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Notes, photos, and video from the scene of fatal crash

Posted by on November 4th, 2009 at 11:23 am

Scene of fatal at Willamette and Haven-7
A person on a bike attempts
to cross Willamette from N. Haven.
-Video below-

I’m still awaiting more details from the Police about this morning’s fatal crash near University of Portland at N. Willamette and Haven in North Portland.

So far, all we know is that two cars were involved and one man is dead. KATU is reporting that the police say the man was “pushed into traffic” and that neighbors say they heard an argument prior to the incident. KATU also reports that the drivers of the cars are being held for questioning.

Scene of fatal at Willamette and Haven-8
Looking north on Willamette. Haven
is on the right just beyond the crosswalk.

I’ve talked with Traffic Division Captain Bryan Parman and they are not ready to release details about the crash yet (when they do I’ll update the story). So, while rumors swirl, I will share some thoughts about the intersection where this happened.

From news video, it looks as though the bike was found in the bike lane of N. Willamette, in the northbound lane just north of Haven.

Scene of fatal at Willamette and Haven-10
On Willamette going north where the bike lane ends at N. Fiske.
Scene of fatal at Willamette and Haven-9
At Fiske and Willamette, a sign warns of what’s ahead.

The stretch of Willamette just south of where (I think) this collision occurred is a challenging one from a traffic safety and engineering standpoint. Willamette has a bike lane south and north of this area, but it vanishes between N. Fiske and N. Haven. On the block face of Willamette between those two streets is the main entrance to the University of Portland.

Here’s a short video I shot this morning. I’m riding north on Willamette and I ride from Fiske (where the bike lane drops) to just beyond Haven.

Traffic engineers likely removed the bike lane on this block to make room for a left-turn lane into U of P. On this block of Willamette there is a left-turn lane into U of P, there’s on-street parking in the northbound direction and there is also a pedestrian island which further pinches traffic in this area (just south of Haven).

Scene of fatal at Willamette and Haven-2
Pedestrian island and signal
just south of Haven.

The speed limit on this stretch of Willamette — even with a narrow road, the presence of a pedestrian island, a shared lane with bicycle traffic, on-street parking and one lane of motorized traffic in each direction — is 35 mph.

According to PBOT, a car traveling 35 mph takes 250 feet to come to a stop and when a collision occurs the result if fatal 65% of the time (versus just a 5% fatality rate at 20 mph).

At N. Fiske, prior to the intersection with Haven, there’s a 35 speed limit sign accompanied by a sign that draws attention to bike traffic.

Many comments have already come in on our initial report. Many of them share feelings that is a highly dangerous intersection where cars regularly go faster than what some feel is safe for the conditions. Also making this area tricky is the presence of many large trees with leaves and branches that can obscure traffic signals and signs.

I have ridden this stretch of Willamette many times. It is challenging in both the north and south directions. A narrow road that tries to combine four lanes of traffic (two for cars and two for bikes), a large entrance to U of P, a pedestrian island and bus stops.

I hope this helps give you a better sense of the conditions in this area. Please remember to reserve judgment and speculation about this incident until all the details have come forward. Whatever information emerges, it seems there will be two pieces of this story: One about a tragic loss of life and the other about an intersection that many feel is unsafe to ride a bicycle on.

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Comments
  • SkidMark November 4, 2009 at 11:44 am

    Speed Limit is irrelevant. If you see a blinking red light on a narrow road you slow down to a safe passing speed. 35mph is not that fast anyways. Every time someone get tagged by a car the safety goons come out and declare that motorists should be going 10 mph at all times or something equally preposterous. The real truth of the matter is that motorists should pay more attention to the fcuking road, and not smash into and kill cyclists.

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  • dave November 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Great piece of video, thanks Jonathan. I ride this stretch almost daily, and I think the vid does a good job of illustrating how the bike lane simply ends and how the street pinches, putting a rider at close contact with both parked, and moving vehicles (which in the vid, are passing you closely at a good rate of speed I see).
    Combine that with darkness and – what we’ll see a lot of soon – rain, and it makes it even harder to navigate.
    My thoughts and sympathies go out to those who knew the rider.

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  • Vivian Loar November 4, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    SkidMark – “35mph is not that fast anyways”; having been hit by a car going 35mph, I’ll beg to differ. Of course everyone in moving roadways needs to pay attention to what’s going on, but the truth of the matter is that there should be reduced speeds at intersections or areas where traffic needs to merge together. Even just for a block or two, the reduced speed can make a big difference.

