Just over two months ago 53-year-old Alan Marsan was killed while bicycling on North Interstate Avenue. He was going north and a large commercial truck turned right across his path.
Based on observations from the scene it was a classic right hook. The truck was stopped a few dozen feet from the intersection and Marsan and his bike were lodged just in front of the rear wheels.
That collision was just the latest in a long line of right hooks that have left bicycle riders dead in Portland over the years. As I stood at the scene of Marsan’s death, the names of other people who’ve died in fatal right hook collisions with trucks flashed through my head: Tracey Sparling, Brett Jarolimek, Kathryn Rickson, Kirke Johnson, Lydia Johnson (no relation).
Bicycles, large trucks and right hooks is one of Portland’s most vexing traffic safety problems. It’s maddening that we haven’t made more progress on it in the past decade.
But don’t take my words for it. Here’s what Susan Kubota, aunt of Tracey Sparling, who was hit and killed in a right-hook collision in Portland in 2007, told KPTV in a story they aired last night:
“It’s very disheartening that this is almost 10 years since Tracey was killed, and these things are still happening.”
I could not agree more with Ms. Kubota. One simple step we could take is to require the installation of side guards on trucks. Side guards might help prevent deaths by keeping human bodies away from a truck’s undercarriage and wheels. A study from the United Kingdom (which inspired Seattle’s department of transportation to mandate the guards on their fleet) found they reduced deaths by 61 percent. We could start with City of Portland vehicles and then use policy and public pressure to get private companies to follow suit. But so far the City hasn’t taken that step. Back in February, a bureau of transportation spokesperson told us it would cost about $3,000 per vehicle. They say there’s no money for it.
Fast forward to last night when KPTV aired a report on the issue. Here’s where things get weird.
KPTV’s headline and reporting framed the issue as being of great concern to the “cyclist community.” “Cyclist community pushing for more safety improvements on Portland streets,” read the headline.
As many of you know, I have a big problem with labels like “cyclist community.” What even is that? Am I member? Are you a member? Is Tracey Sparling’s aunt Susan Kubota a member? Are Alan Marsan’s kids and family part of the “cyclist community”? Or are we just regular people who want safer streets? Even though KPTV doesn’t use the label with any intended malice, I firmly believe labels like this are unnecessary and harmful.
Labels are lazy. They allow us to paint with a broad brush instead of taking the time to speak in more detailed strokes. Labels assume a large group of people share the same motivations and beliefs when in fact no such common cause exists. Labels also perpetuate hate and divisiveness by serving up a tidy basket for people’s anger. Labels are linguistic punching bags — a conveniently gift-wrapped “other” served on a platter for people to take swings at.
And that’s exactly what happened in response to KPTV’s report on truck side guards. I’m quite used to hate-filled comment sections on network news sites. But the six comments (so far) on this story really bothered me. They are all in lock-step agreement that these calls for safer trucks are simply more whining from “the cyclist community.”
The comments above are very telling. These readers — who feel so safe in our car-centered culture that they say these things with real names on comments linked directly to their Facebook accounts — instantly resort to blaming the victims of these crashes. And of course there’s an immediate urge to absolve themselves (as representatives of all motor vehicle operators) of any guilt whatsoever. It’s really sad on many levels.
Would those responses be the same if the headline and framing of the story was, “City officials want more safety improvements on Portland streets”? After all, that’s true. Side guards for trucks are recommended in our Vision Zero plan.
Compare this to how our society responds to a road safety issue that only involves driving. In 2014 there was great urgency around cable barriers on I-5 after several people died in head-on collisions while driving (including the husband of Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz). “Deadly crashes prompt ODOT to rush new I-5 barriers,” read the KPTV headline.
Except in this case, when we have a recurring road safety problem and a relatively simple fix, it’s ODOT and Oregon’s governor who are pushing for the change. And there’s nothing about a “motorist community” “pushing” for changes.
How did people respond to this issue?
“It’s senseless not to have [barriers] when we’ve had so many crashes that have caused injuries or deaths, it just doesn’t make any sense,” one woman told KPTV. “I’m surprised they haven’t already done it. You can’t put a dollar amount on lives,” said another person they spoke to.
And of course there were no comments from readers falsely blaming people the people who died and there were no baseless and completely irrelevant accusations of illegal driving.
The other big difference? The barriers were installed shortly thereafter. To the tune of $7 million.
I can’t help but wonder what the response would be to right-hook fatalities of bicycle riders if the media and society-at-large saw the urgency to fix the problem as coming from anywhere but the “cyclist community.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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Trailers don’t need side guards.
Trucks don’t need maximum bumper heights.
Cars don’t need mufflers or catalytic converters.
These things that don’t serve the driver is all nanny staters wanting stuff for FREE.
Honestly, this reeks of the same arguments I heard over and over again back when seat belts were optional and mandatory seat belt laws were voted down repeatedly under the guise of “freedom of choice.” (OK, I’m dating myself).
It’s cool. Sometimes you’re the only date you can get.
Cute. I meant carbon dating… 🙂
I’m more into the heavy metals myself.
I wish these people would go start a libertarian commune called Selfish Selection where they do what they want and care only about themselves.
Side guards are such an easy and obvious (if partial) fix, and will protect motorcyclists as well.
And car drivers. Many have died in crashes that involved side under-ride. The top of the vehicle either gets clipped off by the frame of the truck trailer, or the car gets crushed by the rear wheels.
Whenever I am driving, I always assume their is going to be a bicycle over my right shoulder that I have not seen yet (and possibly on the left shoulder as well if I have had my blinker engaged). Why risk another person’s life and safety just to turn casually and “carefree”? Life is too fragile. Whenever I get behind the wheel I never want to assume that it is clear. Headcheck always and assume the worst may happen. If other drivers don’t take driving cars this seriously then they simply don’t take others’ lives seriously either.
[…]I always assume there* is going to be […]
I always assume the same thing. Which is annoying when I’ve nearly had panic attacks if I forget to check. For at least ten minutes I’ll have anxiety about how I could have, but didn’t kill someone. But you and I aren’t just drivers, we’re cyclists too. And we’re BP readers. I think most people behind the wheel only care about getting out of their car as quickly as possible.
The comments *are* very telling. They’re telling me that the people commenting are idiots with no grasp of proper grammar or spelling. When I see such poorly written comments, I disregard them, as I cannot respect stupid people or their opinions.
Right, because large blocks of ignorant people have no power in a democracy.
Listed in the Vision Zero Five Year Action Plan immediately after truck side guards are sensors, yet they get no mention in the KPTV story, nor in this post. I even went back and read the related post from February 7th, and found no discussion of blind spot sensors as part of the solution, unless I include two out of the 98 comments.
Fortunately, the automotive is making tremendous progress in this area, and it’s driven by consumer demand and insurance incentives. While motorists complain that cyclists should be more defensive, at the same time they opt for ‘driver assistance packages’ in droves, and these safety features are quickly trickling down to base models. I’m sure the same is true with trucks. So while there may be reason for disappointment around the lack of progress in getting side rail protection installed on trucks, find comfort in knowing aspects of the problem are being solved on their own, and without much need for a frustratingly slow ‘action plan’.
‘driver assistance packages’
I don’t know exactly what they are, but if they are what I think they are:
moral hazard alert – if more and more awareness we still assign to the pilot of the auto is being taken over by software this strikes me as a very risky direction to go.
This eventually winds up as a question of whether traffic citations are even possible in a world where all motor vehicles are “autonomous” (assuming we can even continue far enough down the robot car path). When a robot car runs over someone, will it be automatically the victim’s fault, because obviously, the robot was doing everything right? Does the manufacturer pay a penalty/get sued when this happens, because there was a bug in the system? Do we expect the passendriver to react to “emergencies”? Probably not, since that’s what all these safety features are for—to take that responsibility out of human hands. Would we look for culpability due to lack of proper maintenance, so that the owner of the vehicle would be responsible?
I am quite sure that when an autonomous vehicle is involved in a crash, there will be a full investigation, much as there is with other transportation incidents. There will be plenty of evidence — sensor logs, video, etc., and we’ll be able to find out exactly what happened in a way that is simply impossible with car crashes today.
If there is a bug in the system, I expect the manufacturer’s insurance will pay. If improper maintenance is a cause, I expect that to be hashed out between the insurance agents of the various parties.
I see no reason at all to think that crashes will be automatically deemed the pedestrian’s fault.
“There will be plenty of evidence — sensor logs, video, etc., and we’ll be able to find out exactly what happened in a way that is simply impossible with car crashes today.”
credulity thy name is Kitty.
We already today know enough about what happened with most crashes. The problem isn’t information, it is a willingness to find the driver at fault. I don’t see that improving if one day we no longer have a driver.
