Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Tilikum passing: Which side is right for faster bikes?

Posted by on October 4th, 2017 at 5:14 pm

Sunday Parkways September 2015-5.jpg

Ride right, pass left? Or the other way around?
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

I got a call this week from Portland resident Alec Boehm, who’s looking for advice on a question many Portlanders have grappled with over the years.

When people biking and walking have dedicated spaces on a relatively narrow multi-use path, should faster bikes pass slower bikes on the right, or on the left? And (by the same token) should people who expect to be passed keep to the left of the biking lane, or to the right?

You can see the same situation constantly on the Hawthorne Bridge, and sometimes the Broadway, too. Until this week, you could sometimes see it for northbound bike traffic on Naito Parkway’s temporary protected biking and walking lanes, too.

Boehm said he and his wife regularly run into this issue while crossing Tilikum and being passed by people on faster-moving bikes.

“Basically it seems like the bike lane is too narrow,” he said Monday. The result: either the faster-moving bike or the slower-moving bike needs to veer into the pedestrian space.

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Boehm feels it would make more sense if that responsibility fell to the person who wants to pass.

“If I stay to the left, because I’m not the fastest-moving bike, and the fastest-moving bike wanted to pass, they could determine whether there was enough room.”
— Alec Boehm

“My thought was if I stay to the left, because I’m not the fastest-moving bike, and the fastest-moving bike wanted to pass, they could determine whether there was enough room,” Boehm said. “it’s kind of up to them to negotiate the space between the pedestrians and where I am.”

In other words: “ride left, pass right.”

Wait, pass on the right? Can that possibly be best?

Boehm isn’t alone in this desire. I first heard that system described a few years ago by former Street Trust Advocacy Manager Carl Larson. Larson was lamenting that the general norm on the Hawthorne Bridge is for slower-moving bikes to constantly dip right, into the walking area, in case faster-moving bikes want to pass on the left.

However, Williams Avenue suggests that people aren’t hardwired to pass on the left. Just north of Broadway, the words “Ride Left, Pass Right” clearly state the rules for that left-side bike lane, and generally (after some early confusion) that’s what people do.

So: should TriMet consider a similar message on the approaches to the Tilikum? Or maybe the opposite, for the sake of clarity if nothing else? Or is it better for everyone to make the choice that seems right to them? Boehm said he’d be eager to get BikePortland readers’ take.

— Michael Andersen: (503) 333-7824, @andersem on Twitter and michael@portlandafoot.org

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76 Comments
  • Dawn October 4, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    I am a daily Tilikum bike commuter and this has been an issue since day one. While I generally hate the ride left/pass right idea, in this case, it is definitely the best option. I would appreciate signage to help people navigate this.

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    • Rob October 5, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      I agree. We just need some signage to clarify the situation and all will be well.

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  • Jim Lee October 4, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Do not blame me!

    During the design process for the Tillikum I repeatedly asserted that the only intelligent thing to do was to put a two-way bike path on one side of the structure and a pedestrian path on the other.

    Besides being the summum bonum of a COMPLETELY separated bike path, it would have made connections at both ends on the bridge to bike paths much simpler, easier, cheaper, elegant.

    Some “inside-the-box” half-wit complained that such would not be ADA-compliant, which made no sense at all.

    Vera Katz, who chaired the process, might have been in favor of my idea, but did not intervene.

    In this city few cyclists or planners really comprehend the dynamics of cycling and the infrastructure optimal for it.

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    • Eric Leifsdad October 4, 2017 at 10:54 pm

      You would end up with the pedestrian on the bike side who didn’t realize until they were far enough along that they decided to just continue.

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      • Michael Andersen (Contributor)
        Michael Andersen (Contributor) October 5, 2017 at 11:38 am

        Yeah, I interviewed some folks who were on this committee and that was the reason they didn’t do this. Seems right to me too — I know I never walk 30 feet out of my way unless I have to.

        Also the speed differential between people biking in opposite directions is big.

