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A new campaign aims to make helmets available for Biketown users

Posted by on November 22nd, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Aaron Feiger in the news.

Aaron Feiger in the news.

There’s a new effort to increase the rate of helmet use on Portland’s Biketown bike share system.

35 year-old Woodlawn neighborhood resident Aaron Feiger has launched an online petition, Facebook page and guerrilla marketing campaign aimed at persuading the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Biketown operator Motivate to make helmets available at bike share stations.

As first reported Sunday night by KATU, Feiger says he’s motivated by a simple goal: making riders safer.

Original logo with skull. A new logo has removed the skull amid concerns about fear-mongering.

Original logo with skull. A new logo has removed the skull amid concerns about fear-mongering.

In a phone interview this morning Feiger, a creative director with the Swift Collective ad agency, told me over 700 people have signed onto his petition since last Thursday and the topic has generated lots of “good dialogue” about helmet use on Facebook and in the news. To get attention for his campaign Feiger placed small stickers on the rear rack of Biketown bikes. The stickers featured a skull and a special code that allows people to instantly interact with the petition via Snapchat. (When I mentioned to Feiger that putting stickers on Biketown bikes was vandalism, he also acknowledged that the stickers are, “Something we’re going to mellow out on and focus primarily with our online campaign” and that the stickers already did their job.)

Feiger is a daily bike rider and self-described “strong advocate for cycling and bike share” who commutes about four miles a day from northeast Portland to downtown. A collision with a garbage truck six years ago taught him the value of wearing a helmet. “If I wasn’t wearing a helmet I might not be here today,” he said.

As he’s watched Biketown (which he pronounces “Bikey-town”) grow in popularity since its launch this past summer Feiger said he’s noticed a majority of people who use the system are new to cycling. “Those riders aren’t as familiar with the roads and maybe don’t bike that often. And those are people that aren’t wearing helmets,” he said. “So this campaign is really just to encourage Biketown and PBOT to look into posssible solutions to offer riders helmets.”

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Feiger doesn’t want to make helmets mandatory (he knows that could discourage people who grab a bike on a whim), he just wants them available to people who want to wear one. He’s aware that studies shown mandatory helmet use can reduce ridership and he doesn’t want to take part in any fear-mongering campaign.

When I pointed out that his logo features a skull, he said, “That’s something I’ve been thinking about more and more since launching the campaign.”

“This is less about instilling fear among riders,” he continued, “I’m a firm believer if they make helmets available to bike share customers the last thing I’d want them to do is to use fear to encourage helmet use.”

With his connections in the product design world and at Nike (he has done advertising work for them in the past), Feiger might be able to move something forward. He said that new foldable paper helmet that just won a Dyson Award shows promise and he’s also looked into inflatable helmets.

But the ultimate solution might come from Biketown’s title sponsor, Nike. “I see all the money they spend on innovation… But what if they just created a design innovation team focused around a solution for cost-effective bike share helmets?”

Feiger’s next step is a meeting with Biketown GM Dorothy Mitchell which has been set up for him by a friend who works at Nike. In that meeting he hopes to move the discussion forward and bring in a few product designers who will present solutions.

For their part PBOT has had to answer questions about helmets from day one. Their response has been that there’s no feasible helmet solution available yet so they’re simply encouraging people to wear their own.

It’s important to note that bike share systems have an impressive safety record. The reason is the bikes are very heavy, slow, come with front and rear lights and are ridden in an upright position. Because it’s almost impossible to take risks and ride fast on a bike share bike they’re surprisingly safe — helmet or not.

UPDATE: Feiger has removed the skull from his logo. Here’s the new one:

15138320_1155420591160963_9032984735956125665_o

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

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154 Comments
  • Adam H.
    Adam H. November 22, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    This is a terrible idea. If you want to wear a helmet while riding Biketown, then just buy a helmet. Providing them with every rental not only makes people think they are mandatory, it will also needlessly increase the cost of operating the system.

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      Todd Hudson November 22, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      If you’re going to start a ***word deleted by moderator*** helmet argument, at least let me first get my popcorn.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. November 22, 2016 at 2:14 pm

        I don’t want to start a helmet argument. If you want to wear one then go ahead. I just don’t see the point in providing them to all riders if they are not required by law.

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      Brian November 22, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      Find a helmet sponsor and put up a bright sign that reads “Helmet use is NOT mandatory” on each kiosk?

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      wsbob November 22, 2016 at 5:39 pm

      “…If you want to wear a helmet while riding Biketown, then just buy a helmet. …” adam h

      That’s exactly the idea associated with the new, paper helmet concept helmets made available to people interested in riding bike share bikes…for five bucks additional, people can buy a limited re-use, I think, compostable, thereby recyclable bike helmet.

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    RH November 22, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    What’s next? Seatbelts for bikes?

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      Phil November 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      Helmets for cars?

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        B. Carfree November 22, 2016 at 4:23 pm

        Good idea. Motorists are more likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries than cyclists and motor helmets are much better at reducing the risk than bike helmets are.

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        Todd Boulanger November 22, 2016 at 5:18 pm

        actually cars already have “helmets” (aka bumpers / fenders)…
        …motor vehicles operators and passengers should have been wearing them years ago before air bags…especially when travelling above the speed of 25 mph…

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    soren November 22, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    “said he’s noticed a majority of people who use the system are new to cycling”

    how can they tell?

    i bet i’m one of those people that many assume are “new” to cycling because i ride biketown bikes where people don’t expect to see them. for example, i often take the bigger lane on the hawthorne bridge and often ride in the lane on arterials. is this kind of childish…sure…but every time i ride one of those cute bikes* i have fun. and as someone who believes utilitarian cycling is boring, having fun on a utilitarian bike trip is a nice change in pace. i’m sure it will wear off eventually…

    i personally consider it gauche to wear a helmet on such a safe bike so even if i have a helmet with me i carry it the basket or in my pack.

    my only real pet peeve when it comes to biketown bikes is the lack of a cup holder. what the @#$% were they thinking?

    *way way cuter than my boring and ugly bikes.

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      lop November 22, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      I keep a small towel in my backpack in case I want to dry off the bike a bit before riding it. I’ve found that if I wedge the towel and backpack into the basket I can have a makeshift cup holder. Not ideal, but it keeps my coffee with a flimsy top from spilling.

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      Stephen Keller November 22, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      I haven’t ridden one (not really practical for my suburban end points), but I’m with you on the fun factor. The people I see riding on them seem to be having a lot of fun and don’t appear to be mussed up at all by the traffic. Maybe there is a little something magical to bike share programs.

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      dan November 22, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      how can they tell?
      i bet i’m one of those people that many assume are “new” to cycling because i ride biketown bikes where people don’t expect to see them. for example, i often take the bigger lane on the hawthorne bridge and often ride in the lane on arterials. is this kind of childish…sure…but every time i ride one of those cute bikes* i have fun. and as someone who believes utilitarian cycling is boring, having fun on a utilitarian bike trip is a nice change in pace. i’m sure it will wear off eventually…

      What’s the “bigger lane on the hawthorne bridge”? The auto lane?

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  • TonyT
    TonyT November 22, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    “Feiger says he’s motivated by a simple goal: making riders safer.”

    This is Begging the Question. The idea that helmets make cycling safer is not as cut and dry as his simple statement would have you believe.

    Perhaps he can start here: https://momentummag.com/bicycle-helmets-holding-us-back-2/

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      soren November 22, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      Bike share cycling is incredibly safe:
      http://www.businessinsider.com/why-citi-bike-has-zero-fatalities-2016-6

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        lop November 25, 2016 at 9:55 pm

        Missing from the list is how little citibike gets used. There are a few million miles ridden per month right now. Have there been one hundred million since launch? Auto fatality rate is less than one death per hundred million passenger miles. Does that make driving and travelling by car “incredibly safe”?

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      Spiffy November 22, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      helmets have never and will never make riders safer… that’s not even what they’re designed for…

      helmets are designed to lessen the direct impact of your head against hard objects…

      if you’re wearing a helmet then you’re assuming that you’ll hit your head in a manner that a helmet will protect you…

      that’s an assumption I never make…

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        Ben November 22, 2016 at 3:21 pm

        I agree. I don’t think my helmet makes me less likely to be killed by a car. I wear it because I have a history of wiping out—on leaves, curbs, etc.—and I’d rather not crack my skull open. Given the weight and stability of Bike town, falling off at 25 mph seems unlikely, and helmets a useless and onerous accessory.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty November 22, 2016 at 4:12 pm

        >>> if you’re wearing a helmet then you’re assuming that you’ll hit your head in a manner that a helmet will protect you… <<<

        Not at all. It's insurance. You are assuming (and hoping) you won't really need the helmet, but it's there in case you do, in which case you'll be glad you were wearing it.

        If you assumed you were going to hit your head every time you got on a bike, no one would ever ride.

