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A visit to SE Clinton Street

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 22nd, 2007 at 11:19 am

visit to SE Clinton
First responder Sean Bennett.
Eschweiler's car came to a stop
near the fence in the background.
(Photos by Jonathan Maus)

My office is just a few blocks from where Johnny Eschweiler drove his car into Ben Ramsdell and Timothy Mastne last Friday.

Yesterday I went over to check out the lay of the land, hoping for a clearer understanding of this unconscionable act of road rage.

While I snapped photos and let my mind wander to the various conversations and news reports I've heard and read in the past few days, I noticed someone taking a smoke break at a nearby shop.

As I approached Sean Bennett and told him why I was snooping around, he immediately began sharing what he experienced that day. "I didn't see it, but we definitely heard it. They ended up right over there," he shared as he pointed to a grassy area where SE Clinton St. veers south and becomes SE 10th (view map below).

"We ran out of the shop right away...and then brought out a bunch of towels to help these guys."

visit to SE Clinton -3
Looking west on SE Clinton.
The cyclist is riding near where
Ben Ramsdell was first struck.

Bennett described a gruesome scene (I'll spare the details) and it was clear the event made an indelible impression on him. Even though he's a daily bike commuter (from the northeast Alberta area, about 5 miles north), he didn't feel like riding home that day.

"I've seen a lot of bang ups and crashes, but nothing like this...it scared the crap out of me. I called my parents in Texas and told them about it." Then, he said, "I called my friends looking for a ride. I didn't find one, so I rode home...but I was extra careful."

The stretch of SE Clinton where the collision occurred is an industrial, narrow, two-lane road with parking on both sides. The road is marked with PDOT's bicycle boulevard/wayfinding signs (those little dots with a bike symbol), and on Metro's Bike There! map the area is listed as a "Caution Area".

I asked Bennett to describe how it might have happened based on what he saw. He said the initial impact occurred just west of the intersection of SE Clinton and SE 11th/Milwaukie (the white Honda Accord that Eschweiler swiped en route to hitting Ramsdell was still parked there yesterday).

Bennett and I tried to figure out how the second cyclist, Timothy Mastne, who was riding in the opposite direction, could have been hit.

As you can see from my reconstruction and aerial view of the scene below, it's possible Mastne was either riding on the north side of the street, or he could have just taken the curve a bit wide (the street is quite narrow).

My (unofficial) diagram of the scene. Click to enlarge

The distance from the initial impact to where the car (and Ramsdell) came to rest took my breath away. My mind flashed to the images I saw on TV news footage of two mangled bikes and a smashed windshield.

I thought: How could anyone's anger at another road user boil over so severely?

I was surprised to find the gutter still littered with broken bits of bike lights and flattened, grated down AA batteries; a single brake pad also lies amid the destructive detritus.

Bennett said that after the collision, Eschweiler just stayed in his car. "He just sat there, talking away on his cell phone for a long time. At one point we heard him tell someone, 'I'm not going to make it tonight, I'm going to jail.'"


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Comments
  • bikieboy August 22, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    One of the only times in the last few years that I\'ve had a driver \"upset\" with me for taking the lane (which is to say, screaming at me to \"get the *%$# off the road\") was exactly, precisely here. And i\'ve ridden it fairly infrequently, at that. Coincidence?

    Perhaps not. This is a popular cut-through/rat-run for drivers heading for the Ross Island Bridge from southbound 11th Ave. who want to avoid the back-up at the Powell-Milwaukie signal.

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  • the hit-and-run-over August 22, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    I don\'t even know where to begin. This is Ben, home from the hospital, broken, bruised, nauseous, but otherwise tip top. It\'s been a much longer week than I anticipated on Friday morning when I decided against taking the bus and hopped on the ol\' Peugeot. I am slowly mending. I had wonderful hospital care, much support from friends and family, and I\'m going back to Maine for a week to get some rest.
    I didn\'t have a computer at the hospital, and didn\'t have much interest in seeing my own story covered on the news (mostly inaccurately and sensationalized, from what I understand.) To come home to this blitz of coverage is a little overwhelming. Again, where to begin, correcting the uncorrected, informing the misinformed; but i\'m not going to do that. Everything will be sorted out in due time in court, and I\'m confident that a nice steamy helping of justice will be served. I want to thank everyone who\'s been supportive of the cyclists in this incident - who knows how many more accidents like this have already happened under the radar. I hope this accident will draw more attention to the easily enraged. I will keep you posted of any new developments in the weeks to come (the trial is at least six weeks away.) In the meantime, be careful, wear helmets, and keep fighting for our rights as non-polluting commuters.

