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Portland is now one step closer to a 20 mph default residential speed limit – UPDATED

Posted by on April 14th, 2017 at 11:27 am

Nopo neighborhood greenway.jpg

For best results, add lower speeds.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been a good week for active transportation at the legislature. They said yes to Safe Routes to School, they killed an irresponsible highway-building bill, and they set the stage for Portland to take a major step in street safety.

So far this week, the Oregon House has voted yes on three bills we’re watching. They all passed overwhelmingly, garnering 26 “ayes” and just one “nay”. We shared the good news about the Safe Routes to School bill (HB 3230) on Wednesday. The day before that the House Committee On Agriculture and Natural Resources passed the Oregon Coast Trail Bill (HB 3149), which will establish a State Parks fund to hasten development of a plan for a walking trail along the coast.

We also learned this week that HB 3231 will not move forward. This is the bill that would have given cities and counties the ability to form powerful tolling districts and build new highways completely independent of planning or public oversight. After getting summarily shot down by respected opposition voices in a public hearing last week, the champion of the bill, Washington County Republican Rich Vial, shared news of its demise in his latest constituent newsletter. “Last Friday,” he wrote, “I was informed by the committee chair that HB 3231 would not receive a work session by the April 18th first chamber deadline, which prevents the bill from moving forward this session.” Good riddance!

The big day for sensible transportation policy was Wednesday, when the House Committee on Transportation Policy voted unanimously to pass HB 2682 which gives the City of Portland the ability to lower residential speed limits to 20 mph without first getting permission from the state. As we reported on Tuesday, the bill changed dramatically from its original form. The one that passed Wednesday limits the geographic scope of the bill to just Portland (instead of the entire state) and limits the type of roads the lower speed limits can be applied to.

“Something needed to be done.”
— Rob Nosse, Oregon State Rep (D-Portland)

HB 2682 is sponsored by Portland House Representative Rob Nosse. During testimony to the committee Wednesday he said, “Something needed to be done,” to stem the increase in traffic fatalities. “I think this bill will do a lot of good in my district — the residential district in the state — and it will improve collision outcomes.”

Elizabeth Edwards, a member of the City of Portland’s Government Relations staff, told lawmakers that the five mile per hour difference, “Is life or death in many instances.”

After Rep. Nosse’s testimony, Committee member and Representative Ron Noble (R-McMinnville) said he wished his district could have these same powers. “I’m disappointed it’s only in Portland,” he said. Rep. Noble shared that the City of McMinnville has requested lower speed limits from ODOT in the past, only to have the resulting traffic analysis end up in a higher speed based on the 85 percentile rule the state uses.

The impact of the bill would be profound. As quickly as they could switch out the signs, the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation could make 20 mph the maximum speed limit on 4,827 miles of our roads. The bill would apply to all residential, non-arterial roads in Portland — about 61 percent of our total road inventory. In the past, PBOT would have to ask ODOT for permission to do this, triggering traffic analysis studies and an onerous process that could take over a year to complete for just one street segment.

Suffice it to say PBOT is eager to get this bill passed. It would allow them to essentially make 20 mph the default speed of every residential street in the city.

“We’re excited that the bill has advanced another step,” PBOT spokesman John Brady shared with us this morning. “We’re going to continue working with our Portland delegation to keep this momentum going.”

Let’s hope the bill speeds through the Senate as well.

UPDATE, 4/24: This bill has officially passed the House by a vote of 55-1. See the latest coverage via The Oregonian.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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141 Comments
  • Travis April 14, 2017 at 11:56 am

    I’m totally for this in a big livability way. But the huge win will be calming more of arterial and collector streets.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 14, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      PBOT already has some tools to reduce speeds on larger streets. They recently streamlined the ODOT request methodology to make it much quicker, and used that successfully on SE Hawthorne.. And as we saw with outer Division, they are willing to use existing state law to declare an emergency when/if necessary.

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      • Travis April 14, 2017 at 12:31 pm

        The tools are there (https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/594740). Willamette waits. Fessenden waits for calming to be implemented first. Both streets have seen multiple pedestrians struck by drivers recently (one fairly serious). We shouldn’t need a fatality to declare an emergency. All collisions with vulnerable users are a few circumstance away from being fatalities.

        We can hardly even get news releases or press unless a serious injury occurs. And the press is what seems to drive PBOT’s response. <<<Why we're so grateful for what you do. Thanks!

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      • paikiala April 14, 2017 at 2:34 pm

        Hawthorne was different. It was rescinding the existing speed order to permit statutory, not changing from one designated speed to another.

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  • Gondow April 14, 2017 at 11:59 am

    I hate to be Debbie downer, but with lack of enforcement speeding will not change with new signage.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 14, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      I agree and disagree.

      Enforcement is important yes, but it’s only one part of the equation. Speeding and dangerous driving is very much about our culture. Our culture normalizes terribly dangerous driving behaviors. When a city passes a law like this (and the media covers it, and the signs go up, and the water-cooler conversations happen), culture begins to shift. It sends a message about what’s expected of people who use roads and that message is… Slow the f*** down! And lower speed limits are directly related to enforcement because design should lead to streets that are self-enforcing and lower speed limits are part of that design.

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      • Travis April 14, 2017 at 12:49 pm

        Could not agree more. For those active on neighborhood forums: starting spreading the news. Instigate positive conversations. Express how this benefits you, your family, kids, and your neighbors. Acknowledge that the impact to drivers will be minimal — seconds slower, but more opportunities to wave, smile, and appreciate our places and neighbors.

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      • Gondow April 14, 2017 at 2:32 pm

        The city added speed bumps where I live, on NE Rodney and this had zero effect in regards to speeding. How will signs be the answer? Again, without enforcement you and I could chat all day at the water cooler.

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        • rachel b April 14, 2017 at 5:17 pm

          I have to agree with Gondow–enforcement is key. The people moving here from areas with much more aggressive drivers are mad and frustrated and it’s going to take a lot to get them to slow down. Right now they’re just mightily aggrieved and feeling entitled to that feeling.

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          • Cruising in Clackamas April 18, 2017 at 11:02 am

            Do you have data for your assertion that people moving here drive more aggressively or are harder to slow down? It seems like Portland has always had people who drive fast and dangerously when they can:

            ““The average speed on Clinton was 48 mph,” he said of Clinton in the 1980s, recalling a community conversation at the time.”

            https://bikeportland.org/2016/05/05/five-months-after-diverters-most-bike-users-say-clinton-is-much-improved-182622

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            • rachel b April 18, 2017 at 2:43 pm

              No, Cruising. Just my eyeballs and my experience.

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          • Dan A April 18, 2017 at 8:07 pm

            I’m suspicious of this notion. It’s kind of like the complaint I hear about drivers in the morning who are speeding past kids walking to school. All of the parents I talk to say that it’s ‘cut through drivers’, but my eyes tell me there are a lot of parents speeding on the way to & from school.

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      • OregonJelly April 14, 2017 at 7:30 pm

        You had me until “self-enforcing”, then you might as well be talking about goblins and fairies. Then again, I usually think the same whenever someone acts like infrastructure somehow fixes being an asshole.

        Changing the speed on existing infrastructure is knee-jerk and does not generate the effect you are hoping for. Most people were going under the speed limit on Hawthorne before. Now, virtually everyone is breaking the law. Zero tickets will be written and everyone who drives it will come to accept that exceeding the speed limit is part of getting around town.

        This will do absolutely nothing to prevent the next Noorah jerk from killing someone.

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    • soren April 14, 2017 at 1:24 pm

      There is some good news when it comes to enforcement. Portland/PBOT lobbied for and obtained the ability to use automated speed cameras on high crash corridors. Hopefully, this program can be extended to more roads. There is also a new bill under consideration that would allow cities to use red light cameras to control speed.

      https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Measures/Overview/HB2409

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    • Mark smith April 14, 2017 at 11:23 pm

      Why have any speed limit signs at all? Just let traffic flow at the theoretical rate……

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    • Ron g. April 16, 2017 at 9:51 am

      The goal isn’t to reduce speeding per se, but to reclaim neighborhood streets for neighborhood use. Dropping the speed limit discourages people from using residential roads for through traffic, and it’s an effective tool for that. You may not get as much overall reduction in speed as you hope, but you will see a drop in use.

      I’m extremely disappointed the legislation was limited to Portland. We’ve wanted to do this in Corvallis for years; the only thing stopping it from happening is ODOT’s interference in our local decision making.

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  • BB April 14, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    20 MPH is fine for people driving cars on main roads but is still too high for many residential areas.

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    • mran1984 April 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      I ride over 20 mph on my bike. Tri Met never operates under 30+mph. The speeding on SE Lincoln has already increased due to the changes on Hawthorne. Wow, that speed reduction was helpful. Moving around town so slowly might be great if you are constantly staring at your phone, but I just want to get out of town.

