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Survival of the fittest

January 6, 2010
Scooter at the Confluence

Portland's streets are full of scooters. At least when the weather's good. (Orin O'Neill photo)

One thing about Seattle I don’t miss at all is the general boneheadedness of Seattle drivers. Road users here in Portland mostly seem to know the rules, and play by them. Even the bicyclists.

But that doesn’t mean things are perfect. There are plenty of drivers who must’ve have gotten their licenses on sale at Walmart.

The other day I was headed west on Halsey. I was in the left lane; a new Subaru Outback was on my right. On some blocks of Halsey, parking on the street is allowed, on some, it isn’t. We were approaching a block where it’s allowed.

I notice Mr. Outback is moving toward me. He did not look to see if anything was next to him before initiating a lane change.

So I lay on the horn. No reaction from Mr. Outback, he continues to look straight ahead and move closer. He must be totally engrossed in Morning Edition, or else new Outbacks are so soundproof, he can’t hear me.

Never mind the double yellow lines, there’s a TriMet bus coming the opposite direction. I pounded on the driver’s window with my fist. Finally, a reaction! He moves back into his own lane.

But even if he hadn’t reacted, we’d reached a block where there’s no parking, so he would’ve moved back to the right lane anyway (he made a right turn at 42nd). He was able to pass the parked cars by crowding me. Had there been a red light I would have attempted to explain that I’m entitled to the use of the entire lane for the length of my vehicle, and suggested that in the future he do a head check before moving into an adjoining lane.

Another recent near-miss happened on northbound Barbur Boulevard. It was at the part that’s a quasi-freeway with a center curb divider. There were cars in all three lanes, and they all stopped because some idiot pedestrians were standing on the divider (obviously, walking half a block to the pedestrian bridge was way too much trouble).

This was one of those times I was thankful the GTS has such good brakes. It was also one of those times I wish I had a badge and was riding one of the Portland Police Bureau’s blue light-festooned BMWs. I don’t know where some people get the idea that you’re required to stop for jaywalkers (hint: you AREN’T), but the idea of checking to see if something is behind them before slamming on the brakes doesn’t seem to register, either.

As I said, stuff like this happened on a daily basis in Seattle, but in Portland these incidents are memorable because they’re unusual.

But that doesn’t mean I can let my guard down. When you’re on two wheels, heightened awareness is a must, whether your bike has an engine, or not. Favicon

  1. January 6, 2010 12:09 pm

    Nice job taking care of yourself. Around here we actually accuse people of getting their driver’s license in a box of cracker jacks.

    I can totally identify. A lot of my days are spent doing business in Portland on a bike.

    How is your health these days? Everything sorting itself out?

  2. January 6, 2010 12:47 pm


    we had a situation up here a few years ago where a Road Test examiner was taking “bribes” to “pass” new drivers when doing road tests. He was getting up to $5K for each license. Hundreds or possibly thousands of cases were discovered. The motor vehicle department cancelled all licenses that were approved by this person and they had to re-qualify.

    The joke is that all the bad drivers got their licenses in “Richmond” (that’s Richmond, BC).

    glad to see you are in good humour and getting about under your own power seemingly without any difficulties.

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  3. January 6, 2010 12:49 pm

    Good job, Orin. I’m about to go do battle on your behalf with the local Seattle race drivers down Elliott. I’d love to live where all drivers paid attention and exercised common courtesy and caution. Not to mention right-of-way. Perhaps in my next life, which I hope doesn’t arrive too soon.

    Rubber side down, my friend.

  4. January 6, 2010 4:03 pm

    I like the idea of hammering on the driver’s window.

    They’re just oblivious. All of them.

  5. Keith permalink
    January 6, 2010 6:29 pm

    All of my scooting is in an urban area. It is always an adventure. There is no letting your guard down. That said I must say the St. Louis drivers have been pretty respectful. Truthfully, it has been the pedestrians that have given me my scariest moments—walking and texting or in their own little world.

  6. January 7, 2010 11:56 am

    Irondad and bobskoot, all is well on the health front—the foot has healed, and my blood sugar has returned to a much more reasonable level. While I have no trouble walking, I have found it’s a bit more tiring, since there are no toes on the right foot to push me off as there were before. And I have occasional minor balance issues. But otherwise, I’m gettnig along fine. Now, if I could just secure some kind of gainful employment, I’d be great.

    Thanks for the kind wishes, Chuck. I hope your next life will be a long, long ways off.

    Keith, in Seattle the scariest moments were provided by bicyclists, whose complete and utter disregard for the rules of the road (stopping at stop signs, going the proper direction in a lane) is absolutely appalling. They still seem to think you win hearts and minds by pissing people off…

  7. Keith permalink
    January 7, 2010 12:38 pm

    Yeah, bicyclists aren’t much better here. I had more sympathy for the cyclists complaining about how cars didn’t respect their rights to the road before I began scooting to and from work. Oh well, I hope I never see a cyclist go down and I pray I don’t hit a young student dressed in all black on their way to school in the dark of a winter morning.

    I’m glad to know about your health status. I discovered you when you were on your “hiatus”, was saddened to hear the “why” of your silence, and am glad for your posts. I hope secure gainful employment is in your near future.

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