Language Matters

Taking a closer look at the power of words and framing when it comes to bicycling issues.

Editorial: Signs of traffic culture on paths vs. roads

Posted on August 31st, 2011 at 11:13 am.

Sign on I-205 path-1

A common sign on multi-use
paths. Why don’t we use these
on other transportation facilities
that are narrow and have users
that need to use caution around
one another?
(Photos © J. Maus)

The other day I was riding out to Southeast Portland along the I-205 multi-use path and I came across a sign I’d seen many times before.

“Bicyclists” it read, in large, all-caps font across the top, “This is a multi-use path. Reduce speed. Watch for pedestrians.” (The exact same sign is also on the Eastbank Esplanade just south of the Hawthorne Bridge overpass.)

I’ve shared thoughts about sharing paths with people on foot several times on this site in the past; but recent discussions about the safety and lack of space for bicycles and cars on rural roads put this sign into a new light. [Read more…]

Language Matters: PBOT on Sunday Parkways

Posted on May 24th, 2011 at 12:18 pm.

[Publisher’s note: As anyone who follows me on Twitter or who has read the comments and stories on this site closely over the years knows, I have a thing for language. In my opinion, the words we use have a very powerful role in shaping the narrative around transportation issues. I see examples of this impact almost every day. In Language Matters* (column originally called Language Police, but changed after some feedback in the comments), we’ll highlight communications from advocacy leaders, government agencies, and elected officials that offer examples of how transportation language is used — and misused.]

Sunday Parkways kicked off last weekend. To prep the media for the event, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) sent out a press release. Here are the excerpts that caught my eye (emphasis mine): [Read more…]