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  • Marcus Griffith November 4, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    The video helps highlight the issues with that stretch of road–but your shadow in the video seems to indicate that you were holding the camera in hand. If so, isn’t that a bit risky to be biking on a known dangerous area with only one hand on your bike?
    Jonathan, I prefer you reporting news rather than becoming the news. But good work.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 4, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    skidmark,

    you really think “speed limit is irrelevant?” I agree with your basic premise, but I think speed limit signs send a signal to people that impacts their behavior. If they see 35…they think it’s ok to go 40.

    I agree folks should just slow down to a reasonable speed, but we all know that does not happen long enough because people in our culture rarely have to come face to face with the dangers cars pose to those around them.

    And Marcus,

    Thanks for your concern for my safety ;-).

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  • Jackattak November 4, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Before all this mess, I had always thought this stretch of road to be an amazing stretch for cyclists, what with the bike lane and all.

    I have driven on this road hundreds of times heading to Pier Park for disc golf and I honestly would’ve never thought it dangerous at all for cyclists.

    I think some are blowing the dangers of this road out of proportion due to the very sad and unfortunate circumstances this morning.

    It was 2:30AM for one thing. ANYTHING could’ve happened. We haven’t a clue. What I think the greater question should be is how/why on Earth were there two cars AND a cyclist AND some unknown fairy godmother antagonist on this barely busy road at 2:30AM on a Wednesday morning?

    No one finds that at all interesting? This road isn’t even that busy during broad daylight.

    And please stop with the speed limit antics. Whether the cars were traveling at 35mph or 20mph wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. At either speed, 4,000-lbs.+ of raging steel fury is enough to wipe someone off the face of the planet.

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  • bikieboy November 4, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    “Traffic engineers likely removed the bike lane on this block to make room for a left-turn lane into U of P.”

    actually, the left turn lane pre-dated the installation of bike lanes on Willamette (circa 1992).

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 4, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Jackattack,

    there’s a BIG difference between a car going 20mph or 35mph. maybe you didn’t see it in the story, but at 35mph you have a 65% chance of fatality and at 20mph you have a 5% chance.

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  • are November 4, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    oregonlive reporting two DUIs issued, one driving while suspended. the area near the crosswalk actually has the potential to be the safest stretch of Willamette, if the speed limit were dropped to 20. on one occasion heading south through this section I was overtaken by a patrol car, too fast, too close, and the driver revved the engine to make his point.

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  • Jackattak November 4, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Jonathan,

    Yes I saw that statistic in the story and I imagine in that case the statistics don’t lie.

    My intention was to point out not what a car does to humans at 20 vs. 35 mph, but more along the lines of driver awareness and stopping distance. I just don’t see how 35 mph is “bad” or “too much” for that stretch of Willamette. It was a horrible, happenchance tragedy (if the vehicles were even at play in the accident, which is still yet to be determined…I don’t even understand how KATU calls this a “hit n’ run” as there’s exactly zero evidence of that as yet).

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor-in-Chief) November 4, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    The Oregonian has updates on the story. Both people who hit the man have been issued DUIIs and the deceased is Kipp Daniel Crawford of Portland.

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  • BURR November 4, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I’ll agree with everyone else who says that spot is hazardous for cyclists. At a minimum, they should prohibit curbside parking in that short stretch without a bike lane, paint giant sharrows on the street, install speed tables to slow the traffic down, and put the crosswalks on top of the speed tables.

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  • Charlie D. November 4, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    From watching the video, it seems like the best, easiest solution would be to remove parking along that short stretch and continue the bike lane. It looks like there are only a few spaces anyway, with plenty of room elsewhere on the street where those cars could park.

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  • PomPilot November 4, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Jonathan, I’ll chime in with that I lived in Shipstad Hall (the 4-story dormitory closest to the main entrance) for all of my campus years. (Those ended in 1982, BTW). And there was a turn lane there back then, as well as on street parking and no bike lane. So the current markings (and lack thereof) are nothing new.

    What has changed, is the number of bike racks on campus, and the number of student cars. In my university days, there were racks at the Pilot house, student commons and a couple of other places (most near empty), and a distinct lack of parking when school was in session. When I visited the school a couple of weeks ago, there were racks at every dorm, and most buildings. And all the racks near the dorms were filled, with additional bikes locked to anything solid. Car parking? Well, it was Saturday morning, but there were plenty of empty parking spaces. A very nice change.

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  • Joe Rowe November 4, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    At 27 seconds into the video you get to the squeeze caused by PDOT. They promote parked cars way too close to pedestrian islands. Remove a few parked cars and you get much better line of sight for everyone, car drivers, cyclists, and peds.

    Putting parked cars before bikes needs to stop. That needs to be added to the 2030 bike plan.

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  • E November 4, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I ride through here occasionally and when it’s busy I take the lane. Most people can handle being slowed down for the minute or so it takes to get through the area. Speed limits etc would make no difference in this case; laws offer no protection from lawbreakers.