    PS: i didn\'t kick the fucking car.

    ben

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  • 10e August 22, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for posting the map. Based upon the news footage it was difficult to understand exactly where the victims where hit and now I see why (I forget this is still Clinton St continuing south past 11th Ave).

    As others have posted, I hope this terrible incident will lead to some kind of positive outcome for bike commuters in this area. I live and commute on Clinton St. and this area is even more dangerous than it looks on a map. Perhaps PDOT will take a closer look at what can be done to improve safety of connecting bike-friendly Clinton St. to Spring Water Corridor.

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  • jeremy August 22, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    Ben-
    thanks for posting here...glad you\'re OK and glad to know you didn\'t do anything to escalate or provocate the incident..I think it will help you in your legal stance greatly.
    good luck in your recovery.

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  • another ben August 22, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    thanks for the update ben.
    hang in there.

    you\'ve got a lot of support here.
    the portland bike community rolls deep!

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  • rixtir August 22, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    I agree with everything Jeremy said, and am also glad you\'re still with us.

    Get well soon.

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  • Jeff August 22, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    While I don\'t intend to diminish the pain and agony that anyone has suffered in this matter, humans are creatures with potentially violent tendencies and humans do boil over from time to time. It always has happened and always will happen. When we prepare ourselves for this inevitability, we are caught less off guard and are more able to reconcile our feelings, emotions, and the facts and realize that it will all happen again someday, somewhere. This isn\'t just a bike/car issue but a human issue. I guess I\'m writing this because I myself am shocked at how shocked people are on this and other forums when something bad happens like this. It happens, people. Get used to it. We live in a violent world. Not that we have to like it but we much accept it and deal with it.

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  • stan August 22, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    \"This is a popular cut-through/rat-run for drivers heading for the Ross Island Bridge from southbound 11th Ave. who want to avoid the back-up at the Powell-Milwaukie signal.\"

    yup, there\'s what, three more onramps after 11th? since they all have stop signs, you really have to haul in a car to be faster than just going down 11th to the wide, easy yield. i hate this part of driving over the bridge, and the drivers get progressively worse at each onramp, culminating with the last one where people just rip up to the bridge and try to merge, creating the traffic they are trying to avoid... so dumb.

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  • P Finn August 22, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    To me, the issue of stopping cut-through/rat-run drivers should be central to all bike boulevard planning.

    We want cars on the busy roads. Let\'s do EVERYTHING we can to do that. Otherwise, it\'s the most demented, least patient drivers that we\'ll be sharing the boulevard with. Or not sharing. I mean, why wouldn\'t someone looking to shave 10 seconds off of their commute be willing to plow through a couple of bicyclists? Isn\'t that why they took the \'shortcut\'? 10 seconds?

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  • BURR August 22, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    \"Perhaps PDOT will take a closer look at what can be done to improve safety of connecting bike-friendly Clinton St. to Spring Water Corridor.\"

    Unfortunately, as you can see by the \'bike boulevard\' markings on this segment of Clinton, PDOT has already determined that this is the \'best route\' from SE Clinton east of 12th to the Springwater Trail.

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  • BURR August 22, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    IMO this is an area where a PDOT motorist education program (currently nonexistant) could have a big impact on driver behavior.

    I also checked this segment of Clinton today and the lanes in this location are not wide enough for a car and a bike to share, and cyclists have the legal right to take the full lane here.

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  • jeremy August 22, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    BURR...wrong.
    cyclist NEVER have the legal right to take the \"full lane\" (and in that I assume you\'re referring to the center of the lane) unless they\'re moving at the speed of traffic...they\'re obligated to be as far to the right as possible...
    get that into your head, as its not going to change.

    I am, in no way, referring to any aspect of this particular circumstance with Ben ( I refrain from calling it an \"accident\" as it was anything but)

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  • rixtir August 22, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    Jeremy, it\'s not as \"far to the right as possible.\" It\'s as \"close to the right as practicable.\"

    There\'s a huge difference between \"possible\" and \"practicable.\" Practicable means \"reasonably capable of being accomplished under the circumstances.\"

    Generally, I agree that we should be courteous users of the roadway. However, depending on the circumstances, \"as close to the right as practicable\" may in fact mean taking the lane.