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        BB November 22, 2016 at 4:31 pm

        You don’t have to assume for it to happen. And it only has to happen once for a helmet you’re wearing to save your life.

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        Stephen Keller November 23, 2016 at 8:48 am

        As a tall guy commuting on a bike, I find the helmet is an essential piece of safety equipment, but not for the reasons cited by misinformed safety nuts.

        Think: low-hanging branches.

        On many of my regular routes, trees seem to trimmed at exactly same height as door closer hardware and the beams in my basement. I have yet to understand why I am unable to see objects that fall into the region between my eyebrows and the top of my head.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 22, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      It’s an interesting article, but it doesn’t seem to dispute that helmets make riding safer; the question is how much safer? The answer to that question depends on just how you ask it, and who you are talking about.

      Helmets certainly aren’t a safety panacea, but, like seat belts, they are a low cost way to reduce your risk of a potentially life altering injury.

      The author’s main complaint about helmets, echoed by many here, is that they interfere with the marketing of riding bikes.

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      • TonyT
        TonyT November 23, 2016 at 3:50 pm

        “The author’s main complaint about helmets, echoed by many here, is that they interfere with the marketing of riding bikes.”

        And that interference results in lower ridership rates which in turn reduces the safety for riders. The more riders, the safer it is for everyone. Any campaign that reduces ridership has a negative safety effect.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty November 23, 2016 at 3:56 pm

          It sounds like you are saying we need to sacrifice the few for the benefit of the many.

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    Ted Timmons (Contributor) November 22, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Makes me feel like the Webtrends advert did.

    Also: bonus points to the first person to alter that logo to say “helmets 4 biketown / so we can #victimblame” or something similar.

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    Tom November 22, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Are they also going to market and make helmets available to walkers and drivers. Both pedestrians and car occupants alone have more total head injuries that cyclists.

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      Kevin November 22, 2016 at 4:01 pm

      They’re already marketing lights and reflective clothing to peds…

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    KristenT November 22, 2016 at 2:35 pm

    Are these one-use helmets? Or do you turn them in at the kiosk? Are they refreshed and sanitized for the next person’s use?

    In regards to the paper helmet: I’d need to see the test results (not just “we passed the tests!” but actual results) in comparison to a traditional helmet. Otherwise, ain’t no way I’m trusting my brains to a helmet made of paper and cardboard. It seems to me that it would just be a way for Biketown to get out of any perceived or actual liability without actually adding safety to their system.

    And speaking personally, I don’t care if other people wear helmets or not. It’s my choice if I do or don’t, and as I’m over 16, there isn’t a law that requires it of me.

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      Spiffy November 22, 2016 at 2:58 pm

      it’s all packing material… it styrofoam and cardboard can protect your packages from the abuse of UPS then they can probably do the same with your head…

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      wsbob November 22, 2016 at 6:14 pm

      Link to the article mentioned in this story, about bike share and the subject of bike helmets, including design construction of the new concept paper bike helmet:

      http://www.citylab.com/navigator/2016/08/the-collapsible-helmet-that-could-revolutionize-bike-share-safety/494990/

      The paper helmet design concept appears to be well thought out and tested. From that article:

      “…Shiffer got to work and devised the EcoHelmet—a collapsible shield made of waterproof paper and adhesive fashioned into a hexagonal honeycomb pattern. It folds up to roughly the size of a banana. Following the product launch timed for early next year, Shiffer envisions the helmets being made available at bike-rental stations, or sold on the cheap in shops—she estimates that each helmet could retail for no more than $5, a fraction of the cost of a standard helmet. …” citylab.com

      Here’s the link to the article mentioned in yesterday’s roundup:

      http://www.thememo.com/2016/11/17/paper-helmet-paper-cycle-helmet-dyson-award-cycling-news/

      Story reports it’s good for multiple wearings…no specific number, but is good for only one impact. I personally would give one of these helmets a try. If when no longer used for a bike helmet, the material it’s made of breaks down in a relatively simple process…compost pile, would be ideal…into good material for re-use…for example, soil amendment or landscape mulch…that would be excellent.

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      SE Rider November 23, 2016 at 8:32 am
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        Al Dimond November 23, 2016 at 10:02 am

        The idea that Seattle has “tackled” anything with regard to bike share is… amusing. There are a bunch of factors working against bike share in Seattle and it’s hard to separate them from eachother, but the article’s claim that “all signs suggest” the helmet requirement isn’t a problem is silly, because there just aren’t any signs that that’s the case.

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          SE Rider November 24, 2016 at 9:11 pm

          Point is that people can get helmets at bike share stations in Seattle (and other cities around the country). This isn’t reinventing the wheel.

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    Buzz November 22, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Meh. Where are the stats on all the head injuries Biketown users have sustained since the system went into operation? This campaign is based on nothing but fear.

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    Alan 1.0 November 22, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Just when I’d completely run out of worthy causes to support…

    < /s >

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    mikeybikey November 22, 2016 at 2:58 pm

    From the “helmet saved my life” story to the “we are not fear mongering” claim.. this campaign has all the classic tropes you’d expect to find in a fear-mongering helmet campaign.

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      Chris I November 22, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      You can tell that he’s a creative director, because he makes confident statements with absolutely no data to back up his flawed assumptions.

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        Austin November 23, 2016 at 1:09 pm

        As an Art Director (one step below Creative Director) I… totally get what you are saying, haha

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    Spiffy November 22, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    has BikeTown started their lawsuit yet? putting campaign stickers on their bikes is vandalism…

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    Bjorn November 22, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Using that skull logo and then claiming not to be a part of a “fearmongering campaign” shows a complete disconnect with reality. The whole “helmets are the only way to be safe” thing is just not true. I normally wear a helmet, but the data seems to suggest that you are probably safer riding a biketown bike without one than riding your own road bike with one. These bikes already are safe, we need them to be spending money expanding the coverage area and improving access to bike share across the city, not on someone’s pet project.

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    Patrick November 22, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    A solution to a non-problem. Who is getting paid for this splendid idea?

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    Mike November 22, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Okay. Who gets the helmet contract? And who do we sue when we get head lice and scalp infections from unclean helmets? And will they be properly sized and fitted, or one size fits all?

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    Dick Button November 22, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    I don’t wear helmets. The only people who are bothered by this are non cyclists. Make of that what you may.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      The guy pushing this is a cyclist.

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        JeffS November 22, 2016 at 9:33 pm

        No surprise there. There’s a safety nanny in every community. The cyclist that boosts his self-esteem by criticizing people who ride without helmets. The motorcyclist that does the same by decrying squids without full leathers on their trip to the grocery store.

        These people are a half-step away from those that would ban your activity entirely because of “shared risk” via health insurance. The blatant dishonestly in claiming that they care about others should be called out each and every time.

        Why everyone is giving this pseudo-anonymous ass free press is beyond me. That reminds me. It’s time to head out and remove some more stickers.

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          Kyle Banerjee November 22, 2016 at 11:16 pm

          Some communities are safety nannies. For example, the cycling advocates who boost their self esteem by criticizing the entire infrastructure and all the drivers. These people are unwilling to take measures to protect themselves that they expect others to take to protect them. The blatant dishonestly in claiming that they care about others should be called out each and every time.

          Why everyone gives these pseudo-anonymous asses a free pass is beyond me.

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            q November 22, 2016 at 11:50 pm

            That makes no sense. Even the guy in the article stated that his reason for his helmet campaign was that most regular cyclists wear helmets, but Bikeshare riders usually don’t. In other words, most cyclists take that safety measure. And for that matter, the guy is part of the cycling community himself, and he’s advocating for the measure.

            And cyclists “are unwilling to take measures to protect themselves that they expect others to take to protect them” ??? That especially makes no sense. When cyclists ask others to take measures to protect cyclists that the cyclists aren’t taking, it’s not because they’re unwilling to, it’s because they CAN’T–because so many of the things that make cyclists safe are things vehicle drivers and infrastructure designers have to do. A cyclist cannot make a driver yield to them, make a driver see them when the driver is texting or drunk, take a vehicle-free route when none exist, etc. etc. etc.

            And the idea that cycling advocates “boost their self esteem by criticizing the entire infrastructure and all the drivers” is nutty. That’s not why the criticisms are happening.

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              Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 5:39 am

              Of course it wouldn’t make sense to you. Anything that implies problems and potential solutions could lie anyplace other than with drivers and infrastructure doesn’t play in this forum.

              Many of those complaining now how guerrilla tactics to advance a safety idea amount to vandalism were saying what a great idea it was when it people were painting their own road markings or taking other actions.

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                SD November 23, 2016 at 9:51 am

                KB, Would you consider yourself a safety-nanny?

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                q November 23, 2016 at 10:01 am

                Repeating your mantra, “Anything that implies problems and potential solutions could lie anyplace other than with drivers and infrastructure doesn’t play in this forum” over and over doesn’t make it true.

