Brendon Constans read our story about the free helmet giveaway and safety education event held in downtown Portland last week and felt his perspective as a transit vehicle operator would help the discussion.
Here’s what Brendon had to say (via Facebook):
“I have been a public transit operator for 7 years (TriMet bus operator, MAX operator, now Streetcar operator) and see the behavior of all road users on a regular basis throughout my shifts.
Here’s what I know from my experience:
Portland rarely, if ever, enforces the rules against car drivers either.
I see gross negligence by motorists all day, everyday.
Yesterday, I had at least five cars make illegal right turns in front of the streetcar from the left lane. I saw a box truck run a solidly red light, without even slowing down, and almost mow down a pedestrian in a crosswalk that had their walk signal. I saw 8 cars over four separate instances waiting at red left turn arrows decide they didn’t want to wait anymore, and just went through their red lights; If someone had been in the crosswalk where they were turning, they could have hit and potentially killed them. I saw countless cars driving well above the 20 MPH Central City speed limit. At almost every single signalized intersection, I saw cars gunning it to make it through the yellow light or going through after it had already turned red. I saw DOZENS of cars turn right on red lights that were clearly marked ‘NO TURN ON RED’. I saw countless cars turning and changing lanes and cutting me off without using their turning signals. I saw almost every car that came to a stop sign roll right through it or barely stop, often ignoring another car who’s turn it was to go or a pedestrian that had already entered the crosswalk.
And that’s just a small sampling from ONE Portland Streetcar operator over ONE 10 hour shift.
Then there was the Uber that ran a red light night before last forcing a MAX train to slam on it’s breaks and crash into them, which could have killed the Uber passengers heading to the airport (luckily they survived). And the commercial truck that made a sudden left turn from the middle lane without signalling directly in the path of a Streetcar, causing it to derail and significantly damaging it.
So until police and/or more cameras start actually enforcing the laws on the multi-ton machines that regularly break the laws and kill 40,000 people a year, people need to calm the frack down about the occasional annoying scooter rider. They are not the problem. Our car culture and lack of safe/protected space to walk/ride/scoot is the problem.”
Thanks for sharing that with us Brendon.
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My Hero for the day. Can we deputize streetcar operators and equip their vehicles with specially certified and registered cameras so the scofflaws they observe endangering the public can be ticked and fined ,like with red light cameras.
This whataboutism tactic of declaring “but cars!” in response to very valid complaints about e-scooters and e-bikes is troubling. Yes, cars are a problem, but real life is far more complicated than a simple either-or situation. There are plenty of valid complaints about e-scooters too, and just because cars are statistically far more dangerous does not invalidate all issues with the e-scooters.
I agree with this.
There are definitely limits to this comparison; but it is still valid on some levels IMO.
Whether it works well enough or not, we still have an entire system of education and regulation devoted to car use … and we have nothing for scooter use. We also own our cars and have a different responsibility relationship with them than we have with corporate-owned scooters.
This comment is not really whataboutism . The commentor is just pointing out the elephant in the room. Worrying too much about scooters while dangerous motorists are on a spree of lawlessness and negligence in this city is like worrying about your kids getting bitten by mosquitos while they are being eaten one after another by a pack of wolves.
Mosquitos are far more dangerous than wolves.
Not a valid comparison. Mosquitoes outnumber wolves by orders of magnitude (and perhaps outweigh them in total?). Mosquitoes carry disease. Scooters not so much.
Wolves carry disease. And they dress up like my grandmother. Not even mosquitoes do that.
I think that if I went on a rant about how heart disease kills over half a million people a year so why are we worrying about a few motor vehicle deaths? Even cancer kills over half a million a year. That’s over 1 million a year and we’re wasting money focusing on 40,000? Should we be going after the elephant in the room?
No. Clicky Freewheel is right that we should be going after all of them.
Yeah, scooters aren’t as huge of a deal as other things. But it’s still annoying having motorized transport on sidewalks. And it’s even more annoying if it’s an electric wheelchair because you have terminal cancer.
We have plenty of people and resources to have different people focusing on different elephants in the room and those other smaller quality of life issues that annoy the rest of us.
