Mailbag: People have lots to say about maintaining status quo on the St. Johns Bridge

Posted by on November 4th, 2016 at 12:51 pm

“I understand you’re upset, but don’t make my long commute worse by backing up traffic… You don’t have the right to impede my way home on a public street. Try standing on the sidewalk with signs regarding your concerns.”
— Email to BikePortland about last night’s protest ride on the St. Johns Bridge.

It happens every time there’s a high profile fatality involving a bicycle in Portland: People who never read BikePortland see me talking on the news or read my quotes in articles and they can’t resist giving me a piece of their mind. They will sometimes leave voicemails on our tipline; but they usually email.

The recent fatal collision on the St. Johns Bridge has spurred a lot of local media coverage and as a result my inbox was full of several such emails. It’s one thing when people spout of hate-filled screeds in The Oregonian/OregonLive comments section (a vile place); but it’s much different when they take the time to share their opinion with the local bike blog.

I want to share a few of these emails with you because I feel it’s important that we have a clear understanding where people are coming from when it comes to transportation culture in Portland. Keep in mind, the views expressed from the people below are relatively reasonable compared to anonymous online comments. Also keep in mind that these are the same people who are very likely to take the time to write their elected leaders when a bike-related infrastructure investment or policy is being debated.

As I read the emails (pasted below), here are a few things that stand out:

  • Nothing would have prevented the death of Mitch York.
  • Waiting in traffic is a greater hardship than the emotional loss experienced by injuries and deaths to human beings.
  • The death of Mitch York was an isolated, random thing and the real issue is that some people run through stops signs while biking.
  • An assumption that I’m a “cyclist” so I must never drive a car and I’m incapable of knowing that perspective (neither of which are true).
  • People who primarily drive have a persecution complex and are greatly offended when called out for dangerous and illegal actions by other drivers.
  • There’s a tremendous amount of selfishness and entitlement to road space by people who only drive (as evident in phrases like, “my commute,” “my way home”).
  • Any improvement of cycling access on the bridge is simply ridiculous and impossible.

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Here they are (I’ve taken names off of them because I want us to focus on the content, not on the people who wrote them):

Mr. Maus,

The horrific tragedy on the SJ bridge would NOT have been prevented by a bike lane! This awful tragedy was the result of egregious recklessness on the part of the driver; he would have killed the cyclist no matter what. Further, the SJ bridge is cluttered with cars and semi-trailers and the notion that 2 lanes should be removed for bikes is LAUGHABLE. It is the lone entry point into and out of that area of the peninsula; it cannot accommodate the loss of 2 lanes! Have you ever traversed it during rush hour? I am certain you haven’t. No one who must drive it for work should be required to endure even longer waits. Not everyone bikes, Mr. Maus; your one-stop solutions to every tragedy involving a cyclist are absurd. And this horrific loss of life is not solved by your shouting from every rooftop about more rights for those who bike; it reduces the degree to which anyone with half a brain takes you seriously. I am genuinely saddened by the death of Mr. York and raising awareness of the importance of automobile operators safely navigating cyclists on the road is commendable. But it would help your cause greatly if you considered alternatives to your singular POV.

Dear Sir,

I understand the need of safety for bicyclists but why always blame motorists. Not all motorists or roadways are problems. I see at least 95% of bikers NEVER use stop signs on bike paths. They expect cars to yield to them – very wrong! Often see bikes disobey traffic devices.

Why does the state or city have to keep providing paths for bikes? Why do taxpayers have to buy and build everything?

Why are bikers not registered with a tag to display on their back so when laws are broken they pay fines? Bikers get hit many times due to their negligence but they will blame automobiles.
I think all bicyclists need to where reflective clothing, have a flag on their bike (the tall orange ones), have liability insurance if they are the reason for an accident, and must display a registration tag on their person so they can be fined (like thru traffic cams) just as a motorist would be. The money they spend for registration should be used for education and building and improving bike lanes/paths.

It is late, and I know I am rambling, but just really tired of motorists blamed for everything. If you would like to actually view the bikes that never stop for stop signs, go to the sellwood bridge where the park is. The intersection by the rxr tracks. I am not b.s.’ing you. If something is said to them, they are verbally rude and will give me the bird.

