Just like cars, bikes belong on the road
My view • Bicycle commuters should be welcomed, not cursed, by motorists
It is indeed unfortunate that bicyclists in Portland are perceived by some to be law breakers, irresponsible, arrogant and aggressive, thus needing to be reined in and banned from certain areas.
My sense, however, is that too many who don't like bicyclists remain wholly car-centered, not only in their own travel around the city, but also in their perspective on who should be on public roads.
In driving around Portland and commuting by car daily to my job, I see one or more of the following among other automobile drivers every day: truly excessive speeding; following too closely; failing to use turn signals; neglecting to come to complete stops at stop signs; suddenly accelerating to pass and then braking sharply after pulling in ahead of another motorist; failing to let other motorists merge in; leaning on the horn for no discernible reason; cursing loudly at other motorists; or making hand gestures other than a friendly wave.
Add to this motorists who don't yield at crosswalks for pedestrians, drive in parking lots at high speeds and press other motorists to change lanes by 'sweeping in' at high speeds from freeway onramps.
Moreover, sometimes we who observe such undesirable behavior don't think about our own shortcomings in courtesy, safety and defensive driving. Perhaps this is because we have become inured to the foregoing behaviors over the past seven or eight years as the number of people and automobiles has so markedly increased in Portland, along with 'aggressive' driving.
Yet during this same period we have also seen an exponential increase in the number of bicycle riders in Portland; some claim this number has tripled between 2001 and 2008. Suddenly, certain streets - if not entire neighborhoods - are no longer 'inland freeways' to save time as an alternate route from the overcrowded major arterial streets. The bicyclists are everywhere! They are even on 'our' roads!
Bicycles are traffic
When I was much younger, I used to bicycle around and in Portland. But after being hit by a beer bottle thrown from a car on Sauvie's Island; deliberately 'cut off' by a pickup truck driver while cycling up Southwest Taylor's Ferry Road; and being randomly cursed and threatened - you know how those automobile drivers are - I decided that I'd better put the bicycle up in my garage and use my car exclusively.
Generalizing about bicyclists is like generalizing about motorists or anything else; it seems easy to point fingers and to talk about 'them.' And I have yet to hear or read about a bicyclist/motorist 'confrontation' on the road where a bicyclist hit a car and put the driver into the hospital.
Given the developing bicycle infrastructure, including the ability to ride TriMet transit, which has bicycle racks or hooks on both buses and MAX (light rail), I'm considering getting that old bicycle out of the garage and going to work by bicycle (at least part of the way), beginning one day a week.
It isn't entirely about losing weight and getting in shape, saving money on gasoline, reducing greenhouse gases to help the environment or eliminating America's dependence on foreign oil. It's also the thought that with all those bicyclists out there lately, maybe there is more safety in numbers for me today than years ago.
Last week I saw a bumper sticker on a car that made this point well. It said: 'Bicycles don't block traffic, bicycles are traffic.'
It gave me pause to think, 'At least a bicycle is one less car on the road, isn't it?'
Geoffrey M. Kronick lives in Southwest Portland. He is a lukewarm bike rider.