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  • ME 2 November 4, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Jonathan I just read the Oregonian story. I know the facts of this incident are still coming in, but it is troubling to see that both of the drivers have a history of traffic violations. One looks like she has a pretty long list of violations.

    I’m sure people will call this an accident, but not getting serious about people who have a clear history of violations makes it risky for everybody whether you’re walking, cycling or driving.

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  • Joe Rowe November 4, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Be angry, and send in your comments as the final bike plan updates are being done this week.
    bicyclemasterplan@pdxtrans.org

    This guy would not be dead in a cycle track. Bikes make up 6% of PDX and only 1% of funding.

    Also,
    Call as lance suggested. All these numbers are correct.

    1) Mayor’s Advocacy coordinator = 503-823-4120
    2) Amanda = 503-823-3008
    3) Nick Fish = 503-823-3589
    4) Randy = 503-823-4682
    5) Dan = 503-823-4151

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  • Velocentric November 4, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    As bad as that road design is I’m not sure how much it caused the death.
    Reportedly, the drivers of both murder weapons…er cars were DUI and a missing third man possibly pushed the victim into their path. I hope homicide detectives are on this one.

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  • Joe Rowe November 4, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    The bold text is an error. sorry

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  • Joe Rowe November 4, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    error fixed finally.

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  • naomi November 4, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Why is everyone ignoring the fact he was mugged and caught up in his bicycle (both he and the bike laying in the street) when this happened?

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  • Lisa G November 4, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    I agree with Vivian. I have also seen people driving a lot faster than reasonable after hours when there are few cars parked on the streets. For example, last week I was standing in front of Mississippi Studios on a Monday night at around midnight as the show had just let out and someone came barelling by doing at least 50 mph. I have seen this a lot when I’m riding home on my bike late as well. If people drive at 10 mph over the posted speed normally, it gets worse late at night. Combine that with elevated blood alcohol levels, people driving home just after the bars close, and there is even less likelyhood that they would be able to stop in time.

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  • SkidMark November 4, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Or maybe people shouldn’t drive and drive.

    I ride motorcycles to and I’ve had the misfortune of traveling at 35mph and T-boning a car traveling at 35mph – because the car was running a red light. I am well aware of the resultant damage.

    This summer I was cycling from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo, the average Soeed Limit on the Bike Route is 55mph. I suppose most of you would have a panic attack if cars were whizzing by you that fast. If you are going to play in traffic be aware that it is dangerous and that cars travel faster than you as well they should.

    Yes, I do think the Speed Limit is irrelevant, a motorist could still “not see” you at 20 mph and manage to kill you. Instead of focus on the speed you should focus on whether the motorist is actually paying attention to the road, whether they are looking for little blinking red lights at night, if the do see them if they slow down and proceed cautiously, rather than plow right into them, as it turns out, when they are drunk.

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  • SkidMark November 4, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Drink and Drive.

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  • Brad November 4, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Calm down Joe! More facts are emerging here that have nothing to do with cycle tracks, sharrows, etc. This is a criminal matter. Stop turning it into a rant on PBOT or a call to Copenhagenize this city – this is not the place for it.

    Classless!

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  • jonnyappleseed November 4, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    If they can’t see you, then maybe bicyclists should try to be heard. I’ve got an airhorn that’s recharged by bike pump that’s as loud as those air horns you get in cans. It’s called the AirZound and I enjoy deploying it every chance I get. In this case, and if the stupid mugger hadn’t stolen it while the victim layed helplessly in the middle of the road, it could have been used to summon help or let drivers know where he was. Women, especially, should have one of these in case they’re ever approached by creepy men(or creepy women) and need help at night(or day).

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  • Daniel Ronan November 4, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    My condolences to the family and friends of the one lost this morning. I feel its incidents like these that bring us closer together. I guess if there is one thing we can all take from this, it is raising awareness of the tragedies that result when people are not responsible and actively taking a stand to prevent those that abuse the privilege of driving from driving at all.

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  • carless in pdx November 5, 2009 at 1:24 am

    This section of road is really very similar to Belmont and 25th, where the traffic island splits westbound Belmont traffic and diverts it onto Morrison. The bike lane ends there, too, is narrowed by a choke point.

    However, PDOT banned street parking in the pincher zone, the traffic island has a drastic slowdown effect on traffic (lest drivers hit head-on, or a tree), and there are a lot of pedestrians present.

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  • Dana November 5, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    I went to UP, lived only a block away, and used this intersection a lot (both riding and walking).

    From my understanding, the University installed the crosswalk and island with their own money because the City wouldn’t do it for them.

    It seems that the bike lanes disappear from this stretch to make room for the turn lanes and the crosswalk/island. The missing bike lane is one of the unintended consequences of what was initially a much needed piece of infrastructure (the crosswalk).

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