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Police cite driver in early morning collision in SW Portland

Posted by on May 22nd, 2012 at 11:12 am

My low-budget re-creation of this morning’s collision
at SW Bertha and B-H Hwy. (Bike = green, car = blue.)

28-year old Jessie Belter suffered a broken leg when she was struck by someone driving a car as she rode in the bike lane on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway this morning.

According to the Portland Police Bureau, the collision happened at about 7:50 am at the intersection of Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway and SW Bertha Blvd (map). The person driving the car was 33-year-old Nicole Poor. The police say that Poor was driving northbound on SW Bertha and attempted to turn westbound (left) on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. Belter was headed eastbound in the bike lane. Poor stopped at the stop sign, but then, “failed to yield to the bicycle rider,” police say. Luckily, the car was only traveling about 5 mph.

Poor has been issued a citation for, “Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device.” (Asked why that was the citation if the woman stopped at the stop sign, the PPB told me, “She stopped, but should have remained stopped longer… she didn’t look and see the rider.”)

“This intersection is the most dangerous on our bike commute between Hillsdale and OHSU/Portland State University.”
— Barbara Stedman, local resident

Prior to hearing about this collision from the PPB, reader and SW Portland resident Barbara Stedman got in touch with us. She said her husband came upon the aftermath of this collision. And it got her thinking…

“I’m sending you this email,” Barbara wrote, “because this intersection is the most dangerous on our bike commute between Hillsdale and OHSU/Portland State University.”

Barbara lives just a few blocks from this intersection. She says the most dangerous thing about it is that people in cars turn right onto Bertha (from B-H Highway), despite warning signs and green-colored pavement in the bike lane.

Here’s more from Barbara about why this intersection is unpleasant and unsafe for people who choose to ride a bike:

“B-H splits here, the left lane goes straight ahead towards Capitol Hwy, the right lane turns right in a wide curve onto Bertha Blvd and ultimately I-5. So in morning rush-hour cars routinely go above the posted speed limit of 30 and because the right turn is a gentle curve they don’t have to slow down to turn right. When I go through this intersection I always make sure that cars see me and stop for me, before going through this intersection.

We have had several close calls here. I never saw the cars coming from Bertha as the big threat, as they have a stop sign and have to wait for a gap in traffic, but I do notice that they often don’t come to a full stop when they see a gap in traffic. Or they come to a stop in the bike lane.

There are plans for the Red Electric Trail that would enable us to avoid that intersection, but until it is in place, it is a very dangerous intersection for bikes.”

Sounds like the Red Electric project — which will provide a path from the southwest hills down to the Willamette River along B-H Highway — can’t happen soon enough (last we heard, funding and construction of the project are to start this year).

UPDATE: KOIN-TV reports that Ms. Belter is pregnant.

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Comments
  • K'Tesh May 22, 2012 at 11:23 am

    So many crashes in the last week…

    Pray that Jessie heals quickly and completely.

    God Bless!

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  • NF May 22, 2012 at 11:29 am

    These freeway-style “intersections” encourage high-speed transitions from one road to the next, and do not encourage deliberate, aware, turning. This design is bad for bicyclists and pedestrians, and does not belong in urban areas.

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    • Todd Boulanger May 22, 2012 at 11:43 am

      I agree. I would suggest that ODoT and the local jurisdiction engineers undertake a restriping that would bring the cross street into a safer alignment with the highway – closer to a 90 degree angle. This would help to moderate turning traffic speeds, aid in improving sight lines, and shorten the zone by which cyclists are exposed to potential point of traffic conflict.

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    • RonC May 22, 2012 at 11:50 am

      This is so true. I’m not a traffic engineer, but this intersection really needs to be controlled with stop lights, not a stop sign. It’s a mess. I hope Ms. Poor has good insurance, and Jessie comes out of this without any long-term medical or financial issues.

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  • wsbob May 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    The direction across the intersection that cited driver Nicole Poor was attempting to accomplish is one of the single worst crossings in the Beaverton/West Portland area, I can think of.

