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Finally, a meaningful statement on the TriMet tragedy

Posted by on April 29th, 2010 at 9:27 am

Stephanie Routh of the Willamette Pedestrian
Coalition at an Eye-to-Eye campaign
event in 2009.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The leader of the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition, Stephanie Routh, has written a guest column in The Oregonian that provides a meaningful and important perspective on the recent TriMet bus crash that killed two people and injured three others as they walked across a street in downtown Portland.

In her statement, Routh (who has led the WPC since March 2009) manages to walk the fine line of not playing the blame game while still forcefully pointing out the realities of our traffic safety issues and road culture.

Here’s an excerpt (emphasis mine):

“Traffic fatalities are unacceptable and avoidable. The need for traffic safety awareness is real, and all road users — whether they’re driving or walking — need to be more aware of each other. The number one cause of injury to someone walking in Portland is failure of drivers to yield in a crosswalk. Motor vehicles have the mass and speed to wreak tragedy without warning, without intent. We must all recognize the destructive capacity of vehicles on our roads and the surety of injury to our more vulnerable road users.”

Given that the other statements I’ve read about this crash basically add up to nothing more than expressions of sympathy and admonishments to “be safe out there!” Routh’s statement is a breath of fresh air.

As for the crash itself, everyone’s still waiting to learn more from the Police about what the on-board cameras show us and how TriMet explains what exactly happened that night.

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  • Vance Longwell April 29, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Hehe. What’s to explain? 5 peds in perfect compliance and a bus-driver violating the law. Seems pretty cut and dried to me. Tri-Met being what they are have to pay low wages, maintain their buses at a minimum, and in every way they get what they pay for.

    This isn’t a traffic issue, this is an incompetent bus-driver issue. And the statement that all traffic fatalities may be avoided is laughably false. Mitigated yes, prevented, no.

    I’ve spoken with a lot of witnesses down there that morning and it all comes back the same. Driver spaced-off and killed two people. She should be in prison. Tri-Met should pay millions. The driver should be sued into lifelong destitution.

    What any of that has to do with me and my competency as a road user is just beyond me.

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  • Dat April 29, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Hmmmm. as far as i know that Investigation active. We still dont know all that facts..

    When I vacationed in a friend let me drive a 40 foot School bus in a parking lot..
    I can tell you that driving a bus in not like driving a car. there are major blind-spots and challenging.

    We also still do know if the pedestrians where intoxicated. This could all be a sad Accident

    I am going to hold all judgement until we get all the fact.

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  • Amos April 29, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Since arguing is futile, I’m just going to state for the sake of anyone reading the comments who doesn’t regularly visit the site that I disagree with Vance and am put off by his tone, and while I can’t speak for anyone else here, I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of readers feel the same way I do. (Maybe I should copy and save that sentence for future use.)

    Stephanie, this is a thoughtful and informative piece, I hope rode users will keep this information in mind and that it will make them more aware of dangerous habits and behavior.

    This is a tragic situation that nobody ever wants to see, but as with any tragedy, the best we can do is learn from it and do everything we can to prevent it from happening again.

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  • Aaronf April 29, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Not to blame the victim, but I have eye contact with everyone in every crosswalk before I walk in front of them.

    I could probably get myself hit/run over in a crosswalk once every other month if I didn’t use this system.

    My prayers go out to all the families, and the bus driver.

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  • Vance Longwell April 29, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Amos #3 – I could fairly assert that every man, woman, and child on the face of this planet KNOWS it is illegal to commit murder, and why, yet it happens day in, and day out. Why? Education isn’t stopping it. So-called ‘outreach’ isn’t stopping it. Nothing is. Not even killing those that do it.

    Furthermore, there were five people to one, following the law here. That’s a minority of people in the situation who’ve a demonstrated capacity for maybe lacking some thing.

    My tone is due to the superfluous nature of the ‘message’ here. Given that, I’m left to conclude this is just Routh, and the WPC, feeding an attention deficit at the expense of a couple of grieving families. When people exploit death to further an agenda, an unpopular agenda to boot, I get angry.

    WE don’t need to do crud. Ms. Day, on the other hand, needs to spend the rest of her life in prison. This is simply not my problem and I resent somebody even implying that it is.

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  • Jackattak April 29, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Glad that us pedestrians are getting this kind of attention, especially the crosswalk laws.