I have a very long commute that includes the St John’s Bridge. i understand you’re upset, it was a terrible tragedy and luckily they caught the bad driver, but don’t make my long commute worse by backing up traffic, I have never hit a pedestrian or a bicyclist because I pay attention to the road and my surroundings… But Seriously You don’t have the right to impede my way home on a PUBLIC street. Try standing on the sidewalk with signs regarding your concerns

Saddened, embarrassed and shocked that you would try to stop traffic on the St Johns Bridge after the horrible accident that took a bicyclist life. I pray for him and his family every day, but would NEVER take this horrific loss to exploit an unrealistic gain of having dedicated bike lanes on the St. Johns Bridge. The bridge is already dangerous enough with the current traffic flow that it carries and you are proposing to create and even more dangerous environment. WOW, think about it…. it not only would be more dangerous for you who are proposing this but also endanger pedestrians and motorists too, but lets not stop there. It would great such a back up of traffic that the potential outcome of this would endanger St Johns on one side that person living off of streets like Germantown and little surviving towns like Linton.

Instead of thinking all the time of ONLY YOURSELVES and ones own agendas how about thinking of the greater good instead of selfish selfriciousness. You think Causing More turmoil blocking traffic is a smart means of getting your message out. When for anyone with common sense it is not. Adding Potential Life Endangerment is the way to speak out. Well let me say it IS NOT. I have seen it only causes more Pain. What if you had a Mother, Father, Sister, brother, son, or daughter that had a lift threatening emergency to get across that bridge tonight and your protest prohibited that causing their DEATH! HOW WOULD YOU FEEL THEN!!!……………….. think about that

As I’ve been trying to express all week, the issues that led to Mitch York’s death — and to Fallon Smart’s death and to the near-death of Bradley Fortner, and so on — are not just about inadequate infrastructure. These crashes are outcomes of a culture and a transportation system that is failing its most vulnerable users at every level. To make substantive progress on transportation reform, we must dismantle the cultural underpinnings that have allowed opinions as expressed in these emails to be part of the mainstream.

For what it’s worth, I’ve responded to all four of these people. I’ve yet to hear back but will consider sharing the exchange if I do.

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

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CraigTed Timmons (Contributor)satrain18Alan 1.0Eric Leifsdad Recent comment authors
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BB
Guest
BB

All this illustrates is something we already know, most people are not mentally or emotionally responsible enough for what is asked of them in order to operate motor vehicles in public. This is the root of the culture of denial and lack of legal repercussions in the realm of automobile usage in America today.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Many people lack the emotional intelligence to think beyond themselves.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

The persecution complex mentioned above is a case in point. Car drivers have it for other car drivers, just as BP bicyclists have it for most other BP bicyclists. For example, I’m often amazed by the BP comments related to homeless folks on the Springwater – no sympathy from most BP respondents, just anger and persecution of other people who are not bicyclists. The comment that Jonathan has from drivers remind me of those from cyclists using the Springwater.

highrider
Guest
highrider

Please reconsider saying ‘most people’. It sounds very similar to ‘most bikers don’t…’. Stereotypes result in prejudice. We need to stop generalizing, IMO. These letter writers don’t even know about the spell check function, you know what I’m saying?

Spiffy
Subscriber

pleas consider that when people say “most people” or “most bikers” that they may be right…

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

I think you mean “most letter writers” 🙂

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Twenty percent of road users, maybe…to borrow your words, “… are not mentally or emotionally responsible enough for what is asked of them in order to operate motor vehicles in public.”. That is, ‘safely’, on public roads in difficult traffic situations, as opposed to just driving along on a stress free low traffic road. 15 percent or 10 percent might be more realistic.

It continues to amaze me just how well traffic manages to flow, considering the great challenges presented to people trying to operate their motor vehicles safely with consideration for other road users. With demands on people’s driving skills becoming ever greater due to more vehicles on the road, and increasingly common, complicated traffic situations, I find it quite understandable that people are finding themselves struggling to deal with these things as road users, and as neighborhood residents effected by traffic.

Those three St Johns neighbor letters maus posted, don’t strike me as having the characteristics of people representing the general public. The letter writers make too much use of sensation grabbing gimmicks, like all caps, and also too heavy reliance on old rhetorical phrases, rather than from their own original thoughts expressed from their hearts, reflecting some consideration for other people’s situation, as well as their own. I would imagine many more people from that neighborhood that don’t have the time to sit down and write letters to bike weblogs, may have a considerably more knowledgeable and balanced viewpoint on the bridge use situation.