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      • Matthew in Portsmouth October 5, 2017 at 12:09 pm

        You are correct. This is the arrangement with the Manhattan Bridge that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York City. There is a two-way bicycle path on the upriver side and a pedestrian path on the down river side. I don’t know that I ever saw a cyclist on the pedestrian path, but saw many pedestrians on the bicycle path. One of my colleagues was running on the bicycle path one day and was knocked unconscious by a bicyclist hitting him from behind (cyclist did not stop) and he spent several days in hospital as a result.

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    • Austin October 5, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      Oh man, that would have been a total bummer! I love having both sides open to walking, running, and rolling.

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  • Cooper October 4, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Anyone who thinks that other people need to move out of their way when they are following the marked lanes is a ******- deleted insult****. Be patient, be courteous, be safe, and stop expecting other people to follow made-up rules you demand for your own benefit. Ride left and pass right is OK especially on these bridges.

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  • rick October 4, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    It is too bad that the bridge doesn’t have an arch-style design so that people have a better view. The south side is best for the view.

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  • B. Carfree October 4, 2017 at 8:21 pm

    “Basically it seems like the bike lane is too narrow,” he [Boehm] said Monday.

    This is the real problem with what PDX has been doing for years. The bike facilities are designed for low usage, aka failure, and then everyone is surprised that PDX has completely plateaued in terms of bike modal share.

    It’s time to face the future, otherwise we will be ripping out everything that got built between 2000 and whenever we acknowledge we are building it wrong. Build for a 40% modal share, because we’re either going to get there or go extinct. Build for bikes that routinely travel 25 mph, maybe even 30 mph because e-bikes are a real thing and are a growing segment (unlike Portland’s current bike modal share).

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    • Eric Leifsdad October 4, 2017 at 10:59 pm

      Exactly. Bad design on both bridges or we wouldn’t be having these discussions. The left is a sharp drop into speeding traffic or a junior architect stabbing you in the face.

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    • Gary B October 5, 2017 at 6:10 am

      What percentage of the time is the Tilikum challenged for capacity? I’m assuming not much, but correct me if I’m wrong. It’s one thing to build ample/excess bike capacity into an existing ROW when the cost is taking away parking. Adding width to the bridge is obviously no trivial (or cheap) effort. We decry excess road capacity that serves a 2 hour peak car-commute, seems rather hypocritical to ask for the same on a $100+ bridge. Maybe we just slow down during busy periods?

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      • Kyle Banerjee October 5, 2017 at 6:33 am

        When is it ever challenged for capacity other than during special events? Certainly not during a normal rush hour.

        Just because you can’t go through at full bore unimpeded does not mean there’s a capacity issue. It’s not as if you can go fast on any path leading to/from Tilikum from either direction.

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      • jeff October 5, 2017 at 1:46 pm

        never. I ride it twice, every single day. Its never that busy and quite easy to just slow down when needed and wait for a safe passing area. I ride faster than most over the bridge and have never had a problem or even witnessed a problem.

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      • jeff October 5, 2017 at 1:47 pm

        except for the tourists on those damn 4 seat golf carts or whatever the hell they are.

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    • Kyle Banerjee October 5, 2017 at 9:59 am

      B. Carfree
      Build for bikes that routinely travel 25 mph, maybe even 30 mph because e-bikes are a real thing and are a growing segment (unlike Portland’s current bike modal share).

      Happily, an extensive network of specially designed paths called “roads” that serve this exact need has already been built out.

      25mph+ is a totally inappropriate speed for any multiuse path I’ve ever seen though there may be individual sections where this can be done safely when sufficiently empty and visibility is good (e.g. Marine Drive Trail).

      If “20 is plenty” for cars and motorcycles, 25+ is certainly enough to put bikes (especially those which are really light motorcycles assisted with a nominal amount of pedal power) in the main flow on the majority of urban roads.

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      • B. Carfree October 5, 2017 at 12:36 pm

        In case you haven’t noticed, Oregon is a mandatory use state. That means that when PBoT builds narrow bike lanes and dangerous overly-narrow side paths you are obligated to ride on them whether you like them or not. If we ever get our modal share up (doesn’t look promising without external factors overwhelming local decision-making), then you can take that adjacent lane as long as you are passing a slower-moving cyclist. It’s not a problem now because there are so few cyclists.