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      • BB April 14, 2017 at 2:27 pm

        Your “just want to get out of town” doesn’t trump the rights of others to move about safely regardless of whether you try and shame people by assuming they’re “staring at phones”. I’m sure plenty of people have plenty of reasons why they would like to go fast enough to endanger others but those reasons are never good enough. And of course treating travel by bike the exact same as travel by car never works, because they’re too different. Next?

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      • Alex Reedin April 14, 2017 at 7:58 pm

        Just because you ride over 20mph on your bike doesn’t make that an appropriate speed to drive (or ride) on local service streets. With how bad visibility is because of parked cars to the corner, bushes, etc., I don’t think anyone is able to reliably see and stop for pedestrians at intersections as required by state law when going over 20 on local service streets. With the constant possibility of children running into the street, I think 15 (or 10, in some areas) is really more appropriate from a moral standpoint.

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        • Mark April 14, 2017 at 8:48 pm

          811.550(17)

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        • NW_Runner April 15, 2017 at 11:40 am

          I wouldn’t know as I’ve never had a bike stop for me at a crosswalk.

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          • I wear many hats April 17, 2017 at 8:51 am

            Standing staring blankly at your fit bit, or trying to cross? There is no need to stop when you are not crossing, and one can simply go in front of or behind you when you are crossing. It sucks to run into stuff on a bike. It rarely happens. Merge and be done with it.

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            • Alex Reedin April 17, 2017 at 9:30 am

              No need to stop aside from common courtesy, morality, and the law. When walking, a huge chunk of people don’t trust people biking to navigate safely around them – and the faster someone is biking, the more risk-averse people walking get about it. Stopping clearly shows that you will not run into a person walking. Given that you have the power to badly hurt someone walking, and that people walking are afraid you will hit them (whether or not this is actually a possibility in your case), you need to stop or else you’ll be using your physical power over them to get your way over what they want. It’s subtle bullying to speed by someone trying to cross the street.

              The fact that people walking have gotten so depressed about the chances that anyone (biking OR driving) will actually stop for them that they’ll just play with electronics at an intersection waiting for a complete break in traffic doesn’t relieve someone biking or driving of the responsibility to try to make things better.

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          • Dan A April 17, 2017 at 9:31 am

            I’m with you. I stop for people in crosswalks and think other cyclists should too. I’ll talk to the committee and make sure we have everyone on board.

            Can you talk to all walkers and ask them to stop stepping out in front of us wherever you feel like it without looking? I mean, I know we’re not as loud or threatening as cars, but we really don’t want to crash. Just take a look to your left before leaving the curb.

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            • Alex Reedin April 17, 2017 at 9:33 am

              OK, I’ll put out an all-points bulletin to the walking community 🙂

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              • MaxD April 17, 2017 at 9:52 am

                I am occasionally too intimidated by the cars tailgating me to stop for pedestrians. When I do stop, I have a success rate of about 1 out of four people who actually will cross when I stop for them. The most typically response is slight embarrassment and then the person trying to cross the street asking me to go. Then a bit of “no, you go”, “no, really, You go” etc. There is a culture gap surrounding expectations of the hierarchy between bikes/peds.

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              • Alex Reedin April 17, 2017 at 9:58 am

                Hmm… I don’t have that bad a rate. I’d say for me it’s 1 our of 4 in the other direction, and in those cases, I just start up again after stopping if the person trying to cross the street is insistently waving me through. I do “telegraph” what I’m doing, though, slowing down well before the intersection and looking straight at the person walking.

                I think it depends on street context though. The above is on greenways and other local service streets (which are 90% of my street miles). I think people walking feel more confident there, like the crosswalk law applies on local service streets but not on “big” streets. On “big” streets, people walking usually need a lot of encouragement to go, but as long as the environment seems safe and they seem comfortable going, I make a point of letting them go (feeling some satisfaction at helping the people driving behind me remember their Oregon driving laws).

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              • Alex Reedin April 17, 2017 at 10:42 am

                I will agree that being tailgated is a totally legitimate reason to not stop, and that there is not cultural agreement that people walking having precedence over people biking at crosswalks. A good amount of the time, I feel that the people walking think I’m working really hard to push my bike so feel bad about making me lose my momentum. I have an e-bike so this is not actually a concern for me but I appreciate their empathy 🙂

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              • Dan A April 17, 2017 at 11:00 am

                Yeah, the last time I recall being really scared of a truck following too closely behind me was when I stopped for someone by a crosswalk while I was riding on Glisan. I now don’t think it’s wise to stop when there is a car immediately behind you.

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    • Michael April 14, 2017 at 8:11 pm

      20 MPH is agonizingly slow on main roads. Most such roads have 35 MPH speed limits and traffic moves ~40 in good conditions. Most of us live more than a mile or two from the places we needs to go, and the difference between it taking 10 minutes or 20 minutes to get there is often significant. Just because you personally aren’t comfortable driving at the current speed limits does not mean that others are similarly handicapped.

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      • soren April 14, 2017 at 9:12 pm

        is your comfort more important than someone else’s health or life?

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      • Mark smith April 14, 2017 at 11:29 pm

        Let’s assume for a moment you will actually come back and read this thread.

        You are assuming a lot. First, you are assuming that you are able to travel across portland at 40mph the entire trip. You are also assuming that the statute speed is 40pmh or could be 40. Now, given besides a freeway, that isn’t really ever true except for a few select areas, your assertion is incorrect.

        NOBODY is stating that every street speed will be 20mph. Don’t worry, you will always have horrible 82nd.

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        • Michael April 15, 2017 at 12:14 am

          No, the point is that on many 2-4 lane “main roads” with a 35mph speed limit, traffic often moves around 5 mph over the limit in good condition (congestion/weather). And that seems just fine. Specifically, this comment was directed at the one above (BB) saying “20 MPH seems fine for people driving cars on main roads …” I disagree, and would find a 20 MPH speed limit on such roads extremely frustrating, as would the vast majority of the driving public, I would imagine.

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          • KTaylor April 18, 2017 at 5:46 pm

            It’s just fine if you’re in a car – but a street that is only comfortable for people in cars is a sacrifice zone, and the prize isn’t worth the sacrifice. 10 minutes’ delay is really not a big deal, unless you’re having a heart attack, giving birth or trying to set a swimming record. It only seems that way if you’re not used to experiencing it. If shaving off that 10 minutes by speeding wasn’t an option, you’d adjust – probably pretty quickly.

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    • Mark smith April 14, 2017 at 11:25 pm

      ??? What??? 20mph is too fast for many residential roads? Did you write that correctly?

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      • BB April 17, 2017 at 10:10 am

        Yes. Check your privilege at the door when boarding your automobile.

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  • I wear many hats April 14, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    20 mph drivers are moving speed enforcement anyhow. This will help.

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  • Caitlin D April 14, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Yay, great news!

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  • Gary B April 14, 2017 at 1:20 pm

    “It would allow them to essentially make 20 mph the default speed of every residential street in the city.”

    Is that pure conjecture, or do you have more information on how they plan to use this hopefully-new law? Specifically, wondering if they’re planning a sweeping implementation, or more of a case-by-case approach. Hope for the former–I’m quite enamored by a straight, easy, citywide (except freeways) 20mph speed limit, a la NYC, and this can get us a good way there.

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    • Andrew Margeson April 14, 2017 at 1:29 pm

      Good for Portland, bad for the rest of us. ODOT’s process for reducing speed limits is absolutely ridiculous and definitely results in deaths and injuries. Leaving it intact and being OK accepting that local communities should be powerless is shameful.

      Will there be enforcement in Portland? Probably either by automated methods or not at all.

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      • Dan A April 14, 2017 at 1:46 pm

        “Rep. Noble shared that the City of McMinnville has requested lower speed limits from ODOT in the past, only to have the resulting traffic analysis end up in a higher speed based on the 85 percentile rule the state uses.”

        We were warned not to ask for a lower speed limit on Bethany for the same reason.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) April 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      it’s conjecture. I’ve asked how they plan to implement but they are waiting for it to actually pass before sharing more details. I think they want to stay calm until the bill actual gets to the governor’s desk. stay tuned.

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    • paikiala April 14, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      If the ‘every street posted’ provision could be removed, or the ‘and’ clause in part C changed to an ‘or’, Portland could post a few warning signs at major roadway entry points:
      ‘Entering Portland”
      “Traffic Laws Photo Enforced”
      “25 mph Unless Otherwise Posted’

      https://goo.gl/maps/A5znG85Mxbo

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      • David Hampsten April 14, 2017 at 8:09 pm

        “Except on state-designated arterial roadways”

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        • paikiala April 18, 2017 at 2:31 pm

          those would be otherwise posted.

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  • Ngallendou Dièye April 14, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    Such a draconian measure requires a qualifier, such as 20 MPH when humans are visible within 100 feet. Otherwise, it will become another Liberal hate attack against motorists seeking to confiscate workers’ wealth.

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    • Dan A April 15, 2017 at 8:20 am

      The point of driving slower is not just for the humans you can see, but also for the humans you can’t see.

