Comment of the Week: Lawsuits, the quiet pressure behind city decisions

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
clinton speed

Traffic on SE Clinton.
(Photo: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

As we wrote beneath the last Comment of the Week post, BikePortland has decided to be the only blog we’re aware of that pays for great comments. The person whose thoughts we select for this feature gets a crisp $5 bill in the mail, as a way for us to appreciate the site’s amazing discussion community. So watch your email — we might be in touch.

Street safety matters to cities. So does street comfort. But only one of those issues will land you in court.

That’s the insight shared this week by BikePortland reader paikiala, responding to the discussion on Wednesday’s post about a guerrilla traffic diverter installed on Clinton by anonymous activists.

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Vision 0.08: Why any major safe-streets effort must tackle alcohol

Scene of fatal crash on SW Barbur Blvd-6

SW Barbur Boulevard: a bad street to
be drunk on by any mode.
(Photos: J.Maus/BikePortland)

This is a guest opinion piece by A.J. Zelada, a longtime biking and walking advocate who chaired the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee from 2011 to 2013.

Intoxicating amounts of alcohol are at the death scene of 36 percent of walking fatalities and 32 percent of biking deaths.

So why does today’s street safety movement seem to trivialize it?

Last year, I listened to Oregon’s Safe Routes to School manager proclaim new safety issues to protect pedestrians. The ideas were great, but one was missing: She did not mention alcohol at death scenes. Vision Zero is being considered by many cities, including Portland and New York City, as a backbone policy for reducing road deaths. New York City’s new Vision Zero policy has one paragraph about alcohol.

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Learning the law at the Share the Road safety class

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Ellee Thalheimer is a new contributing writer to BikePortland. Her most recent story was a product review of women’s bike shorts designed for utility and fashion. Ellee is a yoga instructor and travel writer living in Southeast Portland. Check out her author page here.

We covered the beginnings of the Share the Road Safety Class; this is our first inside account by a BikePortland operative.


Traffic safety gurus (L to R): Judge
Chris Larsen, BTA instructor Gregg
Lavender, Officer James Sorensen,
and nurse Mike Morrison.
(Photos: Ellee Thalheimer)

“Bike laws are schizophrenic,” the judge in my case told me. “Sometimes you’re a vehicle, sometimes you’re a pedestrian.”

It’s true. The rules of the road are confusing, and for those of us who get around on two wheels, confusing can translate into lethal. That’s one reason self-proclaimed “safety geek” and Judge Chris Larsen wanted to create a better way to educate road users about how to operate legally, and safely, on city streets.

Nearly two years ago, Larsen initiated the Share the Road Safety Class, a two-hour lecture/discussion/presentation that takes place twice a month at Legacy Emanuel Hospital.

The class functions as an alternative to expensive, record-marring traffic tickets that leave offenders frustrated, but unfortunately, still ignorant about the rules of the road.

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