For a long time, St Johns has been able to enjoy being a sleepy little burg not too far from the big city. The big city and its residents’ interests in different ways of doing things, such as biking rather than driving, is slowly creeping over and impacting the old St Johns way of life. Might seem to residents there, something a little like the detested ivy that wants to take over forests. Adjusting to the changes, may be difficult.

Craig
Guest
Craig

Both drivers of cars and cycles need to act responsibly. I observe that often neither do. Or is it now only “Believe bicyclists?”

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Following up on BP and the Oregonian’s look back at the history of the StJ Bridge…one items has been missed…it used to be a County bridge and maintained [poorly] by the County then…perhaps the lane configuration of it would be different today if the County had not thrust it upon the ODoT…perhaps BPoT should seek to take it [and the Hawthorne] over to make it serve local traffic safer.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Johns_Bridge

“By the 1970s, the bridge had been allowed to deteriorate, and cash-strapped Multnomah County asked the state to take over maintenance. Initially, the state declined, since it was also suffering from a lack of funds. But pressure from an association of county governments forced the state government to take it over on August 31, 1975. A county official estimated the move saved them $10 million during the first ten years of state maintenance.” Wikipedia

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

typo – PBoT and not BPoT (some would complain it already is BPoT 🙂

David
Guest
David

I’d be in favor of more letters to the editor roundups, maybe weekly depending on volume?

Catie Gould (Contributor)
Guest
Catie

I second this!

Ali Reis
Guest
Ali Reis

The more I bike in this city, especially with a small child in a trailer, the more I think about how nice it would be to have bike infrastructure completely separate from roads that cars use. I love the idea of “Share the Road” but in practice, it is hard to accomplish in a safe, respectful way. Last year, I spent a weekend in Victoria, BC, which has an amazing bike route that not only doesn’t go near cars, but you can’t even see cars! Sometimes I wonder if our efforts to create bike lanes in roads where cars drive would be better spent figuring out to get bikes their OWN roads.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

The only problem with cyclists having their own bike lanes or roads is motor vehicle operators deciding they want to drive on them exclusively. They forget that 90% of the roads they drive on beside the freeways were ridden or built for bicycles or horses to travel on before there were cars.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

“Separate but equal”, like segregation.

Adam
Subscriber

Seriously? Comparing bike lanes to 1960’s Jim Crow laws never makes any sense. Bike lanes are not people.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

No, but bicyclists are. We are not separating the machines from each other, but the users – drivers versus bicyclists. Hence the segregation language.

Adam
Subscriber

Comparing cycling infra to racism is in extremely poor taste imo.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“Separate but equal” has always referred to facilities, as far as I’ve understood. Most notably, schools during the ’50s and ’60s.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

That’s not always a bad thing. It depends on context.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I totally get why some people want protected lanes, but if these are forced on us, it may well reduce the number of cyclists.

The whole premise of protected lanes is that bicycles really don’t belong on the road with cars — exactly the anti cycling attitude that we should be working to change.

Fast riders are presented as an edge case, but people hauling kids aren’t exactly typical riders. Not many people are willing to transport their kids by bike. It requires special equipment and good legs. My personal experience is that the people hauling kids are some of the better cyclists on the roads. As a group, they’re good riders and work well with others.

However, there is no foreseeable world in which you’ll be able to travel between most points in separated bike lanes. We need to figure out realistic ways to do better and I don’t think full separation is practical or even desirable except in special cases.

I think there also needs to be some recognition that speed has a purpose other than to service the psychoses of impatient people. Cycling is not feasible for more than a few miles each way if the speeds are held too low. I’ve gotten around by bike for my entire life, but that would change if cycling is no longer practical.

Adam
Subscriber

You’ve got it backwards. “Not many people are willing to transport their kids by bike” because there isn’t any safe space to do so. Maker the streets safer, and they will appear. Name me one example of a city that built a safe network of cycling infrastructure where rates actually reduced.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Cycling with kids is about way more than infrastructure. Most people lack the equipment, fitness, skills, and desire.

Kids need to be taken to school and doctor appointments, and parents need to get to teacher conferences, activities, etc. They need all kinds of stuff. It is nontrivial to get kids around by bike.

If it really were all about infrastructure, the number of cyclists wouldn’t crater every time the weather gets bad. Even during rush hour, there’s not that many cyclists. When I’m riding late at night, I often go miles and see ZERO other cyclists.