Why would a robot car crash be investigated the same way a regular car crash is today? Everyone will have a vested interest in learning what really happened because that will be the only way to prevent it in the future. And there will be tons of evidence to tell us exactly what happened, rather than relying on a single highly vested person’s account.
“….because that will be the only way to prevent it in the future.”
If we were interested in that we’d surely do more than (barely) slap motorists on the wrist after they ‘accidentally’ kill someone with their auto today. When the punishment value disappears (punish the autonomous vehicle? How) why would we bother? Those hit are already treated as expendable now.
You are comparing apples to oranges. A crash today is seen as a one-off. A crash tomorrow is a potential systemic failure. It’s not a question of punishment, but of learning and improving. We study plane crashes, train crashes, ship crashes, and all other centralized system failures. Why would this one be different?
“A crash today is seen as a one-off.”
You are hilarious. 40,000 one-offs that result in death and millions of one-offs that result in injuries? 412,000 of those are just from distracted driving.
And yet 9, a majority of society (despite efforts of many, including those on this site) still refer to them as “accidents” (i.e. “one-offs”).
When that Tesla driver drove into a semi while watching a movie, NHTSA got involved and there were all kinds of reports and diagrams produced, like this:
It’s rare to see something like that produced for a regular car crash. I wish we leveraged this thought for human crashes as well:
“Everyone will have a vested interest in learning what really happened because that will be the only way to prevent it in the future.”
Was it the driver? Or the car?
I am well aware of the hubbub related to that crash, and suspect a similar hubbub arose in the wake of the first car crash. But that has more to do with it being the first I think as well as the reputation of the companies pushing this.
Sure, maybe we’ll reach a point when robot cars are killing so many people per year that we stop doing thorough investigations and giving the public insight into what happened in each crash. Would we need 30,000 Americans to be killed every year for that to happen, or would the number be much lower?
That eventuality will never happen — if we have even a fraction of that death toll, we’ll reject robot cars as too dangerous. And yes, I see the irony, but we’ve always felt more comfortable with risks that “are in our control” (even if they’re not) than those in the hands of more remote forces.
I’m relieved you see the irony in that utterly baseless claim.
I wonder if a passengerless autonomous vehicle can be cited for a hit and run? And does it even matter?
If a tree falls in the forest…and lands on someone…
The level of disregard for human life shown in the comments on the KPTV story is appalling. But, to these commenters, half of whom can’t even spell “bicycle”, let alone understand what it’s like to ride one in traffic, it is merely “common sense”. Twister’s a-comin’! Yer a fool to stay outside!
It is so extremely frustrating to me in the era of alternative facts, that the fallacies on which these opinions are based literally cannot be dispelled. Bicyclists are freeloaders. Riding a bike is an activity equivalent to driving a car. Bicyclists constantly break the law, but never get tickets. If I see a bicyclist break the law (or even think I see a bicyclist break the law, even if they’re not), it is then OK for me to endanger them by driving as if they don’t exist.
It’s actually psychologically impossible (or nearly so) to convince anyone who subscribes to them that the sentiments expressed in the highlighted comments are anything other than sound, obvious, common-sense, helpful hints.
And the comparison to the I-5 center barrier in response to motorist deaths is spot-on. I mean, of course it’s common sense in that case to spend millions to protect drivers, who could just drive more carefully, except that they can’t ever be expected to. Sharks gonna bite; can’t blame ’em. No victim-blaming, because in that case it really was the infrastructure, right? I recall a similar uproar over a certain flyover ramp with a defective expansion joint that was causing people to lose control of their cars while disregarding the advisory speed. Something has to be done to fix the infrastructure if poor, innocent, motorists keep crashing.
And it doesn’t stop there! Detours: Drivers get them well-marked, bicyclists usually don’t. Construction zones: motorists are “caudled” (give me a break!) and given every accommodation to get through, bicyclists just aren’t, or are, but only after a complaint. Signs and trucks block bike lanes on 45 mph roads, ‘cuz it’s no big deal, right? The Law: it would have been technically illegal for any of the right-hook victims Jonathan mentions in the article to have avoided the crashes that killed them by exiting the bike lane to merge with through traffic.
But it’s the bicyclists who are doing it wrong, obviously, since they keep getting themselves killed.
While the comments shown in the KPTV comment section screen shot, display thoughts of people that range in degrees of self absorbtion, that apparently think mostly of only their perspective as someone that drives, the poor road use techniques of people biking, and the lack of preparedness to ride in traffic, that they describe, are I think, valid criticisms:
Too many people biking, failing to ride defensively. dennis snook writes the thought differently, but I think means essentially the same thing. …carrie madison also mentions lack of defensive riding…a very valid point.
Too many people biking that aren’t doing so by the rules of the road. Too many people biking in traffic, not having had training in how to safely do so by the rules of the road. …described in a different, not very constructive context by donald donaldson and shari miller.
Over-emphasis on people’s use of labels, risks turning into a counterproductive pointing fingers habit. Outright dismissing of points somebody makes, because they present them from a less than objective perspective, risks losing sight of true problems they’re trying to have remedied. It can be very easy to over-react to certain things said, thereby missing out on recognizing valid points raised by the person speaking or writing.
Just as many poor road use techniques are employed by MV operators, and many are just as unprepared to drive in mixed traffic. Ignorance of laws, distraction, impatience, driving vehicles that are too big to manage, and expecting everyone else to look out for them.
“Too many people biking, failing to ride defensively. dennis snook writes the thought differently…”
Dennis’ comment is interesting in that he assumes—and asks bicyclists to assume—that drivers will steer their vehicles into another road user at some point. He assumes that not every driver will drive with proper awareness and care. Yet his cost-effective “solution” to that problem? “Every bicyclist to ride defensibly [sic]” and have flawless awareness.
Ah, yes. Carrie, who thinks bicyclists expecting drivers to watch out for them is worthy of reprimand, yet believes the problem could be solved by again simply ensuring that bicyclists “ride defensively”, i.e., watch out for her and other drivers behaving badly.
Donald Donaldson’s only point seems to be that bicyclists don’t belong on the roads (because they don’t pay) and deserve whatever happens to them in run-ins with vehicles that have “more lug nuts”.
Then there’s Andy Demo, who implies bicyclists don’t follow the law by suggesting that they need to, but then goes on to say that following the law is essentially useless when in the presence of motorists who are going to break it. Sounds like he wants bicyclists to follow the law when it’s convenient for drivers, but be willing to break it or give it up when it’s again convenient for drivers.
David Bliss? Give me a break. Sounds like he could watch a stream of drivers slow-roll a STOP sign, then feel justified buzzing a bicyclist for doing the exact same thing—and not feel funny about speeding while he does it.
“Over-emphasis on people’s use of labels, risks turning into a counterproductive pointing fingers habit. Outright dismissing of points somebody makes, because they present them from a less than objective perspective, risks losing sight of true problems they’re trying to have remedied. It can be very easy to over-react to certain things said, thereby missing out on recognizing valid points raised by the person speaking or writing.”
I’m sure the “valid point” these commenters think they’re making is that bicyclists need to exercise extreme care on the roads—the kind of care I’m sure they believe drivers already use, but definitely don’t, because they are under no threat from bicyclists (you know—lug nuts). The advice is essentially that drivers aren’t perfect, so bicyclists have to be perfect. Rather than empathy for the plight of VRU who usually suffer terribly for their imperfections (while people in cars have negligible worries for themselves), we hear advice that amounts to “stay out of my way or die”.
“…I’m sure the “valid point” these commenters think they’re making…” bic
They do make valid points. That they do, occurred to me after I’d written some earlier things, and then re-read and thought more about the essential points they were trying to make ( I mentally edited out the crap from their comments, and could see the valid, legitimate points they were attempting to make.) .
Except that they, like unfortunately, I have to say of yourself as well in your comment to which I’m responding, could not seem to resist coloring up their remarks with a lot contemptuous dismissal of people that ride…in your case, towards people that apparently drive, and that are criticizing people that ride.
Why do that? I mean…why do that if you’re hoping to help sustain a constructive discussion? Because ‘they did it first.’? Now where have I heard that most recently?
Ordinarily, you would have a point—and maybe it isn’t helpful in furthering “a dialog” to point out the ridiculousness of equating the impact of driving a car vs. riding a bike, but that’s not what I’m interested in at the moment. It isn’t that “they did it first“, it’s that “they” constantly do it with absurd amounts of tonnage, in vehicles that kill almost 40,000 people every year, and then complain about those who they perceive to be “doing it wrong”, but who don’t truly threaten them at all, and in some cases, may not be doing anything wrong.
