Thursday, August 14, 2008

Portland Traffic School ROCKS

Last night I had the privilege of sitting in and observing a "Share the Road Safety Class" in North Portland. This class, which was started a year and a half ago, was developed by Trauma Nurses Talk Tough, the Portland Police, the BTA, and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition. It covers traffic interactions between drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Folks who have been issued citations for certain traffic violations can take this class, and it is really a great opportunity. I felt so proud that Portland includes a bicycle safety presentation in a traffic class! The room was filled mainly with people who had been issued citations while driving, and I do not know that some of these people had ever ridden bicycles in traffic before. What an amazing opportunity to educate drivers about the increasing numbers of cyclists in Portland, and how to behave around bikes and on them! This is the best example of mobility education currently offered that I have seen since I started studying this stuff.
If I were studying sustainable transportation in Portland, I would be all set to start a dissertation project this year. People up here are so willing to share knowledge and contacts about making the city more accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians. Even though drivers have honked and shouted at me for no good reason while I've been here, I firmly believe that local (and now national) media coverage of this trumped-up "bikes vs. cars" controversy only makes people feel more divided and indignant. My guess is that the guy who yelled at me the other day, who was an older man, might have read some inflammatory remarks in The Oregonian that morning before getting into the car, and the sight of me and Bobby (in a bike lane, out of his way) filled him with so much rage that he spat "get off the road!" at us. I'd never had that happen before all those articles were published this summer. I think they're leading to more self-righteous factionalism, and I'm glad that different people I've heard speaking publicly on behalf of the BTA dismiss this as the crap it is.