Open season on bicycles

T.A. Barnhart

Brett Robert JarolimekYesterday, another Portland bicyclist died for no reason other than a big truck neglected to take care when turning — and because our bike lanes are safe only when the nearest motorized vehicle is at least two blocks away.

A cyclist was killed in North Portland on Monday after being pinned by a garbage truck making a right turn — a near replay of another fatal crash that occurred downtown less than two weeks ago.

Brett Robert Jarolimek, 31, of Southeast Portland was going straight in a bike lane as the truck, with its turn signal on, turned. Although skid marks at the scene show the cyclist tried to brake, he hit the truck, fell underneath and was crushed by the rear set of tires. The cyclist, who was wearing a helmet, was pronounced dead at the scene.

With the death of 19-year-old cyclist Tracey Sparling not even two weeks old, Monday's collision is heightening frustration over how vehicles and bikes share the road. Sparling was killed when a cement truck turned right as she proceeded straight after a stoplight had turned green.

Frustration? Are you fucking kidding me? How about terror? Horror? Disgust? I'm frustrated with my bills, with the Ducks' defensive backs. This is life-and-death, and it's affecting people who choose to do a good thing: exercise and take a car off the street. Riding your bike to school, work or play should not be a rolling version of Russian Roulette.

And what about the Portland police? What's their response? First, regarding Tracey Sparling, run over by a truck that swung through the bike lane despite being unable to see if anyone was there or not.

Although Sparling may have had the right of way, she was in the truck's blind spot, police said. The driver has not been cited, and the investigation is continuing.

"I'm really absolutely fed up with the idea that we have to abdicate our rights in order to have safety on the streets," said Robert Reid, a Portland attorney who stopped at the scene as he biked up North Interstate Avenue. The police, he said, need to cite drivers who don't yield the right of way to cyclists in a bike lane.

But Portland Police Lt. Mark Kruger said solving the problem requires more than just faulting drivers.

"It's a terrible tragedy for everybody involved," he said, adding that he couldn't comment on the specifics of Monday's collision. Cyclists need to ride defensively and be aware if they are moving too fast or are in a place where motorists can't see them, he said. "You can be right, and you can be dead right."

Is Lt Kruger serious? He's saying the bicyclists riding safely and legally are somehow to blame? It was Sparling's responsibility to not be in the truck's blind spot? How dare he! This isn't about the morons who ride without helmets, who zoom through traffic signals and dare cars to make them pay; those are assholes who should have their bikes confiscated and be sent to safety school. This is about now are people who obeyed the law and still died. And Lt Kruger, on behalf of the Portland Police Bureau, refuses to acknowledge this simple fact.

The police cannot acknowledge their complicity, of course, because there are too few of them and too many shitty drivers. The city could plant cops at almost any downtown intersection and make tons of money on a daily basis. They could target the people who ignore crosswalks and stop signs, who fly through residential neighborhoods at 35 and above, who slide around corners with no regard for the frail human bodies they push out of the way; they could make an honest effort to stem the lawlessness of those in cars, and there would be two outcomes.

One, they'd have a minimal effect. Drivers don't care. They are in a car because it's convenient, fun, powerful (penis substitute), cool and goddammit they're in a hurry. Until the laws truly punish drivers, tickets won't matter.

And two, they'd piss off the drivers, and that would get the attention of City Hall, Metro and the Police Bureau more than anything we bikers (and pedestrians) will ever manage. We are out-numbered, and we don't have the clout. AAA would weigh in, not to mention the Libertarians, desperate Republicans seeking any possible ass-saving issue and the Cascade Policy Institute. All of whom fall into shameful silence when another law-abiding bicyclist is killed by a moving vehicle.

When I got my drivers license back in high school, my driving test was perfect but for one error I made twice: I changed lanes without looking over my right shoulder to see if anyone was there. It nearly cost me my license, and I've rarely repeated the mistake since. The few times I have, it was almost tragic: close calls on I5. You cannot, you must not, drive into a space you cannot see. It's that simple, and if I had caused a collision by making that mistake, I would have been (rightfully) charged with a crime. Driving where you cannot see is "failure to drive in a careful and prudent manner" — if not worse.

I have tremendous sympathy for the two truck drivers. I'm sure they are devestated by the terrible harm done by their carelessness. I truly hope they can find peace in the days to come; one of the evils of the automobile is the magnification of the harm caused by "small" errors. I don't really want to see those two people punished. They do need to face legal action, of course, but I'm not condemning them.

I am condemning our local governments that have become smug about what a great bicycling city Portland is (and it really is) and has not acted to get ahead of this problem before it was too late. Anyone going into or out of downtown during the week (I get a great view from the #4 bus over the Hawthorne Bridge) knows how crazy traffic is, and bikes are forced by the official flow of traffic to weave in and out of motorized traffic lanes. Tri-Met, to their credit, has done a good job of making their drivers aware of bike lanes (I don't think I've seen a driver ignore them yet), but the cars and various trucks are another story. I just can't escape the thought that one morning, instead of going to work I'll end up helping a bicyclist who's been cut down by an office worker in a hurry.

It's time for the City, Metro and other governments to recognize that the needs of area bicyclists cannot wait for studies or transportation plans (especially when Metro's upcoming 30-day public comment period has no evening sessions: you go in the day, or you don't get to go at all). Changes have to happen now. The risk is too great, and someone tell me I'm wrong. Two people doing absolutely nothing wrong are dead, and the police are scolding bikes for not being big enough for a truck driver in a hurry to see with a casual glance.

The police need to get out and start nailing both scofflaw bikers — like I said, confiscate their damn bikes and give them to kids whose parents can't afford a good bike — and careless, hurrying drivers. Let's see fines that are punitive. Make drivers mad; I don't give a damn. We are a nation of laws, and being late to work or having trouble managing a latte while talking on your cell while taking a corner at 20 mph is no excuse to disregard some of the most common and sensible laws we have. The city and county need to pass laws that give the police power to raise hell with those who use the streets with no regard for others, no matter how many wheels they are on.

Tracey SparlingAnd those of us who bike and walk, we have to make our safety our own issue. Anyone who has been paying attention for the past 250 years should realize that it's only grassroots action that brings real change in this country. I lit a number of options in the comments, things we can do to make a change. We have to do these things. Just like we have to end the war, we have to bring equal rights to all Oregonians, we have to hold our governments responsible for their failings. There are organizations we can join. We have many options for effective action.

Start by being smart, safe and respectful. Don't trust the cars; don't even trust the laws. Assume the worst, and ride/walk that way. Be ready to dive for cover. Wear a helmet and use lights!

And do not let anyone off the hook on this: the Police Bureau, the City of Portland, Metro, your county. They are all complicit in these deaths, and we have to force them to act now — too late as it is, we must force them to take responsibility. This has to go up to the top of the list; there are few public safety issues as critical as the safety of Portland's growing, and vulnerable, bicycling and pedestrian population (which includes those who ride buses and even those who park their cars and walk the rest of the way, however short).

Two ghost bikes are two too many. But with winter on the way and our streets more crowded than ever, number three seems inevitable. It takes only a few seconds, an act of carelessness, and another person dies needlessly. This is not, as some said after the first death, just a tragic accident. This is the result of government, and community, doing too little to protect the vulnerable.

But we're used to that in America, aren't we? It's called "business as usual."

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    We can hope that two deaths in such a short time will wake up a lot of the sonmabulent drivers out there — and we know that many, if not most, people driving cars and trucks are paying minimal attention to bikes and pedestrians. We can, and must, use this tragic moment to push for alternative transportation systems that don't merely let bikes use the streets but let their riders survive the journey. Here are some upcoming options.

    The Metro Regional Transportation Plan is embarking on a 30-day public comment period. There will be 4 opportunities in the next month, all of which include an open house to get more information (and, I hope, a chance to chat with decision-makers). These are all afternoon meetings, unfortunately, so those of us who work 8-5 are left out; I'm amazed there is not a single evening session. (Hey Metro, some of us who care have jobs, you know.)

    Join a bicycle advocacy group. has a tremendous list of bike shops (make sure your bike is running well, the brakes work, you have safety gear, etc; don't go cheap on your safety) and probably every bike group in the area.

    And the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

    Open Directory, a resource I don't use nearly enough for anything.

    Stop taking your safety for granted. When my dad taught me to drive, he taught me a basic precept to keep me safe: Assume that every other driver out there is trying to kill me. I am an amazingly defensive driver, biker and walker; hell, I even look over my shoulder when pushing a cart in the grocery store. When you ride a bike, you have to carry the knowledge that any car that passes or approaches you could be driven by a drunk, an idiot, a cell-phoning asswipe or a really responsible parent whose kid picks just that moment to have a distracting temper tantrum.