All I am attempting to point out is the unsound logic used in the lopsided arguments given by the KPTV commenters:
* “All” drivers can’t be careful, therefore “all” cyclists must be careful
* If cyclists want to stay safe, they should obey the law, but the law won’t help them stay safe
* Cyclists “don’t pay”, so as freeloaders, they deserve what they get on the road
* If a bicyclist disobeys a law (with a 30-lb. vehicle), then a motorist is justified in illegally threatening them (with a 4,000-lb. vehicle)
The “valid point” being made, again, is that bicyclists have to follow the law perfectly (which no vehicle operator does), and be perfectly careful (which no vehicle operator can be), or they can’t expect to get anywhere uninjured or alive. Further, it will be their own fault for not being perfectly careful.
These arguments come somewhat from the same assumption you appear to be making: that driving a car and riding a bike are activities that impose equivalent amounts of damage to roadways, equivalent amounts of danger to people and property around them, equivalent amounts of environmental degradation—are essentially equivalent activities—but they aren’t.
I’ve spent 25 years riding defensively in Portland (20 years since I sold my last car). The reason I ride defensively is constant studious law-breaking by some motor vehicle operators. Most of the “accidental” behaviors involve failure to yield the right-of-way or keep a proper look-out. The few collisions I’ve had occurred at times when I was riding legally in daylight on dry pavement on the part of the street where bikes would normally be. One collision which occurred in a bike lane I think of as my fault because I knew it was a horribly dangerous spot, but it _was_ a bike lane and I had the right-of-way.
Do bike riders break laws? Sure. I personally do it all the time–usually to remove myself from a position that I think of as hazardous. If I’m going to have a crash I don’t want it to be my fault. I don’t want to pay for somebody else’s strangely fragile vanity project masquerading as personal transportation. The most minor contact with a modern motor vehicle results in cosmetic damage causing hundreds of dollars to repair, perhaps thousands.
In situations where designed traffic conflicts occur, such as four way stops, I work with other people as much as possible to keep the right-of-way flowing. It works pretty well to give a directed head nod at the moment of eye contact to let other drivers know that I’m playing ball. There’s really nothing to be done about people who just don’t look, or loose cannon liberals who breach right-of-way norms thinking to do a favor. (Do me a favor, sell your car, OK? Ride the bus? When I’m waiting at a stop sign, drive on and get out of my life!)
As a function oriented cyclist I have to shake my head at the various paint spots and stripes that fudge on what we’ve been thinking of as right-of-way rules for decades. I get it though, they’re meant to create confusion which weirdly makes us safer because it’s been chaotic all along and it’s not safe to think, while riding a bike, that traffic laws alone will get you home.
maus…I think you’re trying way too hard to make an association with phrases you mentioned, such as ‘cyclist community’, and the animosity towards people biking, ladled out in the type of comments you highlighted in the KPTV website comment screenshot. The kinds of people writing those comments, are going to resort to the same kind of animosity, whatever the word used to refer to people that bike, as individuals, or as a group.
Those types of borderline crank characterized comments, are ubiquitous to the Oregonian’s online story comment sections, because, I’m guessing, the site moderation is so poor. You can’t really do anything about them, except ignore them and write your thoughts in your own way, encouraging by example, other people to avoid descending into obnoxious self righteous, self absorbed indignation.
I rarely read the comment sections to the O, and when I do, it’s almost exclusively the same dopey blather, entirely. Not worth the time, period, except to check for possible changes in moderation standards there. There are a few serious people commenting, but they have a very hard time keeping a solid, constructive conversation going, with people having no self control
Many comments by a bunch of people, to comment sections of your stories, descend to the same kind, or close to the same kind of dismissive attitude towards people that drive, and also,to transportation dept staff, city council members, the police. I guess as a weblog owner, it’s an ongoing question of where to draw the line on moderation: all fun, or balanced with serious, constructive thoughts contributed.
Ultimately, what those people write, doesn’t matter a whit. They don’t want to think through an issue, or a situation, and work towards ideas for resolving problems…they just want to react, to get something off their chest. release ‘their outrage’, so the potential for a constructive discussion with them, is very low. And I think most people know this, so when it comes time to make a serious decision, the people that write the type of comments highlighted in the KPTV screen shot, won’t be seriously considered…they’ll be dismissed as the nutty extremists they present themselves as.
“Many comments by a bunch of people, to comment sections of your stories, descend to the same kind, or close to the same kind of dismissive attitude towards people that drive, and also,to transportation dept staff, city council members, the police.”
Not even close.
“…Not even close.” watts
I wish that were true, but it’s not. Too many people, for example, commenting to this weblog, refer to people that drive, as: ‘drivers’, ‘cars’, ‘cagers’…with the apparent intent to be insulting, dismissing, etc. Why do they do that? Because somebody is letting them do that. I think the result is a lowering of the opportunity for constructive discussion.
Looking at situations from only one perspective, the self absorbed perspective of the writer defending their personal interests, without showing they’ve given thought to the perspective and interests of the people and groups they’re finding fault with, is another bad habit indulged on various weblogs and websites such as those I’ve mentioned earlier. When this becomes an allowed thing, people continue doing it, because it’s so easy not trying to do something better.
Cagers is rare, I haven’t seen it here for a while. I think it’s a motorcycle rider thing. Yes it’s casual to refer to a person driving a car, as a car, but it’s common American English usage and not pejorative. (Parent to child: “Remember, when you get to the corner, look both ways for cars.”) Perhaps I’m dating myself here 😉 since as we know lots of parents put their kids in the, ahem, car to take them to the corner. Drivers? I use that inclusively, because when my bike moves, it’s me driving it in every sense of the word.
I would agree that referring to generally useless and one-sided comments sections of local rags is not exactly a scientific exploration of human thought (or thoughtfulness)….but fomenting animosity generates clicks. clicks prove worth. wash, rinse, repeat.
I avoid riding northbound on the Terwilliger Parkway to downtown during rush hour because jammed Barbour Blvd has almost protected bike lanes in the car jammed spots. A nice place to ride except for the fumes. Zoom past the gridlock.
Some roads have restrictions for truck weight and height of the vehicle. Not every kind of large truck can go across every bridge or through every tunnel. Why not also designate some roads with heavy VRU activity as “side guards only”. This could be a valuable bargaining chip PBOT could use for negotiations with ODOT.
This post makes me want to track Jonathan down and give him a bear hug. If only we could squeeze this onto a bumper sticker: “Labels are lazy. They allow us to paint with a broad brush instead of taking the time to speak in more detailed strokes. Labels assume a large group of people share the same motivations and beliefs when in fact no such common cause exists. Labels also perpetuate hate and divisiveness by serving up a tidy basket for people’s anger. Labels are linguistic punching bags — a conveniently gift-wrapped “other” served on a platter for people to take swings at.”
This is exactly why I oppose labels like NIMBY, but you said it better than I ever have. It might fit on an Escalade bumper…
is it also wrong to use these “labels”: misogynistic, homophobic, bigoted…
It is when those labels are applied to people who are not those things, as occurs all too often.
Homophones are the wurst.
NIMBY is an adjective (e.g. NIMBY zoning code, NIMBY land use policy, NIMBY neighborhood association chair…).
Most labels are.
i guess you object to some “labels” but not to others. so much for consistency…
I don’t generally object to the label “adjective”. If the shoe fits, right?
Or on a new truck sideguard. Lots of real estate!
Sigh, really sad. I grew up in Oregon, and have always liked to think or maybe imagine we have a culture that really does think you should care about other people, your actions and your effect on the world, but when people don’t even seem to want to think with care for people literally outside of their passenger window… Well, it just makes me think we need to do a lot better
You didn’t imagine it. I grew up here, too. The culture really was different. We’re a narcissist magnet now, and it shows in everything….but especially on our roadways.
But oh, the donuts!
mmmm, they must be good! Why would some many people stand in a line for so long.
when i moved here almost 18 years ago i was horrified at the socioeconomic displacement underway ne portland. i posted anti-gentrification flyers and boycotted the alberta district (for many years) but i should have done more*. today, i see some hope in protest/political movements that are beginning to undermine portland’s ossified business-as-usual establishment.
*white silence is violence
It’s ironic that you now champion policies that sped that displacement (such as the replacement of affordable housing with more expensive, albeit denser, housing).
that is the funniest thing i have read here in a long time*. no one who know anything about me would ever state that i in any way argue for bougie housing. in fact, just the other day i was arguing for luxury housing/apartment tax on a city stakeholder committee.
I know you don’t, and that’s not what I said. I agree with your goals (a city where everyone can afford to live), but your solution undermines them. Redevelopment displaces people and raises rents.
nonsense. building affordable rental housing on empty lots, commercial lots, or on multifamily lots occupied by 0.8 million dollar bungalows can (slowly) help reverse decades of exclusionary zoning and red lining.
