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Man cited for unlawful turn in harrowing North Portland collision

Posted by on July 9th, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Collision at N Fremont and Borthwick-5
Thankfully, this looks a lot worse than it was.
The man riding the bike was not seriously injured.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A collision yesterday at North Fremont and Borthwick has resulted in a citation for a man who turned his mini-van into the path of 26-year-old David Collins, who was cycling in the opposite direction. The collision was originally reported (to Twitter) as a possible fatality, so I immediately rode over to the scene from our downtown office to learn more. Thankfully, Collins only received minor road rash — despite he and his bike being hit and lodged underneath the mini-van.

According to Portland Police Officer Brian Hunzeker, Collins was biking east on Fremont, just before Borthwick (street view). The mini-van driver (in photo below) was headed the opposite direction on Fremont. At the intersection of Borthwick, the man driving the mini-van turned left and struck Collins and his bike with his front left bumper. When I arrived, the bike was completely underneath the van (Collins had already been taken away).

Collision at N Fremont and Borthwick-3
Collision at N Fremont and Borthwick-7
Collision at N Fremont and Borthwick-4
Officer Hunzeker taking notes while hearing from a witness.

Collision at N Fremont and Borthwick-9
View of the intersection from northwest corner of Fremont and Borthwick. The man operating the red van turned left to pull in front of the gold van.
Collision at N Fremont and Borthwick-8
The driver of the mini-van was not surprisingly a bit shook up by what had happened.

Officer Hunzeker said the mini-van driver made the left-turn because he saw his friend had stalled on the corner and he was going to pull up and give him a jumpstart. “I think he got target-locked on his friend,” is how Hunzeker described it. In other words, the mini-van operator saw his friend’s van and became fixated on his destination, without first adequately checking for other people on the road in the opposing lane. Officer Hunzeker also added that witnesses said Collins slowed his bike down prior to the crash and tried to make eye contact, but it never happened and he couldn’t maneuver out of the van driver’s way.

Collins’ injuries weren’t more severe because it was a relatively low-speed collision. Hunzeker said there was another reason Collins was also able to survive without major injuries despite ending up face-to-face with the van’s undercarriage: “He’s tall and thin so I think that really benefitted him today.” If Collins were a larger man, Hunzeker predicted, he would likely have been crushed and dragged.

The mini-van driver was cited for an unlawful turn.

This just goes to show, you can never assume someone in a car sees you. Even if they are just a few feet away and going slowly, you must make sure you have eye contact, have an exit strategy planned, and/or be able to make a panic-stop at the last minute. And if you’re driving, you must always clear the intersection of other road users — whether they’re in a car or on a bike — before making a turn.

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  • El Biciclero July 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    “…the man driving the mini-van turned left and struck Collins and his bike with his front left bummer.”

    Best typo of the year so far…I’d guess Collins was definitely bummed.

    But seriously, isn’t that a wrong-way turn in addition to failing to yield to oncoming traffic?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks for catching that typo. Fixed it!

      As for your question, I’m not sure. It seems like failure to yield; but perhaps the “unlawful turn” trumps that and the officers didn’t feel the need to add an additional charge.

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      • El Biciclero July 10, 2013 at 3:34 pm

        “…the officers didn’t feel the need to add an additional charge.”

        Of course not–hasn’t the poor driver suffered enough?

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  • CaptainKarma July 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    bummer, bumber, whichever; still a bummer, though ;-)

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  • encephalopath July 9, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    The left cross collision is almost impossible to avoid if the timing if wrong. The angle of posssible escape closes to nothing and you end up on the bumper or t-boning the passenger side of the vehicle.

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    • shirtsoff July 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      @encephalopath

      Absolutely. I thought that too while reading about keeping escape strategies in mind: A left turning car leaves almost no viable escape strategy possible at sufficient speeds.

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      • El Biciclero July 10, 2013 at 10:10 am

        It’s even more problematic when you throw in the confusion of wondering why a motorist is turning in front of you when it’s a wrong-way turn. Normally, the expectation should be that left-turning drivers yield to oncoming through traffic, but here the expectation should be that nobody is turning in that direction; this kind of situation can create a delay in reaction time because the rider isn’t sure what they’re reacting to.

