It’s simple: When we drive too fast, it’s much easier to kill someone. But even with that clear and present danger, the vast majority of us still speed. Our roads will never be safe until we get a handle on this and now the City of Portland has taken a big step in the right direction.
In June of last year we reported that the Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) was engaged in a battle against the speeding epidemic. Even before City Council officially adopted a goal of Vision Zero, staff at PBOT were prepping a two-pronged approach to slower speeds: a bill that would allow them to use fixed photo radar cameras and more autonomy from the State of Oregon to set local speed limits.
The photo radar bill passed and was signed by Governor Kate Brown last August. And now, according to a story in today’s Portland Mercury, the state is likely to sign off on the city’s request for an alternative method of setting speed limits.
The problem PBOT has been trying to fix is that the Oregon Department of Transportation has final say in speed limits — not just on their own highways but on streets that are owned and managed by cities. If PBOT wants to change a speed limit, they must file a request with the state. In a presentation to the state’s Speed Zone Review Panel last week (PDF), PBOT said that, “the existing process consumes considerable staff time” and “the process is also lengthy.” They pointed to some requests for lower speeds that have been pending since December 2014.
As we reported last year, PBOT has developed an “alternative speed zone methodology” that would not only speed up the process but would also tweak it in very important ways. In a nutshell, as explained very well in the Mercury article, ODOT’s methodology is based solely on how fast most people tend to drive on a street (known as the 85th percentile speed). This is frankly an insane and unsafe policy that doesn’t take safety into account. Not only that but it only recognizes people in cars when we all know that roads are also used by bicycle riders and other users.
PBOT says their proposed alternative approach would be faster, safer, and would take into account the mix of users on our roads. Here’s how it would work:
- It would only apply to non-arterial streets that are not designated freight routes and that have posted speeds greater than 25 mph (see map below)
- The speeds would be based on the degree of separation between people driving, biking and walking.
Here’s the flow chart created by ODOT to illustrate the current process:
And here’s PBOT’s flow chart for their proposed alternative methodology:
PBOT wants to use three categories of speed limits: 40 mph maximum unless streets have a center median barrier and clear zone, and people walking and biking are physically protected; 30 mph maximum on streets with busy intersections experiencing high crashes, on streets with sidewalks or shoulders next to travel lanes, and on streets with bike lanes next to motor vehicle lanes; and 20 mph maximum on shared space roads (driving, biking and walking) that do not meet school, business or neighborhood greenways statute for 20 mph. Once a speed limit has been changed under this new methodology, PBOT says they will provide annual reports on the the before-and-after driver speeds and crash statistics.
The fact that ODOT seems poised to sign off on this might have something to do with the fact that this isn’t the first time they relinquished regulation of speed limits to PBOT. In 2011 the city won the right to lower speeds on neighborhood greenways to 20 mph and the sky still hasn’t fallen.
In fact, the only thing that has fallen is the speeds on streets designed for people. The more that happens, the better.
Learn more by taking a look at the packet PBOT left with the Speed Zone Review Panel.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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The 85th percentile concept is crazy. I’ve had one WashCo engineer tell me that if 85% of drivers are going less than 5mph over the speed limit, than the road in question is not eligible for traffic calming measures. And I’ve had another WashCo engineer that if they find that 85% of drivers are going way over the speed limit, they will raise the speed on the road if they can. So in both cases, it’s being used to keep or raise the speed limit on the road. If you’re not in a car you don’t get a vote.
i agree Dan A. As I was posting this story a traffic engineer friend of mine walked into my office to tell me about a project he’s working on in Tualatin where ODOT is telling him about how the design of a new right turn lane needs to accomodate the design speed of the road … which they say is 65 mph!!! The posted limit is only 50 mph and the 85th percentile speed is 53 and ODOT is saying the design speed is 65. And this is not even a freeway. That’s not just crazy policy, that’s borderline criminal. This stuff is out of control and we need to start talking about it in much stronger terms IMO.
Have you traffic engineer explain design speed. Design speed is not how fast drivers are, or should be driving. It is a standard for vertical and horizontal curves and does not provide a basis for speed.
However, I agree that design speeds for many roads are way too high resulting in wide sweeping curves that invite speeding and much higher constructing costs and therefore, fewer projects get built.
“That’s not just crazy policy, that’s borderline criminal.”
Thank you, Jonathan!
Your claim that the speed zoning using the 85th percentile is “borderline criminal” is simply wrong. In fact, it is established in State Law. Since the ODOT personnel are obligated to follow the law, it can hardly be considered criminal. If you object the law, change the law. That starts and ends with the state legislature.
Clearly, it’s more fun to beat up on traffic engineers, especially those who work for ODOT by claiming “borderline criminal.” BTW, I don’t work for ODOT and never have.
For reference about speed zones see:
I can’t and won’t pretend to speak for Jonathan, but I think this statute is problematic, to put it mildly. Less so if the thinking behind it were applied across the board (85% of cyclists passing through Ladd’s don’t put their foot down, or whatever – fine, get rid of the stop signs I don’t think so). But even if it were applied across the board I think it is problematic since it in effect establishes a means for overruling sensible policy. We don’t (thank goodness) let everyone drive as fast as they want, so why create a backdoor way to nudge the speed limit upwards? When faster speeds are known the world over toe lead to more deaths, injuries, maimings, carnage….
I agree that speeds are problematic, but that is different from “borderline criminal.” I support lower speeds and serious enforcement with real consequences.
if it’s not already a crime to intentionally make public infrastructure more deadly well then I think it should be…
First off, I’m quite sure “criminal” was a figure of speech. But since we’re on the topic, can you point me to the statute requiring 85th percentile speed zoning? I looked and can’t find anything of the sort.
