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Get Legal: Being “nice” is dangerous and could make you at fault in a collision

Posted by on September 17th, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Rosa Parks Way -3

Being nice isn’t so nice when it creates confusion.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Written by lawyer Ray Thomas of Swanson, Thomas Coon & Newton.

Some road users go out of their way (and beyond the law) to be “nice.” Being nice isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it involves giving somebody a break, or allowing a successful traffic merge; but other times — such as when a driver waves another driver through stopped traffic — there can be disastrous consequences.

When road users go out of their way to accommodate others when there is no legal authority for doing so, it creates real trouble later if someone gets hurt as a result of their “nice” gesture. In this column, I’ll go over some common scenarios where being what you think is good can actually be very bad.

Waving others through an intersection

In heavy traffic situations, most people attempt to honor the Oregon law prohibiting blocking, or “impeding traffic” (ORS 811.130) or “plugging” intersections so that cross traffic can get through (ORS 811.550 prohibits stopping “within an intersection.”) However, some drivers, in an attempt to be helpful, wave other drivers through without considering that someone on a bicycle in an adjacent lane may be lawfully occupying the area in the direct path of the left turning driver.

When a collision happens, many times the “helpful” driver is gone from the scene, leaving an injured person and a baffled driver behind wondering who initiated the collision.

When a collision happens, many times the “helpful” driver is gone from the scene, leaving an injured person and a baffled driver behind wondering who initiated the collision. Sometimes, when the “waver” stays behind it is possible to make a claim against their insurance company for failing to carefully assess other traffic before making the wave. In essence the waver is assuming responsibility for conditions being safe to make the left turn.

Before one attempts to wave someone through they should always do a shoulder check for walkers, bikers and other overtaking traffic to make sure that they’re not about to create a wreck for others road users.

Bike riders waving drivers across bicycle lanes

Sometimes a bicycle rider who’s nervous about a left or right turning car next to a bicycle lane will wave them through in an attempt to avoid a potential conflict. This maneuver endangers other overtaking bike riders or people walking in crosswalks who aren’t anticipating that the driver will suddenly start moving when they should have slowed or stopped in order to yield to the person in the bicycle lane (as Oregon law requires). This maneuver is particularly dangerous for bike riders who aren’t anticipating that a rider ahead of them has waved the driver through the bike lane.

Next time you consider doing this, think to yourself: Are you sure you want to avoid a potential conflict so much that you are willing to assume responsibility for other road users the driver might hit on their way across the road in front of you?

Passing other riders

Some riders attempt to facilitate overtaking cars’ efforts to pass a group or single rider, for example on a long climb where the riders are going substantially below normal motor vehicle speed. In these instances the lead rider will wave an overtaking car forward when it appears that the lane ahead is clear of oncoming traffic. However the helpful waver has invited what may be an unsafe passing maneuver. In these instances we recommend riding single or double file as far to the right as practical (as required by ORS 814.430). It’s best for riders to allow overtaking auto drivers to decide for themselves when it’s safe to pass — without inviting a passing maneuver which may cause a head-on or side-swipe collision.

People using crosswalks

One of the reasons Oregon Walks and other organizations changed Oregon law for walking in crosswalks was to create q legal trigger of the walkers’ right of way so that drivers know when to stop before they enter the kill zone. The Oregon crosswalk law (ORS 811.028(5)) states that drivers must stop for people walking in marked or unmarked crosswalks “when any part or extension of the pedestrian, including but not limited to any part of the pedestrian’s body, wheelchair, cane, crutch or bicycle, moves on to the roadway in a crosswalk with the intent to proceed.”

Riding on Alberta-1

Who knows what lurks ahead?

Under the current Oregon system, people who are hanging back on the curb but have not stepped or rolled off of the curb into the crosswalk (unless they are proceeding with a walk signal at a signalized intersection) have not yet exercised their right of way to the crosswalk. Many Oregon drivers (and bikers) are ignorant of crosswalk laws and fail to realize that it is not until the person has actually moved off of the curb and put a foot or bicycle wheel onto the crosswalk in the roadway that an obligation to stop is legally triggered.

