Sunday, December 14, 2014

Drivers Obeying the Law, Part II

I was biking South down Ladd towards the stoplight at Division, when I heard the Suburban behind me pull around to try a pass. I was going at 25 mph, and there was another car that had just turned off of Division and was heading North in the opposing lane. Once I saw that there was oncoming traffic, I knew there was no way the Suburban could make the pass without causing a head-on collision. But he made the pass anyway! The other car had to slam on their brakes; the right taillight of the Suburban passed a foot from my handlebars.

The stoplight at Division was red, so I caught him seconds after he passed me. I tapped on his window and said that he had passed too close. He had given me only a foot, and the minimum passing distance is my fall height (6 ft). He said that he had been "completely in the other lane," and that I should ride further over. Again, I was riding 25 mph--the speed limit--and had I been riding any further over I would have risked getting doored by a person stepping out of a parked car. He then said to me:

If you want to be a stickler for the rules, just remember that I'm driving a 7,000 pound vehicle, and you weigh maybe 180 pounds. That's your choice.

Remember, I did not slow him down in any way. The light was red while he was passing me. It remained red long enough for me to catch him and exchange several sentences at the stoplight. He gained no time whatsoever. He broke at least two laws and put my body and my life in danger--and the bodies and lives in the car coming towards us--for literally no reason at all. When called out on it insisted that it is my responsibility to stay out of his way.
Tonight's incident won't be in any crash statistics, but that doesn't mean that Clinton and Ladd are safe places to bike. This guy's attitude is too common on Portland bikeways. Drivers almost never allow enough travel distance to complete a pass safely, and end up risking head-on collisions, almost sideswiping bike riders, or both.
You would think that riding the speed limit would stop unsafe passes, but it doesn't. I routinely get honked at, passed too closely, or brake checked. I've even had to endure all three in close succession! I've been honked at going 20 in a 20 on Clinton and on NE 37th; I've been honked at doing 30 in a 30 on SW Steele. I've been passed too closely on the big hill on Woodstock Blvd., while biking 10 over the speed limit! I can't even imagine what it is like out there for people who ride at a gentler pace than I do.

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