    Contact Metro, Tri-Met and the City of Portland. Raise hell.

    Buy good lights, front and back; don't be a cheapie. Same with the helmet — buy and wear a helmet (and wear it correctly, not pushed back on your head so your forehead is free to receive the killing blow).

    And whoever is looking to revive "" — I'll be glad to host.

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    I'd like to know what they would have done had it been a pedestrian. A pedestrian who would have likely had a "walk" sign and could have very well been in the driver's blind spot as well. Would the same "oh well" attitude be present?

    Yes, it was a terrible accident. But it was caused by breaking the law and not checking your blind spot for bicyclists or pedestrians. And a citation should be issued.

  • toby (unverified)

    A couple years ago, a co-worker and I were riding home from work. Traffic was stop-n-go, and we were cruising along at about 12 mph in the nice wide bike lane. Just as we were passing a large stopped panel truck, a truck coming from the other direction made a sudden turn in front of our panel truck into a driveway in front us. I watched in horror as my colleague struck the side of the turning truck face-first.

    I have always ridden my bike as I used to ride my motorcycle - with the attitude that anyone out there who can get me, will get me. But I have to admit this was one scenario I had never imagined.

    My friend went through a year of re constructive surgery (broken jaw, dental implants, the works). As bad as it was, had I been in front, I would have been under that truck as I ride a much lower recumbent bike. I could have been another serious bike injury or death.

    Since I know I'm lower and therefore less likely to be seen, I have a flag, a mylar sock, and enough lights to look like a carnival ride. But that's still not enough.

    I agree completely with T.A. Fine and confiscate the bikes the rude and unlawful cyclists who endanger others and enrage drivers, and severely fine motorists who unlawfully drive into bike lanes, fail to yield right of way, or anything else that endangers others on the road who happen to have a few less wheels and a lot less hardware.

  • Nick (unverified)

    I don't necessarily disagree with anything written here, but I believe there's an obvious lesson that has been overlooked:

    It's inherently and extremely dangerous as a cyclist to pass cars on the right at a stoplight/stopsign. Especially in the first few moments that the light turns green. It's frankly against the rules of the road. Too many times I see cyclists passing lines of vehicles on the right-hand side as the traffic signal in front of them turns green.

    Who can raise their hand and say they check their blind spot while turning right at a green light? It's just not an action that drivers are conditioned to take. When moving forward thru an intersection, you pay attention to the traffic in front of you, not behind you.

  • Urban Planning Overlord (unverified)

    It doesn't do much good to have a grave stone that says "but he had the right of way."

    How about we create bicycle only streets/paths/bridges? I don't care how many pavement markings there are - I do not feel comfortable riding a bike with thousands of pounds of steel propelled at high speeds a few feet from me. And I'll bet there are thousands of prospective biyclists that agree with me.

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    Maybe I'm on oddity, but I do. I physically turn my self around and check for pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, etc. When there is a bike lane on the right, you definitely have a legal obligation to check your blind spot. After all, there could be a pedestrian about to cross the street who could also be serious hurt or killed if you hit them.

    The ones that drive me crazy, though, are the bicyclists who pass on the right of a right turn only lane. Those are dangerous, and I have almost hit a few of those in downtown Portland. It's because I check my blind spot that I didn't hit those cyclists as they sped past me.

    I'm all for enforcing the rules of the road on cyclists - I think those who blatantly break the rules make the road a lot less safe for those who do. But I'm also for enforcing the rules against drivers who choose to ignore one of the very first things you're taught in the driving portion of drivers ed - CHECK YOUR BLIND SPOT.

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    Nick, you're missing part of the point: both people were in the bike lane. and most bike lanes are on the right. i always pause before taking off when the vehicle to my left is signaling right; you never know. but both Tracey and Brett were in the bike lane. they had the right-of-way.

    and UPO, i agree with you. actually, i'm all for eliminating cars within the city; we have alternatives that are much more sensible, cost-effective, clean, sane, etc. too bad they're so unAmerican.

  • M. (unverified)

    It's surprising to me that there are not more such tragic incidents. A moment of carelessness or inattention on the part of a driver can have a fatal result. People are human. They make mistakes. And they will continue to do so, tickets or no tickets. The real solution is to have protected lanes for cyclists. Not only would this protect the people brave enough to cycle under current conditions; it would encourage thousands of others to join them. If anything good can come of these horrible accidents, it should be to make Portland into a city that is truly bike friendly. To say that this is the case today is to ignore reality. Many of the Bike lanes I've seen are inherently dangerous, luring bikers into inevitable danger. If we can spend millions on a tram that serves few and the wealthy, we can build a bike system that serves the many and the humble.

  • Michael (unverified)

    I had no idea my Honda Civic was really just a penis substitute. If I had known, when I bought it I would have been shopping for a much larger model.

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    Just so nobody gets the wrong impression, "Nick" is not yours truly. Any chance you could throw on a last initial or some other secondary identifier?

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    It's inherently and extremely dangerous as a cyclist to pass cars on the right at a stoplight/stopsign.

    And that's why the BTA's Karl Rohde is advocating that we adopt California's rule on turning right. Simply put, you have to move into the right-most lane before you can turn right -- even if that right-most lane is a bike lane.

    It makes no sense to allow cars to turn right from the second-most-right-hand lane.

    From the BTA Blog:

    Once they have moved to the right hand auto lane, they are generally not expecting to then be passed on the right. Perhaps we need to look at adopting the California law requiring drivers to move into the bike lane before turning right. This impedes the flow of bicycle traffic but might reduce the number of accidents.
  • JerryB (unverified)

    25 traffic convictions and he still has a job driving a truck. It may be that the lesson from this one is that some drivers are going to kill someone eventually if you give them enough chances to do it.

  • David (unverified)

    I have great sympathy for both bicycles and pedestrians - in my walks around town, I know I have to be VERY, VERY careful of drivers who are putting on make-up, chatting on cell phones, etc.

    BUT, I also see ALOT of bicycles and pedestrians who are very inattentive and/or aggressive in their own way - bikes weaving in & out of traffic lanes, bicyclists disobeying road traffic devices, pedestrians walking out in front of cars,

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    There are a couple other issues raised about the design of trucks with these two deaths. One is the "blind spot". There is really no excuse for trucks not to have mirrors that eliminate this. As designed, drivers have no choice but to go somewhere they can't see, they just need to do their best to monitor that spot so no one is there. The other issue is that both these riders ended up under the truck. There have bee proposals to establish standards to require guards on the back and sides of trucks to prevent people or vehicles from getting under them. Those probably would have prevented Brett's death and maybe Tracy's.

    The real problem is we place a much higher premium on speed of travel then we do on safety. Our streets are designed to be relatively safe for people enclosed in a ton of steel, but not at the speeds they are being driven. And for everyone else, look out.

  • Ross Williams (unverified)

    Anyone going into or out of downtown during the week (I get a great view from the #4 bus over the Hawthorne Bridge) knows how crazy traffic is, and bikes are forced by the official flow of traffic to weave in and out of motorized traffic lanes.

    That is not an accurate description. The bike lane goes straight through, buses and those making a right turn onto Grand have to cross it. And the buses have to recross it to get back into traffic. So yes, that is a point where a cyclist needs to be careful. But it is actually a lot safer than when you sat at the curb with cars turning right in front of you.

    If you want an example of dangerous, try the Broadway bike lane that crosses a freeway entrance, its a lot worse. The question is how to make it safer given the mixture of auto traffic and bikes. There needs to be come consideration of creating physically separated bike lanes in the street.

  • BOHICA (unverified)

    Both of these incidents point out the fact that the majority of drivers and riders have no concept of the term "situational awareness." Did the trucks pass the bikes and then forget to check where they were as they prepared to make their turn? Did the bicyclists see the turn signals and ignore them, moving into the blind spot? I wasn't there so I can't pass judgment.

    I've one of those over sized rearview mirrors just so I can be aware of what is on my right, it gives me a view clear back to the end of my vehicle.

    Assume that every driver and bicyclist is an idiot and will pull a bonehead move and you can't go wrong.

  • Tbird (unverified)

    "Who can raise their hand and say they check their blind spot while turning right at a green light? It's just not an action that drivers are conditioned to take. When moving forward thru an intersection, you pay attention to the traffic in front of you, not behind you."

    Except Nick, old buddy, that is exactly what the law requires! You (or anyone) as a driver are required to operate your vehicle safely. I am tried of hearing the excuse that it's just too hard to watch out for cyclists. What about pedestrians? We all seem to be able to abide the pedestrian right of way laws, why not cyclists? Oh, I know this one... It's just too damn inconvenient. I mean c'mon. I'm trying to make a call, drink my latte, change tracks on my iPod and check my hair in the mirror, plus I'm late and do you think I bought this boss ride to go slow. Out of my way.