Adam
Subscriber

You may live in a bike-hostile neighborhood where everyone needs a road bike and Lycra to get around, but in my neck of the woods, I see TONS of cyclists every day, many of whom are carrying or riding alongside children. There’s no need for you to impose your West Hills perspective upon more bikey neighborhoods.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Sure, you ride up and down Clinton. I go there frequently myself (as a matter of fact, I have a dogsitting gig for the next 5 days by the corner of 32nd and Clinton so I’ll check out the boat you mentioned early tomorrow morning). I am well aware of all the kids that ride there as well as all the people hauling cargo and think it is a great place to get started.

Very few roads (or areas) are that friendly. While it probably is realistic to get a few major cycle streets like that, there isn’t going to be any way to avoid the vast majority being something else.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

I haul my kids all over Hillsdale, up and down Corbett and beyond. It is very easy with a properly equipped electric cargo bike, which is not a big expense weighed against a second car or minivan. The only problem is the rat-running lawless auto traffic, even in the rain. Neighborhood streets need to be handling zero through traffic, then they will be fine for everyone biking with kids (not to mention the neighbors.) Bike infrastructure is needed on main through routes and commercial districts. It’s not complicated or expensive compared to what transportation engineers are supposed to be capable of.

PBOT is constantly treating uphill bike lanes like sidewalks and generally designing bike infrastructure without any account for speed or simple engineering of sight distances, camber, and maintainability. Argue against that and in favor of designs that make it safe, easy, and convenient to ride a bike. Plan that you’re going to be sharing it with slower people (some even riding a tedious 10mph down big hills for fear of being unable to stop from higher speeds.) Argue for designs that make it work for everybody. What will it look like at rush hour in 15 years?

Engineers need to use their product. ODOT might need to borrow a bike from someone for this.

My kids have places to be and sometimes we’re headed there at 20mph. If I drove them in a car, it would sometimes be more convenient because we’re stopping for puppies blocking the way on the MUP or having to otherwise slow down for poorly designed bike infrastructure. PBOT doesn’t do a good job of respecting bikes as transportation when they build bike-specific infrastructure and they usually just build MUPs instead of bike-specific infrastructure.

There’s nothing wrong with bike-specific separated infrastructure, we just don’t have any.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

It needs to be done well. Like I said earlier, the kid haulers I encounter are good cyclists with good heads on their shoulders. I know both Hillsdale and Corbett well enough to know that you must know what you’re doing.

One of my general concerns with separated facilities is that they’re often MUPs or everyone is slowed to the lowest common denominator. For me, 30 utility miles in a day is common/nothing because that’s just getting to work and back plus one modest trip. And before dismissing me as some weirdo, that would be done in a car if I couldn’t do it on a bike because I do things in my spare time. I’m a dog handler at the shelter. I play in the symphony. I go out at night. I belong to clubs. I believe in being safe, but that’s not the only important thing in life.

Adam
Subscriber

It seems like your only complaint about separated cycling infra is that it slows you down. Why don’t you just take the lane then? You’re clearly comfortable with that. Personally, I would prefer not to have to raise myself to the “highest common denominator”. I shouldn’t be forced to keep up with motor traffic to get to where I need to.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I take the lane when I can and I agree that it is unreasonable to expect most cyclists to do this. For example, tomorrow morning when I ride to my friend’s house near 32nd and Clinton, I’ll take MLK and Division rather than the East Esplande or some other route Clinton on my way from NoPo because I can ride much faster.

What I don’t like about totally separate paths is there is no ability to pass. I don’t mind following for awhile, but there needs to be a way to get into the traffic lane when necessary.

I strongly believe in clean passes and think too many cyclists don’t give peds and slower cyclists enough space.

Adam
Subscriber

If a separated facility is built wide enough, then there is room to pass. A single-direction cycleway should be 8 feet wide at a minimum. Ideally MUPs should be 16-20 feet wide with very few people walking in them because they’d have their own sidewalk. So many of our major streets are quite wide, so it’s not like there isn’t room for this.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

MUPs are not bike infrastructure!

8ft one-way bikes-only at a minimum with clear space on each side.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

And yet you do that frequently yourself. You both have valid views and neither of you are holier than the other. You simply both have different experiences. It’s like when a vegan tries to lecture a paleo person…

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Davis, CA of the late ’70’s/early ’80’s had almost no separated infrastructure (two bridges over hwy 113 and one rough path out of town to the west plus one almost unused path along a stretch of I-80), yet the never formally counted cycling modal share was easily well over 50%. It was perfectly normal to look down a main street at 5:00 PM and see over a thousand people on bikes and nary a car.