                I gave you an example that shows you’re wrong–the fact that most cyclists, in fact the vast majority–wear helmets, even though it’s not required, and it may not even provide much extra safety. But instead of responding with reasons why that example is wrong, you just repeated your mantra, and said of course it won’t make sense to me. That’s not very convincing.

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                Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 12:23 pm

                When I referred to the cycling community, I meant here — not cyclists in general. As such, this guy is not a member of the “cycling community” in the same way I’m not.

                Neither helmets nor the idea that cyclists have a responsibility to be visible and ride safely are controversial among cyclists in general — lines of logic which are decidedly not in line with most lines of thought expressed on BP.

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                q November 24, 2016 at 10:49 pm

                KB–I’ve never seen any evidence that the vast majority of cyclists here on this forum oppose wearing helmets or don’t wear them themselves. I see lots of evidence that they DO feel a responsibility to be visible and ride safely.

                Entire articles appear regularly here that focus on things cyclists can do to improve safety–what type of lights are best, understanding how various traffic laws work and what the cyclist’s responsibilities are, what routes are safest…

                And within articles, even ones that have little to do with safety, there are regularly comments about how to ride safely.

                When people here criticize something related to safety, that doesn’t mean they don’t feel a responsibility to do their part to increase safety. In fact, they often explain that in their comments, so people who can’t grasp the idea that being critical of say, a proposed helmet campaign such as the one in this article, doesn’t mean they’re anti-helmet or unwilling to take on responsibility for achieving safety.

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            Alex Reedin November 23, 2016 at 6:22 am

            Puh-leeze. Stop railing against your straw man. I take tons of actions for my own safety (latest – lit up my cargo bike like a Christmas tree, literally, with battery-powered LED string lights). Yet, I will never be safe until a high percentage of people driving adhere to basic legal and moral obligations. I’d guess that more than 40% of people driving are speeding at any given time if it’s not rush hour. In darkness and rain, more than 75% of drivers seem to be driving too fast for conditions. Less than half the people driving I see stop at marked, unsignalized crosswalks for people crossing. For unmarked crosswalks, less than 10%. Probably 5% of the time people drive, they are visibly distracted with a cell phone. And with this rampant, dangerous lawbreaking, we’re supposed to go ever more above and beyond when biking and walking? When “going UNDER the speed limit” is seen as some sort of horrible craziness rather than sensible, law-abiding driving? Screw that media and cultural narrative. We know what’s creating the danger for people biking and walking. Mostly, it’s not their biking and walking behavior – it’s the transportation system they’re in, and the behavior of people driving.

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              Alex Reedin November 23, 2016 at 8:39 am

              To make an analogy, me, as a gay man, personally advising my flamboyant gay male friend to butch it up while we’re having lunch in a conservative small town in the 1980s – that’s totally fine, and a sensible response to an oppressive system. On the other hand, the town newspaper publishing editorials asking out-of-town gays to tone it down for our own safety would be wrong. The town government funding and putting out free boxes of navy blue sweatshirts and baseball caps at the town borders for gays to use when entering town would be wrong. Why? Because the very fact of the establishment advocating for a safety measure against an oppressive system in mass media validates that oppressive system in the minds of many in mainstream society. It makes some people think that men in floral print tops are “flaunting it” and “asking for it.”

              Similarly, I think it’s totally reasonable for me to make safety recommendations to my friends who bike and walk for transportation. But I don’t want to see such recommendations in mainstream media, nor especially for our government to spend money on such recommendations rather than actually fixing the sources of our problems.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 23, 2016 at 10:51 am

                One key difference between TriMet passing out blinking lights and the city passing out blue sweatshirts is that pretty nearly 100% of drivers don’t want to hit you, and the blinking light helps them avoid making errors and works towards what is regarded as a universally positive outcome. The blue sweatshirt analogy would suggest that drivers are trying their best to find cyclists to hit, and the city is addressing that by helping cyclists remain hidden. That is very different.

                A better analogy is the city passing out locks to reduce bike theft, a strategy of reducing bike theft that most people seem to think is reasonable; in fact that situation is more like the blue sweatshirt analogy in that there are agents seeking to do wrong and, rather than addressing the underlying problem, is trying to address the symptom.

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                Alex Reedin November 23, 2016 at 10:58 am

                The difference with the bike lock analogy is that there isn’t a comprehensive system of benefits/lack of punishment to some activities/statuses (bike theft) and indifference to the victimhood of others supported by the moral force of the government and the status quo. There was such a comprehensive system for gay-bashers and gay folks (and still is in some places in differing extents), and there is also such a system for the activity of driving dangerously, with corresponding indifference to victims / lack of action to prevent future victimization by stopping the dangerous behavior.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 23, 2016 at 3:58 pm

                If someone told you they left their bike unlocked overnight at PSU, and that it was stolen, I predict you would show a certain degree of indifference to their loss, even they are morally “pure”.

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                Alex Reedin November 23, 2016 at 4:51 pm

                That’s completely unrelated to the question of whether the government should be promoting and handing out safety equipment for an activity whose main danger is only because of the systematic, societal and governmental acceptance of excessive driving and dangerous driving and because of governmental refusal to prioritize safe infrastructure.

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              Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 9:57 am

              My comments were not directed at you as your comments were level-headed enough. As a recent example, you refer to cost-benefit analysis — something this forum could use a lot more of. Rather, it was directed to the predictable knee jerk reaction to the suggestion that people be encouraged to use helmets.

              I strongly believe the prevalent attitudes on BP hold cycling back and discourage new cyclists. This idea that we need to fix all the drivers and infrastructure to get more people out is especially toxic as is constant drumming by people who’ve been riding for years that they’re in constant danger and conflict with motorists. That is neither safe nor fun, and normal people don’t want any part of that.

              Instead of helping people understand what’s good about cycling and how to be safe with the conditions and drivers that are out there, this place encourages willful recklessness and ignorance. It propagates fear as well as the notion that being a cyclist implies support of a particular agenda that few drivers (and frankly not that many cyclists) are on board with.

              What we really need is to get more cyclists out there and that will get buy in from the people actually riding as well as motorists who see the need.

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                El Biciclero November 25, 2016 at 10:20 am

                I can appreciate your pragmatism, Kyle. The trouble is that there are two goals we’re trying to achieve: 1) get more people to use bikes, and 2) make it safer for those people to use bikes. Just listing those two in writing next to each other makes it clear there is a bit of chicken/egg going on. If we “make it safer”, will more people ride? If more people ride, will that “make it safer”? Probably some of both. For the rest of this comment, let’s call “more riders” the “chicken”, and “more safety” the “egg”.

                It seems the arguments discussions we have here are as much about whether to focus on the chicken or the egg as they are about how to make things more “chickeny” or more “eggy”, as it were.

                – “Wear your helmet!” Sounds like a pro-egg argument, but it can also have an anti-chicken effect when the context isn’t well-understood, and it also lets the “foxes” off the hook, thereby having somewhat more of an anti-egg effect.

                – Anecdotes and stories about close calls and collisions with cars can indeed have an anti-chicken effect when potential riders are discouraged by harrowing tales of pervasive and wanton recklessness lurking literally around every corner. The intent, however is to again call out the “foxes” and also to indirectly promote egginess by warning bicyclists that there is no protection for you—physically or legally—other than that which you provide for yourself.

                – “Fix[ing] all the drivers and infrastructure” is clearly a pro-egg argument with some anti-chicken effects; does it do anything materially different from “wear you helmet”? One must look at why helmets “need” to be worn and why drivers and infra need “fixing”. The answer to both (in the majority of cases) is, “cars and bad drivers”—so where should safety efforts be focused?

                There are other examples I could list, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

                There is also, I think, some ongoing misunderstanding about the perceived “promotion of willful recklessness and ignorance”. We need to make a clearer distinction between prudent actions and prudent messaging—especially messaging from “official” sources like PBOT, Tri-Met, ODOT, OSP, etc. Another point of misunderstanding, I think, is the definition of “safety”. There are those that consider “safety” to be “protecting oneself”, and others who primarily consider safety to be “watch what you’re doing so you don’t hurt others“. I understand that the latter could be considered “un-American”, or too “communist” (not by you, necessarily; I’m thinking more of the OLive crowd), but unless we focus on both sides of the safety coin, aims will not be achieved. My perception is that a lot of experienced bicyclists who comment here believe we’ve spent a hugely disproportionate amount of time and energy on the “protect yourself” side, and it’s time for more promotion of the “watch out” side. Note that promoting the “watch out” side of safety doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring the “protect yourself” side, but again, the messaging needs to be done in a way that does not let the “foxes” off the hook, because truly, bicycling and walking will not be perceived as “safe” until we stop “promoting” them as dangerous activities that require suits of reflective armor to undertake.

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              soren November 23, 2016 at 12:25 pm

              Mostly, it’s not their biking and walking behavior – it’s the transportation system they’re in, and the behavior of people driving.

