Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

TriMet driver publishes his latest ‘Report Card’ for Portland bikers

Posted by on February 26th, 2016 at 8:30 am

Ride Along with Ali Reis-23

A time for empathy in both seats.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Dan Christensen, a former TV writer and stand-up comedian turned TriMet bus operator, is one of the best windows Portlanders have into the emotional life of our transit system.

On his recently rebooted Roll Easy Blog, Christensen has an interesting set of perspectives about the things he feels the city’s bike users are doing well, and where they (or the streets beneath them) could improve.

It’s a touchy subject, especially since Christensen landed in hot water a few years ago for some attempted black humor when he called in a blog post for Portlanders to “kill this cyclist.” But Christensen (who usually speaks warmly about biking and later expressed regrets about that post) knows the streets much better than most. He sees a wide range of the city because he’s the rare TriMet operator who prefers to work “extra service,” jumping around to whatever route needs him on a given day.

So here’s some of what Christensen had to say in this week’s sequel to his 2012 report card.

Lights A++: This is such a relief to any driver of large vehicles. I don’t need to tell you why lights are good, we are all adults and know the facts but there is more. Gone are those micro-small token lights, you know the little dots that are just there to keep your ass from getting a ticket. I hardly see these at all. Also I find a lot less of those demonic LED Flashing in my eyeballs, now this could be that people point them down and out… just as good as pointing them forward where they actually blind other drivers. So because of the token light loss and the LED light changes I say Power on Cyclist you are lighting the way to the future.

Merging Courtesy A-: Don’t let the minus fool ya most cyclist are far more aware of large vehicles and are far more kind than ever. Sometimes it’s shocking, sometimes it’s even unwarranted and there is a battle of kindness, really! I stopped at a light and the cyclist pulled up, we did a high five and laughed. He was leaving room for me and I was leaving room for him. How cool is that. Still there are a few out there who drive with a righteous chip on their shoulder but they are now shockingly few.

not bike lane

(Image: Dan Christensen)

Bus Mall B+: Things have gotten better on the Mall except in Summer. This grade should be a solid A but in the Summer things go crazy on the transit mall. It’s so close to an A but I can’t do it given how crazy it is. This is one area that will need improvement in the summer to change. The hardcore cyclist have a good head on their shoulder and understand the Transit Mall, but come summer they are flooded by those who just want to feel the breeze in their hair and “hey look that double white line looks like a bike lane!”

Advertisement

Hand Signaling B: Better but still not the best, Still rare but it is growing. As you know I’m a big fan of hand Signaling and I still have my Free pizza dinner for cyclist in Portland when I see enough Hand Signaling. I’m happy with the progress. Please please please practice using hand Signals when you can. I talked with one rider who got in the habit one day at a time. It started with Mondays being Signal days, a month later he added Tuesdays and… you get it, right! Keep it up.

Rational Bike Lanes D-: Ok this is not the fault of Cyclist but it needs to be addressed. Can someone please, please! do a little thinking when adding Bike Lanes in the city. It’s a madhouse of not enough bike lanes where there are cyclist and way way too many bike lanes that are virtually empty year round. Look, I understand there is some sort of push to be the most bike friendliest place in the whole wide world, I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s’ counter productive to simply be slapping bike lanes down like some Russian Communist party program in the 1970’s that’s trying to keep up with the west. “They have 5000 Kilometers of bike lanes in the west, Comrades! We will build 10,000 Kilometers of bike lanes… sure Siberia not so good for bike but Comrades! We cannot afford a bike lane gap!”

Christensen’s other advice includes some thoughts on helmets (he’s in favor) and how to properly mount your bike on a bus rack. Check it all out — it’s always helpful see the world through someone else’s eyes.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

BikePortland can’t survive without paid subscribers. Please sign up today.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

80
Leave a Reply

avatar
23 Comment threads
57 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
47 Comment authors
David BurnsPeteDan AEl Bicicleropdxpaul Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
James
Guest
James

“…but Comrades! We cannot afford a bike lane gap!”

Those year-round empty bike lanes? A big reason for those is having no safe route to or from them. Or a dangerous gap in the middle of an otherwise safe route, as Gap Week so plainly illustrated.

So yeah, we can’t afford a bike lane gap.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

I’d just like to put up a quick defense of lack of hand signalling. I feel like there are important times to signal your intent, but there are also many times when doing so is unnecessary. The worst crash of my biking career happened when I had only one hand on the bars – I crashed over the front right quarter, dislocated my shoulder, and had to be taken to the ER in an ambulance. All this directly in front of my house because I was waving to my neighbor as I was leaving. I wasn’t signalling a turn, but anytime I lift one of my two hands off the bars while not stopped, this memory comes flooding back. Therefore, I try to keep it at a minimum and only do so when I really need to communicate intent.