    It’s a terrible tragedy, yes. But if this tragedy can somehow get drivers to pay more attention to the laws, to the flesh and bone users of the public roads, and to their damned driving, then it has at least served some greater purpose.

    PAY ATTENTION

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  • Not Longwell again April 29, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Amos, totally agree. Vance will no doubt relish the attention, but his are the least constructive, most self-serving comments usually made. *Cue rant from the man himself, in response; wait for it . . . .*

    Horrible accident. Not all facts in yet. Brakes malfunction? Inattention? Traffic lights not working correctly? Combination of horrible sequence of events? Alcohol, poor vision, health problems (diabetic driver, maybe?). Again, not yet known.

    But Vance wants “lifelong destitution” for the driver. Great. Problem solved.

    Vance and I both love the first amendment, but Vance apparently doesn’t value objective analysis or due process.

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  • Jackattak April 29, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Can we please not turn this into a “bash Vance” thread? It does a disservice to those lost in this incident and the message the incident carries.

    Vance has had his speech, and he’s as entitled to it as the rest of us. If you people continue to call him out, this thread will be 90 messages long of more ranting from all sides and THAT WILL NOT HELP.

    Thank you.

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  • Mike April 29, 2010 at 10:52 am

    This seems to be a tragic accident and nothing more. I am sure the driver didn’t intend on running over those victims. As a pedestrian, I never, ever assume the driver sees me. I never step out in the street with the assumption that the driver will stop and I also look both ways before crossing a street. I am sure the bus driver will have the death of those victims on her mind for the rest of her life. If it was a true accident, let’s not wish ill will on her but support her knowing her life is changed for ever

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  • Michael Andersen, Portland Afoot April 29, 2010 at 11:06 am

    A few other things have come together this morning, which I’ll continue banging out on Twitter for those who are interested.

    1) TriMet is self-insured out of its general fund; this means that any liability from a new crash like this can have a direct threat to service.

    2) According to the folks at Swanson Thomas & Coon, the core area of personal injury/death liability against a local government is capped at $1 million per “occurrence,” of which this is presumably one (rather than five).

    3) The O is reporting that the driver lives in Long Beach, Wash., two hours away. If she was near the end of an 8-hour shift Saturday night, that’s 22 out of the previous 31 hours behind a wheel. I can only say that’d be enough to daze me.

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  • Opus the Poet April 29, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Pedestrians in full compliance with the laws? Check. Driver of multi-ton killing machine violating at least one law? Check. Doesn’t seem like much of a discussion is required to me, 5 people were hit in that crosswalk and 2 died. (Most) laws were written because someone did something dangerous or something that denied someone the use of something valuable. Violating the right of way of pedestrians is potentially deadly, and in this case the potential was met. Killing someone while breaking the law in TX is Capital Murder even if accidental, and is subject to the death penalty or life without parole. Perhaps OR needs to adopt a similar statute.

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  • Brian E April 29, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Dat,

    As for myself, I am not a court of law. Therefore, I will side with the victim until the offender is shown to be innocent.

    I trust that our courts will determine the correct outcome.

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  • Marcus Griffith April 29, 2010 at 11:31 am

    The bus video should help clarify exactly what happened. I am empathic to the pedestrian vulnerability issue, but it may be best to leave the pitchforks and bonfires at home.

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  • Jackattak April 29, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Agreed, Marcus.

    Everyone keep in mind that TriMet has an insanely good track record when it comes to accidents, taking into account how many trips are made by so many buses and trains every day.

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  • wsbob April 29, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I think one of the victims fathers was quoted in the O story as regarding the tragedy here as ‘incomprehensible’. That’s it: just one word, which seems to best say it all for the present.

    It doesn’t make sense that something like this could happen on a street offering such broad visibility. Maybe Michael Anderson has it right…fatigue…and she literally fell asleep at the wheel for a critical moment.

    There’s no point in getting nasty by casting aspersions at this point where there’s no factual justification for them. Talk about adding possibly undeserved hardship to people’s lives when many affected by the consequences of this incident have already been irreparably damaged is not an honorable thing to do.

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  • Brian April 29, 2010 at 11:56 am

    This is a tregedy. Yes.

    But I take strong exception to anyone who conciders this an accident. This is negligence.

    If somebody kills while breaking traffic law, there should be SIGNIFICANT consequence. If this sort of thing can happen with out consequence to the the offender what is the point in have traffic rules?