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    • SD April 15, 2017 at 8:41 am

      By “workers,” do you mean uber? Or is this fancy sarcasm?

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    • paikiala April 17, 2017 at 10:19 am

      Draconian? The ability to do something does not give you the right to do it, nor does it imply that you should. The risk of killing a pedestrian with your car at 20 mph is about 10%. The risk of killing a pedestrian at 30 mph is about 75%.

      “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” – Gandhi

      “Equity can seem unfair to those that have benefited from past inequity.”

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  • Michael April 14, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    20 MPH is reasonable for some residential roads, but by no means all. I can ride my bicycle faster than that in some areas, and quite safely. Speed limits in Oregon are already slower than most other places in the country, and reducing speed limits to unreasonably slow speeds isn’t going to accomplish anything other than frustration, and possibly more revenue from completely unnecessary ticketing. People need to take responsibility for their own safe operation of their vehicles, taking into consideration their abilities, current conditions, and the handling characteristics of their vehicle. For some reason, people here seem to think that common sense and decency need to be legislated across the board, as if the populous were all children who needed to be taken care of by the State. I understand that people want to feel safe in their neighborhoods. When I was a kid, we used to play ball in the street. But we all had enough sense to realize that the street was where the traffic was, and enough awareness to get out of the way when necessary. Standing on the side of the road waiting for a car to pass at 20mph doesn’t feel any safer than letting it pass at 25 or even 35 mph. In the end, the streets are there because of the cars. Millions of dollars were not spent creating a network of paved surfaces for the benefit of people who wanted to run or walk the dog or ride bicycles or play ball. Perhaps unfortunately. Ultimately, if residential speeders are a problem in certain neighborhoods, then up the enforcement in those problem areas rather than make region-wide restrictions that don’t make any sense.

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    • Dan A April 15, 2017 at 8:25 am

      “In the end, the streets are there because of the cars.”

      Tell that to the Romans.

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      • Michael April 15, 2017 at 8:52 am

        My Geography is a tad rusty, but I wasn’t aware that Oregon was a province of the Roman Empire. Interesting. I wonder how many of our modern thoroughfares owe their routes to urban planners in the 1st C. BCE. Oh, right. None.

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      • pruss2ny April 15, 2017 at 11:18 pm

        disagreeing that the streets built over, say, the last 50years haven’t been built with an auto centric focus is disingenuous…from my non-urban planner perspective, its likely why we have such horrific multi-modal infrastructure today. We should acknowledge this myopia in city planning and address it to move forward. I don’t get the relevance of playing “gotcha…dirt paths existed in pdx in 1866″…flu/diarrhea were likely a top 3 killer of the public in 1866 too…great…fortunately we’ve progressed exponentially from then.

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        • Dan A April 16, 2017 at 8:43 am

          Roads are for people.

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          • pruss2ny April 16, 2017 at 7:49 pm

            agreed. and for the last 50years they’ve been designed for people in cars….lets fix that.

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            • Michael April 16, 2017 at 8:06 pm

              Nothing to fix. And I say that as a cyclist, and a motorcyclist. Haven’t owned a car in over a decade. We need to do what cyclists have done in cities all over the world: acquire the necessary skills to share the road safely and responsibly with other traffic.

              It amazes me the number of bikes that act as if they can ride anywhere on the road with impunity and disregard for other traffic or traffic laws. One can literally sit downtown and watch as cyclists run red lights, cruise through stop signs, and fail to signal direction changes through traffic at rates several times that of any other vehicles. And then they complain about feeling threatened by the cars?!?!? Same goes for pedestrians who will literally step out in front of oncoming traffic without so much as a glance up from their phones. Come on, a lot of this isn’t a problem with the roads or the cars or the drivers…

              Instead of trying to “fix” infrastructure so the it accommodates cyclists and pedestrians, how about educating and training them such that they are better adapted to the conditions in which they are riding?

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              • SD April 16, 2017 at 9:53 pm

                This is like reading the greatest hits of unsubstantiated car-centric ideals. Next, talk about how cyclists need to pay for bike lanes.

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              • AJ April 17, 2017 at 10:32 am

                One can literally sit downtown and watch as SOV drivers run red lights, cruise through stop signs, and fail to signal direction changes through traffic at rates several times that of any other vehicles.

                I see it every day walking through downtown. Most SOV drivers have zero respect for anybody else (specifically people trying to legally cross the street, but other drivers too). Yeah, bike riders also do this stuff, but not nearly as often, and not nearly as dangerously. I can’t even count how many times I’ve nearly been hit while crossing with the walk signal because drivers consistently pull 3/4 of the way into the crosswalk before rolling to a “stop” while trying to make a right turn. When they should be looking out for people legally crossing the street, instead their eyes are glued left, looking only for a break in traffic and paying no regard to the people they are endangering. And don’t even get my started on the 50%+ of drivers staring at their “laps” (phones) everywhere I look.

                Yes, people who are walking and biking could be doing more to improve safety, but the biggest responsibility continues to fall on the irresponsible, dangerous drivers in their multi-ton vehicles. They have the greatest power to harm, and thus the greatest responsibility to actually follow the law, pay some damn attention, and look out for everyone else.

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              • John Lascurettes April 17, 2017 at 6:03 pm

                AJ, you forgot: straddling the bike lane, turning across the bike lane without every checking (bike traffic) next to them.

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        • El Biciclero April 17, 2017 at 10:29 am

          “I don’t get the relevance of playing ‘gotcha…dirt paths existed in pdx in 1866′”.

          The relevance is that “The Cars” are often revered as the raison d’etre for streets, when in fact, those streets (not “dirt paths”) existed for some purpose long before cars. That purpose was to move people and goods from one place to another, and at one point in history accommodated pedestrians, horses (often pulling wagons/carriages of some sort), streetcars, bicycles and automobiles all at the same time. So the streets aren’t “there” because of cars, the only thing cars and “progress” have done for streets is make them more exclusive and dangerous. Thanks to brilliant marketing campaigns and innovations in manufacturing technology, having a car is now pretty much the price of entry for using the street system we have in place today, but the position that motorized vehicles occupy on our streets is a usurped one, not an original plan. Cars have not given us streets, they have taken them away from anyone suffering the grave misfortune of being non-motorized.

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          • Michael April 17, 2017 at 12:09 pm

            Interesting point of view, but it doesn’t match with my experience. I was car free for many years in several cities. It was almost always preferable to ride on main roads, as they carried the most traffic, but were also more direct commuting routes and better maintained. They got that way because routes, road widths, surfaces, and traffic control devices were improved for the benefit of increased car traffic. We need to talk about things as they are now and the way they have become. It’s called progress, and it happens over time. I appreciate all the history lessons, but it really isn’t all that relevant. No one is going to seriously consider abandoning a 21st century way of life for the sake of legislating the 19th century back into effect.

            I’ve see no problem whatsoever commuting through traffic as long as you are hyper-aware, follow the rules, and ride responsibly. Cyclists have legal rights to the road, but they need to feel comfortable exercising those rights. That is why I’m an advocate of education and skills training (for drivers and riders) as opposed to legislation and enforcement.

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            • El Biciclero April 17, 2017 at 1:45 pm

              “It was almost always preferable to ride on main roads…”

              Almost” always? What made it less preferable the other times?

              “…were also more direct commuting routes and better maintained. They got that way because routes, road widths, surfaces, and traffic control devices were improved for the benefit of increased car traffic.”

              Routes don’t need cars to be improved, excess road width is not really needed for bicycles, surfaces can be improved for any mode (more history: the first advocates for smooth, paved roads were wheelmen), and traffic controls are mostly needed only for cars (e.g., they don’t necessarily make it better for bicyclists, except when cars are around). So those things that you say make roads better for bike travel don’t necessarily all make roads better for bike travel, and those improvements that do make it better for bike travel could easily have been done without cars existing. Roads could be narrower, and smooth pavement would last years longer if built exclusively for bicycles—we don’t “owe” our conveniently-routed, smooth roads to cars, we’ve just been forced to pay for way over-engineered roads because of the inefficiencies and destructive nature of cars.

              “No one is going to seriously consider abandoning a 21st century way of life for the sake of legislating the 19th century back into effect.”

              …and no one is seriously advocating that now—at least I’m not. That streets were once used in the ways I listed in the example I made up only illustrates that it is possible for streets to be used by lots of people without cars—we don’t need cars in order to have streets, as is so often implied.

              “I’ve see no problem whatsoever commuting through traffic as long as you are hyper-aware, follow the rules, and ride responsibly.”

              I see two issues with this statement. First, of course you will have fewer problems if you are “hyper-aware” and have Chuck Norris-like reflexes—but why is that required of bicyclists and pedestrians, but not drivers? How could we require it of drivers? Second, “responsibly” has become a bit of a loaded word in the traffic safety space. Do you mean “legally”? “Defensively”? “Subserviently”? “Out-of-the-way-ily”? “Highly-visibly”? “Slowly”? “Assertively”? All of the above? How does a bicyclist know if they are riding “irresponsibly”? Is the definition of “responsibly” different for drivers? If so, why?