The gratuitous granting of a right-of-way that does not yet exist only serves to lure people off of the curb and into a “double-threat” hazard situation because people driving in other lanes might have no idea what’s going on.

Further, ORS 814.040 states pedestrians must yield the right of way to vehicles outside of crosswalk (ORS 814.040 requires pedestrians to “yield the right of way to a vehicle upon the roadway when… crossing… at any point other than within… a crosswalk”). So if the “nice” driver waves someone across the street mid-block and another vehicle comes along and strikes the walker, the driver’s wave, in effect, lured the person into a position where they have no legal right to be.

Why does this keep happening?

Most problems involving right-of-way hazards like those discussed above occur because drivers fail to understand the basic rules of the road. The best solution for this problem is for everyone to familiarize themselves with the bicycle lane, crosswalk, and passing laws so that they know where they stand legally in these frequent encounters with other road users (start by checking out our free legal guides).

Every time we wave someone through or across a lane when the law grants no right-of-way to the recipient of the “favor” the possibility of a collision greatly increases. While it is somewhat ironic that being nice can be dangerous and illegal, the best practice is to save those favors for when someone is trying to merge into the lane in front of you.

Ray Thomas
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

This article is part of our monthly legal series with Portland-based lawyer and bike law expert Ray Thomas of Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton. (Disclaimer: STC&N is a BikePortland advertiser and this article is part of a paid promotional partnership.)

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

71 Comments
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    John Lascurettes September 17, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Amen!

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      Dan Morrison September 17, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      I yell to myself or drivers “courtesy doesn’t keep us safe, following the rules does” about 10 times a week as drivers try to out-courtesy each other by letting me cross Cesar Chavez. Just f—ing drive and I’ll get in where I fit it.

      End rant.

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        Chris I September 18, 2014 at 6:42 am

        Depends where you are stopped. If you are positioned on the sidewalk, aimed at the crosswalk (as I do when I come out of Laurelhurst Park), then they legally have to stop. If you are positioned in the street, they do not.

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        • TonyT
          TonyT September 18, 2014 at 7:57 am

          You’ve got that backward. If you are on the sidewalk, the drivers don’t have to stop for you. You need to actually have to have begun the process of crossing for drivers to have to yield to you.

          “drivers must stop for people walking in marked or unmarked crosswalks ‘when any part or extension of the pedestrian, including but not limited to any part of the pedestrian’s body, wheelchair, cane, crutch or bicycle, moves on to the roadway in a crosswalk with the intent to proceed.’”

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        jd September 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm

        I’ve interpreted the bike+ped crossing signs to mean you have to stop for bikes. I just Googled, and it seems I am wrong. If the bike isn’t in a crosswalk, cross traffic shouldn’t stop.
        http://www.stc-law.com/bike-law-ambiguous-intersections.html

        Yelling at people who are trying to be nice (or mistaken at worst) is not the greatest.

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    jonno September 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Hear hear! I get fed up with “nice” drivers who seem more to be covering up their lack of situational awareness than actually aiding the flow of traffic through courtesy.

    Case in point:

    In the past year or two I’ve noticed many more drivers stopping for me when I’m on my bike trying to cross a busy street, usually where there’s a yellow “bike crossing” sign on said busy street. Example: SE Ankeny crossing 39th/Chavez at Laurelhurst Park. It’s my understanding that drivers have no legal requirement to do so. I’ve tried waving them on but this seems to occasionally incite further aggression, paradoxically. Then I have to wait until all lanes are stopped before proceeding which slows everyone down and usually doesn’t save me any time anyway. But this seems to be the new normal in Portland when it wasn’t, say, 5 years ago (in my experience).

    And an only-in-Portland crossing anecdote – my girlfriend and I just got a tandem and were out on our inaugural test ride. A driver stopped for us just like I described above and we set off all wobbly in our inexperience, so neither of us waved to the driver. He stuck his head out the window and yelled “You’re welcome!!!” in an Olympic-level show of passive aggression.

