I engaged in a tortoise and hare-like race with a Tri-Met bus this morning, climbing and then coasting Burlingame’s Terwilliger stretch. We parted ways as I carefully moved through the green light on Barbur, only after looking over my shoulder to ensure the bus driver saw me as he paused before turning right.
When he had first pulled into the bike lane ahead of me to pick up a passenger, continuing to block my passage for several minutes, I felt frustrated. I hesitated going around such a powerful hunk of metal, but after a few minutes spotted the driver gesturing me to pass on the left. As I did, I realized he was probably ahead of schedule, and doing what all drivers need to do some days to prevent infuriating passengers who may miss a bus running ahead of schedule. We caught up to each other twice at subsequent lights, and at the second, he opened his door to thank me for being a courteous cyclist. I at first responded that I don’t want to die while on bicycle, but added that I too am a bus commuter and understand his challenges. As the light turned I mentioned perhaps I should check the bus schedule before my next trip, and we both laughed.
It got me thinking about how quick we are to anger today, and how our complicated road systems might fuel our reactions. My out-of-state brother, a cyclist himself, refuses to drive in downtown Portland because he fears hitting a bicyclist. Cyclists get angry with drivers; drivers feel angry toward cyclists – making our streets more dangerous, rather than safer. In the end, perhaps we do need to remind ourselves that most people try to do the right thing. We all have bad days – perhaps because of what is going on for us at home, at work, or our fears about our future – amplified by the driver who just cut us off or the cyclist who ran a red light. Commutes are taking longer as our metropolitan areas are burdened by so many people and cars that our urban areas haven’t been able to keep up with.
What can we do?
- Practice mindfulness in all of our commuting. Set aside what’s bothering you or what you may be in the middle of to focus on safely getting from point A to point B.
- Avoid distractions while you drive, cycle or walk (including cell phones and texting).
- Learn how to share the road with buses. Never pass buses on the right as a car, and understand that buses are able to move into bike lanes for passenger stops. Read more from Tri-Met.
- Are you confused by Portland’s bike boxes and bike lanes? Read Understanding Portland’s Streets.
- Whether you bike or drive in Portland Metro, pedestrians have the right of way.
- If you are a cyclist, wear your helmet, follow traffic signals and be predictable (i.e., don’t suddenly dart out in front of a car to make a signal or a turn), and if a driver, always check before you turn, and respect the bike lane.
- Remember that we are all in this together, and practice kindness whenever possible. Learn more from Portland’s Bureau of Transportation, Road Etiquette: We’re all in this together.
And by the way, if you’re frustrated by those hours you spend behind your wheel and further irked by pedestrians and cyclists, set up a day to try to commute another way. You just might surprise yourself and really like it! Read Thirteen Tips for your First Bike Commute.