this sandpaper and using it, but we try not to run out of better stuff…
I can totally understand the driver’s perspective in this article. With the narrow road and numerous blind corners it is pretty easy to wonder why a cyclist would ever want to be there mixed up with rush hour traffic. In this case the problem is also the answer, because this mess of congestion is actually the best cycling route through that part of town.
I ride almost 365 … lot & lots of miles.
I also drive 2 cars, not so frequently.
The poor behavior by motorist is NOT limited to car vs bike action. Even in my pickup , I get tailgated, right hooked , yelled at , passed on the shoulder (when I’m in the rightmost lane) , zoomed past by drivers who end up next to me at the stoplight , etc,etc.
There are courteous drivers and lots & lots of jerks. I think the act of driving is stressful and often turns normal people into clods. If they time managed a little better, there might be a little stress induced in their driving chore.
Motorists are not a monolithic block that can be generally lumped together , neither are cyclists. Sometimes I also shudder at fellow cyclists actions.
Why Rob thought anyone on this site would bring anything positive to this situation is beyond me. What’s the point of printing this letter in the first place? It’s all about the bike here–any other point of view is treated with contempt.
Oh my, Help: You do realize you’re on BIKEportland.org, right? Maybe you’ll find validation over on carportland.org. Good luck!
Isn’t that the Oregonian?
“It’s all about the bike here–any other point of view is treated with contempt.”
are you implying that you think Rob’s point of view has greater merit than the majority of folks here seem to think? Would you care to elaborate? Set us straight?
As for it being all about the bike. That seemed to be Rob’s focus too. He somehow missed the fact that there were dozens and dozens of cars slowing everything to a halt, and, apparently, just one (fast) guy on a bike.
I’ve actually been passed by a car inside the tunnel inbound on Cornell. It’s one of the reasons I usually avoid this route during rush hour, opting instead ride out of my way and come into PDX via Fairview.
The crazy thing is there’s no need for drivers to get amped up about having to slow down for cyclists since there’s always a huge backup at 25th & Lovejoy. They roar by cyclists, often in a dangerous maneuver, and then sit in the backup of car traffic for 15 minutes (while staring at their cell phones).
I’ve always thought there must be some human instinct at play that sends people into a panic at the thought of getting trapped behind a cyclist. I don’t always think they are angry but there seems to be something that compels them take risks to get ahead (typically putting the cyclist’s life in danger).
I’ve also witnessed packs of cyclists taking up the entire lane as they head out for group rides up Cornell. I’m a super, super mellow driver and don’t mind waiting, but the cars that back up behind me get about 1 inch from my bumper and I can feel their rage building.
dogs out in the country do this too. They have this deep, unstoppable urge to try to catch up to and bite the ankles of the guy (me as a kid) pedaling for his life on that bike.
Dang, If I got passed by a car in a tunnel on Cornell, I’d have to cut my ride short, go home and wash my shorts, if you know what I mean. 😉
My guess is the driver finds the road stressful because he (and others) drive too fast. Slow down and it becomes a lot less stressful and a lot less dangerous for others.
I have biked up and down Cornell on a weekly basis for over a decade sometimes during rush hour traffic. The east bound ride, downhill can be intense I never look forward to it. I have seen some drivers do some really really stupid things like tailgating me, honking, passing too close or even in the tunnel with on-coming traffic! During rush hour, I usually do catch up with them at NW 25th. I have decided the best way to communicate to this type of dangerous drivers is to simply and openly express how much they scared me. If anything get’s through to them, this is usually it.
The notion that cyclists should make way for cars during rush hour on Cornell or any City street is as unhelpful, narrow-minded, and misplaced as it is offensive (to most cyclists). The drivers who drive too fast and too recklessly on Cornell are the problem that needs to be solved- not the presence of cyclists. There will always be ass-hole cyclists as there will always be ass-hole drivers. The question should be how do we make our streets safer for everyone. Making streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians is the solution; not excluding or discouraging them. That only makes our streets less safe for everyone.
“…The east bound ride, downhill can be intense I never look forward to it. …” Jim Labbe
Slow down, like to 15mph or even 10mph and wave past, cars behind, without pulling completely off the road. The wave will let them know that you know they’re there and are making an effort to help them out. You’ll be going slow enough to let them eventually pass, and if they can’t, you can make a show of being really big heart-ed by pulling over 30-60 seconds later when the next wide spot to the side of road shows up.