              I disagree with your use of “Mostly”, Alex. There is virtually no risk associated with riding a bike or taking a walk — say — in a park.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 23, 2016 at 4:05 pm

                Your statement suggests that most cycling injuries are the result of collisions with motorists, which isn’t true. I don’t know if hitting a pothole counts as “biking behavior”, but it certainly isn’t a driver’s fault.

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                B. Carfree November 24, 2016 at 3:24 pm

                How do you think the pothole got there, too many clydes breaking down the road surface?

                It’s really hard to come up with any safety defect in our transportation system that doesn’t involve either too many cars being driven or the way those cars are driven.

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            El Biciclero November 23, 2016 at 12:15 pm

            “Some communities are safety nannies. For example, the cycling advocates who boost their self esteem by criticizing the entire infrastructure and all the drivers.”

            There is a big difference between calling out bicyclists for “endangering” themselves, i.e., being a nanny, and calling out drivers and engineers for endangering others.

            The extreme example comparison is:
            Nanny: Wear your bulletproof vest, cuz you’re dumb if you don’t.
            Not Nanny: Be careful with your guns, you might shoot someone.

            Nanny-type rules or suggestions are usually based in victim-blaming. If you often make suggestions that could easily be followed by “—it’s for your own good!” then you might be a nanny.

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              paikiala November 23, 2016 at 3:39 pm

              “and calling out drivers and engineers for endangering others.”
              broad brush.
              Are gun manufacturers responsible for murder by gun?
              Are car makers responsible for fatal crashes?
              They could make their products safer, but misuse by the user does not equal culpability by the designer or builder.

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                q November 23, 2016 at 8:56 pm

                Yes, most of the time the engineers designed the street well, and the problem is misuse by the user. The equivalent is a gun being used to murder someone, or a car killing someone because the driver was drunk or speeding.

                Other times, the engineers didn’t design the street well, and created or contributed to the problem. The equivalent is a gun exploding in the shooter’s hand, or a Ford Pinto exploding in a minor crash because the gas tank was designed poorly. In those, the engineers and manufacturers bear some responsibility.

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                El Biciclero November 23, 2016 at 9:54 pm

                “Are gun manufacturers responsible for murder by gun?”

                No, but I’ll bet the guy who sets up an outdoor gun range with an inadequate “backstop” and a shopping mall or a school just beyond the target area might get into some hot water if some of his customers leave pock-marks in the side of the school building or shoot shoppers once in a while. Design matters.

                And yes, car manufacturers do bear some responsibility, legally recognized or not, for creating cars with “infotainment” systems that are pretty much designed to distract drivers.

                I mean, I understand that engineering is very difficult and that everything is a balance of trade-offs. I also get that most on-the-ground engineers are working to some set of requirements that are partially determined by policies that are out of their hands.

                How about if I revise to say “calling out incompetent and careless drivers and unsafe road designs and design policies“.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty November 23, 2016 at 4:11 pm

              Has anyone here been calling out others for not wearing helmets? What I mostly see are people calling out others for suggesting that having the option to wear a helmet might be a good thing. I don’t know what kind of nanny that makes them, but it’s got to be some kind.

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                El Biciclero November 23, 2016 at 9:54 pm

                Hootenanny?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 25, 2016 at 3:29 pm

                Isn’t that a kind of scolding owl?

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                El Biciclero November 26, 2016 at 9:45 am

                Well, you know owls…

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            soren November 23, 2016 at 12:40 pm

            they expect others to take to protect them

            i would like people who drive to not hit and/or kill human beings. sadly, i expect the opposite and our society enables the opposite.

            criticizing the entire infrastructure and all the drivers

            i freely admit that i view driving and our car-centric transportation system as a necessary evil, at best. we can and must do much better than the status quo.

            pseudo-anonymous asses

            i can certainly be an “ass” sometimes but i am not anonymous.

            soren impey
            sorenimpey@gmail.com
            503-381-9854

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty November 23, 2016 at 4:13 pm

              Could you please post your SSN? Uh… just to be sure it’s really you.

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                B. Carfree November 24, 2016 at 3:26 pm

                Perhaps his mother’s maiden name and date of birth would help as well.

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            BradWagon November 28, 2016 at 10:51 am

            I take precautions to protect myself and others from harm I may cause while riding (which isn’t much)… wish we would put the same onus on drivers in terms of the potential harm they may cause.

            And I take pride in having respect and high esteem for the safety of vulnerable road users who have to deal with auto-centric planning and culture… you make it sound like that’s a bad thing.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty November 23, 2016 at 10:39 am

          He’s not “psuedo-anonymous”… his name is Aaron Feiger, as it says right at the top of the article.

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    Kyle Banerjee November 22, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Providing helmets is not that big a deal — it is done with some other bike share systems.

    Given how much I see on this blog about VZ, how wrong it is to think about there being a tolerable level of tragedy, and how important it is to *feel* safe, I was initially surprised to see so much outright resistance to the idea.

    But then again, if there’s one thing I can depend on, it’s that the dear readers of BP will consistently object to anything implying cyclists should take any ownership of their own safety.

    In the case at hand, it makes little practical difference one way or another as the Biketown bikes are slow and unlikely to be crashed in a way that would be mitigated by a helmet. I’m sure a few people will somehow manage, but we can blame infrastructure and the system.

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      Alex Reedin November 22, 2016 at 5:13 pm

      I think the benefit/cost ratio depends a lot on the cost. I panned the idea in the Willamette Week comments because I had helmet vending machines in mind. Helmet vending machines at every station are a huge cost. Seattle’s “auto-unlocking cage full o’ helmets” solution seems potentially OK. http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/seattle-bike-shares-surprisingly-simple-solution-to-a-mandatory-helmet-law . You still have to sanitize them and occasionally buy more helmets though.

      I still think the money would be better spent on more bikeshare stations but I don’t hate something like Seattle’s plan. I also think that this idea should be sold more as “making the system more attractive for people who want helmets by making helmets available on a rental, as-need basis” rather than as “necessary safety.” The people getting around by bikeshare are on average clearly better off from a health & safety perspective than if they had taken a cab or a bus, helmet or not.

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        stace November 22, 2016 at 8:30 pm

        “Seattle’s “auto-unlocking cage full o’ helmets” solution seems potentially OK. http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/seattle-bike-shares-surprisingly-simple-solution-to-a-mandatory-helmet-law . You still have to sanitize them and occasionally buy more helmets though.”

        That’s so cool that such a simple solution is working so well in Seattle. Thanks for sharing!

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        soren November 23, 2016 at 12:17 pm

        helmets appear to discourage people from cycling (by reinforcing stereotypes) so from a “safety in numbers” perspective they may always have a negative cost benefit.

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          Alex Reedin November 23, 2016 at 3:42 pm

          Yeah, I suspect that myself but would like to see more research on it. Although I personally would bet against it right now, I could see the plus-effect of helmet availability getting more people on BikeTown bikes being larger than the minus-effect of discouraging people from cycling.

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      soren November 22, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      I think you may be unfamiliar with Vision Zero, Kyle. It focuses on using roadway design to create environments that minimize risk when people make mistakes (because VZ assumes people will make mistakes).
      On the other hand, PBOT and the Vision Zero panel’s focus on safety education hearkens back to the traditional 3Es long-favored by car-centric transportation engineers.

      A similar unfortunate dilution of Vision Zero principles received harsh criticism from Swedish Vision Zero experts:

      For example:

      “It’s actually quite horrible,” said Ylva Berg, the national coordinator of road safety for the Swedish Transport Administration, of some such education efforts…“Those being victimized in those crashes are those being told to do better.”

      http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/14/nyregion/a-safety-plan-with-swedish-logic-and-city-smarts.html

      I agree with Ylva Berg that telling pedestrians and people who cycle to do better is quite horrible. I also believe this type of safety FUD is a barrier to getting more people to walk, bike, skate (etc) for transportation.

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        q November 22, 2016 at 6:07 pm

        “I agree with Ylva Berg that telling pedestrians and people who cycle to do better is quite horrible. I also believe this type of safety FUD is a barrier to getting more people to walk, bike, skate (etc) for transportation.”

        That sums this up perfectly.

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        Kyle Banerjee November 22, 2016 at 7:05 pm

        I see. If we know people are going to make mistakes, why not discourage them from engaging in any kind of behavior that will help them ride safer? That’s gotta help.

        But you like it when people ride in black at night or engage in a wide variety of incredibly dangerous practices. Sure, it may get people killed and hurt, but that’s a small price to pay for smugness that the motorists are in the wrong.

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          q November 22, 2016 at 8:12 pm

          “…why not discourage them from engaging in any kind of behavior that will help them ride safer?”

          I don’t see anyone doing that here.