I can’t either, it’s just been delegated to ODOT, which decided to just make streets faster.
#8 doesn’t seem to specify a time limit, so let’s play that for the next 20 years or until our streets are safe:
“A temporary designated speed may be established under this subsection if, in the judgment of the road authority, the temporary designated speed is necessary to protect any portion of the highway from being unduly damaged, or to protect the safety of the public and workers when temporary conditions such as construction or maintenance activities constitute a danger.”
I provided the link to the ODOT Speed Zone Manual. Check Appendix H for the applicable laws. Look at OAR 734-020-0015 (2) Speed Zone Standard Method.
Here’s the link again.
“The principal factor used in establishing speed zones is the 85 th percentile speed (the speed at or below which 85 percent of the vehicles are traveling). Most motorists drive in a reasonable and prudent manner, selecting their driving speeds so as to arrive at their destination safely.”
This has always been my “favorite” passage in this document. While it is true that most motorists do manage to arrive at their destinations, it is rather obvious that they are not driving reasonably and prudently, unless we define those terms down substantially. This is the problem with events whose probability of occurring is low, such as being killed or seriously injured in a car crash. If it would happen every million trips for a safe and prudent driver but every 50,000 trips for a roadway menace, both of them drive an awful lot of trips between bad outcomes and it gets tough to sort out the signal from the noise. And yet, anyone on the road but outside the motor vehicles certainly can notice the difference in their comfort and safety.
The question to ask, is from where does ODOT get its orders for design specs. From somewhere out of the federal government, is what I would expect, but if that’s not so, please report about where the state agency does get its design spec orders. It’s conditions on receiving federal money, I suppose, that has ODOT willing to design infrastructure to meet certain speed limits.
Basically, I think low speed limits for motor vehicles that support quality of life in neighborhoods, and increase functionality of the streets for walking, biking, etc, is an idea the public is becoming more and more ready for.
Why can we not expect ODOT to be a leader on these fronts? To get out ahead of the curve, propose course corrections that other jurisdictions have long since undertaken? Why, ODOT can hardly even be considered a follower since they drag their heels, refuse to cooperate, dig in, every chance they get. Sweden’s equivalent of ODOT has acted in a manner that would make me proud if I were a Swede. Why can’t ODOT make us proud?
One of the issues associated with “lower standards” is from the threat of litigation. Failing to follow adopted standards or even generally accepted guidance is that it causes huge problems when the agency is sued. Too many jurors are willing to make big awards to sympathetic individuals who sue the evil government who did wrong. This occurs even when the harmed individual or other parties had more responsibility for the injury than did the government. That discourages engineers from even proposing a non-standard design.
NW Cornell by a public school, public park, and coffee shop is 45 mph. Insane in Washington County.
Not good enough. Needs to be 20 mph city-wide.
I’ll need to ride with a bike computer. I’m pretty sure there are places that I regularly exceed that.
Perhaps a lawyer could chime in here, but I am under no assumption that cyclists have to adhere to the posted speed limit. How could we, it’s not as if bicycles come standard with speedometers, and there is no law staying we need to ride with cyclometers.
of course bikes have to adhere to the speed limit Adam. bikes are vehicles in the Oregon code and are bound by the same laws unless specific language exists to exclude them from a law.
How can I adhere to a speed limit if I have no way of knowing how fast I am riding?
This again? Go to Western Bike Works and get a computer for $20.
I would have to take out my phone every time I want to check how fast I am going. If I am really riding faster than the speed limit, this seems dangerous.
You’ve already indicated the speeds you regularly ride at. How did you know, without a speedometer?
Sure, that sounds nice if you’re into that kind of thing. I’m mostly just interested in getting to work on time. 🙂
what if your car speedometer is broken? I’m unsure if it is actually a required component.
It’s a “bucket list item” for me, getting a speeding ticket on a bike.
training stand = vehicle dyno?
Modern GPS with reasonably clear skies (and few turns) is even more accurate than a magnet. It’s a great way to validate a magnet. (or now, an axle-mounted accelerometer)
Phone in the pocket may be responsible. With a fredly bike computer mine is pretty accurate- as it is if you put a decent phone in the back of a cycling jersey. There are certainly still problems- but it has benefits over a magnet in some cases too.
Heh, I had mine dialed into less than .01mi error over 3 miles 🙂
Even with a garmin I like a cheap *wired* bike computer because it never drops distance – I use it for checking brake pads and tire wear (I get about 2000miles out of a set of Avid BB7 pads, 2000 out of a pair of Kojaks, way more out of my shreddas though and they grip better than Kojaks. Win!)
Since I glance at the mirror next to the bike comp regularly, I see my speed pretty often.
Most velonauts I know consider it a right of passage to be pulled over for speeding or because the police think they must have a motor inside bike.
Ignorance doesn’t give you a free pass to break the law. You sound no different than a motorist hitting a cyclist and proclaiming “but I didn’t see him!(or her)”
I’m not saying “I want to speed on my bike”, I am asking how a speed limit for cyclists could be enforceable when bikes do not come with speedometers, nor is there any law requiring them. Any car sold is required to come with a working speedometer.
Also, this is not the same argument as “I didn’t see him”, which is willful ignorance. This issue is that I literally cannot tell how fast I am going without specialized equipment. I would buy the law being “don’t ride too fast for conditions”, but forcing cyclists to adhere to a number without requiring the equipment to know what that number is seem unenforceable.