        If we continue to build facilities where anyone who tries out riding a bike finds it unnecessarily slower than other modes and finds it unnecessarily challenging as they learn to negotiate overly narrow spaces, then we don’t have to worry about bike congestion because it’ll never happen. Eight years of 6% will extend into the future with just minor blips that we all get excited about and extrapolate with hope.

        I’ll just add that the Netherlands are finally realizing that the overly narrow spaces they have laid out for people on bikes are no longer working in many places. They are remarking some roads with their version of sharrows, taking out signals at intersections and generally trying to figure out how to keep people from giving up bikes because of issues with congestion.

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        • Kyle Banerjee October 5, 2017 at 3:35 pm

          There are exceptions to this law, specifically for passing anything in the lane, avoiding hazardous conditions (bad surfaces, debris, whatever), going through intersections where a vehicle might turn right, and executing turns yourself — i.e. pretty much every reason you’d want to do it.

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          • El Biciclero October 6, 2017 at 12:16 pm

            “…going through intersections where a vehicle might turn right…”

            That’s California’s version. In Oregon, you are only excepted from 814.420 when moving out of a bike lane that is adjacent to a lane from which vehicles must turn right. There is no symmetrical exception for left-side bike lanes.

            “…adjacent to a lane from which vehicles may turn across the bicycle lane or path”—or something like it—would be more acceptable wording for the Oregon law.

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            • Kyle Banerjee October 6, 2017 at 4:14 pm

              As a practical matter, what constitutes a hazardous condition encompasses a wide array of circumstances, and bikes leaving the bike lane is not an enforcement priority.

              I probably leave the lane more often than 98% of other cyclists — largely because I leave it anytime it’s safer to be out of it than in it. I have never been hassled for this.

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              • El Biciclero October 7, 2017 at 1:19 pm

                Right, I’m probably part of the 2%, just like you, but then there are those cases such as adjudicated by the famous Hon. Judge Zusman several years ago who went so far as to deem a bike lane not to exist in an intersection, (based on statutory wording of the definition of “bicycle lane”, which states that it must be “designated by official signs or markings”, claiming that since the “markings” do not continue through the intersection, neither does the bike lane) thereby exonerating a driver who clearly, as a practical matter, failed to yield to a rider on a bicycle lane.

                Yes, it is rarely enforced, but woe be unto the poor rider operating “practically” legally, but not technically legally when something happens. If it really doesn’t matter, strike it from the law, or update the law to encompass all situations. All it would take would be for one rider to leave a left-side bike lane to avoid a potential left hook, and get hit by someone in a car. All legal protection is lost; I could almost write the police report a priori: “bicyclist not in bike lane, obstructing traffic.”

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            • Pete October 7, 2017 at 12:02 pm

              Yes, there are a few things I like about California, and CVC 21202 exception 4 is one of them. Would love to see Oregon amend this wording…

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        • Kyle Banerjee October 6, 2017 at 12:22 am

          The idea that bikes need special facilities will never get anywhere. If we claim to need separation and special facilities from over 95% of other road users, we’re not road users.

          I agree that we shouldn’t slavishly follow examples of European countries with 80mph speed limits and bike facilities designed for short hops.

          The problem is definitely not that we can’t pass slow cyclists — I say this as one of the faster cyclists out there. If it’s not too slow for motorists, we can’t claim it’s too slow for us.

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      • Chris I October 5, 2017 at 2:48 pm

        Exactly. Just take the bus lane.

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    • MaxD October 5, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      This is the truth! Look at what is planned for the Flanders Bike Bridge and the early concepts for the Sullivan’s Crossing bridge- minimal space that will be crowded if not obsolete if Portland is even marginally successful at meeting their goals.

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  • cam October 4, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    It hardly matters, because Portland bikers and joggers seldom announce themselves, either by bellmor an “on your left/right” so my startle reflex jumps me into their path anyway. Presently a few days in Minneapolis: people much more considerate than in Portland.

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    • Matt Meskill October 5, 2017 at 6:25 am

      My personal experience with announcing myself is that often the people I’m announcing to do exactly the wrong thing. I’ve had a lot of near misses with announcing. Often I think if everyone is aware of their surroundings (I know – a stretch for Portland) and sort of stays in their lane, then my passing shouldn’t be a big startling surprise. Frankly, when I walk the Hawthorne I expect people passing on bikes. How can you not?

