A Note to the People Trying to Kill Me (on my bicycle)

To the commercial van that right-hooked me a couple of weeks ago on Barbur Blvd. as I was passing the northbound freeway ramp at Terwilliger:

  • The vehicle going straight (me) has the right of way.
  • I was able to just barely turn inside you. If my bar end mirror scratched your paint, I’m very sorry…

To the woman who ran the red light on Naito at speed on Tuesday as the Bicycle Advisory Committee was turning in front of you on our central city tour:

  • I was far enough back in the pack that I wasn’t really at risk.
  • I’m glad our lead riders were pretty nimble…

To the gentleman in the Pearl today who began parallel parking next to Jameson Square, only to suddenly pull out and zip across the street into an angled space:

  • My brake pads are apparently in pretty good shape.
  • I’m pretty sure that’s an illegal movement…

I hope that you’ll all understand that when I advocate for protected bikeways on busy streets, it’s nothing personal, it’s just that YOU’RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION.


40 responses to “A Note to the People Trying to Kill Me (on my bicycle)”

  1. Is this supposed to be flame bait? Either way…

    People in cars are people that are assholes, if they intend to be or not. That’s the kindest way I can put it. The statistics prove this out.

    But I digress, I’m always glad when I and all the car driving folk can get from point A to point B in one piece.

    Tonight, while riding in Seattle I saw a red light runner. I couldn’t help but think if someone saw me doing that on a bike they’d be up in arms. I have an almost impossible chance of killing anyone though.

    The driver who just ran the red light though could have easily killed anyone she’d have hit. She was traveling at a minimum speed of 40mph. That means, if you’re hit, you have about 1-2% chance of surviving a side impact while on a bike.

    If I’d run into her while she’s in her car. I get hurt. If I run into her as a pedestrian (less likely than her killing a pedestrian) I still wouldn’t kill her. I can’t even go 40 mph on the street…

    I do digress though. People that drive recklessly (which is EVERYBODY at some point or another) are always about a split second away from committing murder.

    Everyone driving should think about that for a minute each and every time they get behind the wheel.

  2. Let’s take the high road so that we don’t inflame anyone. People using any type of transportation (I’m including peds and people on bikes) can be jerks. They can also simply be fallible humans. The problem is, those of us who are not surrounded by steel are extremely vulnerable to the actions of drivers. That’s why we need protected infrastructure: not because people are trying to kill us, but because nobody is perfect and eventually they are going to make a mistake with severe consequences.

    Protected infrastructure doesn’t just protect the person on a bike. It also protects drivers from having to live with the results of a momentary lapse. I don’t drive much at all anymore since moving downtown, but if I hit somebody walking or on a bike I might not ever get over it, whether it was my fault or not.

  3. Wasn’t trying to incite, just calling it like it is. In Portland I’ll admit, drivers are dramatically more polite, but go to anywhere in the US and many places outside, and a car degrades a human being to a horn honking neanderthal. Read traffic, read psychological characteristics. Cars basically resort us for the time of travel, to a lesser part of humanities history.

    I get they serve us in many ways, but they also dramatically handicap us.

    As for the vulnerability issue, I agree. They also dehumanize many landscapes (ever see a picnick near an interstate, major roadway in a city, or even in most car centric cities? Nope) They push and pull us apart from each other, disconnect us from each other by ever greater distances and generally cost us (especially in the US, with the way we use them) far more than we can continue to utilize. People on this blog should know the factors – 15x more energy than we produce here in country. We travel far greater distances (even though our car ownership is lower, how strange) than Europeans and basically waste far more land, energy and other resources.

    In the US, and really any area that over-utilizes the auto – which is almost everywhere – we’ve got a lot of progress to make before we get net energy/resource even and then we have the issue of re-humanizing and refocusing our landscapes back on things that make us morally and psychologically healthy – i.e. focusing on people versus cars.

    Even in Portland, we still focus too heavily on making it easy to drive and not easy to live – albeit Portland is one of the cities in the US that has made vastly more progress than many others.

    …anyway… ride on, drive on, be happy. Not that I’ll change anybody’s practices, I’d be the last to try to do that. But I’ll sure as hell point out how much better someone’s life can be without owning a car and especially by not using a car everyday.

    :) Cheers!