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          Spiffy November 23, 2016 at 9:28 am

          helmets don’t help you ride safer… that’s not even what they’re designed for… unless you count the fear that’s instilled in you that caused you to wear it in the first place… that fear might cause you to ride paranoid…

          it’s been shown that helmet users take more risks and drivers also give less room to you if you have a helmet on…

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          soren November 23, 2016 at 12:12 pm

          you like it when people ride in black at night

          this is not my position at all and never has been.
          i accept the fact that there will always be ninjas (i forget to bring lights occasionally) and approve of the effect that a person “materializing from nowhere” has on drivers.

          or engage in a wide variety of incredibly dangerous practices

          cycling in portland is safe. and, imo, the macho cycling style you advocate for is a recipe for 0.5% mode share.

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            Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 2:41 pm

            Now that is something we agree on. I believe cycling is generally safe in Portland. I also agree with your position that it is good for drivers to be shocked — helps them appreciate why they need to keep their focus.

            I don’t really agree with the macho label. Rather, I think that situations widely perceived to be difficult and dangerous aren’t if the risks are managed properly.

            I think part of what holds cycling back is that things that are neither difficult nor extreme are perceived as both. As an example, I work at OHSU. Hardly anyone rides up the hill because it’s seen as some kind of crazy athletic feat.

            But let’s look at the alternatives. You could sit in a car or bus that truly goes nowhere during rush hour. You could take the tram which might require waiting a cycle or two plus there is dealing with the ends of the tram with both your real start and end points. Or you can bike.

            Even going uphill, cycling is a good option and I helped get my boss doing it — he has a heavy bike with a 7 speed IGH and is neither in or out of shape. He does fine. I’ve seen people pedaling cargo bikes. Not fast, but it works. Today, I passed someone on an old steel 3 speed IGH. It’s really pretty fast compared to other options and is definitely faster going down since you get to pass by lines of stopped vehicles.

            There are a lot easier routes both in terms of traffic and physical exertion than climbing Marquam Hill, and people just don’t realize it. Helping them see that it’s already great is what we need to do.

            BTW, the reason I made that crack about you liking people who ride in black is stuff like this:

            soren
            I love pedestrian ninjas (e.g. everyone except for PBOT employees handing out 1 lumen blinkies) and bike ninjas (~50% of those cycling in SE PDX at night) because their materialization “out of nowhere” tends to shock drivers into moderating their speed and paying effing attention. Just imagine how safe our roads would be if our ninja mode share was 30-40% (as in Amsterdam).
            PS: I myself walk and bike ninja-style often and have somehow survived. It’s a miracle.
            Recommended 16

            While I agree with the premise that would make the roads generally safer for everyone, I also think it would result in the demise of more ninjas — particularly those who aren’t prepared for people who don’t see them.

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      Ryan Carlson November 23, 2016 at 3:04 pm

      I think society would be best to accept a certain (low) number of cycling deaths. To think we would all be happier with zero deaths is absurd and ultimately a weak argument for safer cycling. This leads to ideas for helmets such as this. We end up arguing both sides, which is ridiculous. Can we be too safe? Absolutely.

      The cycling community also entangles itself in the Identifiable Victim Effect where a singe serious accident causes an outpouring of response and protests, yet the multitude of early natural deaths caused by chronic disease from an inactive lifestyle goes relatively unsung. Clearly, overall well being comes from both preventing cycling deaths and and improving lives through cycling. New ridership is key to the later.

      The helmet issue isn’t about offering a neutral choice to use a helmet. “What’s the harm in that?” It’s about the strategy of appealing to authority so as to encourage people to use them. The subtext is clear: a well meaning authority makes it their policy to offer helmets because cycling is inherently dangerous. I believe this false premise works against new ridership and is supported by a local culture where acute risks are over-valued and zero deaths is the goal.

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      B. Carfree November 24, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      “In the case at hand, it makes little practical difference one way or another as the Biketown bikes are slow and unlikely to be crashed in a way that would be mitigated by a helmet.” – Kyle Bannerjee

      Aren’t helmet standards designed around very low speed crashes involving only the person on the bike and the ground? Why would you think they would be more beneficial for bikes that are more likely to be ridden at speeds beyond their design parameters?

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    Brian November 22, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    IMO, it’s an idea worth looking into rather than immediately dismissing it. If my mother was in town and we spontaneously decided to take a ride I may not grab a helmet, but I’m positive that I would encourage her to take one. I’ve gone down unexpectedly more than once and I’m pretty happy I had a helmet on when I did. It seems to me that we should be able to find solutions for the potential issues listed above.

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      Bjorn November 22, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      The idea of discussing the possibility of providing helmets is neither new, nor bad. Pushing helmets by putting graffiti stickers on biketown bikes with a symbol that represents death is fearmongering. Not to mention that I am not pleased that users of the program like me will now have to pay to have the stickers removed from the bikes when that money could be going to improve the system.

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        Brian November 22, 2016 at 4:48 pm

        I don’t disagree about the stickers, but that is a different point entirely. How much cash do you think it will take to remove a couple dozen stickers? Just curious.

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          Bjorn November 22, 2016 at 4:58 pm

          Well if I ran the system I would want stickers that promoted the idea my product was dangerous off immediately, so it would be the cost of having an employee check every bike in the system as quickly as possible, plus the cost of the time to remove the stickers. If you want them off quickly it could easily be hundreds of dollars since the bikes are moving around etc.

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          Spiffy November 23, 2016 at 9:29 am

          lawsuits are costly…

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    Tom November 22, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    35% of head injuries occur due to non-transportation related falls, many in the shower, some falling out of bed. Should we encourage the use of shower helmets and sleeping helmets? Better safe than sorry, right.

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      soren November 22, 2016 at 6:06 pm

      some falling out of bed

      Sex helmets?

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        Beaverton_Biker November 23, 2016 at 11:12 am

        Those already exist and I wear one every time.

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          q November 28, 2016 at 2:15 pm

          The problem with sex helmets is they give people a false sense of impregnability.

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      Tom November 22, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      10% of head injuries are due to assaults. The risk of being an assault victim goes up when drinking in public, and balance becomes worse, compounding the risk. Thus shouldn’t there be a campaign to promote ‘drinking helmets’.

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      pengo November 23, 2016 at 6:39 pm

      Bicycle helmets are only effective if people elsewhere engaging in unrelated activities are also wearing helmets. Nobody talks about this.

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        SE Rider November 24, 2016 at 9:01 pm

        because cyclists never crash on their own?

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          pengo November 28, 2016 at 12:42 pm

          All I’m saying is given that a minority of head injuries occur due to non-transportation related falls it only makes sense for me to ride with a bare head until people start wearing sex helmets.

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    q November 22, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    It’s arrogant to think your idea is so important you can advertise it by putting stickers on public property.

    It’s dishonest to use a skull, then say you’re not fear-mongering.

    It’s either dishonest or clueless to change the skull to what looks like a ghost.

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      Al Dimond November 23, 2016 at 10:09 am

      It’s also totally infringing the trademark of… oh crap I’m too old to know which app this is… Snapchat maybe?

      (He also uses a Nike mark, and I don’t know what the law would say about that. It’s morally reasonable to use a Nike mark to address Nike, but Nike is only the sponsor, so maybe not?)

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    Ms. Fast November 22, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    I have a question: did Nike grant permission for the use of its swoosh in this campaign?

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    Jayson November 22, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    Not impressed with vandalizing the bikes with his advertising, but that’s okay because he got what he needed out of it.

    Plus, he replaced the skull in the ad with a ghost?

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      Clark in Vancouver November 23, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      I thought it was some sort of pointy eared pirate with a flayed out big beard.

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    Clark in Vancouver November 22, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    How about elbow pads?

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      Spiffy November 23, 2016 at 9:32 am

      a broken elbow is the only major bicycling injury one of my family members has ever sustained due to a driver…

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        Clark in Vancouver November 23, 2016 at 1:46 pm

        That’s why I mentioned it. It might look like I was making a joke (and I sort of was) but after decades of biking, the only injury I’ve ever had was a hurt elbow. Freak circumstances too where a gust of wind blew me over just at the moment I was doing a weird balance thing.
        Other than that I’ve had no problems at all.

        Cycling is an inherently safe activity.

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        resopmok November 23, 2016 at 9:58 pm

        I dislocated my left shoulder (for the first time) after falling off my bike while waving to my neighbor. I probably would’ve had a concussion too had I not been wearing a helmet.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu November 22, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    The folding helmet is potentially a nice accessory for this purpose.

    I’ve been riding the Biketown bikes lately. I can’t say I’ve felt anxious about being helmetless, even though I always wear a helmet on my personal bike.

    However, I have noticed not having the mirror that is mounted on all my personal helmets. I don’t like not having that extra bit of situational awareness.

    Presumably mirrors on bikeshare bikes would be vandalized. Too bad.

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      Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 5:41 am

      I personally find a mirror indispensable in heavy traffic and would much rather ride without a helmet than without a mirror. Beats me why so few cyclists use them.