Are you under the impression that the construction boom in NE Portland came at the expense of $800K bungalows? Those aren’t generally the parcels targeted for redevelopment.
i was referring to the displacement that happened 10, 15 and 20 years ago. you know that idyllic old portland era…
Actually, that exact thing has occurred (OK, it was $420,000, not $800,000 – although in 2013, not now – but still, a small bungalow, sold for a sum that’s not at all affordable for folks below median income). The lot at 1521 NE 41st Ave in downtown Hollywood had a bungalow on it. Now it has dozens of studio apartments, renting for under $1000/month. https://hotpads.com/1521-ne-41st-ave-portland-or-97232-1n3uh0h/pad
Although I wouldn’t call that exorbitant, it’s not cheap either – but it sure houses a lot more people than that bungalow did, and takes them out of the market for other rentals.
If not for zoning prohibiting it, I have no doubt that many, many $800,000 bungalows would have been demolished for similar projects. Not all apartment-dwellers want to live in noisy, busy, polluted commercial centers with fewer trees. I bet apartments a block or two in from Division or Belmont or Williams would appeal to more people than apartments on those streets themselves. And, add a ton of supply to the market and drive down prices. But… not allowed. Zoned out of existence. Northwest, Inner Hawthorne and Irvington are the only places where we get many apartments in leafy quiet streets, and those were built decades ago. The leafy, quiet streets are now reserved almost entirely for wealthy single-family homeowners like me. The motive may not be classism, but rather a preference for a given type of built environment, but it sure has heck has differential class impacts.
Who is (seriously) proposing building affordable rental housing on empty lots, commercial lots, or on multifamily lots occupied by 0.8 million dollar bungalows? As far as I know, no one.
What people are proposing (and doing in great numbers) is building unaffordable (to those with low income) housing on empty lots, commercial lots, and existing affordable housing. It is this last aspect I most strongly object to. The city is crafting policies that will accelerate this process.
There are very few demolitions of $800k bungalows. There are lots of demolitions of $300K houses (many of which are affordable rentals).
Alex Reedin: I don’t mean to say there are exactly zero cases of expensive houses being redeveloped, or that there are zero affordable units being build, only that they are in the small minority. If developers could build what they wanted wherever, why on earth would they ever redevelop any but the least expensive lots? Why pay more when down the street there is something cheaper to demolish?
Well, the thing is, there are lots of streets where ALL the houses are expensive, and that are close to transit, bikeways, grocery stores, etc. – but that are zoned single-family-only. Ladd’s Addition; Northwest (west of 23rd); Goose Hollow / King’s Hill; Hollywood/Laurelhurst just outside of the commercial area; Irvington just north of Tillamook; etc. I don’t think you’d be likely to displace any poor renters in those areas, yet they continue to be zoned single-family only.
And… this may be impolitic to admit, but I think displacing some people, even if some are poor (as long as there’s reasonable compensation for the displacement) to build a ton of new housing is better overall for poor folks in the region than limiting new housing to only greenfields and demolished commercial buildings – which clearly isn’t currently enough to meet the demand. I find the “infinite supply of rich people waiting to move to Portland” theory implausible at best.
Why would I, as a developer who could build anywhere, build on a $800K parcel in Ladd’s Addition vs. a $350K parcel just south of there? And why on earth would I choose there to build affordable housing when I could make far more money building toney units that would rent or sell for double?
You may not believe there is infinite demand at the high end, but I see it. There is a growing number of people moving to Portland but working remotely at their Bay Area jobs. I’ve met several recently. Some of the large Silicon Valley companies are moving entire teams here, and setting up shop in the Central Eastside. My neighbor is a guy who moved his entire company up here (12-15 people, most employees came with) to escape California rents (and way overpaid for his house).
Single family houses are rapidly becoming a luxury for the rich and established, even in the more far-flung areas of the city.
What popular growing cities can you cite that have managed to outbuild growth and keep rents affordable and their city livable?
“There are very few demolitions of $800k bungalows.”
there are plenty of demolitions of luxury old-pdx bungalows but anti-renter exclusionary zoning mandates that most of those bungalows be replaced with single family homes. surely you have noticed the many new concrete bunker mcmansions that sell for close to a million a piece in HAND, buckman, and richmond…
I have indeed, except they are not replacing $800k houses, but rather much cheaper houses that were largely rentals. I would protect those more affordable properties from redevelopment rather than encourage more.
There is not one iota of evidence to suggest that if development rules were looser we’d get more affordable housing.
actually, many of the homes being replaced are primary residences and, as you know very well, an owned-home in tear down condition sells for half a million or more in our neighborhood. it may also come as a surprise to you that most renters in the inner se do not live in single family homes but in illegal/nonconforming apartment buildings. why are these building illegal again?
Those buildings aren’t “illegal”, and I have no problems converting larger houses to mulitplexes if the units are used for long-term housing.
I can point out several recent or pending demolitions where livable rental housing was removed to make way for high-end housing, displacing renters who will never be able to afford to live in the replacement housing.
Sure, most nicer houses do sell for above $400K, but those are rarely demolished; those that sell for less are almost all redevelopment fodder. It is very hard for a new buyer to compete with a developer who will offer more than asking, wielding cash, and waive inspections. Many such properties never even come on the formal market.
Without that opportunity for an easy sale, many owners might continue to rent.
calling the nonconforming 5 plex i have rented for 17 years legal is ridiculous. please point me to the code that allows someone to build this in R2.5.
i can come up with endless examples of concrete bunker mcmansions that have replaced owner-occupied single family homes. this subsidy of luxury housing is a direct consequence of the anti-renter land use policies inner SE neighborhood associations have helped create.
Your building is only “illegal” in the sense that Hankins is an “illegal” hardware store. It may sound rebel, but the reality is that non-conforming buildings are perfectly legal, and there’s tons of them around.
Removing affordable housing to build a McMansion is bad, and I have criticized their construction here and in other forums on multiple occasions. We agree on that point.
Lots of people rent single family houses, and shared housing provides some of our most affordable living situations. Tearing down affordable rental housing is the problem; it doesn’t matter whether it is replaced with a McMansion or a collection of high-end apartments. Neither will house the displaced renters.
Do you at least agree that replacing affordable housing with unaffordable housing is a problem?
PS Those houses you linked to were built on a parking lot. I’ll stipulate there are plenty of other examples you could have chosen from.
First of all, there is no point reading comments on newspaper and television sites. There are so many trolls that spend their days spilling vitriol that it’s not worth your time and will only upset you. These people are not representative of the community and thrive on the attention they receive. Ignore them.
Second, I think it is perfectly natural to refer to this issue as being of interest to the cycling community, although it is an issue that should concern everyone. The station surely believed the story would be of broad interest. Personally, I think that the more publicity that occurs regarding right hooks and the sometimes fatal consequences the better off we are. Most people would be devastated to injure or kill a cyclist and publicity increases awareness of the risk.
I don’t know what realistic steps could be taken to significantly reduce right hooks. I know this though. Having once been very nearly right hooked by a semi in a way that could have been fatal, I basically plan for one unless I make eye contact with the driver. There is nothing like seeing the rear wheels of a semi inches from your head as you dive onto the sidewalk to focus the mind. It shouldn’t be this way, but it’s better than being dead.
I nearly witnessed a right hook occur over the Broadway bridge — as you curve right on to Love Joy. It involved a semi truck with the right away (had a green light). The older gentleman on the bike rode through the bike red light and met the semi right as it was turning. The rear trailer inched closer to the man, squeezing him into a narrow space between the semi’s rear wheel and the barrier to the right of the man. The man slowed, wobbled, and toppled over catching himself with his right leg. Fearing for his life he dropped his bike and hopped the railing. He was okay. He grabbed his bike and went on his way. What baffled me though, he again ran a red light at the bottom of the Love Joy ramp.
The man must have been new to biking. His bike was cheap and tattered, no fenders, lights or a helmet and the way he rode indicated inexperience.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that bike commuters have to protect themselves out there. You can’t speed down Williams st. at 18mph during rush hour and expect not to have people turning left into you. I see it all the time. There’s a line of cars to the right and a biker will speed through the green light (yes, they have the right away), but they don’t seem to have any anticipation that the car to the right of them may turn left without signaling or seeing them. I will often yell out when I’m riding to the people in front of me: “car turning,” “watching out to your right,” “be patient.”
Sure, the people operating the cars are supposed to follow the rules, but many don’t!
I previously worked at an alternative school for boys and I would take them out in the community to do errands and whatnot. The majority of them would walk straight into traffic at a crosswalk — I would say something or hold them back — but it was alarming! They would say stuff like, “they’re supposed to stop, it’s the law” or “oh, they’ll stop.”
Bike commuting in Portland is safe, but you have to protect yourself and assume people driving won’t do the right thing.
