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Protest ride will ‘Take the Lane’ on St. Johns Bridge this Thursday

Posted by on October 31st, 2016 at 12:40 pm

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Bicycle riders are allowed to use the full lane on the St. Johns Bridge — a ride on Thursday will remind people of that fact.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Let’s show ODOT that we deserve to be protected and we are sick of this shit.
— From the Facebook event page

With the community reeling with sadness and anger about the death of Mitch York, a protest ride will happen on the St. Johns Bridge this Thursday.

York loved riding in the west hills and was en route to one of his many monthly rides when he was hit. The ride is being organized by Portlanders Jake Tong and Hazel Gross. Here’s the description via Facebook:

Fellow Cyclist Mitch York lost his life Saturday on the St.John’s Bridge while logging in his hundreds of miles on his bike as he did every week. His life was tragically ended by a negligent driver. He was the 37th person to die from a traffic collision this year. You, me, and every other cyclists we know uses the bridge as it’s a main route to the west hills, FP [Forest Park], and Sauvie’s. We as cyclist should not fear for our lives as a 5k pound of metal moving at speeds exceeding 35mph speed pass by us without the legal 3 feet. Let’s show ODOT that we deserve to be protected and we are sick of this shit.

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Rumor has it People will Meet on Thursday the 3rd at 6 pm in Cathedral Park, 6:15PM ride up to the bridge where we will stop and take a break. HELMETS STRONGLY ENCOURAGED. Let’s illuminate the night with blinky lights. Bring signs, and whatever else you feel will let you be heard/seen.

Who will it be next? Your friend? Your child? Your Brother, sister, mother or father? Your significant other? You?

PLEASE REPOST AND INVITE OTHERS.

I asked both ride organizers why they were moved to step up and put this ride on the calendar.

Jake Tong he’s simplky tired of the way he and his friends are treated when they use the bridge. “I have friends that won’t even ride with me if we have to cross the St. Johns Bridge,” he replied via email, “because the sidewalk is crazy narrow and in the lane, even in a group single file, cars fly by us like a bat-out-of-hell only a foot of room.”

“Cycling has given me such a better quality of life,” he continued, “and I’ll be damned if I let a car take that away from me.”

Hazel Gross said she wanted to lead this ride because, “We’re all aware of the huge problems with it. I think many of us held our breath waiting and wondering if when the victim was named, it would be one of our friends.” Gross added that she’s “personally terrified” of riding onthe bridge. “Those sidewalks really freak me out but taking the lane is just as scary.”

Gross was also one of the people who flagged concerns about the pinch-point on Northeast Lombard at 42nd before Martin Greenough died at that exact location. “Seeing your post that ODOT has been aware of this issue for so long but just won’t make changes because of freight interests is infuriating. I keep feeling like their response is a shoulder shrug when it comes to road safety,” she said.

Despite the fact that many auto users think otherwise, it is completely legal to ride in the lane on the deck of the St. Johns Bridge. Remember, biking on the bridge isn’t inherently unsafe — what makes it unsafe are the people who drive way too fast and without basic consideration for others.

Hopefully this ride will remind everyone that bicycle riders won’t be intimidated into the shadows by road users who feel they’re entitled to endanger others simply because their vehicle is larger and goes faster.

For you history buffs, you’ll recall this is the second St. Johns Bridge protest ride. In July 2006 a group of people rode over it naked to draw attention to ODOT’s negligent decision to prioritize motor vehicles over safety.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Perhaps someday the Portland freight community will join in with these arterial safety protests…as VZ and these “substandard” roadways effect their peace of mind too. This would then make it unavoidable for ODoT to maintain the status quo.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Light up the night for Mitch! Hope you have clear streets and wonderful weather. Thanks JM for the remembrance article, and kudos to the riders. What a loss. 🙁

rick
Guest
rick

Yes indeed !

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

Wow. Look at all those people unsafely hugging the curb. Not a good pic for a “take the lane” ride.

Eric Leifsdad
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Eric Leifsdad

Bring a pool noodle.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

ODOT KNEW!!!

stace
Guest

Is there a particular location for meeting up in Cathedral Park?