    Wake up America.

  • Eric J. (unverified)

    The problem with most people now is that not only do they need to SLOW DOWN, they drive cars that are actually trucks and their sight line below the hood is not there as it is with a smaller car. Add to that the abusively LOUD, offensive, and imposing music and bass coming from the radio/cd where they don't hear a thing when they hit something (or someone), and you have the reasons why there are many hit and runs lately of peds and cyclists in Portland and the metro area. My suggestion is to turn down, or take off the bass of, your abusive, offensive, and imposing music, watch the road, pay attention to your driving, and SLOW DOWN.

  • anon (unverified)

    Another phrase (concept) to be aware of is "defensive pessimism" :(

    Part of a defensively pessimistic attitude here could be remembering how very many drivers, especially truck drivers, are from out of town, from places that are not bike-aware. Many of them may not even know what a bike lane is.

  • divebarwife (unverified)

    I feel terrible for the families and friends of these two that were killed - and it is sad - but placing blame on the drivers before we know exactly what happened it just wrong! In Sparling's case it seems pretty clear from eyewitness accounts that the river simply could not see her. There are blind spots that you cannot see regardless of how much you use your mirrors or look over your shoulder. you say "

    "run over by a truck that swung through the bike lane despite being unable to see if anyone was there or not."

    So what - he is supposed to just sit at the light and never turn because someone might be there at some point? From all accounts he DID look and he simply couldn't see her and had no reason to suspect someone was there. Tragic results - YES. Him being careless - NO.

    As for Monday - we don't seem to know yet. Don't place blame on ANYONE until we do. It hurts enough for everyone already.

  • Bigdawg (unverified)

    When will the cyclist learn they too must look out for themselves; just because they have a lane to ride in does not give them carte blanc to ride through an intersection with out first looking all directions; did theirMOTHERS not teach them as they were going up, look before you leap. When the cities and counties install rules of the road for the cyclists, and the cyclist obey those rules will you have less fatalities on the roads. when cyclist want to be a pedestrian and be a moving vehicle they need to know what the rules are and with none inplace they themselves make their self a target. remember 3500lbs. to 40,000lbs, Vs. 45lbs. and a 100-165lb. human being who do you think is going to win every time ???????????? Remember it does take two to TANGO

    Loss of life is all to tragic,

    So Cyclist STOP THE INSANITY you can-not win

  • couldabeenme (unverified)

    If a boxers fists are lethal weapons then several tons of steel should also be considered a lethal weapon and proper care should be exercised when using that weapon. Bicycles don't kill people, cars do. I've stayed alive as a commuter for fifteen years because I expect every driver to pull out in front of me and to turn in front of me. if bicyclists' lives were left to the attention of drivers, there would be a hell of alot more fatalities. You people have no idea how many times we prevent you from running us over. How about hanging up the phone and quit texting and LOOK for peds and cyclists.

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    Two quick points: first, we write off almost all car crashes in little paragraphs in the back of the paper. Don't get the impression that biking is more dangerous than riding in a car. You're adding to your lifespan by biking (though the crash data are complicated, the health effects overcome any effect of crashes).

    Second, we wring our hands and see people die because we don't treat traffic safety as a matter of life and death. It's the leading cause of death for people ages 1 to 35. While Australia, Canada and many European countries have cut their traffic deaths in half over the past decade, the U.S. has kept ours roughly constant. Our leaders say safety is priority number one and then spend hundreds of millions or billions of dollars building things like the Columbia Crossing boondoggle.

    Our leaders who claim safety is the most important thing have to -- and don't -- back it up. Note the 11% of funds for "safety" in the new Portland transportation package. In other countries, taking traffic safety means serious penalties for traffic violators, it means slowing traffic down, and it means investing in safe alternatives to driving so people are aware and looking for people.

  • Terri (unverified)

    TA Barnhart said: "and UPO, i agree with you. actually, i'm all for eliminating cars within the city; we have alternatives that are much more sensible, cost-effective, clean, sane, etc. too bad they're so unAmerican."

    This is not feasible in the least. Eliminate the cars only, and you still would not have prevented the two accidents... both with trucks on business hours. You cannot eliminate all vehicles without destroying businesses in downtown Portland economy. And if you're riding to work, you may find you have no job to ride to in that area. Businesses will relocate as clientele will not patronize a business they can not access.

    It's a tragedy, and an accident. I've ridden motorcycles for over 20 years, and this indignation at being "invisible" on the roadways is nothing new to us. But it comes down to this. You cannot mandate common sense or astute driving habits.

    Therefore you must always ride defensively, and assume every vehicle does not see you. This includes people turning in front of you (either left or right), cars entering in from side streets, aggressive drivers looking for opportunities to pass or avoiding potholes or debris in the road swerving into your lane - and for bicycles and "white lining" California motorcycling, people opening doors as you pass.

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    Having read to this point, I was glad to see Teri's post (although a couple of others made similar points upthread). We in the MC community have been going through this crap all of our lives.

    It's tragic that it took closely spaced bicyclist deaths to get the bicyclists as a group to pay attention to this long ongoing problem.


    1) You have to assume that you are invisible to ALL drivers around you regardless of their positioning and even if you think that you got "eye contact"(you didn't)

    2) The basic brain stuff is that Cagers are only looking for Cagers and larger vehicles. They literally don't see a shape that is less than five feet wide. Bright colors and lights make little difference.

    3) In high traffic density areas, where cars, trucks, pedestrians and bikes are all in the mix, studies have shown that at speeds below 17 mph all participants actually "see" each other. So 20 mph speed limits in these areas would be indicated.

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    TA, I appreciate your alarm, but I think your post is a serious over-reaction. It may be cathartic, but language like this is counterproductive:

    Drivers don't care. They are in a car because it's convenient, fun, powerful (penis substitute), cool and goddammit they're in a hurry. Until the laws truly punish drivers, tickets won't matter.

    I have ridden a bicycle regularly in this town since the mid-80s, and I can tell you, it's one of the best in the country. While negligence can kill a bicyclist, the VAST majority of drivers in Portland are aware of cyclists and generous on the road. About once a month I encounter some idiot in an SUV who fits your description; what's that amount to--1 in 10,000, 30,000, 50,000 cars?

    I know drivers aren't demons because I also drive, as do almost all Portlanders and the large majority of cyclists. And you know what? I screw up sometimes, too. Sometimes I don't see cyclists, and we have encounters that leave them screaming bloody murder at me. (I'm their 1-in-10,000 encounter for the month.)

    This isn't a moral issue, it's a public policy issue. On the roads, it's a negotiation. Cops aren't a society of car-abetting stooges; they're trying to make the roads safe, too.

    These two instances are a good opportunity for us to pause and consider the public policy question. If we descend into moral outrage, however, we kill the opportunity. I hope you feel better, but I don't agree that we live under the yoke of a tacit "government, and community, doing too little to protect the vulnerable." We're transitioning from a car-only city to a multimodal city. I don't see the bad faith in this effort you do, just the ragged edges any transition brings.

  • Extremist revealed! (unverified)

    TA Barnhart said: "and UPO, i agree with you. actually, i'm all for eliminating cars within the city; we have alternatives that are much more sensible, cost-effective, clean, sane, etc. too bad they're so unAmerican."

    And with that, TA Barnhart's rant all makes sense. He's a kook. An extremist of the first order. Get rid of all cars in the city?

    What a fucking dope. I mean really. Good luck with that.

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    Bikes aside, Portland police don't issue citations for anything. I had two cars totaled in PDX in as many years by idiots running a stop sign and a very red light--neither wreck resulted in a ticket. Portland in general has very courteous, careful drivers, but for those who decide to drive anry or oblivious there are no real consequences.

    As the numbers of bikes and traffic in general increases here there will be more fatal bike/car accidents. Some of this could be mitigated by vigorous traffic enforcement, which could probably pay for itself if the fines were high enough. Remember driving is a privilege, not a right.

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    P.S. How about we create bicycle only streets/paths/bridges? -UPO

    Excellent idea. And bikes should be banned altogether on some high traffic streets. It would be a tradeoff that would benefit everyone and save lives.

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    In each of these cases, the person with the most unobstructed view -- and in the best position to prevent the collision -- was the bicyclist.

    When I was a Portland bike messenger back in the day when there were no bike lanes to give us a false sense of security, we knew that you don't try to pass on the right a car that is turning right. You certainly don't assume people in cars are looking out for you.

    When stopped at an intersection next to someone who plans to turn right, you make eye contact with that driver. Failing that, you wait until that person makes the turn.

