Ray Does Have Multimodal Experience

While I still plan to write more about my study abroad trip last summer to the Netherlands, I have been surprised by how some people think I am only focused on bike planning. I want to resolve any confusion people may have about my multimodal experience. Since my resume mostly shows bike planning experience and this blog is mostly about biking, I have been asked during job interviews whether I have any transportation planning experience beyond bike planning. Some of my bike friends in Portland have told me that they have also been asked this question during job interviews and believe it is a common question for any Portland-based transportation planners applying for jobs outside of Portland. They told me the question is most likely due to the fact that Portland is known mostly for bike planning outside of Portland. Yes, I have extensive experience in transportation planning beyond bike planning. Through this post, I plan to show a variety of transportation planning projects I have worked on.

Pedestrian Planning

“Whether you live in a city or a small town, and whether you drive a car, take the bus or ride a train, at some point in the day, everyone is a pedestrian.”
Anthony Foxx
United States Secretary of Transportation

I believe in prioritizing people and creating human-sized cities. In case you are wondering what I mean by “prioritizing people”, read my previous blog post about advocating for people. Since everyone is a pedestrian and pedestrians are a vulnerable road user, I feel it is important to showcase my pedestrian planning work first. While I have worked on many pedestrian planning projects, the biggest pedestrian planning project was my planning workshop project during winter and spring terms at Portland State University. My planning workshop group, which consisted of a total of four Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students, worked with Tigard, Oregon and State of Place to create a walkability and economic development plan for the Tigard Triangle.

 

If you don’t have time to read the entire plan, I would like to highlight the below map because it shows the importance of the plan. The State of Place Raw Score shows walkability scores for every road segment in the Tigard Triangle. Value per Acre shows economic development opportunities. Through the plan my group created, we prioritized walkability and economic development improvements in the Tigard Triangle.

Tigard Triangle Walkable Small Business

Map from Ray’s Workshop Project

Bicycle Planning

Since everyone already knows I’m passionate about bicycle planning and most of my blog has already been devoted to writing about biking, I’m not going to write much about my bike planning experience. This previous blog post shows a map I helped create during my Transportation Planning Internship at Toole Design Group.

Automobile Planning

Even though I am mostly passionate about pedestrian and bicycle planning, I do have automobile planning experience and do care about motorist safety. After all, motorists are people. During my Transportation Planning Internship at Charlotte DOT, I calculated Level of Service (LOS) for many intersections. One of my goals of calculating LOS was to improve motorist safety.

Transit Planning

All of my internships have involved pedestrian, bicycle and automobile planning so I don’t have too much experience with transit planning. However, as the below map shows, I did some transit planning during my workshop project.

Transit in Tigard Triangle

Map from Ray’s Workshop Project

I hope I have convinced you that I have well rounded transportation planning experience.

Should bike map be used to show off or keep cyclists safe?

I’m tired of reading news reports about cyclists dying. While I feel most people feel hopeless about how to prevent more deaths, I have been thinking about easy, cost-effective ways to help save people’s lives. As a geographer and transportation planner, I believe bike maps can help save people’s lives. However, bike maps must show the correct information. Metro, which is the MPO for the Portland region, edited its bike map after someone died while using a Portland bike map to find what the cyclist thought was a safe route. Metro’s bike map didn’t show the correct information to keep cyclists safe. However, as this cyclist asks, should a bike map be an important safety tool?

The current approach most cities in the United States are using is to build as much bike infrastructure as possible and show all of their bike infrastructure on a map. As the below figure shows, cities are using their bike infrastructure to show off to other cities and attract cyclists to move to their cities. Since there are glaring inaccuracies with the figure, which you are welcome to ask me more about, I’m not sharing the figure so you can compare cities. Instead, I’m sharing the figure so you can see how cities are competing with each other for the most miles of bike infrastructure. While it is great to see bike infrastructure, how much of the infrastructure is actually safe?

Bike infrastructure per square mile in large cities 2014

Source: 2014 Bicycling and Walking in the USA Benchmarking Report

For the rest of this blog post, I will discuss two bike maps, which I found in the Appendices of Charlottesville’s 2015 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. The first bike map shows all of Charlottesville’s bike infrastructure. The second bike map shows Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) analysis for Charlottesville’s entire road network. You can learn more about LTS analysis in this blog post. While bike infrastructure is used to create the LTS bike map, bike infrastructure isn’t the only measure used in the LTS bike map. Which bike map do you feel makes Charlottesville look like it is trying to show off to other cities and which bike map shows Charlottesville as trying to make its road network safer for people to bike?