“Child passengers must be restrained in child safety seats until they weigh forty pounds or reach the upper weight limit for the car seat in use. Infants must ride rear-facing until they reach both one year of age AND twenty pounds.”
Wait, how can one be expected to drive with a child without specialized equipment? Seems unenforceable to me.
Give us a scenario, in which someone on a bike is erroneously issued a speeding ticket because the rider believed they were moving at a speed below the speed limit.
On a bike, with even a little experience, it’s very easy to have a sense of what 20 mph is compared to 10mph…or 20 mph, or 25 mph is, compared to 30 mph. Anybody that can pedal a bike over 30 mph for very long on level ground, is a strong rider. It’s excessive and arbitrary to be quibbling over whether people biking are going to be getting speeding tickets because a lot of them may not have speedometers to tell to the exact mph, how fast they’re going.
No, I don’t think it will ever been an issue. This whole discussion is merely a hypothetical that was sparked by someone claiming they will need to buy a cyclo-computer after I proposed a city-wide 20 mph speed limit.
At any rate, I don’t think hard speed limits should apply to cyclists, but a more subjective “riding too fast for conditions”, and really should only come up if there is an incident.
Refusing to buy a cheap speedometer for your bike sounds like willful ignorance to me.
One of the reasons I love bicycles are their simplicity; why would I want to complicate it with unnecessary technology? Plus, it’s another battery to charge and I already ditched battery-powered lights for this purpose. I ride slowly anyway, so I guarantee this will never be a problem.
If it’s not a problem, why are we still standing around beating a patch of mud that once contained a dead horse?
Wear a wide-brimmed hat. If it starts to lift, you’re at or slightly over 20mph.
Wide-brimmed hats are absurd.
Why should I be forced to purchase an unnecessary wide-brimmed hat? My bike works perfectly fine without a wide-brimmed hat, and there is no law specifying I need to wear one. Plus, what happens when it flies off and I have no idea how fast I am going?
Maintaining 30 mph on flats is professional level cycling. The hour long records are all just over 30 mph (UCI unified records 33.8 mens/29.8 womens), The Tour de France average travel speed is around 27 mph. Most riders seldom get over 20 mph without the assistance of a tailwind and/or downhill slope.
Speeding on a bicycle isn’t really an issue, for most it isn’t possible to maintain those speeds for very long. Even if the limits were set to at 20 mph, the chances for the average to better than average rider to maintain a pace >20mph would only apply on the downhills. On a whole (on a whole if you use google travel times as a guide) bicycles travel speed averages are roughly around 12 mph.
That certainly makes sense, but based on all the comments here, all roadies are indeed “above average” and can easily maintain 50 mph on a road bike.
Really? 50mph? Comments like this are why we all desperately want a mute button on this site.
Stop complaining. Any opportunity to play the victim is a good day for you. Right?
What word starts with the letter S and rhymes with Barcasm?
Basic rule, do not travel faster than the conditions allow. Applies to cars and bikes. Most people have a skewed sense of what’s reasonable in a car however. I travel in SW PDX a lot, and I find I ride comfortably at 20 mph, but driving the same roads @ 20 mph feels too fast.
By the way, I know that cyclo-computers, and apps, and phone stands are a thing. However, they are primarily tools for recreation, not essential safety tools (like lighting, bells, etc.). My hypothetical is, if I ended up getting a speeding ticket on my bike and I went to court to fight it: my argument would be thus:
By the letter of the law, speed limit’s technically apply to bikes because they apply to vehicles and bikes are considered vehicles. However, unlike a car, there is no requirement to have a device that measures speed on my bike (as there is for lighting). Therefore, the concept of “illegal speeding” for bikes does not apply, since I am not required to know how fast I am riding, and therefore cannot know that I am speeding. Would a judge throw out this case on that grounds?
Perhaps. But if you are doing something that causes an officer to give you something like a speeding ticket while on your bike (esp. as a white dude), it’s probably easier to cite you for “reckless driving”, because you must be doing something that is endangering others.
Ultimately this is the source that you seek: http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.400
No. You’ll lose in a heartbeat. There’s no law that requires you to have a functioning speedometer in a car, even if they come with one. Using your argument, I could smash my speedometer and say I couldn’t know my car speed, because I’m not required to have a speedometer.
There are lots of laws that I might need to procure equipment to help me comply with. You’re required not to break the speed limit. If you need a device to help with that, it’s on you to get one to help you comply.
I suppose I’m the only one who finds speedometers for bicycles absurd, then. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
1) You don’t want a speeding ticket.
2) A bike computer would help you to know if you are speeding.
3) You think bike computers are absurd (wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate).
If you are a reasonable person, one of those must not be true.
I don’t want to buy a bicycle computer though. I’m not racing, I don’t care how many watts I burn or whatever. I don’t even care how fast I am going; I ride as fast or slow as feels comfortable for me given current conditions. I’ve timed myself a few times just out of curiosity, but that’s it. I find the notion of enforcing speed limits for cyclists absurd. At any rate, it seems as if they are not, so it’s a moot point.
It would be absurd to give a cyclist a ticket for doing 50mph in a 25mph zone?
What’s absurd is a cyclist going 50 mph. How often does that happen in real life?
It’s very easy to exceed the 20mph speed limit riding downhill through Washington Park. I know because I look at my computer, which is a neat little device that shows me my speed, my cadence, my mileage, and even what gear I’m in, which makes riding in traffic a lot easier. Of course, I DO have to put a $2 battery in it every two years or so. It’s a hardship, but I manage.