    It’s seems to be a bigger than usual intersection with a weird curve and an odd hummock contour, which maybe explains in part why the left turn from Bertha-Beaverton hasn’t had a light designed for it.

    For a left turn, to see down the hill and around the weird curve, people driving tend to have to creep past the stop sign. Being the extremely busy, fast traffic road it is, there is so much going on…too much for the average person to watch for.

    re; Boulanger’s comment about making the intersection of Bertha with Beav-Hillsdale more of a 90 degree: Here, I’m inclined to think that wouldn’t be an improvement for the direction the cited driver was traveling, because of, as I noted above, the road’s weird curve and contour. It might help though, for the Beav-Hillsdale to Bertha direction Barbara Stedman refers to in the story.

    A signal is what the intersection needs. A ten mph reduction in posted speed limit would help as well.

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    • Spiffy May 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      yeah I really hate this intersection and the one after it no matter what mode I’m using… there are too many roads feeding at weird angles with traffic at higher than posted speeds..

      they should really just get rid of the Bertha Blvd section and redesign everything over to where Bertha Ct intersects… perhaps turn the Bertha Blvd intersection into a Capitol Hwy intersection instead and get rid of the under/overpass…

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    • Seth Alford May 22, 2012 at 11:44 pm

      Crash corner, aka Beaverton-Hillsdale/Oleson/Scholls is worse.

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  • Barbara Stedman May 22, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    You can’t really change the angle of the street, but I just thought that putting the traffic light at the B-H/ Bertha interesection instead of at the BH/Capitol Hwy intersection a few yards further east would help a lot in this intersection.
    It also doesn’t help that there are no sidewalks whatsoever in this stretch of street. Sidewalks would at least remind cars that is an urban area not a highway. And occasional traffic enforcement would be good, too. There are lots of speeding cars and cars not yielding to stop signs or bicyclists.

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  • Spiffy May 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    Koin 6 Local News
    A 28-year-old pregnant woman broke her leg after her bicycle was struck by a car in Southwest Portland Tuesday morning.

    so she broke her own leg after she was struck by the car? I would have thought that she suffered a broken leg when she was struck by the car…

    ahhh, internet journalism…

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    • NW Biker May 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      I had the same thought while watching the Tour of California this past week. The commentators kept saying that Levi Leipheimer broke his leg, when in fact he’d been hit by a car while out training. Language choices are really influential in how we think.

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    • q`Tzal May 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      I suppose that her leg could have broken when she hit the ground. Technically after automotive impact.

      This seems more like an oblique way to impune the credibility of the cyclist by inferring that “she’s cycling while pregnant so she must be cRaZy”.

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  • Fred May 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    This is a bad area. I ride through here two to three times per week in the morning. First as you are riding east you have to watch out for the east/south bound cars turning right on the Bertha at high speeds. Then watch for the north/west bound cars turn left onto BH Hwy. Lastly, east/south bound cars turning right on to Bertha Court and buses that hog the lane. I have almost been hit at all three locations :(

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  • Paul Souders May 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Gah what a mess. A good reminder though that slow speeds save lives. A collision at 5mph is survivable; a few seconds past this intersection onto Beaverton/Hillsdale Hwy, Poor would’ve been moving 45mph or better. Not so survivable.

    There are very few bike routes in/out of SW PDX (including all the westside suburbs) that don’t pass through Hillsdale. For westside commuters, Hillsdale is like Williams Ave, the Rose Quarter, Ladd Circle and the Springwater all rolled into one … but sharing lanes with Powell Blvd. On a hill.

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    • Barbara Stedman May 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm

      That is so true. Portland would not be number 1 bicycle city if SW Portland was the only area looked at. Bicycling might be great on the eastside. In SW it’s a mess. And because of the hills you can’t put in a lot of alternative routes either.

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    • JA May 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm

      Biking, walking and just generally being human in the SW would be vastly safer if there was even a hint of speed control on any of the major roads. Speed enforcement in Portland is sadly lacking in general, but in the SW speed limits are generally outright ignored.