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  • Hollie August 22, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    jeremy, will all due respect, you\'re wrong in this scenario. See section 2(c):

    \"CYCLISTS ALLOWED FULL LANE:

    814.430 Improper use of lanes; exceptions; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of improper use of lanes by a bicycle if the person is operating a bicycle on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic using the roadway at that time and place under the existing conditions and the person does not ride as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway.
    (2) A person is not in violation of the offense under this section if the person is not operating a bicycle as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway under any of the following circumstances:
    (c) When reasonably necessary to avoid hazardous conditions including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or other conditions that make continued operation along the right curb or edge unsafe or to avoid unsafe operation in a lane on the roadway that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side.\"

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  • Zach August 22, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    especially key:

    \"or to avoid unsafe operation in a lane on the roadway that is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side.\"

    In my opinion, this would apply in all cases where there isn\'t a full shoulder free of parked cars.

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  • DK August 22, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    Yeah, that area is not only narrow, but you never know when any of the parked cars are going to merge into the street. One of the many dangerous bike blvds. in my mind. And it\'s not like a bike rider is going to slow anyones precious travel time down, what with all the stop signs that are coming up going south from there.

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  • jeremy August 22, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    Hollie...
    you got me on part c... :)

    its highly subjective sadly...the law is most likely on Ben\'s side as he was using an ODOT designated bike route as part of the springwater corridor...whether he was center lane or not, i do not know.

    Zach..there are plenty of wider streets around town that can accompany parked cars, the flow and traffic, and cyclists...not many, but some. the problme also arises from many polite drivers who are willing to wait and not pass until they feel safe in doing so..I think that often pisses off cars behind them who are in some contrived hurry.

    my point was to correct an obtuse statement about the legality of using the center lane...the OP\'s statment read like it was legal at all times, which, hopefully everyone realizes, it is not.

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  • wyatt August 22, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    \"cyclist NEVER have the legal right to take the \"full lane\"...\"

    then you said:

    \"my point was to correct an obtuse statement about the legality of using the center lane...\"

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  • Tasha August 22, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    On narrow streets such as these, I sometimes take the full lane, as I have been \"doored\" before, as well as had cars pull out in front of me really fast. I\'m sorry, but my personal safety comes before the possibility of annoying some car who maybe should be on Powell or Division instead. I drive as well and if I\'m forced to go on a bike boulevard (Clinton, Lincoln, Skidmore), I am EXTRA cautuius and slow, as I know there will be more bikes. If cars want to be speedy, they need to stay on the speedy streets and not expect to go 35-40 on smaller streets where there are lots of bikes.

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  • dr. monkey August 22, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Get well soon Ben and good luck in court. I hope you keep riding even after this incident. I\'m sure it will be tough but it\'s the right thing to do. Heal up partner.

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  • David Sohigian August 22, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    Ben,

    I hope you recover quickly from your physical (and likely emotional) injuries. I can\'t imagine what you must have gone through during the collision. I agree with dr. monkey that I hope you are able to get back \"on the horse\" when you feel ready.

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  • GLV August 22, 2007 at 9:50 pm

    The phrase \"Cyclists allowed full lane\" does not appear anywhere in the Oregon Revised Statutes. The sentiment is rightfully there, but the words are not. Read your own citation, it\'s not there. I wish it were, but it\'s not.

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  • Aaron August 22, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    My thoughts and positive wishes are with you. Heal well, and press charges. I\'m contributing to Dat\'s legal fund for cyclists.

    And for G-d\'s sake, DON\'T CALL THIS STUFF AN ACCIDENT. If I trip on a piece of wood, that\'s an accident. If I take a 2x4 and hit someone over the head, that\'s not an accident. That\'s assault.

    My 2c

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  • Free August 23, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Sexy cam babes, free live chat...

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  • SKiDmark August 23, 2007 at 10:46 am

    You can take the lane if the road is too narrow for a car and a bike to travel next to each other. You are obligated to get to the right as soon as it is safe to do so, like at the next intersection. Anyone in a car who can\'t slow down for a half a block or past a bunch of parked cars needs to learn some patience. The amazing thing is if it were a piece of construction equipment or a Mail truck holding them up they wouldn\'t be honking and yelling out the window \"get out of the road!\"

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  • tonyt August 23, 2007 at 11:03 am

    GLV,

    Yes, ORS does not state \"cyclists allowed full lane\" specifically, but I\'m not sure what your point is about that. The distillation of the law is that under certain circumstances, bicycles are allowed the full lane. That\'s what the law means, and that is what\'s important.

    ORS doesn\'t say \"cars are allowed to drive down the street\" but that is the law nonetheless.

