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opinion piece on rude bicyclists

the snoregonian had this to offer about bicyclists. We can ignore it or learn from it if we really want to make a difference.
From Oct. 6 Oregonian

Bicyclists who break the law getting free ride


I nez Seim isn't one to cause trouble. But the 84-year-old Portlander does have certain points of view that she doesn't mind sharing. "I've put in my opinions to people," she says.

Seim had called twice and left messages. So when she caught up to me while I was on deadline, I remembered a lesson my mother taught me: Stop and listen to your elders. Or they just might hurl a shoe in your direction.

"Do you smoke?" Seim asks.

No, I reply.

"Good for you."

The evils of tobacco will get you a lecture from this retired nurse. Her husband and middle son, she says, died of complications from smoking.

Lack of gratitude is another concern. She says she can't stand to see a spoiled, ungrateful child. "I was proud to have hand-me-down clothes," she says.

After a while, Seim apologizes for "going a long way around the barn." The real reason for her call, she says, is to complain about rude bicyclists. "This is not going to get better," she predicts. "It's going to get worse."

Seim says she is tired of bicyclists' running red lights: "You and I have seen cars who do the same cotton-picking thing." It's also unnerving when they zoom past her at a stop sign. "They look one way, and away they go," she says. "They don't even stop."

Seim believes all bicyclists should wear helmets, reflectors and bright clothing. And they should stay in the bicycle lanes as much as possible. "If I have to abide by the rules and pay a heavy fine," she says, "shouldn't they?"

But that's life in one of America's best-known bicycle-friendly cities. Bicycles are fun, healthy and environmentally friendly. More than half of us own them and actually ride them occasionally. And planners consider bike use an important indicator of quality of life.

It also means Portland police are more likely to jack me up for jaywalking than for zipping -- "Look, Mom, no hands" -- through a red light on my two-wheeler. Year to year, ending in August, pedestrians received almost 5,000 citations; bicyclists got 614.

Seim's idea is to force bicyclists to pay a registration fee to use the roads. "If they're going to use the streets, primarily for a means of transportation, they should make a contribution," she says. "That would bring a little funds into our coffers. But most of all, it would give these younger people a sense of responsibility, and older ones, too."

It sounded like a good idea to me. So I called Bill Barber, Metro's alternative-transportation guy. Twenty years ago, his agency studied the issue of bike registration and licenses, much like a driver's license. But it never went further than a chapter in Metro's regional bicycle plan. "It really was something that was not cost-effective," Barber says.

The idea of requiring a bicycle license has also been debated in City Hall, but the issue doesn't have advocates. "That would really put a damper on people giving a bike a chance," says Roger Geller, city bike coordinator.

The feds have put some money into educating young people about bike safety, but it wasn't enough and didn't last long. The Legislature has also discussed the issue over the years but has never done anything more than talk.

"I'd like to see somebody take this on," Seim says. "I would like to see some kind of campaign to get this rolling before I bid this planet adieu."

It all comes down to accountability, she says. Like spoiled children, bicyclists have long been overindulged. And like smoking, the city should curtail bad behavior before someone else dies. The question is: Is there anyone out there brave enough to stop allowing law-breaking bicyclists a free ride?

"I think we know what the answer is, but do we have the will and the money to make it work?" asks bike advocate and Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder. "We're kind of letting it happen and hoping everybody gets along and doesn't kill each other."

What's so friendly about that? Reach S. Renee Mitchell at 503-221-8142 or  rmitch@news.oregonian.com. Her columns appear in this space on Mondays and Wednesdays, and online at www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/renee_mitchell.