              “I’m an advocate of education and skills training (for drivers and riders) as opposed to legislation and enforcement.”

              What sorts of skills would you advocate teaching to drivers? What would be their motivation for a) learning such skills, and b) practicing learned skills on a daily basis? Same question for bicyclists.

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              • Michael April 17, 2017 at 2:02 pm

                Statements like “these things could have been done without cars existing” are not really relevant because cars do exist, and have existed for long enough that any argument which posits their absence is a complete hypothetical. The roads exist as they are because of increasing vehicular traffic. That is a fact. Whether they could have evolved similarly or differently in the absence of said vehicular traffic is a lovely imaginative exercise, but I don’t see how it pertains to the discussion.

                “Responsibly”. As in: following the traffic laws, driving/riding courteously, not being distracted or otherwise engaged in things other than driving/riding, aware of and in control of your own speed/position/direction, aware of other road users, signals, and hazards.

                To put a fine point on what I mean by “skills” exactly, take a Motorcycle Safety Course. A lot of the instruction there (in addition to what is listed above) has to do with scanning ahead, being aware, planning your route and being prepared for the unexpected. This is the kind of behavior and mindset that ALL road users would benefit from, and that only motorcyclists are currently required be trained in by law.

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              • El Biciclero April 17, 2017 at 3:08 pm

                “Statements like ‘these things could have been done without cars existing’ are not really relevant because cars do exist…”

                The only relevance pertains to our attitude toward cars. Without presuming your personal views, I am pointing out that an argument that says “we can’t do anything to restrict car use, because without cars, we wouldn’t even have roads!“—is wrong, in my opinion. We owe cars, per se (and by extension, their drivers—of which I am one, BTW), nothing when it comes to having improved roads. If we feel that we simply cannot do anything that might possibly inconvenience drivers of cars, it cannot be “because we owe our roads to cars”.

                “‘Responsibly’. As in: following the traffic laws, driving/riding courteously, not being distracted or otherwise engaged in things other than driving/riding, aware of and in control of your own speed/position/direction, aware of other road users, signals, and hazards.”

                Fair enough definition for “responsibly”; not worth belaboring.

                “…scanning ahead, being aware, planning your route and being prepared for the unexpected. This is the kind of behavior and mindset that ALL road users would benefit from, and that only motorcyclists are currently required be trained in by law.”

                That is a good start to a list of applicable skills, so the remaining question comes down to motivation. What is a driver’s motivation to drive “responsibly”? What would a driver’s motivation be to learn the skills you are talking about? I know there are professional driving schools that would teach such skills, yet very few drivers learn them—why not? Likewise, there are various “CycleSavvy” and LAB courses for bicyclists, but again, very few feel motivated or see a need to take such classes—why not? You allude to it in your final sentence: “…only motorcyclists are currently required…by law“. It seems a big motivator for operating responsibly on the roads comes down to “legislation and enforcement”—even where education is concerned. In case I haven’t tipped my hand already in asking the questions I have about motivation, my no-longer-hidden agenda is to point out that there is very little motivation for drivers of essentially armored vehicles to operate “responsibly”—or even learn the skills necessary to do so—except for fear of legal repercussions, which are very, very often lacking, even for well-established gross breaches of responsible operation. Meanwhile, bicyclists had better learn to operate “responsibly”, or they could very well die, which is a different—and in my view, lopsided and unfair—motivation. But even under threat of death, most bicyclists are not going to feel motivated enough to take skills classes—unless it’s required by law.

                The way I’ve seen general road behavior degrading in recent years, your earlier statement that there is “nothing to fix” can only lead to bicyclists having to be ever-more hyper-vigilant and perfectly “responsible”, while drivers see no reason whatsoever to keep even half an eye out for pedestrians or bicyclists as they crash around in two-ton “Sport Activity Vehicles”, eyes on phones, knowing full well that “I didn’t see him, officer” will pretty well absolve the sober and cooperative driver of all liability in the event they run over a bicyclist or pedestrian.

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          • John Lascurettes April 17, 2017 at 6:05 pm

            “Cars have not given us streets, they have taken them away from anyone suffering the grave misfortune of being non-motorized.”

            Wonderfully put.

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          • pruss2ny April 17, 2017 at 8:57 pm

            cool…and like you eloquently stated, cars have (somewhat) taken away the streets from non-motorized denizens. But has car use flourished b/c of big oil and narcissistic drivers, or has the average commute distance grown 40% (nhtsa) since the 80s b/c of expensive housing near job density and people factoring in the cost of at least 1 car per household to allow them to find affordable housing AND have a reasonable commute time? if its the former, then cool…evil narcissists get punched…but guessing its more the latter. And furthering that, trying to fit a logical/safe bike commute into the growing commute distances, without some dedicated infrastructure away from autos, is suboptimal situation we are currently in.
            arguing that wage growth that hasn’t kept pace with expenses over decades has changed peoples attitudes towards roadway use..and city planners have obliged. So what’s the path forward? Banning cars and ignoring the fact that people have to commute (and that pdx public transpo blows)? Charging like london for auto access downtown? redrawing arterials to allow for segregated bike passage? personally think lowering speed limits on neighborhood network is a good start…but I would argue we should then focus on improving arterial access

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          • rachel b April 18, 2017 at 2:58 pm

            “The way I’ve seen general road behavior degrading in recent years, your earlier statement that there is “nothing to fix” can only lead to bicyclists having to be ever-more hyper-vigilant and perfectly “responsible”, while drivers see no reason whatsoever to keep even half an eye out for pedestrians or bicyclists as they crash around in two-ton “Sport Activity Vehicles”, eyes on phones, knowing full well that “I didn’t see him, officer” will pretty well absolve the sober and cooperative driver of all liability in the event they run over a bicyclist or pedestrian.”

            Well stated, El Biciclero.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy April 17, 2017 at 9:13 am

        They designed them different then…didn’t they?

        Now they are designed primarily for travel by automobiles. If they were designed specifically for bikes, they’d be designed differently also…don’t you agree?

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    • Mark smith April 15, 2017 at 11:44 pm

      In response to “In the end, the streets are there because of the cars”.

      Yes, in the end. The end is when streets are only designed for cars.

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  • Kenny April 14, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    FINALLY. Acting based on Data. 20 MPH means something like 80% less chance of severe injury, or death in the event a Ped or Cyclist is Hit?

    I live on a Safe Routes to School street (SE Harold in Woodstock) that went from 30 MPH to a reduction of 25 MPH.. they mostly go 30 MPH or more, it should be 20 MPH, or Less.

    Keeping it under 25 seems like a far better speed on a street meant for children to ride to school and elderly people to confidently Cross.

    Vision Zero might have some hope if every street is reduced to 20 MPH or less, exception being highways at 30 MPH Max.

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    • Kyle Banerjee April 16, 2017 at 10:55 am

      If we’re acting based on data, that suggests some kind of analysis that balances costs and benefits.

      The roads are hardly the killing fields for peds and cyclists they are often presented here. Lifetime odds of being killed as a pedestrian are 1 in 647. Odds of being killed on a bike are 1 in 4,486. http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/injury-facts-chart.aspx

      Zero would be better, but it’s not like life would be so much different or safer if that were accomplished. There are other benefits of slowing things down — for example, it’s quieter and more pleasant if you’re by the side of the road.

      In the specific case at hand, the lowering seems to make sense. But it hardly follows that slowing down is always a good thing since moving people and things quickly and efficiently also has benefits. There’s more to life than mitigating individual risks of this magnitude.

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      • SD April 16, 2017 at 10:07 pm

        The mortality numbers that you mention may appear low if you are only concerned about yourself, but they are significant if you are concerned about the preventable deaths of others.
        That being said, I agree that the benefits of slowing things down increase the quality of life for people not in cars. I actually think it would increase the quality of life of car drivers as well.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy April 17, 2017 at 9:14 am

          If we were that concerned, we would make tobacco and alcohol illegal. Guns, too.

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          • Kyle Banerjee April 17, 2017 at 12:16 pm

            Don’t even get me started about junk food…

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          • SD April 17, 2017 at 3:23 pm

            Reducing car speed is not equivalent to prohibition.

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            • Kyle Banerjee April 17, 2017 at 4:04 pm

              I agree. It would probably have even less effect.

              And unlike booze which doesn’t have any actual benefit aside from being temporarily fun while you’re drunk, people being able to get where they’re going faster allows them to spend more time doing what they want/need and less time just moving between points. Plus transport of goods is cheaper and more efficient.

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      • paikiala April 17, 2017 at 10:23 am

        KB,

        how many deaths in your family from auto crashes is an acceptable number?
        You know, statistically?