I used to really whip it down the really fast, eastbound downhill ride. After all, it’s downhill, right? Some people biking never get away from thinking that fast as you can go downhill, is the only best way. Eventually, I got tired of the excessive noise of the wind past my ears blocking out hearing anything else on this beautiful stretch of road. And the ride down the canyon being so cold from wind chill during cool temps. Going so fast, the trip is over so quickly too.
The Power of Slow. Hopefully, some day, some how, in response to motor vehicle abuse of beautiful routes like this one, more people will see what’s happening with driving habits, and summon up the moxie to say, enough is enough. Not that it would or could go so extreme, but it would be unfortunate if Cornell road were to eventually be somehow transformed into the excessive motor vehicle use nightmare of Cornelius Pass Rd.
This is a good article to link to the one that you wrote about Holman lane and finding a new route for commuters. What needs to happen is a shared use paved separated path to the right of Cornell that visits the Audubon society and connects to Thompson. The tunnel bits are sorted. Cornell is used so much by all types of people that a kickstarter for this project might actually succeed.
However, I’ve never actually had a problem riding on Cornell and I lived on it for 4 years. Descending it requires skills though which would make commuters nervous. Going up, If cars are backed up at all, i ride the white line and they have room to pass. It’s only trucks that can’t pass safely, and frankly they shouldn’t be using that road.
That’s what I was going to say!
Jonathan, should we kickstart something?
“Further down the road as I waited in line while approaching the first stop sign on Lovejoy, I saw this fellow”
So, even though all the car drivers were in a big rush, they ended up waiting at the bottom? In which case, the cyclist was not slowing them down overall, at all.
I check out INSTANTLY when anyone drops that turd of “I’m a cyclist too”. That has to be the worst way ever to make a point because it always gets followed by ‘but’.
You’re not this type of cyclist or you would understand why this person is riding then and there.
Anybody dropping that gem should just say, “I don’t like the way you do things. I want you to do them the way I do them.”
If bikes on the road bum you out. Move to Casper, WY or Pierre, ND and then they will be a novelty like seeing a deer or something.
Could it ever mean that the person implies that they have perspectives as both a cyclist and driver?
You mean like 95% of the commenters here? Yet you don’t often see us clarify a statement with “I’m a driver too and ……”.
have you found that to be the case in other instances?
Rob certainly doesn’t seem to exhibit this bi-modal perspective you are suggesting. And Carl’s bit of forensics seems to bear this out.
Pierre is in South Dakota.
I should have just said ‘Flyover States’.
I work at the Audubon Society and commute there by bike, every day, at rush hour.
Interesting to me is that I think rush hour is actually the safest time to be on Cornell, whether in car or on bike. We have had numerous accidents in front of the Audubon facilities in the 7 years I have been there, and most of these accidents happen around lunchtime or early afternoon. I have seen cars pass cars in front of our facilities mid-day, the passing driver seemingly frustrated that the car in front of them slowed to 20 mph to hit the speed bumps on either side of the crosswalk. Many of the accidents are drivers slowing down or stopping at the crosswalk in front of Audubon getting rear ended by cars traveling too fast and not paying attention.
Evening hours are the next most risky. In general I have seen a correlation between lower traffic volumes and increased levels of speed and reckless driving. So while rush hour presents more cars, it may actually be the better time to be on the road.
I second what many other comments have hit on that any car the passes a bike heading into town will likely be passed by that bike in less than 1/2 mile. By I don’t expect cars to stop passing me or other bikers. I just hope that if/when they choose to pass, they do it safely, and definitely not in the tunnel.
Cornell Rd. could use some better signage, and I think would also benefit if the speed limit was dropped from 45 to 35 from Skyline to around 53rd Drive. From there the speed limit decrease to 35 but few drivers slow down at this point.
Lastly it is worth mentioning that there are a lot of blind driveways on Cornell. From a cyclist’s perspective it is important to take the lane and not hug the fog strip when passing a blind drive, to facilitate being seen by cars pulling out. The main entry to Audubon is a great example of this. I know this taking of the lane irritates some drivers, but I hope any drivers of Cornell reading this will understand a bit more why it is important for bicyclists to exercise the right to take the lane at times.
Be safe, however you travel!
I hike the Macleay / Wildwood a lot, and drivers on Cornell are total jerks to pedestrians too. I cross in the marked crosswalk that links the two trails at Cornell, and the drivers that have to stop are so incensed. I have no idea why: it’s the law they must stop at the crosswalk.