I don’t want to detract from the individuals that lost their life to right hooks, there is evidence of negligence of many of the drivers, but as a biker we have to protect ourselves. If we all slow down a bit, stop at all the red lights, pause a little longer at the stop signs, and never ride in a driver’s blind spot, maybe we can help mitigate these type of rode collisions.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can’t advocate for better rode conditions or safety devices installed on trucks, we need more of that stuff!
If you’re an experienced biker and a friend of yours is wanting to get into bike commuting, take it upon yourself to educate them on right hooks, riding in blind spots at high speeds, and how many people don’t signal before turing right.
I’m going to have to buy another copy of “The Art of Cycling” for my wife, since I gave my other copy away to a newer cyclist.
“Right of way,” not “right away”
In a sarcastic way, what I find funny about the above comments makes me feel that these are the same people that feel semi’s should see them in their blind spot, wait for them to merge, don’t have an issue with said semi overtaking them and what not. In all actuality, the roles are reversed with people in cars and those driving in semi’s. I bring this up because anytime a semi hits a car, first thing that’s brought up is that people in cars should be mindful of semi’s, don’t do anything drastic, be a defensive driver. I call bs in every sense of the status quo. The same people that want cyclist to be defensive and all the other things mentioned above, don’t want to do the same things when they are driving and a semi is involved. You can’t have it both ways. Respect people walking, riding, in cars, semis, anything. Life is fragile as someone mentioned above. Killing someone to save a few seconds will always be on your heart/conscious forever.
Hmm, should I be surprised that the guy who works at Uroboros Glass doesn’t care about his community?
I agree that certain labels such as “cyclist community” conjure up unhelpful imagery. But we live in a clickbait age where few people seem willing to expose themselves to anything other than short catchy blurbs that validate preconceived ideas.
I thought about this issue as I rode home last night within arm’s reach of a tandem FedEx truck equipped with such guards. My first thought was that the guards are only going to help in accidents where you bounce off the side and are deflected away — if you go down, those wheels are still going over you. I also found I look through and under trucks more than I realized and felt like my vision was slightly obscured and found myself slightly missing the space that the guards were covering. They still struck me as a decent idea and I’m seeing more trucks with them.
At the same time we encourage safety improvements in infrastructure and equipment, we need to encourage safe riding practices. Riding on the right of trucks that might turn is an extremely dangerous practice.
In other areas, people just don’t do this. But I see PDX cyclists doing this all the time (and frequently getting hooked). I’ve never ridden in a car where the driver pulled such a cornball maneuver — this is bad driving for the simple reason that you’re betting your life that someone was looking in the right place during the right couple seconds and you weren’t in a blind spot. If the odds of the driver not noticing you are even one out of a thousand, the math still catches up with you.
“But we live in a clickbait age where few people seem willing to expose themselves to anything other than short catchy blurbs that validate preconceived ideas.”
But this works both ways. Chicken: egg.
We could just as easily seek to counter this rather than capitulating. Just because right wing hate radio pioneered this kind of exchange doesn’t mean we have to follow suit. I took Jonathan to be suggesting we could rise above the fray.
“In other areas, people just don’t do this.”
based on previous conversations i don’t think you have enough experience cycling in large urban areas to make this claim.
i have cycled extensively in many large cities and, if anything, portlanders appear to me to be relatively cautious when it comes to negotiating intersections. for example, in nyc of philadelphia it is common to see people whip by potentially turning vehicles on the right or left. i rarely see this kind of behavior in portland.
It’s true I don’t have large urban experience and I believe there are places where it is worse. I still maintain cyclists here especially careless here (at least compared to what you’ll find in smaller towns and rural areas) and worry that really bad riding habits will creep into my riding style.
To give an example from my commute just this morning — a large vehicle passed me and suddenly stopped about 50′ ahead clearly waiting to turn. Even though it makes no sense, drivers do this fairly often in PDX. I figure if they’re going to pass, why not go ahead and make the turn?
I eased up as I pulled up on the right just in case they decided to hook me anyway or there was a crossing ped. Turns out that all my guesses were wrong — he had stopped to let someone turn left across the lane which I couldn’t see through his vehicle. Had I just charged through the way so many cyclists here do, I could have been hit by a left cross — best case scenario would be a close call.
My point is that riding defensively all the time is essential. Good riders/drivers are ready so things work out fine when people and things aren’t as expected. Bad ones consistently blame circumstances rather than looking at what they could have done.
as cycling becomes normalized in portland there will be more and more people who do not cycle like me or you. this is fine because, imo, numbers outweigh (perceived) skill/knowledge when it comes to safety…
I’ve been thinking about this comment because I know it is true. As more types of people bike, it fundamentally changes the nature of cycling where you see more MUP style behavior which all road users will need to work with.
I still think it’s really important to encourage everyone to ride defensively and develop the best skills they can because that will make cycling as fun and safe as it possibly can be. I don’t see many kids on “real” roads like Interstate often, but it does happen. I see surprisingly small kids demonstrate excellent skill and judgment — I would go so far as to say that I’ve never seen one do anything that would give me any safety concerns.
These kids will ride more safely than others and in more places when they get bigger. They’ll help their friends and others become better. They’ll help get bikes in places where people aren’t riding them yet. There is no downside.
Good cycling/driving is about being ready when others scrеw up or things are otherwise not how they should be. Drivers have additional responsibility because the cost of their mistakes are greater for others. But we all make mistakes. I’ve made mistakes that could have hurt others as well as myself but didn’t because somebody else was ready for me to muck up. Likewise, I have also prevented others’ mistakes from resulting in harm to humans or property because I was ready.
Agreed on the autonomous driving. Having sensors that can see humans and animals through any conditions and automatically respond is one of the greatest potential safety improvements of our lifetimes.
“Good cycling/driving is about being ready when others scrеw up or things are otherwise not how they should be. Drivers have additional responsibility because the cost of their mistakes are greater for others. But we all make mistakes. I’ve made mistakes that could have hurt others as well as myself but didn’t because somebody else was ready for me to muck up. Likewise, I have also prevented others’ mistakes from resulting in harm to humans or property because I was ready.”
This is exactly the picture that I have in my head for safety. I’ve been looking at it as puzzle pieces, or some other kind of interleaving components. If everyone keeps a perfect lookout and follows all rules to a T, then the safety pieces look like perfect squares or rectangles. As soon as someone makes a mistake, it creates a protrusion out from that person’s rectangle. If that protrusion can’t fit into a recess created by either another person’s defensive maneuvering or some infrastructural buffer, the result is overlap with another piece, and a safety “issue”.
The “safety in numbers” principle would seem to be based on individuals creating more recesses (higher awareness, slower operation, etc.) into which small mistakes can protrude harmlessly. “Protected” infrastructure is more about the buffer zones that provide built-in space for small mess-ups.
Curiously, the “safety in numbers” principle also seems to suggest that indeed, it is drivers’ lack of awareness and care that contributes the most to the “danger” of using a bicycle on the road. That’s assuming that merely having a higher number of bicyclists doesn’t somehow make them all perfectly aware and law-abiding, although there could be a “peer pressure” effect there that might go either way as far as encouraging or discouraging scofflaw behavior.
My anecdotal experience supports this.
In areas with lots of cyclists, the cars behave differently. When you’re downtown or on a street like Clinton, many drivers take specific measures to avoid hooking cyclists, doing unsafe passes, etc and they’re conditioned to be patient with the small delays driving near bikes sometimes entails. But the kind of riding that works well enough in these places will get you into trouble fast if you ride where cyclists are not “supposed” to be.
That’s one of the reasons I advocate riding everywhere. The vast majority of cyclists won’t be comfortable on roads like Powell or Cesar Chavez, but if the people who can ride those roads do, it helps shape behavior and support for infrastructure making these places accessible to more cyclists.
I still think it’s important to be cautious even in the friendliest areas. Aside from the fact that drivers make mistakes, some lack experience, are bad outright, or drive impaired. Making drivers better is important, but it’s to everyone’s benefit if drivers and cyclists alike are the best they can be.
“Bad ones consistently blame circumstances rather than looking at what they could have done.”
so-called “bad” pedestrian or bike riders would rarely be injured or killed were it not for people who insist on driving multi-ton metal boxes around at high speeds. the sooner we make non-autonomous driving illegal, the better…
“I agree that certain labels such as “cyclist community” conjure up unhelpful imagery. …” banerjee
There’s nothing inherently negative about the two word phrase ‘cyclist community’, nor is there in the KPTV headline, “Cyclist community pushing for more safety improvements on Portland streets,”. So what “unhelpful imagery is it that you’re thinking this phrase, or label, brings to mind? And why? What alternative would you suggest?