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      • Jason Skelton October 5, 2017 at 10:37 am

        My experience has been similar but is getting better. But now I have a bell and it has made all the difference.

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      • Oregonlahar October 5, 2017 at 10:56 am

        This is why I like having a rear view mirror, I would rather know what is coming up behind me be it a car or another bike rider. I love having a rear view mirror, makes me feel safer when I take the lane.

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        • Kyle Banerjee October 5, 2017 at 4:36 pm

          I’d rather ride helmetless than mirrorless.

          Best way to avoid injury is to not crash in first place. That’s much easier to accomplish if you know what’s going on all around you.

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    • Todd Waddell October 5, 2017 at 8:00 am

      People’s startle reflex is exactly why I only announce myself when it’s absolutely necessary.

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      • Ted Timmons (Contributor) October 5, 2017 at 10:33 am

        Same. It’s a catch-22, I suppose, but the feedback I get for announcing is “stepping into path of travel”, and the feedback I get for announcing is occasionally surprising someone who wasn’t expecting others to be on the planet.

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        • Kyle Banerjee October 5, 2017 at 10:44 am

          The reality is that you have to be ready for any reasonable scenario when you pass. Some people can’t hear a bell/warning for whatever reason and others suddenly step/steer out for a variety of reasons. It’s no big deal if you’re ready for it.

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          • Ted Timmons (Contributor) October 5, 2017 at 1:28 pm

            Of course one must be ready for any scenario. That’s the modern world.

            Interestingly, the same argument (“be ready for any reasonable scenario”) often isn’t applied to car drivers when looking for cyclists without helmets/lights or pedestrians without head-to-toe retroreflective clothing.

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            • Kyle Banerjee October 5, 2017 at 3:52 pm

              Too many drivers aren’t adequately prepared, but I suspect their percentages aren’t as bad as we often imagine. You won’t notice drivers who do things right because they they anticipate situations and adjust to prevent conflicts from occurring in first place, and they respond better to acute situations in general.

              Whether you’re on foot, on a bike, or in a car, it’s good practice to assume everyone you encounter is an idiоt.

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    • colton October 5, 2017 at 8:16 am

      My experience is that for the 2/3 of the people I pass to hear me over their earbuds, I have to announce myself at such a volume that I scare the bejeebers out of the other 1/3.

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    • BradWagon October 5, 2017 at 10:25 am

      If I have room to get by someone and they seem to be maintaining a predictable path I don’t say anything. Majority of folks with earbuds won’t hear me and everyone else will stop walking, turn around or step directly in front of me. I only hope they get tired enough of it that they also start asking for better biking facilities. If someone is going to react appropriately to a bell or verbal warning they typically will do so by just hearing my freewheel approaching.

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      • CaptainKarma October 5, 2017 at 12:05 pm

        I sometimes shift one up or down and back again when passing just to make noise to alert the passee.

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  • SD October 4, 2017 at 8:26 pm

    I am usually the faster rider and when I think about I have a bit of an algorithm. Since I am generally passing people going uphill, and we are not going that fast, I adopt whatever the side slower riders ride. This way if someone wants to pass me they don’t have to weave.

    When I pass people I watch them closely to see if they are following the cardinal rule of cycling “keep your line.” If I have doubts, I will verbalize that I am passing. If they keep their line, then I pass. If they are wobbly or children or sight seers etc., I will use the pedestrian space to pass and give them a lot of space as long as there are no pedestrians.

    On the way down, I don’t pass unless someone is riding very slowly. When traveling east, I shift to the right on the down hill and pick up speed so that no one is “stuck” behind me and I can turn right to loop onto spring water without “hooking” anyone.

    When heading east, it sucks that there is that speed bump at the bottom that happens right at the time that I want to take my hand off the bars to signal my turn.

    This is a commuting route for me, so I make it a point to be a gentleman of leisure.

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    • Brian October 5, 2017 at 6:03 am

      This is exactly how I ride the Hawthorne Bridge and have never had an issue.