“…I find the notion of enforcing speed limits for cyclists absurd…” adam
Why? Because as it seems you’re trying to make some issue of, the law doesn’t require speedometers for people riding bikes to monitor their speed?
Relative speed traveled on a bike by the person riding it is fairly easy to gauge. The wind noise alone, in the riders’ ears, is a strong indication over 20mph. At 30 mph and higher, it’s hard to hear anything except the wind. If that’s not a sign for the rider to be especially wary of speed traveled and accompanying danger… .
A person cruising along on a bike can do serious damage to themselves and other people. There’s so many scenarios where this is true, I don’t want to even begin to try succinctly list them here. Good knowledge and awareness of them, the physics of biking and riding safely and skillfully in traffic is something that can only come through experience and study.
Efforts to contrive a bunch of rationale to relieve people that bike of their personal obligation to ride responsibly is not likely to win widespread support for biking as a serious mode of travel. Improvements in livability of neighborhoods arising from streets’ affects on them, depends quite a bit I think, upon people from the neighborhoods feeling able to support, by the manner in which people walk and bike, modes of travel other than motor vehicles.
The purpose of reduced speed limits, should not be thought of as something to be used by people biking, to reduce their obligation to ride safely, conscientiously and legally.
I have been cycling in cities for five years and could not tell you how fast I am going at any given time. It is literally something I never think about.
I take that back, I have wondered about my speed once, so I used my Apple Watch to get an average mph on a commute one day. I still could not tell you what 10 mph vs. 15 mph vs 20 mph feels like.
Another alternative for judging your speed is to measure your cadence and calculate your speed based on gear ratio and tire circumference. And, no, you do not have to measure cadence and do the calculations continuously. I’m sure that someone as attuned as you are to bicycling would get a feel for your cadence after a few trial runs and know how fast you are going in a few usual gears. There, you just saved $20 and don’t have to buy a computer.
That’s your problem. It’s the same as telling a traffic officer that stops you driving a car that you didn’t know you were speeding because the speedometer is broken. Either way you get (and deserve) a ticket.
I am not driving a car, and a bicycle is very different than a car. Cyclists deserve to be treated differently from drivers, since they are far less capable of causing harm. I reject the notion that bikes are vehicles and deserve to be treated the same as cars.
“I reject the notion that bikes are vehicles”
Man, I don’t even know where to start with this one. Many of us cling to our vehicle status, knowing it’s the only thing that keeps us from getting banned from the roads in many locations.
Maybe it’s time for you to switch to a segway and take to the sidewalks.
“Bikes are vehicles” is a lazy remnant from the VC era. Being a vehicle should not be the only thing that gives one the right to the public streets. Bikes are closer to fast pedestrians than they are to slow cars.
It’s legal to bike on the sidewalk in most of Portland. I personally do this all the time … and I even live to tell the tale.
Vehicles my #@$.
Every cyclist riding on the sidewalk is just looking for the protected bike lane that hasn’t been built yet.
“…I reject the notion that bikes are vehicles and deserve to be treated the same as cars.” adam
The point of regarding bikes as vehicles…which they are…is to emphasize the right of people riding them competently and legally, to use all areas of the road for travel.
Speed and velocity associated with bike use is a very big deal. This is something that should be taken very seriously, but when most anyone that can balance and pedal a bike, has carte blanche, to take to the road, from many of the people riding, it’s hard to expect a very high recognition of how serious these things are.
Adam, you frequently use “every” and “all” in places where it doesn’t belong, and it strips away your credibility. Dial it back.
Nah, everyone should just believe all the things I say. 😉
Tell that to the judge Adam.
I hope to never get the chance. 😉
In the amount of time you’ve spent typing about it on the internet you could have worked enough hours at a job to pay a speeding ticket, if you ever got one.
FWIW I break 50 on downhills weekly at least. According to my bicycle computer.
Plenty of precedent for this in the automotive world. Any cop, lawyer or judge will tell you that ignorance is no excuse. You are responsible for observing posted numeric limits regardless of whether you have a working speedometer.
It’s less common now that cars have gotten away from cable-driven speedometers (I’ve repaired broken speedometers on two different cars myself by replacing the cables), but speedos used to break all the time. Speeders tried the “speedometer not working” excuse even more than that, and it was never accepted as a defense.
Again, my argument was that speedometers do not come standard on bicycles. How am I supposed to know that I am required to buy a cycle-computer for my bicycle? They don’t even sell them at my bike shop.
LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU
Doesn’t matter. You’re responsible for managing your speed.
– Speedometers haven’t always been standard on cars either! Numeric limits still applied.
– Ultimately, numeric speed limits are just attempts to simplify enforcement of the Basic Speed Law anyway. Chances are if you are truly observing the Basic Speed Law (and I hope you know what that is) then you will probably be in compliance with the numeric speed limit.
– If it’s that important to you, you can actually calculate your speed by timing your passage between two points a known distance apart. Portland blocks are a fairly standard length, so this shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.
While technical true, the Portland Traffic Enforcement Officer who spoke in the vulnerable road user class I took said straight up they just don’t give cyclists speeding citations. My guess is if it was something super egregious they might consider it, though.
It would have to be something awful. I tried for years to get a speeding ticket on flat ground where the speed limit was at least 25. Despite having passed cops on the right no dice.
Even on descents, they cut slack — just the day before yesterday while descending Interstate, I passed a cop on the right while I was flirting with 40 (30 zone) and didn’t even get a warning. I have had cops right behind me when going more than 20mph over the limit without getting pulled over. In general, drivers have this “whoa, cool!” attitude towards high speed because hitting 50mph on a bike is simply inconceivable to them.
