Sharing the Road

Portland is a big cycling city. In fact, the Northwest as a whole is big into fitness–kayaking, running, hiking…you name it. One of the things I’ve noticed as a life long resident of the NW is the animosity between people when it comes to sharing the road. Cyclists don’t like people in cars and they don’t like runners in their bike lanes (“Ugh, cars man, WHY?”). Drivers and runners don’t like how aggressive bikers are…The most heated discussion you’ll ever have with someone in Portland is not taxes or construction woes, it’s CYCLISTS. Which I find amusing.

I’m in a unique situation because I’m both a runner and a cyclist. I can see both sides equally because I’m on both sides. I often have to switch my thinking depending on what kind of shoes I have on–my Brooks Ravenna running shoes or my clip-in cycling shoes.

General Rules for Cyclists

  1. Stay on the correct side of the road. I cannot stress this enough. It amazes me how often I see people doing funky things and potentially causing head-on collisions because they aren’t being mindful.
  2. If you’re biking on the road, stay on the shoulder or in the bike lane as much as possible. Be mindful of parked cars, car doors opening, people walking and cars.
  3. One of the most annoying things about cyclists (usually newbies) is when they ride two or three wide. Sure it’s fun to ride side-by-side with your biking partner. But only do so when it’s safe and you aren’t blocking traffic. When riding on the Springwater Trail, for example, Michael and I sometimes ride side-by-side but only if there aren’t other people around. The trail can be narrow and it can also get very congested. It’s not safe to ride next to each other and block walkers, runners and other cyclists.
  4. The general complaint of non-cyclists about bikers is that they ride slowly in traffic. I’m not sure what the solution is here because as a driver I’m also annoyed with slow riders, and as a cyclists I understand sometimes you’re going as fast as you can. 🙂 If possible, move over so cars can pass.
  5. If you’re biking on the road, follow the traffic laws like all the cars do. That means stopping at red lights and stop signs, respecting Right-of-Way and not running through intersections.
  6. Share the road with runner and walkers. As a cyclist it’s your job to SLOW DOWN when maneuvering around people.  Last summer when I was running the Esplanade Loop a biker crashed into me because they weren’t paying attention. That hurt!
  7. When you’re passing people on a trail or road, give them notice. It’s polite and just smart to say “Passing” or “On Your Left” to someone you’re riding around. I always do this when I bike and people appreciate it. If you don’t want to say anything, get a bell for the bike.
  8. Use hand signals when riding in traffic. Drivers can’t read your mind!
  9. Be aware at all times what is going on around you. Check your peripheral vision, blind spots, and look down the road to see potential hazards. When coming to a two way stop, look both ways to make sure cars are stopping.
  10. Watch out for stopped cars trying to make a right turn.

General Rules for Runners

  1. The above rules can apply to runners as well.
  2. As a runner, follow the rules of the road as well. Don’t dart into traffic to get across the street unless it’s safe.
  3. Look behind you before you move positions, especially if you are running on a trail and you’re wearing headphones. You should always be aware as a runner who is behind you.
  4. Run against traffic. Especially if there are cyclists in the other lane with the traffic. It’s also safer because you can see what’s going on.
  5. Be visible, especially running in the morning or evening.
  6. Watch out for stopped cars trying to make a right turn.
  7. Remember that cyclists are often clipped into their bike and it might be harder for them to stop suddenly!
  8. Bike lanes are for cyclists! Be respectful of that.
  9. If you’re running with a group of people, don’t take up the whole road. Side-by-side when it’s safe, but not four wide.

And a final note about people walking their dogs on trails like the Springwater: PLEASE do not let your dogs off leash, or have them on a long leash. I cannot tell you how many times I almost crashed on a bike because the dogs scampered in the way and the owner wasn’t paying attention where the leash was going. Just this weekend two ladies were walking side by side with four dogs on leashes. They took up the entire trail and I had to shout that I was coming. They moved over to the side but what if I was coming around a corner and didn’t see them in time? That would be a big mess!

I don’t know why it’s so hard for some people to just get along and share the road. There’s plenty of road for everyone and if we’re all respectful it can be pleasant for everyone!

QUESTION: Do you have any other tips for sharing the road with everyone? Do you share the road?

Author: Lisa Eirene

About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and

17 thoughts on “Sharing the Road”

  1. We have had SEVERAL people get hit and killed by motorists this year while riding their bikes. For the most part, the cyclists are obeying the laws. It seems that drivers just aren’t seeing them. I think as a cyclist you have to be extra diligent and just plan on people not seeing you and bike appropriately. And drivers should always be super aware, but with cell phones you know they never are!

  2. Thank you for posting this! My sister just got herself a bike, and was talking to me the other night about how her perception of her “hatred for bikers” has changed so much now that she’s out there using her bike instead of a car.

