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Friday, July 18, 2008

From the archives

Here's a good one -- a quotation from 1997 from Mary Volm, the City of Portland p.r. gal who was recently whacked off her scooter in an altercation with a motorist after she smacked the limo he was driving:

"You're only a small person out there against a 3,000-pound automobile," she said. "If you go up against a car, you'll always lose."
At the time Volm said that, she worked for the city's transportation office, just like the guy who, it is alleged, purposely smashed a motorist and his car with his bike while drunk earlier this month.

Comments (18)

I loved the news story last night about 90% (166 of 185) bike riders(lemmings) blowing through a stop sign in a construction zone. Unbelievable

m: The KGW reporter stated the same number of cars and bicycles ran the stop sign during the sting. But I don't remember anything about there being a construction zone, so maybe you are describing a different news story.

It was two different stories. Last night's story was about the space between the end of the Springwater Corridor and the beginning of the Eastbank Esplanade. Presently the only connection is via streets. It is an industrial area with lots of construction going on so lots of big trucks. By the KGW reporter's count, 90% of the bicycles who came through this particular section did not stop at the stop signs. This has become a huge frustration for the truck drivers who are going about their work. Of course, one bicyclist was quoted as saying about the trucks, "they have to remember they don't own the road." I think that quote in this case should apply to the bicyclists.

Yesterday I was up by Civic Stadium - excuse me: PGE Park. It was a beautiful day - the summer condos were in - and I was crossing where all the streetcars go to mate. Suddenly there was a loud, obnoxious voice saying, "Bad! Bad!" the way you'd talk to a dog or a small child but only if the kid had done something truly shameful. I heard something else but couldn't make it out. Then I heard a man's voice saying something back so I turned around. I could see a woman on a bicycle stopped at an intersection that the man on another bicycle had just blown through going the same direction. After the man made his comment the woman yelled out, "That's the way you die!"

It seemed like a creepy thing to say to a stranger, but that was it. I walked on thinking of the woman's condescending, holier-than-thou, judgmental tone - it really was like she was scolding her dog: "Bad! bad!" Ahh, Portland, 2008. I realized I had just seen 2 bicyclists arguing and my balls began tingling with joy.

I am glad to know there is someone else in town who still refers to it as Civic Stadium.

I have a modest proposal: that cyclists be exempted from stopping at stop signs and red lights, and drivers who hit cyclists who avail themselves of this exemption be exempted from liability. That should take out most of the worthless miscreants.

I wonder if what we really need is to actually start applying the idea that driving is a privilege and not a right?

As the system works now, the opposite is true. The requirements for attaining a license to operate a multi-ton vehicle capable of great speeds and destruction are pretty meager.

Pass a written test geared toward fifth-graders (the slower ones), pass a 10-minute driving test, pay a minimal fee, and you're good to go for years.

Want to cut down on congestion and the conflict it breeds?

We need to make it much more difficult to get a driving license and much easier to lose one.

That's the way we make driving a privilege that is earned and maintained, rather than free-for-all system currently in place that requires absolutely no competence or real training.

If you want to make the transportation "systems" more efficient and reduce conflict, the first place to start is by weeding out the driving field until we actually achieve the notion that it's a privilege, not a right.

Imagine the vast improvements that could be made in alternative transportation options if the number of licensed drivers was cut in half and all of the the economic resources they currently lavished on the automobile infrastructure, roads, gas, insurance were funneled into better ideas? (We won't even go into all of the automobile deaths that could be avoided.)

Awe nuts, on second thought, let's just keep heading down the road we're on. These bike on bike on car stories are pretty entertaining after all.

Ya know, I started putting on spandex and riding my bike on the country roads outside Missoula, Montana, in 1984, two years before Greg Lemond won his first Tour (and then was immediately shot in the back by his Brother-in-law -- even though it was an accident, that must have been a fun Thanksgiving ... but I digress)

Anyway, I don't think I ever went for a training ride in those days without somebody saying something vulgar or throwing something at me. That was pretty much par for the course. Every single day! Somebody even dumped a coke on me from an overpass while I was riding in Spokane in 1993. I could go on with these stories for hours.

I think sometimes Portland cyclists forget how good they have it.

Somebody once said that the entire Monica Lewinsky scandal was proof of how good things were in America. She reasoned that things have to be going pretty well if the nation's got time to get embroiled in such pettiness.