Let's make cars illegal! 06.Oct.2003 07:22

Alantin Bahana fuckuspammers@noway.con

Let's make it illegal to drive anything with an infernal consumption engine. Then there will be more room for every living thing. FREE FREE NOW!!!

sorry old lady 06.Oct.2003 08:53


The old lady probably didn't look over her shoulder once or twice and had a close call with a cyclist. It's too bad she is misled into thinking that bikes should have to pay to use the roads. She perhaps isn't aware of global warming?! It would have been great if she had used her age to defend the right to share the road. Actually CAR drivers should pay a heavy levy so there's a bike lane on every street and so the transit systems are free to all. Just because you don't want to have to look out for cyclists doesn't mean you should use your last days to advocate against them. Some people are just jealous of the agility of bikes I guess. Be careful out there all my fellow riders...too many people have staunch anti-bike attitudes and those play out on the roads...

What nonsense 06.Oct.2003 09:28

this hostility toward cyclists is dangerous

If Cyclists are "spoiled children" then motorists are schoolyard homicidal maniacs. The roads in Portland are very dangerous for cyclists. I have had made near misses especially while riding in a bike lane and particularly on Broadway. Motorists don't even bother to look for bikes before they turn.

Fuck drivers who cut bikes off, crowd the lane, race up right behind, honk their horns, or yell at me to get off "their" roads. They don't realize or don't care that cars kill. Bikes don't kill and if a loose adherence to traffic laws protects a cyclist's safety then so be it. Defending ones self against a 2 ton vehicle driven by a hostile bully just might mean that the spoiled child needs to run a light or two or not come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

Besides traffic law and tickets make no sense for cyclists or pedestrians when you remember that laws are enacted to protect the health safety and welfare of society not individuals. Since walking and riding a bike pose no serious threat to society or safety there is no reason other than fascism and greed to crack down on the invisible menace of jaywalking and cyclists not obeying traffic laws.

Who does it hurt? 06.Oct.2003 09:30


Who does this lady think she is? The reason cars have to follow strict traffic laws and register their vehicles or face heavy fines is because they're big, fast, and dangerous. Before there were cars, does anyone think that there had to be traffic control devices? If I run a stop sign on my bike and get tangled up with a car, it's me, the rider who will suffer the greatest consequence--getting my fragile body run over by a steel cage. If a car runs the same stop sign, it's innocent people who will suffer injury if there's a right-of-way conflict. I think that such risk alone should displace heavy enforcement of traffic laws for cyclists. It's a natural law--get in somebody else's right-of-way and you'll get run over. Why waste police time on a 15-mph 200-lb bike and rider when there are drunks going 70 mph in a 3500-lb van down Belmont street? Where is the social cost here?

What a waste of carbon this woman is. What, she can't dedicate a tiny bit more of her feeble brain power toward watching the streets while she's driving, so she thinks the burden should go on the rider? Guess what? The burden already is on the rider to watch out for her careless ass! She's just jealous that cyclists can zip past traffic jams and gas stations, and then park right in front of their destinations for free, and she can't. Boo hoo. Get a fucking life!

following the rules 06.Oct.2003 09:36


Part of what she is saying makes sense. Basically, she thinks that bicyclists are being rude to her and other drivers by (I assume) going through a red light or stop sign when other cars are nearby and are made to slow down for the cyclist, or making cars wait at the stop sign when it was the cars' turn to go. Simply out of kindness, I think it is best to follow the rules when cars are around to the extent that you do not go through interesections when it is not your turn... but when there are no cars, or you would not be making trouble for anyone, waiting for a signal that is really designed for cars is stupid and should not be done.

"If I have to abide by the rules and pay a heavy fine," she says, "shouldn't they?" ... No! The only reason car drivers have to abide by the rules and pay heavy fines (and fuel expenditures) is because they are driving large, heavy, dangerous vehicles which MUST be intensely regulated simply to stay "dangerous" rather than "extremely dangerous".

In the pacific northwest of the US, it is normal to see 200 cars and a few bikes in a parking lot. In the parking lots of Cascadia it will be normal to see 200 bikes and just a few cars.

some bikers 06.Oct.2003 10:03


The article is long overdue. It is a well known fact that there are plenty of bikers that think they own the road and violate all rules of safety. So get over yourself and recognize the fact that there are bad drivers and bad bikers. You're not immune from criticism when bike safety rules are not followed, and that happens way too often.