    The law doesn't require cyclists to do this, but common sense and self-preservation do.

    The way that these two tragedies can be compounded is for the cycling community to react the way TA has done here and not learn the lesson about what cyclists need to do to protect themselves in these situations.

    The key is to recognize dangerous situations and avoid them completely or deal with them with extreme caution.

    I say this from experience: Cyclists paying the proper amount of attention in one of cycling's most dangerous situations would have been able to avoid these collisions.

    You can claim it's the drivers' responsibility all the way to the hospital or the morgue. You may be legally in the right, but this is the ultimate case of being dead right.

    The golden rule of cycling: Expect drivers to do the worst possible thing at the worst possible moment, and be pleasantly surprised when they don't.

    And anyone on a bike who is ceding responsibility for their personal safety to drivers on the assumption that those drivers are competent or caring is simply on a fool's errand.

  • couldabeenme (unverified)

    ...and why did Brian S. Lowe's have a valid Class B drivers license? And why was this guy driving a garbage truck for AGG Enterprises. I'm sure all will be explained in the wrongful death lawsuit against AGG.

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    TA, Along with Jeff, I understand the emotion but don't appreciate the language. We don't need the "f" word here or blanket condemnations of all car drivers.

    If folks want an extensive and insightful discussion of this event, go to the bike transportation alliance blog.

    One thing I'll note from that discussion: this driver certainly should have been cited, but checking in the "blind spot" would not have avoided this accident. This is not an analogous accident to last week.

    The posters on that blog estimate that the cyclist was probably going 25-30 MPH down that hill (the length of the cyclist's skid marks make that clear). The "blind spot" would have been empty.

    The driver's error was not to anticipate that the bike, once passed, could overtake him coming down the hill.

  • tl (unverified)

    There are a lot of judgments being tossed around although I don't know anyone who was actually at the scene of either of the two tragic fatalities.

    I am in favor of harsh and enforced penalties for drivers and cyclists who break the law. Not because I get off on punishment, but because it unfortunately seems to be the only way people start paying attention, learning the laws, and obeying them. It sure would be nice if there was a decent budget for traffic law and safety awareness - again, for both drivers and cyclists.

    Years ago I was a driver for a bus company. The policy for any accident was not who was at fault, but whether the accident was preventable. Fault may be relevant for citations and fines (see above), but really, if we hope to have civility, respect, and safety on our roads for all, having the mindset of preventing any mishap, regardless of the law or right-of-way may be the solution.

    I applaud Pat M's suggestion to "Expect drivers to do the worst possible thing at the worst possible moment, and be pleasantly surprised when they don't." I'd replace "drivers" with "anyone on or near the streets".

  • (Show?)

    i know i have a successful post when i get accused of being a kook, an extremist or having a secret agenda.

    Jeff, i'm not being an alarmist. i'm paying attention. the pelatons that fly across the Hawthorne Bridge each morning (the one that gathered at Grand/Madison around 7:30am was about a dozen riders) -- 10,000 riders using the bridges per day during the week -- are becoming a larger part of the traffic flow. these 2 deaths are not accidents; they are symptoms (and i apologize for speaking of two people as data/objects) of a broken transportation system. anyone who thinks people sitting in long lines of barely moving traffic morning and night is a functional system must think constipation is the body in good working order. it's one thing when people are inconvienced and productivity is affected; it's an entirely different thing when people are hurt and killed.

    i'm sorry, Jeff, your attitude would allow those with the responsibility and ability to make changes to do nothing but study, confer and propose. actual working options do exist, and the question we must ask (as we are forever asking here in Oregon, where we spend billions on prisons and a pittance on health care for children) is whether the lives of our citizens are worth the money and effort. i agree it's a public policy issue, but there are times when moral outrage must push policy forward. it did when Kennedy attacked poverty, when Johnson signed the civil rights act, when we try to end a war. two of our citizens are dead because of a policy failure; why is outrage not a proper motivation for action?

  • Gary Killpack (unverified)


  • Eric J. (unverified)

    Actually tl, the only way to get an average persons attention to obey laws is to have a real threat or the carrying out of either extreme incarceration or more extreme monetary punishment (fines/citations). I have found that when I get a lawyer involved, people change their tune REAL quick. I have also seen where average people get fined heavily and the neighborhood they live in shapes up really fast. The key is showing the person you mean business and that there will be a carrying out of the threat of fines, ect. Maybe if we start citing and/or heavily fining those in the wrong (regardless of if it was 'preventable'), we may ultimately shape up those rogue drivers and/or cyclists into better citizens.

  • Kook Revealed! (unverified)

    TA Wrote: "i know i have a successful post when i get accused of being a kook, an extremist or having a secret agenda."

    No, TA, saying kooky, extremist things like you want cars banned from the city of Portland doesn't make it a successful post, it simply reveals you as a kook.

    I'm not sure who said you have a "secret agenda." Seems to me your anti-car extremism is not at all secret. It was all their in your post and in your follow-up comments.

    Yes, it is both extremist and kooky to suggest that cars be banned from the city. It would be the quickest way to completely destroy the economy, and peoples' lives in the process.

    The left, however, has never really shied away from destroying lives in pursuit of their utopian visions.

    Even some of your fellow BO contributors think you are a freaking wing nut, obviously. Guess what? They are right.

  • (Show?)

    As someone who drives in the various geographies of Portland every day--I can tell you that I find it scary as hell when it comes to watching out for bicyclists. I try to be uber careful (and yeah, sometimes I make mistakes), but I find myself white-knuckling through the downtown grid.

    Most of my driving in PDX is done in NW Portland--so perhaps in other areas of the city it's not like this. But I consistently see bicyclists blow through stop signs and red lights. It scares me to death.

    I recognize that many bicyclists have their feet strapped on to the pedals and it's tough to make that stop--especially if it seems like someone isn't there. But I notice this going on at intersections where the views are greatly obstructed by parked cars, trees and shrubs. I've had to come to a screeching halt several times in the last month to avoid a cyclist that didn't have the right of way and didn't stop.

    I figure because I'm driving a car and can really hurt a cyclist--it's on me to be extra careful and aware. In fact if I killed someone I don't know if I could drive again. But that's a poor consolation when I'm sitting behind the wheel, gritting my teeth and heart racing because of a bicyclist who isn't following basic the basic rules of the road.

  • (Show?)

    i agree it's a public policy issue, but there are times when moral outrage must push policy forward. it did when Kennedy attacked poverty, when Johnson signed the civil rights act, when we try to end a war.

    Yeah, well here we depart. As a bicyclist in this town, I don't see the situation as remotely comparable to the civil rights fight. You see an actor of oppression and I see a society trying to manage transition. There was an article in the paper today about bikers boxes--a potential solution being piloted on 39th and Clinton. We have a bicycle-friendly mayor and bicycling city council members. I think that if you're going to turn this into a conspiracy of neglect, you gotta offer some evidence.

    two of our citizens are dead because of a policy failure; why is outrage not a proper motivation for action?

    Two citizens dead are the sign that the policy is not working. Moral outrage may ensure that it continues to not work while indignation and rage prevent serious discussions. I would hate to sit in a room to work through new policy decisions when people are accusing me of moral crimes. Seriously, I don't see how it's productive.

  • (Show?)

    There are many comments here that I am in agreement with to varying degrees. But David's comment above. Most anyone who has driven, rode or walked high-traffic intersections can cite many examples of bad or thoughtless behavior by others. There are a lot of jaded drivers and bike riders out there.

    I know a couple guys who drive big trucks in and around Portland - one drives a dump truck and the other a concrete truck. I've heard both of them complain about bike riders ignoring rules of the road and near misses. Believe me, everytime there is an accident like those cited by T.A., these guys are as aware of them and talk about them every bit as much as the bicycle community does.

    That said, I don't think that enough can be said for defensive driving/riding. I used to ride motorcycles a lot and have had plenty of near misses where I could have sworn that a driver looked right at me and then proceeded to pull out right in front of me. Only defensive driving and constant awareness of my surroundings prevented an accident time after time. It does me precious little good to be in the right... and in a morgue.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)

    TA Barnhart:

    Yesterday, another Portland bicyclist died for no reason other than a big truck neglected to take care when turning — and because our bike lanes are safe only when the nearest motorized vehicle is at least two blocks away.

    Bob T:

    Byciclists and pedestrians automatically lose in collisions with trucks and cars, so no matter how many laws there are regarding watching the bike lanes and ped crossings, both peds and cyclists would be foolsih to cross without looking first. Most of these accidents will be eliminated when that one simple rule is followed.

    I cross lots of streets downtown and elsewhere, and never do it without looking to make sure I'm going to make it across. It won't do me any good at all to be in the right while being crushed.