Charlottesville Bike Map

Since many cyclists depend on maps to direct them along safe routes, bike maps need to only show bike routes that will keep cyclists safe. This blog post demonstrates my point. While Jonathan Maus doesn’t mention LTS analysis, I believe LTS analysis can be used to create a safer bike map. During my transportation planning internship at Toole Design Group, I helped create the below LTS map. Note how no bike infrastructure is included in the map legend. This is the critical difference I’m trying to make between a bike infrastructure map and a LTS bike map.

Charlottesville LTS Map

Even if a bike lane was installed on a road with LTS 4, which means it is very uncomfortable to bike on, the LTS bike map would continue to show the road as LTS 4 until the speed limit and/or annual average daily traffic (AADT) are reduced. The bike infrastructure map shows the road as having a bike lane regardless of the speed limit and AADT. This difference is why I’m a huge advocate for LTS analysis. To learn more about this difference, watch this video by Sam Schwartz Engineering and this video by Peter Furth.

The below graphic shows how LTS analysis compares with the four types of transportation cyclists. Through using a LTS bike map, “interested but concerned” cyclists can easily understand which routes they should use. A traditional bike infrastructure map forces cyclists to guess which bike lane is actually safe enough to use. What I mean by this is that a bike lane on a 45 mph road is not the same as a bike lane on a 25 mph road. Unfortunately, a bike infrastructure map doesn’t show the difference between the two bike lanes. A LTS bike map does show the difference because speed limit is included in a LTS bike map. Which bike map do you want to use when planning your next bike trip?

who does the bike facility serve

What should I do to avoid being left and right hooked?

I was almost left and right hooked several times last week while riding in bike lanes in downtown Portland, Oregon so am planning to buy a $65 Orp. The below video and photo show how an Orp works.

Unfortunately, I can’t use the Orp to communicate with motorists waiting at a stop light that I’m planning to continue straight from the bike lane. The Orp just alerts motorists that I don’t want to be hit. It doesn’t inform motorists whether I will be turning or continuing straight. Since I can see whether the motorist’s turn signal is on, I know when I need to communicate with the motorist that I plan to continue straight. In order to inform motorists that I plan to continue straight, I have been pointing straight, trying to make eye contact with the motorist and yelling “straight”. Even with all of this, I had two motorists almost hit me while I was biking in the door zone bike lane on SW 5th Avenue in downtown Portland on Thursday, October 22. I kept trying to make eye contact with the motorists and yelling, but their windows were up so they couldn’t hear me and they didn’t see me until I heard their brakes squeak. Thankfully, they both were going slow, which allowed them enough space to stop in time. However, I felt my heart beating very fast so know it was way too close for my safety and comfort.

Since my strategies aren’t working to keep me safe from being left and right hooked, what should I do to avoid being left and right hooked in the future? Vehicular cyclists (according to this discussion, I have now learned that they prefer to be called bike drivers) keep telling me in the Cyclists are Drivers! facebook group that I need to “just line up with the rest of the traffic that’s going straight.” Unfortunately, as I wrote in this blog post, Oregon law requires me to use the bike lane in most situations and doesn’t allow me to impede traffic so I am forced to feel unsafe and uncomfortable in the bike lane. I have copied the Oregon statutes to show you why the law needs to be changed. Section 814.420.3.e is copied below.

“A person is not in violation of the offense [of leaving a bicycle lane or path] under this section if the person is able to safely move out of the bicycle lane or path for the purpose of: (e) Continuing straight at an intersection where the bicycle lane or path is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right.”

Note the phrase: “where the bicycle lane or path is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right”, as this only applies to bike lanes to the right of right turn only lanes, and not lanes where motorists can go through or turn right, which is the overwhelming majority of cases on the streets.

After receiving more advice from the Cyclists are Drivers! facebook group, I am planning to break several Oregon laws starting on Monday by controlling the full travel lane on roads with a bike lane and impeding traffic. Since I value living another day more than following unsafe Oregon laws, I am open to being arrested and receiving a ticket. Do you see any safe and comfortable options that are permitted under Oregon law so I don’t risk dying while biking?