Flash forward to the turn of the century. After a fifteen-year bike path building binge, the city found itself with so few people on bikes that my small clan was known locally as the bike family simply because we still rode everywhere. Formerly empty parking lots on campus were now filled with cars and both the city and campus built several multi-story car parking lots. The bikes all but disappeared. The school bike racks were almost empty. They built it and the cyclists got into cars!

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there were a host of other factors in the demise of the former bicycle capital of the world, but the fact is that separated infra is neither sufficient nor necessary to increases in bicycle use. Zero tolerance traffic law enforcement, on the other hand…

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I grew up in a community with 47 miles of off-street paths, most 10-14 feet wide, and only 3 miles of on-street bike lanes (all built in the 80s). As more paths were built, bicycling as a commute mode declined, while bicycling as a mode of recreation rose. Most bicyclists are also car drivers, even in Portland; if car drivers view bicycling as predominantly a form of recreation, rather than as a viable way to commute, then off-street facility expansion will only accelerate the decline of the bike as a mode for commuting, IMO.

Adam
Subscriber

What we need are more on-street separated cycleways rather than secluded multi-use paths through wooded areas. The former feels much safer at night.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Amen.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I am unsure if cause can be associated with effect here, but I do think there is a possible connection.

Fully separate facilities communicates both to drivers and cyclists that bicycles don’t belong on the road so I can see how a robust recreational network could undermine cycling for utility purposes.

One major factor that affects safety is the number of cyclists on the roads. In areas where bicycles are commonplace, drivers get used to working with them. Other would be cyclists who see them are more inclined to join.

Cycling a road needs to seem normal for people to want to do it. If it’s seen as unusual or extreme, people won’t try it even if they like the idea. The sad thing is that even in Portland, it doesn’t take much to get people to think a ride falls in this category.

Adam
Subscriber

You find that even in the Netherlands, not every street has protected cycleways. But the ones that do have high motor traffic speeds and volumes. By claiming that cycleways send the message that “bikes don’t belong in the roadway”, you are explicitly defining the roadway as a car-only space. So of course, bikes don’t belong on streets like Burnside, Hawthorne, Powell, etc. because they have been designed for cars only. Add cycleways, and now suddenly bikes DO belong.

fourknees
Guest
fourknees

Keep up the good work Jonathan and BP. Hard for morale to stay up when you have to be inundated with these responses in your email/voicemail.

Adam
Subscriber

Dear Mr. Garrett:

Why are your drivers always protesting TWICE A DAY by taking over the streets and bridges and preventing Hard Working Cyclists from getting to and from their jobs safely? Don’t they know that the roads were originally built for BICYCLES? Instead of thinking all the time of ONLY DRIVERS OF CARS AND TRUCKS and odot’s own agendas how about thinking of the greater good instead of selfish selfriciousness. What if you had a Mother, Father, Sister, brother, son, or daughter that had a lift threatening emergency and your CAR protest prohibited that causing their DEATH! HOW WOULD YOU FEEL THEN!!!……………….. think about that

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Love!

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

I used to be like them. It’s impossible to reason with them. Like convincing an alcoholic alcohol can be a problem.

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

How did that change happen for you? Might that work for some others?

While I’m at it, is there some site that answers all those old, same, lame chestnuts like cyclists don’t pay for roads, they break laws, they cause crashes, they should be licensed, etc… ?

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Google probably has good results for each chestnut. I wonder if someone could make an app for carheads to argue with instead of trying to keep your cool and calmly refute whatever nonsense someone starts in on when you stop to say that the thing they did to get to the red light first made you feel unsafe.

https://momentummag.com/free-rider-myth/
http://www.bicycling.com/training/tips/best-responses-anti-cyclist-claims
http://bicycleuniverse.info/transpo/almanac-safety.html

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

Haha! I love the thought of an app to do that arguing – “AI” arguing with non-I. 🙂

Yes, goobing does find hits, and thanks for those suggestions, they’re all good in their own way. But none of them (or others I’ve found) answers all the usual questions, includes source references, is comprehensive, and is current. I realize I’m asking a lot, as I tried to keep such a reference just for the “do bicyclists pay for roads” question, and it ran >60k characters with hundreds of sources, and more kept turning up. I wonder about a wiki with some control over the contributors…

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Does it really matter who paid for the road if it’s crystal clear which vehicle on it is imposing more costs on society and the environment?