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      Outer SE PDX Rider September 17, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      If you are cued up at the crosswalk, even on a bicycle you have the right of way. Don’t you??? Yes I think so. But not many drivers know this. Or bicyclists. I have been trying to educate the drivers on the 39th Ave crosswalk to honor bicycles. So i get off the bike. They stop. I get back on and proceed.

      There is even a sign with a pedestrian symbol AND a bicycle at this crosswalk. This is why drivers are waving your through. The sign reminds them of the law.

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        Phil September 17, 2014 at 4:13 pm

        If you’re on your bike, you’re a vehicle and crosswalks DO NOT apply.

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          KYouell September 17, 2014 at 4:39 pm

          That is not what I got from the article. It mentions the crosswalk law and quotes it as “any part of the pedestrian’s body, wheelchair, cane, crutch or bicycle…” That means that sometimes we are pedestrians under the law. I’m thinking of the crossing on SE Clay at SE 12th where drivers in one lane often stop for bikes and impede the flow of traffic because their counterparts in the other lane are whizzing by.

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            Patrick Barber September 17, 2014 at 4:49 pm

            I think the law is confusing and flawed. Bicycles are vehicles, EXCEPT when they are near or in a crosswalk, and then the bicycle user and her vehicle are to be considered a pedestrian? And to make things worse, the city is building actual traffic flow control around it, like the “please be nice” double-crosswalk on NE Going where it meets NE MLK. That crossing relies entirely on people “being nice” and really distorts the way that vehicles and vehicle users should interact on the road.

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              John Lascurettes September 17, 2014 at 11:37 pm

              You aren’t a pedestrian on a bicycle when you’re “near” a crosswalk. You are considered a pedestrian only if you are IN the crosswalk on your bike, having first entering the crosswalk at no greater than a “walking speed” (ORS phrasing).

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                wsbob September 18, 2014 at 10:57 am

                “…You are considered a pedestrian only if you are IN the crosswalk on your bike, having first entering the crosswalk at no greater than a “walking speed” (ORS phrasing).” John Lascurettes

                Sounds about right. In using the sidewalk and crossing intersections, to have the rights of people on foot using it, people on their bikes need approach and enter a crosswalk at the speed of an “…ordinary walk…”. Check out 814.410 (D)

                http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.410

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          davemess September 18, 2014 at 1:12 pm

          Except in the situations like at 39th and Ankeny, where there is an island in the middle of 39th, preventing cars from turning left off 39th.

          I don’t have a problem with cars stopping for bikes here at all. Often the light at 39th and Burnside is red, so they are going to have to stop anyways. most realize this and let me through on my bike.

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          Glen Anderson February 22, 2016 at 3:36 pm

          Not since they changed the law in 2010. They DO apply.

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        Dan Morrison September 17, 2014 at 5:41 pm

        You are wrong. If you ride in the crosswalk on you’re bike, you’re a pedestrian and they should stop. But doing that, in my mind, makes you a double-dipping a-hole. Just treat yourself like the vehicle you are and cross when there’s a break in traffic. Stop contributing to the confusion and RIDE LIKE YOU ARE A VEHICLE BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT YOU ARE.

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          Dan Morrison September 17, 2014 at 5:41 pm

          YOUR! Damn!

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          Jonno September 17, 2014 at 7:49 pm

          But I don’t ride in the crosswalk. I ride in the vehicle lane.

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          Outer SE PDX Rider September 18, 2014 at 4:41 pm

          Double dipping? I don’t agree. I think that’s way too self-righteous. The bicyclist enjoys many other disadvantages using the public roadway. Allowing them to be pedestrians under certain conditions just makes plain, good, safe sense.

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        Jonno September 17, 2014 at 7:52 pm

        I think this is the fundamental confusion. I ride in the lane and not in the crosswalk, yet drivers act as though I was in the crosswalk. Doesn’t seem right to me.