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    • TonyT
      TonyT October 5, 2017 at 8:33 am

      Sounds like you’re open minded and adapt to the variety of factors! Crazy talk!

      The absolutism that I read about “how it should be done,” is disappointing.

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  • Kyle Banerjee October 4, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    “Boehm feels it would make more sense if that responsibility fell to the person who wants to pass.”

    This is a general rule of movement everywhere.

    Because of the width of the lanes, passing right is usually the only thing that makes sense. But no one should be veering for a nonemergency maneuver. A clean pass that provides sufficient space to bikes and peds alone should feel and look natural.

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  • Allan Rudwick October 4, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    With a trailer, it is literally impossible to pass on the left. So get your ass to the left so I can pass you on the right!

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    • Allan Rudwick October 4, 2017 at 9:32 pm

      oh, signage would be great, just like williams has

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    • X October 4, 2017 at 9:50 pm

      That’s a good feeling to have about another person on a bike?

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    • colton October 5, 2017 at 8:22 am

      “so get your ass to the left so I can pass you on the right!”

      I highly doubt most bikeportland readers will be holding a bike with a trailer up much, unless you are using an ebike or because they are riding courteously around inexperienced or young riders.

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    • TonyT
      TonyT October 5, 2017 at 1:34 pm

      If it’s “literally impossible” to pass on the left, then it’s impossible to pass on the right. Switching A+B to B+A doesn’t come up with a different sum. If you’re unsure whether you’ll run off the path with your rear left wheel when passing on the left, how can you be sure that you’re not going to hit the person you’re passing, knocking them off the path, when you pass on the right?

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  • Charley October 4, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    I’ve gotten yelled at for following the signage on the Hawthorne Bridge (it says bikes left and peds right). I think some cyclists would like to pass on the left, even if that means I have to dodge left and right, on my slow commuting bike, every time someone comes up behind. I feel like the weaving and all should be the responsibility of the passer. I’m just cruising over. Pass on my right, please.

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    • dan October 5, 2017 at 6:39 am

      I pass more than I am passed, but I ride towards the right of the lane any time there are no pedestrians to leave passing room on my left. Then if I need to move back to the left to go around foot traffic, I look over my shoulder to make sure no one is actively passing. Easy enough. It’s pretty rare for me to have bike-on-bike agita on the Hawthorne, though it has happened once or twice.

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  • dan October 5, 2017 at 5:56 am

    I pass on the left on the Hawthorne because I think that’s what most people expect. I don’t feel strongly though, if there were signs on the bridge setting the standard — either left or right — I would be happy to conform. As a trailer tower, passing left always makes me a little bit nervous anyway.

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  • ArriveAlive October 5, 2017 at 7:14 am

    I take the Tilikum every weekday. Passing on the right makes more sense to me because of the way the bridge was designed. I am pretty slow, so I try to keep as close to the left rail as possible to allow bikes to pass without getting into the pedestrian lane. Signage about this would be great.

    Oh, and on the east side exit, please note that some of us turn right to go by the Opera House and grab the bike path there. Please pay attention to hand signals! I’ve had to do some yelling to avoid collisions because cyclists are trying to pass me on the right because I’ve slowed down to make that turn. Be safe out there, everyone!

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  • Phil Richman October 5, 2017 at 8:10 am

    On my e-assisted bike I pass on the right on Tilikum, the left on the Hawthorne since I’m usually faster than any other bikes. I ring my bell when I’m a ways back to make sure people know of my intent to pass. On BikeTown I hang in the middle on the Hawthorne so people can pass on the left, on Tilikum I hug the left side so people can pass on the right. Contrary to some criticism (from people who think cars belong everywhere) about Tilikum being a bike/ped bridge it is NOT. The bike/ped conditions are sub-par and it is really a transit bridge. Bikes and peds were an afterthought with Tilikum.

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  • TonyT
    TonyT October 5, 2017 at 8:29 am

    “Boehm isn’t alone in this desire. I first heard that system described a few years ago by former Street Trust Advocacy Manager Carl Larson. Larson was lamenting that the general norm on the Hawthorne Bridge is for slower-moving bikes to constantly dip right, into the walking area, in case faster-moving bikes want to pass on the left.”