Cornell, while it may be designated as a collector or arterial by road departments, is a scenic route up and over Tualitan Mtn. Almost the entire length of the road up to the top of the hill, passes by thick forested slopes and ridges above Balch Creek Canyon. McCleay Park and The Audobon Society visitor center is there.
Despite whatever intentions local government may have to think of this road as some kind of potential arterial or collector to accommodate increasing numbers of motor vehicle usage, it’s a mistake to use the road for that purpose. In her comment the following link leads to:
…Susan P, notes exactly what many people driving tend to use this section of Cornell Rd for: a ‘cut-through’. They use it to avoid traffic jammed up on Burnside and Hwy 26. This has been a common practice and problem for many, many years. I think using this road as a cut-through, is an abuse of the area, that includes also, the upscale neighborhood on the foothills, just below entering into town.
As is insisting on the 40mph arterial speeds. Downhill, on a scenic route like this, expect to possibly find yourself traveling 20mph. Whether driving or riding, in beautiful places like this one, some people like to go slow, and they should be able to do exactly that. There’s things to see. Uphill, wider, through shoulders or bike lanes, and turnouts for people climbing with bikes, would help.
If the guy riding did freak out in a hysterical rage, as Bob A. description depicts him having done, that’s mostly indefensible. One of the first orders of business when riding or driving, is to keep your cool.
“…this road as some kind of potential arterial or collector…” – wsbob
Your statement does not make sense because a collector and an arterial are on opposite ends of the spectrum. An arterial is high volume. MLK, Burnside, Powell, etc. and a collector is the next step after residential.
“…Cornell is technically classified as a “neighborhood collector” street. It’s not meant as the regional arterial is has become due to people using it to avoid driving on congestion on Highway 26 and Burnside …” maus/bikeportland
Tell that to whoever classified the road as a neighborhood collector. Also, read Susan P.’s comment for possibly further insight on this.
Exactly. It is classified as a collector, so it can’t be an arterial. They are opposite.
Looking at roads like Cornell, from the perspective of some of the people that are responsible for meeting anticipated area growth and transportation needs, roads may be considered or designated to be whatever type they want them to be, or feel they needs to be.
That evolving designation is how formerly two lane relatively lightly traveled roads can eventually become multi-lane roads carrying huge volumes of traffic, or at least, far more traffic at far higher speeds than is beneficial for their surroundings or the use of the area they pass through.
Cornell could eventually see some improvements, but to what end? If the type of improvements decided upon are for enabling increasingly more people in motor vehicles to travel at relatively high speeds over that road between Portland and Beaverton, Tigard, Hillsboro, it’s arguable whether such improvements are beneficial.
Frustrated as he may have been about his travel speed and concerned about safety of people traveling the road by bike, the fact is, he probably was not traveling any slower at 20 mph of 10 mph behind a bike on Cornell, than he would be at frequent times on West Burnside or Hwy 26 behind hundreds and hundreds of motor vehicles.
Not that it would cure the id1ot driving problems but there is another potential solution:
at the top of Cornell @ Skyline install one of those changeable message signs that DOTs are enamored of in cites with worse traffic than in Portland.
At that last major turn off where they are committing to drive down that road give drivers current info of just how futile their rushing is. It won’t stop every driver from rushing ahead to hurry up and wait but enough drivers will see that the sign says “15 minute back up @ X” and they’ll slow down accordingly. Once more than a couple do this it forces all the cars to go slower.
Plus some if the most impatient drivers will choose a different route
Ouch! Lycraboy with attitude could have confronted concealed carry nut with attitude. The outcome could have been much different. Perhaps making the day’s breaking news?
Or driverboy with attitude could have confronted concealed carry bike nut with attitude.
I think more drivers want to consider this possibility before harrassing a cyclist. I’m pretty sure there are a few bike riders out there (for the record, NOT me) who pack. One of these days a driver is going to pick on the wrong guy.
For the record I am positive there are cyclists who carry.
If anything in the law excluded cyclists it should rightly exclude drivers as well.
Equality in lethality and all that.
So, would Rob A have complained to the guy towing a boat trailer about his use of the road during rush hour? After all, the guy towing the boat trailer is simply at the beginning or end of his “recreation period.” He’s obviously not doing something as important as driving home from his job, which, after all, is really, really important.