I think it’s not the words themselves, but the way people elect to use them, that may bring up any negative or unhelpful imagery that comes to be associated with various verbs. That phenomena goes way, way beyond various terms used to refer to people using the road.
>>> There’s nothing inherently negative about the two word phrase ‘cyclist community’ <<<
There is if it divides us into "us" and "them". It's really just "us".
There’s nothing inherently negative, but it carries a connotation that cyclists are much more monolithic than they are which makes productive dialog more difficult. Especially when topics involving controversy are involved, exposing gray areas and nuance is helpful.
In Portland specifically, terms like “cycling community” draw associations with specific cycling subcultures that happen to be more vocal but which may or may not be representative of the population that rides bikes.
IMO, if certain cycling groups or individuals with expertise advocate/oppose X or Y, better to just say who they are rather than lump everyone together.
I’d prefer people see me as a member of the community who cycles rather than a member of the cycling community.
That’s where I am.
I described myself as a cyclist before moving here, but I don’t call or consider myself one anymore because the term seems charged in this specific environment. Now I just say I ride bikes. I find that makes it easier to talk to people about a wider range of things that involve cycling.
Exactly. You can approach the issue from the perspective of a friend/neighbor/colleague, and not as an advocate.
Compare to the response to the deaths on I-5 that resulted in millions spent to make safety improvements there. In that case, it was the “Crashes” themselves that seemingly prompted ODOT to literally declare an emergency (for three motorist deaths) in order to secure the funds to install 40 miles of center cable. So in one case, “crashes” mean that the need for safety improvements is self-evident. In the other case, crashes merely prompt a nebulous,fringe, non-organization to “push” for changes, as though demanding special treatment. When it’s just the “Bicycle Community” “pushing” for changes for which “currently there is no funding”, It might as well be the “Philatelist Community” “pushing” for the government to issue stamps with strawberry-flavored glue.
Facebook comments in general tend to be a cesspool of ignorance; particularly on local news stories. These aren’t a few isolated trolls, though. I work with people like this, and some of them aren’t afraid to say the exact same thing to your face when you tell them you commute by bike. It’s ugly cultural tribalism, and it seems to be most pronounced in people that lack empathy.
I was a managing partner at a consulting firm in Beaverton and contracted with a nearby software company. I biked to my client’s site daily, hung my bike in their bike room and showered, and had a blast working with them. When I had meetings at my own office, I was asked to leave the bike outside, and when that didn’t work asked to make sure I carried it over the rug so it wouldn’t get dirty. On several occasions at lunch, people at neighboring tables would often say things like “I almost hit a biker again this morning; why don’t they ever obey the law?” so that I’d overhear them.
You are so right, it’s not just online.
Cycling is the last civil rights frontier. Society has finally condemned the harassment and belittling of every other minority group for the most part….But not if you are on a bike. Look at the language “want for free”registration” “they never follow the law”…Etc.
Take out the word “bikes” and put in the word “blacks” or whatever minority. Am I suggesting that those who have an irrational hate of bikes are racist? No, I am suggesting they are deep down, bigoted and have the need the need to feel Superior.
We have to be careful about these kinds of comparisons, since, much like a kid playing in a wheelchair can stand up and walk away any time, I can change out of my lycra and look like a “normal” person any time I want. What struck me about the comments from the KPTV article was that the sentiment seemed to be more along the lines of thinking about bicyclists as “The Carless” (you can infer the actual comparison). Oftentimes, carless people are in positions where they have to get by any way they can. Feeling ignored by The System, carless individuals sometimes disregard the rules of that system. The value of carless people’s lives is seen as somehow less than that of the motorized. Many people view carless individuals as freeloaders who just don’t want to do what it takes to pay registration and get licensed—or get a car—like a “normal” person. Some carless people have medical or psychological/mental reasons for being carless. Some have legal reasons why they are prevented from getting a car. Fill in the blank…
I definitely see what you mean, though.
“I can change out of my lycra and look like a “normal” person any time I want.”
“Cycling is the last civil rights frontier. …” mark smith
What are some things that you think make cycling, or perhaps for a more fitting reference…biking for travel…have anything at all to do with civil rights?
Except on some freeways, people using bikes for travel, have use available to nearly every road in the nation. Even the laws some people incorrectly refer to as ‘sidepath laws’, don’t prohibit the use of bikes on roads, except in a very narrow context.
People aren’t prevented from voting, eating at restaurants, owning property, drinking at water fountains, simply because it may be they ride a bike. You may somehow be correct that cycling is ‘the last civil rights frontier’, or that cycling has something inherently associated with civil rights…but I think you’ll have to explain in greater detail, what your thoughts on this idea are based on.
It’s simple. When once cycles for transportation, many see him/her as “lesser”. If one is already a minority, it’s to a greater degree an issue. Also, freedom to travel as one sees fit is a very basic civil right. Currently, many of our nations laws and tolerance of actions allow those in a machine to intimidate, kill or maim one who is riding a bike. Hence, the right to freely travel is limited.
Seeing it any other way, just makes one who rides as simply a “tourist” or “an adventurer”. We will never get to 50% mode share when biking is at all a feared activity.
Buy a car, ya hippie! (Yes, I’ve actually had that screamed at me by someone who was driving a car that was likely cheaper than the DA Di2-equipped race bike I was riding).
Pointing out the irony of ignorance.
“It’s simple. When once cycles for transportation, many see him/her as “lesser”. If one is already a minority, it’s to a greater degree an issue. Also, freedom to travel as one sees fit is a very basic civil right. Currently, many of our nations laws and tolerance of actions allow those in a machine to intimidate, kill or maim one who is riding a bike. …” mark smith
…sorry mark…I don’t thing the things you’re describing, amount to civil rights issues. I don’t actually feel well prepared to answer the question as I’d like, but I feel confident about this. Just because conditions for riding a bike on roads in the U.S. can be tough, doesn’t mean that people’s right to ride the roads with a bike, is being deprived.
We do have laws written that prohibit violence and intimidation by people through the use of motor vehicles against people riding bikes…bu for justice, those laws do have conditions that must be met before charges and penalties can be imposed..and that’s a loophole that so far, nobody has been able to come up with a sufficiently good idea to close, and provide a higher level of safety on the road for people riding.
Mark, several years ago I said something here along these lines (and was actually called racist for using the word “minority”) – I absolutely agree with you. Even recently I linked to an editorial that San Jose Mercury News wrote condemning comments about a driver who wrecked (and was killed) doing over 100 MPH (!) in a 35 MPH construction zone on a 45 MPH expressway. The comments that the writer condemned were NOTHING compared to the vitriol lodged at my neighbor when he was killed by a driver who swerved into the bike lane while she was texting (and yes, that was proven in court by witnesses and cell phone records, but she still got off with a fine and community service and not even a license revocation).
Many of the things that writers (professional or not) say about bicyclists in today’s press would simply not be permitted to be published if they were directed at racial minorities, LGBT, etc. It’s sickening.
It is interesting that people who use bicycles for transportation are seemingly simultaneously considered low-class losers and privileged, elitist snobs.
Yes! Years ago I rode my beater bike to a nearby Audi dealership after I’d been working from home (long days) and hadn’t shaved. Sales people wouldn’t look twice at me. I drove in there about a month later with my new S4 and you can bet they all came running, but weren’t too happy to hear I was only buying a license plate clip and wouldn’t give them an extra dime after they chased me away when I’d biked there.
What would have been really interesting would have been to drive in looking the shaggy hippie with an expensive bike on the roof of your S4…
Just depends what perspective you’re coming from. Are you coming from the suburbs of Lake O or Happy Valley or are you mad about gentrification on Williams?
“…Many of the things that writers (professional or not) say about bicyclists in today’s press would simply not be permitted to be published if they were directed at racial minorities, LGBT, etc. …” pete
Saying something bad about someone for their chosen mode of travel, isn’t remotely similar to entering into civil rights issue territory by criticizing someone about the color of their skin, their gender, or their gender identity. Freedom of speech is a civilly protected right, but there are few bars against saying bad things about people for what they say in exercising that civil right. Same with the right to have and carry firearms.
Another example is what plays out in courtrooms around how drivers who injure or kill vulnerable road users are treated. A civil right would lead to criminal punishment for the taking of a life due to one’s negligence, but in so many cases we see over and over again, criminal court drops the ball and civil court becomes the necessary conduit, and then the victims are accused of frivolousness, such as we saw a year ago when Martin Greenough’s family sued.
This is bigger than just labels. The automobile manufacturing, retailing, repairing, insuring, road building, and human casualty treatment business is gargantuan. As a society we don’t seem to care what we do to keep it going even though it is killing the planet, killing people by the thousands and driving the people who participate in it insane ( as proved by the comments showcased by jonathan). Cycling is a small, but existential threat to this giant motoring racket. Thus distortion, and disrespect for cycling is the order of the day.