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        wsbob November 23, 2016 at 9:40 am

        Mirrors…I’ve tried glasses attached mirrors and handlebar-end mirrors with my road bike. They don’t work for me…the too small image of what behind me they’re supposed to show. With glasses mirrors, they block part of my vision of the road ahead.

        Works better for me to physically turn my head to see traffic behind. Listening for where behind me, traffic is. Using my peripheral vision to its effective maximum for view of traffic to the rear, allowing me to keep my vision focused to the road ahead, and to the side, as much as possible.

        Anyone for whom mirrors work well…I’m glad for you that they do.

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      Spiffy November 23, 2016 at 9:34 am

      I used to love my mirror… then I realized it just made me anxious any time I saw a car approaching from behind…

      now I never use a mirror and I rarely ever have a need for one…

      I try not to take routes that require me to merge left across traffic… and that’s the only reason I need a mirror…

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        Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 10:16 am

        No left merges will never be realistic for me.

        However, that’s not what I find mirrors most useful for. They’re an excellent defense against the right hook and you can tell if a motorist coming from behind is going to pass normally, cluelessly drift in on you, or buzz you (much less dangerous than unintentional drift).

        I frequently use mine to help me alert drivers behind me about my intentions and what I want them to do — I find they respond very positively. I also find mine useful against people who want to harass me — I actually move *towards* vehicles intending to buzz me because their intent is to scare rather than kill me. Moving in creates space on my right while messing with their head. A pass with a few inches clearance is not unnerving if you’re expecting it and controlling the encounter.

        If you ride highways, they can be super useful for identifying trucks carrying roof trusses, construction equipment, or other stuff hanging way over the sides as well as trailers that are wider than the front of the vehicle. These circumstances are not common, but they’re very dangerous.

        In general, mirrors are very useful for understanding and timing encounters for anything approaching from behind.

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    Lester Burnham November 23, 2016 at 8:12 am

    MY HEAD MY CHOICE!

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      dwk November 23, 2016 at 10:29 am

      If you are insured and I don’t have to pay to keep you on life support, fine.
      Your head, your expense.

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    GlowBoy November 23, 2016 at 9:03 am

    As a regular bikeshare user (in both Minneapolis and Portland) I’d love* to have helmets available – as long as I can pick it up and drop it off with the bike. Most of my trips are one-way.

    If I know I’m going to be doing a bunch of bikeshare riding I’ll bring my bike helmet* with me, but on days when I use sharebikes I’ve usually started the day with a transit trip. I don’t always know when I’m going to be bikesharing that day, so I usually don’t bring a helmet*.

    I usually don’t worry too much about riding a sharebike without a helmet*, but I’d prefer to have one*. Instead of having one vended to me, I’d just as soon carry a collapsible or foldable model* with me in my backpack, if a decent one existed. I’d even be satisfied if it offered somewhat less protection* than a regular helmet. I’d still prefer* that to no helmet at all.

    * Helmet haters please take note: I am NOT in any way suggesting that others should wear helmets, or necessarily even claiming that they are safer. How about we NOT trot out all the tired old arguments for and against helmets? I think it’s still reasonable to recognize it as a personal choice, one that many cyclists opt for, and that bringing one’s own is not always an option with bikesharing? This isn’t about forcing helmets on anyone, it’s just about seeing if there’s a way to make them available – an issue that every bikeshare program has wrestled with.

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    SD November 23, 2016 at 10:02 am

    A little cynical, but I am concerned that Feiger’s primary motivation is self-promotion.

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    peejay November 23, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Interesting that the only two options on his website are for showing support, or sharing. If you want to offer a contrary opinion, you’re out of luck.

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      Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Why would you expect to be able to offer a contrary opinion on a site that was created specifically to advocate something?

      One thing I am curious about is what they do with the stickers. Since they know who put them on, it would be easy enough to get him to pay for removal.

      Whether the idea is any good or not, letting people mark up bikes sets a bad precedent. But I’m sure they don’t want a backlash either.

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    Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I can see how I would be considered on as I believe that managing risk is the key to safety.

    Having said that, my friends and family consider me borderline suicidal because I enjoy being in situations that many people consider dangerous. For example, I’ve ridden I-5 (m.p. 291), 99E and 99W from Portland to Eugene a number of times. It’s a long ride, so being in the dark and inclement conditions is inevitably involved.

    I paddle off the coast in winter storms and I like to climb to the tops of mountains and ski down.

    All of these activities are safe enough if you’re adequately prepared and respect what you’re up against. If you’re not, it’s only a matter of time before you get into real trouble.

    In my mind, a number of people here both practice and encourage unsafe behavior. This has the practical effect of making a reasonably safe activity (namely cycling) much more dangerous and less fun than it should be.

    I believe this is a severe disservice both to people and to cycling. Instead of helping people be the best they can and engage noncyclists so that everyone understands each other better, the general approach seems to be to encourage willful incompetence and provoke conflict at every opportunity.

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      Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      This didn’t thread properly. It is a reply to SD’s question as to whether I considered myself a safety nanny.

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      soren November 23, 2016 at 2:04 pm

      http://www.copenhagenize.com/2009/05/motoring-helmets-for-real-high-risk.html

      I paddle off the coast in winter storms and I like to climb to the tops of mountains and ski down. All of these activities are safe enough if you’re adequately prepared and respect what you’re up against. If you’re not, it’s only a matter of time before you get into real trouble.

      comparing transportation cycling to extreme sports is akin to comparing a neighborhood walk to running an ultramarathon.

      cycling in portland is as natural as walking except less dangerous. no “special” skills or preparation are required as can be seen everyday on williams or hawthorne.

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        Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 5:10 pm

        His question was whether I’m a safety nanny.

        My point in bringing those examples up is that safety is more about how you respond to your environment rather than the environment itself. You can be safe or unsafe just about anywhere.

        I agree that walking and cycling is generally very safe and requires no special skills/preparation. Even so, I believe that both require being mindful of threats such as inattentive drivers.

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      q November 23, 2016 at 2:32 pm

      Now you’re saying “…the general approach seems to be to encourage willful incompetence and provoke conflict at every opportunity”???

      It seems like you’re either ignoring every comment that doesn’t fit your idea of what’s discussed here, or you’re misinterpreting comments.

      Even in your mirror comments above, there was rational discussion about pros and cons. No encouragement of willful incompetence and no provoking conflict.

      In fact, normal discussions about how to achieve better safety through cyclists’ own behaviors happen all the time here. When bikers are injured or killed, people discuss whether the victim may have done something that contributed to that.

      Your view of the “general approach” here isn’t supported by evidence. In fact, given the debating that goes on in most every topic, I don’t even know how anyone could say there even IS a “general approach”.

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        Kyle Banerjee November 23, 2016 at 3:37 pm

        “In fact, normal discussions about how to achieve better safety through cyclists’ own behaviors happen all the time here. When bikers are injured or killed, people discuss whether the victim may have done something that contributed to that.”

        That’s not something people do here. That’s something *I* do here. And I get called out for victim blaming pretty much every time.

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          q November 23, 2016 at 5:43 pm

          Again, that’s just not true. It’s not just you. Lots of people have done it on lots of articles, including me. When I do it, I get “likes” and lots of company, without accusations of “victim blaming”.

          Even in the discussion above, you mentioned using a mirror, and you got comments from two people describing things they do for their own safety that work better for them than using mirrors, but accomplish the same thing for them that mirrors would. All of you also got “likes”. There were no negative comments directed at you or them.

          So yes, discussions about how to achieve better safety through cyclists’ own behaviors do happen here all the time. You just don’t seem to be able to recognize them.

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            Alex Reedin November 24, 2016 at 7:03 am

            I’d say where there’s a lot of pushback here is when there’s government promotion of safety behaviors for people biking and walking. I think the general feeling is, “I don’t want you, the stewards of an unsafe system, telling me what to do to be less unsafe in your system – I want you to fix the system and make it safe!”

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              wsbob November 24, 2016 at 9:25 am

              The pushback against public service safety campaigns would be fine, if more people as individuals and vulnerable road users, were being good stewards of their own personal safety, when they’re out on the street. Far too many aren’t doing so.

              Efforts to dissuade them from using basic safety measures while biking and riding, in hopes this will somehow prompt society to some day…who knows when, if ever…implement changes to street design and motor vehicle use that will render unnecessary, the use of basic safety measures by vulnerable road users…are unfortunate.

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                El Biciclero November 24, 2016 at 1:11 pm

                “Efforts to dissuade them from using basic safety measures while biking and riding…”

                I don’t think anyone is attempting to “dissuade” anyone from using “basic safety measures”. The effort is to shift the focus of “safety measures” onto the demographic that makes things unsafe: motorists. Saying that more messages need to be targeted at motorists, or that police reports and investigations should focus more on driver behaviors than on victims’ failure to comply with non-required “safety” measures does NOT equate to “dissuading” anyone from being responsible.