Part of the trouble is “which roads” and even locally, budgets are so convoluted. You have to track back the SDC’s, federal grants, etc. And drivers want you to discount investment in off-street paths or flashing crosswalk beacons (which we wouldn’t need if not for cars.) Meanwhile, advocacy organizations want to include health care costs or other externalities. In this case, the point is argued that many people who ride paid to register their cars which is true but also complicated: https://btaoregon.org/nofreerides/

How much extra did you pay for groceries because of the people who drove to Fred Meyer and yet you’re all getting a discount on gas with your purchase?

Alan 1.0
Subscriber

It matters to the extent which one believes in empirical facts over gut emotions, and (assuming one does go with the facts over the gut reaction) yes, it does get complicated and convoluted, but that’s still not a reason not to look for facts. While the car conundrum is as clear as today to you and me, those mails to Maus show that it’s not clear to everyone. Now, sure, some of those people (and the unvoiced masses who might share their thoughts) won’t be swayed by any empirical evidence whatsoever, but I maintain that some will, and that by repeatedly showing them that evidence whenever they bring up misguided arguments will tend to sway opinions in the direction of facts. I know those facts have swayed my opinions, and I’m curious about “Mark smith” upthread, and that’s why I’d really like a one-stop-shopping source for stuff like that BTA graphic (and all the other chestnuts) *and* including the sources for its content.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Selfish selfriciousness.

Kittens
Subscriber
Kittens

Have to admit I was a little afraid to click Read More on this one. But those letters must be the tame ones. I can only imagine the vitriol someone gets for speaking up on the local TV news.

I think you are on to something Johnathan. It is bigger than bike lanes and signs. It is about the legal and ethical double standard which allows one to haplessly pilot a 2-ton conveyance into an innocent person and basically get away with it.

My goal would not more bike lanes but to instill the same sense of life/death feel daily while riding. Motorists should drive with the fear that every trip has the potential to be life changing. Yeah some bikes dont stop at all stop signs. So what. Bikes do not kill people, cars do! Plus they kill the ecosystem and make us fatter.

highrider
Guest
highrider

I remember back in the early 90’s when ABS brakes and airbags first started to make crashing safer. Volvo had a commercial touting this new safety and I thought, ‘Plenty of people will always drive just on the verge of crashing, this will allow for more dangerous driving, not less’. Seat-belts weren’t even standard until Ralph Nader put out “Unsafe at any speed”, referring to the ubiquitous auto. I think that slogan should be brought back and plastered on cars like warnings are put on cigarettes. “This machine is Unsafe at Any Speed”.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

…other than zero MPH!

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I’ve gotten hurt hitting parked cars.

Susan Y Kubota
Guest
Susan Y Kubota

Seat belts, airbags and ABS brakes did make driving safer when they first came out and traffic related deaths did go down. The sobering truth is even with all of these mostly passive added safety features, nationally traffic deaths due to crashes are on the rise. Distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving and deserves the same degree of punishment if not more. Giving law enforcement a device that would act as a breathalyzer for text messaging would confirm the crime. Only a stiff penalty will ever change behavior.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

I’m not sure about Portland, but most drivers here in Greensboro don’t even bother to signal any more, even for left turns.

Brian
Guest
Brian

These letters remind me that we have a long ways to go with developing critical thinking skills in our schools. No worries, I’m on it.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Bless you.

rick
Guest
rick

Life is precious.

Spiffy
Subscriber

it’s admirable of you to try and present a reasonable perspective to these concerned citizens… I’d certainly be interested in any continued conversation if they write back…

actually, I’d like to see what you wrote back to each of them… it’d better arm us for that eventual conversation if we had your language and tact to mimic instead of the usual emotional and heated exchanges that usually ensue on the spot when confronted by drivers…

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Most people are too ignorant and self-absorbed to understand how traffic flow works, what causes traffic, etc. Case in point: just look at the two lane ramp northbound from HWY 30 onto the bridge. Even though there are two lanes that merge just before the signal, people only use the left lane, causing traffic to back up on to HWY 30. The O had an article about this a few years back where the pointed out that folks should be using both lanes and “zippering” prior to the light. The amount of hate/vitriol towards the author was astounding.

The reality on the St. John’s is this: provided you maintain two “outbound” lanes at the signals on each side of the bridge, the throughput will be the same. The rest of the bridge can be one lane, yielding enough space to add narrow bike lanes on either side, or a protected two-way cycle track on one side. This would be safer for all users, including drivers, as it would cut down on speeding significantly. Crossing times should only increase by a few seconds, and throughput would be identical.

