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TriMet: Transit mall collision still under investigation

Posted by on August 20th, 2010 at 11:41 am

Richard Krebs’ bike rests under the
wheel of a TriMet bus after the
collision last Thursday.
(Photos: Bill Jackson)

Last Thursday, a TriMet bus operator made a left turn from SW 6th Avenue onto Morrison and came into contact with a man’s bicycle (it’s not clear whether he was riding or walking). The wheel of the bus rolled into 36-year old Richard Krebs and he suffered serious injuries. As of yesterday (8/19) Krebs is still at OHSU in fair condition (his nurse didn’t release any other information about him, but couldn’t resist telling me that “He’s the nicest person in the world!”).

As TriMet investigates what happened, I thought it’d be helpful to clarify a few things and bring everyone up to speed with what we know (or think we know) so far.

A witness on the scene of collision told KGW-TV that the “Bus hit him about mid-track, pushed him over on the road. Bus driver was stopping but kinda skid to a halt on his leg.” The investigation into the crash is ongoing, but the Portland Police Bureau has already told KGW that there was “no major fault one way or another.”

TriMet has yet to release on-board video from the bus. Back in June, when a man on a bike collided with a bus on SE Hawthorne, the video — which fully exonerated the bus operator and refuted the bike rider’s version of the story — was released two days after the incident.

I asked TriMet Communications Director Mary Fetsch why the video of this collision is taking longer to release. “If an incident is still under investigation, no video is released. Video is generally released between 4-7 days. In rare incidents, it’s faster than that, especially if there is no investigation necessary, as in the Hawthorne incident. It all depends on when the incident happens, when the video can be pulled and viewed, and if an investigation is under way, etc.”

As for how this collision occurred, judging from photos taken at the scene (see above), it looks like the bus was in the center of three lanes on the transit mall. To go left on Morrison, the bus operator would have had to turn across the left-most vehicle lane (which is shared by bus, car, and bike traffic) to get onto Morrison.

It’s also important to remember that the bus was on a temporary shuttle route because MAX trains had been stopped due to a suicide jumper on the bridge. A commenter pointed out that there were not any detour signs posted to alert people that buses would be taking an alternate route that day. The commenter wrote, “So, anyone familiar with TriMet bus routes would not have expected this.”

Fetsch says that during a shuttle bus operation, TriMet “typically has pre-determined routes for bus shuttles.” “What can be variable,” she added, “are routes that bus might take to begin shuttle service. They are often pulled from other lines, so getting to the start of the shuttle is often unpredictable.” Fetsch also says that it is not TriMet policy to put out special signage during “short-term bus bridge events.”

I’m waiting for more information from TriMet and will post an update as soon as it’s released. In the meantime, if you saw this collision occur and have more information to add, feel free to leave a comment or call our tipline at (503) 706-8804.

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Comments
  • Mary August 20, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Ouch. That’s one of the things that makes me nervous about riding a bike in the city, frankly.

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  • MIndful Cyclist August 20, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Just speculating here, but I would guess part of the reason for the bus making such a sharp left turn (and cutting across more than one lane) is that it had to let people off the Pioneer Courthouse/6th ave stop. I know about 5 blocks West is where the trains are able to turn around and they were doing so since the Goose Hollow stop was closed due to the suicide. The buses turned around on 6th so people could transfer to the yellow or green line trains if necessary. Plus, all those streets between the turnaround (by the Galleria stop) and 6th are pretty narrow and may not fit a bus down them. The bus only has doors on the right side and would have to let passengers off on that side. Add to the fact that Portland’s blocks are only 200 feet and it can make for bad outcomes like this.

    Regardless, I hope Richard continues to improve.

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  • Spiffy August 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    by not releasing the bus video we are left to assume it’s the bus’s fault…

    a video has no bias… yes, we might make some of our own decisions based on the video, but the video is fact and should be released…

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  • Anonymous August 20, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    False assumption there Spiffy.

    Exactly why an investigation is to be made.

    This involved an injury and as such will require a deeper inquiry than the Hawthorne incident did. Although there was one h#ll of a lot of assumptions made in that case regarding who was to blame.

    How about waiting for the completed investigation. If at that time the bus video is not released you can make all the assumptions you want.