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        John Lascurettes September 17, 2014 at 11:34 pm

        Let’s get this straight. If you’re in the street, your’e a vehicle and must stop at the stop sign and yield to the cross traffic (if they have no stop). If you are in the crosswalk (on your bike) you are a pedestrian that must be yielded to – BUT you MUST follow certain rules to qualify as a pedestrian, such as entering the crosswalk at no faster than “walking speed”. I find it easier to just walk my bike in a crosswalk (even though it is not a requirement in OR) because it’s removes the ambiguity. But if I am in the street, even with the yellow Ped/Bike advisory sign (i.e., it’s a warning, not a regulatory sign), I am a vehicle operator and bound by the vehicle laws.

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          HansRaptor September 18, 2014 at 1:06 pm

          The other benefit to dismounting, at least for me, is that if I have to, I am able to move BACKWARDS much more quickly than if I was on a bicycle and rolling. Being assertive, not aggressive, around Right of Way is the way to make sure those around me know my intentions. That said, I always try to leave myself an out, because you just never know who is paying attention and who is wearing sunglasses and looking down at their phone.

          “Never run out of real estate, traction and ideas at the same time”

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      Outer SE PDX Rider September 17, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Also I don’t think you should be so worried about holding people up for less than 5 seconds. Portlanders seem to worry about that too much. I dunno, in other cities people double park and block the lane like it’s natural law. Anyway. At that crosswalk, more often than not you are delaying them from cueing up at the red light. Just saying.

      And talk about holding them up… what about the stoplight dedicated to bikes and peds at 42nd? 🙂 Sometimes (like next month for sure) it’s just little ol’ me stopping 4 lanes for nearly a minute plus. But you know what? I’ve driven home that stretch. The red light does not extend my commute because you catch up anyway to the wave of traffic in front of you… so…

      I guess my point is don’t worry about holding anyone up when you are being legal, yo. It’s called driving and cycling and there are going to be delays. We don’t scream at red lights and curse them do we? NO. Because we understand their purpose… oh wait…

      Never mind.

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    Fred September 17, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Keep Portland passive aggressive.

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      q`Tzal September 17, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      Halfway to becoming Canadian, eh?

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        Mossby Pomegranate September 17, 2014 at 7:16 pm

        Let’s hope not.

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    Phil September 17, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    That crosswalk law is messed up because no one knows they have to step into the street to get right of way. If I never yielded to people who were waiting at a crosswalk without having any part in the street, I’d never yield to anyone in a crosswalk.

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      Alex Reed September 17, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      Agreed! I think the crosswalk law should be changed. It feels uncomfortable to step into the roadway before traffic has stopped or even slowed.

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        Dwaine Dibbly September 17, 2014 at 5:45 pm

        I step into moving traffic all the time on the south park blocks. They stop. Walk confidently into the street. Don’t break stride or give any indication that you AREN’T going to cross. (But be ready to jump back, for sure.) The point of this article, really, is that everyone needs to do what is expected to them and everyone will be ok. Be predictable. Approach the intersection like you’re going to cross, and do it with no hesitation.

        This works really well downtown (at intersections without signals). I’d be really careful doing this anywhere else in town and I’d never do it somewhere else, like Florida.

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          John Lascurettes September 17, 2014 at 11:39 pm

          Agreed. Precisely how I operate as a pedestrian: assertive and confident (and aware).

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          wsbob September 18, 2014 at 11:14 am

          I don’t think the law requires of pedestrians they actually put a foot or extension of themselves onto the surface of the crosswalk. Standing at the edge of the road, simply extending an arm or other extension of themselves over the roadway, obliges vehicular traffic to yield to the person in need of crossing the road. Refer to 811.028 (4)

          http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.028

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            John Lascurettes September 18, 2014 at 3:49 pm

            The text of the law you link to says any extension of their body “onto” the roadway, not “over” the roadway. This is why pedestrian advocates are trying to make it such that you could just wave your hand to signal your intention, because the hand in the air “over” the roadway doesn’t count.

