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Get Outta The Road

I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically through this entire article, and then reading it again the next day, chuckling glee-fully to myself the entire time.

I am one of those drivers who must contend with an insane amount of pedestrian traffic – pedestrians who will cut across five lanes a traffic on a busy street to avoid walking five more feet to the cross-walk. These are on streets where 45 is the posted speed limit. Not downtown Portland – suburban Powell and Division.

Not just the usual gaggle of teenagers, or your common everyday prostitute/pimp. Sometimes entire families (and women with babies in strollers!) will be stranded in the middle of the four lane highway that is Division street, looking confused and scared. Maybe not quite sure how they ended up there.

Every once in awhile, a compassionate motorist will stop their car and indicate that the pedestrians should continue their cross road journey. That motorist = not me.

Division street, after what I’m assuming must have been several near misses, a few clips and maybe even a fatality – wised up and installed a pedestrian refuge inbetween 122nd and 130th.

It looks something like what appears to the left. You know – flashing lights, clearly marked and all that. Do I see many people using it? Well no, cause I try to avoid Division at all costs (we have history). But, do I still see pedestrians racing across the street all up and down Powell, endangering the lives of other motorists and pedestrians?

You bet your sweet fucking ass I do.

Powell is a horrible road. It’s mired with a string of potholes running from 90th down to 181st. It’s piled on all sides with strip clubs, dive bars, and seedy looking apartment complexes. I realize the financial incentive to the city to place a few pedestrian walks in Outer SE Portland is not there.

But seriously – while driving to and fro on Powell every other day, I get this un-nerving feeling that I will probably hit one of those yahoos darting in front of me – one day.

If we could either provide safe walking spaces for them – or campaign for them to “Get the Fuck Outta The Road,” I would be a happy camper. Sadly, neither option looks like it will occur in the near future. Until then, I suppose I will be dodging fleshy bodies while in the safe confines of my car.

*sigh*

On a different note – I’ve seen some vast improvements to the bike lanes on Hawthorne (aka – the most frightening street in the world to drive on). Check ’em out:

This is an older pic, and now the “Bike Box” has been colored green as well – making the “Wait Here” statement more prominent. Here’s a better example in Downtown PDX.

IMHO – this is a great new development in the battle for the roads taking place in the inner SE area. I would love to see these going up in intersections all over the city, but the cost to tax-payers would be astronomical.

And the bulk of that would be coming from gas tax (aka, road improvement tax) – which commuter bicyclists in Portland, I’m sorry to say, do not pay.

This is a beef I’ve had for awhile with the rabid cycling community in Portland. If you don’t want to put up money for these improvements, you need to shut up.

On the flip-side, I like having cyclist space more clearly demarcated. As a driver, hitting a cyclist is my worst fear (or you know, a pedestrian – but those jay-walkers have it coming!). On Hawthorne, and in Downtown – these fears are definitely more pronounced.

I would say bike boxes in inner-SE and DT first – then radiating out to NoPo – and then to Outer SE. We have the pedestrian problem out here – more so than the cyclist issue. Those fuckers in NW can fend for themselves. J/K – they’ll be the last to get bike boxes though. Just cuz.

Again – I think cyclists need to have some form of responsibility for road improvement, if they are going to be using the roads. I’m not sure what that will look like yet – when discussing with others – a few of my ideas were shot down:

– Making commuter bicyclists take safety classes and become licensed (pay a registration fee)**. They have the authority to pass mandatory licensing in California.

– Taxing new bicycles purchased in the State of Oregon (instead, we have folks lobbying for tax breaks!)

– Making cyclists pay a fee/toll for using roads that are closed to motorized traffic (yes, some of those roads do exist in Portland or will in the near future)

**Having commuter bikes registered would also help out with another issue that cyclists face: theft. Currently, if your bike is stolen, you are shit out of luck. If bicycles were tracked as cars are – police might put forth a little more effort in locating them. Maybe (that’s a bit iffy).

**Also – along with registration/licensing – bicyclists would have to take safety courses, and learn the proper way to interact on the road with vehicles. If they were violating laws, they could be more easily spotted and cited by police officers. Afterall, cyclists have the same rights as motorized vehicles (and more).

Hey – this Willamette Week article explored some of my ideas!

While I fully understand the need for motorist/cyclist safety – having motorists bear the brunt of the cost is irresponsible. Cyclists have the luxury of a city that cares about their safety, in a country that is decidedly car-centric. Bike lanes, IMHO, are a privilege and not a right.

I can foresee bike commuting exploding in the next few years when gasoline prices rise to the heights of being completely unbearable for many. But again – it costs money to make a community safe.

My solutions for this don’t seem to be any good, so I’d love to hear other people’s opinions. Motorists already pay dearly for the privilege and luxury of using the roads. Are cyclists willing to put up and put in as much financial effort? I hear a lot of campaigning and lobbying, but are these organizations willing to leverage any scratch for it? Or are they expecting folks like me to do it for them?

I ask this, as I prepare for a bike trip to my local library.

Much Love, Mindy C

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About tinyheroes

Mindy Crouchley is a 33 year old woman with a degree in English and Technical Writing from Portland State University. She has accumulated three+ years experience in the Marketing and Communications field - with an emphasis on creating digital media content. She has been reading comic books since she was 10 years old. She currently lives in outer southeast Portland with her spouse Dan Robertson, her baby girl, and their dog - Jabba the pug. She spends her free time devouring books, crafting cosplay, video gaming, attending comic cons, writing stories/screenplays, attending book to film adaptation club meetings, volunteering, and watching copious amounts of TV and movies.

2 responses to “Get Outta The Road”

  1. Mike Harmon says :

    I came across your blog on Technorati. Nice site layout. I will stop by and read more soon.

    Mike Harmon

  2. joeb says :

    I have read some interesting analysis of taxes for roads and that gas tax is not the only funding source. The general fund from income and property taxes and the fact that most cyclists also drive means that cyclists really do contribute to funding for roads. The cost of constructing and maintaining bicycle infrastructure is really very low currently only 0.7% of the transportation budget. But like you said, more is needed to make roads safe for all users.

    I hope your bike trip to the library goes well. I found that it sometimes takes a few trips to find a comfortable route. I have a great commute to work, but when I first started riding, I often found myself in uncomfortable traffic situations.

    I started cycling about 3 years ago. I get more into it every year. Now my bike is my primary source of transportation and I bike about twice as many miles as I drive. The more I bike the more I appreciate the independence and the more I become aware of the problems, and partial solutions to the problem, of our car-centric society that has been manipulated by the auto industry and consistently subsidized by the government.

    Obviously I have acquired the point of view that it makes more sense for bikes to get tax breaks instead of Hummers, but personally I won’t ask for a tax break. I don’t mind contributing to funding for bike infrastructure. It is a great payback for Portland. Of course 99.3% of my contribution goes to car infrastructure. I wish the distribution went a little more toward bikes, but I’ll live with it for now. It would be horrible if every person biking in Portland got in a car. The added congestion and damage to transportation infrastructure would be expensive.

    Anyway, just my point of view…

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