I think there’s an interesting perspective shift for me interacting with other bikers on the road between riding my bike and the occasional driving I do. Maybe it’s a reflection of my own riding style, but I tend to see more egregious and aggressive behavior from other cyclists when I’m on a bike than when I’m behind the windshield. That is, people who think they’re fast need to buzz by me (so that 30 seconds later they can slow down an average 2-3 mph), run traffic control devices, shoal me at lights, and act entitled to be first. I see this same behavior from other drivers when I’m driving, and I just have to wonder, why can’t people just calm down and go with the flow of traffic? When I do drive, I mostly stay off bike routes, but I haven’t had a negative interaction with a cyclist that I can think of, so at least there’s that.

Thanks Mr Christensen for you generous report card!

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

He sounds like a good driver. I have traveled the same direction with both good and nasty bus drivers. I have even ridden with both good and bad drivers. I have complimented some of the drivers (good) and surprisingly they did not get the point! They were courtious to cyclist! like giving them room to pass when the bus was stopped, by traffic, short of the stop and allowing the cyclist to pass before going the last car length to the stop before pulling over to the curb.

Ben
Guest
Ben

As an outer-Eastsider, I know what he’s talking about with nearly-barren bike lanes. But I disagree that laying down more is a bad thing, even when they are rarely used. NOT having them provides newer cyclists with another reason not to bike commute; i.e. “it’s just too dangerous!” Perhaps more “friendly” neighborhood routes should be designed and designated, but striping a bike lane is definitely better than nothing (see NE Glisan between 82nd and Gresham city limits for example).

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

BTW I use the double lines in the middle as high speed bike lanes in traffic.

J_R
Guest
J_R

I think it is unconscionable to have bus stops delineated every few blocks when they are unused so much of the day.

I mean, if they’re not going to used for more than thirty seconds three times a day for 14 hours per day, why are they there?

And ticket machines at MAX stops. How many seconds per day are they even used? They just sit there taking up space for hours.

SE
Guest
SE

I ride SE/NE 122nd a lot. When getting stuck in leapfrog situations with a TRIMET bus, staying visible is a high priority.
When coming up behind a bus that is at a drop/pickup spot , I stop behind the bus and won’t pass it. Will maneuver so that I’m in the drivers rear view mirror and just wait for it to go.
There are big advantages to NOT be in a big hurry. :))

Bald One
Guest
Bald One

Point well taken and agreed with: more dedicated bike real estate in high cycle traffic areas.

I expect the many users trying to use the Eastside Esplanade and the approach to the Steel bridge lower decks to boil over with conflict this summer. Some sunny days brought out quite a few minor problems this week…. now just wait for the tourists to show up and add to the growing numbers of daily and fair-weather users on this ill-designed and way over capacity MUP.

Trikeguy
Guest
Trikeguy

Has he written to his fellow drivers about stopping to the left of the bike lane on Jefferson and letting passengers out yet?

SE
Guest
SE

colton
“I stop behind the bus and won’t pass it”
And you are rewarded for your courtesy with a great plume of smoke to breath when the bus pulls away…
Recommended 1

good guess, but NOT correct. The bus’s have their exhaust routed out to exit above the roofline at the rear.

SE
Guest
SE

Jeff J.
Anyone ever seen the “right arm thrown over your head” left turn signal? I had a guy use that today in front of me and get EXTREMELY pissed off when I told him that I thought he was turning right.
Recommended 1

I stick LEFT arm straight out for …LEFT turn , and RIGHT arm straight out for RIGHT turn. works well.

Don
Guest
Don

I was really confused when I first saw this post since I thought this website was about bike advocacy. Giving this guy free advertising is shameful. I was considering subscribing but am now having serious doubts.

BTW, there is no room for empathy in the first picture. The bus is breaking the law. Period.

pdxpaul
Guest
pdxpaul

I’m still confused by the “shaking a drop of piddle off the winkie” signal some folks use. Are you slowing down, pointing to a frog, shaking your finger, telling me to pass on the inside or what?

al m
Guest

Dan Christensen and Michael Anderson!

2 of the people I have the utmost respect for !