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  • h August 20, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    thank for update…

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  • jim August 20, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Is this an engineering flaw at this intersection? It should be designed so the bus can turn freely without putting anyone in danger. I’m not familliar with this corner, I don’t have a clear picture of how this works. I can’t imagine that a bus could turn from a center lane across traffic, that sounds wrong

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  • cyclist August 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Jim #6: Buses don’t normally turn left from that intersection onto Morrison, it was a shuttle route. Buses DO normally turn left off of 6th onto other streets on the mall though, and I swear I’ve seen them do so from the left lane, so I’m not quite sure why they’d have to turn from the middle lane in this case. It could be that Morrison is narrower due to the necessity for a wider sidewalk to accommodate the MAX platform.

    Regardless of what left-lane traffic might have been expecting, the bus should have been exercising extreme caution if it was making a left turn from the middle lane.

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  • MIndful Cyclist August 20, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Jim #4: Normally, a bus is never going to turn either right or left there or at any other intersection along the transit mall.

    However, if my speculation is correct, the bus turned left there because people would have been waiting on that street to catch the MAX and that is the street people catch it going Westbound.

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  • q`Tzal August 20, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Foreground Irony:
    sign on side of bus not involved in crash.

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  • Ely August 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    @ #9: yes.

    That corner is INCREDIBLY tight, always busy, always backed up. A terrible place for a bus to turn. I am not remotely surprised that there was a collision; only coincidence there was a bike involved, it could just as easily have been a ped or car. I would NOT call this a no-fault accident; I would consider it the fault of TriMet for allowing a bus to make this turn, and of the driver for attempting it when it should have been obvious to him/her it was a terrible idea.

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  • matt picio August 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Mindful Cyclist (#8) – you’re mostly correct. There’s one spot they turn left out of the Transit Mall, which is 5th & Madison. Cyclists expect that one, normally there is never bus traffic turning onto Morrison from 6th, and no reason for a cyclist to expect it to.

    As for turning from the center lane, Madison is 36′ wide at 5th. Morrison is about 25′ wide at 6th, necessitating the center-lane turn. I don’t know the exact turn radius of that bus, but since Trimet’s shortest bus is 30′, it’s a good bet that the turn radius is greater than 25′ – so it would be impossible to make that turn from the left lane.

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  • freeman August 20, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Buses are big scary vehicles with limited driver visibility on the best days. The fact that an extraordinary set of circumstances led to this terrible ordeal for Mr. Krebs is disheartning for all riders on the bus mall. Traffic conditions are ever changing in the core, what with all the ongoing construction and summertime tourist activity.

    The downtown before (i think it was in the early 1970s’) was two way streets with mixed mode traffic chaos. Imagine ALL buses, delivery trucks, cabs, & commuter vehicles – the choice to ride a bike must have seemed quite daunting at the time.

    With the change to mostly one ways downtown, the option to ride on the left or right side of auto vehicle traffic became a bikers right (legal is another issue entirely). That said, there are places in the core where one should be extra aware…back in the late 90s’ before the bus mall got its recent track upgrades, bike couriers and bus drivers had an unspoken agreement about the blocks where ‘car’ traffic was disallowed. We could ride there, the buses wouldn’t squish us, we just stay the hell outta their way whenever possible.

    The forced block circling due to the on/off of car traffic from the bus mall creates a huge headache for drivers looking for unknown addresses or parking. Their ‘headaches’ usually result in aggravated driving habits (road rage), or longer wait times for anyone in traffic at 4:45 PM on SW Broadway on a Friday afternoon.

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  • Spiffy August 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    anonymous #4, sorry… let me try again… by not releasing the bus video I am left to assume it’s the bus’s fault… plus I’ve already come to that conclusion from the limited facts available to us…

    q`Tzal #9, hi-larious!

    it’s a lie to say “no major fault one way or another” when a bicycle ended up under a bus… that doesn’t happen without a major fault…

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  • Anonymous August 20, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Again spiffy, limited facts.

    The same issue as with the Hawthorne incident, limited facts that were basically outright lies.

    How many “facts” have actually been presented. A lot of assumptions and supposition, but very few “facts”.

    There’s two viewpoints and somewhere in the middle usually lie the facts.

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  • matt picio August 20, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    freeman (#12) – “legal is another issue entirely” – How so? On one-way streets, it’s legal to ride on either side of the street, unless a bike lane is present. ORS 814.430(2)(d)
    http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/814.html

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  • Mindful Cyclist August 20, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    Matt: I am so rarely South of Salmon St. downtown so I forgot about that. Thanks. I think you are correct about the bus not having enough room to take a turn from the left lane. I guess it is possible that Richard watch the bus veer to the right and thought it was going to continue that way. Then the unfortunate left happened. Again, speculation though.

