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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Stumptown Bike Culture

So, I've been thinking about biking in Portland since my previous post on the topic and MWR's sort-of response. I've been paying more attention to whether bicyclists I encounter while driving follow all the rules of the road (like they're supposed to). My impression, based on an admittedly limited sample, is that a clear majority of cyclists here obey the rules of the road, including stopping at stop signs and red lights, and signaling turns. While driving the kids to swimming lessons at the same time each weekday morning last month, I frequently had occasion to stop at a light on a street that also has a well-used bike lane. Nine times out of ten, bicyclists stopped for that light and waited until it turned green before proceeding.

And here's another anecdote: yesterday Mavis rode his bike to report for jury duty. Stopped at a light, another cyclist rode up and engaged him in conversation. The other guy had recently moved to Portland from San Francisco and said he was still getting to understand bike culture here. Like, he said, bicyclists obey the rules of the road. He had recently run a red light while on his bike (as he was in the habit of doing in San Francisco), and gotten yelled at by another bicyclist. As Mavis told it, he wasn't upset about having to change his habits, just anxious to follow local custom.

I recently spotted a new license plate option here:

If it had been available when we bought our car last year, we would certainly have chosen it. I told Mavis if he wanted to switch, I certainly wouldn't object. I've seen "Share the Road" bumper stickers elsewhere, but here folks really seem to be driving the drive, so to speak.



Blogger The Laundry Queen said...

Around here, you have those folks who really ride (decked out in their spandex, etc) who mostly obey the traffic laws, but they are not very plentiful. Otherwise, you really are lucky if riders are even on the correct side of the road. Signaling? Stopping at lights and signs? Bah! Not going to happen! I constantly feel like I need to stop people for a quick bike safety tutorial.

September 7, 2008 at 6:48 AM  
Blogger Diana said...

Round these parts, bicycles can (and do) get the same moving violations as cars do, so they do tend to be quite law-abiding. There are so many bike lanes and paths that it's very easy to ride a bike here. Scott does it nearly every day, with the dog trailer faithfully in tow. :-D

September 7, 2008 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Skye said...

It's funny, I have mixed feelings about bikes having to follow the same rules as cars. Obviously if we're all on the same street, some rules need to apply. But bikes aren't cars. As a former bike-commuter, I felt really frustrated by this one stop sign. It was on a big uphill, and if I had to stop there, I couldn't ride the rest of the way up - just could never get the momentum back. I was always so grateful when there wasn't a car or if someone waved me through. Stopping and starting on a bike require a lot of effort. People in cars take that for granted, and sometimes I wish there was a way for bikes to get some right-of-way in certain situations.

September 7, 2008 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger The Laundry Queen said...

I will never forget the time our brother, Rib, ran the stop sign at the end of Sunridge to maintain his speed so he could make it up Chandler.....and then got creamed by the station wagon. It was so nice to arrive home from wherever I was to find a note on the door in Mom's handwriting--"Your brother has been hit by a car and has a head injury. It's really bad. We're at the hospital". This, of course, was before the advent of cell phones. Thanks, Mom!

Although, I do agree that if you're making a straight shot uphill, and are therefore going slow enough to look right and left about a gazillion times as you make your way through the intersection, that an exception should be made. I've been there (huffing and puffing)!

September 8, 2008 at 7:04 AM  
Blogger MWR said...

I now think of your post whenever (frequently) I see a Seattle cyclist grievously violating traffic laws. Like this morning, on a one-way street downtown, as a guy shamelessly chugged toward me the wrong way, in my right-only lane no less. Something tells me that cyclists in both Portland and Seattle commit such crimes at far higher rates than drivers do. If 10% of cyclists do something that 1% of drivers do, that means the cyclists are doing it at a 1000% higher rate than drivers.

September 12, 2008 at 10:56 AM  

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