Biking Across Unsignalized Intersection

Since my dad heard my passion for being a lawyer and critiquing the law when I young and still does, I’m not surprised this is my fourth consecutive blog post about Oregon laws. I took a legal planning course at PSU and have explained traffic laws to many pedestrians, cyclists and motorists in Portland over the past year so I still feel like I’m following my passion for understanding and critiquing the law without being a lawyer.

As the below award shows, which I received in 4th grade, I also had passions to be a meteorologist and geographer before switching to geography and urban planning in high school. You can read more about my career shifts in my previous blog post called “Advocating for Automobiles to Advocating for People”. My love for meteorology and geography came from watching weather maps on the local news and reading maps, which I began reading during a family trip to Charleston, SC in the 1990s (I was born in 1990). My dad asked my brother, sister and I who wanted to read the paper map (yes, I was alive before commercial use of GPS started) to navigate our trip to Charleston, SC. I raised my hand first so became and still am the family navigator.

Speaking of navigating, how do I safely navigate my bicycle across unsignalized intersections? The simple answer is to wait until I know it is safe for me to cross. I try to take this approach as often as possible. However, if I always approached unsignalized intersections this way it would take me several minutes to cross the road because most busy unsignalized intersections have a steady stream of automobile traffic. Due to the motorist’s blind zone, which is shown in the blue area in the below image, I wouldn’t feel safe crossing a multi-lane road until motorists in all lanes of traffic have fully stopped their automobile.

Motorist's blind spot is in the blue area

Motorist’s blind spot is in the blue area

Instead of all the motorists fully stopping their automobiles, I often find one motorist stopping and waiting for me to proceed through the intersection. Since I don’t immediately go, the motorist often signals with their hands for me to go or honks to make sure I understand they are getting impatient. Even though most motorists in Oregon likely don’t know it, they can be partially at fault for a collision with another vehicle if they encouraged someone to move. A cyclist actually sued two motorists for over $670,000 after one of the motorists hit her and another motorist encouraged the other motorist to proceed. The motorist that encouraged the motorist to proceed didn’t see the cyclist so thought it was safe for the motorist to proceed. This is why I don’t trust when a motorist motions for me to proceed through an unsignalized intersection.

To give you an idea about what type of unsignalized intersection I am having difficulty crossing on my daily bike commute to and from work, I have provided the below street view. SE 16th Avenue through this area has sharrows, marked crosswalks, and yield to cyclist and pedestrian signs so cyclists and pedestrians are encourages to use SE 16th Avenue. However, this doesn’t mean crossing E Burnside St is easier. Even though I don’t feel safe doing it, I have often had to start rolling my bike in front of approaching high speed automobile traffic because the automobile traffic wouldn’t stop unless I forced it to. Once I start recording my bike rides with a GoPro, which I plan to purchase for my birthday this weekend, I will start sharing video of how quickly automobile traffic stops for me at this intersection.

E Burnside St at SE 16th Ave

E Burnside St at SE 16th Ave

Thankfully, Oregon DOT has started a crosswalk campaign to educate motorists, cyclists and pedestrians about how every crosswalk, including marked and unmarked crosswalks, are legally covered by Oregon crosswalk law. The crosswalk law requires motorists to stop and remain stopped for cyclists and pedestrians at marked and unmarked crosswalks.

Oregon DOT Crosswalk Campaign

Oregon DOT Crosswalk Campaign

While crosswalk education is important, I would love to see a HAWK signal installed at E Burnside St and SE 16th Avenue to make crossing E Burnside St easier. Unfortunately HAWK signals are expensive so PBOT and ODOT likely prefer a marked crosswalk over a HAWK signal.

HAWK Signal

HAWK Signal

Near Death Experience

Even though I didn’t plan it, this is my third legal blog post in a row. I was biking along the SE Salmon/Taylor neighborhood greenway during my lunch break yesterday (Thursday) when I almost got hit by a motorist going full speed through a stop sign. The motorist was driving southbound on SE 37th Avenue and must not have seen the stop sign because she didn’t slow down. The intersection of SE Taylor Street and SE 37th Avenue doesn’t have a stop sign when biking on SE Taylor Street so I wasn’t prepared to stop.