Except that typically the resources tapped for death by diseases are different from the ones tapped for transportation safety. The e-scooter issue has been drummed up as a transportation safety issue, so therefore ranting about the bigger transportation safety threat is actually relevant.
However, that 40,000 number is only looking at deaths directly attributable to automobiles. There could definitely be a case that a non-insignificant portion of the heart disease and possibly even cancer numbers could also be indirectly tied to our overuse of autos, or at least some correlation between active transportation and a reduction in heart disease and cancer deaths (and likely other ailments as well).
Well, as I view his outlook on this, it isn’t so much about questioning the validity of complaints on scooters, but the voracity at which the complaints are coming. I think its a welcome perspective and not really a form of whataboutism.
Thank you! Yes! Exactly!
I understand the complaints and anger against bike riders, pedestrians, and scooter riders who do illegal/dangerous things. I encounter plenty of them as an operator, and get just as annoyed as everybody else. But that’s all I’m hearing about. I’m rarely, if ever, hearing about all the scofflaw motorists, even from my co-workers. I even had a co-worker complaining about the scooters recently who’s daughter was hit by a car running a red light on W Burnside not long ago (luckily she survived with only a broken foot).
Another friend on Facebook was railing against a bike rider that hit an old woman in a crosswalk on the Tillikum a year or two ago, but never said a word about the tens of thousands that are injured/killed by negligent motorists.
And a month or so ago, we had an operator walking the couple blocks from the operations facility in the Pearl to take over a streetcar when he got hit by a car. He was sent flying and rolling and sent to the hospital with a major bump on his head (luckily he doesn’t appear to have suffered any critical injuries). Later that day, I overheard a streetcar supervisor talking about it with someone on the phone saying, “Yeah, the driver said they had the sun in their eyes and just didn’t see him. It’s just one of those things.”
Really?! Just one of those things?! One of your operators was hit by a car and sent to the ER! The sun is not an excuse… if the driver didn’t see him, then the driver wasn’t looking for him. Several operators who saw the incident also said they think the driver might’ve been on his cell phone.
The apathy towards car violence and the constant belittling of vulnerable road users is so rampant, it just drives me bonkers. Put things in perspective people. Thank goddess I can find a little respite here on BikePortland, one of the few reasonable transportation-related corners of the internet.
= Car head.
The “sun was in my eyes” is not an acceptable excuse. The sun has been rising and setting the same way, for four billion years. We know that when the sun is low in the sky, at the beginning and especially at the end of the day, we can find it difficult to see. If you can’t see properly, you either wear polarizing sun glasses, or you park your bicycle/scooter/motorcycle/car/truck until visibility improves. I keep a pair of polarizing sunglasses in my car at all times so that I can see when the sun is on the horizon directly in front of me. These glasses never leave the car (I have other pairs that can come with me. This is not hard.
I agree wholeheartedly, but it gets people off the hook every. damn. day.
“The sun was on my eyes so I couldn’t see” is no more valid than “I had my eyes closed, so it wasn’t my fault.” It’s an abdication of an essential duty of driving: to drive at a speed that is reasonable and prudent to conditions.
If you can’t see, it’s time to press on the brake pedal, not the gas!
I agree, 100%. Sadly, too many courts don’t. It’s really ridiculous that people get off the hook by saying that.
i see far more anti-social behavior by people cycling conventionally than e-scooter and e-bike users. in particular, refusal to yield right of way to pedestrians — sometimes in a dangerous manner — is epidemic among people cycling.
You are correct. It is unfortunate that many cyclists prioritize their personal convenience over adhering to the law. Some even brag about it in these very forums.
i stop for people, but rarely for no one.
Do you complain when drivers do the same?
what an odd question. both drivers and people cycling should respect pedestrian right of way.
Exactly. And cars need not stop for no one, right?
No doubt, this is a rampant issue at my crosswalk (8th & Multnomah). Last week when I was in the crosswalk a cyclist was pedaling towards me in a direct collision course at about 15mph and didn’t bother to slow down at all, and instead just rang his bell at me to get out of the way. Seeing that he was making no attempt to avoid me, I scurried out of the way.
bike commuters often echo the “i’m in a hurry and will not stop” attitude of drivers.