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              wsbob September 18, 2014 at 8:01 pm

              “…The text of the law you link to says any extension of their body “onto” the roadway, not “over” the roadway. …” John Lascurettes

              I know the law says “onto” the roadway, not “over”. I question whether any further clarification is needed.

              A person standing at the side of the street or on the curb, waving and pointing their hand over, above the street to the other side of the street, as they look towards oncoming traffic, seems like a clear enough indication to road users, that someone is in need of crossing. Even slower thinking persons driving are likely to recognize such a display, as an expression of need to cross. Even those that aren’t too well equipped with common sense.

              For the purpose of pedestrian’s hand signaling to indicate intention to cross the street, I think air space above the roadway, does constitute ‘onto the roadway’. If a case came to court, in which someone driving was cited for failing to yield to a person standing at the curb, motioning their arm and hand over the roadway to the opposite side, I think it’s likely the citation would stand.

              This isn’t a situation similar to that posed by some of the sandwich board wearing sign wavers seen on some street corners. Or that presented by panhandlers positioned at various street corners, freeway exits, etc. The situations it seems would qualify, are ones in which people not standing or directly touching the road surface, are clearly indicating their need to cross the street, by extension of some part of themselves or something they’re holding, away from their body and in the air space above the street.

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                are September 27, 2014 at 12:49 pm

                signaling intention ought to be good enough, but it is not presently the law. several attempts to put the hand gesture into the law have been shot down, with ridicule.

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        Steve B September 18, 2014 at 9:45 am

        You don’t have to step out, you can put a bicycle wheel, an arm, a cane, a dog, a push cart, one leg, a bag, etc.

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          Alex Reed September 18, 2014 at 9:35 pm

          Thanks! I knew about most of the rest, but not the arm one, which could be pretty handy for me.

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    Outer SE PDX Rider September 17, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Hey question for Thomas… What about the “thall shall not block intersections” urban legend? Many drivers on SE Burnside for example, while waiting at the light at 82nd leave the side street intersections clear because they think its the law – but it’s a total set up for me like you describe! I’m invisible to the car turning in front of the driver who just created what I call “The Good Samaritan Death Trap.”

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      Joseph E September 18, 2014 at 10:27 am

      The law does say that you should not block an intersection. This is so that cross-traffic from the side street (including people walking and on bikes) can continue to move.
      People turning left need to be very careful in this situation. And if you are on a bike, you should be careful if passing on the right side of a line of stopped cars.

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      Slow Joe Crow September 18, 2014 at 2:35 pm

      That happens a lot on NE 25th in Hillboro at 5:00 with long tailback from Cornell to Intel and I’ve almost been hit once. I’m now very wary of traffic gaps as I fly down the road, plus the occasional Californian who thinks the bike lane is a right turn lane.

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    Jeff September 17, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    So why is it, when you’re waiting for a long line of drivers to pass and there’s a HUGE opening behind the last driver in line, that said last driver almost always stops and tries to wave you through?

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      John Lascurettes September 17, 2014 at 11:41 pm

      Right?! Isn’t that weird? It’s always that last driver. And all he’s done is slow you both down rather than doing you a favor. Had he just passed, you’d be already on your way instead of waiting for him to slow, wave at you and cause confusion.

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        Jeff September 18, 2014 at 11:08 am

        EXACTLY.

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      El Biciclero September 26, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      Ha. Just saw this, but I’ve seen that behavior a million times.

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    browse September 17, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    In my opinion, the proper solution is to fix the legal system. If User A of the roads makes a hand gesture indicating that User B can proceed even when User A has the right of way, it is just lunacy to expect that User A has now taken all responsibility for the safety of User B proceeding. I can’t believe anyone thinks a hand wave is any more than a statement of “Go ahead, I’m not in a hurry; I don’t mind pausing so you can proceed.”

    In a rational system, every user of the roads is responsible for accessing the safety of their actions on the road, and trying to legally extort another person because they gave a generous and friendly wave would be laughed right out of court.

    I’m not enthusiastic about a solution that says, “Quit being nice and defer to a screwed up legal system.”

