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Rider’s letter to PBOT Commissioner Chloe Eudaly calls out conditions on N Williams

Posted by on February 21st, 2020 at 11:40 am

Video still from Chris H’s camera shows a man driving in the bike lane on North Williams.
Watch it below.

[Note from publisher: I was CC’d on the letter below to Portland Bureau of Transportation Commissioner Chloe Eudaly this morning. It’s from a reader named Chris H.]

Dear Commissioner Eudaly,

Last night, as I was riding down N Williams, I noticed a motorist move into the bike lane and start driving down the bike lane because they felt that they didn’t need to wait in the motorist-only lane. I frequently have to correct motorist on how to use bike infrastructure and out of my interactions with motorist, I’d say a good 80% either don’t know they are doing anything wrong or at least pretend that they don’t know they are doing anything wrong, and they correct their course.

As you know, N Williams, purported by PBOT to be the most heavily used bike route in the city, doesn’t have a contiguous bike lane, nor does it have a single foot of evidence-based protected bike lane.

When I stopped to let the motorist know that he wasn’t allowed to drive in the bike lane, this is what happened;

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This rolling ball of toxic masculinity felt so comfortable breaking the law that not only did he continue driving down the bike lane after being notified he was on camera, he decided to assault me by spitting on me.

“This rolling ball of toxic masculinity felt so comfortable breaking the law that not only did he continue driving down the bike lane after being notified he was on camera, he decided to assault me by spitting on me.”

N Williams has some of the worst conflicts between vulnerable road users and motorist of any bike infrastructure that PBOT has built and it comes down to one issue. PBOT has prioritized the parking on N Williams over the health and safety of the people walking/scooting/cycling on the street. Without street parking on the left-hand side of the street, PBOT could install physically protective barriers like the ones that exist on N Rosa Parks that would prohibit bike lane infractions like the one in the video. Additionally, the lack of daylighting on N Williams makes it hard for motorist and vulnerable road users to cross the street.

When you are in leadership meetings and everyone is shaking their heads trying to figure out why non-car modes of transortation are shrinking, maybe show them this video. Motorist in this city act with impunity. About ten minutes later, I almost got hit by a motorist who ran a stop sign, which is also on video but I didn’t bother to post it because it’s so incredibly common. PBOT needs to prioritize the health and safety of vulnerable road users over the parking needs of the bars on N Williams. Additionally, PPB needs to enforce traffic laws. Even a mild amount of traffic monitoring will improve the behavior of Portland’s motorist. I live near a four-a stop. I’d say maybe one out of ten cars actually come to a complete stop. I came home on Wednesday and a police officer was sitting parked, looking towards the four-way (Police in St. Johns if you can believe it!). while he wasn’t actually doing traffic enforcement, just his presence caused almost every single car to come to a complete stop. We need enforcement. I’ve been cycling as my main form of transportation for a decade and I’ve never felt less safe on the road than I do today.

I urge you to start investing, really investing, in non-car centric infrastructure. Climate change is real, and even if it wasn’t, a car-centric approach to road management will not work here just as it hasn’t worked in every other major city.

Sincerely,

Chris

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

Jersey barriers please.

Mike C
Guest

Ran home (from downtown) up Vancouver last night. Literally jumped out of the way of three different vehicles nearly running me over. Made contact with one. Two blowing stop signs, one blowing a red light.

In hindsight, the usual “run against traffic” rule likely doesn’t apply to one-way streets; nobody was looking my direction. Luckily, I didn’t experience any of the “toxic masculinity” (why is it always a Dodge? I was hit and run by one last year, the incident posted here a week or two ago was, this one). Two of the drivers appeared apologetic and one, a commercial driver, seemed indifferent.

Anyway, yeah, the corridor in both directions is an absolute nightmare. I have close calls near every day. I think it would have been wise to better build out Rodney as a greenway.

Our streets are the Wild West. 50% design, 50% lack of enforcement and the IDGAF mentality that ensues.

Hoping something will happen to this driver, but won’t be surprised when it doesn’t.

pdx2wheeler
Subscriber

Two things are going to happen to that driver… 1) Jack 2) Squat

David Hampsten
Guest

I won’t say my community is safer or more dangerous than Portland when it comes to bicycling interactions with car drivers, but when I lived in Portland I would curse car drivers and their shenanigans every other day without fail, usually for right-hooks. Here, I curse them only about once per month. No doubt my standards have fallen…

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

“Why is it always a Dodge?”