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Oregon’s law is not 3 feet, it is actually more than 3 feet. If the car is travelling faster than 35 mph (you can thank tri-met for there being no minimum passing distance at slower speeds btw) then the driver is required to leave enough space that were the cyclist to fall over towards the car they would still not hit the cyclist. In practice depending on the height of the cyclist the safe distance is much more than 3 feet, however due to the minimum speed requirement a violation is more difficult to prove and I think that the law has rarely if ever been enforced in cases where a driver passes at an unsafe distance but no one is hurt.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

I’ll be there. Glad to see this.

Elliott
Guest
Elliott

I’ll take the sidewalk thanks and dismount if I come up on a pedestrian. Metal and meat don’t play well together.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

I’m not entirely sure what the relationship this ride has to the tragedy that just happened. It feels almost like piling on to me.

FWIW I cross the bridge on bicycle a few times a week (during peak season at any rate). If I’m early enough I’ll take the lane westbound in the morning, and almost always eastbound when I’m returning from the hills or SI. I do not ride the bridge deck at rush hour in either direction.

So I’ve experienced my share of drivers being discourteous and/or ignorant. I’ve even lost my temper a few times at being disrespected by drivers.

The thing is, Mr York wasn’t killed by a driver being distracted, or following too close or buzzing him or failing to share the road. He was killed by a reckless driver, who lost control of his vehicle because he purposely tried to spin his wheels in the wet for a thrill. I believe this is a different animal; qualitatively speaking. The press for separated infrastructure in cases like this feels like conceding defeat against the idea that drivers ought to drive responsibly and be held accountable when they do not. “sorry you were killed by that idiot, but you should have stayed over there (out of the way) where we built an off highway path for you.”

We need to change the cultural acceptance of driving recklessly the same way MADD did with drunk driving. I reject the idea that people on bicycles do not belong in the public right of way.

Dickwpb
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Dickwpb

We need slower speed limits on all the bridges and more real obvious bike lane signs.
Eugene and Madison have much better bike road designations !
Portland roads and markings are far less bike friendly, but that only my opinion.

Keith
Guest
Keith

This sad event reminds me of the major repair project ODOT conducted on the bridge about 15 years ago. Without really any meaningful public engagement, ODOT developed plans to replace the entire bridge deck, involving approximately $30 million, without considering how the grossly substandard pedestrian and bicycle facilities might be improved. By the time the public, Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee, BTA, and others became aware of the project, the ability to change the physical design of the reconstruction (e.g., sidewalk width) was past, and we could only quibble about how the bridge would be striped – 4 lanes as it was, 3 lanes, or 2 lanes.

At that time, a traffic study conducted by ODOT’s consulting traffic engineer found virtually no operating difference between the two-lane and four-lane configurations. The study indicated minor changes in motorist travel time to cross the bridge (in the range of 6-12 seconds – big deal!) and no meaningful change in level of service between any of the three alternatives.

Despite numerous appeals to create a better bicycle and pedestrian environment, with the 2-lane cross section and bike lanes, ODOT opted in favor of motorist convenience and speed.

I certainly don’t know the circumstances of this tragedy or if bike lanes would have made a difference in this particular case. However, when we create roadway environments that look like freeways, people will drive accordingly – fast. A 2-lane cross section would reduce the wide open ambience the bridge has today and tend to dampen traffic speeds.

Until we can truly change the traffic engineering mentality, which defers to the motorist (already wrapped in 2 tons of steel and air bags), history will unfortunately continue to repeat itself.

bill grumling
Guest
bill grumling

While yes it is sad that someone died and yes the driver was wrong,

I have this to say: Roads were made for cars not bikes. If bicyclists want the whole share the road thing then they like motorists should have to register their bikes with the DMV, be required to have insurance much like automobiles and be licensed much like automobile and like motorcycles required to have a license.

But Also as a flagger I see many cyclists that do not obey traffic laws just by pass us which is illegal because by law we are a traffic control device and have the legal right to enforce traffic laws. We get f yous or whatever while we are there to keep cyclists safe as well. And ride so unsafely and disobey traffic laws.

