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Comment of the Week: Transit operator reminds us that scooter riders are not the problem

Posted by on September 17th, 2018 at 1:41 pm

A man rides a scooter on NE 122nd near I-84.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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.

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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.

If you see a great comment on our stories (whether it’s on the blog, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or elsewhere) please let us know about it.

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

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Karstan
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Karstan

Brilliant.

bikeninja
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bikeninja

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.

Clicky Freewheel
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Clicky Freewheel

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.

BLin
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BLin

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.

Jim Lee
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Jim Lee

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.

Pfeif
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Pfeif

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.

Jeff
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Jeff

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.

sikoler
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sikoler

“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!

billyjo
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billyjo

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.

TonyT
Subscriber
TonyT

“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.”

A-freakin-men.

Ryan
Guest
Ryan

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?