Maybe something like that is at play here. People (those involved and those taking the time for comments like this) seem to have lots of time to devote to petty little traffic scofflaws.

Good for us!

"That's the way we make driving a privilege that is earned and maintained, rather than free-for-all system currently in place that requires absolutely no competence or real training."

insert "bike riding" for "driving" and you are 100% more accurate...

No I'm not, you are!

Bill McDonald, you may want to see your urologist.

Pat Malach, how do you propose we make it easier to lose your license? Speeding? Running a stop light/sign?

It seems as though those who aren't repeat offenders would be the only ones suffering, as the ones who don't obey the laws probably wouldn't let a little issue like not having a license stand in their way of getting behind the wheel.

I think the licensing laws are fine as they are. I wouldn't want to imagine what it'd be like if a person lost their license (then most likely their job, place to live, etc.) over some small violation.

cyclists be exempted from stopping at stop signs and red lights, and drivers who hit cyclists who avail themselves of this exemption be exempted from liability.

Personally, if that deal were available, I'd take it. In the right hands, bicycles are capable of much greater agility than cars, not to mention the ability to stop on a dime, which allows cyclists to fly up to a stop sign and then anchor the brakes if there is a car coming.

By the way Burk54, my comments about weeding out the field of drivers was written from the perspective of a fellow driver.

I don't ride my bike all that much anymore. My belly is proof.

Moreover, obviously, weeding out half the bikers wouldn't do much for overall congestion. But weeding out half the drivers would reduce it by about 49.99%. So that's definitely the place to start.

And the next time you come across a story about an incompetent cyclist taking out 10-15 people because he accidentally hit the pedals instead of the brakes, let me know.

That reminds me of another story. I was in the Saturn Mayor's Cup bike race in Portland's north Park Blocks back in the mid-90s. All of the streets were closed with multiple barricades and signs. As we came around a corner there was car coming toward us in the middle of the road. The driver had decided to go around the barriers and signs. Apparently the barricades and admonishments from spectators to stop didn't apply to him and his auto. Fortunately we all made it around him safely because bicycles are capable of that kind of agility.

Should that guy have a driver's license? He could have killed a dozen people that day. It's really not unreasonable to suggest the current system's not working. What's unreasonable is to pretend that it is.

"I wouldn't want to imagine what it'd be like if a person lost their license (then most likely their job, place to live, etc.) over some small violation."

Necessity is the mother of invention, although that sounds pretty cold.

Maybe the place to start is with future generations of drivers.

I still can't get over Mary Volm saying that how can a little lady like her put a dent into a car by hitting it. She's must not have any world exprience even though she was with CoP's transportation department for many years.

A dent into a vehicle can easily be made by a hand, fist jab, a slight dump of a shopping cart. I can even dent my pickup easily when I transport my bike in the back with the handle bars resting on the side of my truck bed while I jiggle down Portland's finely maintained streets. 18 gauged sheet metal of most vehicles can't take much of an impact.

Volm is tweaking her story besides being a sexist. What does gender have to do with striking a car? Could be a sexual harrassment suit here, in reverse.

It's especially noteworthy that two of the folks in the news for hitting people's cars are either current or former employees of the city's transportation office. Doesn't that say it all about Portland?

Jack, it's also noteworthy that a recent, longtime director of Portland's Department of Transportation didn't own or drive a vehicle.

LW, What would be more noteworthy if those a-holes at Metro and the City Council (and their developer-buddies) get out of their SUVs and luxury cars and actually ride bikes and Trimet before shoving the same down our throat and preaching the merits of biking and mass transit (safety - not this month, efficiency - rarely, better for the environment - debatable).

We need to make it much more difficult to get a driving license and much easier to lose one.

As crazy as the driving is in Paris, when a pedestrian steps off the curb, drivers stop. It takes getting used to that drivers can actually show some courtesy, but part of that is the social contract that puts real responsibility and accountability on drivers.

Run down a pedestrian in Portland and the excuse that "the sun was in my eyes" earns you exoneration. Back up over a pedestrian --or scooter-- when you've illegally entered an intersection you can't clear...your lawbreaking becomes the excuse for your further bad behavior.

There are people who shouldn't be behind the wheel (or handlebars), but our dysfunctional system can't seem to weed them out. Frustration leads to anarchy and an empty search for street justice that doesn't seem to be heading anywhere good.


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