Gawd us transit bus folks miss Michael and Portland A-Foot

RushHourAlleycat
Guest

No, it’s a bike lane. I use it. Trust me, it works.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Scoring bus drivers, I give a B+ for pulling into stops along bike lanes.

They are very good about indicating the stop, but this is one-way communication. The driver never seems to understand that when a rider waves and moves out of view, she wants the driver to pull over.

I do realize that puts you in a blind spot. You can’t get in the left-side mirror because drivers skew the bus to further indicate the turn. Still, I’ll trade visibility at the driver’s mercy for invisibility with full control.

Robert Ping
Guest
Robert Ping

Thanks for this perspective, it is indeed good to listen to all sides, that is what makes for civilized society.

By the way, Dan, there are many benefits of bike lanes OTHER than helping cyclists stay alive, including benefits that would help a bus driver:

> Better sight lines for motorists when approaching pedestrian crossings and intersections.
> Greater ease and more opportunities to exit from driveways (thanks to improved sight distance).
> Greater effective turning radius at corners and driveways, allowing large vehicles to turn into side streets without off-tracking onto curb.
> A buffer for parked cars, making it easier for motorists to park, enter and exit vehicles safely and efficiently. This requires a wide enough bike lane so bicyclists aren’t “doored.”
> Less wear and tear of the pavement, if bike lanes are restriped by moving travel lanes (heavier motor vehicles no longer travel in the same well-worn ruts).
> A traffic calming effect when bike lanes are striped by narrowing travel lanes.
> Better definition of travel lanes where road is wide (lessens the “sea of asphalt” look).
> Keeps bicyclists out of the motor vehicle lane, unless where there is a bike lane obstruction.
> Transit: A place to pull over next to the curb out of the traffic stream.
> Delivery vehicles (including postal service): a place to stop out of the traffic stream.
> Emergency vehicles: Room to maneuver around stopped traffic, decreasing response time.
 > Greater separation from traffic, especially in the absence of on-street parking or a planter strip, increasing comfort and safety. This is important to young children walking, playing or riding their bikes on curbside sidewalks.
> Reduced splash from vehicles passing through puddles (a total elimination of splash where puddles are completely contained within the bike lane).
> An area for people in wheelchairs to walk where there are no sidewalks, or where sidewalks are in poor repair or do not meet ADA standards.
> A space for wheelchair users to turn on and off curb cut ramps away from moving traffic.
> The opportunity to use tighter corner radii, which reduces intersection crossing distance and tends to slow turning vehicles.
> In dry climates, a reduction in dust raised by passing vehicles, as they drive further from unpaved surfaces.
> An increase in use, by increasing comfort to both pedestrians and bicyclists (this could leave more space for motorists driving and parking).
> An improved buffer to trees, allowing greater plantings of green canopies, which also has a traffic calming effect.

 

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

When will the Report Card for drivers be issued?

SE
Guest
SE

Champs
Scoring bus drivers, I give a B+ for pulling into stops along bike lanes.
They are very good about indicating the stop, but this is one-way communication.
Recommended 0

I’ve had good luck (again on 122nd) with bus’es that need to pull into stops. when they see me behind them, they’ll stay in their lane and slow to almost a creep and let me pass before turning in. NO complaints here.
And for the poster that noted that I’d be breathing fumes when waiting behind a bus , look at the pic in the beginning of this thread (posted by Dan) , top – left hand side of the bus rear shows the black exhaust snorkel.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

I gabe up using signals on a motorcycle or a bike. People don’t care. They really just use the act or the lack of an act, to judge me. A cop might give me a ticket. Otherwise…I just make the move.

tyler
Guest

Maybe next time MR. Christenson could include a grade for the city’s planners and designers who continue building bike/bus/parking conflict into every inch of ‘bike lane’ they put down. The header image on this post is a prime example of the ‘designed to fail’ standard that we inexplicably keep following.

SE
Guest
SE

colton
This truly doesn’t happen to you too?
Recommended 0

It used to, before they relocated the exhaust snorkels. I’m rather sensitive to smoke , but the fumes seem “lighter than air” and don’t drift back down.

Also helps that the bus is idling , but I do observe them belching when accelerating. I keep a good 20 feet behind them when stopped.

Did have an issue a couple of years back with a bus on 119th & Powell cutting across my path ..closely. I pulled up to the driver to get a visual and then emailed TRIMET. Just got a standard form reply.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Just curious – why are the double solid lines in the picture white and not yellow? MUTCD defines a line width for white lines that denote bicycle lanes… maybe that technically is a (really narrow) bike lane per MUTCD’s interpretation?