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        • Kyle Banerjee April 17, 2017 at 11:54 am

          How many pedestrian deaths are acceptable to you? Why do you accept 20mph?

          You’re more likely to be killed if you’re hit at 20mph than 10mph, 5mph, or 1 mph.

          Probably should slow the bikes way down too. And require 3 wheels because I personally know people who’ve been hurt really badly when falling on slick surfaces. I’m sure people die occasionally from preventable cycling deaths where the rider simply fell. What could possibly be worth a life?

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      • Kyle Banerjee April 17, 2017 at 11:38 am

        Disproportionately focusing resources on specific threats and knee jеrk reactions to specific tragedies undermine rather than enhance safety overall.

        Before I answer on how many ped deaths are acceptable statistically, please share your ideas on what the acceptable levels of other types of mortality as there many, many things that are far more likely to kill you. I can then suggest what adjustments you need to your lifestyle and what you support unless you care nothing about others.

        One thing I find curious is that an enormous percentage of people who claim to have an interest in transportation seem to be against all forms of it except those only capable of slowly moving individuals and small amounts of materials short distances.

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        • Michael April 17, 2017 at 12:17 pm

          Life is about active risk management. I get people sitting in judgement of me because I ride a motorcycle. “SO DANGEROUS!” How could you even think about taking the risk? Is it really worth it? Well, short answer, yes. It is to me. The problem I start having is when other people find it acceptable to start actively managing my risks on my behalf. It isn’t necessary or appreciated.

          It is dangerous to walk out the front door. Statistically. If you choose not to do so, you’ll likely not get enough exercise or sun exposure and die prematurely from obesity or heart disease. Statistically. But I’m not going to make it illegal for someone to go out and rock climb or ride bikes because of the risk. Or make it against the law for people to stay in their houses, you know, for their own good.

          I appreciate living in a free society with reasonable laws and an expectation that people will conduct themselves responsibly in public places without parental and outright authoritarian micro-management by the State. There needs to be a hard limit to the “we know what is best for you” approach that seems particularly pervasive in these parts.

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  • Tim Davis April 15, 2017 at 3:07 am

    This is a very interesting discussion! It’s an amazing group, and I always learn a lot from the comments–as long as they’re constructive and do not attack anyone! I *cannot stand* negative responses to others’ comments, which is why I rarely comment. 🙂

    That said, I deeply understand and empathize with everyone’s perspective. I can’t think of anyone who actually enjoys being spending 3 hours driving on 99W at 5 mph. 🙂 The main problem from the very beginning has been (in addition to massive subsidies for highway and suburban development, etc) how our “stroads” have been engineered. As Chuck Marohn put it so well, ideally there would only be STREETS (very low-speed corridors that he defines as “platforms for creating wealth”) and ROADS (high-speed, semi-limited-access corridors designed to get you rapidly from one area to another). Unfortunately, nearly all U.S. cities are absolutely full of “stroads,” which function *terribly* as both streets and roads.

    So, we end up with a situation in which roads originally engineered for people to theoretically drive almost unlimited speeds on (SE Powell, NE Broadway, outer SE Stark, etc) have become super unpleasant (at least during certain hours) for ALL users of these horrible corridors.

    20 mph is an interesting speed limit. It’s right at a *very* important threshold after which the probability of dying when hit by a car goes up dramatically, so in that sense alone, 20 is critically important. However, in truly great urban areas, such as almost any urban neighborhood in Europe where you can still drive (and those areas are rapidly disappearing–fortunately, to me!), you *never* see anyone driving over 15 mph because literally *every* aspect of the street is designed to *force* drivers to pay incredibly close attention. There’s literally NO NEED for a “speed limit” in these neighborhoods because you really cannot drive above around 15 mph for fear of running into any number of things in the very narrow corridor. And these streets (very often Dutch-style woonerfs) are incredibly vibrant!! All it takes is ONE trip to Amsterdam to see what this is all about. 🙂

    On the other hand, like some have said, it’s nice to be able to get out of town quickly when you want to drive out to the wine country or the Gorge, the mountains, the coast, or any number of incredible destinations for which we are INCREDIBLY fortunate to be living in my favorite city in the U.S. 🙂 And, just like everyone else in this situation, I’ve sat in agonizingly slow traffic when I was just trying to get to Newberg, which is all of 24 miles from my place; it can easily take up to 2 hours to get there thanks to nonstop “stroads.”

    So, if our seven county area’s transportation policies can somehow get on the same page and get 100 times more progressive (i.e., merely follow the recommendations of current top transportation planners around the world), far fewer people will end up driving! Thus, trips on our “stroads” such as 99E, 99W and 224 would be SO much easier because they’d be used more typically by those who either a) have no choice but to drive (a situation I was in for many years as a teacher at many schools simultaneously) or b) take, say, a monthly drive to Yamhill County or Mt Hood or something.

    I also don’t like relying on enforcement or “shaming” people into driving more slowly, although Jonathan and others raised some very interesting points about synergy regarding enforcement, etc. The plain fact remains, though, that our streets have been engineered for decades to accommodate highway speeds. So, the three main results have been:

    1. Prioritizing massive road projects first has resulted in induced demand over and over again, to the point that the percentage of trips taken by car is at least twice what it needs to be in order to make our streets and roads used efficiently.

    2. People can–and often do–drive incredibly quickly down streets such as SW 4th near PSU when the street is empty (which it is 22 hours per day).

    3. People are stuck in almost unbearably slow traffic on what should be fairly free-flowing roads such as–surprise–SW 4th by PSU. People are literally *encouraged* to drive to work; this is the entire reason by many roads are either like highways or parking lots. But they’re obviously getting increasingly like parking lots–and maybe only *then* will people starting switching to Trimet in reasonable numbers.

    So, while I applaud “20 is plenty,” in reality, our policies and traffic engineers (and our unbelievably outdated “traffic studies” and the *especially* hideous four-step trip-based transportation demand model, along with auto-based LOS, etc…) have directly created a situation in which people far too often drive either 5 or 50 mph.

    I want to be FORCED to drive slowly (preferably around 15 mph) on actual *streets* – AND for our *roads* (by the true definition of “roads,” which really should be, within Portland proper, only I-5, I-205, I-84, Hwy 26 and Hwy 217 and maybe a couple others) to accommodate much faster movement of cars.

    Probably the *most* important and effective way to achieve this in the long run is to prioritize transportation in the correct order, according to the latest research by all the top next-generation transportation planners: 1. walking 2. cycling 3. public transit 4. movement of freight 5. private auto use. This is the *only* order that’s been shown to benefit ALL users of the transportation network, *including* those who solely drive! Again, some people *have* to drive, and I absolutely, completely understand that; I was in that boat (er, car LOL) for many years.

    OK, that’s probably enough out of me for now! 🙂 Thanks for the great discussion, everyone, and keep it positive and constructive despite the admittedly challenging and often super frustrating topic of car speed!! 🙂

    I always greatly enjoy learning from the authors and comments! BikePortland is literally the exact opposite of OregonLive. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Tim

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    • rachel b April 18, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      🙂

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  • John Liu
    John Liu April 15, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Michael
    20 MPH is agonizingly slow on main roads. Most such roads have 35 MPH speed limits and traffic moves ~40 in good conditions. Most of us live more than a mile or two from the places we needs to go, and the difference between it taking 10 minutes or 20 minutes to get there is often significant. Just because you personally aren’t comfortable driving at the current speed limits does not mean that others are similarly handicapped.
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    Look at the map more closely. The residential streets that are now posted 25 mph, and where 20 mph will be possible, are not “main roads”. They are small side streets, where 20 mph is not “agonizingly slow” at all.

    The roads where 20 mph is unreasonably low – and yes, there are many such roads – are currently posted 30-35 mph and will not go to 20 mph under this law.

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    • Michael April 15, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks, John. Again, my comment was directed at BB who indicated that 20 MPH was a perfectly acceptable speed limit on “main roads”. Good to know that this proposal has reasonable limits, though I didn’t doubt that in any case.

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      • BB April 17, 2017 at 10:15 am

        20 is plenty, any more than that and you’re allowing the automobile users to be an unnecessary and avoidable hazard to the general public. There is a reason that there are limits to how and where dangerous machinery can be used.

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        • John Liu
          John Liu April 17, 2017 at 12:18 pm

          20 mph is plenty on small side streets through residential neighborhoods.

          20 mph is an unreasonably slow limit on main streets. I’m talking about streets like SE Powell, NE Glisan, NE/SE 82nd, etc.

          Traffic laws need to balance multiple goals. Safety is a very big goal. But allowing people to get where they need to go, without unnecessary obstacles, is also an important goal.

          Just because we are cyclists commenting on a bike site, let’s not act like automobile users don’t matter.

          Far more people depend on cars, buses, and other motor vehicles to get around than depend on bicycles. Cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians need to co-exist.