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    Frank September 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm

    The smiling motorist waving me into the cross-hairs of speeding metal death is the one that happens to me the most.

    Recently I was riding east on NE Tillamook and at 20th a friendly driver tried to wave me through. I sat still, and her smile turned to anger and she shook her head, looking at me like an idiot. I tried to explain that she was literally going to kill me with kindness but was cut off as the dump truck barreled past in the near lane.

    Lately I’ve taken to putting my hands in my pockets while I wait and look as oblivious as possible so they stop being nice!

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      Dan Morrison September 17, 2014 at 7:09 pm

      I literally defiantly cross my arms, lock eyes with the driver and shake my head. Courtesy is for social interactions. Rule hugging is for safe roads.

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        KristenT September 18, 2014 at 11:26 am

        I often look down at my handlebars, get a drink from my bottle, adjust my coat… anything at all to signify that I’m not about to take someone else’s right of way just because someone wants to be nice. I’ll also shake my head, because it’s not my turn, it’s theirs and they should just get on with it already so the rest of us can also get on with it.

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        Cheif September 18, 2014 at 11:36 am

        I just display a middle finger. Gets the “nice” out of their eyes real quick.

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    Champs September 17, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    The Simpsons once ran this gag on the sign outside a dentist’s office: “NO MATTER HOW YOU BRUSH, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG”. Somehow it feels relevant here.

    For all these don’ts, how about some dos?

    Don’t wave people through intersections, but please DO call out RoW when it is clear. If it is “nice” to wait, getting out of the way is even nicer. Tarantino films are great, but I don’t need Mexican standoffs in my everyday life.

    Don’t wave drivers across bicycle lanes, DO ride defensively. Stay out of the hook zone: introduce yourself to a car by getting alongside it well before you arrive at an intersection. Stay out of the pinch zone: when a bus is pulling over, attempt no entries and evacuate the space between the bus and its stop if you are there. Afternoons on SW Madison are a clinic for doing these things badly.

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    BikeEverywhere September 17, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    I’ve developed a new technic for dealing with overly kind drivers who try to unknowingly put me in very dangerous situations. It’s called “do not establish eye contact”. While waiting for a safe opportunity to cross a street or enter the traffic flow I look down at my feet, examine my pannier, stare at birds flying overhead, etc. If they can’t see my eyes, they almost always decide to move on. No conflict. No hurt feelings. No life-threatening situations for me.

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    BikeEverywhere September 17, 2014 at 8:12 pm

    Technique not technic, sorry…

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    Pat Franz September 17, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    It has always seemed to me that as a driver, my responsibility was to not hit anyone in front of me and not unduly impede those behind me. As in there is a responsibility to be aware of traffic behind you and be mindful of keeping things moving. So many drivers seem to have only a little bit of awareness of what’s in front of them and no awareness of what’s behind them. If someone waves you through, their situational awareness bubble likely only extends directly in front of their vehicle for about 3 feet. It’s like “Oooooh, puppy!”. Everything else kinda disappears for them.

    My favorite are the drivers that stop for no apparent reason, delaying your being able to move because you don’t know what they are doing. Sometimes it turns out they are waving, not realizing there is no way for anyone to see them inside their car (glare, rain, nighttime, etc.). If it’s impossible to see them, I usually throw up my hands in an attempt to say “I have no idea what is going on!”. Not infrequently this leads to a honk. Yes, I see your car. I still don’t know what you are doing though…

    When I taught my children to ride, I made double sure they didn’t accept a wave as “It’s OK to go!”. Unfortunately, drivers are more likely to try and “be nice” and wave children through. Don’t take candy from strangers and don’t accept traffic advice at face value.