Have you seen any Dodge commercials lately?

jeff
Guest
jeff

95% sure this is the same vehicle/driver that did the same to me a couple weeks ago, taking the bike lane for the same left turn.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Sadly, ‘we all’ could see this coming when the roadway design was done (compromised)…no one wins with a half measure. I hope PBoT is able to make the changes that were – for a best practice – needed to accommodate the highest used bike highway in the City (if not state). The redevelopment of this corridor was built on its bike access and the vitality that bicycling brought for pennies on the dollar (and quicker) compared to Interstate’s investment in light rail. [In addition, PBoT needs to clean up the bikeway network compromises – aka gaps – in the year 2000 Interstate Corridor too…Interstate Bowling Lanes, Disjecta, 76 Filling Station, etc.]

Joe A Fortino
Guest
Joe A Fortino

same driver yelled and followed me yelling get the f outta the lane.. haha that street is a mess now agh

One
Guest

Portland is a small town. One of you know this d-bag. Please send this video to his mom and his supervisor.

johnny burrell
Guest
johnny burrell

I’ve had this happen to me SO MANY TIMES. Williams is an absolute mess. They prioritized two full lanes for cars to not move in so it is no wonder traffic is slow.

Chris, please call the Portland Police and file a complaint for assault against that driver.

Brent
Guest
Brent

It appears the driver was trying to get to the left turn lane about 25-50 feet before the designated mixing zone. I’m sure he felt like there was nothing wrong and that he was actually being extra careful with that early merge because he was coming in behind the cyclists now when it was “safe”, instead of later. As a driver, those mixing zones can be really stressful because it’s hard to see if a cyclist is in your blind spot, hard to tell how quickly a cyclist is approaching from behind, and any seconds spent looking and being careful holds up the line of traffic behind you.

I can almost imagine the thoughts running through the diver’s head in this situation:
– “I was trying to be safe and avoid the stress of the mixing zone by merging just a little early and now this entitled bicyclist is lecturing and shaming me. I don’t want to hurt you, but I’m losing my patience and getting tired of putting up with the inconvenience of your presence here. Don’t you know I’m bigger and faster than you? You should be watching out for me, not the other way around!”

All this to say, other than the spitting, I would say I don’t think it’s toxic masculinity driving this conflict so much as the very narrow, car-centric, street view of the driver which is common among men and women. Perched high up in their enclosed, climate controlled, and powerful vehicle, they feel entitled to take whatever space is available to get where they want to go as fast as they can. Anyone else, other cars, but especially smaller, less power beings on foot and bike, is a nuisance to tolerate. And if that nuisance gets to be too much, or if I see an opportunity to use my bulk to get my way, well then might makes right.

I think the only way to change that kind of car-centric street view is to regularly become one of those less beings. Short strolls between car and shop in controlled situations like parking lots or commercial districts isn’t the same as trying to get from A to B in more typical traffic. It’s whole walking (biking) a mile in my (bike) shoes things to get a different perspective. Literally.

Until then, I completely agree with the letter writer. We have to force the “car-goggles” to do the right thing (not take up every inch of available space, not force everyone else to watch out for them) with physical barriers and/or social barriers in the form of consistent enforcement of laws.

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

Too bad those are Washington plates. With video evidence of the plate number and a face to match it with, you’d think law enforcement (if motivated) could do something about this specific driver. But as per a previous BP post, apparently neither jurisdiction would be willing to do anything about it. WA says the event happens in OR so OR needs to take care of it, OR says it’s a WA vehicle so WA needs to take care of it….

broMan
Guest
broMan

Rodney is a good way to go, lately.

Shimran George
Guest
Shimran George

” I personally won’t ever get upset or beef at black drivers even if they do crazy stuff that bothers/scares me”

And if you or your child is injured or killed as a result of this dangerous behavior… will you rest easier if the dangerous driver was non-white? All people, regardless of color, know right from wrong and should be held to a similar standard of safety for the greater community. It is not something I feel warrants this level of navel-gazing.

I know you mean well JM, but I just want to point out that people of color are also uneasy when they are treated differently to the point that they are not held accountable for their actions, and others go out of their way to not seem racist–which is an extremely common occurrence here in Portland (and yes it’s obvious).

Communities of color are awesome! But don’t tangle the greater community with the actions of an individual, that need to be called out. I don’t think you are going to find a single person of color that will be any less angry if they were, or a member of their family was, hit by a fellow person of color.

I think you can be respectful to the community at large (and rightfully so, as the black community in this area has had to suffer through over a century of racist planning and marginalization) but be rightfully indignant at someone as an individual for performing dangerous behavior.

FWIW I did really like your anecdote about reconciling with the driver. I hope he is more cognizant of bikes on the street and we can have this sort of trend happen more often!