    Bob Tiernan

  • (Show?)

    Jeff, you should know better than to ascribe the word "conspiracy" to my post when i said nothing of the sort. what i said was a policy failure, and that in part to complacency of the sort that plagues all institutions. Pdx is a great bike town (as i said) but it looks like we've fallen behind the curve. the events of the past 2 weeks must serve as a warning, otherwise we risk more of the same.

    (and i reserve the right to use whatever words i choose that are not hate-based. i rarely work blue here, but i've been on a bike most of my 50+ years. this is something i take very seriously, and very personally. i still have the creeps about the bus in San Francisco that tried to scrape me into the parked cars.)

  • OddsyGirl (unverified)

    I think that the best thing to do is to get rid of the bike lanes. If bikes were traveling in the lane of traffic and had to stop when the vehicle in front of them stops, then they would not be in a trucks blind spot. Look at the number of vehicle/bicycle fatalities before the introduction of bike lanes to Portland's streets and the number of vehicle/bicycle fatalities since they were given their own lane.

    The difference between pedestrians and bicyclists is the speed rate that they travel at.

    Just today, a bicyclist speed past the car that was in front of me. Both of us had our right blinkers on. If there had not been 20-30 students waiting to cross the street that bicyclist would have been hit. When the light turned green, the bicyclist was still approaching the intersection, he was not even in the sight of my side view mirror. I had no knowledge that a bicycle was even on the road, after turning on to this particular street 6 blocks before.

    A few days ago, I was at the same intersection, with my right blinker on, but this time I had passed a bicycle in those 6 blocks, so I was sitting at the light waiting for the bicycle to approach the intersection. Looking before I turned, I noticed that the bicyclist had stopped beside the car that was 2 cars behind me.

    This happens to be an intersection where at least 1 bicyclists has lost their life, but also several have been hurt. Now, at the intersection 6 blocks previously, the majority bicyclists do not stop at the 4 way stop, they just take the right turn.

    There is no light at this intersections that even give a driver the indication that a bike is approaching. This intersection does not have a left turn light for the cars, so you have cars whose views are blocked by cars facing the opposite direction. Add in Tri-met buses and you have a horrible intersection for cars to travel. I truly do not understand why they have bicycles crossing.

  • (Show?)

    hey Pat, if you're going to comment on the post, you should read it thoroughly. i said bikers and pedestrians have to be the one responsible for their own -- don't trust signs, don't trust drivers, don't trust the existence of laws.

    but this is damn close to blaming the victim. if we want to promote manual forms of transportations, we can't do it partially. the risks are too great, as we have learned so tragically. i want bicyclists to be safe, to find ways to get the entire biking community to ride safe, and so on; but our governmental authorities have to act now to make riding and walking safer than it currently is. more study plans don't do a lot of good when cars have the power to injure and kill.

  • amy n. (unverified)

    I just read this article in Spiegel Online (European Cities Do Away with Traffic Signs) discussing how some smaller cities in Europe (the Netherlands and Belgium, 'natch, but also Germany and G.B.) are entirely removing traffic signs, and, as a matter of fact, sidewalks and bike lanes as well. "Unsafe is safe." (I've heard a variation on this before via Ralph Nader, who once argued that the best way to prevent auto accidents is to install a large spike in the center of the steering wheel, pointing directly at the driver's chest). All thoroughfares are covered in cobblestone (at least in one town), and its a complete free-for-all controlled by personal responsiblity and common sense. The result? Accidents are down. Not sure it could work in the self-absorbed "I Am The Most Important Thing Here" U.S., but an interesting thought.

  • Terry Parker (unverified)

    The basic rule of the road is that a vehicle does not travel faster than conditions allow. Having read the media reports on this specific accident, the garbage truck passed the bicyclist near the top of the hill. The bicyclist then picked up speed going down the hill and was unable to stop when the garbage truck slowly made a right turn. By being unable to stop, the bicyclist thereby appeared not to be following the basic rule by traveling faster than the prevailing conditions on the road.

    The reason trains have the right-of- way over motor vehicles is because a train is heavier and it takes longer to stop a train than a truck or car. Likewise, it takes longer to stop a truck or a car than a bicycle. The problem exists with laws that continue to allow bicyclists to have the right-of-way in places where they should not, and the bicyclists themselves that insist on proving that law is right even if it means dead right.

    These laws need to be changed and bicyclists need to set aside their egos by learning how to YIELD and follow other traffic rules such as stopping at STOP signs and RED traffic signals. The California law that allows drivers to drive in bike lanes when signaling and making a turn holds the most promise to protect all interests. The suggested bike boxes are only a ploy by the bicycling community so bicyclists can leap across intersections before the signal turns green getting a jump on drivers, and then ride down the center of motor vehicle lanes blocking a more expeditious but legal traffic flow.

    Bicyclists have an attitude that they are always in the right and doing the rest of society a favor by riding a bike instead of driving. They always attempt to blame others including motorists for their faults. Instead of making excuses why bicyclists don’t follow traffic control devices, instead of demanding more specialized infrastructure the bicycling community itself continues their unwillingness to be directly taxed to pay for, and instead of standing tough and not giving an inch towards compromise - to reduce the potential of accidents where people are killed and injured; bicyclists need to drop their arrogant attitude, express some humility to the other users of the road, and be willing to yield when it is in the best interests of safety and common sense.

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    hey Pat, if you're going to comment on the post, you should read it thoroughly.i said bikers and pedestrians have to be the one responsible for their own -- don't trust signs, don't trust drivers, don't trust the existence of laws.

    I read it, but I'd say you mentioned them in passing -- almost a gratuitous cameo-like appearance.

    I think those ideas should be front and center.

    'Cause you can pass a million more laws, and it won't change the fact that the person in the best position to watch out for the cyclist is the cyclist him-(or her)- self.

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    hey Pat, if you're going to comment on the post, you should read it thoroughly.i said bikers and pedestrians have to be the one responsible for their own -- don't trust signs, don't trust drivers, don't trust the existence of laws.

    I read it, but I'd say you mentioned them in passing -- almost a gratuitous cameo-like appearance.

    I think those ideas should be front and center.

    'Cause you can pass a million more laws, and it won't change the fact that the person in the best position to watch out for the cyclist is the cyclist him-(or her)- self.

  • Stacy6 (unverified)

    "They are in a car because it's convenient, fun, powerful (penis substitute), cool and goddammit they're in a hurry."

    No, actually, I'm in a car because I believe that arrogant, self-entitled cyclists make the roads too dangerous for those cyclists who ride considerately and safely. Every day, I see roughly the same number of drivers and cyclists commiting transgressions against traffic laws and common sense. Since I see far more cars than bikes on an average commute, this tends to indicate that a greater percentage of cyclists are causing problems than are drivers. And I think T.A.'s post illustrates a major part of the problem: self-righteousness and a refusal to take responsibility.

    Just this morning, we were behind a rider (orange jacket, white bucket with "keep Portland weird" sticker) who took up the entire lane, gestured at us as we passed him, got a jump on the stoplight at Clay and Grand (after getting on the sidewalk in order to bypass the cars already waiting at the light, ours included) and then, from the middle of the crosswalk and while he still had a red light, gestured at a car making a late left-hand turn onto Grand. Just a stellar example of the cycling community all around, wouldn't you agree? It's people like him who make the roads unsafe for other cyclists.

  • Nick Keiser (unverified)

    The California law that allows drivers to drive in bike lanes when signaling and making a turn holds the most promise to protect all interests.

    Except that means even more vehicles crossing into bike lanes, which means much less exclusive infrastructure, which means more vehicular damage to bike lanes, and -UH OH!- that in turn walks all over the tired, inconsistently-reasoned "user pays" rants you continue to bore us all with at transportation infrastructure-related Town Hall meetings.

    Beyond this, stop and consider: the problem isn't where the turn happens, it's people not paying attention. Whether it's the cocksure cyclist zipping along oblivious to their surroundings, stupidly imagining the bike lane and an unenforced set of laws as some forcefield of invincibility, or the world's most negligent trucker taking out every stray infant and puppy in their path, all carelessness is a sure-fire recipe for tragedy, whether it's in a right turn at an intersection or in a lane merge 200 feet beforehand. Suggesting that a legislation change like this is the solution is almost as ill-conceived as the notion that any one party gets a free ride because you arbitrarily choose to favor them over the other.

  • Nick Keiser (unverified)

    Just a stellar example of the cycling community all around, wouldn't you agree? It's people like him who make the roads unsafe for other cyclists.

    Well, no, Stacey6, I'd say it's a combination of careless, scofflaw cyclists and the motorists who believe that these people are thoroughly representative of the cycling community as a whole and tend to respond in kind.