You want to have improvements and protest then obey the laws and pay your fair share of taxes otherwise stay off the road.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Oliver
I’m not entirely sure what the relationship this ride has to the tragedy that just happened. It feels almost like piling on to me.

Agreed.

Ignoring that Mitch was killed due by reckless driving rather than a fault with the bridge or an unsafe pass, these protests often take a life of their own and become more about the protesters than what they are actually protesting.

The whole premise of a protest is to ask someone else to do something about a problem, and the drivers who encounter the protest won’t be the people who can move things forward. The vast majority of them will just see yet another protest in a town that protests everything and cyclists clogging a road because they can.

James Devaney
Guest
James Devaney

Slow these cars the hell down. Portland is a city not some cow pasture. Surface roads should be 15 mph. Anyone going over that is fined. Folk will get to the Freeway 5 min later but lives will be saved. California has invaded Portland and Oregon prospective.

Chadwick F
Guest
Chadwick F

I’ll be visiting this week .Hope I can meet up for this. If not, best of luck to all and good work!

Jason Skelton
Guest
Jason Skelton

bill grumling
While yes it is sad that someone died and yes the driver was wrong,
I have this to say: Roads were made for cars not bikes. If bicyclists want the whole share the road thing then they like motorists should have to register their bikes with the DMV, be required to have insurance much like automobiles and be licensed much like automobile and like motorcycles required to have a license.
But Also as a flagger I see many cyclists that do not obey traffic laws just by pass us which is illegal because by law we are a traffic control device and have the legal right to enforce traffic laws. We get f yous or whatever while we are there to keep cyclists safe as well. And ride so unsafely and disobey traffic laws.
You want to have improvements and protest then obey the laws and pay your fair share of taxes otherwise stay off the road.
Recommended 1

That is the thing: cyclists and all of us in Oregon subsidize roads and motorist use of roads. The gas tax does not pay for all the road and bridge building and maintenance in Oregon; it does not pay for traffic lights and signs, nor does it pay for police to enforce those laws. Every bicycle in traffic is one less car interrupting your commute and one less vehicle damaging the roads.

If motorists really paid for what they use, then your tags would be multiple times more expensive, as would the gas tax. Motorists have it real good under the current system. My sense is that bicycle registration schemes never go anywhere because once legislators learn the answer to who is paying for roads, they drop the subject.

KristenT
Guest
KristenT

I wish I could do this ride– but in a car, driving carefully alongside at no more than the posted speed limit– or slower, as there are vulnerable road users right there..

In fact, I wish I could get a bunch of my car-driving friends to drive back and forth over the bridge at no more than the posted speed limit, or a little slower, in all lanes, for a couple of hours during rush hour– just to make a point that the speed limit is the MAXIMUM, and that it’s ok to go slower. And that sometimes, it’s better to go slower.

KristenT
Guest
KristenT

It’s not “blocking traffic” if you are driving the speed limit. It’s obeying the law and driving safely and prudently.

This is part of the problem: People see driving the speed limit as “blocking traffic” and get angry at those of us who tend to drive much closer to the speed limit than most.

I’m trying to be a safe road user, by following the laws, which are there to make everyone safer on the roads. How is this the problem??

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Why does the Oregon DMV continue to allow drivers with a driving record as poor as the driver involved with this incident to operate and own a motorized vehicle…read this recent Oregonian article…the system is broken and the State Legislature needs to intervene if Vision Zero has any chance of working in Oregon.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2016/11/driver_accused_of_killing_bicy.html#incart_2box

Kriston
Guest
Kriston

Taking a “break” on the bridge is illegal.
content://media/external/file/30665

bikediet
Guest
bikediet

PDX streets aren’t safe for cyclists. Time for a bike diet. Protest the lack of adequate bike infrastructure by staying off major roadways!

KH
Guest
KH

As I drove by at approx 2mph with my window down, I studied the man who’s head rested on the sidewalk, helmet intact, hoping so much to see any sign of life. I knew as I drove on, wiping tears from my eyes, that he was gone. In that moment I thought how desperately he would have wished he’d been riding up on that high sidewalk. Regardless of your “rights,” you have to be smart. Rights won’t save your life in unsafe conditions, period.