The majority of people ride escalators over stairs.
The majority of people ride elevators over stairs.
The majority of people never voluntarily elevate their heart rate in a given year.
The majority of people will never give up their cars.
It’s a deep rooted American cultural trait that happens to value the automobile industrial complex.
The trucking companies are so opposed to the side guards. My older sister was a school bus driver for nearly a decade and an independent long haul driver (independent) for another decade. She had side skirts on her semi 55 foot Reefer the whole time. It side guard paid for itself in insurance costs every year she drove with it.
Strangely, many dispatchers would not call her with loads because she had “sissy skirts”. This was in the late 70’s through the 80’s.
I made the mistake of reading those same KPTV comments soon after the article was published. I wish such sites would either disable comments or take seriously their responsibility for managing comments the way that BikePortland does. While I’d like to think such ignorant and hateful participants don’t matter a whit, as wsbob mentions above, it seems to me they are a toxic influence on society at large. Considering all the handwringing about fake news and the death of journalism, I would expect such publications to stake out strong interactive policies that establish themselves as authorities on truth and rebuild the Fourth Estate’s importance in civics. Apparently that doesn’t pay.
There are just way too many other significant sources of danger to people all over this community — those who ride their bikes and those that don’t — to be suggesting that right hooks are somehow a disgrace. Vision zero is a great goal, but in a ranking of the most deadly things that happen on our streets, every one of which is tragic, right hooks are undoubtedly very low.
It seems that there are people that just need to feel that there’s someone else out their that’s inferior to themselves. They probably come from a place of feeling powerless or are feeling guilty of their own misgivings.
In the homophobic days (I know they’re not really over but…) it was the womanizers that were the most likely to complain about gays being promiscuous. This idea therefore made their own promiscuity okay because they could tell themselves that at least there’s someone worse out there.
Instead of improving themselves they invented someone worse.
I would speculate that it’s the worst drivers who are the most anti-cyclist.
I have a friend who identifies as a car-head. He loves cars and knows all the models, etc. (I think that’s a cool hobby and am happy for him.) We’ve gone cycling together and he spends some of the time complaining about cyclists, seemingly not aware that at the moment he is one himself. He can cycle all day and in his mind he still isn’t a cyclist. (To keep things civil, I don’t bring up certain topics with him.) I’m not sure how his mind works on stuff like this.
There’s a couple I know who go on long bike trips together and bike way more than I do but in their minds, they’re not cyclists, but I’m one. Even if I haven’t biked in a month or so, to them I’m still one. I don’t understand how that works. I should bring it up sometime because to me it’s a tool and not an identity.
Another factor is trust or lack of trust of the mainstream news media and the messages it tells us. Some people are versed in it and are sceptical and others just blindly eat it up. To suggest that the bent of a news story is biased or wrong means that all the other things they’ve been told and that they believed therefore could be wrong too. That’s hard to take. It’s better to just not think about that.
I don’t think that cycling is the last civil rights frontier, I think that they will just think up something else in the future. Nobody is safe really. You might think that the category of person that you happen to be in is benign and respected by society and the system but then one day they could decide to demonize you.
It’s pretty sad. I have no answers.
“There’s a couple I know who go on long bike trips together and bike way more than I do but in their minds, they’re not cyclists, but I’m one. ”
Couple: going on adventure = tourists
You: transportation by bike = cyclist
“As many of you know, I (Jonathan Maus) have a big problem with labels like “cyclist community.” What even is that? Am I member? Are you a member? Is Tracey Sparling’s aunt Susan Kubota a member? Are Alan Marsan’s kids and family part of the “cyclist community”? Or are we just regular people who want safer streets? Even though KPTV doesn’t use the label with any intended malice, I firmly believe labels like this are unceccessary [Sic] and harmful.”
As a lifelong activist, I firmly agree that labels are REQUIRED for us to move forward in the safer streets movement. Further, there IS an identifiable Cycling Community and denying that is harmful as it enables making us invisible. We are in the age of post-modern identity politics articulated politically partially through the street safety movement.
Who is part of this “post modern” Cycling Community? Well, it depends on your social location. From a sociological perspective there are common interests that bind cyclists. There are clothing traits, common medical problems, Commuter patterns, social networks. We have common language vocabulary, sporting events and group rides where we supply our own mobile music, unique lighting systems and even food. We are building parks designed for us like Gateway Green. What is Pedalopalooza if not a yearly cultural celebration for, and about, the Cycling Community? It is even crowd sourced.
Now of course most “people who bicycle” do not consider themselves part of this “cycling community.”……But those 200 people last night at the Second Anniversary Thursday Night Ride #TNR, certainly seem to.
To me, the denying of our common bonds and unique culture is just as damaging as the victim blaming from those comment trolls which we all have such problems with (which I won’t litigate here). Let me use a personal social movement analogy to illustrate.
As a gay rights activist in the 1990s I was, no surprise, a radical. I identified as Queer before it was cool, and spoke out in assertive, sometimes disruptive ways. I was told, by some (mostly white gay men of privilege) that to “make progress” we needed to “Assimilate to mainstream values.” I was criticized for holding hands in public, not wearing a suit, and “hurting the cause” by speaking out for equal rights and treatment for alternative family forms to the dominant two person couple. The LGBT(QIA) community did not really exist as our only common interest was same sex attraction…..In their eyes.
If so, then what is the meaning behind gay Neighborhoods? They have all the requirements of a minority culture and many people identify with the Gay Community. Coming out of the closet, being proud of our culture without denial and educating the majority “straight society” is how we made progress. In only two generations we went from mentally ill criminals, survived a plague and came out stronger than ever….mainly because we built on this urban community culture. This political leveraging of Culture, helped us gain fundamental rights, even if more fundamentally assimilated into most levels of mainstream culture was the end result …..As least in parts of the country.
Of course many, if not most, of those who are labeled by society as LGBTIQ would not identify with urban, mostly white middle class, gay culture….but that does not negate this community’s existence. If we had done that historically, the opening this very month of Portland’s first LGBTIQ Focussed Health Center would never have been possible.
I am not only a out and proud gay man, but am a self-identified part of the Cycling Community. The bicycle is part of and colors almost everything I do. I go to cultural events, dates, run errands, adapted our house remodel and is a required part of vacations. Biking is integral to my mental and physical health regimen. We are even training our kitties to ride with us. By comparison, my sexual identity has become a personality trait that is always there, but I have the privilege of living in Portland where equality is the norm. Hence, I rarely think about it while speaking; by comparison I chose my words carefully when talking about safe streets and bicycle policy.
To return to my main point, we can talk about safe streets for everyone all we want but “save the children” and Vision Zero rhetoric will only get us so far. We have to learn from the comparative successes of the more radical elements of the LGBT Community and the lack of success of the Assimilationist Log Cabin Republicans…..Use the commonalities we have, whether you identify as part of the cycling community or not, to speak to our common needs. Yes, most “people who bicycle” are just doing it for fun, exercise or as a transportation tool, but calling out labels as being “divisive” makes our biggest strength….invisible.
Instead we need to be proud of our common culture, and use this as a foundation to educate the rest of society about our safety and cultural needs. Come Out of the Closet as part of the Cycling Community, and leverage this for long term cultural change…..In order to reinvent the way American Society as a whole looks at transportation. History tells us top down edicts, laws and even infrastructure will go only so far. It is minds and worldviews that also need conversion. That can only happen if all of us who bicycle out ourselves and talk to those who don’t.
That can not happen without “labels.”
thanks for the comment Terry. I take to heart what you say about the need for using labels. Keep in mind though, that as with all my rants about language use and labels — my goal is to encourage everyone to be more aware of the words they use and the impact those words have. I am not trying to be the language police and tell people that certain words Must Never Be Spoken. For me it’s about the context of how where and when the labels are being used. In the specific context of my post, I feel the label is harmful. I’m also not saying we shouldn’t be proud of the culture and community we have created around cycling… heck, I’ve spent 12 years of my life dedicated to documenting and celebrating that culture and community! I like your points and will continue to think about this. I am always open to and willing to evolve my thinking on this stuff. I respect your opinion and I know you and I have many of the same goals. Thanks.
This discussion sounds a lot like Postel’s Law (robustness principle), “Be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept from others.” In this case (labels), it translates something like, “Be clear and concise in what you mean by the labels you use, be tolerant and understanding of words used by others.” (Generic “you” directed to me foremost, and anyone else who wants to listen.)
Thought-provoking post, Terry! Thanks.
Good stuff, Jonathan, but I’m thinking that the label “car culture” also leads in the direction of broad brush strokes. Too bad; it invokes memes I tend to agree with.
thanks Alan. And i hear your point about “car culture”… however I think labels that focus on abstract concepts like culture are much less harmful/powerful than labels that focus on humans/personalities/stereotypes.