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    was carless September 18, 2014 at 12:38 am

    Frank
    The smiling motorist waving me into the cross-hairs of speeding metal death is the one that happens to me the most.
    Recently I was riding east on NE Tillamook and at 20th a friendly driver tried to wave me through. I sat still, and her smile turned to anger and she shook her head, looking at me like an idiot. I tried to explain that she was literally going to kill me with kindness but was cut off as the dump truck barreled past in the near lane.
    Lately I’ve taken to putting my hands in my pockets while I wait and look as oblivious as possible so they stop being nice!
    Recommended 3

    Yeah, I totally avoid all eye contact when riding or driving. Its so much clearer that way.

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    • TonyT
      TonyT September 18, 2014 at 8:02 am

      Yup. I do that too. I look in the opposite direction of the overly helpful driver.

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    Devin Quince September 18, 2014 at 6:56 am

    We had someone here in CO, who was riding like most cities and drivers want us to, meaning to the right of traffic and at a red light a driver turning right decided to try and pass her at that light. Before he had a chance to, the light turned green, so she started riding straight and was hit by the car and pushed into the crosswalk. In our town, bikes cannot ride across the crosswalk and the cops ticketed her for being in the crosswalks even though she said was not and just ended up there by being pushed. Now she has to fight the city on the ticket and the cars insurance company on being liable for damages.

    Another reason to take the lane and especially at lights where someone could try and pass you to the take a turn.

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  • TonyT
    TonyT September 18, 2014 at 8:01 am

    I had a situation described here happen on Clinton. I was riding at a fairly good clip when the cyclist just in front of me suddenly slowed down and waved a car across at one of the roundabouts. Fortunately the driver saw that I was still coming along and didn’t pull out in front of me. The cyclist was one of those timid and unpredictable riders who weave in and out of the parked cars. Not a good situation.

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      Outer SE PDX Rider September 18, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Yeah but you totally blasted by that cyclist and buzzed them. Did you say on your left or ring your bell? No. Tony I hate to say it but the way you describe the situation if you had been hit I think it would have been your fault. What you did doesn’t sound any better than the people who change lanes to pass the car in front of them because that car is stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. For example. Just sayin. Jacking people off the line at intersections cuz you think you are lord and master of the road and have superior judgement and reflexes is kinda rude.

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        Alex Reed September 18, 2014 at 9:37 pm

        Wait what? On Clinton at the roundabouts, the cross streets have stop signs and Clinton does not. It doesn’t make any sense to wave a driver through there and it would not have been legally Tony’s fault if he had hit a car coming through in that situation. Personally, I don’t think he would have had any moral responsibility either.

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        wsbob September 18, 2014 at 10:04 pm

        “…I was riding at a fairly good clip when the cyclist just in front of me suddenly slowed down and waved a car across at one of the roundabouts. …” TonyT

        “Yeah but you totally blasted by that cyclist and buzzed them. Did you say on your left or ring your bell? No. …” Outer SE PDX Rider

        Appears TonyT hadn’t sufficient time to follow protocol, because without notice, the person on the bike in front of him suddenly slowed down, and without proper warning to traffic behind, prompted the car across the intersection.

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    Rob September 18, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Great article Ray! From the comments above it’s obvious that it’s not just drivers who need continual education on the rules of the road- we all do. I’ve definitely noticed more drivers waving me through when I don’t have the right of way. Personally, I consider the root cause of this to be the many cyclists who don’t yield the right of way, so drivers have no idea what to expect of a cyclist (at a four way stop, for example). I agree with one of the other commentors: everyone just follow the rules and we’re all happy! (Of course, if no other vehicle or pedestrian is around, do whatever is safe for you.)

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    Joseph E September 18, 2014 at 10:37 am

    I think a big problem is the large number of 4-way stop signs in this city. They do calm traffic and make it easier for people walking to cross, but they lead to lots of confusion about who has the right of way. The worst are streets like NE Tillamook at 42nd, where there is a constant stream of traffic in all 4 directions and many left turns, plus bike lanes on 3 of the 4 directions! It’s a mess. These intersections either need to be changed to have stop signs on only one cross-street, or a light.
    The lower traffic streets would probably be better with no stop signs at all, but with lower speed limits. If everyone is riding and driving at 15 mph, it is easy to yield to the vehicle on the right.
    At a 4-way stop, you have to decide if you yield to the person who got there first, or to the person on the right. And with more than 1 lane in each direction (e.g. 1 car lane + 1 bike lane) it is super confusing.
    I’m sure the city traffic engineers hate these intersections.