I always call their bluff. They always try to avoid you. Funniest on the old streets with sett stone paving.
Maybe I’ll try that next time.
I’m in the “I’m in a hurry too, but I stop for pedestrians” camp. I’ve yet to encounter another one of my kind on Multnomah.
But when it comes to where to direct my energy, I think I will be concerned about the illegal operation of motor vehicles that kill 40,000 people in the US every year and is the number one cause of childhood death.
Compared to that, E-scooters and E-bikes are a minor annoyance.
Illegal vehicle operation kills 40,000 per year? That’s an interesting and almost certainly incorrect statement.
It’s only incorrect because many of those deaths are other road users. I doubt a lot of fatalities are caused by law-abiding road users.
It’s also incorrect because it’s wrong.
Just how does someone end up dead in a motor vehicle clash if everyone involved follows the laws and rules of the road? How do two cars crash if someone didn’t violate the right of way? How do you crash if you are keeping you car under control as required by law. Can you provide a situation where someone died without any traffic laws being broken?
Well, for example, someone could crash because they were talking on the cell phone. That’s legal almost everywhere.
It’s actually accurate. Check the CDC. It varies between about 36,000 and 42,000 every year. It comes out, on average, to one person every 15 minutes.
I think it’s safe to say that in the vast majority of vehicular deaths, at least one vehicle operator broke the law in some way.
Given the ease and frequency with which we all break the law, many times a day, this is no doubt true.
Let me clarify in response to HK’s comment: I think it’s safe to say that in the vast majority of vehicular deaths, the fatality was caused by someone breaking the law.
Changed one word:
Is it whataboutism or is it simply a stacking of the problem from most important to least?
If you could only solve one and your options were: cars, transportation, infrastructure or scooters I’m hoping on everyones list scooters would be last. Infrastructure /transportation would be the top of the list depending on how you view the world being that both of those can help to solve cars…
So in summary I do not see whataboutism in the article so much as being clear about the size and scope of the issues with a clear prioritization on enforcement as a traffic calming measure (and if at scale a revenue driver) that could save the most lives in the shortest amount of time.
If we get to pick the options then we get to pick the ones that cause scooters to end up on top.
Whataboutism would be if this comment was claiming that, because drivers do much worse things with cars, complaints about scooters are no longer valid. It’s clearly not – it’s about calls for enforcement. People are currently shouting in every forum that scooter laws need to be more heavily enforced because *GASP* scooter riders are breaking laws sometimes, but without the context provided by looking at enforcement of traffic laws that apply to other modes of transportation, that observation is meaningless.
If you take the potential injury to the public from breaking traffic laws in a car, and multiply it by the frequency those laws are broken, you can come up with a figure that represents how valuable it is to enforce traffic laws, and therefore how much priority should be given to it. You can do the same for e-scooters, it’s just that the end result would be many orders of magnitude lower, and we have severely limited resources available for enforcing traffic laws as a whole, so yeah it’s really not important that every scofflaw scooter rider gets ticketed for not wearing a helmet.
Brendon – I hear you!! Things seem quite unhinged lately as far as illegal behavior on the roads. Maybe its something in the water? Teaching my 16 year old how to drive in Portland is a frightening and crazy experience. How do you teach the rules of the road when it seems like no one is obeying those rules anymore? Thank you for being a safe operator.
I feel so lucky. When my now twenty-eight-year-old son was sixteen, he looked at the way cars were operated and declared that simply wasn’t for him. He didn’t want the responsibility of avoiding killing someone. He still lives car-free, and I expect that will be a lifetime commitment.
Or maybe it’s something in the air. The next article after this one is about how Floyd Landis is spinning up 3 pot shops in Portland.
The drivers manual explains the rules for 4-way stops, then suggests ignoring the rules (yield to the driver on your right) and following the custom (first to come, first to go).
Those rules aren’t contradictory, there’s a decision tree. The first driver to come to a full stop at an open intersection has right-of-way. If there are multiple vehicles in an intersection the other rules come into play.
“At intersections with stop signs in all four directions, it is common
courtesy to allow the driver who stops first to go first. When in doubt,
yield to the driver on your right.”
i.e. use the “street” rules, and if that fails, fall back on the legal rules.