    Note I'm not saying all motorists or even most motorists - most are pretty good about things, passing me with plenty of room to clear, don't follow me too closely, signal their turns before the absolute last minute, etc. Maybe it's because they're cautious, good natured folks. Maybe they're neutral and they're responding favorably when they see me stopping at every red light and sign, signaling all my turns, using lights at night.

    I could regale you with plenty of tales of motorists acting like complete scum towards me here, whether it's screaming "get off the road!", passing with mereinches to spare, sudden and unpredictable turns, throwing garbage at me, etc. They're not isolated incidents. But do I say, "These are examples of everything wrong with motorists?" Nah. The only thing it's symptomatic of is the same thing the jerk-ass cyclists you seem to fixate on are also syptomatic of: some folks are inconsiderate jerks.

  • S Boser (unverified)

    Cars and bicycles are not compatible and never will be. An automobile isolates the driver from his environment some more than other's. Add distractions like cell phones, kids and reading a map or GPS and any driver will make an error at some point, maybe small like missing an exit, maybe inadvertently killing a cyclist, pedestrian or themselves. But with all factors considered driving a car is much like playing Russian roulette. I'd like to propose a gasoline tax or maybe a liquor tax to fund bicycle and NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) roads throughout Portland and its suburbs. Yes it will cost millions of dollar and probably displace homeowners in the paths of these new roads; however it will open new opportunities for businesses and individuals. Improve air quality and point the direction for future city development.

  • Eric (unverified)

    The old saying...of which was relayed to me about 25 years ago by an older rider...Ride like they don't fucking see you! So true. I don't like to ride the bike trails here in Eugene because I have had more close calls than on the street, but a bike trail crash most likely won't kill you as would a collision with a garbage truck or Suburban. With peak oil starting to rear it's head, I think it's only a matter of time before less cars are out there...let's hope.....although, the chaos that will cause is another issue.....just can't win I guess. Ride like they don't fucking see you!

  • Jym (unverified)

    =v= While I think California's law is better, it doesn't solve the underlying problem of motorists not using due care when making their maneuvers. Some California motorists simply break the law and do the right hook anyway, and others break the law by merging into the lane without due care.

    It is pretty awful for them to respond to the death of Tracey Sparling by conjuring up a scenario where she would have been in the wrong.

  • Garlynn -- (unverified)

    divebarwife said:

    In Sparling's case it seems pretty clear from eyewitness accounts that the river simply could not see her. There are blind spots that you cannot see regardless of how much you use your mirrors or look over your shoulder. you say "

    Um, sorry, but I just don't buy your argument. I've driven plenty of 24-foot cargo trucks in my time. That's approximately the same size truck as caused both of these accidents, and it certainly has the same amount of blind spots.

    So, what does a truck driver do in such a situation?

    Come to nearly a complete stop before making the right turn. Then, slowly make the turn, at a speed slow enough to stop if something appears in the blind spot. Look down through the passenger window into the crosswalk/bike lane area as you progress through it. Always assume that somebody actually is in your blind spot, until you're sure there isn't somebody there.

    It's not rocket science.

    Both of these accidents were caused by poor, sloppy, lazy and criminally negligent truck drivers.

    Both of those truck drivers should never drive again. Both should lose their licenses for a minimum of five years, and potentially serve prison time/pay a hefty fine to the victim's family (on credit, which they will have to work off in the future).

    If all this happens, other truck drivers will get the message: Yes, your vehicle is the biggest on the road. With weight comes responsibility. Look out for the little guy.

  • JohnnyRedman (unverified)

    You know what.....this isn't Europe. This country is built around cars, drive one!

    Too bad a few people have been run over, but maybe they should watch where they are going....last time i checked, having the right of way doesn't mean shit if you are going up against a garbage truck.

  • Nick Keiser (unverified)

    Check it again, Johnny. Hey, if you're right, I owe you a coke. Deal?

  • bigdawg (unverified)


    Passing on the right even for a vehicle is against the law in Oregon in most cases.

    Now to afford being struck by a automobile/truck when they are turning right there is a solution that most have over looked!!!!!!why not ride on the opposite side of the street bikeway pave/lane so everyone can see you North,South, East and West. No blind spots at all, nowhere, nodda, zilch, not even.

    you can see the cars/trucks coming at you turning in front of you what more do you need.

    a location in front of the stop line keeping automobiles/trucks behind those lines just so maybe maybe a bicyclist will appear to occupy that space then the cyclist decides he wants to turn right but opps, here we go again, he gets out in to deadly ground.

    not to say that there are more automobiles/trucks than there are bicycles, we the owner of those vehicles are forced to waste our gas. and yes I am most certain that you own an automobile or truck and need to put gas into it as I do. there will always be a need for vehicles and as well the need for humans to ride there bicycle's.

    what is the most clear answer, be as a BUSH Nuke-em all Dumb isn't it

    try and get along time is after all time and we only have a limited amount of it here on earth.


  • (Show?)


    I was going to write a nasty message about how bikers have been getting on my nut. Until I read your post, I thought the best solution was to give each car and trick driver a pass on their first 5 bikers they run over each year. However, I must say, I like your solution better.

    Lets face it....riding a bike is good, it is cool and it is healthy. However, we also have some of the dumbest dare devils in the Northwest on bkes in this town. They do not pay attention and they risk everything just because they can.

    If we could design bike routes and paths in a way in which bikes, cars and trucks can all use our roads with less risk of what we have seen this month. I am all for it. Lets add a tax to all tire sales of $5 to pay for the effort.

    What do you think?


    P.S. I will be passing your idea around and telling everyone I thought of it.....LOL

  • KJRobinson (unverified)

    Another area of concern, one that policy decisions can improve, may be the hours that large truck drivers, or any professional driver for that matter, are expected to work behind the wheel. I mean, check it out, 12 hours shifts?! Give me a freakin break.

    "AGG, a locally owned sanitation company in commercial accounts only, is currently embarking on a recruiting effort to add 12 additional drivers to its already existing staff of 55 drivers. This effort is being made to facilitate growth, but even more important, to offer drivers a four day work week with three days off as an employment enhancement. The four work days will most likely be ten hours long but could sometimes be twelve hour days which would result in time and a half pay for overtime after forty hours."

  • (Show?)

    Stacy6, actually, unless there are marked bike lanes, bicycles are to drive like cars. they can take the lane if that's how they feel safe; i've done it plenty of times, especially in heavy traffic where i've had no desire to get smooshed into the parked cars. study your drivers manual: "The same traffic rules and regulations apply to both bicyclists and vehicle drivers." (p76) when there is no shoulder or lane, a bike can use a lane (Bike Manual, p7). also, it's not illegal, by Oregon law, to ride on the sidewalk; bikes must yield to pedestrians. and leaving early is illegal, of course, but one idea being discussed to prevent accidents such as Brett's is to have bike/pedestrian lights turn green a few seconds before cars can go. in short, what you thought was a scofflaw jerk was a rider who used the wide expanse of the law, jumped a green light out of self-defense, and generally did whatever he could to commute by bike and survive. he gets a B- in my book, but the smug woman in the huge SUV who decided that a marked crosswalk did not apply to her -- even though all the rest of the traffic had stopped -- earns an F. and the bird i flipped her. i saw the look on her face as she zoomed past me as i crossed the street legally: she had no intention of obeying that law.

  • (Show?)

    Oregon law does not make it illegal to ride your bike on the sidewalk. However, many cities (including Portland) have such laws.

    Gresham's City Code prohibits bicyclists from riding on any city sidewalk.

    Portland Ordinance 16.70.320E prohibits bicyclists from riding on sidewalks in the property bounded by and including S.W. Jefferson St., Front Avenue, N.W. Hoyt Street and 13th Avenue, unless "to avoid a traffic hazard in the immediate area."

    Regardless, there are laws regarding how a bicyclist should act when they are riding on the sidewalk. Thus far I've only had one bicyclist follow those laws, including an audible alert when coming up on a pedestrian. I can't tell you how many times I've almost been hit by a cyclist on the sidewalk when I was out walking. They were really bad on the Springwater Trail by my old apartment.

    I think breaking the traffic laws are a big problem with cyclists and automobile drivers alike. I think that having cyclists go through an exam, drivers test, and license program isn't a bad idea. It might help to reinforce the idea that you aren't exempt from the law just because you're on a bike. Maybe even some sort of license plate program as well, which would make it easier for catching bike riders who break traffic laws. The funds should then be spent on upgrading the bicycle transportation system.