Let's Get One Thing Perfectly Straight: 06.Oct.2003 10:26

Metal Pancreas

When people are driving their cars and they see a bicyclist do something they don't like they tend to spread their dislike for the one bicyclist to all bicyclists. By this same logic, when they see another driver do something they don't like they should apply this dislike to all drivers, themselves included. Does this EVER happen? I don't think so. Can you imagine someone driving their car, someone pulls out in front of them and they curse themselves for it? It doesn't happen. It's a basic tenet of hypocrisy.

SO: these people are simpletons, hypocritically applying their judgement to whoever they don't like at the time. Their opinions are worth horseshit.

Bicyclists Pay Taxes Already 06.Oct.2003 10:42

North Portlander

While the lady has a point about there being a number of rude cyclists out there, most of the rest of the article is pure horseshit. Most bicyclists are careful (they have to be, or get hit) also own cars and pay just as much as any driver in taxes to maintain roads; why should they be forced to pay more? That makes about as much sense as requiring that SUV drivers pay more because their vehicles are harder on the roads and the environment and we know that's never going to happen. As far as abiding by the rules of the road, Oregon law considers bicycles vehicles. That means that if they blow stop signs or otherwise abuse traffic laws, they can be cited just as a driver can. I can't say I've seen that happen in Portland but I did see it in Eugene and Corvallis and during the STP ride in in years past. Being considered vehicles also gives cyclists the right (and the responsibility) to ride on the road when they don't impede or block traffic and if the bike line provided is dangerous in some way (read: covered with debris swept off the road, filled with walkers and joggers, as Terwilliger often is). This woman may be legitimately frightened, but she is also lamentably uninformed.

blah blah blah whine whine whine 06.Oct.2003 11:00


I think that riding bikes instead of polluting the earth is great. That said, bitching at people and ignoring traffic laws is not the best way for bicyclists to get the general public to start thinking that way. It sucks that you can be serenely riding you bike along and get hit by a huge truck, but it also sucks that you can be totally careful and share the road as a driver and still almost slam into a biker flying crazily through an intersection on an almost daily basis. And, "biker," if you get hit by a car, it is not just you who suffers. Yes, it's your body, but also think about the person that has to live with the fact that they were driving all fine and safely and still managed to squash you. And what if that driver swerves to miss you? Will they hit another car, another biker, a small child?

to Metal Pancreas 06.Oct.2003 11:09

whose horseshit?

"When people are driving their cars and they see a bicyclist do something they don't like they tend to spread their dislike for the one bicyclist to all bicyclists."

Metal Pancreas, you are full of shit. Just read the above quote again, and tell me that you just didn't make exactly the same kind of generalization about all car drivers. I am a bike rider who occasionally drives, but I agree with this lady that there are way too may idiot bike riders in this city who are doing dangerous shit. I don't want to be the one who kills one of them! Yeah, cars oughta be outlawed, and there are way too many idiot car drivers too. So what? They're here, they're on the road, so treat them with respect, and maybe they will treat you with respect.

Summer makes a point 06.Oct.2003 11:26

biker 1


You're right about lawless cyclists possibly causing others to swerve to avoid them. I wrote my last piece in a fit of pique. However, I do think that getting run over is a pretty high price to pay, higher than having to live with guilt for hitting someone. That said, I think it's still true that the natural law of the road will prevent most cyclists from violating the rights-of-way of car drivers. I ride every day and I do run stop signs and red lights every day. However, I would never think or act up on the notion that I have a right to take the right-of-way and car drivers just have to allow it, because I'm a high-and-mighty cyclist. I respect the rules of the road insofar as they are meant to determine where and how traffic should flow (don't ride the wrong way, IOW), and I make it a point not to inconvenience drivers any more than I have to maintain my personal safety, which I have to do surprisingly rarely. Rolling a stop sign on my bike on Salmon street at 2 in the morning doesn't inconvenience anybody, doesn't violate any rights-of-way, and puts no one at risk. The same cannot be said of the intersection of Broadway and Burnside at 5:30 pm on a Friday.