The “common courtesy” actually arises out of both law and necessity.
First, you are not required to yield to a driver than cannot lawfully enter the intersection. This gives rise to the situation where the first driver to arrive and come to a complete stop is also the first driver that has the opportunity to lawfully enter the intersection. Only when two drivers arrive at the same time is there an opportunity for the “yield to the vehicle on the right” rule to come into play.
Second, a rigidly interpreted “yield to the driver on the right” rule quickly causes a busy intersection to come to a complete halt, since having vehicles on all approaches means that no driver can proceed. Also, if rigidly interpreted without deference to time of arrival it would mean that each driver waits until there is NO demand on the approach to their right before they can proceed.
The result of the above is that the “yield to the driver on the right” rule is typically interpreted as a tie-breaking rule.
Yes, there are incidents where people are assigned blame in a collision based on this rule as well, but this same assignment of blame would likely happen even without the rule and is a by-product of the reason behind the seemingly-arbitrary decision to have people yield to the vehicle on the right: When two drivers enter the intersection simultaneously and a conflict is inevitable if neither driver takes action, the driver on the left has both the most room for braking prior to the conflict point and the best view of the impending collision.
In many states, the law clearly lays out that in uncontrolled or 4-way-stop intersections, the vehicle on the right has the right of way, no matter who gets there first. I actually know someone (in WA state) who was T-boned at a 4-way stop, and got a ticket because the vehicle that hit him was on the right.
In the real world, yield-to-the-right only applies when vehicles arrive at the same time, but that is NOT necessarily what the law says.
Yielding to the driver on the right is the rule when there’s no stop signs (ORS 811.275). When it’s a 4 way stop there’s no rule.
Yes, page 33 in the manual says “when in doubt, yield to the right” but it’s not a law. A Major problem I have with the driver’s manual is that it never cites the law and not everything it says is actually a law.
Because there’s no law specific to a 4 way stop they law would be: first to stop, first to go. Once you stop then you can legally enter the intersection and everybody else has to wait since you’ve already legally entered it. The only confusion is when multiple people come to a stop at the same time. That’s called an Oregon standoff. I know other states that have the “yield to the right” rule at a 4 way stop, but not us.
The law is yield to the vehicle on your right.
Sorry, I posted this without seeing the context above. I cannot cite a specific law, so am unable to prove I am right. If you can cite an authoritative source, I will concede the point.
That’s not what I’m doing at all. I’m asking for some reference to something that is stronger than calling first-in first-out a mere “courtesy”. It’s not like 4-way stops are some esoteric situation that only arises in the minds of armchair theorists and alternate history buffs.
I checked the WA driver’s manual, which is much clearer, and suggests I am mistaken. Have I proven there is no god?
It’s in the Oregon driver manual, but is not law. Just like lots of other things in the Oregon driver manual.
Last Friday I was walking downtown, which I have done since the 1950s as a pharmacy delivery lad, and nearly got mowed down by an escooter on the sidewalk at 5th and Morrison–a very crowded sidewalk!
Then another appeared, riding wrong way into traffic in the vehicle lane on Morrison.
And another on the sidewalk near PSU.
These three were the only ones I saw, all operated by apparent adults in clear violation of the law, not to mention good judgment.
Headed back to the east side on the Hawthorne bridge there appeared one lone orange Biketown machine.
Besides the usual cars, I encountered thousands of pedestrians and hundreds of cyclists.
A very large majority of us who use downtown are walking and biking, propelling themselves with their own legs and feet.
Every day we are voting, and not for escoots and bike share.
Brendon wrote, “I saw 8 cars over four separate instances waiting at red left turn arrows decide they didn’t want to wait anymore, and just went through their red lights; If someone had been in the crosswalk where they were turning, they could have hit and potentially killed them.”
Is there not a law in Oregon that allows this? Making a left turn on a red arrow? Thank you Brendon for the observations.
It’s my understanding that it’s okay to turn left on a red arrow, or right on a red arrow for that matter, unless there’s a sign that says “No turn on red.” And provided of course that the intersection is clear and you’ve come to a complete stop. See https://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2015/10/turn_left_on_red_the_devils_in.html — looks like the info is on page 13 of the 2018-2019 driver’s manual, and not page 25 as it says in this article.