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          • Alex Reedin April 17, 2017 at 12:46 pm

            I think *15* is plenty on side streets. I’d love to see 20 be plenty on all streets (I don’t think any parent will be able to really relax when walking near them until that is the case, for example), but acknowledge that there needs to be a wholesale transformation of our built environment before making that change doesn’t cause a huge burden with no good choices for poor folks living far from their destinations.

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          • soren April 17, 2017 at 12:55 pm

            “let’s not act like automobile users don’t matter.”

            i agree completely. a 20 mph default portland speed limit would prevent many automobile user serious injuries and save automobile user lives too.

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          • soren April 17, 2017 at 1:01 pm

            “Cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians need to co-exist.”

            for people walking/rolling to coexist on equal terms with automobile users we need to reverse generations of inequity when it comes to funding, law enforcement, traffic code, and roadway design. a 20 mph speed limit along with aggressive automated enforcement could be a modest step in this process.

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          • BB April 17, 2017 at 1:10 pm

            How long do you think it would take to get across town at 20 mph and how exactly is this an undue burden on anyone? The very fact that there is an expectation to go fast is what causes so many people to be killed by automobiles each year, it’s not ok, and a simple change (going slower) that won’t actually cause any negative effects will solve the problem. This isn’t a difficult equation.

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            • Alex Reedin April 17, 2017 at 1:23 pm

              Well, currently there are parts of Portland where it takes half an hour to drive downtown on surface streets with no traffic.

              https://goo.gl/maps/eu4XBBHGb6S2

              Those are generally along 35mph routes. A simple extrapolation to 20mph speed limits with some allowance for starts and stops (no impact from 20mph limit when slowing down/ speeding up from zero) would say that it would probably take 45 minutes to drive that route with no traffic under a future 20mph world.

              If you add traffic into the mix, it’s easy to see how people WITHIN CITY LIMITS would be an hour and 15 minutes, an hour and a half by car from downtown Portland at rush hour on a typical day in the future with 20mph speed limits (and more people driving) making traffic worse. 1.5 hours sitting in a car in traffic (with no better mobility options for the vast majority of the population living in these areas) sounds like an undue burden to me. Especially given that the eastern edge of Portland is the poorer part of town.

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              • BB April 17, 2017 at 1:39 pm

                It’s not an undue burden when it results in preventing others from being killed. Where is the disconnect here?

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              • Kyle Banerjee April 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm

                The good news is that if traffic is slow enough in town, it can be faster to live far away where it’s cheaper and drive in.

                We might want to slow the MAX down while we’re at it since people sometimes get hit by that….

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              • soren April 17, 2017 at 2:24 pm

                “with no better mobility options for the vast majority of the population living in these areas ”

                that is ab

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              • soren April 17, 2017 at 3:03 pm

                if we are really concerned about the travel times of car-dependent people living in the outer reaches of Portland we should embark on a “transportation equity” freeway expansion project every 5-10 years. just imagine how much quicker the commute from glenfair to downtown portland would be if burnside were a 10 lane limited access freeway!

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              • Kyle Banerjee April 17, 2017 at 3:19 pm

                There are many ways to move people/things about. As everyone here is well aware, you can’t just pave your way out of the problem even though people keep trying.

                There needs to be some balance to the solution. The idea that making everything move slowly is vaguely realistic shows a lack of recognition of the needs that must be met. Just because people are unaware of a need does not make it selfish. It is equally unrealistic to think that it’s even possible (let alone realistic) for vehicles to simply barrel through congested urban areas.

                A lot of different needs need to be met beyond those of a small group that are only interested in moving individual people short distances within a limited area. Some kind of personal transport needs to be part of the solution, though so does active and mass transit.

                It’s a pity all the defense boondoggle money couldn’t go into transportation projects instead. I’m personally intrigued by hyperloop — seems like it is at least potentially a viable way to move people and freight efficiently, safely, and quietly.

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              • Alex Reedin April 17, 2017 at 3:21 pm

                How about some dedicated bus lanes (including some north/south ones in East Portland and at least one within the Columbia Corridor industrial area), removal of half the red/blue MAX stops between Goose Hollow and Lloyd Center, and bike-to-transit dedicated parking at all MAX stops and some BRT stops in East Portland instead? Plus some walk-to-transit improvements like FREAKING SIDEWALKS on outer Halsey. All that could be done for a non-huge budget… except the sidewalks which God knows why they are so expensive. I’d be down with that.

                I don’t hold with the Vision Zero idea that avoiding a death is always more important than time. Life is what people do with the time they have on this world.

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              • soren April 18, 2017 at 8:53 am

                Alex, Keeping speed limits high has societal and economic costs that reduce funding that could be used for mass transit and active transportation.

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              • soren April 18, 2017 at 9:25 am

                “How about some dedicated bus lanes ”

                Eliminating traffic lanes would have a more severe impact on the travel times of car-dependent lower income people but I still strongly support this option because in the long-term it will have progressive consequences. I would also, once again, argue that lowering speed limits is unlikely to have a major impact on quality of life given that *average* traffic speeds on major arterials and collectors are already low during peak commute hours. I personally believe that increased automobile congestion will be one of the things that leads to widespread community support for better public- and active-transportation. (Current support for public- and active-transport in our community is very weak, IMO. )

                Moreover, the “either or” tone of your comments is a strawman. We can lower speed limits *AND* build more mass transit infrastructure. In fact, I strongly believe that disincentivizing the convenience of driving can promote (and may be necessary for) movement towards an efficient mass transit system with decent coverage.

                I would also add that disincentivizing driving (e.g. by making it slower during off peak hours) can spur the development of local infrastructure (e.g. grocery stores, markets stands, convenience stores in food deserts). Road design that incentivizes driving 5+ miles to the nearest freddies hypermarket is a hidden regressive tax.

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              • Alex Reedin April 18, 2017 at 9:25 am

                I’m open to the idea… I don’t have a good enough idea of the costs and benefits to really strongly choose one side or another. I just want to see some cost-benefit analysis.

                My back-of-the-envelope cost-benefit analysis is… well, inconclusive. Let’s say there are 50,000 workers in outer east Portland who commute by car, and each would have a total of 15 minutes added to his/her round-trip commute by 20mph speed limits. Annually, that use of time is the equivalent to 285 person-years. If we assume a loss-of-lived-years of 60 years for every traffic fatality, and we assume that time spent driving is of no value and no cost to anyone, the 20mph speed limit would need to save at least 4.76 lives per year to have a positive benefit/cost ratio from a statistical life standpoint. Which sounds extremely achievable if not low, assuming the speed limit were actually enforced.

                Yes, you need to add health, liveability, and reduction in non-fatal injuries to the benefit side. But you also need to add, well, I’d guess an additional 100,000 workers who live in places other than outer East Portland and commute by car on non-freeway streets in Portland to the cost side. And, the use of additional time on non-work trips is probably even more significant.

                Anyway, I’m just saying, I’m not completely convinced. And, a lot of folks in outer East Portland see slowing down car travel as an equity issue given the geographic pattern of who lives where (although safety is certainly an equity issue in the other direction). With unclear cost-benefit analysis and the potential for more costs than benefits to accrue to poorer folks, I want to see more research into the topic before I just on the train.

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              • soren April 18, 2017 at 9:33 am

                The solution to socioeconomic displacement is not to build and/or support infrastructure that allows for more socioeconomic displacement. We need to build affordable housing close to jobs.

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              • soren April 18, 2017 at 9:41 am

                “Let’s say there are 50,000 workers in outer east Portland who commute by car, and each would have a total of 15 minutes added to his/her round-trip commute by 20mph speed limits. Annually, that use of time is the equivalent to 285 person-years.”

                Time spent in a vehicle listening to the radio or audible books is not the same as painful death/injury or permanent loss of future utility. Moreover, a vision zero approach to road design will likely spur people to choose other transportation modes. Walking, biking, or spending time in a bus/train is generally more pleasant (e.g. higher utility) than sitting in a car stuck in traffic.

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              • soren April 18, 2017 at 12:12 pm

                An emphasis on commuting is also problematic because the vast majority of car trips are not commutes (on a national basis):

                45 percent of daily trips are taken for shopping and errands
                27 percent of daily trips are social and recreational, such as visiting a friend
                15 percent of daily trips are taken for commuting

                https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/subject_areas/national_household_travel_survey/daily_travel.html

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              • Alex Reedin April 18, 2017 at 1:17 pm

                I think I’m coming around… but I would want to see some cost-benefit and equity analysis of this change before it went live in the world. It’s a big change, and impacts folks living further out (both positively and negatively!) quite a bit more than folks living close-in.

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              • SE Rider April 18, 2017 at 1:36 pm

                “It’s a big change, and impacts folks living further out (both positively and negatively!) quite a bit more than folks living close-in.”

                Bingo. Something that so often seems to be forgotten by many commenters here. Seems that “equity” is a nice idea in Portland but when push comes to shove it more often than not remains an idea.