    There is an important factor regarding safety on the Hawthorne Bridge that is being glossed over, best exemplified by this story years ago. (Can’t believe it was 8 years ago)

    https://bikeportland.org/2009/05/11/hawthorne-crash-victim-shares-her-side-of-the-story-18446

    I prefer to give myself distance from the edge and drivers travelling too fast on that gnarly metal grate. I’m hardly a fearful rider, but the conditions there WILL eventually result in the death of someone on a bike. I’m sadly willing to bet on it. I default to the right side, riding at a moderate speed.

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    • dan October 5, 2017 at 9:04 am

      I don’t understand what’s wrong with that norm – can you expand?

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      • TonyT
        TonyT October 5, 2017 at 10:05 am

        The suggested norm here is that even when there are no pedestrians, I should stay to the left and be passed on the right. This puts me in danger of being clipped by some newbie hotshot and thrown down a decent drop into the path of speeding traffic on an industrial cheese grater. No thanks.

        I don’t weave in and out of pedestrians, that’s its own danger, but if there’s a sizable gap between peds, I ease over to the right. And if people with trailers are complaining that they can’t safely pass me on the left, what assurance do I have that they won’t hit me with when they pass me on the right. They can’t have it both ways. They either know precisely where their left trailer wheel is or they don’t. They can slow the eff down (I’m not going that slow) for the one minute that we’re crossing the bridge.

        Essentially I ride at a moderate pace in mixed use environments and adapt to what’s happening. No strategy will work in all environments. Heck, PBOT hasn’t even standardized how to handle mixed bike and ped paths, even going so far as to have peds thread between opposite direction bike traffic on the narrow path next to SE Tilikum Way. Ridiculous. That path should be MUCH wider. But that would have required forethought rather than just squeezing in ped/bike accommodations after the fact.

        I am always shocked by how rigid people’s thinking is when discussing a wide variety of situations that happen in different environments with a wide range of crowds and speeds. Ease up, be cool, telegraph your moves and get there in one piece.

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        • TonyT
          TonyT October 5, 2017 at 1:34 pm

          I actually just rode on that path that I mentioned a couple of hours ago. It’s actually even worse than I remembered. The signs on the path indicate that both directions of bikes go in the middle with different directions of peds on either side. No inherent conflict there at all. Sweet job, PBOT.

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      • Kyle Banerjee October 5, 2017 at 10:25 am

        This seems sensible in the moment, but here’s a progression of events I see too often on both on Hawthorne and Broadway bridges:

        1) a number of riders get stacked up behind a slower cyclist on the right

        2) slow cyclist on right side needs to shift over for a ped

        3) stacked cyclists are so close they can’t see and don’t even know there’s a ped there

        4) someone further back in the line decides they’re going to slow and decides to take the rest of the line (or the entire line), not realizing cyclists at the front need to pull out

        5) cyclist who pulls out to avoid ped either doesn’t think to look behind for people passing or can’t see someone coming up at speed because others stacked behind them are close enough to block their vision

        I haven’t personally witnessed anyone get hurt this way, but I do occasionally see potentially dangerous situations that shouldn’t happen at all.

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        • Kyle Banerjee October 5, 2017 at 10:26 am

          I should say I see this more on Broadway due to the climb, but I’ve also seen it on Hawthorne. It occurs whenever enough people catch up with someone they’re not ready to pass for whatever reason.

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        • TonyT
          TonyT October 5, 2017 at 1:43 pm

          I’m not saying that there aren’t potential conflicts with what I do, but if I’m holding a decent pace and no peds are in front of me, it seems that the person passing should own the risk of getting closer to the drop-off and the grated roadway.

          In that article I cited before, the woman was on the left as peds were approaching the other way, when Speedy McWingnut tried to pass on the right, got squeezed by the peds and took her out, sending her into the roadway.

          Also, I don’t wait until I’m right behind a ped before moving over to the left again. I follow a nice easy, natural curve, reducing the risk (I always look) of cutting someone off.

          If there are a bunch of peds, I just stay left and hope some pathlete doesn’t get stupid for Strava.

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          • Kyle Banerjee October 5, 2017 at 3:37 pm

            Agreed.