    I’m so tired of the soft treatment of these sort of terrorists. That is not sarcasm.

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  • Schrauf April 29, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    “This seems to be a tragic accident and nothing more. I am sure the driver didn’t intend on running over those victims.”

    Mike, your attitude is exactly the one most people have, and exactly why it is “okay” to drive negligently and dangerously and kill vulnerable road users. “It’s only an accident – oops, gosh, sorry. Guess I get to go home now with minimal conseqences and get back on the road tomorrow and continue thinking only of myself and my right to get where I am going as fast as I want.”

    Many people are killed because of that all to common mental transfer of responsibility.

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  • Dat April 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Rush to judgment is a American tradition, if not a world tradition

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  • KWW April 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Pedestrian collision avoidance is on the cusp of the automotive market, how many people have to be run over by a bus before that technology filters down?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XU43SjMIzW8

    And no, technology is not an abrogation of any responsibilty on the driver’s or Trimet’s part.

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  • esther c April 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Dat says its unknown if the victims were intoxicated. As far as I know there is no law in Oregon saying that its OK to run over intoxicated persons. I think intoxicated people have the same rights to cross the street in a crosswalk with the signal as sober people. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

    I think the 2 hour drive from Long Beach for the driver may very well prove to be a significant factor in the crash. And obviously her employer, Trimet, knew about it.

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  • Steve B. April 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Wow. Judging from some of these comments, I wonder if people actually read Steph’s column?

    I’ll sum it up for folks: this tragic event reverberates deeply with people who work night and day to make our streets safer. Further, if you’ve ever had a close call, this horrific event makes those experiences a bit more chilling.

    Finally, as Steph states “Traffic fatalities are unacceptable and avoidable.” We’ve come to accept events like this as some sort of Machiavellian side effect to our motorized vehicle network.

    I personally do not accept these tragedies as ‘collateral damage’ or as part of the price of doing business. We can do better. In fact, we must.

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  • Ely April 29, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    @ Schrauf, ita. Until there are serious consequences for killing & injuring vulnerable road users, “tragic accidents” will continue to happen. Though we don’t yet know the reason for this collision, chances are very good that it WAS avoidable. More sleep, less alcohol, more attentiveness, SOMETHING could have prevented this accident. Maybe if the consequences to drivers who kill are severe enough, people will think of that “something” before they get behind the wheel of a deadly weapon.

    Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

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  • David April 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I’m willing to wait for a thorough police report. If the driver was indeed at fault (it seems clear the people walking weren’t), then the typical lame excuse of “I didn’t see them” won’t hold water because this incident involved a professional driver.

    It’s EVERY driver’s job to see people in the street. The obligation doesn’t come with a paycheck, it comes with a steering wheel.

    “I didn’t see them” is not an excuse, it’s an admission of incompetence.

    In this case the investigation isn’t complete. It will be interesting to see those so quick to call for punishment and lawsuits speak out when our next citizen is killed by an inattentive motorist.

    And there will be a next time. There shouldn’t be.

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  • Kt April 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    There’s a reason investigators don’t use the word “ACCIDENT”.

    Because it isn’t.

    “Accident” implies that there were no choices, that the situation was completely out of control of all parties.

    It wasn’t, from all reports I’ve seen. This was not an accident. It was a COLLISION, a CRASH.

    I’m not here to vilify the driver, Vance, the witnesses, anyone.

    By the way, Harvey’s has shows most nights, don’t they? And they all let out at about the same time, right? So in theory, at the same time most nights, about the same number of pedestrians would be using that crosswalk….

    Anyway. I tried to go to the article but the link was not working for me. I will try again in a little while.

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  • Kt April 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    +1, David #23, and it bears repeating:

    It’s EVERY driver’s job to see people in the street. The obligation doesn’t come with a paycheck, it comes with a steering wheel.

    “I didn’t see them” is not an excuse, it’s an admission of incompetence.

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  • BURR April 29, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    I’m not sure the bus cameras will be of much use, unless they’ve recently added outboard left side cameras.

    The typical setup is two inside the bus, one viewing to the front and one outboard on the right side of the bus.

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  • Bjorn April 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    #2 she hit two of them with the FRONT OF THE BUS! This isn’t some changing lanes blind spot issue for gods sake quit apologizing like the vehicle makes it impossible not to kill people. It is a big vehicle, I have driven lots of big vehicles, they do have blind spots, but the crosswalk 20 feet in front of you isn’t one of them!

