Truckers: Watch out for that bicycle!

Beyond the new “Bike Boxes”, see how the City’s “Share the Road” program aims to increase bicyclist safety …

We can see Dean Lucas approaching in the truck’s side mirror. As he rides up alongside the truck stopped at an intersection. Then, he vanishes from sight.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Officials from the City of Portland’s Office of Transportation (PDOT) literally took their “Share the Road” show on the road a couple of weeks ago – on SE Clinton Street.

They’ve parked a PDOT dump truck, with trailer in tow, at an intersection – to allow both drivers and bicyclists to witness for themselves the difficulties drivers have of seeing bikers, and bikers have being seen.

“We want to promote to cyclists the importance of making eye contact with car drivers, and especially truck drivers,” explains PDOT Transportation Options specialist Barbara Plummer.

“Large heavy-duty trucks have significant blind spots,” Plummer explains. “Even with special mirrors and other emerging technologies, there are still areas where drivers can’t see a bicyclist along side of them.”

In addition to educating drivers, their campaign is also aimed at bike peddlers. “We want to make cyclists aware of blind spots, and to encourage them to stay out of – and not hang out in – those blind spots.”

Linda Ginenthal, with PDOT’s Transportation Options program, joins the conversation, adding, “State law says the bicyclists have the right-of-way. Even though a bicyclist has the right-of-way, they still need to be cautious. There needs to be a level of shared responsibility; everyone needs to watch out for each other.”

Linda Ginenthal and Barbara Plummer, both with the City of Portland Office of Transportation, hold this show-and-tell session to promote their agency’s “Share the Road” bicycle safety program.

The bicyclist in the mirror
To get the truck driver’s perspective, we hop up into the cab of a PDOT dump truck, and glance in the passenger-side mirror.

Coming up from some distance behind, we see a 20-year bicycle commuter, Dean Lucas, in the bike lane, approaching the intersection. As he approaches, he disappears from view; we can’t see him below the window of the high-sitting cab.

After the demonstration, Lucas tells us “I’ve been hit five times, and I’ve pushed myself away from cars and trucks cutting me off too many times to count. I appreciate the City’s effort to help keep cyclists safe on the road.”

When we ask if he’s seen cyclists riding unsafely, Lucas says, “The answer is ‘yes all the time’; there are bad cyclists just like there are bad drivers. The idea is for all of us to learn to ‘drive friendly’.”

Saying he’s had his share close calls with bicycles while driving his PDOT big rig, Raymond Gawthorne shows a prototype sticker promoting driver/bicyclist cooperation.

From the driver’s seat
Raymond Gawthorne says he usually drives the PDOT the 6-yard dump truck with a backhoe on a trailer they’re using in this demonstration.

“We go the extra mile when it comes to bicycles,” Gawthorne says. “I’ve had a lot of scares and close calls. That’s why I’m helping get this message across to people.”

Asked for his best advice to bicyclists, Gawthorne thinks for a moment, and says, “Make eye contact with the driver. Talk with your eyes. Let them know your intentions, and find out what their intentions are. If they can’t see your eyes, it’s a bet they didn’t see you. Why risk it?”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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