No, you can’t, unless it is a one-way street.
Yes, it’s very useful section of the ORS when turning left from SE 7th Ave onto one-way, inner Hawthorne when there is a safe opening as the flashing yellow arrow can be more precarious to use than the solid red arrow.
Correct. As long as there aren’t any ‘NO TURN ON RED’ signs present, you ARE permitted to turn on a red arrow from a one way OR two way street ONTO a ONE WAY street. The instances I mentioned in my original comment were in regards to cars turning against red arrows onto TWO WAY streets, against the law.
Thank you, I realized I had forgotten that crucial detail when I was away from my computer (why can’t we edit our posts!). The ability to turn left on a red onto a one-way street is one of my favorite Oregon driving laws.
On a red left arrow, no less!
In turns of allowed movements, a red arrow is the same as a red light. Oregon is one of the few states where this is true, for some inexplicable reason.
I’d forgotten about that, having been taught that red arrows are absolute, but I believe that’s true in Oregon. And the left-turn from a two-way onto a one-way is another weird Oregon anomaly, but one that I like. In Minnesota I often find myself wishing I could make that move.
ORS 811.360(1)(b) left turn on red is permitted if the street being turned onto is a one-way street.
I have a serious problem with red left turn lights. They’re useless for people that are actually paying attention to the environment around them and not just in a hurry to drive somewhere.
However, flashing yellow left turn lights are a danger in the face of how many people are horrible drivers in a hurry to get where they’re going without paying attention to anything that can’t hurt them.
Now I sit patiently at the red left arrow waiting my turn trying to set a good example to other drivers. It’s obviously not working that well.
On the other hand, this is what drivers call a straw man argument. “If there had been a pedestrian”… Was there or was there not? Was it safe to break the law at those times? Maybe we could allow these turns if we had more safety infrastructure to prevent collisions.
What really matters is science, logic, reason and data. Not complaints. Not your “feels” or emotions. This is a public right of way issue regarding all modes. Cars kill and injure in far greater numbers. The transit operator is seeing reality and knows the stats. The scooter complainers just seem to “feel” something is not right. Let’s let the data speak. Then policy. Period.
“What really matters is science, logic, reason and data.”
I’m pretty sure you know as well as the rest of us that all that matters is politics. Your logic has no place here.
“Our car culture and lack of safe/protected space to walk/ride/scoot is the problem.”
I think we need to move beyond blaming “car culture” as the problem.
First, it’s not…well, it’s semantics. How do you define “car culture”? That really guides everything.
I know this: cars are an inherent part of modern society and all of us depend on things that only could exist because of cars/trucks/other wheeled vehicles.
“Car culture” as I see it is not the enemy of people riding bikes.
I can see the flipside, for example, if you define “car culture” in some way that includes burning fossil fuels and the way car makers and the oil industry collude to affect how cities are designed.
Blaming and pointing fingers is only going to accomplish so much. We need to work together with all commuters. That’s the way forward!
Yeah but… screw drivers!
Yes, it is in how you define “car culture.” Clearly, the author wasn’t referring to the mere usage of motor vehicles–as you’ve redirected the issue–as “the problem” when he referred to car culture. Even absent an understanding of that phrase as it’s typically used in these circles, the context of the author’s comment should make clear he was referring to something more. Specifically, the inability to recognize much more dangerous and prevalent illegal activity by motor vehicle operators, and instead focus on activity of scooter riders, is an aspect of the “car culture” to which the author is clearly referring. And yes, that is a (the) problem.
“I think we need to move beyond blaming ‘car culture’ as the problem.”
But we only just got to this point, to recognizing that there is a collective dimension to all of this. Automobility, car culture, Car Head, are all terms that seek to capture some of the deeper layers of what is preventing solutions.
You have made it clear here in the comments that you are for working together, which is all to the good, but before we attempt much less accomplish that we need to know what we’re up against. And if what we’re up against is ‘us’ then we need to know that too.