Well said Jonathan.
You have valid points but didn’t you also oppose HB 3255? I thought it was odd that you did that, it seemed like a good idea and very minor inconvenience in a city with so much gray skies and low light. That kind of mentality (they should add expensive guards while we should not be required to pay even 3-4 bucks) makes bicyclists sound whiny to be honest.
IMO HB 3255 (a bill proposed in 2015 that would have mandated reflective clothing for bicycle users) was a very bad idea. I don’t think it has anything to do with this. And FWIW I don’t see this issues as having a “they” or an “us”. I think “we” should add side guards to trucks.
And people always tend to think that minority groups sound “whiny” whenever they dare speak up to the dominant paradigm. Comes with the territory.
jeremy…that bill, HB 3255, was very interesting, as was its evolution and eventual demise. As I recall, Rep. John Davis revised the bill proposal after objections to people being obliged to display reflective material on their person…not necessarily the wearing of ‘reflective clothing’. Could have been a simple reflective add-on, like an armband, which are commonly given away by cities and the police.
He revised the bill to eliminate mandatory hi-vis clothing, calling instead for a mandatory tail light…optional under current Oregon law. What would that have meant? Everyone wanting to ride a bike at night or in low light conditions, would have had to add a tail light to their already required headlight, for lighting equipment. That’s twenty bucks apiece, or less, but for sure, a lot of batteries when those from every bike in use is added up…as if we don’t have enough exhausted batteries and plastic in this world. But what price safety?
Why did the bill fail? My guess, is there wasn’t enough interest in adding the additional level of safety to the use of bikes on the road, that mandatory use of tail lights would have provided. I checked the bill’s website, I know roughly how many people testified against and for the bill. Very few.
Truck sideguards capable of giving some defense against people biking either falling down or knocked down and under large motor vehicles and trailers tires? I think they’ve the potential to help prevent some mishap to people biking, so, they’re a fairly good idea.
What’s lacking in general riding practice by unfortunately way too many people biking today? Lack of, as one of the featured KPTV persons noted in their comment: … situational awareness…and defensive riding techniques…knowledge of how to ride well and safe in traffic where motor vehicles are in use, in other words, lack of bike in traffic training…the kind of knowledge and training that can help people riding, avoid even finding themselves next to a big motor vehicle or trailer that could turn onto people riding.
“Why did the bill fail? My guess, is there wasn’t enough interest in adding the additional level of safety to the use of bikes on the road…”
My guess was in line with Bob Mionske’s, that there are no standards for bicycle lights (or reflective clothing) like there are for motor vehicles.
The bill as written was terrible. Starting out with reflective clothing… I was just looking at a reflective jacket that was on sale at a shop closing; it retailed for $475 and sold for nearly $300 after discount. The Gore reflective jacket my Mom got me for Christmas years ago retailed for over $200. The brightly-colored jerseys people think will help them be seen do very little when lighting gets low, because they’re not reflective.
The taillight provision called for visibility at 600′ – the furthest of any state law. You and I have already been over our disagreement on this. A $20 light is not going to be seen at 600′, or probably even $400. Are bike taillights a good idea? You betcha. But let’s get laws that are written based on data and not the good intentions of lawmakers who don’t even ride bicycles.
Davis hadn’t been a state rep for many years…I think two or three at the time he proposed the bill. So definitely not a rep with much seniority status, clout, etc. As part of efforts to have them become laws, provisions in bills can and are revised until they contain the specs that enough people in the legislature find sufficient to make them into laws.
The visibility distance spec could easily have been changed. More of a jump I suppose, but I hear there are lighting standards for bike lights in some European countries, Germany being a prime example. That is, if the sponsors of the bill really had been interested in using an existing visibility standard for bike tail lights. It seems to me by what products they offer, there are U.S. manufacturers of lights for bikes, that are designing their lights’ illumination to meet standards.
I don’t mean to pitch any certain brand of light, but three or four years ago, I needed a better tail light, so I studied what was available at the time, read enthusiast’s comments, and decided based on them, and the fact that my budget is very lean…to get the cygolite hotshot, then available locally for 23 bucks. That company rated their light as a 2 watt tail light. Better for the money, may be available now, but at the time, this light was highly regarded for its brightness and visibility at distance compared to other tail lights on the market. I’m still using this same usb rechargeable light. Could check before saying, but I think this model is still sold, and still is regarded highly for its visibility at distance.
More people could have helped Davis craft a better bill calling for tail lights being mandatory equipment for bikes, in addition to the already mandatory head light and rear reflector. That they didn’t, is another unfortunate turn in biking advocacy here in Oregon.
Maybe any tail light people would have chose to use on their bikes, had Oregon put a requirement for such a light into its required equipment for bikes, would have been a visibility upgrade over the reflectors the law already requires. At the very least, tail lights, even the weak ones sold at the dollar store, would have been an enhancement in addition to the required reflector, had the law been written to require both (some tail lights, including the still current model I use, incorporate a reflector into their lights’ design.).
It’s strange to me that people claiming to be advocates for better conditions for biking in Oregon, don’t take the initiative to be pro-active in upgrading required safety equipment for biking in Oregon.
Yes, the Cygolite Hotshot is still sold, but I’ve never seen a decent tail light sell for under $30, and the reality is that educated and experienced cyclists tend to do everything they can for their own safety, and then there are many others who either don’t know any better or don’t care. My bet would be that law wouldn’t translate into significant improvements on the roadways, and would result in even more misunderstandings by drivers and LEOs.
If you recall our previous debate, the visibility of a car light is a constant, whereas the output of a taillight degrades as the battery runs down. Yes, I always carry two taillights, and my trusty favorite spare is the Axiom Pulse 60 sold by Performance, because its charge lasts longer than anything else I’ve used, as well as its shelf life (important for me as I often leave lights sitting fully charged for long periods, but not on charger).
So once again, we vehemently agree about safety for cyclists, yet disagree in how to get there. I personally think education is a better approach, and putting the money they wasted on this bill into bike safety training programs – or even free light giveaways – probably would have helped more people. And FWIW, shortly after the bill was proposed I spoke with my Oregon rep (Greg Walden) to express my concerns, albeit support for its intentions.
Pete…I don’t think the requirement for a rear tail light would have been a big deal, imposition, learning curve, or whatever. The fact that Oregon has for years, already required a headlight for bikes, gives a really good indication of how the tail light for bikes requirement would have worked in practice.
Just to be ‘legal’..as in, not necessarily meeting distance viability specs, but indeed having a headlight, people put virtually every kind of lamo light on their bikes. Except maybe a candle lantern…I’ve never seen that one before! The police probably should stop every person with insufficiently bright lights on their bike, but they don’t…too much other important things to do. Lack of a tail light might have helped the police with pretext for a stop, if they saw someone they wanted to stop for other reasons than not having a tail light, or one that was bright enough…same situation as exists now with crummy headlights, or none at all.
At least, had Oregon made the requirement for tail lights, more people would have been learning about them, and shopping for them to equip their bikes. And more people than do now perhaps, would have started to have tail lights on their bikes. Not everyone riding a bike is smart, but I think people underestimate the intelligence of people when it comes to the bikes they’re riding, and their interest in the gear they equip them with. Some never do, but lots of people get really excited about upgrading their bike gear, just like they do about upgrading their phone, or their computer, etc. I’m fairly sure most people in the state would have been just fine with the law requiring tail lights, and with people figuring out what choice of light they could afford to improve their visibility to other road users.
With a higher profile public discussion, the requirement for a tail light on bikes might have been very appealing to lots of Oregonians, had they become aware of it and spent some time thinking about the pros and cons. Why Street Trust, formerly bta, didn’t get behind this, is strange to me.
I just think that maybe people don’t really understand, or think about what ‘A bill for a law’, is. Maybe they hear about a bill, and go ‘Whoa-a-a….can’t have that…terrible bill!’, without realizing that bills are subject to revision, until enough people are convinced that the intent of the bill is worthy and fair, and stands a chance of passing majority approval in house or senate, whichever the initial test is.
With help in crafting its writing, this bill could have been an excellent proposal for a law that would most likely have heightened the visibility of one group of vulnerable road users, and gone some distance to improve the public’s regard for people that bike, in having made a conspicuous effort to reduce the difficulty in seeing vulnerable road users, people driving responsibly, can frequently encounter on the road.
That bike light database website seems to only have one European brand on it.
How do people manage to believe that the “the cyclists” are going to save them from climate change without thinking someone needs to save “the cyclists” from drivers?
Cyclists will not save us from climate change. I doubt they’ll (we’ll?) even make a dent.
Though this has not kept the German government from publicly celebrating them as ‘climate heroes.’