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  • Anonymous April 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Having done incident investigation for the military, we said there were no accidents, every incident on the road has a cause, and is preventable.

    As for “I didn’t see them” not being an excuse, that doesn’t always ring true.

    Once the bus starts negotiating a turn it is possible that the intersection was clear and that the pedestrians made their move into the intersection at that point.

    And while pedestrians have the right of way, that comes with the requirement that they exercise that right or way in a safe manner. That requires stepping in front of a vehicle allowing enough time and space for that vehicle to stop in a save manner.

    So the incident is currently under investigation and no blame has been applied to either the driver or the pedestrians.

    All the suppositions made here have no bearing and are just opinions based on person prejudice.

    Wait until the investigation is complete and the report submitted.

    Until then offer up your support to the families who lost a loved one.

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  • Peter Noone April 29, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    “…side effect to our motorized vehicle network.”

    This is kind of absurd. If everyone rode bikes, you’d still see plenty of people dying in “accidents”. This isn’t really about modes of transportation is it?

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  • Anon April 29, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    #28, you couldn’t be more correct.

    Now a man might have been on the bus just before or even during the incident.

    Maybe he interferred with the driver; maybe he distracted her; maybe she had to deal with an unruly drunk on the bus. The list of possibilities goes on.

    This doesn’t mean we can’t care for the families affected by this event.

    All the calls for mob justice are surprising on this board.

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  • adam April 29, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    the editorial is superb. while there is no doubt that pedestrians can never be aware enough of their surroundings, legally, this seems to be a straight forward case of negligence.

    trying to eliminate human failings is very difficult.

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  • John April 29, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    People who drive cars are not terrorists nor does anyone who drive set out to kill pedestrians. Why is there so much anger towards motorists? Do you not drive? Stop the name calling. It was and accident unless she intended to kill these unfortunate people. To equate this bus driver with a cold blooded murdere is just crazy.

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  • kiwimunki April 29, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Stephanie,

    Thank you for your capacity to say with eloquence what most of us, in our best moments, would wish to express.

    Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and the driver as well. Everyone, a sad warning and reminder that we all share the road.

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  • Opus the Poet April 29, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    @#30 the bus was off route and through for the night, there was nobody on the bus except the driver. “The bus was out of service at the time of the crash” So that negates the distracted driver excuse.

    #32 there is so much anger because motor vehicles are literally WMD loose in the streets, as demonstrated by this wreck. Two people are dead, 3 more injured, because the driver failed to yield to people crossing in the crosswalk. The only piece of information I don’t have is which way the pedestrians were going in the crosswalk, we know the bus was westbound turning south but we don’t know if the pedestrians had just stepped off the curb or had almost made it across the street, but mox nix, the driver still needed to yield to peds crossing with the light in the crosswalk. Let me reiterate that because people seem to forget it. The pedestrians were crossing with the light in a crosswalk and had right of way over the turning bus by 2 different laws. The first is the law that gives pedestrians in a crosswalk right of way over motor vehicles, the second is the fact that pedestrians are traffic, and a left-turning vehicle must yield to traffic in other lanes when making a turn.

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  • Michael Andersen, Portland Afoot April 29, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Opus #34, TriMet and police initially said the bus was out of service, but they’ve changed their story. It’s not clear why.
    http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2010/04/portland_police_say_trimet_bus.html

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  • Barney April 30, 2010 at 1:13 am

    This happened less than a week ago. So many of you are so anxious to determine who’s right and who’s wrong, based on analysis of incomplete facts and infused with personal bias. Luckily for the bus driver, her fate is decided by a legal system rather than the bikeportland message board.

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  • For Opus April 30, 2010 at 8:11 am

    You’re hardly an objective “internet journalist” if you don’t have all the facts and are not willing to wait until professionals have done their job collecting said facts.

    “The only thing I don’t know is . . .” So you’re privy to ALL details of the accident? Either your credentials are better than we know, or you’re willing to decide now, based on incomplete facts.

    The lynch mob here, on this board, surprises me. There’s plenty that is not yet known.

    The “last guy on the bus” surely has something he could add to the more complete picture, right?

    Be objective, not a posse.

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  • Jackattak April 30, 2010 at 8:16 am

    John @ # 32 said -

    Do you not drive?