  4. Thanks Chris,
    Sounds like another day on a bike in Portland. Always exhilaration tinged with anger.
    Did I ever post my three rules for safe bike riding here? (state vehicular laws are often irrelevant and sometimes deadly)
    1. Do not get hit
    2. Do not be a jerk
    3. Do not lose momentum
    I’ve added a fourth in honor of a certain City Hall transportation staff person: don’t get busted.

  5. You don’t have to watch out for tracks…they won’t jump out at you from the alley. You have to pay attention, not change direction quickly and not put power on your rear wheel…just coast for a brief moment at a good angle. We bikers need to remember that something like 12K times a day someone rides the thing.

  6. My buddy said trains and trees jump out at ya. He was drunk, in the passenger seat of my other friends car back in indiana and let me say that is why I was glad my drunk friend wasn’t the one driving…

  7. I’ll add this: exercise extreme caution when running a red light at a T intersection. My little girl and I were almost hit in a crosswalk by a cyclist who ran a red in front of Brooklyn Park. He couldn’t see us, nor could we see him because he was in the bike lane and the view was obscured by stopped vehicles. I know cyclists think they can’t hurt anyone, but I expect a 170lb cyclist doing 25mph could easily kill a 35lb child. It’s about the same amount of force as if a 350lb linebacker blind-tackled her. She could have easily been killed or crippled. He literally missed hitting us by less than a yard.

    Ironically, I can completely understand why that cyclist felt safe running the light: it’s a T intersection so there was no possibility of a car hitting him. Unfortunately he forgot that light is only red when pedestrians hit the crosswalk button. I’m hoping he at least came away with some increased awareness, as I’m sure he’d have felt like an utter tool had he hit one of us.

    I general I agree that cars are much more of a hazard (everyone uses the roads, so we all know what’s faced out there), but let’s not develop an unrealistic view of the dangers cyclists can present if they aren’t careful.

  8. Developing bike paths that are separated from traffic should be done—but only at the most reasonable cost. If it results in a route an extra mile or two long, so be it.

    But from a strictly fiscal POV it looks like bike trails are running a very distant second to light rail. The MLR at 200m per mile would buy an awful lot of bike path.

  9. But from a strictly fiscal POV it looks like bike trails are running a very distant second to light rail. The MLR at 200m per mile would buy an awful lot of bike path.

    Light rail runs a distant second to roads.

  10. A not-insignificant portion of the Milwaukie Light Rail project is the construction of a Bike/Ped/Transit bridge over the Willamette.

  11. “A not-insignificant portion of the Milwaukie Light Rail project is the construction of a Bike/Ped/Transit bridge over the Willamette.”

    >>>> And that’s the only good thing about this project.

  12. “Light rail runs a distant second to roads. ”

    Would you stay on topic please. My comment was about how far more bike trail miles could be funded from the expenditures for light rail.

    “A not-insignificant portion of the Milwaukie Light Rail project is the construction of a Bike/Ped/Transit bridge over the Willamette.”
    And since we already have bridges serving normal traffic, is pretty much an add on. It’s really only needed if you believe in rapid population growth, something contrary to ZPG advocates.

  13. I think Sandy Blvd, Hawthorne Blvd, SE Foster, and maybe SE Stark or NE Glisan should be converted to multimodal arterials with one lane per direction for motorized traffic and one for bicycles. The cost would be primarily paint.

  14. To the idiot witnessed Friday, September 14th at about 5:10 PM or so, Barbur Boulevard at Taylors Ferry Road opposite the bus entrance to the Barbur Transit Center:

    Having a “Share the Road” license plate proving your total incompetence in operating a bicycle does not justify you driving your car in the bike lane to illegally pass two other cars to your left, just so you can make the right hand turn onto Taylors Ferry. Fortunately another car was blocking their path (and that right turn has been, for a very long time, a “NO TURN ON RED” intersection) preventing them from turning against a red light and into the path of a pedestrian.

    Oh, the license plate was Oregon DYCZ, a Mazda 3, and yes it was an Oregon “Share the Road” plate donating part of its fee to the Bicycle Terrorism Alliance.

  15. Would you stay on topic please.

    Huh? You were the first person to bring up light rail and comparative funding.