Fred
Guest
Fred

Like Chris, I have stopped in front of cars to tell the driver to obey the rules (get out of the bike lane, yield to a bike at an intersection, etc). Not once has any driver thanked me for doing it! In fact, the reaction has been universally negative.

I think the reactions have a lot to do with the power asymmetry of the individuals involved: the cyclist is standing in the road next to a 25-lb bike, completely unprotected; the driver is surrounded by a very strong steel cage and shatter-proof glass, with 200-300 horsepower to drive the chariot ahead at great speed.

Let’s face it: drivers feel empowered and emboldened to do whatever they want. They rule the roads, and everything about our roads in Portland reinforces that impression: rare, almost nonexistent law enforcement; 19th-century road design in most places; and a culture of car dominance.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if drivers felt chastened to obey the rules? – if they felt that driving were a privilege that could be taken from them for doing something stupid like driving in a bike lane and spitting on a cyclist? But no. The driver in this situation will get away with it, like 99.99% of the drivers many of us come in contact with every day, and feel emboldened to do it again – or do something even more egregious – because he got away with it.

Roberta Robles
Guest
Roberta Robles

Just close the Rose Quarter ramps. Significantly reduce traffic on William’s. Put all the Vancouverites on busses. If you saw there mornin gbb commute and the reverse commute, it’s insanely long commutes for them. That would be reconcile past inequities.

z
Guest
z

Knew it was WA plates when I read the headline. Put in the tolls already.

Ron Richings
Guest
Ron Richings

I have long been appalled by various aspects of Williams as it has in theory evolved over the years. That hasn’t changed with its latest version. Since no one has mentioned it, near the end of the video in the block past Fremont the bike lane places riders squarely in the ‘door zone’ – something that a bike lane should never do. A clearly and unambiguously dangerous ‘feature’, and a trap for unwary bicycle riders. So how did it get there? Who approved it? What were they thinking? When will it be fixed? Fortunately in Vancouver BC we have gotten rid of most (but not all) such hazards. If Portland is going to regain its previous cred as a bike friendly city it really needs to pay attention to such stupid bits of infrastructure.

Skid
Guest
Skid

Big surprise…a Washington plate.

It’ll tell you where we need to build a wall: between Portland and the Couve

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Sometimes I wonder if bicycles need a speed limit on Williams? Cars are suppose to do 20. Imagine if a bike couldn’t go more than 10. I remember when I rode Williams regularly back in 2009-11. Sometimes I would hit a sustained speed of 25 mph for a couple minutes. I definitely utilized the Idaho stop law long before it was approved in Oregon, talk about being unsafe!!! Now I just cruise at a moderate pace, anticipate car movement and rarely have any issues, let alone confrontations…

ronald503
Guest
ronald503

this seems a little thin….

Jason
Guest
Jason

9watts
I agree with MotRG here.Recommended 0

You condone spitting on people. Understood

rain panther
Guest
rain panther

I tend to choose my battles. By which I mean I save my loud verbal admonitions for when motorists are not only technically breaking the rules, but also creating an immediate impediment or danger – like actually blocking the bike lane, or passing unsafely, or tailgating.

I realize it’s a judgment call, and everyone’s gotta decide for themselves where to draw the line, but personally I would’ve let this slide and gone about my business. To be clear, the spitting tirade was definitely an out of bounds and completely unacceptable overreaction, but in general an angry response must have been the expected outcome.

Jason
Guest
Jason

pruss2ny
u noted the 2 yellows he went thru. the 1st one he had just started accelerating so could have easily stopped….the 2nd one had a pedestrian on far corner. BOTH had flashing DONT WALK signal countdowns that anyone who is observant and frequents the road would know are timed with light change.

If the light turns yellow 1 second before you cross the intersection, you are not obligated to stop. No foul there.

Those ped crossings don’t even have yellow flashers installed. No foul their either.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Brent
I do think it’s better to consider the way people see themselves when we respond to their actions.

I can see how that is an emotionally intelligent thing to do. I might have dug in my heels a little deep on this issue.

When I put myself in the driver’s mind,”I” am entitled and think all cyclists are scofflaws; bike infrastructure is a waste of money; cyclists steel my tax dollars for wasted space like Better Nato and bike lanes on busy roads.

Speaking as “me” now, I would never do what that driver did. Because it would mean driving in a bike lane. Maybe it’s an emotional blind spot for me, but I think motorists that do that are entitled. These are the kind of people that go to town hall meetings to gripe about how much money is spent on cycling infrastructure. Did I say spent? I meant wasted. These are the living, breathing institution of car users that are so entrenched in their habits, they think it’s a right and not a privilege to use motor vehicles.

While I agree that empathy is under practiced in our society, I really can’t empathize with someone that is the living embodiment of traffic toxicity.