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            • BB April 17, 2017 at 4:02 pm

              “I don’t hold with the Vision Zero idea that avoiding a death is always more important than time. ”

              And I believe anyone who actually takes steps to further that opinion should be incarcerated for the good of everyone else.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy April 17, 2017 at 9:15 am

      John, I just hope I don’t get passed by a girl on a bike at 20mph 🙂

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  • Michael April 17, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    El Biciclero
    That is a good start to a list of applicable skills, so the remaining question comes down to motivation. What is a driver’s motivation to drive “responsibly”? What would a driver’s motivation be to learn the skills you are talking about? I know there are professional driving schools that would teach such skills, yet very few drivers learn them—why not? Likewise, there are various “CycleSavvy” and LAB courses for bicyclists, but again, very few feel motivated or see a need to take such classes—why not? You allude to it in your final sentence: “…only motorcyclists are currently required…by law“. It seems a big motivator for operating responsibly on the roads comes down to “legislation and enforcement”—even where education is concerned. In case I haven’t tipped my hand already in asking the questions I have about motivation, my no-longer-hidden agenda is to point out that there is very little motivation for drivers of essentially armored vehicles to operate “responsibly”—or even learn the skills necessary to do so—except for fear of legal repercussions, which are very, very often lacking, even for well-established gross breaches of responsible operation. Meanwhile, bicyclists had better learn to operate “responsibly”, or they could very well die, which is a different—and in my view, lopsided and unfair—motivation. But even under threat of death, most bicyclists are not going to feel motivated enough to take skills classes—unless it’s required by law.

    That is a fair enough point. Motorcyclists do tend to adopt these habits for self-preservation. I can’t imagine why bicyclists should think they are in a substantially different situation. I tended to adopt many of those habits as a cyclist long before obtaining my motorcycle endorsement, but admittedly being exposed to such ideas in a mandatory course was certainly a helpful reminder.

    I suppose my argument is that it might be better to make education mandatory and work to improve the behavior of all road users rather than simply reacting to their bad behavior by reducing speed limits and writing tickets, especially if such enforcement is predominantly focused on one group of said users (in this case, car traffic).

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    • Kyle Banerjee April 17, 2017 at 4:41 pm

      Training certainly doesn’t hurt, but it’s easy to exaggerate its effectiveness. If someone is motivated to learn, they learn. If they aren’t motivated, they don’t. Whether or not they learn, it won’t make a difference if people choose to ignore their training or common sense. And yes, there is such a thing as common sense. Kids seem pretty good with it — better than the adults IMO.

      Training can be handy when you really don’t know where to start or need to learn something very specific. But there are too many things in life to have a course every time there’s something important to know.

      I sure as heсk don’t want to take a bicycle safety course. I’d probably learn something, but I doubt that would be worth the time. It would probably feel like https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZgtEdFAg3s Except for people who intend to ride on the roads, I’m not sure it would be worth their time either.

      I don’t agree that there is no incentive for drivers to learn skills. Legal hassles aside, they don’t want to mess their vehicles up, see their insurance rates go up, etc. I’m very certain most drivers are more afraid of hitting me than I am of being hit by them.

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      • El Biciclero April 17, 2017 at 6:09 pm

        “I don’t agree that there is no incentive for drivers to learn skills. Legal hassles aside, they don’t want to mess their vehicles up, see their insurance rates go up, etc. I’m very certain most drivers are more afraid of hitting me than I am of being hit by them.”

        I thought about this more after I wrote it, and decided that what I really meant was that drivers have very little incentive to learn and apply laws or skills that would specifically make them more pro-active in anticipating, looking for, recognizing, and avoiding actual and potential conflict with bicyclists and pedestrians. Drivers certainly are on the lookout for other cars, and almost certainly don’t want to hit anything—including people walking or on bikes. So yes, if a driver suddenly notices a pedestrian or bicyclist in front of them, they are indeed motivated to avoid hitting them. But, what motivation is there for drivers to do more than just react in panic to something they could have seen unfolding in plenty of time to avoid more gracefully—if only they had learned or applied skills (or even just obeyed the law!) that would have enabled them to do so? I find that too many drivers assume traffic signals and other cars will be the only things they need to actively watch for. On several occasions, I’ve avoided or prepared to avoid being T-boned from the right by a driver who saw a gap in car traffic and jetted out right in front of me (or did the lurch-‘n’-screech because they saw me at the last second) because they weren’t looking in the marked bike lane for bike traffic. Many times I’ve avoided or been prepared to avoid (one time unsuccessfully) being run over in a crosswalk (with a walk signal) by drivers who will cruise right on into and through it because all they are looking for are other cars that would prevent them from rolling right on into a right turn on a red. How many citations are handed out at “crosswalk enforcement actions” because drivers just don’t care to apply skills that would allow them to see what is happening and do the right thing? I have other examples, but no more time right now.

        So I guess my “lack of motivation” statement should be revised to “…very little motivation to learn or apply skills or drive more responsibly with respect to VRU“.

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        • Kyle Banerjee April 18, 2017 at 6:02 am

          Even though all the things you mention are common experiences for cyclists, I still think the overall situation is decent.

          My personal experience is that most drivers do relatively well and do a good job of taking proactive steps to look for cyclists. Awareness of the right hook is good and the number of people that look behind before turning and avoid passing before making a turn is high. At intersections, I see them hesitating to figure out what I’m doing before proceeding. I see them making small adjustments continuously.

          Of course, there are many exceptions. I think we can and should do things to help drivers improve skills/practices. But at some point, you will have done everything you can and additional effort doesn’t get more. Some drivers will never be good and people mess up once in awhile. You meet enough cars every day that if even 1% are bad, you’ll find trouble on a regular basis.

          That doesn’t address the motivation issue. Insurance companies do offer breaks for taking classes, but it seems the government could offer incentives as well. They also offer discounts for enabling nanny devices that monitor driving habits. Things as simple as vehicle displays that continuously display what mileage you’re getting encourage lighter feet on the pedals. I’m sure there are other potential ways to motivate. I personally am biased towards using carrots that reward good driving. Much better to have people want to do the right thing than to force them since they quit as soon as the force is missing.

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          • El Biciclero April 18, 2017 at 10:19 am

            “I personally am biased towards using carrots that reward good driving. Much better to have people want to do the right thing than to force them since they quit as soon as the force is missing.”

            This would be awesome, but I think the carrots are all going the wrong direction right now. Drivers can feel tremendous satisfaction every time they think they’ve “beat the system”, shaved a few seconds by making a risky move, or just gotten ahead of another driver in stop-and-go-traffic. Driving is already “gamified”, with rewards for “beating and cheating”. You “win” the game by getting where you’re going as fast as possible, especially if you’ve passed a bunch of other suckers along the way, and there is generally no penalty for rolling stops, speeding through yellow lights, not yielding to peds, and essentially distracting yourself by constantly scanning not for hazards, but for opportunities to cut into or around other car traffic. We could debate about who’s the rule and who’s the exception, since not all drivers think this way (my personal driving game is to see how little or lightly I can use my brakes, which encourages me to keep safer distances and more even speeds—and yes, I still use them to stop at STOP signs), but I have a hard time thinking of any carrots—other than the ones you’ve mentioned—that would really be enticing, except for driving nerds like hypermilers, or the truly safety-obsessed.

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            • Dan A April 18, 2017 at 11:12 am

              Black box insurance discounts?

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              • El Biciclero April 18, 2017 at 3:25 pm

                That’s probably one of the best, although my wife has one of those and it’s saved us, I think, $3.00 (three dollars) over a year. Not huge—and I consider her a safe driver.

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              • Dan A April 18, 2017 at 3:37 pm

                It sounds like for them to be worthwhile, they would need to gather more information and provide significantly higher discounts. The average cost of insurance in Oregon is $1333. There is a lot of room there to provide additional discounts, or perhaps offer increased benefits, travel vouchers, free roadside assistance, etc. Maybe if the gas tax was $2 a gallon, you could get a discount on that tax based on how safe you drive. I don’t know, just spitballing.

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              • El Biciclero April 18, 2017 at 3:54 pm

                Now that I think about it, one of the best carrots would be something like metromile, where you benefit from just not driving your car at all. I’ve been too chicken to switch to something like that yet. The safest driver is the one who’s not driving…

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              • soren April 18, 2017 at 9:46 pm

                metromile is actually more expensive for me than my previous insurance (which gave me a discount for low mileage) because the base rate is so high. i still use metromile because i support the idea of mileage-based insurance but in practice it still favors people who drive many thousands of miles a year.

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            • rachel b April 18, 2017 at 4:05 pm

              “…I think the carrots are all going the wrong direction right now. Drivers can feel tremendous satisfaction every time they think they’ve “beat the system”, shaved a few seconds by making a risky move, or just gotten ahead of another driver in stop-and-go-traffic.”

              Behold, the driver response to WAZE. When I read any article on how WAZE is destroying formerly quiet neighborhood streets, nearly all the comments are from drivers gloating over how clever they are for following the app and getting home (or wherever) minutes faster. They also like to castigate “NIMBYs” for liking quiet and safety.