    Personally, if I had to make a hypothetical trade among two competing mega-projects, I’d put off a $1B planned major rail line for a decade or so in order to get $1B of a complete bicycle network. But of course I’d want to see the details first.

    It’s really only needed if you believe in rapid population growth, something contrary to ZPG advocates.

    The two statements are not in conflict.

    1. The population is growing (“rapid” being a subjective term).

    2. There are people who advocate for zero-population-growth. (Enacting policies to change the present trajectory.)

    Not sure why you would cast those as contrary. Both statements are true.

    If you want to oppose a new bridge because you don’t want new people to move here, that’s fine. (Since you brought up ZPG vs. bridges, how does a Third Bridge over the Columbia jibe with ZPG advocacy?)

  16. And one of my most memorable “near-misses” was a Subaru Outback, on Barbur (northbound) near All Star Fitness, again with a Bicycle Terrorism Alliance “Share the Road” license plate and two bikes in its back compartment clearly visible through the windows, who decided to cut the bike lane around that slight curve as Barbur lines up with 4th – right as I was in the bike lane (on my bike, wearing a very visible yellow jersey, two sets of flashing red lights visible from the rear, and of course a helmet).

    Apparently “share the road” doesn’t mean “share the road with bicyclists” but “I’m on the road and I’m going to F(#*ing take the road – YOU share it with me, no matter what the hell I’m riding or driving”.

  17. These are certainly great examples of why need separated bikeways. Sure some drivers are bad, and some cyclists are bad, but the reality is that everyone makes mistakes occasionally. In cities where everyone must interact with a lot of other people on the road everyday, some are bound to die in these “avoidable” crashes. We need infrastructure that encourage safe behaviour but is forgiving of minor mistakes- and separated bike lanes is one way to achieve that.

  18. I don’t think it’s just drivers. I think people have become so selfish and oblivious to everything around them they simply don’t care about anything else except getting where they need to that precious 5 seconds quicker. It’s only going to get worse the more non-Oregon foreigners that continue to invade here. I’ve had bikes nearly collide with me as a pedestrian, even when I had the walk sign. I even had a bicyclist actually collide with me once and he just said “sorry, my bad” and continued on, didn’t even ask if I was ok (which I was but still didn’t ask). Last week I was a ped in downtown Portland and actually had the signal to go (wasn’t a typical Portlander just going without even looking first to see if they either had the signal OR if there was someone coming) and the car making the left hand actually had the audacity to honk his horn WHILE I WAS CROSSING! Then the next day, different city — I was in downtown Salem crossing and almost got creamed by a red light runner. Maybe someone should come up with a wearable camera that is recording video at all times so we can start nabbing these self – absorbed jackasses before they kill somebody.

  19. Neither mode of transport has a monopoly on inconsiderate operators. OTOH, I’d rather be hit by the vehicle that weighs 20 pounds than by the vehicle that weights two tons….

  20. “Bicycle Terrorism Alliance”

    “It’s only going to get worse the more non-Oregon foreigners that continue to invade here.”

    Can you feel the love tonight?…

    Have we devolved into the Oregonian comments section?

  21. “I think Sandy Blvd, Hawthorne Blvd, SE Foster, and maybe SE Stark or NE Glisan should be converted to multimodal arterials with one lane per direction for motorized traffic and one for bicycles. The cost would be primarily paint.”

    Do people who own property on those streets, or rent property there, get a say? Probably not. I didn’t get to vote when they changed my street to a bicycle freeway, even though I have been nearly run down more frequently by unlighted bicyclists whom you cannot hear coming, than by cars
    that you can both hear and see.
    (This is my opinion, and not guaranteed to be scientifically statistical, but I thought it would be fun to throw more fat in the fire! : )

  22. A bicycle freeway? While that sounds like a fine idea, that wouldn’t be an accurate description of a mixed-use neighborhood street with sharrows painted down the middle.

    A bicycle freeway would be a controlled-access facility, at which bikes could whiz by at a Lance-Armstrong-on-EPO pace, unmolested by pedestrians or cars. It would be a grade-separated facility without traffic lights (or any cross traffic) on the mainline. And it might even have rest areas periodically, where bikers can get a cup of coffee, have a shower, and/or change from their spandex to their suit and tie (or vice versa).

    Yes, bike freeways sound like an excellent idea.