“I can see the flipside, for example, if you define ‘car culture’ in some way that includes burning fossil fuels and the way car makers and the oil industry collude to affect how cities are designed.”
Did you finish your thought Are you agreeing that there is value, meaning in the term?
But car culture IS a problem. Most drivers seem to have a blind spot about this:
– When they find themselves in traffic, drivers often get mad at buses, pedestrians or cyclists being “in their way”, even though most of what’s “in their way” is other cars. It’s okay to get mad at a cyclist for simply existing, but how often does a driver stuck in traffic get mad at other drivers for choosing to be out at the same time – let alone recognize their own contribution to the problem?
– And as already pointed out, most drivers break the law regularly, in ways that endanger human life far more than a cyclist running a stop sign, and many of them complain vociferously about the (relatively) more benign lawbreaking by cyclists and pedestrians simply trying to navigate the car-centric transportation system.
It’s hypocrisy, pointing out the splinter in someone else’s eye while not recognizing the log in your own eye (to paraphrase a rather famous person). Most drivers don’t have the self-awareness to recognize their double standard, and it’s worth continuing to point it out until there is at least cultural awareness of it.
“I know this: cars are an inherent part of modern society and all of us depend on things that only could exist because of cars/trucks/other wheeled vehicles.”
Don’t believe everything you think.
Cars aren’t still here in their current form because they’re the best solution.
But they are here because given where we are, there are currently no better solutions.
On any given day I see thousands of cars. Yes, I even have some of them nearly hit me. I see hundreds of bikes and once in a while I have to avoid them hitting me. I might see a half dozen scooters, and I can honestly say that a minimum of half of those are doing things that are risking people being injured. They ride on the sidewalks, go the wrong way, run through stop signs. It isn’t about the fact that I can see 5 scooters and 50 cars acting badly, it is that those 5 are out of 10 and the 50 are out of thousands.
You only see 50 dangerous drivers out of thousands? I was followed home last week by a driver who was clearly watching netflix or something else in his car while driving behind me. He was spending 80% of the time looking down, and glancing upwards every 4 seconds or so to see if he would need to take evasive action. The anecdotal (and actual) evidence of bad driving is overwhelming.
The hyperbole is overwhelming
I mentioned in a previous article that I saw a woman earlier this year driving beside me on Highway 26 who was typing away on her phone for a few minutes. I was amazed at how long she was able to do this. Eventually she put the phone down, and then picked up a bong and fired it up while resting it on her steering wheel. This was at 3:30 in the afternoon. No hyperbole needed.
Truth. I rate 1 in 4 drivers bear careful watching in the rearview on average count, because they are active Phone Fondlers when driving down the 205 in dense traffic. My truck has been rear ended 3 times in 5 years now, way up from before the Smart Phone Addiction Plague. And in 2 of those times, I could actually see the surprised idiot reaching up on their dash to retrieve the phone that flew out of their hands into the windshield when they hit me.
Except your statement “It isn’t about the fact that I can see 5 scooters and 50 cars acting badly, it is that those 5 are out of 10 and the 50 are out of thousands” fails to account for the fact that when those 50 cars behave badly they put vulnerable road users (pedestrians, scooters and cyclists) at risk for much greater harm and, often, death. I know there has been at least one death attributed to an e-scooter somewhere in the U.S. recently (right?) but the fact is escooter riders are at much greater risk of hurting themselves than anyone else. That’s not to say escooter rider behavior should be ignored, but it should be responded to in scale.
“So until police and/or more cameras start actually enforcing the laws on the multi-ton machines that regularly break the laws and kill 40,000 people a year, people need to calm the frack down about the occasional annoying scooter rider. They are not the problem. Our car culture and lack of safe/protected space to walk/ride/scoot is the problem.”
It’s not whataboutism- it’s triage. You deal with the most threatening danger first. If I get in an accident and cut my femoral artery and break my wrist, which do you think the paramedics are going to worry about first? The one that threatens my life, obviously! Cars kill, by CDC statistics, about 40,000 people per year- 1 every 15 minutes, on average; how many people do scooters kill? Which one is more important to deal first?
“It’s not whataboutism- it’s triage. You deal with the most threatening danger first. ”
My vote for Comment of the Week.