Speed by itself is not the problem. As someone who has ridden many years on rural highways with no shoulders where people usually go 60+, it’s really no big deal. A whole lot of things contribute to making a situation dangerous such as visibility (includes critical ability to see far to the sides), number and position of entrances/exits, how many things are out there, general visual noise, bail out options, and most important of all — attentive motorists.
I absolutely do not favor slowing everything down, but there are areas of town where I think the speed limits are too high given actual conditions.
Yet…somehow…I still seem to break bones when I ride too fast for conditions.
More speed is certainly associated with greater injuries. But bike racers crash fairly often and frequently get away with little more than road rash.
By definition, you’ve lost control when you crash, but there are ways of crashing and falling that drastically reduce injuries in many conditions.
I disagree with the notion that rules shouldn’t apply to cyclists and that bikes don’t represent a threat. Blow through an area with poor visibility and you could hit a kid. If you lose control near drivers, you could cause a car to crash trying to avoid you.
Even in areas where you represent a threat to no one but yourself, the laws exist to protect everyone. Bikes take a lot more skill to operate at high speed than a car (at the same speeds), are much more vulnerable to tiny problems, and have fewer options in critical situations.
“the laws exist to protect everyone”
Absolutely untrue. Laws are often written not to protect people, but to maintain privelage.
Also, I am not saying the laws should not apply to cyclists, but that they should be applied differently and rationally, rather than just copied from laws that were written for cars.
At any rate, the idea of a crazy cyclist blowing through corners and hitting children is a caracature and has little basis in reality. Although, it does describes many car drivers quite well.
“Blow through an area with poor visibility and you could hit a kid. If you lose control near drivers, you could cause a car to crash trying to avoid you.”
My favorite: the counterfactual chain reaction set in motion by bike-out-of-control. I do wonder if we’ll ever learn when this erratic biker causes driver to swerve and crash happened. My hunch – it is apocryphal. In the meantime, though this scenario does all kinds of work. It exaggerates the dangers posed by people biking; it exaggerates the potential for a bike to cause cascading carnage; it is a special kind of reach to try to show parity where none exists.
I’m not making this stuff up. Are you guys seriously trying to tell me that cyclists don’t crash into peds or other cyclists? That they don’t collide with animals? Virtually every single day, I see cyclists blowing through lights on Naito and other areas with heavy foot traffic without looking for the peds/cyclists who are crossing.
This sort of crash in public areas is inexcusable. The only way to accomplish this is riding inappropriately for conditions. At speed, this gets dangerous, and there are plenty of narrow Portland streets where there is no way a cyclist traveling at speed can see adequately to avoid a number of common situations.
Also, the idea that cyclists can’t cause cars to crash reflects a complete lack of understanding about how drivers react in a split second. It is not uncommon for a car to crash trying to avoid animals and other things. Most drivers are scared of hitting cyclists and this is reflected in behaviors like refusing to pass close even when you’re trying to wave them through when there isn’t enough space to give as much clearance as they’re supposed to.
As a cyclist who rarely drives, I find myself in the strange position of strongly believing that the drivers of Portland are better on the road than the cyclists — I have never thought this anywhere else that I’ve lived.
There are some really good riders here, but overall the cycling etiquette is terrible. If I were to describe the problem in one sentence, it is that too many people ride like they’re the only ones out there. I’ve talked to cyclists from other areas who share my view. There is much less propensity to work with others, including cyclists but especially drivers.
Cars aren’t bikes so common sense in application of rules is called for. But it’s hardly like rules are enforced for bikes the way they are with cars or that we need to ask for a pass. We already get one.
“Are you guys seriously trying to tell me that cyclists don’t crash into peds or other cyclists? That they don’t collide with animals?”
You were talking about someone on a bike causing a car to crash into something else. That was what I was questioning. Not that it couldn’t happen—anything is possible—but that it is curious how frequently this comes up as a trope yet i am not aware of any actual example of it that folks who suggest this could point to.
“Also, the idea that cyclists can’t cause cars to crash reflects a complete lack of understanding about how drivers react in a split second. It is not uncommon for a car to crash trying to avoid animals and other things.”
Now you’re back on track, but, again, though you’re now defaulting to ‘animals and other things.’ I didn’t say that a cyclist couldn’t cause a car crash, but that when you suggest something like this it would be good to be a bit more perspicacious; to have one in mind or at least know that this is a real thing rather than a dreamed up sequence used to scare or castigate people. I’ve pushed back here in the comments before when others have made this assertion, and to my knowledge no one has produced an actual example of this. Seems just a little fishy.
The bottom line is that what we do affects others. Yes, it does significantly less damage when bikes hit things than when cars hit things, but bikes impact others enough that it should be kept in mind at all times.
The whole reason cars are not supposed to go too fast is to deal with the unexpected. The simple fact is that the faster you go, the more you’re trusting things not to change.
Cars are much more maneuverable and much less susceptible to minor problems when going fast than bikes. These things I talk about are things I’ve actually experienced or have personally known people to be involved in. In well over 100,000 miles of cycling, I’ve seen quite a bit including multiple fatality accidents (I almost got taken out by a flying truck axle and tire from a head on between a box truck and a Camaro on HWY 22 about 10 years ago)
If there’s one thing that drives me nuts here, it’s a style of cycling that assumes others will do the right thing. For example, every day, I see people blow by drivers on the right without *knowing* the driver is going to turn. When something happens, people go nuts about how the driver didn’t signal or how they didn’t look even if they did signal. Let’s suppose for argument’s sake that 1 out of 1000 drivers doesn’t do what they should for whatever reason (and we both know the percentage is way higher). This means that people who engage in this practice are mathematically guaranteed to get hook.
