I got back in the saddle again this morning (or in my case, back on my comfy recumbent seat) for my morning commute. Forecasts were for cool and showery, so I wore a shell. Of course, there was no rain, and I got a bit overheated. But if it starts raining this afternoon, I will be PREPARED.
I had a bit of excitement coming into downtown. As you come in on Barbur Boulevard, two lanes split off to the right to go down to Naito Parkway. The two left lanes continue on into downtown and become 4th Avenue. If you are a cyclist, you need to get across those two lanes in order to continue on Barbur.
The more aggressive bike commuters usually just take a lane and charge on over, crossing two lanes of traffic (see Path A below). And, if the traffic is clear and I have plenty of room, I will do the same. But if there’s traffic in those first two lanes, I won’t. Instead, I’ll go down to a crosswalk and wait for a break in the traffic to cross (see Path B below).
This morning as I approached the decision point, the traffic was pretty heavy so I opted for the crosswalk. I arrived there at the same time as a pedestrian who was walking to work. A car in the first lane stopped promptly. After a moment or two, a truck in the far lane braked heavily and came to a stop at the crosswalk. The car behind the truck also braked heavily and stopped. Unfortunately, the third car didn’t start braking in time.
The pedestrian and I started across the crosswalk, and he remarked to me “I was waiting for that to happen.”
And it’s a recipe for disaster, putting a crosswalk there. But looking back, I wouldn’t do anything differently than I did. If I was going to assign blame, I suppose the fact that traffic is routinely flying through there at 10-15 mph over the speed limit doesn’t help. But most importantly, nobody leaves enough distance between themselves and the car in front of them. If that third car had been following the ‘two-second rule’, I don’t think they would have had that fender-bender. Unfortunately, almost NO ONE in Portland follows the two-second rule.
And of course I can’t know for sure, but I’m willing to bet the driver of that third car doesn’t think the collision was their fault.