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One year later: Remembering Tracey and Brett

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 22nd, 2008 at 9:46 am

The ghost bike for Tracey Sparling (at the corner of W. Burnside and 14th in downtown Portland) with fresh flowers placed by family members on the one-year anniversary of her death.
(Photos J. Maus)
A memorial sculpture and stencil (since removed) for Brett Jarolimek at the intersection of N. Interstate and Greeley.

One a year ago today, Portland reacted with shock, anger, sadness, and frustration at the second fatal bike/truck collision in a period of less than two weeks.

Ride of Silence - Portland-3.jpg
Tracey Sparling (1988 - 2007)

On October 11, 2007, 19-year-old art student Tracey Sparling was on her way to class when she rolled up to the intersection of W. Burnside and 14th. A cement truck was also waiting at the intersection. The truck driver turned his vehicle right, onto Burnside from 14th, and didn't realize Sparling was there -- until it was too late.

Just 11 days later, on October 22nd, 31-year-old Bike Gallery employee Brett Jarolimek was riding downhill on N. Interstate Ave. A large garbage truck, which had passed him at the top of the hill, was turning right onto N. Greeley. When Jarolimek came to the Greeley intersection, he could not stop in time to avoid the truck and was killed on impact.

Brett Jarolimek (1976 - 2007)

These two fatalities were major body-blows that took the breath away from a city that prides itself on being the most "bike-friendly" in America. Making matters worse, these weren't the only fatalities in the Portland area in 2007. There were also very serious injury crashes, including one that happened under similar circumstances at the exact intersection where Jarolimek was killed.

These events, exacerbated by some insensitive statements made by top leadership at the Portland Police Bureau, resulted in an unprecedented outcry from the community.

Thankfully, those emotions quickly turned into inspiration and positive activism that has had a lasting impact on our city.

In the coming days, I'll take a closer look at what has changed -- and what hasn't -- since these two tragedies. From policies and infrastructure, to the Police and grassroots advocacy -- because of Tracey and Brett, this city will never be the same.

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Brett and Tracey, I ride by your intersections often and I think a lot about what happened. You are not forgotten.

May you both rest in peace.

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Comments
  • erin g. October 22, 2008 at 10:34 am

    My warmest thoughts and wishes for continued strength and healing go out to all of Brett's and Tracey's dear friends and family members - some of who I've known for years, whereas others came into my life through the events of last fall. Know that your strength, grace and compassion in the wake of such loss has been immensely inspiring to me and countless others.

    Your loved ones will not be forgotten, and your community is here for you to lean on if you ever need to be supported or uplifted.

    With love,

    Erin

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  • Steve October 22, 2008 at 10:44 am

    "Brett and Tracey, I ride by your intersections often and I think a lot about what happened. You are not forgotten"

    Ditto.

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  • Jebus October 22, 2008 at 11:07 am

    I am curious... why was the stencil removed? Seemed very fitting for the location, and was very well done too.

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  • Kronda October 22, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I didn't know Brett, but I thought about him this weekend, as I raced the Rainier H.S. Cross race, the scene of his last race, and (I believe) the origin of the photo above. And I'm near Tracey's ghost bike often as well, as I'm now attending the Art Institute.

    Stay safe out there and keep out of the suicide slot.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 22, 2008 at 11:19 am

    "why was the stencil removed?"

    It was removed by ODOT because it was unsanctioned vandalism.

    The good news is that ODOT is still working with friends of Brett to create a permanent memorial (I'll have an update on that soon).

    Here is my coverage of the stencil removal:

    ODOT maintenance crews pain over Brett Jarolimek memorial

    ODOT says stencil removal decision was "very difficult"

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  • DT October 22, 2008 at 11:21 am

    @ Jeebus

    It had something to do with ODOT being responsible for maintaining interstate overpasses, and any markings having to be removed as graffiti, regardless of whether it was tagging or a beautiful stencil. Someone else can correct me if I'm not remembering that correctly.

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  • Opus the Poet October 22, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    I still can't believe it has been a year since they died, their deaths were the inspiration for my blog. All those dead and injured cyclists, and aside from the few people that remember them in their communities they are forgotten. We have so much that can be learned from their passing, but only if somebody pays attention...

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  • Jerry October 22, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    The saddest part aabout this anniversary is that these accidents could have been prevented if there was ANY reporting and analysis of car/bike accidents.

    I was a victim of a serious right-hook at the intersection that took Brett's life 18 months before that tragic event. If the driver who hit me had been driving a cement truck instead of a Honda I would have ridden away in a hearse instead of an ambulance. According to PPD my injuries were not life-threatening-- not because I wasn't taken away in an ambulance (I was), not because I didn't require major surgery (I did), and not because my injuries would heal (they won't), but because I did not receive serious injuries. When asked what the requirement really was to file an accident report the PPD informed me that if I lived the injuries were OBVIOUSLY not life-threatening, since I did not die. If that is what it would have taken to get some one to pay attention to the death trap of an Intersection at N Interstate and Greeley, and if that would have saved Brett's life, today I wish it had been me and not him.

    If the accident report from my accident (and how many others before and since?) had been filed, analyzed and pro-actively responded too, then perhaps we could identify these trouble spots before they kill people, not after.

    Johnathon, thank you for keeping the attention on this important issue.

    And EVERYONE, if you are in an accident or a close call please do what you can to ensure that it is reported, the driver is cited, or whatever other action is required to gather enough data that even our recalcitrant city officials and public safety officers will be forced to respond to make the streets safe for all.

    Long live Brett and Tracey, and all the others.

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  • matt picio October 22, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    God bless the families (whichever God or Goddess you believe in), and may all those involved and their loved ones find peace if they haven't over this past year.

    Brett and Tracey, may your ride be a pleasant one, wherever it takes you.

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  • Paul Tay October 22, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    The Jarolimek Ghost Bike was very emotional.

    I might have made the PDX 6 o'clock news myself on the Hawthorne, if I didn't hesitate for just ONE second, enough for the bus to blow by.

    Lessons learned: Get complacent. Get dead. And, never EVER be in the blind spot.

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  • Joe October 22, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    I ride everyday in respect for you both!
    yes its hard sometimes in the auto obsessed
    world, but you live on!

    Joe
    Wilsonville

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  • metal cowboy October 22, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    I ride by Brett's memorial many times each week. He gets a nod so often from me that I've noticed my boys doing it now. I spot them in my helmet mirror.

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  • Velo Vanguard October 23, 2008 at 8:40 am

    I think the best way we can honor Tracey and Brett - aside from keeping them in our memories forever - is to get our public officials to take seriously their mission to *enforce* the traffic laws the violation of which caused these tragedies.

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  • jim October 24, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Why is it so hard to get the authorities to fix a problem before something tragic happens? The Broadway situation is being looked at but last time I passed through there it was still the same. Does someone miraculessly escaping death at an accident on Broadway make it a not so immediate threat? That should be resolved by now except I think our city leaders are in a hare vs hare race to do anything.

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