This is super dangerous and easily avoidable. I fully believe in educating drivers, but I cannot fathom why we expect others to take a greater interest in our safety than we our ourselves. If you ride the way many PDX cyclists ride in other areas, you will get in a lot of trouble fast.
I often get accused of victim blaming, but if we want to be taken seriously on the roads, you need to use common sense and treat all road users with respect, including those who choose vehicles we don’t personally approve of. And there’s not enough of that going on.
Kyle, all I was saying is that the “rules of the road” were written for cars and blindly applying them all to bikes makes no sense as bicycles have almost nothing in common with cars. Yes, we all need to be conscious of others on the road, but this works just fine without laws, and oftentimes “road anarchy” is the best approach. In fact, this is the principle behind the Dutch woonerf.
I fully agree that blindly applying rules developed with cars in mind is not a good idea.
What I would advocate for (and we’re starting to see this) is recognition within the law of areas where flexibility makes sense. For example, it wasn’t until recently that it was even legal to pass on the right nor to run a red light if you couldn’t set off the sensor.
I also think the road anarchy thing is both faster and safer — provided that people work together. I favor building a culture where people are more predisposed to do that. We are making baby steps towards that. For example using traffic circles in places where we previously would have used stop signs. It keeps the flow going, but also slows things down so people can be safe. Which reminds me, I never could understand why Ladds has stop signs rather than treating it like a circle. Traffic is low, speeds are low, so asking bikes to come to a full stop there seems silly.
Vehicles also must adhere to the minimum speed limit, generally 10mph below posted. I’m not able to go that fast on some roads. How can I avoid a ticket for going below the minimum speed?
10 below posted is typically only on certain highways. Most places, I think minimum only requires movement. Otherwise, farm machinery and a lot of other slow road users would run into trouble.
We don’t have an actual minimum speed limit law.
In practice, you can operate a bike anywhere except for where it says you can’t (and those places are truly suicidal). It is totally legal to ride most of I-5 and I-84 as well as many other highways. OAR 734-020-0045 tells you where you can’t go, and just about everything else is fair game.
The vast, vast majority of my miles are on roads with speed limits over 35 and not even once has anyone suggested that it wasn’t legal to be there.
Europe has largely gone to 30 kph (about 17 MPH) on all local roads and in many locations all stop signs, traffic signs, and lane marking are gone. It appears to work.
.67 *30=21 mph
You’re both equally wrong. It is 19mph (30km/1.609)
19mph, but that’s 16mph in Canadian speeds
The sheer straightforward simplicity of PBOT’s new flow chart deserves kudos.
Bravo…though not 5 stars. This still seems to leave a lot of critical arterial bikeways on roadways with outdated speed limits…it I understand it correctly from BP.
I would recommend ODoT just create a statewide legislation that would turn over this administrative activity to all cities with more than 100k population (it can be some other #). Their staff is already stretched thin to deal with rural and highway facilities.
Large cities in Washington State have this authority from WSDoT. (Though not all use this administrative latitude to the benefit of cyclists and traffic safety.)
The OAR specifies the limits of application to non-state roadways with Federal Functional Classifications below Arterial. I would agree that Minor Arterials should be included, but that’s not the way the OAR was written.
Yes…it would take the ODoT to push the solons to update the OAR to modern practices.
The OAR was negotiated between the former City Traffic Engineer and the former State Traffic Engineer.
If there is no enforcement, they can set speed limits as low as they want and it won’t make a bit of difference.
What is the prognosis for getting speed cameras out on any of these streets, since putting actual manpower out on the streets to enforce speed limits simply doesn’t seem to be a priority for PPB?
Mobil photo enforcement could be used on any street in Portland, but fixed cameras for speed enforcement are limited by law to the worst case high crash corridors – roads unlikely to fall into the Local or Collector Federal Functional Classification this OAR pertains to.
According to the graphic, enforcement can’t bring the collision fatality rate below 30% because physics counts that 10mph between 20 and 30 differently than our police, laws, and courts.
…unless we posted 9mph on the signs. But “9 is plenty” doesn’t have the same ring.
9 is fine.
What’s the best path to get mobile photo enforcement on your street?
PBOT is the intake for enforcement requests.
823-safe, or the on-line form. they will want a location and time of day to focus on. mobile photo radar is limited to 2 hours at any one location.
PPB staffing the vehicle may be an issue. I hear the traffic division is at half staff right now.
I assume they are always at half staff because of the traffic fatalities.
I agree 100%. Enforcement is the key.
We need cheap, ubiquitous radar cameras, with fines that start low but increase rapidly as people exceed the limit. Maybe a 3 MPH buffer, but once you hit 4 MPH over the limit, it’s $40. And once you’re 10 MPH or more over, it bumps to $15/MPH. A $150 ticket in the mail for going 35 in a 25 zone would change behavior very, very quickly. Especially if it’s applied consistently, i.e. every single time.
I bet traffic fine revenues would spike for about a month, and then they’d taper off to almost nothing. And so would speeding.
Will you be contacting your state representatives regarding this change in law?
BikeLoudPDX and Livable Streets Action are doing exactly this Sept 22. Please join us in lobbying against a dramatic cut in funding for active transportation and for making safety a priority. #VisionZero
Don’t forget that most of Portland’s streets only have one travel lane in each direction. This means that if we can change attitudes about speeding, those drivers obeying the speed limit will discourage others from speeding. Like the MADD campaign, changing hearts and minds takes longer than a couple years or months.