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  • Andrew August 20, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Hey anonymous,

    Guess you have never had any training in decision-making in the presence of limited information. I guess you only make final decisions with perfect information? Nothing wrong with Spiffy stating his opinion based on the information currently available. I am sure he will be willing to alter his opinion if new information becomes available that is material.

    This is a blog, not a court of law. Lighten up.

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  • Jeff August 20, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    Ah yes. Another thread designed to inspire rampant speculation and veiled calls for a hasty determination before everything can be fully determined…..

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  • JK12 August 20, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Does anyone know how the victim is really doing? He’s been in the hospital for a long time. I hope his leg is going to be OK.

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  • Seager August 20, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Jeff, how is this thread designed to “inspire rampant speculation”? I think it’s designed to do the opposite – it gives us information so we can stop guessing about some things, and then tell us that nothing else can be determined and that we should wait.

    Some BikePortland commentators sure seem to like hating on BikePortland. Why stick around? Masochistic, perhaps?

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  • Mimm August 20, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Regarding the release of video, I hope that people remember that this is likely a standard policy that helps ensure a non-biased examination of the circumstances surrounding the crash.

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  • wsbob August 20, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    “anonymous #4, sorry… let me try again… by not releasing the bus video I am left to assume it’s the bus’s fault… plus I’ve already come to that conclusion from the limited facts available to us… … it’s a lie to say “no major fault one way or another” when a bicycle ended up under a bus… that doesn’t happen without a major fault… Spiffy #13

    There may be details to important, questions, fundamental to understanding the causes of this collision, that results of investigations being conducted, will eventually answer.. Depending upon what further understanding that info allows, fault could fall on the rider of the bike, according to his position relative to the bus leading up the bus driver’s preparation to begin turning. Or it could fall on the driver. Or, as maus reports the PPB having told KGW, “no major fault one way or another.” .

    Since news and published witness reports have not so far revealed where the rider of the bike was, relative to the bus when this sequence of the incident began, it’s difficult to establish fault at this point. To be confirmed also, is whether or not the bus driver signaled for the turn at all. Without knowing this, and whether or not the person riding had opportunity to see the signal, and when, it’s kind of difficult to balance fault one way or another. Has this been covered in published reports? I don’t think so.

    Anxious curiosity to know the secret of a mystery is common; For example, lots of ordinary people would love to know about the welfare and whereabouts of Kyron Horman, to such an extent that they’ve allowed unrestrained speculation to create a sideshow out of a serious matter.

    Fortunately, the curiosity over this collision between bus and bike isn’t likely to blow it into any major controversy, but still, sometimes it’s more rewarding for ordinary people to just be calm and wait awhile for pros to do their job before drawing or jumping to conclusions.

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  • spare_wheel August 21, 2010 at 6:55 am

    “There’s two viewpoints and somewhere in the middle usually lie the facts.”

    one big fat logical fallacy right back at ya.

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  • Machu Picchu August 21, 2010 at 9:10 am

    It is common among commercial drivers to hold a lane you occupy for a fellow driver (coworker) near you to merge in front or cross over, since car drivers will not always leave enough room for a large vehicle to get in. My (entirely speculative) thought is that the foreground bus (advising us to keep an extra eye out for cyclists) could have been hanging back in that left lane to keep it clear (of cars) for the other bus to get in the left lane or make the turn. Obviously, that technique does not work for bikes and peds, who can be at the side of the road or in a an adjacent crosswalk.

    I agree with the commenters who are unhappy that the police are stating publicly that there’s no major fault, and only the leg-crushing entity is still investigating. It seems there are a lot of law-educated commenters on BikePortland, what is “major fault” anyway. Or does it mean they were both screwing up equally?

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  • wsbob August 21, 2010 at 10:27 am

    “…what is “major fault” anyway. …” Machu Picchu #24

    It’s probably clear where major fault lies in an example such as a road user failing to stop at a stop sign with the result that they run over somebody, or somebody runs over them.

    With this incident of the bus and the person riding the bike colliding near the intersection of 6th and Morrison, neither road user seems to have as obviously done something that would suggest to the police that the collision was due to major fault on the part of one or the other road user.