Spiffy
Subscriber

we don’t need 2 motor vehicle lanes at each end of the bridge…

Allan
Guest
Allan

Maybe at the ends but certainly not in the middle

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

We don’t “need” it, but there is space for it. Limiting the throughput of the bridge for no other reason than to punish drivers is not going to win over any skeptics. When we can maintain throughput, reduce speeding, AND improve safety, it’s a win-win.

brian
Guest
brian

I understand you have a long commute, but some people call st. johns home and we don’t appreciate your reckless driving in our neighborhood.

Spiffy
Subscriber

at some point they chose to make that long commute… I have no sympathy for their complaint…

they also choose to drive illegally and dangerously…

your choice to drive illegally for a long period of time is not greater than people’s safety…

brian
Guest
brian

Agreed, maybe Intel should be buying their employees who chose to live in Vancouver and now need to speed through North Portland neighborhoods to make it to work on time.

brian
Guest
brian

ACK! buying their employees ^ a bridge ^

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Yep. I have little sympathy for people that think they are entitled to drive across the metro area daily, with no traffic, to fit their life choices. We all live here, and there are only so many resources available to use. We all have to share. Portlanders need to accept that we need to become like a large city, and that means living and working within our neighborhoods; otherwise, face the long and frustrating commute one chooses to undertake.

Of course, we could invest in world-class public transit and biking infrastructure to help ease congestion and speed commutes, but most Americans are ignorant of what a well-functioning system looks like. Thus, they choose to drive and not invest in a solution.

Classic chicken and egg scenario.

Adam
Subscriber

Nah, everyone should just move to Vancouver to avoid Oregon taxes, then use Oregon infrastructure and complain about traffic on the Columbia bridges.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

*Grumbles* express trains..

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

…and transfer their company HQ to Vancouver too!…

…and why cross the bridge if you don’t need too…other than going to PDX or taking Amtrak or a bicycle.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

Cross all you want, but sit in that traffic. I recommend podcasts.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

… to go shopping, of course. No sales tax in Oregon, no income tax in Washington.

SE Rider
Guest
SE Rider

All people that work in Oregon pay Oregon income taxes whether the live in Oregon or not.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Few people choose long commutes. They live with other people who also work, they have kids that can’t just be moved around willy nilly, and job situations change. In addition, moving is nontrivial.

Life is much simpler when you’re responsible to no one other than yourself.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

That’s a nice generalization about me and my life choices. I will tell you that many people do, in fact, choose long commutes.

SE Rider
Guest
SE Rider

His point was that many don’t as well.
Given the current state of housing in Portland, this should not be surprising.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Everything is a choice. Buying a house in Vancouver or Estacada when you work in Portland is choosing a long commute. As much as people bitch and moan about traffic, it would take an act of God to get about 60% of drivers out of their cars. It’s easy, comfortable, and relatively cheap for most people.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

What about buying a house in Beaverton that’s closer to your work, then getting laid off, working downtown as a contractor until another job opens up in Beaverton, then having that job move offices to downtown? I moved to be closer to my work, but then…work moved. Meanwhile, kids are in school, current house is close to family, etc. I’m lucky that my job that was 8 miles away is now only 13 miles away and I can still ride it when I’m in good health.

I guess it’s one thing if you move to a place like Banks or Estacada—or even Vancouver—knowing full well that you’ll likely never get a job there and planning to drive 30 miles one way to work. I guess if you do that, you can’t expect your 30-mile commute to take 30 minutes. But there are plenty of folks that found work where they could find it, and for some reason, aren’t up for a move at the drop of that hat.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Jonathan, Just curious… do you respond to any/some/all of these sorts of emails?

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Ooops, sorry, I missed the note a the end where you said you did.

Catie Gould (Contributor)
Guest
Catie

Unfortunately the biggest hurdle we have to overcome is not a lack of finances of ODOT or PBOT, but the culture ingrained deep within us that commuting by car is normal and it will always be a fact of life. We need to remind each other, negative commentators, and our politicians that this is NOT normal. On the scale of human history, commuting by private automobile is very new, and it is not working out very well. Our roads did not manifest on the seventh day of creation. We made them, we can change them. And if we want our grandchildren to enjoy a future that is optimistic in any way we MUST change our transportation systems, even if it inconveniences us in the process. The sooner we can tip the majority of citizens to accepting that idea, the better.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

From the standpoint of sustainability, the future of the planet, cost, and thermodynamics living in Vancouver and commuting to Intel with one person inside a 4000 lb hunk of metal and plastic is insane. It is no wonder that doing so makes those that do it insane also.