So you would support 4-2 road diets on all streets like Hawthorne, Burnside, etc?
I do for neighborhood collector, maybe even district collector streets, even if the peak hour volumes exceed the 1,000 per hour per lane rule of thumb.
Safety is more important than convenience.
Great, I look forward to the day that Portland no longer has 4 and 3 lane roads. I have a long list of roads for you to fix. 😉
I agree with Buzz. There have been tons of streets where the speed limit has been lowered and it just doesn’t seem to change how people drive from major roads to bike boulevards. I’m so fed up with this as I continue to see people use side streets and bike routes as a cut through option where they can drive 30-40 mph because there is little to no car traffic.
Enforcement is not the only benefit to lower speed limits. In an urban setting, posted speed limit is often the speed to which changes are designed. Taper length being a prime example. w*S*S/60 is the formula for taper length. w is the shift, in feet and S is the speed. Since S is squared, taper for 30 mph is 44% longer than taper for 25 mph – space that impacts other uses of the roadway.
Any examples? Something we can verify?
Currently speed limits are based on road classification which may have little to do with safe driving speeds. I have a road near my house that was once a rural road so the speed limit is 40. Now it is a suburban street passing a park with vertical and horizontal curves that limit sight distance to a maximum safe speed of 30. It even has a section corner turn (90 degree turn) that predates automobiles. The County is planning to enhance the flow of traffic on this road, but widening, sidewalks, and reasonable speed limits are not part of the plan.
This is also where advocates need to review their local jurisdiction’s bi-ennial TIP list to check on appropriate road classifications…especially those in urban fringes that have been annexed from a county.
Inaccurate. road classification = mobility is only one of a dozen or more categories in the ODOT standard method.
the PBOT method lists classification (as required by the OAR) but depends more on the road form to determine the speed based on a 10% risk of fatality standard.
Its a step in the right direction, but the change will only be in policy, not in effect. There will be no means to enforce it.
Does it have to be cops who hand out traffic tickets?
Could enforcement be expanded by employing traffic specific city agents?
Speed gun with a camera, cross walk enforcement, illegal parking etc.
It has to be a sworn officer. seems like a parking enforcement model would work.
Yes ! About time!
Novick and Hales constantly LIE they can’t do much because of money limits on them.
I urge people to call or email. Demand Novick and Hales engage the public. They always talk about engagement, but rarely act.
Urge people to get ladders and take down signs that say 30 and 35. PBOT can start with their list of the most deadly streets under PBOT control. This defaults the road to 25mph by law. Then deliver the signs to a central location where PBOT can move the signs to other locations that used to be 45 and need to drop to 30 or 25. This would make national news!
Bam. Done. Call.
firstname.lastname@example.org (503) 823-4682
email@example.com (503) 823-4120
Do it even if they refuse. Do it in honor of my student who was killed on Hawthorne last week. If they refuse, vot for Chloe Eudaly in November. I’m a teacher, and I approve this message.
Check out roadtrafficsigns.com. Many custom and/or speed limit signs are available there at very reasonable cost.
Speeding is nowhere near the problem that the phone is. The one handed generation consistently clutches that item as if it is their lifeline. No attention is being paid to operating the vehicle and traffic awareness is nonexistent.
ooo, “kids these days on their phones not paying attention” is on my Tired Stereotypes Bingo card.
The victim blaming is also objectionable.
A study in 2012 indicated ‘failure to signal’ was responsible for twice as many crashes as distracted driving, in the crashes studied. There are lots of monsters out there, not just phones.
Dan. As David Byrne said, ..
Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don’t do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Take this fact…I ride my bike to work and back 34 miles. 5 days a week, rain or shine. That’s a lot of saddle time to collect data. I see a lot of failure to signal, but the most deadly cars are the six I see every day speeding, signalling with a dangerous pass on Clinton, blowing red lights, and ignoring the flash beacon on 82nd just South of Powell.
Too many people try to go on tangents when the topic is streets with signs posted at unsafe limits, going over the speed limit or too fast for conditions.
You sound like Hales a bit, watch the end of the video
Both are problems–a driver travelling at excessive speed has less time to react to the spasticity of a phone-intoxicated one.
If you agree we can lower limits and engage the public to do this fast and low coat just share my public Facebook post.. >
Not so fast, there, Jonathan.
(UK: not really)
(Seattle: yes, but fines lower for bikes than cars)
(It depends on the country, the state. This is all kind of interesting when you get past some people’s proclivity to assert that bicycles are vehicles, therefore yes)
…in the misguided belief that this will somehow give them a right to the road.
Look, I’m not one for yelling in comments, but….
SPEED LIMITS DON’T MATTER WITHOUT ENFORCEMENT!!!!!!!!
I’ve seen speed limits dropped on both E Burnside and Stark. Every day, I see drivers fly 10-20 MPH above the speed limit… right past the police station at 47th and Burnside.
Even if arterial traffic WERE slowed down, it would just increase the already rampant use of small side streets as high speed cut throughs.
Let’s make enforcing the current speed limits a priority before pointlessly lowering other speed limits and patting ourselves on the back. (Although when it comes to patting themselves on the back, Portland officials truly are world class.)
Agreed! A worthy yell, Justin. Every time I drive into Milwaukie on McLoughlin and witness the excellent, law-abiding behavior of whipped-into-shape drivers (they have learned they will be ticketed), I wish we had the kind of speed enforcement all over Portland that brought about that result in there.