      Would the driver have been as likely to overlook a slow-moving cyclist if she was looking at a distance to her west where should would expect to see traffic moving at the posted 30mph rather than far in the distance to anticipate traffic moving at the 45-50mph that are common on that stretch of road?

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      • davemess May 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm

        I don’t know that this would really be a problem at this type of day (ie. rush hour). In the morning this intersection gets backed up way past the interchange with Bertha. Likely she was just looking for a gap between the cars waiting for the light at Cap. Hwy.

        I rode this route daily for a year, and had a few closer calls. Usually I would just take the bus lane (what the right turning lane off of B-H turns into), that seemed to work better than the bike lane.

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  • John May 22, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Man, I can’t imagine going through a pregnancy with a leg in a cast. Get well soon Ms. Belter. Also, there’s been a lot of bad news lately, so stay safe and alert out there everyone!

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  • GlowBoy May 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I often ride through this same spot on the way home from work, and this morning I drove past it going the other way, about 45min after the incident. All I saw was a police motorcycle, and I thought maybe PPB was finally doing some much needed speed enforcement. Speed limit is 25 through Hillsdale (starting a block east of where this crash happened) and 30 at the crash site, but a lot of drivers treat it as a private freeway, oblivious to the many cyclists and many, MANY pedestrians around them. I drive it at the speed limit, and I regularly get tailgated and cut off like you wouldn’t believe.

    The Bertha Blvd/BHH intersection is a huge mess, and I would agree it’s dangerous. Part of the problem at the stop sign is that drivers trying to get on westbound BHH have to pull out across eastbound traffic without good sightlines to the westbound traffic they’re merging into. They do have a dedicated lane alongside other westbound traffic, but a lot of people don’t realize that. The whole thing is nonstandard and confusing, and I agree with wsbob that this all is a lot for some drivers to cope with. There have been a couple times I’ve had to go out of my way to establish eye contact with a driver at this stop sign who clearly was only looking for the opportunity to go, and wasn’t seeing me. I have a feeling that coordinating the timing with Bertha “Court” (basically the northbound-to-eastbound ramp, a block away and already a complex signal) might be a nightmare, but a signal at Bertha would be welcome.

    IME the freeway-style ramp from eastbound BHH to Bertha Blvd is even more dangerous than the stop sign. The transition zone is very long due to high speeds and a fairly gentle curve, and it sometimes “feels” as if the onus is more on the cyclist than on right-veering drivers to avoid a collision. A better design would bring speeds way down by having a much shorter transition zone (still with a dedicated right-turn lane to the right of the bike lane), followed by a near 90 turn for right turning drivers.

    Since I commute through SW Portland I agree that the Red Electric project can’t happen soon enough … but my understanding is that the full project is budgeted at $15-20M, and could easily be 20 years away. I know there’s some sort of overpass near this intersection that IS funded and expected to be started this year, but I haven’t been able to find out its alignment or whether it would have prevented the conflict that led to this morning’s crash.

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    • Barbara Stedman May 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      The overpass part of the Red Electric Trail would cross the Fanno Creek headwaters and would lead from “little Bertha Blvd” (the section that is a neighborhood street parallel to BH) through the brush to Capitol Hwy and would come out at the crosswalk across from the Cocina Verde restaurant. It would be a MUP and would give a much needed pedestrian and bike path out of rhis neighborhood onto Capitol where you can then continue on sidewalk and bike lane. The only interesection left to cross would then be Capitol and Bertha Court. So it would have prevented this morning’s crash because it would avoid the BH-Bertha Blvd interesection.

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    • Paul Souders May 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      The crazy/frustrating thing about riding in SW PDX is that it could be a woodsy cycling (and hiking) paradise. Red Electric is a good example. There’s a ton of unused city land that’s been deemed unbuildable. The city could run trails under I-5 through Burlingame; along the old Slavin Road ROW next to Barbur; parallel to Multnomah Blvd or Beaverton Hillsdale Highway; down the Iowa Street gulch and Taylor’s Ferry gulch to John’s Landing, etc. etc. It doesn’t take much to look at all the blank/green areas on a city map and visualize a network of singletrack or narrow paved trails (like Tryon or Fanno Creek) connecting the entire westside to downtown.

