According to Bicycling Magazine, Portland, Ore., has the highest number of bike commuters in the country. Ethan Lindsey of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports on this Marketplace story about the industry that’s grown up around all those riders, with text, audio, and video. The story is about the industry that has grown up as a result of Portland’s “bike friendly” status.
Many of us in California are scratching our heads over Portland cyclists who oppose a proposed law change that makes cycling safer for them. We’re talking about it, and we’re baffled that Portland cyclists want to continue with a law that increases danger for them.
Currently, Oregon law says that right-turning vehicles must yield to cyclists in a bike lane. From our perspective, Oregon law encourages the “right hook” collision such as the tragically fatal right hook that precipitated this most recent discussion in Portland. In California, motorists are permitted to merge into the bike lane to make their right turns.
The system works fairly well in California, though there is room for improvement — many motorists don’t know to merge into the bike lane, and pretty much nobody knows how to use a turn signal. Still, we like that law here. A straight-going bicyclist merges away from the curb area, while a right-turning vehicle merges to the right. Merges away from the intersection results in less complexity at the intersection and more visibility for everybody.
Sure, there are mistakes and accidents and close calls here in California, but you don’t want to make things even worse with a dangerous facility approach. And all road users should always remember that you should NEVER pass large trucks on the right. It’s odd to see a Portland cycling advocate describe positioning yourself for your destination as a “swerve left into traffic” that creates “more danger for cyclists.”
In his Bike Portland blog entry, Jonathan seems most bothered by the “us vs them” angle that the local paper took on the Oregon bike lane law. His earlier reporting on the proposed change reveals reasonable discussion at the time.
These passing lanes in the bicycle lane in Portland are kind of cute:
The new markings include side-by-side bike lane symbols to denote the passing lane and skip-striping both where the lane widens (and then narrows) and to separate the slow and fast lanes. The new striping was done to facilitate easier and safer passing on an uphill portion of one of Portland’s most congested bikeways. More info at BikePortland here and here.