Always ignoring the obvious, speed is not the problem. Bad drivers are the problem. Unaware, texting, clueless a-holes.
“NHTSA considers a crash to be speeding-related if the driver was charged with a speeding-related offense or if an officer indicated that racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash.
Speeding is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes. The economic cost to society of speeding-related crashes is estimated by NHTSA to be $40.4 billion per year. In 2007, speeding was a contributing factor in 31 percent of all fatal crashes, and 13,040 lives were lost in speeding-related crashes.”
And that doesn’t count crashes that could have been avoided if the speed limit at the location had been lower.
Let’s follow Baltimore’s lead and put drones in the sky above the city to enforce the new speed limits that will hopefully come out of PBOT’s new methodology ( thumbs up). To avoid the problems with identifying the drivers on speed cameras these drones could be equiped with focused EMP devices that could disable the speeding car and tag its location for the police to arrive and dispense the ticket. In newer cars it would be even easier as the drone could link to the cars “onstar” type system and shut the vehicle down with a short warning to allow the scofflaw to pull off to the side of the road and await the arrival of the authorities to dispense justice. Its time we use technology to save lives and not just dream of self driving cars.
If I ever get a speeding citation while bike riding on a street, I am framing it and putting it up on my freaking wall.
I lost track. How many exceptions to the new rule are there?
I suppose we’re supposed agree that anything is better than nothing. In the case of the city publicly acknowledging a long list of things that trump individual safety, I’m just not sure it’s a cause for celebration.
Per the OAR:
1. not a road under state authority
2. not classified higher than collector in the Federal Functional Classification System.
For the first experimentation PBOT is not proposing anything lower than statutory (and PBOT doesn’t even use all it’s statutory authority).
I’m wondering about the big caveat “for streets which are not designated freight routes” that they have in the criteria, but don’t seem to be taken into account on that map. I would like to see a map that has all the freight routes removed, since the freight lobby is heavily in bed with PBOT and rules making for many local city streets.
It’s not speed that needs to be reduced, people need to pay attention while driving. Making people drive slower is just going to make them zone out even more.
If that’s true, we should double every speed limit.
Every neighborhood street can with just a few sign changes become a greenway. PDOT should immediately lower all neighborhood streets to 20. And add a “bicycles may use entire lane” signs every three blocks on all of them.
Though I can think of many arterials that deserve the 20 mph speed limit as well, especially the high commercial corridors which have high pedestrian counts. Not perfect, but it’s a start.
Speed limits don’t mean much when the design speed is much higher. I guarantee no one will adhere to a 20 mph on streets like Powell, because they feel safe to drive twice that speed. Now, if we’re talking about narrowing all roads and making all streets 2 lanes or less, we might be on to something.
Not one single person will obey the speed limit?
Blah, simply not entirely true, yes street design can have an effect on travel speed but so does enforcement, and the psychological effects of enforcement on a driver’s willingness to risk a ticket.
There is an old police saying which goes “9 is fine, 10 you’re mine” which exemplifies the issue here. People speed by how much they are allowed to.
For most drivers 5mph -10mph over the speed limit is ok. and this behavior has been reinforced by a lack of enforcement over the years. And by lowering the speed limit by 5 mph, you have lowered the how fast they can travel before risking a ticket by 5 mph as well.
You act like most speeding isn’t a conscious decision, but that isn’t the case. Travel speed is a conscious decision, and most people, if they’re really honest about it would tell you speed within these parameters.
BTW Powell is ODOT jurisdiction, PDOT has absolutely no say on what happens on Powell (yet).
Yes, but calling for increased enforcement has its problems too. I’d rather the design of the road encourage the behavior we want, rather than relying on police enforcement – which is not only is reliant on funding at the present moment in time, but is also inequally applied based on race.
I wasn’t making the case for more enforcement. Even though I do adamantly support more “even-handed” enforcement, it was not the point I was making.
I wasn’t implying that lowering the speed limit would make fewer people will suddenly not drive over the speed limit, actually – I’m saying the same number of people will continue to drive over the speed limit, but they’ll be doing so at a slower pace.
As an example, a driver who concisely drives at 5 mph over the speed limit is traveling at 30 mph in a 25mph zone, rather than 40 mph in a 35mph zone.
Reducing the speed limit will almost always reduce the traffic speed because of this psychological risk assessment drivers make on what is an acceptable speed to drive. Which unfortunately has little to do with the good of the public, and everything to do with how much it would cost them to receive a speeding ticket (or worse if they got other legal issues).
A Washington County Sheriff, when asked about speed enforcement on Bethany, told us, “unless drivers are going 10 or 15mph over the limit, there isn’t much we can do”.
We tend to think of lowering speed limits to affect people that are speeding and then get frustrated knowing that they will continue to speed.
It is probably better to think of lowering speed limits for the people who go the speed limit or would go slower if they didn’t feel pressured by other drivers. Even if 25% of drivers slowed to the new speed limits, it would have a significant effect on traffic flow.
Otherwise, you could think of it as a citywide art installation encouraging people to imagine if streets were more fun and less dangerous.
Once again Portland only cares about itself. If Portland politicians had any vision they would see this is an Oregon (and nationwide) problem. So why aren’t they working on getting this change expanded beyond their border?
Portland should really be trying to fix the world. Why don’t they lobby for this to be enacted immediately in Tanzania, Turkey, and Thailand too?
In fact, why do we have any laws that aren’t global or galactic in scope? Utah only cares about itself by having an 85mph interstate speed limit.
Some questions are so nonsensical that they don’t deserve a response.
Yep. I’m fascinated by taking an argument to its logical end.