    No, I don’t.

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  • EmGee April 30, 2010 at 9:08 am

    Count this comment among the slim minority of posts that are addressing the article itself rather than assumptions about what happened in the bus crash.

    Stephanie Routh said “Motor vehicles have the mass and speed to wreak tragedy without warning, without intent. We must all recognize the destructive capacity of vehicles on our roads and the surety of injury to our more vulnerable road users.”

    This is well phrased although an even stronger statement can be made to the same effect: The most commonly used lethal instrument in the USA is the automobile, which is typically operated by persons who choose to ignore that they have taken responsibility for controlling a machine that is many times more deathly powerful than any handgun or hunting rifle. Even those who carry firearms are more likely to kill or maim with their vehicle than with their weapon.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Stephanie that drivers need to become much more conscious of their responsibility. Either a variant of her statement or one of mine should be brought into every discussion of vehicular crashes.

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  • spare_wheel April 30, 2010 at 9:29 am

    “To equate this bus driver with a cold blooded murdere is just crazy.”

    No one here equated the bus driver with cold blooded murder. Troll somewhere else.

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  • Peter Noone April 30, 2010 at 9:54 am

    #39 The most common lethal instrument is probably tobacco or maybe sugar. Your generalizations about vehicle operators are entirely unhelpful. Can you say “divisive”?

    #40 Getting a little defensive? Read the thread again; I think it’s pretty easy to see where someone might get that impression. You can’t dismiss people as trolls just because you don’t like what they’re saying.

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  • wsbob April 30, 2010 at 11:00 am

    ” spare_wheel 40
    April 30th, 2010 09:29

    “To equate this bus driver with a cold blooded murdere is just crazy.”

    No one here equated the bus driver with cold blooded murder. Troll somewhere else.”

    spare_wheel…please…not you too with name calling. The exact phrase ‘cold blooded murder’ may not have been used by any person commenting to this story besides John #32 and yourself, but comment #1 started things out with the expression of an opinion that comes close enough to drawing that very conclusion.

    With that in mind, John’s remark is legitimate.

    This weblog being more or less a bike advocacy format, certain commenters seem to have the idea that it’s acceptable for them to exploit it as an unmonitored haven where they can lambaste without justification, people that are obliged to operate or rely on motor vehicles for their mode of transportation.

    This thinking might give them some short term satisfaction, but I rather doubt their remarks are helping the part of the community participating here, understand better, issues such as this particular one and others presented on bikeportland.

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  • Opus the Poet April 30, 2010 at 11:38 am

    #37 I have been first on scene at 2 serious injury wrecks and one minor boo-boo wreck since the first of the year, and have covered more than 4000 wrecks since I started my blog in 2006. I frequently have to work from incomplete data and fill in the blanks with inferences from what is known. In this wreck what is known is that the pedestrians were in the crosswalk, crossing with the signal in their favor, later data indicates that they didn’t just step off the curb but had walked at least a lane into the street and possibly 2 lanes if they were coming from the other direction. This implies that they were in the street for 8-15 seconds before they were hit. This is plenty of time for the bus driver to see and avoid had the driver been looking where she was going, as the victims were hit with the front of the bus and pushed under by the forward momentum of the bus. This isn’t rocket science by a long shot but knowledge of Newtonian physics and human bodies is helpful.

    #41 Sugar and tobacco are instruments of self-destruction, discounting the effects of second-hand smoke. Including second-hand smoke would also require including damage caused by pollution from motor vehicles, which then raises the motor vehicle to #1 again as transportation is responsible for 1/3 of pollution in metropolitan areas. Face it, how many weapons do you know capable of taking out 5 people in one shot?

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  • Peter Noone April 30, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    #43 “Transportation” is somewhat misleading isn’t it. You should say “personal transportation” if that’s what you mean so as not include commercial traffic–especially since it seems like so many people here want to demonize *individuals*, most of whom are just trying to live their lives, just like you and me.

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  • Opus the Poet April 30, 2010 at 5:48 pm

    I meant, and the report stated “Transportation” including commercial transportation. Once it leaves the tailpipe it doesn’t matter where it comes from when it’s burning the lining of my lungs.