            Your earlier criticism of rigid thinking was spot on. It’s easy enough to stay out of the vast majority trouble — you only have to use your head in the moment.

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          • Alex Reedin October 5, 2017 at 5:25 pm

            Yeah, the lack of a left-side railing/barrier means there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for the Hawthorne. Some people feel more comfortable staying to the right (like you) and avoiding the closeness to car traffic; others (like me) feel more comfortable staying to the left and not having to weave in and out.

            I think, though, that some of the vehemence from the “stay to the left, pass on the right!” contingent on here may, ironically, come from the rude behavior of the “pass on the left, just like everywhere else, silly!” contingent. I’ve been harrumphed at a few times on the Hawthorne (and once gotten a lecture from a coworker) for riding slow on the left. I’ve also been passed on the left in a way that felt unsafe (the guy’s wheels were seriously less than four inches from the edge of the path!) I don’t see any need for that kind of stuff. When I’m riding faster, I take the responsibility to weave around whoever is present wherever they are, in a way that’s hopefully comfortable for all involved (or not pass, if there’s no comfortable way, or ring my bell if people are thoughtlessly blocking the whole path).

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  • Mike Gilliland
    Mike Gilliland October 5, 2017 at 9:42 am

    I have thought of this issue every time I encounter a slower user (cyclist, walker, stroller, etc.) while riding my bike. Essentially it boils down to protecting everyone’s right-of-way and assume responsibility for it when you overtake someone.
    That involves weighing the situation and using appropriate passing judgement. to complete it in a safe manner appropriate for the conditions. There are times that one cannot maintain a faster pace, and safe assessment rules the day.

    Regarding the left/right discussion, I encountered a group of international tourists (right-side drivers) on the waterfront walking toward me, and while I proceeded to pull to my right, they instinctively as a group pulled to their left, which resulted with both of us coming to a stop, in a friendly smile. This is where I became aware of the importance of signalling my intentions whenever possible, left or right.

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  • John October 5, 2017 at 10:36 am

    I can hear screams of ‘on yer right’ already…

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  • Sean Kelly October 5, 2017 at 10:46 am

    The limited space on Hawthorne forces the slower rider to make adjustments to peds. As one in this category most of the time, Im ok with that. On Tillikum my experience is passers prefer the right even when I yield the inside track. Where I draw the line is on marked bike lanes along main arteries. I will not move into the door zone so a faster bike can pass while staying in the lane. Passers get this too and generally take the road. I aim this comment to slower riders for their safety. Take and hold the lane. There is no safe right side of a lane.

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  • Bald One October 5, 2017 at 11:02 am

    I frequently see the two main travel lanes on the Tillicum completely free and empty of any vehicle – bus or train – for the entire span. Couldn’t these lanes be used more efficiently – perhaps for bikes to travel on them?

    Bridge space is a premium in this town, and infrastructure with the original built design (bridges, paths, MUPs) allowing for enough room to freely pass 4-wide (2 bikes, 2 walkers) at the same time needs to be built into our infrastructure from the original design. Bike infrastructure that accommodates long, continuous, stretches of uninterrupted travel, specifically for bicyclists, needs to start to get built with the idea that there will be multiple users on it, and that people will have to pass each other. All the pinch-points are such a lame compromise – utility poles, garbage cans, railings, tight turns, perpendicular curb cuts, etc. Design for minimum 4-wide easy passing for the entire length.

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  • SAM jonas October 5, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Any experts here that can shed light on laws about passing on right? Am I interpreting this ordinance that it is legally permitted to pass on right?

    https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.415

    2015 ORS 811.415¹
    Unsafe passing on right

    “Overtaking and passing upon the right is permitted if the overtaking vehicle is a bicycle that may safely make the passage under the existing conditions.”

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  • onegearsneer October 5, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    I’m a daily bike commuter on the bridge and generally the pedestrians travel next to the outside railing so cyclist riding against the inside railing leaves a wide path for both groups to pass on the right which I generally do unless the rider is in the middle for some reason. Either way if everyone uses a little common sense and courtesy, passing won’t be an issue. (dreaming I know…)

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  • Hippie Joe October 5, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    I ride the Hawthorne bridge every day. I stick to the left and I seldom move over. The signs on the bridge show bikes on the left and peds on the right. I ride slow-ish if there are peds nearby and I keep as far away as I can. For the speeders, I can shout “Ride left, pass right!”, so thank you for that.