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      • q`Tzal May 22, 2012 at 5:15 pm

        Rails to Trails has come up with quasi permanent trail surfaces that only covers a rail line. This helps to acquire trail ROW when the rail line owner would like to keep the option for later freight use but conceeds that the public might as well get an official surface. Often rail lines are already used as walking paths potentially inviting injury lawsuits.

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      • GlowBoy May 22, 2012 at 10:05 pm

        Wow, you hit a lot of projects on my wish list. Every time I come down Barbur I look down at Slavin (both the parts that physically exist and the parts that don’t) and dream of what could be.

        Of course Red Electric is still top of my list. The new overpass (thanks for the description of the alignment!) will be nice, but what would mean the most to my commute would be to punch through the (mostly undeveloped) right of way from Bertha to Cullen between 33rd and 37th, where recalcitrant property owners have been blocking progress.

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        • Seth Alford May 23, 2012 at 10:43 am

          I would prefer to have that 20 million fix crash corner.

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          • Barbara Stedman May 23, 2012 at 11:04 am

            “Crash corner” is City of Beaverton. The money for the Red electric trails comes from various sources, but is mainly Portland.

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            • Seth Alford May 23, 2012 at 12:55 pm

              Washington County. See http://www.fixbhos.org. If Portlnd can ask for Clackamas County to contribute to fixing the Sellwood Bridge because much of the bridge traffic originates in Clackamas County, then Washington County can expect Portland’s help in fixing Crash Corner.

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  • sw resident May 22, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I was on the bus heading to downtown on Capitol hwy this morning and saw the scene from the Bertha overpass at what must have been 15 minutes after the hit. Judging by the position of the bike and the car, I was astonished that the driver seemed to have been able to accomplish, (while driving 5 mph?!), the near impossible feat of hitting a cyclist who was traveling uphill. How the driver could not have seen the cyclist is beyond me – completely preventable.
    Time and again I see it (on my bike, on my moto, and in my car): so many automobile users who know how to operate their cars (gas pedal, brake pedal, steering wheel) but know very little about how to drive a car.
    No matter what your mode, ALWAYS assume no one sees you and that they are incompetent. And I’ll second Barbara Stedman on the absence of enforcement on this street – just for once I would like to see a police car on Capitol Hwy and on Terwilliger Blvd doing something more than using them as a thoroughfare.

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    • Todd Boulanger May 22, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      It is amazing on the face of it…during the daylight hitting an uphill slowly pedaling cyclist at ~5 mph after “stopping”…but it does happen on highway style ramp intersections.

      I know, as I was struck by a driver 11+ years ago on Mill Plain at I-5. The vehicle operator looked right through me [past me] as they tried to drive over me while they were looking far left for faster approaching motorized traffic. Lucky for me it was daylight, I was pedaling uphill slowly and they had a very low sports car hood so I was able to balance and stay on top of the hood versus under them.

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    • wsbob May 22, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      “…How the driver could not have seen the cyclist is beyond me – completely preventable. …” sw resident

      As numerous other people in comments here have noted, the intersection is extremely complicated.

      From the vantage point of the cited driver, the view to approaching bikes is fair. It’s the excessive number of other things to watch for, and the split second timing required to make a crossing of the highway from the stop sign that raises the chances of a mishap at this intersection, way above a reasonable level.

      A few years back, for a short while, I had a job that required me to make the same turn the person cited for this collision made. At the end of a long day, I dreaded having to make that turn. Thinking back, it wouldn’t have been much out of my way to take Terwilliger instead, which has a light at Beav-Hillsdale.

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  • J2 May 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    A million bucks says Nicole Poor didn’t STOP; just slowed down.

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    • mabsf May 22, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      No, I can believe that she stopped… I had several of those incidences with mostly women (not to be sexist) where they stop for the stop sign to obey the law, but don’t really look for cyclists… it’s like a reflex: Stop sign, brake, stop, go …but don’t really look!

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  • J-R May 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Once again the motorist is cited using the most innocuous citation possible. The same as used for cyclists who roll through the stop sign at Ladds Addition.

