One of the strangest things about so much of the anger and danger on our streets is that so much dangerous driving doesn’t even accomplish anything for the person doing it.
That’s the truth that reader GB captured perfectly on Wednesday with a simple dash-cam video of a completely futile moment of dangerous driving on Southeast Powell Boulevard.
This was my experience while driving towards downtown Portland this morning…it’s a far more common experience along SE Powell, than most would realize.
The video is worth watching all the way to the end; it keeps getting funnier.
Almost all of us who’ve used city streets by car or bike have probably had the experience of being roared past by a motor vehicle that we’ll be next to at a red light 20 seconds later. It’s one of the counterintuitive truths of traffic engineering that so many of us road users struggle to realize: in most urban situations, it’s the capacity of the roadway at the traffic signal, not the roadway width or even our vehicle speed, that determines how fast we get there.
People are probably confused because that’s not the case on freeways, where the whole point is that there are no signals. And for much of the 20th century, this country tried to apply the values of efficient rural freeways — rounded-off corners, long sight lines, multiple wide lanes, lots of passing and as much speed as reasonable — to urban road designs. As GB’s video shows, that attitude is also embraced by a dangerous minority of us when we get behind a wheel on a freeway-inspired street.
And for what?
Yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be sending $5 to GB in thanks for this great one. Watch your email!
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.