Portland is a cyclist's city with expanding bike paths (200 miles installed since 2000) and increasing numbers of riders, but also some pain and problems as more cyclists and motorists try to co-exist. On inner-city rides it is easy to feel that a majority of motorists are accustomed to cyclists and have shifted their habits accordingly, though big trucks still feel like a major hazard.
Portland loves green box biking
Two cycling fatalities last year (and an all-time high of six in 2007) as well as some recent highly publicized bike-car road rage clashes have made the situation tense. Portland's city government responded to safety concerns by thus far setting up eight green-painted bike boxes at busy intersections with a stop line for cars about ten feet behind the boxes. When bikers are in front of vehicles it is thought that "right hook" collisions where vehicles turn right and bikes proceed forward will be avoided.
Time for vehicular bikers?
Portland believes that green-painted asphalt is a great safety tool, and is now going to test an all green-colored bike lane plus bike box on a busy street in the northeastern section of the city. But John Schubert, writing in Adventure Cyclist magazine, criticized Portland's choices, saying that colored bike boxes are not making cyclists safer - in fact, the opposite.
Schubert maintains that all bikers - bike commuters, fun riders, hard core cyclists - are better off becoming vehicular cyclists, and blending in with other vehicles to achieve more parity - a psychological equality - among those sharing the road. As Schubert puts it:
Can a paint stripe protect a bicyclist from the visual field limitations that every human has ...Would you rather rely on your own ability to position yourself where you are easily seen and reacted to?
Safer biking separated or together with motorists?
Bike lanes can complicate traffic flows, especially at intersections. Schubert also says a study of Denmark's blue bike lanes show that accidents can increase. However, according to Copenhagenize after the Netherlands, Denmark has the world's best cycling statistics (in spite of a low percentage of helmet wearers), and separation of bikes and cars is an ongoing evolution.
Perhaps Portland's next step to make bike commuting safe is to install some of the Danish eye-height biker/driver RFID alert systems that are hoped will help reduce right-hook problems. Via ::BikePortland