    My advice to the cyclist: keep a detailed log of all the aches, pains, sleeplessness, inconveniences until you are fully healed and get a good lawyer. Make the motorist pay in civil court since the criminal system won’t help you or any other cyclist.

    Prayers and good wishes to you and yours.

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  • VC May 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    I saw the aftermath as I drove towards Beaverton this morning. While that intersection is bad news all around, I believe the driver was also in a Toyota Prius. Judging from the MASSIVE blindspot in my Corolla that the side beam between the windshield and the driver’s window causes it would be very easy to miss a biker coming towards you. It’s not an excuse but I have to actively remember that I can’t see pedestrians crossing the street from the right angle.

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  • John I. May 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Just had a talk with my wife about all the dangerous intersections we pass through during our commutes. The Bertha Blvd/BHH intersection was at the top of the list. We both have had situations where people rush the stop sign that don’t wanna wait for a bicycle to pass in front of them. One person actually spinning out and fishtailing out into the intersection.

    The light at the intersection of Hillsdale Hwy & Capital Hwy is incredibly short. Countless times it changes before I can make it through to the other side (I’m riding the area between 9pm/10pm). I don’t even try to cross anymore if I come upon it while its green. I wait for it to cycle through to a fresh green and then continue. Has anyone else experienced this?

    This whole area needs work. I would like to request a sky bridge from Bertha over to Capital Hwy.

    Perhaps a tv campaign on how to share the road with bicycles. to raise awareness.

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  • John Lascurettes May 22, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    And the ever classic comment on the Koin site:

    What dumbas_ rides a bike on a busy street when pregnant, jeeze luweeze!!!

    I have no faith in half of humanity.

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  • Mercier531 May 22, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    So many accidents and so much grief (on both sides of these accidents). I have a short bike commute from the close-in east side into downtown and I can cite 3 or 4 intersections where I have had multiple close calls. (none of which were my fault). I am sure that all of you regular commuters can identify as many or more than that. Please, just be as careful as you can and assume that those in cars do NOT see you. I know it sucks but we have to be uber aware.

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  • JP May 22, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    I work at the intersection of Vermont and Bertha just down from the intersection with BHH and that whole block stretch is a mess. My window faces the intersection and it’s constant accidents and speeding drivers through there – so much so I started sending pictures of the accidents to the mayors office after I saw a gradeschooler get tagged by a car trying to beat the light. PDOT came out and looked at the intersection by my office but said the street systems were too old to update and it would have to wait for future budgets.

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  • Kevin Wagoner May 22, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    NF
    These freeway-style “intersections” encourage high-speed transitions from one road to the next, and do not encourage deliberate, aware, turning. This design is bad for bicyclists and pedestrians, and does not belong in urban areas.
    Recommended 12

    I could not agree more with statement. This design has no place in our city. It is not safe.

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  • Kevin Wagoner May 22, 2012 at 8:21 pm

    This design reminds me of the SW Barber & SW Natio intersection going toward town. Both intersections should be reworked immediately and the speeds in both areas should be lowered. Not addressing these kinds of dangerous designs is a mistake.

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  • dwainedibbly May 23, 2012 at 5:03 am

    I hope the victim & her unborn are ok. And I hope she sues the heck out of the driver and gets a good start on that college fund.

    I bet the driver didn’t stop. That’s why I’m use forward & rearward facing cameras on my bike. Juries love that stuff.

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  • Rob May 23, 2012 at 10:11 am

    I live in the area. Have to agree the Bertha-Capital- B-H Highway intersection is a mess for bikes, cars and peds. B-H Highway there has a speed limit of 30 and is a common spot for video speed traps Eastbound on B-H Highway because of the crossing at 25th for the school. The road has multifamily housing to Scholls Ferry and no sidewalks, it would be natural for a fully separated bike route and sidewalks as the traffic runs fast with the width of the road. It’s unfortunate the developers of all that housing were spared the expense of a sidewalk. It’s not only East County with that problem.