    Now as for the other, the CDC states that bullets kill about 9% of the people they hit, and except in rare cases bullets almost never hit more than one person. This case while rare was not unheard of, just last week a truck hit a group of 5 cyclists, earlier this year another truck hit a group of 13 cyclists after crossing the centerline and going off the opposite shoulder, and a wreck in NYC last year killed 3 people in a Chinese restaurant. Think about that one for a minute, one vehicle killed 3 people inside a building after running through a stone wall. What kind of gun can kill people inside buildings? Could you carry that gun in your pocket? Could you carry that gun in the trunk of an American sedan, or would you need to tow it on a trailer?

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  • wsbob May 1, 2010 at 12:25 am

    I haven’t followed every story out there about this incident, but did read one Friday night that I’ll provide an excerpt to:

    “…But a woman who saw the bus hit five pedestrians in a crosswalk at Northwest Broadway and Glisan Street last Saturday told The Oregonian that driver Sandi Day seemed more dazed than vigilant afterward.

    Jena McCaskell of Carson, Wash., said the bus driver stopped after hitting the group but then the bus appeared to go in reverse.

    “Her window was open,” McCaskell said, “I ran up to her, screaming, ‘Don’t move the (expletive) bus! You’ve got people under the wheels.”

    McCaskell said Day’s face went white and she pulled her hands from the steering wheel, holding them in the air in obvious shock. …”

    TriMet general manager calls fatal bus crash ‘inexplicable,’ promises safety review
    By Joseph Rose, The Oregonian
    April 28, 2010, 8:19PM

    The bus stops, but then appears to go in reverse? McCaskell, the lady speaking to the driver, sees the driver’s face go white, take her hands from the steering wheel in shock?

    Assuming that’s an accurate description of what happened, and it’s consistent with what McCaskell relates to investigators in personal interviews with them, it should be be helpful in coming closer to understanding how this tragedy could have happened.

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  • wsbob May 1, 2010 at 12:34 am

    I’ve got to mention that there’s something later in Joseph Rose’s story (link above) that may contradict what’s written in the excerpt I posted in comment #46:

    “…”I wasn’t looking up when it happened,” she said, “but I heard a thump, thump, thump and people started screaming at the bus driver from all sides.”…” Oregonian/joe rose

    Rose says she saw the bus hit the pedestrians, but later in the story, she is quoted as saying she wasn’t looking up when it happened. So I suppose the question occurring to me is, where was she looking when she heard the noise?

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  • spare_wheel May 1, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    “but comment #1 started things out with the expression of an opinion that comes close enough to drawing that very conclusion.”

    “this is an incompetent bus-driver issue”

    =cold blooded murder?

    “Driver spaced-off and killed two people. She should be in prison”

    = cold bloded murder?

    “and a bus-driver violating the law”

    =cold blooded murder?

    wsbob, its disappointing that you are defending a dishonest attempt to inflame discourse.

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  • TREK 3900 May 1, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    In a car, when you have a left turn lane with a green ball signal (not a green arrow), and simultaneously the cross walk signal tells pedestrians to go, you have the recipe for disaster. I suspect this is what happened here.

    NEVER should a crosswalk signal give the walk sign if ANY TURN across the walk path is legal.

    Part of the problem in this case could be vision blockages, but THAT IS EXACTLY WHY cars should NEVER have any kind of go signal to cross an active crosswalk.

    To expect a motor vehicle to wait on pedestrians before they can turn is asking for tragedy, because the motor vehicle operator may be distracted, have their vision blocked, or be in a hurry and not paying close attention.

    I know because I almost hit a ped while making a left turn at an intersection while drivng to work. I am not sure why – they might have been hidden from view by the windshield post in my car, or perhaps I was in such a hurry (I was in a hurry) that I just wasn’t looking close enough. Scared the crap out of me and probably the ped also. Previously my close calls with left turn green ball signals were with cars – when I am in a lane with a green ball I automatically think that means “GO”. That is not the case. Green ball signals for left turns should be outlawed unless the green ball means all other opposing vehicle and ped traffic has to stop.

    Green should never mean: wait for peds, or wait for oncoming cars. Green SHOULD mean go, but it doesn’t at an intersection. That’s dangerous. I think that is what killed these 2 people.

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  • wsbob May 2, 2010 at 12:24 am

    spare_wheel…I don’t believe commenter #32 was attempting to inflame discourse.

    The tone of that person’s comment suggested to me that they were simply upset by the incident and the rash jump to a conclusion of criminality on the part of the driver made by some of the people commenting to this story on bikeportland.