    Drivers in cars need to be held to a much higher standard than they are. Like I've said many times, it used to be "cop stops" or "California stops" at stop signs. Then people started running them all together. Now you can't drive around town without seeing multiple vehicles blatantly running red lights. Or flying down the road at 15MPH+ over the limit on surface streets and 30+ on the freeway. I'm all for stronger enforcement of traffic laws, including increasing the fines paid for breaking the law.

    Driving, whether it be in a car, truck, SUV, bike, etc. is a privilege, not a right, and we need to start treating it that way. Those who choose to continually break the law, and put others' lives in danger, need to be responsible for their actions.

  • Miles (unverified)

    Seems like there's a real opportunity for a middle ground here, if people can avoid using inflammatory language and making it an "us vs. them" thing.

    Like any safe driver turning across a bike lane, I always yield to bikes that are beside me or even 1-2 car lengths behind me. But honestly, prior to these deaths I didn't realize that a cyclist had the right of way in the bike lane no matter how far behind you they are.

    That doesn't make sense, and it gives cyclists the false impression that since they have the right-of-way, they don't need to yield. I'm curious, T.A., how you think it's even possible for me as a driver to be aware of a cyclist who is 30-40 feet behind me, approaching at 20-25 mph when I'm turning right. (This happens all the time at SW 3rd and Madison at evening rush hour.) Seriously, at those speeds, I can turn completely around and have no cyclists within my range of vision, yet still have one run into me by the time I execute the right turn. You are right that the law is at fault here -- but the only tenable solution is for cyclists to yield. Otherwise, you're asking car drivers to yield to someone who may be completely outside their field of vision.

    Cyclists should not be allowed to pass a car on the right that has a turn signal on, which is the same traffic rule that cars have to abide by. That should solve the problem.

  • (Show?)

    Miles, when you are in the left of two driving lanes, you don't get to signal right & have the cars behind you yield; you have to get over into the right lane (or, if traffic in that lane is heavy, you could just stop, let them go by, and then make your turn across the right lane). the same is true of a bike lane: you must yield to bikes. it's your responsibility to ensure you can turn without causing them to brake or be placed in dangerous. if the bike is going that fast, how long do you have to wait? 3 seconds? jesus.

    if there is no bike lane but there is the functional equivalent of one -- space for a bike to ride to the right of motorized traffic, as Oregon law calls for -- then the same applies! you wait for bike traffic to clear. what could possibly make you think turning right, in front of traffic, is ok? you got a doubt? you stop. you look. you wait. what could you possibly have to do that is that important? leave 15 seconds earlier and have time to spare.

    read the Oregon manuals for cars and bikes -- you can't execute a right-turn in front of car coming up behind and to the right of you, and you cannot do it in front of a bike. it's that simple. you asking the bikes to yield is asking permission for you to break the law.

  • Miles (unverified)

    Wow, T.A., you're really missing the point.

    if the bike is going that fast, how long do you have to wait? 3 seconds? jesus.

    I'm happy to wait if I know the bike is there. But how am I supposed to know the bike it there if he's more than a few car lengths behind me? When you look over your shoulder when driving, you can see what, 20 feet behind you and to the right? I'd love to do an actual demo of this, because I think it would prove to you that it's impossible to see the bicyclist 25-30 feet behind, but when you've slowed down to make a turn, if the bike is traveling fast enough he will be upon you before you complete the turn. So once again, how am I supposed to yield to someone who I don't even know is there and who I can't see when I look?

    when you are in the left of two driving lanes, you don't get to signal right & have the cars behind you yield; you have to get over into the right lane

    Actually, if I signal and move over into an open space, and a car coming fast doesn't yield and rear-ends me, Oregon law says the car that rear-ended me is at fault. Look it up, the vehicle behind you MUST YIELD right-of-way in those situations. But Oregon law treats cyclists differently, and that's why we're having these horrible tragedies.

    The other difference is that in the case of a bike lane, I can't move over into the right lane like you say I should. I have to cross-over it, which is dangerous. So I agree completely with the BTA's position that we should allow cars to move into those lanes when turning.

  • (Show?)

    When I look over my shoulder I can probably see a good 20 feet or so. However, when I use my side mirror I can see much further - unless there's a curve nearby you can usually see 100+ feet. That's why your car comes with a combination of mirrors in addition to physically turning and checking your blind spot.

    It's simple. You look in your mirror. You check your blind spot. In driver's ed we were taught to check each twice, and then just in case check again just before actually executing the turn. You never know when a bicyclist or pedestrian is going to come up on you. This is especially true in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic like NW/SW Portland.

    Waiting an extra bit of time is a lot less time than having to deal with an accident (or a ticket). Besides, could you live with yourself if you hurt or killed a bicyclist or pedestrian? I know I sure couldn't.

    Bicycles are vehicles. Their bike lane is a lane of traffic. You have to yield to that lane just like you would any other lane.

    If I'm sitting waiting to make a left turn, I don't get to just pull across traffic and make them yield to me. I have to wait until there is an appropriate gap based on traffic speed, road conditions, etc. The same is true when you make a right turn over a bike lane. It's a lane of traffic. You have to yield to traffic in that lane. If you can't make your turn in the gap available, then you have to sit and wait for them to pass.

    The problem is that when people are in the right lane, they see themselves as being in the furthest lane of traffic to the right. However, this isn't true. It's just the furthest lane to the right for automobiles.

  • Eric J. (unverified)

    One bottom line here is that all cyclists and car drivers need to do two things: 1. Quit being impatient and uptight when you drive/bike and 2. Slow down and follow speed limits. I used to ride a bike until I got tired of getting verbally abused by both bikers and cars just because I was following cyclist protocol (which begs the question - why does having someone follow the law offend you?). Just the other day I let a cyclist have the right of way on Belmont when the car behind be screamed at me and flipped me off, then the biker I let in scremaed at me for not giving him enough space to manuever. Sheesh! Is doing the right thing now a crime?

    Cyclists and Drivers in Portland are just too uptight these days. I guess courtesy is now a thing of the past.

  • Nick E (unverified)

    Miles got my point exactly from my comment waaay up the line (as "Nick") -- when people respond that I'm missing the point that cyclists have the "right of way".

    If I'm in the right lane, signaling to turn right, and the vehicle traffic is moving forward at 10mph - and a cyclist is passing those vehicles on the right at 15mph, coming from behind me - that cyclist needs to YIELD to me turning right.

    When I'm riding - and I do ride, often - I don't pass on the right when traffic is moving. Period.

  • Whatabout (unverified)

    Drivers of cars are required to pay for insurance to drive legally on roads.

    Drivers of cars are required to pay for a license, which they don't receive until they pass a series of tests showing ability to drive safely and knowledge of laws regulating road traffic.

    There should be some way to create more parity between cars and bikes IF drivers of cars and bikes are to treat the other like another vehicle on the road. As a driver, I pay to for the maintenance and development of the roads I use. If I violate laws on those roads, I pay fees, it goes on my record and I may lose the right to legally drive.

    If there were similar regulation for people riding bicycles on roads, it would be a fair way to regulate, protect and enhance our roads.

    This would ensure that all drivers of vehicles on our roads have registered with the state and have demonstrated they are qualified to ride on the roads. Money generated from fees could go toward increased law enforcement presence on our roads, enabling police to catch more violations by both drivers and riders.

    I don't mean to take away from the topic of this post, which is that two people from our community have died on Portland roads in the past few weeks, but I believe we need to do more than dialogue about whose fault it was or who deserves more sympathy when driving or riding. There are always going to be ignorant people out there, and there will always be people who go out of their way to be courteous. We need to talk about ways to better educate and regulate all kinds of traffic.

  • Virgil Flywater (unverified)

    As a rider and driver, I hope I am aware of the bikes around me. I often am, and sometimes am not. As a rider, when I am riding near cars, I try to make eye contact with the drivers. That way, they know they have seen me. Being afraid of them helps keep me safe. I have no point of parity or superiority to prove. This isn't an issue of blue or red. Obviously I am blue or wouldn't be in here. I agree that the rude asshole crazies who populate the activist blogs and rides should have their bikes taken away for the stunts they pull. They weave in and out, at once a vehicle or pedestrian based on the needs of the moment. They run over pedestrians with impunity because there is no license. Hell, they run over me as a slower biker. They whine at the slow speed of the Bridges Pedal. As in politics, we have lost our ability to moderate our feelings. There must be compromise. People are dying. It is all of our responsibility to keep that from happening.

  • Miles (unverified)

    However, when I use my side mirror I can see much further - unless there's a curve nearby you can usually see 100+ feet.

    Exactly, Jenni. Unless there is a curve nearby, or a hill, or glare from the sun, or any number of other things that make it impossible to see a cyclist in your rear-view or side-view mirrors. Not to mention that these mirrors are sized and placed on cars to facilitate your ability to see other cars, not cyclists, who are much smaller and more difficult to see in a side mirror. And not to mention that rear- and side-view mirrors are notorious for blind spots, which is why we look over our shoulders.

