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Subscriber Post: Driving as a right versus biking as a privilege

Subscriber Post by Carrie on December 5th, 2016 at 12:05 pm

Excerpt from Sellwood Middle School newsletter, 11-30-2016

Excerpt from Sellwood Middle School newsletter, 11-30-2016

This post was written by Carrie, a BikePortland subscriber. As a community member who supports our work, Carrie (and 306 other individuals and businesses) can create and submit posts whenever she wants. We publish most submissions in our Subscriber Posts section and will elevate the post here to the Front Page when warranted. This is just one perk of subscription! Learn more and sign up here.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Vision Zero, the enforcement angle, and the difference in the way we treat traffic scofflaws.

I agree with the data that show that speeding and other ‘minor’ infractions are the leading causes of injuries and deaths to road users. And I am not happy that enforcement of existing laws (rules) regarding speed limits, general traffic control devices (stop signs and turn prohibitions and crosswalks at every intersection) and existing infrastructure to keep all users safe is not a high priority.

This is reflected in the Community’s perception of the value of different road users. The attached image is an excerpt from the Nov 30, 2016 newsletter sent to the families at Sellwood Middle School. Since the beginning of the school year there has been a paragraph in the letter asking car drivers to respect the law and not park in the bus zone and to not block the sidewalk at the entrance to the school (where there is significant bike and pedestrian traffic). And yet except for pleas of compliance, there have been no consequences on those putting others in danger. However, breaking of the law by the teen cyclists has lead to the [not enforceable] threat of removing the ‘privilege’ of getting to school.

The school cannot provide logical consequences to either road user — they cannot remove the driving privilege from the dangerous car users and they cannot remove the cycling privilege from the dangerous cyclists. And yet the administration seems to think that they can punish the kids, who have NO other transportation options other than their feet or the bus, or else it never even crossed their minds that there should be equal consequences to both sets of road users. Because it never crossed their minds that both road users are equal.

I want my desire to get to work and my children’s desire to get to school in a safe and timely manner to be given the same priority as all of the rest of the people out there on the road doing the same things. And not devalued because we are not in a personal automobile. I want existing laws enforced, so that we can all get where we want or need to go equitably.

— Carrie

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Jonathan Gordon
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Jonathan Gordon

What an excellent point, Carrie. Have you contacted Sellwood Middle School to see whether they might rethink their stance?

Spiffy
Subscriber

are there really only 2 painted crosswalks at 15th and Umatilla? that’s what it shows in Google Street View… but it can’t be right… that’d make it difficult for kids NW of the school to get there, having to plan their street crossing at least 1 block in advance… they have curb-cuts encouraging you to illegally cross where there’s no painted crosswalk…

Allan
Guest
Allan

That text in the picture says it all. All I can say is WTF, Brian and Marylyn

Spiffy
Subscriber

also, it’s a 4-way stop, on a greenway… I say run the stop sign on Umatilla all day long until they remove it…

or maybe they’re complaining about the SE 15th stop sign…

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

Some of this is the privledge of autos vs biks but some of it is the hidden bias that schools have toward disciplining kids. In this situation they view the cars as the realm of the adult parents, while the bikes are the realm of the kids ( inmates) who are fair game for arbitrary punishment, sanctions and rules.

Disclaimer: I have put 2 kids all the way through the public school system and have literaly thousands of hours in volunteer time from coaching club sports, to marching band to robot team.

drew
Guest
drew

The way I understand it, walking and biking on our public roadways are a right, not a privilege. Driving is a privilege, for which a license is required.

The expectation that the privilege a doctor is given, with a hard earned license, is that the practice will be competent. No such expectation is assumed to be earned by motorists, for whom the license is so easy to obtain. While a disability or death could result from an ignorant doctor, a carless motorist could send a whole family to their grave.

For a school to discourage active transport like biking and walking.. it’s hard to understand. All the bike racks I used to see at schools during the 1960s and 70s, which could hold a hundred bikes or more have vanished. Things are very different today. I know of nobody who was abducted, or wore helmets or was badly injured or died in crashes on the road during my elementary school years.

Adam
Subscriber

When bikes are simply toys that can be taken away at a whim, it’s any wonder why no one wants to bike to school anymore.

rh
Guest
rh

Lookout students of Sellwood Middle School! If you jaywalk, you will lose your privilege to walk to school!

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Part of the issue might be that the school has no real leverage over parents’ driving habits, but they may have regarding students biking to school.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I wonder how many of the administrators and teachers at this school arrive by any means other than a personal car. Judging by the notice, at least two of them have a complete windshield perspective problem.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

If only they could revoke the parents’ privilege to drive their kids all the way to school. That would increase safety for all.

JF
Guest
JF

I understand what the person/letter is trying to say and it is virtually same thing you are saying. “I want existing laws enforced…”

However, I do not like the threat of taking away a child’s “privilege” of riding a bicycle to communicate the intended message. The letter would have been much more affective if the message was a friendly reminder to everyone about the 4-way stop and marked crosswalks at the intersection. Then ask parents to please remind children riding bicycles to stop as well.

Tim
Guest
Tim

I have the misfortune of riding by an elementary school on my way to work. The driving behavior of parents dropping their children at school is the worst I have encountered. When I contact the school they talk about safe routes to school which amounts to restricting the routes of the few children the walk to school. They solved the problem of drivers blocking the sidewalk by banning children from the sidewalk in front of their school.

Why not put some restrictions on the drivers who are creating the hazard. Instead of having the safety officer tell kids to walk their bikes, they could stand at the entrance to the school and ticket all the texting moms and dads.