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  • BURR July 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    Wow, a new excuse for hitting a cyclist:

    Motorist: “Officer, I was target-fixated on my destination and I *just didn’t see* the cyclist”

    PPD Traffic Officer Hunzeker: “well sh*t man, why didn’t you just say so? Here’s your $275 ticket for attempted murder, have a nice day.”

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    • Caleb July 9, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      The article doesn’t say the driver told the officer he was “target-fixated”, though, and it does not seem to me the officer was excusing the “target-fixation”, but instead just explaining what he thought happened.

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      • BURR July 10, 2013 at 4:43 pm

        No, you’re right, the motorist didn’t offer the excuse, the cop did. IMO that still doesn’t make it an acceptable defense, and the fact that this is the way traffic officers think is more than a bit disturbing.

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        • Caleb July 10, 2013 at 6:19 pm

          I’m under the impression you did not read my whole comment. Again, I don’t believe the officer offered “target-locked” as an excuse, but instead just as a description of the incident. Maybe he indeed described the incident that way to excuse the driver, but the article doesn’t give us information sufficient for that conclusion. I encourage you to keep your disturbance at bay until you have that sufficient information.

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          • BURR July 11, 2013 at 10:43 am

            “sufficient information” already exists – the long history of members of the PPD traffic patrol routinely downplaying motorists’ role or actions in crashes that cause injury to cyclists, and failing to issue citations accordingly.

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            • Caleb July 11, 2013 at 11:57 am

              Again I am under the impression you did not carefully read my comment. I said there was not sufficient information for “that conclusion”, and by “that conclusion” I referred to the conclusion that Brian Hunzeker, the officer who mentioned “target-locked”, offered the theory as an excuse.

              Unless you have evidence that Hunzeker was one of those members who routinely downplayed motorists’ roles or actions in crashes that cause injury to cyclists, and failed to issue citations accordingly, the long history of members of the PPD traffic patrol routinely downplaying motorists’ roles or actions in crashes that cause injury to cyclists, and failing to issue citations accordingly is potentially irrelevant to this specific case, and either way is not conclusive evidence that he indeed acted with such intent in this case.

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              • BURR July 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm

                what are you, an attorney?

                :rolleyes:

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                • Caleb July 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

                  That’s one way to quell a line of conversation.

                  I have neither a job nor even a four year degree, so no, I am not an attorney. If that’s how you care to characterize me, then how would you characterize yourself for implicating an officer based on a generalization?

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                • BURR July 11, 2013 at 3:28 pm

                  Sorry, but I am not worried about misportraying the police in this case (or others like it) in the least; their long history of (in)action on behalf of cyclists speaks for itself. If the PPD traffic squad wants to be portrayed in a more favorable light, they need to earn cyclists’ respect trust with their actions, which up until now have been far below par.

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        • dr2chase July 10, 2013 at 7:24 pm

          I’m very much in agreement with Caleb’s take on this; as an explanation for how this happened, “target-locked” is very probably the correct one, and might not be used to excuse a minimal punishment.

          An interesting question is what can be done to avoid target lock; there are the standard prescriptions of riding in ways that put you where the driver might be looking and (my choice) daytime running lights, but what else? For example, does any state or country require that someone come to a full stop before turning left?

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  • Todd Hudson July 9, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    I ride my bicycle with the same caution that a motorcyclist does on the highway: Know what’s around you at all times and watch your mirror at all times. Wayyyy to many people in automobiles make ADHD impulse maneuvers, with the only consequences being cited for “illegal left turn.”

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  • SilkySlim July 9, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    While it makes finding dress shirts difficult, score one for us guys in the tall and thin demographic.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • Reza July 9, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      Indeed, although it’s a lot of $$$ to drop at the tailor’s.

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    • q`Tzal July 9, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      I don’t know… you skinny guys are harder to see.
      Not like big, tall, overweight riders like myself.
      At the very least I present a larger visual distraction, perhaps even pause in the mind of drivers “wow, I’ll definitely have body damage if I hit that guy”.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

  • PNP July 9, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Pet peeve of the day: why are those rolling storage units called “mini” vans?

    Anyway, I’m glad the cyclist wasn’t hurt any worse than he was. I hope the driver’s insurance will pay for his bike.