Basically, bikes should follow traffic flow and rights-of-way laws, and the rest are negotiable. So many of them were put in place to protect everyone from the auto danger, which bikes don't pose. It doesn't make sense to enforce them equally.

Oregonian poll 06.Oct.2003 11:51

biker 1

There's a poll at the www.oregonlive.com site right now. It's running about 60/40 against bike registration. Go make your voices heard!

Bike lanes are unsafe 06.Oct.2003 12:00


So called bike lanes on busy streets are cute and totally unsafe.

The lanes on the right must be crossed by turning cars that often don't look or care. Parked cars open their doors into them. Parked cars cross through them as they re enter traffic.

The lanes between auto lanes are insane. Cars are crossing and passing on both sides 2 or 3 time faster than the bikes. Bikes have about 1 foot of safety margin either direction and a swerve for any reason puts them in the path of death or dismemberment. Car lanes have 3 or more feet of safety margin on either side.

Bikes should only use car lanes and they should occupy the lane in the center. This causes most cars to pass by a complete lane change giving the bike a much larger safety margin. It also reduces the hazards of turning in front of bikes or opening doors. It also puts the bike in a much more visible position where cars can easily see them.

I don't know what idiot bureaucrats designed and paid for bike lanes, but it certainly was not someone who rides a bike very much.

It is much safer to give bikes their own discrete paths (Springwater), or at streets where there is little car traffic. SE Clinton comes to mind as a near perfect bike street. There are car speed control bumps and it is designated as a bike route so bikes are expected to be seen and accomodated.

bicyclists already pay much of the cost of road infrastructure 06.Oct.2003 12:58


Bicyclists, if they pay taxes, are already supporting the roads, sidewalks, and bike lanes. Gas tax and vehicle registration fees pay only a fraction. In fact, of the studies I looked at, it was found that for gas tax to cover all the costs gas would have to cost another $2.50 to $7.00 per gallon, depending on how many factors were included (such as the hidden costs like the US military protecting pipelines overseas). On top of this, bicycles cause almost no wear at all to the roads. This writer shouldn't have let this woman's misconception about this issue appear in print without a balancing perspective.

Change the traffic laws for bikes 06.Oct.2003 14:13

A Biker

Bikes are alternately considered commercial vehicles or pedestrians, depending on where they are and what they're doing. It's an obscure mis-mash of legal code, that seems to have come about because law-makers are lazy. Bikers already know what the rules for cars are, and they expect them to abide by them, because they make sense and most people follow them. If you want bikers to follow traffic laws, then create some traffic rules that are sensible for bicyclists. Then teach drivers what those rules are so they know what to expect from bicyclists.

Biking is hard work, it requires a ton of attention, putting up with dangerous drivers, etc. For it to be a reasonable practice, there are currently traffic laws that bikers need to break to protect their own safety. I may look like a "rude biker" to some people, but one thing they'll notice is I NEVER put myself in front of a car, or expect it to behave normally if its failing to do so could get me killed. If this means violating ordinary stop-sign behavior and giving the car "cuts", then so be it. It drives me nuts when cars try to be "helpful" and stop pause or wait for you to go somewhere, because I cannot communicate with someone in a steel box, and I'm never going to try that their appearance of patience is legitimate.

On the other hand, to get anywhere with any speed, to avoid sucking down car exhaust, etc, if there aren't any cars threatening me, the laws can screw themselves. I can't see any reason to sit for three minutes at a light, or stop at every stop sign on the quiet side street full-of-stop-signs that I'm using to avoid cars. With unrestricted sight and hearing, I'm ready to go. I know it confuses cars when I cross the street when they're a safe distance away, and then don't even see me turn my head because I already locked onto them before they ever saw me, and on the converse it confuses them when I stop. They really have no clue what the experience of biking as transportation is like, and I wish they'd get a clue. Occasionally I make mistakes, but that's a risk I've already agreed to take, I'll sign the liability waiver if I have to. Cars are so wasteful with their power, nearly every driver will accelerate into a Red stop light, and then slam on their brakes when they get close to it.. This is dangerous for bikers because they keep passing and getting passed by these clueless drivers, and wasteful of a resource that we're constantly going to war to obtain more of.

