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A chance for solidarity between bicycle and motorcycle riders?

Posted by on July 16th, 2019 at 11:41 am

James Dubberly and his preferred modes of travel.

On June 11th Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 810 into law, adding moped and motorcycle users to the definition of “vulnerable user of a public way.” The idea of a vulnerable road user was first carved into Oregon law by bicycling advocates in 2007. It’s an important distinction because it triggers more severe consequences for people who drive carelessly and cause injuries (or death) to the most vulnerable people on our roads.

With bodies exposed to traffic, people who use roads on two wheels — motorized or not — face similar threats and consequences.

This week I was contacted by organizers of an event that aims to raise awareness of road safety for motorcycle, bicycle and scooter riders. Inspiration for the event comes from the May 16th crash that left Portland resident James Dubberly with severe injuries. Dubberly was riding his motorcycle on Sandy Boulevard when someone in a car made a sudden and illegal u-turn from a parking spot right in front of him.

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With multiple broken bones Dubberly likely won’t walk for six months. If his rehab goes according to plan, he might ride a bicycle again by next spring. Yes, he also rides a bicycle. A friend of his shared with me via email that Dubberly has commuting by bike for over 30 years and has done Seattle-to-Portland several times.

Friends who know Dubberly from his fitness studio (he founded Whole Body Fitness in southeast Portland 13 years ago, but had to sell it to pay medical expenses) and from motorcycle riding have come together to help raise funds and support his recovery. “Help James Heal” is an event planned for July 25th at Paydirt (2724 NE Pacific St). It will be a chance to support Dubberly and make connections between motorcycle and bicycle riders.

It’s also got me wondering: Should bicycling advocates work more closely with motorcycle advocates? In what specific ways could we find common cause and partner on road safety issues?

This is also an opportunity to remember that every life on the road is important — and that people not encased in steel boxes deserve extra attention. We must drive cars and design streets with these inherent vulnerabilities at the top of our minds.

— 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 productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

13 Comments
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    bikeninja July 16, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    Was the motorist who pulled this criminal driving stunt and badly injured James uninsured? In a better world, all motorists, auto companies and those who profit from the auto-industrial complex would have to pay in to a fund that would be used to benefit the victims of their mechanized mayhem when for whatever reason insurance comes up short. Don’t get me wrong . we should redouble our efforts to keep uninsured motorists off the street, but as we have seen on too many occasions that comes up short . It adds insult to injury when vulnerable road users have to get together to raise money to help one of the victims of happy motoring.

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      Chris I July 16, 2019 at 2:27 pm

      A fuel tax of about $1.00 per gallon, paid into a collective insurance fund should do the trick.

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        Dave July 16, 2019 at 2:35 pm

        California tried to enact a “pay at the pump” fund for basic liability insurance 20+ years ago–it was defeated by an insurance-industry funded campaign. It sounded like a good idea and I haven’t heard of it being tried again. OR or WA? It’s time has come!

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      Bjorn July 16, 2019 at 11:50 pm

      minimum insurance levels for drivers are way way too low compared to the cost of care. Also usually settlements don’t happen until you are well into recovery because your lawyer will advise you to make sure you know how bad it is before you get the money so he has to live until he gets to a settlement if one is available. I ride bikes and motorcycles and I added a million dollar umbrella policy because of it. In order to do that I also had to raise the coverage on my regular auto insurance policy. Oregon absolutely needs to increase the minimum benefit levels on auto insurance, it is far too low.

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      Bjorn July 16, 2019 at 11:51 pm

      Motorcycles are going to transition to being electric which will remove one of my main objections to them around mtn bike trails which is the noise. Long term moto and mtn bikers should be natural allies.

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    Anthony July 16, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    As both a cyclist and scooterist, I’ve always felt like the vulnerability of the 2 modes were more similar than most people realize. People in cars just DO NOT see us. Their eyes become trained to look for large boxy masses, and so we don’t register, particularly when they’re on auto-pilot. This is made worse by the fact that we’re going at speed, because then we appear even smaller in their field of vision and so less likely to register to them. Further, any injuries I sustain can be that much greater due to the fact that I may be going 30+ mph but, just like cyclists, don’t have a mass of steel surrounding me for for protection.

    So it might not be as obvious to those who only ride a motorcycle/scooter/moped, or those who only ride a bike, but both modes have quite a bit in common.

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    Dan A July 16, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    I agree, we have a lot in common and should work together. It’s surprising that there are motorcyclists who regularly comment on BP’s Facebook page with nothing but insults for cyclists.

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    Mike Hall July 16, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    As a motorcyclist and bicyclist, yeah we should work together because we are similarly invisible to car drivers, and similarly vulnerable. Just important to set realistic expectations for that partnership. Just as there’s really not a single bike culture, there’s not a single motorcycle culture. Some motorcyclists don’t even include motor scooter or moped people: ask scooterists about “the wave” and see what you get. Some will be deeply entrenched in a sort of “motor supremacy” mentality that doesn’t see the benefit of bike lanes. Some bicyclists are going to think filtering and lane splitting are terrible ideas when they’re thinking with their car driver hats on, but those ideas have a lot of currency among motorcyclists.

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      Granpa July 16, 2019 at 7:08 pm

      Also a cyclist and motorcyclist. and indeed we are subject to the same obliviousness from the car driving public. By the same token motorcyclists are participants in the landscape, not spectators viewing from a windowed can. “the wave” is a funny thing and as Mike attests, is tribal. Harley riders, especially the pirates with their german style helmets don’t wave to riders on other brands. On the other hand Honda Gold Wing riders wave like Wal Mart greeters to everybody. It doesn’t matter what you ride, it is that you ride.

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    Steve Scarich July 17, 2019 at 8:56 am

    I ride both a motorcycle and a bike. I am constantly surprised at how rude many motorcyclists are toward me when I am on my bike. Anecdotally, it seems like they are much ruder (as a %) than car drivers. By rude, I mean, buzzing close to me at high speed, not giving me right of way; I even had a big group of them on a charity ride, honk at our group ride last month, and we were, at most, 1 foot over the fog-line. Baffling; I suspect that unless they ride a bicycle, too, they just see us as another lycra-clad impediment.

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      SilkySlim July 22, 2019 at 8:45 am

      What a different experience than mine! In all my bicycle touring of the NW (California, Oregon, Washington, BC, Alberta, …), I’ve found motorcyclists to be far, far above average in behavior. So many even toss the little hand signal my way (kind of a two fingers down to the pavement thing, sometimes even taking hand off handle bar to do so) which I’ve always interpreted as a two wheel solidarity thing.

      I chalked it up to a couple similarities: the extra vulnerability being a minor piece (as described in the article), and a counter-culture thing being the major piece. When 99% of vehicles on the roads are cars, it feels good to see another person rolling along in a different type of conveyance.

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    Doug July 17, 2019 at 3:39 pm

    I’m just glad I can ride my motorcycle in the bike lanes, paths and Spring water corridor now!

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    Mark smith July 19, 2019 at 7:20 pm

    I hate to say it ..but the majority of motorcycle riders have a chip on their shoulder and don’t care about anyone other than who rides (bruh!).. the tough factor has got to go. Tiers of licensing will do that.

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