    I have a friend who’s a big cycler (he actually biked the east coast a few years ago for charity), and we have gotten into arguments about this, because in his mind, a cyclist has the right a way and cars should always yield to them, which I can never understand that mentality. In my mind, when I bike/run/walk or do anything around cars, I always try and stay out of the way, because I’m so afraid of getting hit! Not that car’s shouldn’t yield to bikers/runners/walkers either, both sides need to be very cautious.

    1. There’s definitely an attitude change when you’re out there on a bike! I changed my opinion too.

      I pay attention to all the cars around me and assume they won’t stop, or don’t see me.

  3. I trust no one when I am on the bike. I try to always make eye contact with a car when we are approaching an intersection to make sure they see me.

    Also – don’t be afraid to use your voice. I shout a lot to let people know I am coming up behind them.

    My biggest peeve with other cyclists is that they don’t obey the rules of the road, which casts a bad light on all cyclists.

    My biggest peeve with a car (other than general crowding of me) is when they speed up to go past me to then turn right in front of me. I think many drivers underestimate how fast a biker actually is going.

    Another tip from me when running, or walking on a path Always stay to the right, especially if you have earphones in. I can’t tell you how many times I have shouted at a runner as I was passing on the left and they never heard me because they had music going. It then scares the bejeezus out them, but it serves them right.

    And never, ever, never wear headphones as a cyclist. Too dangerous because of speed.

    1. I’m with you Lori- I don’t trust drivers. Or other cyclists. I’ve had my encounters with the jerks that give us all a bad name.

      Yesterday I came to a three way stop and the car ahead of me went. I stopped and waited for my turn and when it was my turn a lady in a car decided she wasn’t going to wait. She had her window down and I yelled at her that it was my turn! Some drivers are just jerks.

  4. Your tips are great! I JUST started riding a bicycle on Saturday. My boyfriend took me out on Sunday for an 8 mile ride in N.Portland. He used to race when he was at U of O, and he worked as a bicycle mechanic for 7 years, so he knows A LOT. One thing he has stressed to me is NOT to feel compelled to stay in the bike lane, because a lot of them are not safe. In many situations, it is better to ride in the middle of the lane so that you don’t get sideswiped. And yes.. you should do this even though it pisses off drivers if they don’t have room to pass you. Part of sharing the road is letting cyclists do that in places where it is needed. I’ve noticed many bike lanes just from driving around that are right next to a lane of parked cars.. and that is just dumb and dangerous. Easy for a cyclist who isn’t paying attention to get doored.
    I’ve been a runner for years, though, and I agree with your advice. 🙂

  5. I hate when people aren’t controlling their dogs. I did a track workout today and there was a woman who was letting her dog run all over (unleashed) while her son was going all over the track (across, backwards, you name it) on his bike. Kinda blew my mind.

    When I’m on a bike I always try to make eye contact with drivers who are waiting to turn-I know I’m not perfect at seeing everything when I’m driving, so I assume drivers don’t always see me.

    And running or biking, have some sort of ID on you!

    1. The track next to my house is super nice but people are kinda dummies–kids on bikes, people with their dogs…even though there are signs posted all over that say NO BIKES and NO DOGS! Ugh!

      Good tip: ID!!! I always wear my ROAD ID when biking and running.

  6. I try to be a very considerate sharer. One time I had a guy who clearly did not like me passing him (as he walked with his wife) and he intentionally moved over and ran me off the path. Even his wife chastised him. I really could not believe how blatant it was… and then he saw my large husband behind me and finally moved!

    One thing that I have noticed is that drivers who come out of a road turning right will look left for car traffic but forget to look right for anyone on the sidewalk. Happens all the time.

  7. I try to keep in mind what the other person is doing/thinking/etc. When I’m on the bike, I try to remember what the car driver might be doing (ie: not paying attention whatsoever to bikers on the road) or if I’m in the car, I try to remember that I’m on a slight hill and maybe this biker is feeling like they are going so slow they might be about to tip over so I should give them even more room than usual. When I’m the runner, I try to just stay out of everyone’s way as far to the right as I can get.

  8. In LA runners and pedestrians have the share the sidewalks with cyclists. This always freaks me out, since there have been times when they’re riding a little too fast and the sidewalk is too narrow and crowded. LA isn’t as bike friendly as other cities.

    My pet peeve with sharing space on the roads isn’t cars and cyclists. It’s pedestrians on sidewalks who are out walking two-three abreast. It bugs me so much when they see me running toward them and are still taking up all the space. It’s not exactly safe for me to go around in to the grass. It may be uneven and I could roll an ankle.

    I will say running makes me a better driver.

    1. That annoys me too! When I was running downtown I had to deal with that A LOT. Biggggg pet peeve! And people don’t care that they are taking up the whole side walk either!

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