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    • Psyfalcon July 9, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      They are much smaller than full sized vans based on truck frames.

      That particular van is an interesting anomaly, bigger than all its competitors but still smaller than the full sized vans from the same company.

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      • Zach July 9, 2013 at 9:40 pm

        Because it’s based on a truck frame, albeit from a compact trunk. So was the Ford Aerostar. It took until around ten years ago for the entire industry to settle on the FWD car-based design that Chrysler came up with 30 years ago.

        (Y’all don’t care? The minivan is the safest and most efficient motor vehicle for carrying a whole bunch of stuff. Minivans get trucks off the road.)

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        • AndyC of Linnton July 10, 2013 at 9:29 am

          Hey! We get all of our equipment to shows in town with the old Astro . This keeps the Dodge Ram extended cargo van “at home” for tours across the country. That thing is a behemoth and crazy to drive through the city. The Astro is much more maneuverable through the city, and even when full to the gills with stuff, it’s easier to see what’s around us on the streets. Also, it makes parking and loading at the venue that much easier. That’s my little defense of the mini-van. Of course, if we had the resources, we’d love to schlep all this crap across town by cargo bikes or something ….but we’re still waiting on that magical record contract to afford that.

          Glad to know the person on a bike wasn’t injured too badly. Un-glad to know that this type of collision is all too common on our roads.

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        • Reza July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am

          Minivan? Please…Those have been on the decline for years in favor of crossovers, which are merely station wagons with AWD and extended ground clearance. This includes the beloved-in-PDX Subaru Outback. Now even regular SUVs are moving away from body-on-frame towards unibody designs. Nominal off-road capabilities, mediocre towing capacity, but you sure sit up high!

          I’d take a station wagon over any of the above. You might even be able to shift your own gears with one. Too bad nobody buys them because manufacturers seem to keep most of their wagons overseas…even Volvo and Subaru killed their wagons a few years ago.

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  • 9watts July 9, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Anyone else bothered by this framing of the issue?
    Hunzeker said there was another reason Collins was also able to survive without major injuries despite ending up face-to-face with the van’s undercarriage: “He’s tall and thin so I think that really benefitted him today.” If Collins were a larger man, Hunzeker predicted, he would likely have been crushed and dragged.

    The mini-van driver was cited for an unlawful turn.

    ‘that really benefited him today?!’
    Excuse me?
    While this is somewhat interesting, in light of the officer’s trivial-sounding citation, I find it hard to listen to speculation from the officer that focuses on the victim’s good fortune at being slim. Why are we invited to focus on his physique at all? Why such a casual slap on the wrist for the offender if as he implies the victim might easily have been dead if he were built differently?

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  • Sunny July 9, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    “Do you here somethin’? No man, just floor it and the sound will go away.”

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  • Craig Harlow July 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    I absolutely HATE riding on Fremont between Mississippi and NE 7th Ave. I either ride on sidewalks for short stretches where needed (also full of hazards, but less deadly ones), or else ride one of the parallel E-W streets.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Reza July 9, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Amen Craig, sounds like the exact same problem we have nearby at Skidmore…

      And Prescott…

      And Alberta…

      And Killingsworth…

      And Ainsworth…

      And…

      Recommended Thumb up 5

    • Nick Fox July 9, 2013 at 8:55 pm

      I use Shaver to get between Mississippi and my place in NE. Quiet street, light at MLK; a little out of the way, but much less stressful.

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  • Adonia July 9, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Is there some resource for finding out the fate of injured cyclists in Portland? On Saturday an ambulance carried away a man from right outside my house after he’d crashed into the windshield of a car whose driver had cut too sharply as he turned left onto my street. I can still see the guy’s blood outside, but I don’t know how to find out if he’s ok. It never showed up on the police blotter (second question: does that mean a report wasn’t filed?).

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 9, 2013 at 5:47 pm

      Hi Adonia,

      No. There isn’t a specific resource for that. Your best bet is to call the hospital and inquire. If a collision doesn’t show up on the police blotter, it usually means the public information officer doesn’t deem it particularly newsworthy. In the case of people and vehicles colliding with each other, not every one of them deserves a police statement. That being said, the police will issue a statement if they hear from enough people in the news media about a particular case. If you tell me where and when it happened I can ask for the basics and the PPB PIO will respond to me. You can email me at jonathan@bikeportland.org.