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    • Peter October 9, 2017 at 10:19 pm

      I favor right left, pass right on Tilikum and would like signs up to that effect.

      Hawthorne is different. There, the greater perceived risk of passing is moving off the ledge into car traffic, so the passers should be left of (and closer to the cars) than the passees. If I were riding left and being passed on the right I would feel like I’m being pushed into traffic, especially if someone cuts it close with pedestrians.

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      • NC October 12, 2017 at 11:55 am

        That’s absolutely it. Also Hawthorn does not have any lanes painted on it, despite the Bike Left, Ped Right advisory. Thus the walkway is all one lane, and that’s how I ride it.

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  • Jim Lee October 5, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    All proffered rationales against completely separated pedestrian/cyclist/motorist ROWs are completely specious:

    If anyone is too lazy to walk 30 feet to a pedestrian-only ROW, they deserve to be hit by a bike. Stupidity is no excuse. Give the idiots a ticket.

    Yes, bicycles in opposing lanes have a closing speed of 20 mi/hr, but cars in opposing lanes have have a closing speed of 120 mi/hr, and that works, within an acceptable level of carnage. Bikes would not be nearly so deadly.

    The relative speed of cyclist to pedestrian is about a factor of 3 in cities. The relative speed of motorist to cyclist in cities also is about a factor of 3. The geometric mean of pedestrians’ speed and motorists’ speed is about 10 mi/hr–about the speed of cyclists. Cyclists whine about being harassed by motorists, while they do exactly the same to pedestrians. Entitled, much!

    Shared pedestrian/cyclist paths are dangerous. Read Robert Hurst’s “The Art of Urban Cycling.”

    The real problem in urban cycling is encapsulated in the argument of “mean speed.” It is hard enough to provide safe travel for pedestrians in cities dominated by cars. Try to wedge a third mode in at at the geometric speed of the existing 2–good luck!

    Either we are for separated facilities for cyclists or we are not. We cannot have it both ways based on feelings of the moment.

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  • dan October 5, 2017 at 2:35 pm

    TonyT
    The suggested norm here is that even when there are no pedestrians, I should stay to the left and be passed on the right. This puts me in danger of being clipped by some newbie hotshot and thrown down a decent drop into the path of speeding traffic on an industrial cheese grater. No thanks.
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    Oh, haha, reading comprehension fail on my part. I read that as the norm being pass on the left, and Larson wishing that was not the case.

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  • Steve Scarich October 5, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    In bicycle racing, the onus is on the overtaking rider. Basic rule of racing is always hold your line, let the racer behind you make a decision. Two people making a decision at the same time is a recipe for disaster.

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  • Richard October 5, 2017 at 7:03 pm

    I prefer passing on the right on Tilikum and especially Hawthorne. Whenever cyclists straddle the center to leave “enough space” for faster cyclists like me to slip by the left, it’s dicey. The slower cyclist is usually weaving back and forth as pedestrians force them back into the bike lane, It feels like a total gamble to pass on the left when I don’t know when they’re going to swerve back over and throw me into the cars. I fully support signage for slower cyclists to stay left while faster cyclists judge if they can pass safely on the right.

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  • GlowBoy October 6, 2017 at 7:28 am

    I’ve mostly been in the “ride right, pass left” camp, but I can see the arguments on both sides. I also agree that this argument only exists because the paths are too narrow – otherwise, there wouldn’t be a debate: everyone would ride right and pass left.

    But what’s sad is how rigid about it some people (on both sides) are. Until there are signs posting a recommended (or mandatory) passing regime, you don’t get to yell at other people for violating your personal moral code.

    Oh wait, I guess you do. Looking down (or yelling) at other people for violating a moral code that you devised is part of what makes Portland special.

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  • Eric in Seattle October 6, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Part of the solution seems obvious. Just like drivers on congested roads, bike riders on a congested MUP need to slow down a bit. There’s such a thing as too fast for the conditions.

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