Near death experience on Salmon/Taylor neighborhood greenway

Near death experience on Salmon/Taylor neighborhood greenway

Since the two southbound lanes of SE Cesar Chavez Blvd (39th) had bumper to bumper congestion in this area due to construction, the motorist was likely trying to bypass the congestion by using neighborhood streets. The southbound lanes are on the right side of the road so I’m going to assume she decided to turn right to bypass the congestion. As the below map shows, which can be zoomed out, the nearest through street to the west that parallels SE Cesar Chavez Blvd in this area is SE 37th Avenue. In addition to it paralleling SE Cesar Chavez Blvd, SE 37th Avenue and all the neighborhood streets in this area had very low traffic volumes so they are enticing as a detour to all the congestion on SE Cesar Chavez Blvd.

Even though SE 38th Avenue looks like it goes through in this area, a neighborhood trail blocks automobile access from SE Taylor Street to SE Salmon Street so only non-motorists can access the trail. Since I’m assuming the motorist who almost killed me knows the local streets, she likely was aware of this trail so chose SE 37th Avenue.

SE 38th Avenue Trail

SE 38th Avenue trail looking north from SE Salmon Street

Unfortunately this isn’t the first time in Portland that I have almost been killed by a motorist running a stop sign or light. As the below Facebook post shows, a Portland police officer almost killed Drew DeVitis and I when we were biking towards the Hawthorne Bridge in downtown Portland because the police officer sped through a red light without sirens on.

Portland, Oregon police almost killed me by running red light

June 2015 Facebook post with reply from my mom

Even though I didn’t post about it on social media, I was almost hit by a motorist on SE Salmon Street at SE 17th Avenue last winter. I was biking downhill (westbound) on SE Salmon Street and the motorist was heading northbound on SE 17th Avenue. The motorist had a stop sign and I had no stop sign so I wasn’t expecting to stop. Instead of coming to a complete stop, the motorist did a rolling stop while glancing to see if any traffic was coming. He evidently didn’t see me so I had to slam on my brakes to prevent crashing into him. Thankfully, after I yelled “you had a stop sign!”, he stopped and rolled down his window. He told me he did stop but didn’t see me and apologized for almost hitting me. I said thank you to him for apologizing and stopping to talk with me.

While I am thankful for still being alive after all these near crashes, what can I legally do in Oregon if I get in a crash and no police are present to report the crash? Oregon has a law that allows a citizen initiated citation. As this article discusses, the citizen initiated citation has been successful as long as you have video recording to show what happened. Since I don’t have a handlebar-mounted camera like a GoPro, I can’t currently have much success with a citizen initiated citation. Due to this, I’m seriously considering purchasing a handlebar-mounted camera to record all my rides. My 25th birthday is September 19 so I could purchase a GoPro for my birthday!

I didn’t discuss it in this post, but I’d love to know your thoughts on whether and what types of traffic diverters could help with reducing motorists from using neighborhood streets as a bypass around congestion on major roads. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) recently published a Neighborhood Greenways report that includes examples of diverters so PBOT is looking at installing diverters. Where and what types of traffic diverters would you install?

Control and Release

After writing my previous post about how Oregon’s laws are terrible for vehicular cyclists and encountering motorists that have no idea what control and release means when I use it, I wanted to discuss the importance of why I use control and release. Since I’m assuming most people don’t know what control and release is, I have provided the below short video, which was produced by Cycling Savvy.

Even though the below photo shows the control signal used by a motorcyclist, I couldn’t find a photo of a cyclist using the control signal. This likely means that few cyclists are using control and release. As I will discuss more later in this post, I didn’t learn about control and release until earlier this year.

Control Signal

Control Signal

In case you are still wondering why controlling the lane is safer than always edge riding, Cycling Savvy created this animation comparing the hazards of edge riding with the safety of controlling the lane. Even though I provided the below diagram in my previous post, I want to make sure you understand the need to control the lane before I continue with discussing control and release.

Most common reasons to leave a bike lane

Most common reasons to leave a bike lane

While I have been biking daily since freshman year of undergrad (2009) and controlling the lane where it is unsafe to ride on the edge since I learned how to control the lane sometime during undergrad, I only recently learned about control and release. The below screenshot of my post in the Cyclists are Drivers facebook group shows that I learned about control and release in May 2015.

Ray Atkinson's post about control and release in Cyclists are Drivers' facebook group.

