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Friday, January 14, 2011

Decent idea, immediately shouted down

Oregon State Rep. Mitch Greenlick's proposal to outlaw transporting kids under the age of 6 by bicycle trailer has the more obnoxious members of the cycling set calling for his head. How dare anybody call their activity dangerous!

Of course, Greenlick's right -- urban biking is inherently hazardous -- and he's got empirical data to back him up. But he has blasphemed, and he will be punished unless he caves in. It's the "Portland progressive" way.

And he'd better not point out that paper bags may be worse for the planet than plastic bags, either.

Comments (43)

Driving's dangerous, too. Shouldn't we keep the small ones out of cars as well? There are empirical data that support this idea.

I'm not one of the biking activist set; in fact, I don't even own a bicycle. However, this seems like a dumb idea to me. The whole point of those bike trailers is to transport young children; once they're 6 they're almost old enough to ride their own bike. (OK, a 6-year old careening down a bike lane is a scary thought.)

Yes, the bike trailers can be dangerous, but the danger can be mitigated if the adult pulling the trailer is alert, responsible, and cautious.

Michelle, you said "alert, responsible, and cautious."

In stonerville?

I don't mind if cyclists want to play chicken with dump trucks or blow through red lights with ear buds and no helmets. Darwin's Law cannot be rescinded by any legislation, and the neurologists probably need the business.

I am concerned if their passengers are unable to opt out of relying on a 5 inch strip of paint to protect them from the cars whizzing by at 45 MPH.

I am concerned if their passengers are unable to opt out of relying on a 5 inch strip of paint to protect them from the cars whizzing by at 45 MPH.

I guess walking is out, too.

Allen, yes, in the streets.

"Driving's dangerous, too. Shouldn't we keep the small ones out of cars as well?"

Only if you drag them behind your car in a small trailer.

Poor logic, I don't think they are keeping kids off bikes.

My suggestion would be for you to never leave home and unplug your internet connection for your and society's safety.

Several years while visiting the Atlantic coast, I was asked about the so-called 'bicycle Taliban' that we had in Portland.

When appropriate, I've ridden a bike all my life and love it and there are many like me. But there is a subgroup in this city that is gaining national notoriety as a bunch of 'bicycle crackheads' and sadly, appear to be encouraged in their arrogance, sense of entitlement, and sacred status by recent local politicians. A negative response, maybe even an extreme response, to a reasonable idea is not surprising, similar to other responses concerning ID, bicycle license, registration, insurance, etc.

If and when they get everything they want and all the automobiles, trucks, buses and other 'fetishes' of the Evil One, the Oil Company/AutoMaker/CIA/BushCheney/Government/etc conspiracy are all gone from the streets of Portland, they can then deal with streetcars and lightrail, while the rest of the world moves forward without them.

There is strong empirical evidence that the risk of death is increased for the living. I suggest a ban on life itself. Safety first.

I kind of understand their point though. If you choose a bike as your form of transportation, how are you supposed to get your family around?
Now, you want to force something for safety? Come to my neighborhood and give tickets to parents whose kids dont wear helmets when riding a bike. I have not seen a kid with a bike helmet in a long time.
And the police roll through my 'hood a few times a day. Sometimes even giving sticker badges to the same kids not wearing helmets.

My good friend lives on the east side of the Sellwood Bridge. He showed up at the public meetings last year hoping to provide input on the design. His sugggestion to scale back the bike/ped lanes to save money was taken as blasphamy. "The bike crowd" he explained, was very angry at him for such a suggestion.

Someone needs to tame this group some, but I don't understand why Greenlick would propose this particular legislation. Even a novice boy scout would never use gasoline to get the fire started.

If you read the story, the disturbing thing is that Greenlick's bill was described ... By him ... As pretty much the result of a stray thought that occurred to him one day. No trip to the library, no consult with someone versed in accident statistics, Not even a call to ODOT to find Oregon accident histories.

The second problem is the waste of resources represented by dropping one of 1600 bills that got a first reading, without benefit of any research beforehand.

What I get from the story is that the Leg needs to give each member a budget for Their work that includes money for research on bills and for the costs of putting bills forward ... But then they need to charge the members' accounts for the costs that they impose on the leg when they drop a bill as a means of prompting discussion. I'm not saying spend more. I'm saying use some internal accounting so that There is a real strong disincentive to showboat or uSe bills as conversation starters.

Good ideas would get lots of cosponsors, who would share the internal accounting costs. Stray thoughts like this would be charged 100% to the author, which would tend to limit the problem and reduce costs overall.

Pointing out flaws in the underlying logic of a bill is not "shouting down." The original article on bikeportland.org was thoughtful and non-vitriolic (as were the comments on it). Greenlick cites a statistic that a certain percentage of serious riders suffer injury every year. That statistic makes no connection between "serious riding" and pulling a child in a trailer. And when two of the cited causes of injury -- wet leaves and streetcar tracks -- would not bring a bike trailer down, the factual predicate of the argument fails.

