tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
On Friday, I got news via email that Bonnie Tinker died in a bike accident in Virginia. Bonnie was a queer activist and peace activist in Portland; she was also a pillar of the Multnomah Monthly Meeting of Friends, which I've been attending irregularly since last year. She was 61 years old. I didn't really know Bonnie, but her involvement in the meeting, as an advocate for queer rights as a social justice issue and otherwise, was always one of the things that made me feel I was in the right place.

The kind of accident that killed Bonnie is so common that it has a name: the "right hook". In her case, a truck overtook her on the left while she was riding straight, and struck her when it turned right in front of her.

Unlike some types of accidents, right hooks are completely preventable: they don't happen when cyclists ride in the center of a lane where right turns are permitted. This doesn't mean that all the responsibility for preventing these accidents lies with cyclists. Motorists have to cooperate too, by respecting cyclists' legal right to occupy the center of the lane when keeping to the right would be unsafe.

If you ride a bike, you need to know the following information; it could save your life. It's natural to feel that it's safer to ride close to the curb all the time, but because drivers (unless extremely drunk or unskilled) don't hit objects that are in front of them, in many situations it's safest to ride in the center of the lane where you will be seen. When riding in a substandard width lane (that is, a lane where a car can't pass a bike safely), riding in the center of the lane communicates your intent (to continue riding straight) to other drivers, just as when you're driving a car, driving in the center of the lane communicates your intent to continue occupying the lane.

If you drive a car, the following is your moral responsibility as well as your legal responsibility: if a cyclist is riding in front of you, wait until it's safe to pass and then pass in the adjacent lane (possibly meaning waiting for a break in oncoming traffic and passing in the oncoming traffic lane), the same way you would always pass a slower vehicle.

When you honk at a cyclist, try to run a cyclist off the road, or otherwise make a cyclist feel unsafe riding in the center of the lane, you could kill someone -- indirectly, when they expose themselves to danger from right-turning vehicles because they wish to avoid angering drivers by riding in the lane.

I don't think Bonnie had to die. I know that cyclists have died because drivers have refused to accommodate cyclists who try to ride in the safest way it's possible to ride a bicycle: vehicularly.

The following is from John Forester's book _Effective Cycling_ (sixth edition, MIT Press, 1993; accessible through Google Books), starting at p. 313.



tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Today I went on two of the three World Naked Bike Ride events in Portland. The message of WNBR, besides that biking naked is hella fun, is that cyclists are always naked, because we face vulnerabilities that people encased in sheet metal don't.

I arrived at the 2pm ride at Glisan Circle with just enough time to take off my clothes before we headed off. There were about 100-150 people for most of the first half of the ride. We rode all over the inner east side; highlights included Hawthorne, Broadway (butts over Broadway!), and Alberta, where we ended up riding through one of the Pedalpalooza events. On Broadway, my friend Kenny, who was bringing up the rear (so to speak), got hit by a car; the driver, who I guess was late for their manicurist appointment or whatever, deliberately hit him (at slow speed). Kenny was OK, the bike wasn't, and enough information was obtained that the perp will presumably be brought to justice. Some hints, folks: (1) deliberately hitting someone with your car in front of about 100 witnesses is a bad idea; (2) claiming you didn't see a naked cyclist in broad daylight is probably not going to hold up in court. Other than that, the ride was almost amazingly free of hostility. Most people we passed by were supportive. I heard reports that a few parents covered their kids' eyes, which is not exactly sending a good message. But on the whole, it was a peaceful and fun event, and when else do you get to overhear things like "His penis is painted green!"

After Alberta, a bit less than half of us continued downtown over the Steel Bridge bikeway. We rode by Saturday Market and the Pride festival and then up to Pioneer Square. I ended up not-particularly-willingly leading the ride briefly because seemingly no one else knew how to get to Pioneer Square from Waterfront Park (?!) I wanted to ride by the Park Blocks, but we took the Hawthorne Bridge back to the east side after that. My second suggestion, Lloyd Center, also got vetoed, and from the Eastbank Esplanade we returned to Glisan Circle by way of Salmon, 21st, Stark (starkers on Stark!), and 28th.

Then I rode home and finished writing up my final exam.

The Official Ride(tm) was to leave from NW 22nd and Nicolai at 11:59pm. Around 10:45pm I rode from SE over to the site with some folks who I'd been at a party with. We took the Hawthorne Bridge and then the Waterfront Park trail all the way north to where it connects with Naito, and then to Front. I didn't know that the end of that trail was open now; last time I was on it, when I used to live in Goose Hollow, it dead-ended at the Steel Bridge. The sheer numbers of people on the official ride were amazing, but it was a bit anticlimactic compared to the daylight ride. A lot of the fun of the earlier ride was watching people react to something they weren't expecting, but the second ride had people lined up along the edges who knew what they were in for, as if it was the fucking Boston Marathon or something. Also, the cops did some direction of traffic to allow us to keep flowing smoothly for the most part, which is ok, but effectively kept us off the bridges, which wasn't so ok. Never assume you are getting a free lunch from the cops. After going almost all the way down Burnside but not across the bridge, we looped back north through the Pearl and ended up back at the starting point around 1:20am. At that point the people I'd come with decided to ride home and I headed home too (wearing NOTHING AT ALL underneath my reflective vest).

It's interesting how friendly the drivers were, particularly on the earlier, more spontaneous ride where they weren't expecting it, compared to Critical Mass rides I've been on in the past. Being naked makes all the difference, I guess -- I'm tempted to try commuting naked. I'm also glad to have given the world a little bit of exposure to what trans bodies look like, even if most people who saw me may not have realized they were seeing a trans body. It was nice to get a reminder of why having top surgery in two weeks will be a good thing (riding without a bra, much less shirt = bouncy, though it was less uncomfortable than I'd feared it would be), but also nice to get some sun on my entire body for the first time as far as I can remember and probably for the last time before it gets reconfigured. It was fun. Try it next year!

ETA: Someone took some pictures of the daylight ride. I'm in one of them, but good luck finding me.

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tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

September 2014

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