Yikes! Bikes almost roll in the way of buses, trains in close-call videos

Yikes! Bikes almost roll in the way of buses, trains in close-call videos

Sometimes we all make mistakes. TriMet wants more people to think about the fact that some mistakes can be fatal.

It can be difficult to talk about this subject without blaming the victims of traffic violence. To its credit, the video TriMet released today focuses on examples of people who are acting both illegally and at least a little recklessly rather than (as the New York City transit union did recently) condemning people simply for not being cautious. There’s a big difference.

“These aren’t meant to shame anyone, but to show how dangerous a lack of awareness is,” TriMet wrote on its website.

The next question, of course, is what to do about such behaviors. Unfortunately, there will always be people who act recklessly, even around (not to mention with) giant motor vehicles. That’s why transit agencies need experienced and well-trained operators like the ones in these videos.

But it’s also why we need to remember, when we build our streets, that design shapes behavior.

The reason people too often disregard the bike signal on SW Moody is that TriMet ordered it to be red at times that don’t make any sense.

One of the clips here is on the west landing of Tilikum Crossing, where TriMet staff have personally insisted on having the north-south bike signal turn red even when people are merely walking across Moody Avenue east-west without crossing the bike lanes. The result is that for many people biking north-south on Southwest Moody, the red bike signal often seems meaningless — which encourages people to disregard the red light when it actually matters.

This was a decision TriMet made. Does TriMet accept its consequences?

In another clip shown above, people nearly walk their bikes in front of a train at what looks like an Orange Line MAX station. If TriMet had installed swing gates that force people to dismount from bikes before crossing train tracks, that’d probably makes people less likely to bike thoughtlessly in front of trains — but it’d also makes people less likely to bike, and it seems unlikely that the mediocre bike traffic across Tilikum Crossing is good for TriMet in the long run.

Close-call videos can be perversely interesting to watch. But let’s hope TriMet’s managers are putting a little more thought into this problem than just hitting the “repeat” button and shaking their heads.

— Michael Andersen, (503) 333-7824 – michael@bikeportland.org

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