Bikeninja
Guest
Bikeninja

I am convinced the automobiles are like a parasite that has taken over the brain of its host (humans) and these letters are my evidence.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

From the movie Repoman – “Driving makes you stupid.”

Pat Franz
Guest
Pat Franz

Your list of things that stand out are stunning, and depressingly accurate. Driving truly is a drug.

KTaylor
Guest
KTaylor

Before cars, we had horses. They were a tremendous public health problem in cities – especially when someone let one die and didn’t deal with it right away (or at all). They spooked and killed people, left waste all over the place and required massive amounts of ‘parking’ in the form of livery stables. The one saving grace was that most people couldn’t afford to keep their own horse, so it was generally understood that cities needed to be walkable and public transit had to be robust. If only the same percentage of people that could afford to keep horses back in the day had cars now, the situation on our roads would be a lot better. As long as getting around by private car remains heavily subsidized (and therefore artificially affordable), I don’t see how we’re ever going to get rid of it. Most of our transit-going ancestors would probably have bought their own horses if people were paying billions of dollars in subsidies to make it happen for them.

KTaylor
Guest
KTaylor

Oops – – this was supposed to be in response to Catie’s comment – not sure why it posted at the bottom of the thread!

NG
Guest
NG

Sorry to hear you received so many emails that oppose the idea of basic traffic safety in this area. I don’t know if your assertion that these people are likely to contact our local representatives is accurate or not… The only people we can get that information from would be our representatives. But, I would like to chime in to let you know that after Mitch York was struck and killed, I did contact PPD to request more traffic safety measures on and around the St. Johns Bridge.

Yes, I use a car for my main commute, but I have been on a bicycle enough to be familiar with the stress involved with sharing the road (or being squeezed in) with cars and trucks.

If you want your voice heard, start by filling out the form on the PPD traffic safety page. Perhaps if enough people do this, they will take this call to action seriously.

HERE IS THE LINK: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/69703

doper
Guest

Whooooeee! My brain hurts, self selfriciousness-ly, of course.

Mike G
Guest
Mike Gilliland

Not sure about selfricousnessocity, but how can we get away from that and get ODOT to listen to some thoughts as these:

This iconic bridge is strapped with 1930’s engineering standards when 20 mph, 5′ wide autos, chugged over the grade (amongst walkers, bikers and horses).

This is why major alterations would be political, costly and take a long time.

In the meantime:

– Could the speed limit be reduced? – for minimal cost? The bicycle enforced lower speed was highly evidenced last Thursday.

– Could the signage be increased beyond painted arrows indicating more vehicle pedestrian interaction? Maybe traffic tactile strips be installed? Maybe green boxes?

and,

-Could there be a pedestrian/bicycle only crossing triggered light system (similar to SE Johnson Creek – Bell Ave) be installed at the western intersection allowing clearance of the pedestrian before cars and trucks can proceed? (BTW-if a fatal collision happened against a no-turn-on-red light with a green box, would the bail have been more than $2000?)

I know these are only mitigations against reckless driving, but hopefully they could represent a compromise toward shared usage and more multi-user awareness.

Could we challenge ODOT pick up on some of Portland’s attempts at safety?

dan
Guest
dan

Drivers here have an immense amount of entitlement. But I would say that this is an American attitudes problem, not a driver’s attitudes problem. We Americans are amazingly entitled in all aspects of our lives. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy just “fix driver’s ed,” it’s “how can we make the Golden Rule something that people live by”? If you’ve ever seen a cyclist pass a pedestrian from behind too close for comfort, you know all of us / most of us are a long way from getting there.

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Cars make us all little gods. We need to dumb down cars drastically—no power anything (i.e., manual windows, steering, brakes, etc.), no cushy seats, no apps!, no “vroom!” sounds, no ability to go beyond 25mph, ugly shapes, and all poo-colored. 🙂 Then nobody’d feel quite so godlike and imperious when driving.
(I jest, but how lovely if it were to be…)

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

(Forgot to mention manual transmissions! Crucial!)

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Nononononono—if you did all that, driving would take skill! Mustn’t require any of that!