    In reacting to those other comments, commenter #32 did use the phrase “…cold blooded murdere…”. I tend to think this is because this phrase is more familiar to people in common language than phrases for other forms of homicide are .

    I think it’s common for people to not be accustomed to correctly use words for different forms of homicide, or even being particularly aware of what they are.(I’m not saying I am either…I have to look it up.).

    If not cold blooded murder, what would you suggest commenter #1 had in mind that the driver was guilty of…by the way…long before the facts were all in (which they still aren’t.)? Perhaps ‘vehicular homicide’ or ‘criminally negligent homicide’?

    Also, look again at comments #’s 11,16, and 17; the authors of those comments seem to have been thinking along the same general lines as commenter #1.

    The tone of their comments all display a rush to judge and exact severe punishment.

    Commenter #32′s remarks didn’t bother me, but since they did bother you, I think you might have accomplished something more constructive by responding with a simple suggestion to the effect that, perhaps people weren’t actually thinking the driver was guilty of ‘cold blooded murder’, but something involving a lesser degree of intent.

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  • TREK 3900 May 2, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Agree with # 31 above, this is a case of negligence. But I think the negligence falls as heavily on the shoulders of the state as with the bus driver. The state allows green ball left turns across active crosswalks. THAT is the largest problem in this case. I will bet that there are thousands of crashes in this state every year due to putting green ball signals in left turn lanes. Drivers think, “Oh, green, go” and then WHAM! that oncoming car going straight doesn’t stop and they crash! OOPS! I forgot I have to wait for oncoming traffic – that green really does not mean go.

    I never read anywhere the conditions at the intersection. Was it well lit? Were the peds wearing all black?

    Did they make the driver submit to a drug test on the spot?

    Did they determine definitively that she wasn’t talking or texting on the phone?

    I read conflicting reports about whether the bus was in-service or out-of-service.

    I’d assume it was an accident. No doubt she was doing something that contributed to it: eating, reaching for something, talking on the phone, in a hurry, OR possibly, the mirrors or other bus parts just blocked her view.

    Need more facts.

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  • TREK 3900 May 2, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Do bus drivers have METRO radios? Was she talking on that?

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  • TREK 3900 May 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    After all is said and done, this is another case where government appears to be hiding some facts. The bus camera footage should have been made public the next day, along with a time log of all of the drivers phone and radio conversations, plus any footage from intersection cameras, if any.

    Did the driver call 911?

    This is similar to the recent police shootings where days pass before the police get their story straight and release it to the public. It LOOKS like this is another case where the government is desperately hiding information while they rehearse what happened and come up with a good story. Might not be but that’s what it LOOKS like and it is unacceptable.

    This is NOT a sign of a transparent, honest government and we the people are getting sick of it. November is coming.

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  • TREK 3900 May 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Also, I think I read that the drug test results might take weeks to get back due to a backlog. What kind of BS is that?

    How long do you think it would take them to get a drug test back if YOU ran over pedestrians?

    Again, special treatment for government employees. Unacceptable.

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  • mik May 2, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    Hey, everyone. Her is a novel concept. LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING!!!. NEVER ASSUME A CAR IS GOING TO STOP!!!!

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  • Lisa G May 3, 2010 at 12:45 am

    This is not an attempt to place blame, it is just my observation and the reason why
    I always give busses a very wide berth and try to stay as far away from them as possible whether I’m on a bike or walking.

    At least once a week I witness a bus going full bore through the red light on E. Burnside, at the HAWK signal at 41st, without even attempting to slow down. I’ve tried reporting it to Tri-Met but they put you on hold so long that it’s impossible to do that in any sort of timely fashion. The bus is always going too fast to accurately read the number on the back (not the route number, the bus number).

    I’ve also seen busses blowing through red lights on NE Sandy and 41st (across from the Hollywood Theatre) where there is a crosswalk button. Being on time should never be more important than pedestrian safety.

    I can see where someone driving that stretch of E. Burnside for the first time may not be prepared to stop at the HAWK light, especially if they are going 35 mph or more(the speed really needs to be reduced in that area. I’ve driven it and always drive slower so I can stop in time). But a bus has its regular route and drivers should be aware of that.

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  • Michael Andersen, Portland Afoot May 3, 2010 at 7:55 am

    To answer some of your questions, TREK 51-54:

    Don’t know about the lighting or the clothes, though a bus driver told me yesterday that he understands the clothes were dark.

