Noted bicycle journalist Jan Heine explains the argument against separated bikeways

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Seattle resident Jan Heine is a very respected figure in the bicycling world. As editor of Bicycle Quarterly, a magazine that delves deeply into bicycle design and randonneuring, he has a large and loyal following. So when he published a lengthy blog post yesterday that was highly critical of the “worrisome trend” in the U.S. of building and advocating for cycle tracks and other types of physically separated bikeways — I wasn’t surprised at the heated debate it stirred up (both in his comment section and on Twitter when I shared the link).

Heine has touched a nerve on one of the the most heated debates in the bicycling world: Should we create separation (which is the outlook held by almost every major bike advocacy organization) similar to the great bike cities of northern Europe; or should we focus on educating people how to “take the lane” and maintain the push for “vehicular cycling” wherein people on bikes learn to share lanes with those of us in cars. (Or better yet, as some have pointed out in comments below, we should combine the best aspects of the two approaches.)

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Slapping of car leads to road rage incident in North Portland

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Bike lane in action

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Vancouver resident Don Joling claims he got an unwanted surprise after he slapped the body of a car on North Interstate Avenue this morning. The person in the car became enraged and, according to Joling, it almost led to a shooting.

Here’s what Joling just posted to the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association email list:

I almost got shot on the way home. Literally. I was rolling down Interstate between New Seasons and Fred Meyer and some car came over almost putting me in the sidewalk, so I slapped the rear quarter panel just hard enough to get his attention.

So at the next stop light, at Fred Meyer, I’m que’d [sic] up with a couple other cyclists, and he comes up on my right, and goes ballistic. Tells me that he’s got a gun and is going to shoot me in the leg. I stay super calm, not reacting at all. I tell him I was just letting him know he almost hit me. I can see in his car and the glove box is open with his hand in it. He settles down a little telling me he rides too, but I’m lucky I didn’t dent his car (he had gotten out to look apparently). A couple more standard issue cuss words (ya I’d say them, but trying to keep this family friendly) from him and we went our separate ways.”

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Responding to feedback, BTA clarifies and modifies helmet policy

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Rabbit on his tall bike-1

BTA says they’ll oppose
mandatory helmet laws “if
a bill does not advance cycling
in Oregon.”
(Photo © J. Maus)

In an email to members this morning, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Board President Stephen Gomez wrote a letter offering, “Clarity on the BTA’s helmet stance.”

The letter comes in response to a new helmet policy released by the BTA back in October. That policy, which came after tallying results from a member survey on the issue, rubbed many in the community the wrong way.

The key part of the policy some people expressed disappoint in was this: “If confronted with a proposed mandatory helmet law, the BTA will not stand in opposition to the law. Neither will we devote resources to passing such a law.” While subtle, the new policy marked a shift toward a more pro-helmet stance than they’d had in the past. The BTA had previously been opposed — both philosophically and in practice — to laws that would make helmets mandatory for adults.

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Tomorrow: Legal, law enforcement experts to join rural road safety forum

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Traffic on Skyline Blvd.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Tomorrow night the Skyline Ridge neighborhood association is hosting a community forum to discuss rural road safety issues. Safely sharing high-speed, narrow, and winding rural roads like Skyline Blvd has been an issue for years; but back in August, the issue reached a boiling point when it became clear that many people had been harassed in the same area along Rock Creek Road (which connects to Skyline).

To help calm tempers and perhaps find a solution before someone ends up being seriously hurt (or worse), neighbors decided to air out the issues and give everyone an opportunity to talk. At the forum tomorrow night, organizer and nearby resident Laura Foster has lined up legal experts and a professional moderator from Portland State University to help add structure to the event.

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BTA releases helmet policy, survey results

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Helmets on the Hawthorne Bridge
(Photo by Will Vanlue)

Using feedback gleaned from a recent survey, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) board of directors has formally adopted a policy on helmets. Here is the position statement as published on their blog this morning:

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance supports state law that requires those under 16 to wear helmets while on a bicycle. Helmets are safety devices that make bicycling safer by mitigating injury in the event of a fall or crash. Our role as an advocacy organization is to push for safer cycling environments and making our roads more bike-friendly. Therefore, The Bicycle Transportation Alliance encourages the use of helmets by all cyclists.

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PCC Cascade eyes multi-level parking garage on Michigan Ave

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PCC has determined that the
corner of Michigan and Killingsworth
would be the best location for a
multi-story parking garage.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Portland Community College’s Cascade campus is considering the construction of a four-story parking garage on the northeast corner of N Michigan and Killingsworth. The project is part of district-wide expansion plans funded by a $374 million bond measure passed by voters in 2008.

While some neighborhood residents are alarmed at the potential impacts of a parking garage — especially its alignment along the bicycle boulevard planned for Michigan Ave — PCC officials say that the structure is not a done deal and they still might not have build it.

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When it comes to helmet laws, language matters

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Bike camping at Champoeg St. Park-134

Mandatory helmet laws say
the little guy should wear one.
(Photos © J. Maus)

After reading about the helmet survey launched by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance last week, I wanted to share a cautionary tale about helmet laws. I live in Vancouver, Washington where we’ve been living with a mandatory, all-ages helmet law since 2008.

If you’re of the persuasion that mandatory helmet laws are a good thing, keep in mind that not all mandatory helmet laws are created equal and — as Vancouver is finding out with its 2008 ordinance — subtle wording can have a profound effect on the scope of the law.

Sidestepping the seemingly non-existent impact Vancouver’s law has had on helmet use, bike ridership and injury rates, it contains a few real-world complications that highlight why it’s important to pay attention to subtle wording.

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The Oregonian asks: “Portland bicyclists who run red lights: Is it worth it?”

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Screen shot from The
Oregonian’s “Hard Drive” blog.

A new blog post by Joseph Rose, the commuting columnist for The Oregonian, takes a look at one of the most unpopular aspects of bicycling behavior: red light running. In, Portland bicyclists who run red lights: Is it worth it? Rose asks, “Is it really worth blowing through a red light on your bicycle on the streets of Portland?… Does it really cut much time off your commute?”

Rose also took the opportunity to include a helmet-cam video of a man running several red lights on N. Williams Avenue…

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