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                wsbob November 26, 2016 at 12:03 am

                “….I don’t think anyone is attempting to “dissuade” anyone from using “basic safety measures”. …” bic

                bic…any time bikeportland does a story about trimet, ODOT or other public agency presenting a safety campaign encouraging vulnerable road users to display some form of visibility gear when they’re out on the street in low visibility conditions… there is a huge objection raised by quite a number of people commenting to those stories, to the effect that they believe that such agencies should not be extending any such encouragement or advice to vulnerable road users.

                This objection seems an awful lot like efforts to dissuade vulnerable road users from using the basic safety measures such as tail lights on bikes, flashlights and reflective gear carried or displayed on garments by people walking.

                This idea, you believe people raising objections to the safety campaigns are asking for: ‘that the campaigns should either on their own, or simultaneously be directed to people driving to have them doing something they aren’t already doing, to somehow try have the vulnerable road users not using such gear, become visible in the headlights of a motor vehicle.’ ….doesn’t correspond with the comments I’ve referred to. Except perhaps, occasionally with some of yours, posted to these stories, and maybe those of two or three other’s comments, which never seem particularly serious in intent.

                The objections are not to have encouragement made to people that drive, ‘in addition to’ that made of people as vulnerable road users….but ‘instead of’. And that, is a big mistake.

                Will this comment of mine replying to yours, even be released from moderation, so you can read it? Perhaps not, and perhaps that’s what you and some of bikeportland’s readers would prefer. As I’m writing this I have six additional comments posted over the last couple days, still not released from moderation.

                Readers of bikeportland, concerned about lack of availability of conditions on for safe use of the road by people using as vulnerable road users, are welcome to work to encourage people that drive, to do so more carefully than they already do, to be watchful of people biking, walking, and otherwise using the road outside of a motor vehicle, and that by lack of the use of visibility gear, may be very difficult for even people that are very good at driving, to see in the headlights of their motor vehicles in low visibility conditions…in fact, I heartily encourage any efforts to offer such encouragement, whether it be by safety campaigns similar to what public agencies offer, or other means.

                Please do not though, do anything to discourage public agencies from producing the safety campaigns encouraging vulnerable road users to make efforts to have themselves be more visible to people that drive. Please do not do anything that might dissuade people from using the advice and knowledge that a bit of visibility gear could be of great benefit to them as a vulnerable road user, in enabling people that drive, to more readily see them in road situations where visibility conditions are poor.

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                El Biciclero November 26, 2016 at 1:41 pm

                bob— I understand your concern, and the distinction is subtle, but as I replied to kyle banerjee above, we have to make a clear distinction between prudent actions and prudent/effective messaging.

                Encouragement of the vulnerable to protect themselves is, IMO taking the lazy way out. Messaging to them is basically, wear reflective clothes or die, while we tell motorists, hey, couldja slow down at least to the speed limit sometimes? As though motorists are just doing us all a good-natured favor if they decide to follow the law or pay attention.

                There have been mentions in similar discussions of people not knowing how “invisible” they are to drivers driving at speed in the dark and/or rain, and thus a need to tell them via a safety campaign. Yet we have no safety campaigns directed at drivers that emphasize how far they travel in 2 seconds, vs. how far ahead their lights allow them to see, how much they should slow down in dark, wet conditions, how much or how little so-called “traction control” will really help when roads are slick—really, things that should be covered in an accredited driver’s education course that should be required before even taking a driving test…but isn’t.

                In reality, there is a lot more than “messaging” that needs to be done to bring auto use under control, yet nothing seems to happen, not even “safety campaigns”. Sure, we have intermittent “enforcement actions” that net what should be seen as astounding numbers of citations—an indication of how rampant illegal and unsafe operation of motor vehicles is—but such actions have at best a temporary and extremely localized effect. There are so many points of attack that need to be addressed, yet all we ever seem to see are annual “don’t get run over” campaigns targeted at VRUs.

                Speaking for myself only, the biggest problem with these campaigns is that they take a tone that implies pedestrians and bicyclists are the ones “doing it wrong” by not glowing in the dark. The implication is that drivers have done all they possibly can, and they just can’t be expected to drive at an appropriate speed, maintain their headlights, clean their windshields, or pay enough attention to see anyone not glowing in the dark. The messaging we currently use lets drivers off the hook by training them to expect all VRUs to be wearing reflective clothes or using bright lights—and any that aren’t are asking to be run over. This kind of messaging puts all responsibility on those who are creating the least amount of danger. Imagine if instead of slowly pushing smoking outside of buildings, we had just started issuing respirators to those who didn’t smoke. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? What if instead of increasingly requiring background checks for gun purchases, we just had safety campaigns to teach regular citizens to wear their bulletproof vests?

                For brevity, I’ll just finish by saying I won’t discourage anyone from wearing their hi-viz, reflective stuff or using as many lights as they want. It would be hypocritical, since I wear and use most of that stuff myself, but we should be doing more “encouragement” of drivers to take measures that most consider outrageous, like slowing down and paying attention. We can’t strictly focus on the people they’re running over.

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                q November 26, 2016 at 3:46 pm

                wsbob–el biciclero’s reply matches my thinking.

                One thing that’s a bit weird with your response is telling people they’re free to do their own campaigns aimed at drivers if they don’t like the ones public agencies are doing that are aimed at pedestrians and cyclists.

                Of course everybody already knows that.

                But why should people have to do their own? Don’t those public agencies belong to everyone? There are limited resources available for safety, so it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize those agencies for spending resources in a way that doesn’t address the main safety problems–which are not lack of lights and reflective clothes on people walking and biking.

                As a side benefit, getting drivers to drive more safely will make driving safer, too. Putting lights on pedestrians isn’t going to have nearly the safety impact on drivers that say, discouraging texting while driving or slowing down at night will.

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                dwk November 26, 2016 at 4:23 pm

                So I have read all your long reasoned discussion and I have a simple question?
                Who is going to do driver education? It is all well and good to argue that cyclists are sick of having all the burden, but we do! Nothing in the near future is going to change that.
                I have been commuting and reading bike portland discussions for as long as BP has been around. There is no more driver ed now than then and if you want to wait on it, be my guest.
                Kyle B is right on this.
                If you are a person who decides you want to start commuting to work, you had better take the safeguards we all take. If you are waiting for the infra to improve, the drivers to improve, etc, IF it happens, it will be very slow to happen. (My commute across the city is about the same as 15 years ago on a bike.)
                So who are you talking to? Who at PBOT is going to do driver education?
                Not going to happen, so I suggest we keep telling cyclists to look out for themselves if they want to ride a bike.
                You make all kind of good points…. the same good points I have heard for years….

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                El Biciclero November 27, 2016 at 9:58 am

                Well, I know the commute I used to take (in a different city) is way nicer than it was back when I did it. I know I’ve got some off-street options now that weren’t always available—improvements are being made. The biggest issue though, is still incompetent or indifferent drivers. I remember riding helmetless around the semi-rural area I grew up and drivers back then (’70s) gave us plenty of passing room (maybe because we were kids?), unlike today. In this respect, things are getting worse.

                If I ruled the world (or was just Dictator of Oregon)—and perhaps some letters to legislators are in order—I would attack this problem from both ends. In simplified form:
                1) REQUIRE (like many other states do) passing an accredited driver’s ed course prior to taking a driver’s license test, and make the driving test a true test (more difficult, higher passing score).

                2) Crush the cars of egregious or repeat traffic offenders.

                Until we raise the level of competence of drivers in general—by weeding out potentially bad drivers and removing proven bad drivers, you’re right—not much is going to change.

                In the meantime, we have to stop training drivers to expect everyone not in a car to wear high-viz and reflective gear, carry some kind of bright light, and scamper out of their way when that stuff doesn’t appear to be working. We should instead be training drivers to looknot by encouraging people to walk around in the inky blackness wearing black hoodies—but by encouraging drivers to slow down and pay more attention, and, in the event of a crash, paying more attention to the driver and his/her vehicle instead of focusing on things like helmet use, or the wearing of reflective clothing, or the “dark and rainy” conditions. Focusing solely on the victim (unless the driver was obviously and egregiously breaking the law, as in the recent case of driver Schrantz), makes it seem like the VRU in such cases is the only one “doing it wrong”, while the poor driver, instead of being expected to appropriately use high beams, or slow down, or put down their phone, or get new tires, or buy a newer car with collision avoidance, or fix their windshield defogger or windshield wipers, or use their turn signals, or clean their windshield or headlight lenses, or not drive sleepy, or any number of other things that usually get ignored in favor of focusing on the victim and making excuses for why the driver couldn’t have avoided the collision in the first place. We have to stop expecting bicyclists and pedestrians to do everything perfectly—and to go above and beyond the law—while we give drivers huge amounts of leeway to operate in a sloppy, inattentive, and illegal manner.

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                dwk November 27, 2016 at 12:00 pm

                Again, you did not answer the question. You stated what you would do if you were dictator, but you are not.
                There is nothing in place to further driver education. Nothing.
                So, cyclists and pedestrians had better do what they can to help insure safety.
                That does not even work as the latest pedestrian death in a lit up crosswalk show.