Yo: whose horeshit? 06.Oct.2003 14:22

Metal Pancreas

I may be full of shit, as you point out, but that's hardly a cogent retort to my argument. My pointing out of the hypocrisy of hating bicyclists (something that seems to be growing these days) is not going to be negated by your flimsy attack. I didn't say ALL drivers, and I also said that they "tend" to, etc. So shut the fuck up and pay attention.

On the topic of bicyclists not following car laws: bikes are not cars. When someone busts their ass on a bike to get up some speed and they come to a stop sign with no traffic around it, do you really expect them to come to a complete stop and then start all over again? People in cars simply have to push a little harder with their ankle-muscles to make the car go zoom; bikes require much more energy and therefore their riders will react differently and accordingly. If it is pouring down raining, freezing cold and you're tired and homesick, you're not going to stop at every sign in your neighborhood and examine the traffic; anyone who has ridden a bike for more than five minutes knows that when you're riding you are paying close attention to everything around you. You're not going to fly out into traffic unless you're a suicidal moron and you don't want to hit people, because, unlike a car, your mass is not that great and you are susceptible to balance, etc.

Basically, what I'm trying to say here is that bikes and cars are not equivalent. They just happen to share the same road. And just because some dipshit in Salem says that we have to stop at every light and sign doesn't mean we're not going to use our judgement to override his law. And before everyone blows up and says "what if cars did the same?" go back and read the first sentence of this paragraph again.

I'm not sure what's causing all the uproar about bikes lately. Kids ride bikes. Poor people ride bikes. People with money who want to help make a difference ride bikes. Bikes will not go away. They are mechanically simpler than almost any other vehicle and will therefore be easier to make when there are less raw materials to be had. Bikes are healthy for the rider and the environment. They bring people closer to their surroundings, instead of encasing them in somewhat sound-proof metal boxes. No one can make bikes go away. Anyone who gets mad at bicyclists is pissing in the wind.

I don't know what else to say about it. I'm baffled at the anti-bike people, especially the ones who proclaim to ride. All I can say is imagine a five year old getting on his or her first bike, strapping on their helmet, checking their wheels and then being told they can't ride until they cough up registration money. What a beautiful world that would be.

Something strange 06.Oct.2003 15:13


There's something strange about this article. I understand an old lady who is angry and frightened by bikes who break the rules and ride dangerously. I understand her as seeing them as young and spoiled. I don't understand where she makes the leap to making bike riders pay registration fees. That doesn't solve the problem she's claiming.

Car drivers pay registration fees, but that doesn't make all of them safe and law abiding drivers. Why would it do so for bicyclists?

The only things that would result from registration fees is another source of revenue for the city, and more work for the cops (stopping bikes and checking registration). These results don't sound like the concerns of a little old lady.

Kind of a funny cover though.

Personal Experience 06.Oct.2003 16:16

Common Sense

Has anyone actually had someone driving their car yell at them? I commutied bike for two plus years from burlingame to downtown and still cruise downtown on a non-descript mt. bike dressed in totally non-tech baggy gear and never had any driver actually yell at me or gesture toward me in any way. However, I have been flicked off and called an asshole a bunch of times while driving (usually this happens in downtown).

