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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Appropriately Dignified?

So, our mayor-elect (and current city commissioner) was quoted in the paper today, in an article about making Portland even more bike-friendly than it already is. Yes, our fair city has been named most bike-friendly by multiple publications, and with high gas prices the number of bike rider is rapidly increasing. However, recently there have been a number of driver-biker conflicts reported in the news: drunk biker attacks biking-advocate driver after he chides him for blowing through a stop sign; drunk driver tries to run down biker who chided him for speeding on neighborhood streets (biker jumped on the hood and hung on for dear life for several blocks until the driver slowed enough for him to jump off safely); bike messenger and car passenger (a bike shop employee) get into a tussle (including one of them whacking the other on the head with a bike lock!) after the passenger chided the biker for not wearing a helmet.

Anyway, here's Sam's quote:
"Sorry, it's trite but true: Share the fricking road, people," he said. "And when it's hot out, understand that everyone is a little irritable."




Blogger MWR said...

Whole lotta chidin' goin' on!

It often seems to me that bicyclists are cut a lot of slack, probably illogically, because they are the more easily killed participants in the car/bike interaction (cf. mosquitoes). If I drove my car the way many bicyclists ride, the car would be a palimpsest of dents.

It is extremely rare for someone to observe that bicycles and cars are fundamentally incompatible. But it's kind of true. If they were compatible, bicyclists would not always be riding into the doors of parked cars, because they would be occupying their proper lane position. You never see drivers taking off the doors of parked cars. Most cyclists aren't able to fulfill the duties of being a full-fledged vehicle because (a) they ride too slow to be credible and (b) they cheat whenever it suits them. Motorcyclists could cheat almost as much, but they almost never do. Interesting to think about the possible reasons.

July 21, 2008 at 12:09 AM  
Blogger MWR said...

Oh, re dignity of Portland mayors, the bar is not set very high. Ask any owner of an "Expose Yourself to Art" poster, or one of the Goldschmidts' former babysitters.

July 21, 2008 at 12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point taken on the dignity of Portland's mayors. I guess I probably should have expected that he would sound Gen-X-y, but it still struck me as funny.

I disagree with you on the parked-car door issue. On streets with bike lanes, opened car doors frequently extend right into the middle of the lane. And where there aren't bike lanes, I'm fairly sure that bikes are supposed to ride as far to the right as possible, again putting them on a collision course with opening car doors. I know I always look in my side mirror before opening my door to make sure I don't unseat an approaching cyclist.

Overall, I'm much more attuned to the needs of cyclists because my husband is a bike commuter. And most cyclists in Portland are very good about obeying the rules of the road--stopping (or at least slowing way way down) at stop signs, signaling turns, etc.

It is interesting that in the three recent incidents I described, the motorist chiders (surely euphemistic as applied to their actual behavior) were people who are serious about biking and were, in a sense, policing the community of which they are a part. It just wouldn't have been as newsworthy if they'd been on their bikes at the time. As I recall, there was also alcohol involved in all of the incidents.

July 21, 2008 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger MWR said...

I would be surprised if seriousness about bicycling were not often accompanied, in a place like Portland, by a degree of self-righteousness.

Really, I've lost track of what the status of bicycles is supposed to be. Are they supposed to follow all the rules of the road, including keeping right as slow-moving vehicles to enable faster drivers to pass? Maybe they need those triangle signs on the back, like tractors (everyone respects tractors!). There's no question that most riders take advantage of their small profile whenever it suits them, cutting up to the front of lines of cars at stop signs, etc.

July 21, 2008 at 10:44 PM  

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