Spiffy
Subscriber

on a side note, it’s nice they have the option to walk and bike to school… the last high school I went to was a mile from town up a winding road with a 45 mph speed limit… you either took the bus or a car…

I had moved there from the city, where they had hundreds of bike racks and very few people took the bus or drove…

that move from the city to the mountains is when I stopped riding bikes everywhere and began my driving life… that driver mentality would carry me 20 more years before I moved back to Oregon and began my conversion to become a Portlandia native…

Zaphod
Guest

If my kids went to that school, there wouldn’t be a day in the year that they do not bike. If the administration attempts to curtail that for even a moment, well… my kids would learn about civil disobedience, advocacy and public speaking (as needed) first hand in short order.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Stand at that stop sign and whack a car with a hammer whenever one rolls through it with more momentum than a kid on a bike at 10mph. Probably wear out your hammer.

Spiffy
Subscriber

converting story from driving:

the school takes away the student’s privilege to park their bike at school…

the student still needs to get to school so they continue biking and parking without permission…

the school impounds their bike so they can’t park it there anymore…

the student uses his allowance to buy another bike and take it to school…

the new bike is impounded…

the cycle continues until the student can only afford the cheapest bike with bald tires and dying brakes…

student bikes to school but can’t control bike and crashes into bike corral injuring classmates…

rachel b
Guest
rachel b

Thanks, Carrie. I’m increasingly desperate for Portland to start enforcing traffic laws.There is NOTHING, at present, to encourage Portland drivers to give a crap. We’ve created a legion of scofflaws through passivity and neglect the past several years, just as we grew and grew–a particularly dangerous time to decide to go all laissez-faire.

Humans. So hard to be good when no one’s holding you to it.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

In reality, instead of some of the out of date things they teach in school, they should be giving the kids extensive study on bike safety, bike repair and proper street navigation because if these kids want to have a future planet to live on cars will need to be history by the time the kids in the Sellwood Middle School are old enough to drive.

bottom bracket
Guest
bottom bracket

Well intended and well written article, but mistaken.

There is no evidence that the community values one type of road users over other road users. The school expressed their concern for students not obeying a stop sign. The school does not want to be aware that some students are breaking the traffic rules and then to not take action to prevent it – to do so would be inviting a lawsuit.

The school did not say they would prevent a student from getting to school – they said if they break the law while riding their bikes they would not allow them to ride the bike to school. I guess the student could lock their bike somewhere just off of school property.

The school is in the right and made a good call. May have saved a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

bottom bracket
Guest
bottom bracket

What if the students were doing something on their bikes while on school property, that is clearly, by any standard, very dangerous to themselves.
.
Would we still yell and scream and jump up and down and say how rotten and unfair it is that the school threatened to not let them ride bikes to school? In other words, just how unreasonable are some of you folks?

Tom
Guest
Tom

An elementary school I was trying to volunteer for in the past (not in Portland) put a out a flyer for movie night that said in bold red capital letters at the bottom “NO BIKES ALLOWED”. Seemed a bit extreme that we could’n use the bike rack for movie night, so I asked why. They said that some year in the past, a kid rode his bike around campus during the movie. I asked if anyone got hurt, and they said no. I eventually talked them into replacing the scary note with a much smaller one requesting people use the bike rack.

Around the same time there was a problem with people parking cars in the drop-off area right next to and sometime partially overlapping a crosswalk. I asked about it, and the school said those were individual drivers and they were short on drop-off space, but they would look into it. But it kept happening.

Seems to me that when someone in a majority screws up, its considered only an isolated incident with an ‘individual’, but when someone in a minority screws up, its considered to be a group incident, and everyone else in the minority gets punished as if its a club. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to be in the ‘you people’ club or not.

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

Maybe it’s time we take people’s cars away for a real period of time.

rick
Guest
rick

wow

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

This sounds like another example of how Portland’s road infrastructure can’t handle the population density. Everyone crammed into a tight a space while being in a hurry. Get some volunteers our there to slow everything down and direct.

bottom bracket
Guest
bottom bracket

Stats would depend on if student drivers were included, but here’s one source:
http://schoolbusfacts.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Safety-Benefits.pdf

Found it here: http://schoolbusfacts.com/

This is a better source, but again, actual numbers would depend on whether student drivers were included or not:

https://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/esv/esv19/05-0325-W.pdf

Those stats are for injuries in an accident I suspect. Don’t know if they took into account such things as on a bus you might get bullied or catch a contagious disease, have to wait in the weather to catch the bus, have your hearing damaged by all the screaming and yelling, 🙂 etc, etc, etc. Buses are OK, but I suspect there are legitimate reasons for some parents to drive their kids.

pruss2ny
Guest
pruss2ny

Adam H.
The cyclist had the light and was crossing legally.
Recommended 0

think its conceivable that the motorist’s lawyer argues he came to a stop at the intersection to allow pedestrian to cross, looked right/left and surmised it was safe for him to legally turn right on red, began his turn (by rolling into the crosswalk) and while in the midst of his deliberate and slow turn a cyclist, clearly coming faster than a pedestrian, grazed across the front of his bumper….it seems at least conceivable….not saying bicyclist doesn’t generally have ROW, but when anyone comes to an intersection they still have to make sure its safe to cross/deal with any traffic clogging the intersection. As a cager, can i rip thru a just turned green light (which gives me ROW correct?) if there is a (slow) pedestrian still clearing the intersection? of course not