    She did take a drug test on the spot, according to TriMet.

    In my limited experience, weeks-long delays are routine these days for any sort of blood work by the cops.

    TriMet has said several times that she wasn’t texting or phoning, but the story has been changing so you never know.

    The bus was in service but empty. Apparently the driver pulled over to make a courtesy stop, then turned left across two empty traffic lanes just before the collision.

    TriMet told me on the first day that they’d heard about it from their dispatch team, who almost certainly on the radio with the driver within seconds of the crash. But she couldn’t say definitively.

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  • Steve B. May 3, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Lisa G #56 — When you see that sort of thing, you should call 911. Try to note a description of the driver, the license plate/route number, and note the direction of travel. I know, it’s a lot, so give them whatever you can. Those calls usually last about 2 minutes.

    Then, when you get home, use the trimet site to enter a complaint. http://trimet.org/contact/index.htm

    Reporting these thing is critical, thanks for taking the time to phone trimet!

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  • El Biciclero May 4, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    “Hey, everyone. Her is a novel concept. LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING!!!. NEVER ASSUME A CAR IS GOING TO STOP!!!!”

    Yeah. O.K. Will do. I guess we should also all look behind us before crossing the street in case a bus wants to come from behind and then turn across our path, as seems to be the case in this tragic story. As well, remember to always give a backward glance over your shoulder when you are on the sidewalk crossing a driveway–somebody might be turning into that driveway without stopping for you. Also, don’t forget to peer into every alley before proceeding along the sidewalk, in case somebody wants to come blasting out without stopping and run over you. Oh, and don’t forget to make eye contact with every driver who is already stopped at a light or stop sign–NEVER ASSUME A STOPPED CAR WILL REMAIN STOPPED!!!!!! Oops, I guess I used too many exclamation points there.

    Sure, there is some amount of due caution that is advisable when walking in an urban environment, but blaming the victims for not “looking both ways” oversimplifies things and shows a lack of understanding of the various complex situations pedestrians may find themselves in. In a situation like the one in this story, “looking both ways” wouldn’t help.

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  • Jackattak May 4, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    If all pedestrians were to take the car-centric lot’s advice we’d all look paranoid everywhere we went, with all this looking around constantly and whatnot!

    It might actually be kinda funny for a little while. Might make a decent Monty Python-esque skit!

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  • waynesroadhogcutie May 4, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    first i want to say…this incident is sooo tragic! I cant even begin to imagine the pain and grief bared by all survivors, and I mean All survivors!! including the driver! it makes me sick to my stomache to even try (to imagine) Yes this definately could of been avoided! Pinpointing the avoidance however is difficult at this point without all the details. I would like to comment on a couple of things…first off the intent of stephs article “share the road” I had an attitude for a long time about this very thing. I have believed for many years that the streets were designed and created for automobiles (trucks, cars, and busses)and believed the right of way belonged to such. that just isnt the case anymore. its as if things are reversed..(i mean legally reversed).there was a time when peds had to wait for cars to make their turns before crossing and bikes were supposed to use crosswalks to cross or change direction…now cars have to wait for peds to cross first and bikes get to use the autolanes (straight,left and right turn lanes) to change direction. I agree with the posting about signals being simoltaneous (misspell?) huge danger! I have found that a good majority of road users really dont give a flip about the signals. they will do what they want. whether the means of transportation is a pedestrian, a vehicle or a bike it is all operated by a human. Our society has become an all about me society, therefore all operators believe they have the right of way…I personally have decided in the last year or so, that giving up my right of way makes my life and job so much easier, and many lives are saved because of it. I am a trimet bus driver…and i see all kinds of stupidity out there on the roads from all parties…nobody is perfect we all make mistakes. I see peds cross against lights all day long, i see cars and busses and bikes run lights all day long, cars AND bikes will pass me on the left into the opposite direction,instead of waiting for me to finish servicing my stop, which only takes 10 to 40 seconds in most cases, because they dont want to wait! I have run some lights that went yellow to red once ive already crossed the point of no return…i work daily on that one trying to time the greens and figuring out which are stale and which are fresh, a task im getting pretty good at, but sometimes there is too much going on in the bus or around the bus for me to concentrate on that issue. If we could all focus on the laws of the road, and be aware of our surroundings, there really would be less “accidents”.

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