My post about control and release in Cyclists are Drivers’ facebook group.

I have only taken the League of American Bicyclists’ Traffic Skills 101 course, which didn’t teach control and release, and no courses through Cycling Savvy, which didn’t offer courses in North Carolina until after I moved to Oregon and doesn’t offer courses in Oregon, so my education on how to do control and release has been through the video I shared with you at the beginning of this post and learning by trial and error.

My trial and error experiences in Portland have so far resulted in motorists not waiting on neighborhood greenways and choosing to pass me by crossing the double yellow line when the motorists feel they can speed up fast enough to pass me before the oncoming traffic closes the gap. However, I have had at least one successful use of control and release where motorists waited patiently behind me when I used the control signal and didn’t pass me until I moved over to the right and gave them the release signal. When I mentioned in my previous post about how Oregon law should allow cyclists to control the lane on any road and drive as slow as they need to, especially when they are trying to avoid hazardous conditions, I feel education of both motorists and cyclists should be incorporated. Motorists and cyclists should be taught how control and release works. This should result in cyclists being safer and less delay and inconvenience for motorists.

Cyclist’s Safety vs. Motorist’s Convenience

I have been thinking about vehicular cycling and the law ever since I started learning how to control the lane several years ago. However, my frustration with the law reached a new peak this week when I read this recently published article about Bicycles May Use Full Lane (BMUFL) signs and attended the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s Legal Clinic. The first half of this podcast covers almost everything that was covered during the Legal Clinic. My friend Gerald, who is also a vehicular cyclist and President of Bike PSU, and I asked Ray Thomas, who is a bike lawyer with decades of experience, about Oregon’s bike laws.

Before I continue, I should mention that I am not one of the vehicular cyclists that is against all segregated bike infrastructure. As my previous blog post discusses, I support segregated bike infrastructure that is safe, especially at intersections, which is very rare or doesn’t exist. The below diagram, which I found on Cycling Savvy, shows reasons why segregated bike infrastructure, especially bike lanes, isn’t safe. This animation, which was also created by Cycling Savvy, shows why lane control is so important for safety. Portland has plenty of on-street parking so I risk being doored while riding on door zone bike lanes every day.

Most common reasons to leave a bike lane

Most common reasons to leave a bike lane

Gerald and I were disappointed to learn just how bad Oregon’s bike laws are for vehicular cyclists. Even though neither of us have ever been pulled over by the police or given a ticket for vehicular cycling, we are concerned this could happen because the law is against us. As the below map shows, which I found on Dan Gutierrez’s facebook, Oregon isn’t the only state in the US to have laws against vehicular cyclists. Only two states, Arkansas and North Carolina, have equitable bicycling movement laws.

US States with Equitable Bicycling Laws

US States with Equitable Bicycling Laws

Using this legal bike guide, I will provide specific examples of how Oregon law is against vehicular cyclists. Since I didn’t want to overwhelm readers, I only copied the sections that I felt are most important so the entire statute is not copied. I also bolded the most important words.

ORS 814.430 Improper use of lanes; exceptions; penalty.
(1) A person commits the offense of improper use of lanes by a bicycle if the person is operating a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic using the roadway at that time and place under the existing conditions and the person does not ride as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway.
(2) A person is not in violation of the offense under this section if the person is not operating a bicycle as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway under any of the following circumstances:
(c) When reasonably necessary to avoid hazardous conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or other conditions that make continued operation along the right curb or edge unsafe or to avoid unsafe operation in a lane on the roadway that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side. Nothing in this paragraph excuses the operator of a bicycle from the requirements under ORS 811.425 or from the penalties for failure to comply with those requirements.

ORS 811.425 Failure of slower driver to yield to overtaking vehicle; penalty.

While ORS 814.430 legally allows cyclists in Oregon to control the full lane, it limits where and under what circumstances cyclists are legally allowed to control the full lane. ORS 814.430(2)(c) and how it relates to ORS 811.425 concerns me the most. If Oregon really cares about Vision Zero, the speed of the overtaking vehicle shouldn’t matter because the cyclist’s safety should matter more than the motorist’s convenience to get places quickly. Cyclists should be allowed to control the full lane on any road and drive as slow as they need to, especially when they are trying to avoid hazardous conditions. Unfortunately, we live in an automobile dominated society and our laws reflect this.