I guess my point is that angry motorists probably aren't angry at us because we ride. I'm sure they scream and gesture at people in cars too cause anyone angry enough to actually verbally assault someone is generally a miserable person. Being stuck in traffic only concentrates their misery and they lash out at the most convenient targets...us.

exactly, abc.... 06.Oct.2003 20:39

hugh jorgen

what he said.

chased 07.Oct.2003 11:21


sure people have yelled at me. does it matter who it is? jock looking kids who think that if you ride a bike you're a "fucking pussy"? it's not usually grown adults, mostly kids ya know, but being yelled at is still being yelled at. one day a dude in a pick-up chased me down28th between stark and glisan. we were coming from opposite directions on stark and both turning onto 28th. see, he had to wait (!!!) because i was too close to 28th for him to completely cut me off without smashing into me. when i lived in austin tx i had ice thrown at me. about a month ago here in mpls a former housemate of mine was hit in the head with a chunk of concrete. his bike looked like it was dipped in blood. he didn't see it coming and didn't know who threw it. totally random. another friend of mine was pushed into a chainlink fence on a bike/ped bridge going from downtown to the west bank. took a big gash out of her left cheek. the last two examples are pretty extreme but minneapolis is a pretty shitty town. almost everyone i know has been jumped or mugged and if you haven't had that shit happen to you, you're friends with someone who has. oh, one more. i just met this nice guy marcus. his buddy had his femur broken a while ago. early one morning he walked to get some coffee and a dude wearing a mask, riding a bike, runs into him on purpose (not many people were out i guess and for the guy to run into you was quite shady). they both fall and the guy on the bike is like "you fucked my bike up!" and just really knocked the shit out the other guy. anywho...

where's your bike license? 07.Oct.2003 13:29

s. tire

I think this old lady has a good idea about licensing bikes to pay for roads and bike paths. But why stop there? A license should also be required for tricycles, don't you think? ...and baby strollers, those cute little red wagons, skateboards and scooters. Come to think of it, a pedestrian tax could raise a lot of money. We license dogs don't we?

Ladies leap doesn't make sense 08.Oct.2003 14:35

but maybe this does...

Maybe the thing that would result from a registration fee would be more respect for bicyclists. We would be viewed as the legit traffic that we are. Just a thought I had last night.

"Car drivers pay registration fees, but that doesn't make all of them safe and law abiding drivers. Why would it do so for bicyclists? "

Maybe the lady who wrote in was thinking that there would be an educational aspect to registration, and that that would cut down on illegal behavior --confusing reg. with licensing.

The ladies illogical connection between safety and registration really bugged me. I guess mostly it just bugs me that people (the O. writer and readers that didn't make note of the disconnect in this case) are so dumb.

In another case...I know children and high school dropouts that understood, back in April of 2001, that Sadam wasn't connected to the Sept. 11 attack... and yet almost 70% of US citizens polled, think there was? I am going crazy.

meant 2002 08.Oct.2003 15:23

my face is red

But On The Topic Of Bicyclists Not Following Car Laws:

When someone busts their ass on a bike to get up some speed and they come to a stop sign with no traffic around it, do you really expect them to come to a complete stop and then start all over again?


Bikes require much more energy and therefore their riders will react differently and accordingly.


If it is pouring down raining, freezing cold and you're tired and homesick, you're not going to stop at every sign in your neighborhood and examine the traffic;


You're not going to fly out into traffic unless you're a suicidal moron and you don't want to hit people, because, unlike a car, your mass is not that great and you are susceptible to balance, etc.



Cars, bikes, and taxes 14.Oct.2003 10:49

jason burkhead@lamar.colostate.edu

One thing that motorists (and cyclists posting here) miss in noting that there are no registration fees to pay for "road maintanence" or whatever is that, by and large, funding for roads is paid for out of general funds. This means, you pay for roads if you pay income taxes. It doesn't matter if you drive, bike, or slide on your nose after getting whacked from behind by an Explorer. What this means, in effect, is the non-drivers subsidize the drivers.

This brings up an important question in mass transit, especially when comlaints are aired about public funding of buses and trains (Amtrak at the federal level). If mass transit has to be self-sufficient in terms of funding, why shouldn't driving a car be? How about taxes on gasoline to cover 100% of road construction?