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      • Kyle Banerjee April 17, 2017 at 6:21 pm

        I totally jinxed myself with that comment.

        For only the third time in my life, I collided with a vehicle — but this time it was my fault. I was moving fast in the traffic lane on Interstate trying to beat a light before it changed, someone did a bоnehеad move, the guy in front of me successfully made an evasive maneuver, but I was too close to escape the situation.

        I knew it was my fault and I apologized to everyone as I got up as quickly as I could so movement could continue. Everyone seemed concerned about me even after I told them I was fine. I was still getting questions of concern from witnesses after the driver and I pulled into a nearby parking lot, inspected his car for damage, and started to return to the road.

        My point is there is an incentive for drivers to do well and most care. I had worried this town might make me too sloppy and it appears those concerns had basis. I will fix that.

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        • El Biciclero April 18, 2017 at 9:34 am

          Dude. That bites. Sounds like you’re OK; hope the same is true for your equipment. Don’t you ride “pedal forward”? If so, I have a hard time imagining what happens in a collision with that style of bike.

          Without going into full reconstruction, I would be interested to know how you knew you had to book it to get through the light (e.g., ped signal countdown, amber signal, other), what the “bonehead” move was by the other (I assume) driver, what the evasive maneuver was by the driver in front of you, why you were unable to avoid the situation (too close to stop or turn?), and why you think it was “your fault” that you ran into another vehicle.

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          • Kyle Banerjee April 18, 2017 at 10:44 am

            I ride different kinds of bikes. I would have destroyed the ‘bent had I been on it. I’m fine (minor bruise and a sprain) and the bike was too. I vaulted myself just before hitting to avoid direct impact and reduce stress on the bike.

            Yesterday I was on what is basically a modified race bike. As far as what happened, I know the timing of the lights with relation to countdown (some trigger when it reaches zero, others leave a certain amount of time). Based on his behavior, I was sure the car in front of me was going to try to run it even though I predicted it would turn red just as we both hit the intersection. Bad and aggressive choice on both our parts, but I sometimes do that — I like to be really close to cars in such situations because I know those jumping the light can’t see me so I ride really close to cars which they can see and which might protect me from a hit.

            The bonehead move was someone suddenly pulled out of a parking space. Frankly, both the car I was following and me should have been going slower, recognized that the road was too busy to give the driver a good break so they were likely to jump out. On the other hand, the person jumping out could have also recognized the speed we were going (I doubt she saw me) and that the good thing to do would be wait for the light to change and back everyone up so she could pull out slowly.

            Anyhoo, driver suddenly pulls out from parking space, the guy in front of me suddenly pulls left and brakes hard — his only real option at this point. I didn’t have enough room to evade right or left and I couldn’t match his braking power. So I went for an offset hit to the rear left which threw me over the quarter panel, a nearly an ideal way to dissipate the energy from the collision

            I made multiple mistakes. The biggest is that I was too close to respond to a real situation. Fact of the matter is had there been large debris or a pothole, I wouldn’t have been able to see it, so my positioning was unwise from multiple perspectives. This by itself puts me at fault. I shouldn’t have raced the light. I knew that even had my plan worked, I’d be sneaking through just as it switched.

            Also, I should have had a better eye on the road ahead and anticipated the car shooting out. That wouldn’t make me technically at fault, but it is something I could have and should have controlled for.

            I don’t like making mistakes like that. Aside from the obvious reasons, I reduced respect for cyclists and the idea that we belong on the roads. And that’s not good for anyone.

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  • Michael April 17, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    BB
    “I don’t hold with the Vision Zero idea that avoiding a death is always more important than time. ”
    And I believe anyone who actually takes steps to further that opinion should be incarcerated for the good of everyone else.
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    BB, you are the worst kind of Orwellian authoritarian. You’re talking about convictions for thought-crime. This is the United States of America. Where we have free speech, and can hold opinions contrary to one another and our government without fear of incarceration. Our citizens fought wars to protect those freedoms. Who are you to declare which opinions should be legal for people to have and promote? Who are you to determine what exactly constitutes the “good of everyone”?

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  • Mike April 18, 2017 at 6:24 am

    I am 100% completely, totally effing pissed that the speed limit bill only applies to Portland. Once again the rest of the state gets nothing while Portland gets to keep moving towards a 21st century city. This is just another example that there’s Portland and there’s Oregon but they’re only legally connected. These legislators who didn’t support allowing all cities throughout the city to lower speed limits under this bill are a bunch of spineless ***inappropriate insult deleted***. This goes for the Dems especially.

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    • Dan A April 18, 2017 at 9:19 am

      I’m taking solace in the fact that at least something is moving forward, and hopefully we can use this as a proving ground for reducing speeds other places as well.

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      • Mike April 19, 2017 at 9:47 pm

        The problem is that Portland is the proving ground for Portland or some select cities in the rest of the country. Maybe a city somewhere else in Oregon will try one of these things but it ends up being a half-hearted, unfunded, 20 years later effort. I don’t have that patience anymore.

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    • Mike April 19, 2017 at 9:45 pm

      You can delete my “inappropriate” word but I have a right to be pissed. Once again Portland gets things that the rest of the State doesn’t and I don’t hear a mumbling word from all of the bike “advocates” based out of Portland. We only get them to care about the rest of the state when they’re lobbying the Legislature or vacationing.

      Does Portland want to be part of Oregon or do it want to be an independent city-state? When you get legislators and local pols throughout the state to see the benefits of reduced speeds,etc, then Portland will benefit too. But if Portland alone gets these things then only Portland benefits.

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  • Michael April 18, 2017 at 9:45 am

    soren
    I would also add that disincentivizing driving (e.g. by making it slower during off peak hours) can spur the development of local infrastructure (e.g. grocery stores, markets stands, convenience stores in food deserts). Road design that incentivizes driving 5+ miles to the nearest freddies hypermarket is a hidden regressive tax.
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    The tenor of this post suggests that you perceive driving as only having a kind of base utility that must be occasionally endured strictly in the service of consumerism, but I want to add that some people actually quite ENJOY driving. Sometimes we “go for a drive” with no particular destination in mind, and seek an enjoyable experience, particularly during off-peak times when traffic is minimal. Those are precisely the times when we don’t want our preferred leisure activity “disincentivized” nor do we want to needlessly crawl around in 1st gear when the streets are relatively empty and hazards minimal.

    This is part of the trouble with putting oneself in the position of deciding what is “best for everyone”. Things get reduced down to statistics and mathematical descriptions of what one thinks people need, with little care for what people might want. I value my ability to move freely, and it seems like that comes with more and more regulation and restriction all the time. And then, to make matters worse, along comes someone and says “well, it would be better for you to take the train, anyhow.” Sometimes? Sure. As a general statement of fact? No. And I’d prefer to retain my ability to decide whether it is better to drive or take the train on a case-by-case basis, for myself, as opposed to having it “incentivized” on me by someone else.

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    • soren April 18, 2017 at 10:00 am

      “The tenor of this post suggests that you perceive driving as only having a kind of base utility that must be occasionally endured strictly in the service of consumerism, but I want to add that some people actually quite ENJOY driving. Sometimes we “go for a drive” with no particular destination in mind, and seek an enjoyable experience, ”

      In this case slower traffic speeds would extend the enjoyable experience…so a win win.

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      • Kyle Banerjee April 18, 2017 at 10:46 am

        This is correct.

        When you get further out, people go out for drives on weekends. They are much slower and mellower than commuter traffic. Very easy to deal with — really there’s no comparison.

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        • soren April 18, 2017 at 11:54 am

          again nice to agree on a point, kyle.

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  • Michael April 18, 2017 at 10:11 am

    soren
    “The tenor of this post suggests that you perceive driving as only having a kind of base utility that must be occasionally endured strictly in the service of consumerism, but I want to add that some people actually quite ENJOY driving. Sometimes we “go for a drive” with no particular destination in mind, and seek an enjoyable experience, ”
    In this case slower traffic speeds would extend the enjoyable experience…so a win win.
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    Right. Next time you go for a ride, put your bicycle in the lowest possible gear and leave it there. You know, the one that will get you all of about 5mph with a 90rpm cadence. While you’re at it, make sure the route includes a few fun hills, but ride the brakes all the way down instead of letting the bike run. Get back to me on how enjoyable that is for you. You obviously understand my point, and are just being deliberately obtuse.

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    • Dan A April 18, 2017 at 11:16 am

      Repeatedly equating cars with bikes will get you nowhere.

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    • Kyle Banerjee April 18, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      I think the point being made here is that there is a natural speed for different type of transport to go under a given set of circumstances.

      Going significantly slower than that pace is stressful and frustrating even on foot. The trick is getting things dialed in so the process seems natural — a difficult task in crowded urban environments.

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  • rick April 19, 2017 at 10:06 am

    When does the bill go to the Senate?

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