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                El Biciclero November 27, 2016 at 2:20 pm

                “So, cyclists and pedestrians had better do what they can to help insure safety.
                That does not even work as the latest pedestrian death in a lit up crosswalk show.”

                I suppose I only hinted at writing letters to those who can change things. Perhaps the BTA Street Trust could undertake pushing just the one legal change: make driver’s ed mandatory. If we can make purchase of health insurance mandatory every year, surely we can make driver’s ed mandatory one time. Crushing cars could come later, but needs to be an option.

                I’m still not disagreeing it would be prudent for bicyclists and pedestrians to “take measures”, but if wearing hi-viz, reflective clothes and using well-lit crosswalks doesn’t work either, what would you do? We can either do more of what doesn’t work, or try something new. What are we going to do when even flashing, glowing, reflecting, ever-brighter VRU visibility strategies grow less effective every day in the face of massively crowded streets, rising anger, incompetence, and distraction in drivers, and shrinking enforcement resources?

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              q November 24, 2016 at 10:08 am

              Yes. The pedestrian safety campaign article was a recent one where lots of people reacted exactly as you described. Another similar one was about a police report that mentioned the cyclist/victim’s lack of (non-required) bright clothing and (non-required) rear light, but nothing about the driver’s behavior or vehicle.

              And both had comments from at least one person whose main take from the discussion seemed to be that lots of people here are anti-visibility.

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          wsbob November 24, 2016 at 1:08 am

          “… And I get called out for victim blaming pretty much every time. …” banerjee

          banerjee…it goes with the territory.

          If it makes sense to you that people riding bikes will have better protection against head injuries from falling off their bikes…whatever the cause may be…keep on reasoning with and advising people to use a bike helmet while riding.

          If it makes sense to you that people having lights on their bikes front and back, will improve their level of safe use of the road…keep on advising them to use that gear. Continue on with the list…visibility gear in the form of flashlights or other lights carried or otherwise displayed by people walking..as well as.reflective gear of some sort…keep on advising the use of this gear by people that are vulnerable, traveling along or across roads where motor vehicles are in use.

          With the general public, my feeling and impression, is that there’s wide support for all the above mentioned measures used by vulnerable road users.

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            El Biciclero November 28, 2016 at 12:24 pm

            “With the general public, my feeling and impression, is that there’s wide support for all the above mentioned measures used by vulnerable road users.”

            Of course there is, since the “general public” mostly drive and very few ride bicycles. Ask the “general public” how they’d like pedestrian helmets. Then ask yourself why, when a bicyclist is run over by a car, we ask whether they had a helmet, but when a pedestrian is run over by a car, we don’t (that’s why a lot of “shoulda worn a helmet” talk after a bicyclist is run over, but not after a pedestrian is run over sounds like victim-blaming). Ask yourself why, when a pedestrian gets run over by a bicyclist (a relatively rare event), we tend to blame the bicyclist, but when a bicyclist gets run over by a car, we tend…to also blame the bicyclist (that’s why police reports that focus on tiny details of legal behavior by bicyclist victims while ignoring the same kinds of details about drivers sound like victim-blaming). Hint: it is more related to majority/minority, “them” vs. “us” than it is concern for safety.

            Those who consider what they do to be “normal” don’t believe they should have to change their behavior to either protect themselves or others (people crossing streets downtown don’t want to wear hi-viz or pedestrian helmets, drivers don’t want to do extra maintenance on their cars or ever drive under the speed limit). People want bad things to only happen to other people, you know, weirdos who do crazy stuff I would never do—like ride bikes in traffic. As bike-riding “weirdos”, we play right into it by saying, “yeah, come on, guys, you have to expect that if you’re going to swim with the sharks and ride on roads that were made for cars, you’d better protect yourself. Oh, and don’t get too mad when you get hit—especially if you weren’t wearing your helmet, cuz it’s your own fault for not taking precautions and riding defensively enough.”

            This discussion is about much more than prudent self-protection measures, or we’d be arguing about pedestrian and driver helmets as well. The larger discussion is about who to blame for crashes injuries and deaths. We’re really discussing the difference (again) between self-preserving prudence and moral responsibility to operate safely. That question comes down to who is creating the danger and has the most potential to maim and kill, not to mention destroy the very infrastructure on which the maiming and killing is done. It comes down to who we deem to “belong” on roads, and who is stepping “out of bounds” in daring to use a street without a metal box around them. In the “general public’s” warped view of reality, the most dangerous operators are bicyclists, followed by pedestrians (especially pedestrians who use transit, not necessarily the ones who just parked their car and are walking a block to their destination), and then the angelic drivers who can do no wrong—or are at least usually given an excuse for why they killed someone (unmarked crosswalk, “dark-‘n’-rainy”, “came out of nowhere”, sun glare, dark clothing, no helmet, etc.). What we cannot do is hand incompetent drivers one more “I didn’t see him, officer!”, get-out-of-jail-free card.

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              pruss2ny November 28, 2016 at 3:53 pm

              You are almost entirely focused on crashes involving autos…and the role autos play in creating an unsafe environment. I think you’d allow that the number of bike accidents NOT involving a car dwarfs the crashes that do…and each time a cyclist eats pavement (b/c of debris or slipping into a max rail etc) a helmet just can’t be viewed as a bad precaution.

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                El Biciclero November 28, 2016 at 5:51 pm

                Of course. One must take context into consideration, and I’m not saying helmets aren’t helpful. The safety campaigns we’ve seen that emphasize reflectivity, hi-viz, etc., are assuming a context of motorists that won’t pay attention or be careful around you. The example given in this story, “A collision with a garbage truck…”, again references motor traffic as the hazard. Within the context of bikeshare bikes, which are upright, slow, have fat tires—other hazards are minimized (not eliminated, but minimized) relative to careless drivers. Ask any non-cycling helmet promoter and see why they think helmets are important.

                You are entirely correct; in my experience, my helmet has helped me (I’m not going to say “saved my life”) avoid some abrasions in a couple of “solo falls” I’ve had. The one time I was hit by a car, I managed to leap off my bike and land on my feet, no thanks to my helmet. The problem comes when helmet [non-]use is discussed in the context of crashes with cars, and used as a means of exonerating the driver. “Sure, the driver was going way too fast for a dark, rainy night—and might have been texting—but the bicyclist wasn’t wearing a helmet, so…it’s obviously the cyclist’s fault.”

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    CaptainKarma November 23, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Trying to follow the logic on this thread, I now comprehend how we got to where we are now as a nation.

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    X November 28, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Car drivers (the last one to hit me was in a Subaru) routinely overlook walkers and bikers, in the daylight. I’d like to see a public service announcement that shows, from a driver’s seat point of view, a long shot of cars and trucks approaching, then an abrupt change of focus to a closer, slower, pedestrian who was blurred out before. Same thing with bike. Throw in a baby carriage once in a while, maybe a police motorcycle.

    It’s not really about the characteristics of the VRU, it’s about a consistent failure to also look for stuff that is not a car. It’s routine for car drivers to move from a stop with their face oriented straight toward me, approaching on a bike with the right of way, in the daylight. Driver’s ed, where present, is oriented largely toward the hazards of other cars and interactions with other cars. Car commercials? Ha, and ha.

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    BradWagon November 28, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Kyle Banerjee
    For example, I’ve ridden I-5 (m.p. 291), 99E and 99W from Portland to Eugene a number of times. … This has the practical effect of making a reasonably safe activity (namely cycling) much more dangerous and less fun than it should be.

    That sure is one way to accomplish it… /snark.

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      Alex Reedin November 29, 2016 at 9:07 am

      Yeah, wow… WAY different strokes for different folks. The Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway or an even lower-traffic variant with some gravel involved for me, please 🙂

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    q November 29, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Since this article about promoting helmets has generated some comments about related safety campaigns aimed at getting pedestrians and cyclists to wear reflective clothes and lights, I couldn’t help but realize this irony–when the police are out at the side of the road (including freeways) stopping in unexpected places pulling people over, what do they wear? Helmets? Bright clothing? Reflectors? Lights? No. They wear dark uniforms. And often they’re next to blinding, flashing lights that make everything else look pitch black.

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      El Biciclero November 29, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      That’s why for them, you’re legally bound to either move to the next lane over, or slow way down. Wouldn’t that be a great rule to impose when driving around bicyclists?

      This reminds me of another mental block people have when considering bicyclists on the road: if the reason for slowing down is “official”, e.g., construction/flagger, police action, traffic signal, school zone—people don’t generally complain about it, or at least deal with it. But if the reason for slowing down is “unofficial”, yet legal, e.g., a bicyclist in a lane too narrow for passing, pedestrian asserting right-of-way in a crosswalk, the rage factor goes way up.

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    q November 29, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    All good points and insights, as yours always are.

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