    Many people are confused making the turn from Bertha to Westbound B-H Highway. They have a dedicated lane to turn into on B-H Highway, so it is not necessary to look right when turning left. But that is counter intuitive. There is plenty of time and good sightlines to look left, which is where the bike was. But a driver unfamiliar with the intersection is unlikely to realize that.

    It would be a good candidate for a signal which would require an expensive intersection rebuild. There are alternate fully signalized routes for cars to avoid that turn though.

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  • Barbara Stedman May 23, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Beaverton-Hillsdale is on the city’s list this year for traffic calming and pedestrian/bike improvement as it is a high-crash corridor. They had the first community meeting a few months ago. So hopefully they will take this intersection into consideration as well.

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  • Joseph May 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    I live in this area and bike this intersection twice a day and drive it probably twice a week. I see one thing I really like (pretty smooth traffic, especially for cars).

    However, I also see a few things wrong:
    * The bus lane makes life worse because drivers get surprised and correct in unexpected ways
    * It is easy to miss the bikes or pedestrians as a driver especially in the green stripe travelling up the hill

    I wonder if it would be possible to install a ‘smart light’ that is green and only turns red for cars coming from or going to Bertha when pedestrians or bikes are approaching the green strip? This would be green most of the time but provide a right-of-way for the uphill bikes.

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  • Chris May 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    From living and commuting through this intersection for three years, I witnessed very few cars that ever stopped at the stop sign before turning onto Beverton-Hillsdale from Bertha.

    Also, this area is a nightmare for pedestrians as well. Hillsdale is a nice area to visit (e.g. BAKER AND SPICE – best scones ever), but there is nowhere for people to walk who live on Beaverton-Hillsdale.

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  • James May 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    What most drivers don’t realize is that they have a dedicated lane to go to and there is absolutely no need to look right for a gap in westbound traffic. It really is an easy and safe intersection if you know that little bit of information — all you need to do is stop and look left. The accident may have happened because the driver was focused on looking right (at a very sharp angle) looking for a gap, saw one, then gunned it. Better signage, such as a graphic showing the dedicated lane on the other side, would help the situation as well as allow for better traffic flow.

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    • Chris May 23, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      This behavior regularly puts pedestrians in danger. There is definitely a reason to look right. I’ve almost been run over many times due to people neglecting their responsibility as a driver to be aware on the road.

      PLEASE LOOK RIGHT!

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  • Rob May 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Very solid comments above. Barbara, is that issue being discussed by the SNWI transportation committee? Would love to get involved.

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  • Barbara Stedman May 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I guess that it is discussed at the SWNI meeting, but also by SW Trails (Don Baack, http://www.swtrail.org). They meet every last Thursday in the Watershed building (Bertha court). They do a lot of lobbying for the Red electric trail. PBOT also has a website on high-crash corridor mitigation of which BH is one of the projects:
    http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=54892

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  • Roger Averbeck May 23, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    FYI ,

    BH Hwy is being studied by PBOT this year as a designated high crash corridor. The existing conditions report is online:

    http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=54892&a=387203

    This intersection is noted in the 5 worst in the corridor (28 crashes between 2006 – 2009). Crash junction is in WA County, not included.

    SWNI Transportation Committee is engaged and monitoring this project and many others – ie BH Hwy is being considered for buffered bike lanes this summer when the roadway is restriped. This would require narrowing the outside travel lanes. Also, rapid flashing beacons will be installed later this year at the ped crossing at SW 62nd & BH Hwy.

    SWNI Transportation Committee meets every 3rd Monday, 7 – 9 pm in Room 29 of the Multnomah Arts Center on Capitol Hwy. Please join us!

    Roger Averbeck,
    SWNI Transportation

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  • Rob May 23, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Best wishes to the bicyclist injured for a healthy recovery and thanks to Bike Portland participants for solid information!

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  • Joseph May 23, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Traffic is nearly stopped. You look right, look left for car and then as you turn some bike comes in at 25mph and you don’t see them. Safe biking is part of the package. I synchronize with cars in intersections, slowing to their speed in intersections before passing through. Unfortunately not all do.

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