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      davemess September 18, 2014 at 1:18 pm

      I’ve lived in a lot of other cities and have rarely found 4 way stops to be that much of an issue.
      There are RoW rules/laws. People just need to follow them. The stop signs are not the problem.

      The intersections with no control devices at all are the ones that are sketchy for me, even if they are at lower traffic neighborhood intersections.

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    Eyestrain September 18, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    While waiting at the stop sign on SE Ankeny a driver called me a f-ing b*tch (you can fill in the appropriate letters) for trying to tell her to keep going when she didn’t have a stop sign and I did. She was going southbound and traffic was flying by in the northbound lanes on the other side of the diverter. This is my biggest pet peeve about biking and driving – if a driver stops at an intersection where they have the right of way it just confuses everyone! I thought this person was confused that they couldn’t turn left onto ankey and froze – instead I guess they were waiting for me to make a suicidal run into oncoming traffic!

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      HansRaptor September 18, 2014 at 1:30 pm

      I would be curious to find out from a legal perspective if crossing through that diverter identifies a bicycle as a pedestrian; if that is the case, then cars on the northbound side would be obligated to yield to crossing cyclists.

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      jd September 26, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      I have found that smiling makes people less angry when this kind of confusion occurs. It is clearly not intuitive, because I see way more passive aggressive eye contact avoidance in these situations, or like your gal and some dude up-thread, plain shouting.

      Maybe I need to double my anti-depressants. Portland seems awful right now.

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    CaptainKarma September 18, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Photo looks like Abby Road.

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    dr2chase September 19, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    One problem with “confusion” might be that different states have different details in their crosswalk law. I have no idea which one is more common, but the Massachusetts laws just saw “pedestrians win in crosswalks” ( https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXIV/Chapter89/Section11 ). There’s no requirements on the pedestrian that I can see, certainly none that mention crosswalk (there’s only three mentions of “crosswalk” in all of the Mass. General Laws).

    The practical consequence is that you just look for pedestrians at the edge of the crosswalk, instead of in the crosswalk. This being Boston (area), enforcement is spotty, but sometimes they do run crosswalk stings.

    I’m not sure if drivers run crosswalks more or less often in either state.

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    Spiffy September 23, 2014 at 12:15 am

    In essence the waver is assuming responsibility for conditions being safe to make the left turn.

    this is completely untrue… the waver is saying that it’s ok to proceed through their lane because they’re not going to continue forward… the waver is never saying “everything is ok no matter what it is you’re attempting to do”…

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      Spiffy September 23, 2014 at 12:18 am

      Are you sure you want to avoid a potential conflict so much that you are willing to assume responsibility for other road users the driver might hit on their way across the road in front of you?

      again, the waver is not saying that everything is ok and there’s no reason to take any other safety precautions just because they waved… the waver is saying that they’re ceding their turn, not the turn of everybody else using the road on the surrounding block…

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      Spiffy September 23, 2014 at 12:21 am

      In these instances we recommend riding single or double file as far to the right as practical

      no, it’s not… it these instances, where the lane is obviously not wide enough for both a motor vehicle and a bicycle to share the lane safely otherwise passing wouldn’t be an issue, it is recommended that you ride in the center of the lane and “take the lane”… it’s in the DMV book…

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      Spiffy September 23, 2014 at 12:27 am

      the driver’s wave, in effect, lured the person into a position where they have no legal right to be.

      again, the driver’s wave only clears you of their lane… once you leave the domain (lane) of the waver you are no longer being waved along and your safety is not their concern…

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    jd September 26, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    I’m surprised to the point of skepticism that a waver would ever be at fault. It should be every driver’s responsibility to look where they’re going.

    But I will stop letting bikes cross at those bike+ped signs, and I will stop waving people through, since friendliness is a crime.

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