Also, it's just incorrect to equate the biking attitude that draws the scorn of Jack and many other people (including me) who read and post on this blog -- the helmetless hipsters texting on their iPhones while riding up N. Williams on their fixies -- with the way parents ride with kids. I bike commute every single day, without kids. I also have a trailer that I occasionally use to pull my boys ages 5 and 2. When I ride with the kids, I simply ride differently -- more slowly, more defensively, and on different streets. That's true for every single parent I know who ever transports kids by bike.

This is a solution in search of a problem.

I'm surprised you've taken up this cause, Jack. The thing that irks me is the need some legislators have to save us from ourselves by more laws.

More kids die each year in car wrecks than in bike accidents. The empirical data you link to, isn't all that it's cracked up to be. A skinned knee is hardly a reason to ban kids from bikes.

There must be a link between loud car stereos and child safety.

If the congressman wants to protect children, i would hope he would consider introducing a law that prohibits adults from smoking in their cars while children are present, especially with the windows rolled up.

The comments about "bicycle crackheads" and "needs to tame the bike crowd" are funny, and the closest thing I've seen to "shouting down," at least in these comments.

Undeniably, there are bad actors within the community of people who bicycle, but I notice far more people driving distracted, ignoring pedestrians and crosswalks, etc. Bicycles have a lot of work to do if they want to rival cars in terms of threats to public health.

Matt - good point, and well said. It's common sense that parents would evaluate the safety of when, where and how to travel with their children via bicycle. Besides, the the empirical data offered really doesn't speak to this issue at all.

I just think the whole thing hilarious. It seems like the bicycle community is even more fanatical than the gun nuts. I am going to get my legislator to sponsor a bill requiring mandatory helmets for all bicyclists and make them put a license number on the back of it. If the screaming is bad now, wait for that.

Like all progressive Portlanders, bike advocates are very tolerant people, as long as you believe exactly what they believe.

Speaking as a bike commuter myself I would support legislation requiring preschool age children be belted in approved car seats when they are on the road on a bike...just like they are now required in autos. The crash worthiness of bike trailers themselves is nonexistent.

No matter what they do, death continues to be the number one killer.


There is no such thing as a "carseat" for bikes. (Of course, the effectiveness of carseats themselves is under serious attack from, among other folks, "Freakonomics" economist Steve Levitt.) The question is whether there is a benefit (decreased mortality/morbidity) from the increased cost. We can fix the cost pretty easily (in terms of the cost of carseats and new equipment, and lost bike trips) but the benefit is what this debate is about.

The criticism of Greenlick's proposal is that the harm he is talking about avoiding (so the benefit from the proposed legislation) is theoretical. It's not only not based on data, it's not even based on anecdote. Saying that the crashworthiness of bike trailers is nonexistent is a statement that may be true but has no value in the absence of real information to the effect that (a) bike trailers get in crashes at all and (b) more crash protection would provide a benefit in those notional crashes.

Again, this is a solution in search of a problem.

I'm surprised you've taken up this cause, Jack.

This is just our blogmeister's antipathy for bicycles and the people who ride them, and the entertainment he seems to derive from the wingnuts and busybodies that this subject draws out of the woodwork.

I note that anyone raising objections to the bill is pre-judged to be "obnoxious", so with apologies for being obnoxious:

Mitch Greenlick is our representative. We have voted for him and we respect him. But this bill is just wrong on process and on substance. Introducing a bill to create a traffic offense is a way to start a conversation? Please. Carrying small children on a bike or in a trailer behind a bike is undoubtedly dangerous. So is pushing a kid-occupied stroller. Airlines let small children fly free on laps, where they await certain death in an accident. Why? Because that's safer, statistically, than having them travel long distances in cars. Should any of these inherently dangerous things be outlawed in Oregon? I very much doubt it. Would I rather have our legislators put their attention elsewhere? Almost certainly.

It's more than a bit ironic that those posting here who want to control how people conduct themselves on or around bicycles are the same ones who vehemently object to government "interference" in their own activities and choices (with grocery bags as Exhibit A).

theocracy = rule by god or deity

democracy = government by the people

idiocracy = what we got going on right now

Allan: The prejudgment is in. You are obnoxiously logical.

Allan: I personally could care less if that legislation passed or not. I am just so gleeful that the bicycle folks are feeling a little of what the progressive community has wrought with stuff like anti plastic bag laws, expensive bio fuel requirements, outlawing incandescent lamps, and soon to come, mandatory food scrap separation. How does it feel to have stuff shoved down your throat, huh?

Mister Tee: I am concerned if their passengers are unable to opt out of relying on a 5 inch strip of paint to protect them from the cars whizzing by at 45 MPH.

Alan: I guess walking is out, too.

Mister Tee: I never walk in the bike lanes or highway shoulders, especially if I'm with my six year old.

If there's no sidewalk, we don't walk there unless we're on our cul-de-sac or a low volume neighborhood; we drive.

The other advantage of driving is mass: if I'm going to get sideswiped by a dump truck (or a Prius), I want plenty of sheet metal to separate us until we come to a complete stop. Bikes don't offer any crumple zone.