    But your street, Ron, is most certainly not one.

  23. Indeed…

    I was a member of the Sullivan’s Gulch Trail project advisory committee.

    If constructed, this would be a trail mostly along I-84 from Gateway (and eventually further east) to the vicinity of the Steel Bridge.

    Although much of the trail would be “grade separated”, members of the committee took care to envision this as a multi-use trail with cyclists of varying ability as well as pedestrians. “Bicycle Freeway”, even for a facility of this nature, was something to avoid, although “Significant Commuter Route” was something to embrace among other uses.

    Even the current multi-use trails such as along I-205 are interrupted by traffic signals at major arterials, making them something significantly less than “bicycle freeways”.

    The Sullivan’s Gulch Trail, as currently envisioned, has local connections at major streets and points of interest as well as uninterrupted passages below, above, or around most of those major streets. (Much of the infrastructure for which already exists! But there are significant issues of right-of-way ownership which will need to be addressed before the complete trail can ever be connected.)

  24. I don’t know why you had to take exception to my comment. I live right on the Springwater Trail residential link(s) (now, I’m afraid to divulge which street, since certain minions will hate on me) and yes it resembles a freeway. And other trail users have also expressed legitimate concerns…therefore an informed debate is wanted here, not some reactions to a presumed infactual statement.

  25. Investments in bike and transit infrastructure serve EVERYONE…especially those who need their cars for their work and those hauling goods. Compared to the cost of widening roads and highways, bike facilities and even light rail are bargins. And of course, within the City of Portland it is virtually impossible to widen arterials. So we really have no option, but to build the Bike Master Plan, and build out the lightrail and Streetcar networks. Its really the low cost solution. And we have yet to talk about air & water pollution, global warming, and dependence of Saudi/Iranian oil.

  26. (yawn)
    We would all do a lot better if no one would resort to propaganda techniques:

    Glittering generalities
    Plain folks
    Card stacking

  27. We would all do a lot better if no one would resort to propaganda techniques

    Seeing as we don’t live on planet Vulcan, and aren’t all eminently logical, we’ll have to deal with non-ideal forms of human rhetoric. If you see specific instances of fallacy, excess, or error you wish to point out, feel free to do so–civilly and politely, of course, and include an explanation of why.

    Simply listing topics from a CT course (your list looks EXACTLY like that given to me in the Unified Studies course I took from mean ol’ Mrs. Sharpe nearly 30 years ago–actually she was a really nice lady, but she was tough and therefore “mean” to a seventh grader) is edifying, but doesn’t serve to illustrate what arguments you think are lacking.

  28. Anyone that refers to the BTA as “Bicycle Terrorism Alliance” is more of an extremist than any member of the BTA.

    And should be sent packing from this blog.

    Absolutely NO different than those who make snarky remarks against bus riders, bus supporters, suburban residents, drivers, motorists, pedestrians, those who are unhappy with bicyclists, those who earn less than $100,000/year, those who migrated from California, Republicans, anyone who does not fully support rail projects…

    Which, would eliminate about 99.999999999% of the population here at http://www.portlandtransport.com. But it’s OK to rat on bus supporters, and motorists. And anyone who doesn’t go to the “Church of Rail”.

  29. those who migrated from California

    People making such gross sweeping, derisive generalizations, including specifically the California one most recently, had you been bothering to pay attention, have been admonished.

    If you think that’s what regularly goes on around here or that you have license to engage in similar slurs, you are mistaken.

    But you are free to take your insults to a blog that you actually like.

  30. Nobody appreciates Erik’s use of sarcasm but me?

    Lenny I just love your stand on free speech and exchange of ideas!

    Bob , you’re not exactly the portrait of tolerance either.

  31. Lenny’s position on “free speech and exchange of ideas” on this blog is not inconsistent with The Rules of which you should be all-too-aware.

    This is not a rant fest. The principles of Free Speech allow you, Erik, or anyone else to create their own blog and spout off about anything they want and about anything or anyone they hate, whether labeling a bicycle advocacy/lobbying group “terrorists” or shouting that all Californians should go “home” from the top roof of the highest winery tasting room in Newberg.

    But not here. Don’t play coy or offended about principles. You’ve known the rules here for a long time, and so has Erik.

    End of discussion.

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