Jonathan, thank you for tagging the Cornell Road Sustainability Coalition (CRSC) in your blog. I’m sorry this incident may have caused some to think cycling on Cornell is discouraged. I live on Cornell and although I’m not an avid biker I support Cornell for both recreational and commuter cycling. Our group was successful in modifying the Portland Bicycle plan to identify Cornell as a “Major City Bikeway”. Our proposal is to have a dedicated lane uphill shared with pedestrian use and downhill “sharrow” markers. We’re also proposing speed modifications and lane reductions at the narrow bridges. Our group has been very active at a number of levels including looking at regional traffic impacts to Burnside, Cornell, Skyline and Germantown. I urge your readers to visit our site. Please check the bike video filmed by one of our members – as you might guess the best way to avoid waiting in traffic on Cornell – is to get on your bike.
Perhaps they should put a curfew on bikes to keep them off Cornell during rush hour.
you would make a suggestion like that.
Isn’t there a bus going up Cornell?
If so, what a great option for drivers who would rather do something productive while waiting out the Lovejoy congestion! Thanks on their behalf, Jim.
Perhaps motor vehicles should use the freeway.
Here is the video of the situation from the Cornell Road Sustainability Coalition.
I read the Cornell Road Sustainability Coalition website. Very much wish things like this wouldn’t take 2 decades to move forward.
Although the CRSC goals are laudable and well thought out, really they will accomplish very little because the main issue is the lack of alternative routes for cars. I wish everyone biked their commute from Beaverton/Hillsboro to downtown. But the reality is that at 6 or 10 or 20% of all commuters using bikes the problem will persist. Populations are growing. The same traffic backup happens at Germantown and the St.John’s bridge and Cornelius Pass. Many want to build a new highway from Hillsboro to Vancouver citing this lack of road capacity and the inherent issues that happen on connectors like Cornell.
We know that building that highway increases development along it, and then it too is congested. Making 26 bigger, really is an impossibility due to the tunnel. Burnside/Barnes also backs up up to the west all the way to it’s junction with 26!
I think if we want to avoid sprawl, maintain density and keep our values straight we have to tolerate and embrace a connector like Cornell becoming clogged. It is the impediment to more development. It might encourage some to pick where they live.
This traffic problem probably shouldn’t change.
So, the bikeway needs to change instead. I again propose a bike route using Holman Lane. No infrastructure change to Cornell needed. Just make Holman paved or gravelled like Saltzman. The only fight will be with the Forest Park Conservancy, but the trade-off is a bike route to get people to and into the park since they can’t drive and park on Cornell now anyhow! The Audubon actually could win too, with perhaps a spur trail and a means for bikers to get to the facility and all its goodness. It’s a win-win-win.
Map of Holman:
“…the main issue is the lack of alternative routes for cars. …” Mike Owens
Alternative routes for cars don’t help reduce congestion, but rather, enable it. In further sentences in your comment, you seem to be saying this very thing, noting congestion on “…Germantown and the St.John’s bridge and Cornelius Pass. …”. Poor land use and community planning are the bigger contributors to congestion on Portland’s scenic byways such as Cornell Rd and Germantown.
Acceptance of compromising countryside and scenic route integrity to accommodate population increase, seems to be widespread, and something many people are all to ready to resign themselves to. People should try visualize what roads like Cornell would be with double, triple, and quadruple the number of motor vehicles per day that road carries currently. Also, whether those numbers of vehicles using the road could genuinely be helpful towards meeting the area’s travel and sustainability needs. I don’t think those roads can do so.
“Paving a trail through the wilderness?>????zomg.”
You have been on Leif Erickson, right??
And you do know that Cornell, Thompson, germantown and 53rd are paved ROADS through that wilderness?
But if some weird aesthetic or other opposition to pavement exists, making it just like Saltzman or Leif would be fine.
What was the driver wearing during this encounter?
Cornell used to be part of one of my favorite commute routes when I worked downtown (Saltzman/Skyline/Thompson/53rd/Cornell). I’ve never had any sort of negative experience there. I think it helps that it is easy to ride the speed limit downhill.
For the record I rode it in my stretchy pants and kept a change of clothes in my soul-sucking cubicle at work.
I cannot believe people are advocating the paving of Leif and Saltzman. These roads are excellent precisely because of their raw nature. Also, anyone who believes Holman could serve as a viable substitute for Cornell has never ridden Holman. It is one steep, tiny lane.