I don't want this to be pick on Allan day, so I will speak in general terms.

I grew up in the area of downtown Portland. I still go there to do buisness about once per week. I don't dislike bike riders or bikes, but I hate what our downtown area has become. A crowded, dirty, difficult to navigate core area. Streetcars and light rail tracks aside, the bike lanes retarding traffic flow are a joke. Parking is a nightmare and expensive.

A progressive few with an ill conceived transportation vision have chosen this path for the city, and it has directly led to its downward spiral.

Much of the downtown bike crowd are part of that progressive minority. So when Greenlick makes this (off base IMHO) proposal, it is natural for long time Portlanders to celebrate any action that might in some way control the out of control.

"Common sense", that oft used phrase when no other proof is available is commonly neither common nor sensible. It is usually the refuge of those who have just painted themselves into a corner. And that's just common sense!

A crowded, dirty, difficult to navigate core area...bike lanes retarding traffic flow...Parking is a nightmare and expensive.

Gibby - This sounds like a complaint many people have about cities in general. My guess is that whatever data exists would indicate Portland is doing pretty well in these regards. Are you thinking of other urban cores that measures up better to your criteria?

Mr. Tee, I respect your choices (as well as that spicy bloody mary mix that you and the Mrs. put out). I wouldn't care to mandate them for me or prohibit them for you.

Gibby: "the bike lanes retarding traffic flow are a joke."

Other than perhaps Broadway at PSU, which bike lanes actually "retard" traffic flow? Be specific. I can only think of a half dozen or so streets downtown that have any bike lanes at all. And only three of those (Broadway at PSU, Stark and Oak) came at the expense of auto capacity.

Gibby, don't try to reason with The Hive Mind. They receive their operating instructions directly from Sam Adam's twitter feed.

Joey, Allan etal. If you tune into Portlandia next week, remember that if you can't figure out who the joke is on, it's probably on you.

Snards, IMO the term "hive mind" just as accurately describes someone who assumes that anyone who rides a bicycle is some kind of Sam Adams acolyte. Personally, I can't stand the guy. Never voted for him, never will. All I am asking for is some observations or empirical data to back up the hyperbole.

Joey, et al.

Obviously, you have no comprehension of downtown Portland before 'progressives' began killing it off about 15 years ago.

Downtown is dying and is on tax-subsidized life support. And trying to say 'it's just the bad economy' only illustrates ignorance of the fact that it's been downsliding long before 2-3 years ago.

Mr. Grumpy,

I've got to agree with Sigma, there really aren't many bike lanes downtown (I work on the bus mall). The section of Broadway over by PSU removed a traffic lane, the section of Broadway with a bike lane north of PSU has a bike lane but that doesn't take away a traffic lane.

There are bike lanes on Stark and Oak that do take a traffic lane (and really should be removed because they're already low-volume low speed streets, bikers should be fine w/o the lane to themselves).

After that there are a few streets that have bike lanes that don't take a traffic lane away: Naito, Jefferson, 13th, part of 1st, part of Lovejoy, a bit of Madison right before the bridge. I think that about covers it.

Even if you were to say that bike lanes that don't take away vehicle lanes still mess up traffic flow, you're still talking about a tiny percentage of miles of downtown streets that have been altered. I don't see how they're a problem.

On the subject of this law, I got my first bike when I was 5 and I managed to survive that, this proposal is extreme nanny stateism at its worse.

Mr. Grumpy: Obviously, you have no comprehension of downtown Portland...And trying to say 'it's just the bad economy'...

Wow, you are grumpy. Who is trying to say anything about the economy? I'm not.

Snards: Gibby, don't try to reason with The Hive Mind. They receive their operating instructions directly from Sam Adam's twitter feed.

What's with the Sam Adams obsession? I won't speak for you, but like Sigma said, I can't stand the guy.

And I think you're compensating for the lack of an argument (and empirical data) with snarky ad hominems.

It really is funny how quickly the blind anger crowd comes out to divert any thread into a labeling and bashing of "progressives" (gasp!).

Oh, I don't have any empirical evidence. I don't even agree with this guy's proposed bill. I just dislike the bike cult.

Bikes don't offer any crumple zone.

When it comes to bikes colliding with cars, bikes are nothing but crumple zone. ;)

Darwin rides a Ghost Bike.

Rubber baby buggy bumpers!
Rubber baby buggy bumpers!
Rubber baby buggy bumpers!

"Other than perhaps Broadway at PSU, which bike lanes actually "retard" traffic flow?"

SE Hawthorne, that is when the riders actually stay in the lanes which applies all over town.

However, every one should realize the CoP planning dream is that we reach the level of a 3rd world country where we ride bikes (no cars) to office buildings that have thermostats set at 55/85 to save energy.

That oughta attract a lot of FOrtune 500 companies.

The communities involved -- loathsome as their antics or philosophies may be to others -- are beside the point in this argument. The most sensible, on-point posting in this thread was made by George.

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