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  • Linda August 23, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Ben
    Scanning the news that night I needed know how you were doing and was angered to hear your injures refered to as minor and the rage seemingly downgraded as the result of a confrontation. Nothing can justify using a car as a weapon. Anyway I am glad to know you are on the mend and wish you well. as I said, \"you are going to be just fine.\"
    Linda

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  • 10e August 23, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    I used to avoid this area, like many others, by cutting through a dirt trail bypass parallel with the RR tracks east of 11th ave. IMO, this was the safest route (even with skinny tires), but it was barricaded and had police enforcment a few months ago.

    To keep people away from bridge traffic, PDOT could negotiate with the RR to create a paved/fenced bypass that runs about 100 yards along this route and connects back with SE Division Place (not street). It would also require some crossing adjustments to 11th and 12th, such as a crossing lane/light similar to Millwaukie and SE Pershing.

    Just a thought...

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  • 10e August 23, 2007 at 1:27 pm

    The dirt bypass I mentioned is WEST of 11th ave (not east), parallel with the RR tracks.

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  • GLV August 23, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    tonyt,

    I agree with you entirely. What annoys me are the bumper stickers. If a cyclist sees that, he/she might think they are entitled to a full lane at all times. Spreading that message is to the detriment of that cyclist\'s safety, since there are clearly motorists out there who think otherwise.

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  • SKiDmark August 23, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    There is no detriment if you actually know the law. Being that we get harassed by motorists and Police it is in our own best interest as a cyclist to know the rules of the road.

    Do you think if someone sees a bumper sticker that says \"work is for people who don\'t know how to fish\" they are going to quit their job and go fishing?What about \"keep honking I\'m reloading\"?

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  • GLV August 23, 2007 at 11:34 pm

    Point taken, but I don\'t think those are valid analogies.

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  • eric August 24, 2007 at 12:44 am

    Here\'s an idea. Since the City gov\'t doesn\'t actually give a shit about bikers (don\'t kid yourselves people), maybe we could take our own little action on this dangerous stretch of road that shouldn\'t be open to car commuters in the first place.

    Who wants to do a guerilla concrete pour tomorrow night?.

    I\'m not joking. Seriously.

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  • bikegrrl August 24, 2007 at 9:01 am

    I haven\'t read the responses on this post, but I\'ve got to say this scares me. I ride the same area every day to work. And, yes, it\'s narrow and I always take the lane because it\'s so full of debris on 10th. I\'ve had my share of nail punctures on that road, and seen plenty of angry drivers on Clinton at that intersection for 12th & 11th.

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  • Hawthorne Rider August 24, 2007 at 9:50 am

    Wow, Jonathan - this was a really powerful report. I know I have been guilty myself of confronting cars when they\'ve honked at me or whatever. It certainly reminds me to think twice.

    Regarding comment #7, I had to respond. Jeff says \"I myself am shocked at how shocked people are on this and other forums when something bad happens like this.\" and goes on to say we live in a violent world. I have to disagree - I am SHOCKED, and I think I have a right to be shocked. I would have been LESS shocked if the guy had jumped out of his car & punched the biker - at least, maybe that\'s closer to a fair fight. But, ramming a bicycle with your car?? Not only that, but hitting another cyclist not even part of the dispute, and sideswapping other vehicles, let alone your own vehicle?? This is SHOCKING. This is beyond stupid violence - this is going against societal norms. It isn\'t normal to purposely destroy your own car to prove a point. I am not going to \"accept this\" or \"deal with this.\" That\'s why we have court systems and jails.

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  • Sprocket Rocket August 25, 2007 at 2:28 pm

    #35 and others, I appologize for your not being aware of the dangers to you on our roads. This \"intentional\" running down of a cyclist was 100% predictable - only the exact time and location were unknown. AND IT WILL HAPPEN AGAIN!

    I have attempted to post on this website in the past to give you a clue of some of the dangers on the roadways. The reality of the roads cannot be described in politically correct, upbeat, warm-and-fuzzy-talk and the moderator of this website generally does not allow frank language that tells it like it is. THAT is why you are SHOCKED and are not aware of the dangers.

    I apologize on behalf of the website moderator for denying you information crucial to your safety and I apologize on behalf of the leaders of the nation and the local police force that have allowed this mess to develop.

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  • wsbob August 25, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    Sprocket Rocket, please don\'t tell me you\'re NoChain, but beyond that, If you think the frank language that\'s been missing here is that of the hostile foul mouthed rant variety, I really don\'t think any disservice has been made for.

