Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 22nd, 2011 at 12:05 pm
Last night a 22-year-old Southeast Portland man riding a bicycle and a Portland Police criminalist driving an official vehicle were involved in a collision on SE Powell Boulevard.
According to the PPB Traffic Division, at about 9:30 pm last night Edward Poitra was riding eastbound on the sidewalk on the north side of Powell just after he crossed SE 50th. Jess Morgan, a 20-year PPB vet was pulling out of a parking lot with the intention to go westbound on Powell. Here's the streetview (looking eastbound)...
In a statement, the PPB explains that Morgan pulled forward to look for traffic from the east (his left) and then, "believing the road and sidewalk was clear," pulled forward to enter the roadway. Police say Poitra was going about 10-12 miles per hour (according to a witness) and the Chevy pick-up driven by Morgan was going about 5 mph.
The two vehicles collided. Poitra "suffered small abrasions" and was taken to the hospital via ambulance.
Police say Poitra had a bike light and it was turned on.
Joe Doebele, who witnessed the crash, says the impact from the truck, "hurled the guy into Powell traffic lanes" and that Poitra was unable to walk after the collision. Doebele says from what he saw, the police officer is "90%" at fault.
After concluding their investigation into the crash (which was required in this case because Poitra, a "vulnerable user of the roadway" was taken away by ambulance), the PPB determined that Poitra was "responsible for the collision". They base that decision on Poitra's speed of 10-12 mph, which is above walking speed. ORS 814.410 states that a person is guilty of "unsafe operation of bicycle on sidewalk" if they travel at a speed above ordinary walking speed while crossing a driveway.
Even though Poitra was found to be at fault, the police did not issue him a citation. When asked why, PPB spokesman Peter Simpson told me, "With a slow speed crash, discretion is often utilized by officers and insurance information is exchanged."
This incident brings up many important issues.
On major, high-speed arterials like SE Powell, sidewalks are
the only sane a refuge for some people who find walking and biking on the main roadway unsafe or intimidating. There is no shoulder space and there's a high volume of fast-moving cars. The result is a lot of people bicycling on the sidewalk.
Unfortunately, bicycling on sidewalks is a very tricky thing. Not only are Oregon sidewalk laws unknown to most people, but the "walking speed" thing is pretty impractical when you're on a bike. It's difficult to ride at walking speed without falling over (has to do with inertia and physics I think).
Riding on sidewalks is also tricky because it's inherently quite dangerous. When driving, people tend to clear roadway traffic out of habit and they don't consider sidewalk traffic at all. Add in the faster closing speed and slower reaction times of a bike rider versus someone walking and collisions are the result.
We'd see less sidewalk riding in places like this if bike access on the roadway was anywhere near equitable with the access for motor vehicles. Only a very small percentage of people will ride a bike in the roadway in a place like SE Powell and 50th.
So it comes down to a sad choice: Do you ride on the sidewalk with all its legal quirks and dangers, or do you risk your life on the roadway? Hopefully some day our streets will better serve all vehicles and I won't have to ask that question at all.
NOTE: I've edited this story because the comments where focusing so much on my reference to bicycling on the sidewalk near Powell as "the only sane" refuge.Email This Post Possibly related posts
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