    I guess what I don't understand is why you and T.A. are so unwilling to compromise on whether bikes SHOULD have the right-of-way when passing on the right. If we could prove that requiring bikes to yield to cars in front of them would reduce bike/car accidents, just as cars are required to yield to other cars in front of them, would you agree that we should change the law? Or is this a principle thing for you, whether it causes more cyclists to die or not?

  • (Show?)

    cars pay insurance because they cause tremendous damage when they are involved in accidents. abuse or carelessness in a car can and does kill and maim hundreds of thousands each year, not to mention the economic costs.

    when a bike has an accident, the biker is usually the only one affected. when a pedestrian is hurt, civil damages apply. the idea of requiring insurance (and licenses) for bikes has actually been studied, and the administrative costs to do it is far, far greater than any good that might result.

    and we don't allow people to drive with testing and licensing. we let little kids bike. do you want to change that? shall we require anyone on 2 wheels to get tested, licensed, monitored? 8-yr-olds? we could then move on the armbands for pedestrians.... i'm being hyperbolic there, but the difference between cars and bikes in terms of accident potential, actual damage caused, and wear-and-tear on roads and bridges is astronomic. it's beyond apples-and-oranges.

  • Nick Keiser (unverified)

    It's also worth pointing out that licensing does little more than legally prohibit the un-licensed from driving. Obtaining a drivers' license itself is not exceptionally difficult: you cram enough information short-term to pass a written exam, then you play nice during a road test, and then, providing you have the necessary forms of identification, you're golden. The trick from here on out is "don't get caught breaking the law to a severe enough degree to get noticed". Many motorists are still inclined to violate the speed limit (yes, 10mph above is breaking the law, it's just not enforced), execute rolling stops at stop signs, not yielding the right of way when required, etc. . This is scarcely different from the scofflaw cyclists running lights, not yielding the right of way when required, riding at night without lights, etc.: in either case, it's INDIVIDUALS believing that they can cherry-pick the laws, following them only when it's convenient for them to do so.

    Real, workable solutions to problems all around?

    -CONSISTENT ENFORCEMENT. No, speed traps and stop sign stings aren't enough; these only encourage people to be cautious when such an enforcement action is present and/or in operation; get a few hundred yards past the point and scofflaw motorists/cyclists resume their standard law-breaking behavior. For anyone too dim to understand why traffic laws exist, the threat of punitive action has to be real and persistent to make a difference. Extra bit for light-less bikes or light-impaired cars (all the cyclopses we see driving around): to complete paying the ticket, you're also required to provide some form of evidence that you've remedied your lighting problem.

    -EDUCATION. Yes, that's right. Restructure standard road-training classes required as part of public school curricula to emphasize actual safety concerns and cooperative use of infrastructure, rather than serving as a tutorial on the basics of how to pass your drivers' test. Frequent PSAs on traffic laws, targeting motorists and cyclists alike, to remind everyone of laws that are statistically most-ignored/broken. More law-breakers required to attend that Share the Road safety class, for both cyclists and motorists alike.

    Maybe the specifics could but different, but consistency in enforcement and serious educational efforts are the two things that are missing that could conceivably make a difference. Let's consider them strongly before creating whole new tiers of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo that are already failing in the places where they are applied.

  • Karl Rohde - BTA (unverified)

    I would like to clarify that the BTA is not advocating for adoption of the California law that has drivers move into the bike lane to turn right. I merely suggested that we should perhaps consider it among many options. The problem with it is that if drivers do not look before they move into the bike lane, they still risk hitting a bicyclist. The advantage of a free flowing bike lane is that it allows cyclists to move with traffic on congested streets. The problem with the California law, especially on downtown streets, is that drivers often have to wait for pedestrians before turning right. This means the bicyclist either has to wait for the pedestrians to clear so the car can turn right so the bicyclist can proceed forward which likely means they miss the signal timing or they have to leave the bike lane and enter into traffic which places them further at risk. The California law is not the best solution. Educating drivers to be aware of bicyclists is.

  • Miles (unverified)

    The problem with the California law, especially on downtown streets, is that drivers often have to wait for pedestrians before turning right. . . . The California law is not the best solution. Educating drivers to be aware of bicyclists is.

    Thanks for the clarification, Karl. But it seems to me that the issue of drivers waiting for pedestrians, and potentially putting cyclists in danger, is MORE of an issue in our current system than under the CA system. In Oregon, the car that is waiting to turn right until the pedestrians clear is also being approached on the right by cyclists, some of whom travel very fast. As I noted above, it can be impossible to see those cyclists until it's too late. So even if every driver is totally aware of cyclists, paying 100% attention, and checking repeatedly for them, it's always dangerous to pass a turning vehicle on the right. Yet Oregon law encourages cyclists to do just that.

    There's no doubt the CA law may inconvenience cyclists by slowing them down. But if it also prevents cyclist deaths, isn't that worth it?

  • Herman I May (unverified)

    Elimination of the bike lanes would have prevented both of the deaths cited in this post. When cyclists use the roadway, they are acting as vehicles. The travel lanes are for vehicular conveyance. Had there been no bike lanes, then both cyclists would have been either in front of or behind the right-turning trucks in both cases.

    I am not sure of the laws in Oregon regarding the interplay between motorized vehicles and bicycle lanes. Frankly, I do not care. The bottom line is: no bike lanes, no deaths.

    From the description of the collision, this fellow, Jarolimek, may have been at fault. One would assume that occupants of a bike lane are required to yield to those turning right from the regular travel lanes. If, as the quoted text above suggests, the garbage truck had its turn signal on and the cyclist continued forward in the bike lane, he was at fault.

    If, on the other hand, the law dictates (illogically, in my opinion, if this is the case) that the right turning traffic must yield to any occupant in the bike lane, then the truck driver should be cited for failure to yield right-of way, at the very least; perhaps charged with gross negligence or negligent homicide.

    Bike lanes do not promote vehicular cycling, they implement segregation and lead to illogical and dangerous encounters such as those illustrated in this post.

  • Eric J. (unverified)

    The reason we have dedicated bike lanes in Portland is because of the constant whining of extremely uptight and very snippy bikers who double as ecozealots claiming it is for 'the good of the planet' to make dedicated bike lanes and try to force all of us out of our cars whether we like it or not (Re: Critical mass). The city makes it worse by appeasing them with the bike lanes in an effort of 'goodwill', but these ecozealots seem never to recipricate on that 'goodwill'.

  • Dan Sullivan (unverified)

    What many experienced cyclists know, but bicycle advocacy organizations have been in denial about, is that bike lanes kill people. Roadside bike lanes make cyclists more susceptible to doorings, to blind right turns, to not being seen by cross traffic (from either direction) and to not being noticed by oncoming traffic that is turning left. Bike lanes were invented in Los Angeles to make cyclists less annoying to drivers, not to make roads safer for cyclists.

    Yes, Leiutenant Kruger was wrong to suggest that the cyclists were to blame for their own deaths. The real blame belongs to the segregationists who advocated putting cyclists in the most dangerous part of the road.

    Cyclists should not ride to the right.For maximum visibility, they should ride in the center of the lane or even slightly to the left, moving over only when someone wants to pass them and can do so safely.

    Even the much ballyhooed separated lanes Copenhagen have led to a substantial increase in cycling fatalities, because cyclists are outside the intersections, where they are expected, when they cross side streets. Unless a separated bike lane is separate from intersecting roads as well as parallel roads, it increases the dangers of cycling rather than decreasing them.

    My advice to Portland cyclists is to stay out of the bike lanes whenever possible.

    Dan Sullivan

  • monkeyspanker (unverified)

    bikers need to learn to stop at stop signs and obey the laws of the road.many have i seen a person or a group of bikes neglecting to follow the most basic rules and fail to ride defensivly just as drivers should do.we almost hit a bike as we were goin north on greeley,had the green light at portland blvd.there was a line of cars waiting to turn left onto portland and a biker blows the red at a good speed.if i had not seen the bike between the cars waiting to go left and alerted the driver,we would have nailed him good.i appreciate people who ride and wish more would,but ya gotta quithinkin that because you dont emit pollution you somehow rule the roads

  • John Adams (unverified)

    I recently visited a few of our country's fabulous airports and the people movers they are building are just incredible! I suggest that we eliminate all cars, buses, etc in downtown and replace several car lanes with covered people movers!

    The delivery and emergency vehicles can keep lanes for business but people would park their personal vehicles in parking lots or parking garages at a perimeter parking areas and use people movers to get around downtown. ;-)

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