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  • Ted Buehler August 21, 2010 at 11:46 am

    In Oregon, cars make right turns from the right-most driving lane, and need to yield to traffic (bikes) in any lanes to the right.

    I assume its the same for making a left turn from a lane that isn’t the left-most lane.

    In this case, it appears the bus should have been in the left-most lane before making the turn. And if for any reason it was illegal to be in the left lane, or geometrically impossible to turn from the left lane, it should have yielded to through traffic in the left-most lane.

    If the bicyclist was travelling in that lane, under normal operating conditions, the bus driver is at fault.

    If the bicyclist appeared on the scene from somewhere else (like shooting out from the sidewalk at faster than a walking pace) then its not as clear.

    In any case, I assume Trimet will change their shuttle policy to not detour buses on routes that have geometrically impossible turns. In this case, why wasn’t the bus northbound on SW 4th to make the turn onto Morrison?

    Thanks for the update, Jonathan.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Machu Picchu August 21, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    wsbob: Thanks, I was looking for a definition, though. Sort of sarcastically suggesting that fault is fault as opposed breaking it down into degrees. Sort of like Demi Moore’s character in A Few Good Men stating, “I strenuously object!” The joke is that you either object or you don’t, “strenuous” is superfluous.

    If “major fault” is a legal term for a certain degree of being at fault, I was curious how that was determined or defined. What, then would constitute a “minor fault”? Was either person involved in this “accident” (oops, you got maimed) at “minor fault”, and is that not worth considering? Or, were they both at some degree of fault, so the police decided it was a fair score?

    I just don’t like that we’re waiting for a verdict from the oganization that has to answer for a person that may be at fault, while the third party that I thought was responsible for investigating these things seems to have already decided it’s not necessary. I don’t get it.

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  • jim August 21, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    Ted #26-
    While it is legal for bikes to ride to the right of cars even when there is no bike lane, they still must follow traffic rules. It is illegal to pass a turning vehicle if you are not in a marked bike lane. Same rules for cars, you can’t pull out and pass a car that is turning. I dont know if that is what happened here and won’t speculate on it witout the facts

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  • esther August 22, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Jim, there is no evidence that the bike passed on the right since the bus was turning left when it hit the bike.

    Someone has to be at fault here since someone had the right of way and someone didn’t yield it. Someone was injured and they weren’t supposed to be.

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  • Tony Columbo August 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Immediately after the accident transportation expert and spoker Jonathan Maus in an exclusive KGW News Channel 8 interview discussing the bicycle/TriMet bus accident says, “maybe getting cars off the bus mall” could be the answer to bicycle/bus accidents. So it had to have been the cars fault.

    http://www.kgw.com/news/local/Bicylist-struck-by-TriMet-bus-100621304.html

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  • wsbob August 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

    “…Someone has to be at fault here since someone had the right of way and someone didn’t yield it. …” esther #29

    That might be a fair way to sum up the situation. Determining who had the right of way and who didn’t yield it may be difficult to determine, or a close call, which is probably why the the PPB said “no major fault one way or another.” . Maus says in the same sentence that the statement from the PPB was quoted: “…The investigation into the crash is ongoing …”.

    In order to complete their investigation, or determine cause and fault, the PPB is probably going to need to discuss the collision with the injured party, Richard Krebs. Last reported, he’s still in the hospital. Probably would be nice for him if he could talk to a lawyer before he did, and also when he talked to the police.

    Considering the large medical bills that are going to come out of this, and possible long term physical consequences, it’s important for the injured party to be able to say the right thing, accurately, as well as truthfully representing their role in such a collision, so as not to have to shoulder an unfair burden for it having happened.

    There may be more investigations than the one being conducted by the police. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a while to get this worked out.

    Life would have been much more simple for a lot of people if these two road users could have just somehow avoided colliding with each other.

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  • jim August 26, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    “Someone has to be at fault”
    It might even be the fault of how this is engineered- not the fault of the driver or rider

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  • Doc August 26, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    @ #19 JK12
    As he has not released his medical information to the public at large, I will not comment very much on Dr. Krebs’ condition. I will say that the collision broke at least one of his bones and also required him to go back to the hospital after discharge for at least one repair surgery. Witnesses are correct in that his leg sustained a good deal of damage. The nurse Mr. Maus briefly interviewed is also correct–Rick’s an amazingly nice guy.

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