Comment of the Week: Road rage, the Heathman and citizen reporting

Background photo by commenter qqq.

Welcome to the Comment of the Week, where we highlight good comments in order to inspire more of them. You can help us choose our next one by replying with “comment of the week” to any comment you think deserves recognition. Please note: These selections are not endorsements.


Comment of the Week

Last week’s guest article about a road rage incident on Vancouver Ave involving the threat of a gun was deeply disturbing and it prompted an outpouring of sympathy and story-sharing from BikePortland readers. The whole thread was heartfelt, and I hope it brought some comfort to our guest author.

One comment stood out to me because it offered the added insight of connecting the Vancouver road-rage incident with one of our other stories, about KGW’s divisive reporting on the newly completed SW Broadway protected bike lane.

I’m writing from Paris right now, nine hours ahead of Portland. I had already selected qqq’s comment and written this post about it when I woke up in the morning (around midnight your time) to discover that qqq had written even more comments about the protected bike lane in front of the Heathman.

Qqq had visited the site, analyzed the situation, and documented it with photos. In short, overnight qqq had transformed into a citizen-journalist. And isn’t that one of the strengths of a blog like BikePortland, with an active and moderated comment section? If you put in the good work, we can amplify it.

So I have featured the qqq comment that originally caught my eye, below. After it, I have put a link to qqq’s more recent comments about the embarrassing condition of the bike lane in front of the Heathman, the lack of an ADA ramp, the junk both the Heathman and PBOT have placed in the buffer zone, and the comment’s exhortation that PBOT and the Heathman work together to improve this sub-par situation.

First, here is qqq’s original comment about the Vancouver Ave road-rage incident:

That’s horrible.

I’m reading this right after reading the skewed reporting about the Heathman drop-off. It’s not that the driver who confronted you read that Heathman article, and jumped in his car to look for someone on a bike to confront. But it couldn’t hurt to have some more positive press about bikes. What if the Heathman article had talked to some bike riders for their experiences with people leaving luggage in the bike lane, parking in it, etc. or how the lane encouraged them to bike instead of drive to work? Or what if we saw some articles showing that gas taxes and vehicle registration fees only cover a portion of road costs? What if some articles about new bike or transit lanes included talking to people that like them, instead of only to business owners who don’t?

The violence problem goes way beyond what people see in the media, but it would be nice if the media at least didn’t fan the flames.

After visiting the Heathman site on Sunday, qqq wrote this informative comment.

Went there tonight, and it made me much less sympathetic to the Heathman, and PBOT.

The bike lane is strewn with leaves. If PBOT isn’t going to keep it clean, the Heathman could easily have someone sweep it long before it looks like this. If PBOT and the Heathman want people to stay in the lane and ride predictably, at least keep the lane in a condition that allows that.

Similarly, the hatched door zone is actually deep enough that people should be able to load and unload, set down luggage, etc. without wandering into the bike lane except when crossing it – IF IT WERE CLEAR.

But the Heathman has a large parking rate sign right in the way, and PBOT has several cones and barricades strewn in it. I realize some are related to the work in front of the adjacent Schnitzer, but (Heathman and PBOT) don’t create conditions where hotel guests have to stray into the bike lane to maneuver around the barriers you’ve created in it.

Finally, there’s no curb cut, so the loading isn’t ADA compliant, and there’s no sign indicating any alternative accessible loading area. That’s a serious violation, and dangerous because a person needing a curb ramp has to get out of a vehicle amidst the cluttered hatched area, then work their way south the the intersection’s curb ramp, but the barricades make that impossible without using the bike lane or traffic lane. The curb also means guests are in the bike lane that much longer trying to roll luggage over the curb.

I think this MIGHT work with an island separated from the bike lane with a railing, and a defined crossing area with no curbs, per my earlier comment. But as it is, it’s an illegal, dangerous embarrassment.

I’d love to see the Heathman and PBOT respond to this.

Thank you for your reporting, qqq, for being the dog with a bone to pick. qqq’s featured comment can be found under the original post.

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero (Assistant Editor)

Lisa Caballero is on the board of SWTrails PDX, and was the chair of her neighborhood association's transportation committee. A proud graduate of the PBOT/PSU transportation class, she got interested in local transportation issues because of service cuts to her bus, the 51. Lisa has lived in Portland for 23 years and can be reached at lisacaballero853@gmail.com.

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soren
soren
1 year ago

I appreciate the way qqq’s comment highlights the lack of compliance with the ADA. I also appreciate that qqq acknowledged in other comments the potential for conflict between people walking/rolling and people biking. This is often ignored from the saddle perspective but it really shouldn’t be because improvements that lessen this conflict tends to improve the experience of people walking/rolling and people biking.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago

I’m not totally opposed to parking-protected bike lanes, but qqq’s comment shows their drawbacks. They tend to accumulate junk, are an intuitive area for pedestrians to linger, obscure cyclists from the view of drivers turning right, and funnel riders into a restricted, narrow path with limited options for defensive maneuvering.

While I do appreciate that I’m not at risk for getting hit from behind by a driver to my left, these other risks are substantial!

The closest call I’ve had in years was riding east down the protected bike lane on Hawthorne. A van pulled up *way* past a stop sign (because the adjacent bus stop and various street crap block visibility from behind the sign) from the right. They obviously weren’t expecting to see a bike coming from so close to the sidewalk and only a skidding stop prevented me from t-boning the van’s front door.

I’m at risk for sounding like a cranky “vehicular cyclist” but these lanes give me the willies!

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

The protected lanes on Hawthorne are better than I had feared they would be, but given the speeds involved, I would have preferred a well buffered lane in a more conventional (and visible) position. Due to the perceived danger, I rarely ride on this segment any more, and it will be even less attractive when TriMet puts buses back on SE Ladd (March 2023).

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

I’m with you, Charley. Try riding downhill on SW 49th Ave/ SW Capitol Hwy in the parking-protected bike lane and you’ll see that every intersection is basically blind. Cars entering 49th / Cap Hwy need to pull way forward to see into the road – and that’s exactly where the bike lane is. I agree with you about the hazards that the protected lane creates and I think I’d prefer the *VERY SLIM* chance of being hit from behind to having to creep down the hill at 5 mph so I can stop when a car pulls out in front of me.

What’s the old saying? – something like “Every decision has ten unintended consequences.”