Bike Report Card: An Outside View of the Portland Cyclist Scene.




Well it’s been a while since I have given a report card to the Cyclist of Portland. I know, Trimet is holding its breath hoping against hope that I do not start some outrage. Calm your jets, all is well. I just want to say that as a city of many types of transit things are going well and cyclist are no exception. My basis for comparison is Cyclist encounters when I first started driving the bus 10 years ago. Also I have to paint with a broad brush here so in no way do I imply that what is happening goes for every single Cyclist.


So Here it goes. I should maybe start like my Dad always did when we talked about Report Cards. “GET OFF THAT ATARI AND GET IN HERE!”  


Lights A++: This is such a relief to any driver of large vehicles. I don’t need to tell you why lights are good, we are all adults and know the facts but there is more. Gone are those micro-small token lights, you know the little dots that are just there to keep your ass from getting a ticket. I hardly see these at all. Also I find a lot less of those demonic LED's Flashing in my eyeballs, now this could be that people point them down and out… just as good as pointing them forward where they actually blind other drivers. So because of the token light loss and the LED light changes I say Power on Cyclist you are lighting the way to the future.


Helmets A: Hey helmets don’t make you a safer operator but twice this year I have seen Cyclist saved by helmets. One was an Ice fall off a wire, the rider shrugged it off. The other was a low speed collision with a parked truck and the cyclist hit the ground head first and didn’t have a scratch… All hail the Helmet! Do IT!


Merging Courtesy A-: Don’t let the minus fool ya most cyclist are far more aware of large vehicles and are far more kind than ever. Sometimes it’s shocking, sometimes it’s even unwarranted and there is a battle of kindness, really! I stopped at a light and the cyclist pulled up, we did a high five and laughed. He was leaving room for me and I was leaving room for him. How cool is that. Still there are a few out there who drive with a righteous chip on their shoulder but they are now shockingly few.

Lane Pain B: If there is anything I would say cyclist should be aware of it’s lane encroachment. It seems sometimes comical that the larger they make the bike lanes and the wider they make the buffers the more often I have cyclist swinging out into the car lane unexpectedly.  Sometimes it’s not only me it’s the cars that they effect and then the cars try to crash into my bus. I think this is something that will be sorted out in time. As for now I like one little bike lane with no buffer, now those riders in those small lanes keep their heads in the transit game. This is an area where I think we will see future improvements.

 Hmm could work

Hmm could work

Bus Mall B+: Things have gotten better on the Mall except in Summer. This grade should be a solid A but in the Summer things go crazy on the transit mall. It’s so close to an A but I can’t do it given how crazy it is. This is one area that will need improvement in the summer to change. The hardcore cyclist have a good head on their shoulder and understand the Transit Mall, but come summer they are flooded by those who just want to feel the breeze in their hair and “hey look that double white line looks like a bus lane!”

Rain A: This is one area where there is a lot more defensive driving skills being shown. I have to really salute Portland on this one. Rain and darkness is a horrible combination, but watching bikes around my bus has shown me a far more sophisticated cyclist who understand that a city bus is a big blind Rhino at those terrible times. Thank you all, really this is awesome.

Hand Signaling B: Better but still not the best, Still rare but it is growing. As you know I’m a big fan of hand Signaling and I still have my Free pizza dinner for cyclist in Portland when I see enough Hand Signaling. I’m happy with the progress. Please please please practice using hand Signals when you can. I talked with one rider who got in the habit one day at a time. It started with Mondays being Signal days, a month later he added Tuesdays and… you get it, right! Keep it up.


Bus Bike Carrier B+: When you are standing at a stop you should

A: Balance on the edge of the curb like an Acapulco cliff diver holding a bike, ready to step out the second the bus starts to slow. Cause you want to shave an entire second off your loading time by moving first as the bus pulls in.

B: Balance on the edge of the curb like an Acapulco cliff diver holding a bike, ready to lean outwards but not stepping out until the bus stops. Even though from behind the wheel of a bus I can’t tell the difference between A and B.

C: Once the bus sees me and signals that they are pulling in, take a half step back to put the drivers mind at ease that I’m not (A or B from above) and that I’m not moving until the bus is stopped.

More and more riders are choosing C. When I see C people I pull the rack right up to them, they just step off the curb and bang! They are done. When I see A or B people I stop away from them because it scares me and it’s not safe, so that second those A and B cyclist think they are saving by stepping out early is lost when they have to come to the bus on the other side of the bus stop. Ok B cyclist you didn’t do anything wrong like stepping in front of my moving bus but I can’t tell if you are going to, you look like those A people, so I have to treat you like A people. C people you get all my love.



Rational Bike Lanes D-: Ok this is not the fault of Cyclist but it needs to be addressed. Can someone please, please! do a little thinking when adding Bike Lanes in the city. It’s a madhouse of not enough bike lanes where there are cyclist and way way too many bike lanes that are virtually empty year round. Look, I understand there is some sort of push to be the most bike friendliest place in the whole wide world, I don’t have a problem with that, but it's’ counter productive to simply be slapping bike lanes down like some Russian Communist party program in the 1970’s that’s trying to keep up with the west. “They have 5000 Kilometers of bike lanes in the west, Comrades! We will build 10,000 Kilometers of bike lanes… sure Siberia not so good for bike but Comrades! We cannot afford a bike lane gap!”

I’m sure there is something to the idea of providing bike lanes to encourage bike use but we must not get ahead of the market because there is more than a little push back when people, see their parking spaces disappear and are lucky to see a single bike at any time in those lanes, this is serving no one well. We need a little common sense balance here that is all. More is not always better if where you need more you are getting less… Wait does that makes sense? I’m not sure.

Overall not too shabby. A few places to improve on, but overall I have to say I like the direction we are headed in. Pedestrians, Cyclist, Cars and Busses can all learn to live in peace… Maybe not unicycles we can all agree those people are crazy.

“Ok now go back to your Atari.”

Thanks Dad, I love you.

You All Roll Easy.