    In more civil phrasing, I believe many people commenting on this weblog have clearly expressed their awareness of the danger level created by motor vehicle dominated streets. I say that even though I personally feel that a lot of people driving and riding are not convinced just how crazy some of the people on the road are, and what lengths they\'ll go to vent their animosity against the world. Good ol Johnny may have made a few new believers in that respect, thus the Shock.

    The question for a long time now, has been working out what reasonable, viable things there are to do about this situation. There\'s probably a number of things that can be done, better driver education for example. I\'d say there\'s an easily demonstrable need to educate drivers in the importance of doing more than physically keeping the car going down the road. Drivers need to be taught about driving related stress, and offered practical ways to deal with it that would enable them to maintain composure and disposition while driving and particularly in heavy traffic. Sounds silly to some I\'m sure.

    Fundamentally though, reducing the numbers of motor vehicles on the road, thereby making driving for those remaining less stressful, is probably the most intelligent thing to do. It doesn\'t matter how big and fast a new highway is, if there\'s too many cars on it, too many cars will always be looking for short cuts through quiet neighborhoods to avoid jams, endangering pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles as they do so.

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  • Cindy August 26, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    This was not an \"accident\". It was an \"intention\". I am Ben Ramsdell\'s mom. Ben spent four days in the hospital and will have a long recovery for physical and emotional healing from this \"intention\". My heart goes out to he and Timothy for what they experienced. How does one human being point a multi-ton vehicle at another human being on a bicycle and expect anything other than serious injury? This was nothing short of attempted murder no matter what the charges against Eschweiler say differently.
    Thanks to all those that are supportive of Ben and Timothy. Let\'s hope that this \"intention\" and it\'s resultant fall out can be the \"vehicle\" of change in the way that those hotheaded automobile drivers view cyclists. They are all someone\'s son, brother, boyfriend, etc. Let\'s share the roadways not use them as a battlefield!

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  • rixtir August 26, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Thanks Cindy. My best wishes to your son (and to Timothy Mastne) for a speedy recovery, and for justice when this case goes to trial.

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  • Nola Wilken August 30, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    I ride Clinton on my way home from my office downtown, to Mt. Tabor. But, I no longer ride this part of Clinton, as I believe it is actually safer to ride up Division in the right hand lane, before cutting over to Clinton on about 17th. I take the full lane on Division, and can go the speed of traffic, for the most part. I find that car drivers do not seem to flip out because they can go around me in the other lane, and I\'m really going their speed anyway, if they would just learn to accept this reality.

    I will not jeopardize my life by riding to the side of an already too narrow lane and I don\'t care what the law says or whether I will someday get a ticket. I will be alive to get the ticket, and that\'s really all the matters.

    While I understand why cars use Clinton, as Division is maddenly backed up, the street is really not the best street for a bike lane, especially in the industrial parts. And, just like Salmon and Lincoln, car drivers do not look CAREFULLY both ways before crossing or pulling out in front of you. And, car drivers do not realize that cyclists can easily be going 20-25 mph, so they misjudge the speed of any cyclist they spot. Just recently a very nice woman nearly killed me by turning into me as she was turning right (I swerved and escaped harm). Although she had just passed me, she said she didn\'t realize how fast I was going. Hello?

    However, aside from the obvious traffic hazards which prevent many new riders from commuting, this is about a violent act. The perpetrator, if guilty, is a criminal and should be treated accordingly. The crime is attempted murder.

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  • wsbob August 30, 2007 at 11:51 pm

    \"Just recently a very nice woman nearly killed me by turning into me as she was turning right (I swerved and escaped harm). Although she had just passed me, she said she didn\'t realize how fast I was going. Hello?\" Nola Wilken

    In reading the above, I\'m thinking that Nola was continuing on straight ahead in the bike lane, while the driver in her lane intended to turn right.

    If my reading is correct, I\'ve experienced this scenario before as a driver and a cyclist, and think this phenomena is a major flaw of bike lanes. There\'s a major learning curve involved for drivers to develop an awareness that comes into play upon arriving at an intersection, regarding the narrow lane to their right being a bike lane that grants users of the bike lane right of way.

    It makes no sense for one set of users of the road to turn across a straight through lane of traffic designated for other users of the road. It seems like it would make more sense to have an arrangement whereby a merge lane from the bike lane into the main flow of traffic in approaching an intersection for cyclists that intend to proceed ahead rather than turn.

    Then, merge indicators for a cyclists return into the bike lane once through the intersection.

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