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      • Adonia July 9, 2013 at 5:50 pm

        Thanks! Witnessing this made me realize that I need to get better educated about what is supposed to happen when police respond to crashes.

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      • q`Tzal July 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm

        Under what conditions will hospital staff be allowed to ignore HIPPA privacy laws and tell the general public details about non family members?

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        • pat h July 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm

          General condition (Stable, critical, etc.) is public information usual release by hospitals if you have the patient’s name. Read your privacy notice from the hospital. This is called directory information is is usual opt-out.

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          • q`Tzal July 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm

            And now we know…

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      • Justin Gast July 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm

        This time last year, on my way to work, a car ran the stop sign at NW Couch and NW Broadway, tagging me at about 15 MPH. Even with the driver admitting guilt to the officer, the officer didn’t find it important enough to even cite the driver.

        Then, the officer (I’ll leave his name out of this) had the gall to ask me “Do you need me to hang around as you wait for the ambulance to check you out? My shift is over and I’d really like to go home.” WTF? Really?

        Unfortunately, there are times where I think cops could care less what happens to cyclists.

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  • dwainedibbly July 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Careless driving, maybe? Yeah, the motorist wasn’t intentionally being reckless, but come on! If there aren’t consequences of bad behavior, it will never change.

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  • peejay July 9, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    “Driver was cited for __________ CAUSING INJURY, which results in 10x penalty and a minimum 6 month suspended license…”

    I can dream, can’t I?

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • dr2chase July 10, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      Nah, road rash isn’t counted as an injury unless it’s prevented by a helmet.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Kathy July 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    I had almost the exact same kind of collision two and a half months ago. (I live in Syracuse, NY, so street names probably wouldn’t be helpful.) Luckily, the driver stopped before running over me. He hadn’t seen me at all. It turned out that he didn’t have so much as a learners permit and was borrowing the car. My injuries were minor and I was able to resume riding by the time my bike was repaired. There was no mention of my incident anywhere, which made me wonder how many times bicyclists and pedestrians are hit without anyone hearing about it.

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  • Zach July 9, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Criminal law generally doesn’t apply to negligent behavior unless it leads to death, starving kids, or something equally dramatic. Negligence is dealt with through the civil system.

    Liability insurance is a great thing, but it does insulate bad drivers from the consequences of their actions. Perhaps a good solution would be to add a substantial extra fine ($1000?) when a traffic violation results in a significant injury.

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  • lyle w. July 9, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    I don’t know what it is about Astro Vans and the people that tend to drive them, or box-vans like this in particular, but I do know that whenever one is in my vicinity when I’m biking, I’m giving them extra special attention in my mind and making sure I know exactly where they are and what they’re doing.

    Get well soon.

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    • q`Tzal July 10, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      Hey! Don’t knock these big ugly vans.
      Given the gradual automation of all jobs and reduction in income you can see these are just mobile apartments.
      Some of them have more room than the apartments on Blade Runner or Fifth Element and you can park them AT your current temporary part time employer.
      :(

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Doug Reid July 10, 2013 at 7:24 am

    I had a crash Monday morning secondary to a motorist backing out of a driveway directly in front of me on SW Gibbs above OHSU. Fortunately I only received sore muscles, bruises, road rash and a little damage to my pride. I was able to avoid the car by swerving sharply but that put me into a skid that I couldn’t recover from. This was another instance where the mototist was focussed on a destination rather than watching out for traffic. The really frustrating thing for me is that the driver feels she was not at fault because we didn’t collide and is unwilling to pay for the damage to my bike. I was riding near the right hand side of the street as the bicycling rules require but if I had been in the center of my lane I could probably have safely avoided the whole mess. What’s the right thing to do in situations like this?

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    • pat h July 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      Get the driver’s info and file a claim with the driver’s insurance for damages. Get a lawyer if you can’t do this yourself.

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      • Kathy July 10, 2013 at 1:27 pm

        After I was hit, my insurance company helped me with this. The car owner (not the driver who hit me) denied that her car was involved! It may have helped that we both had the same insurance company. BTW, since, because of no-fault insurance, my insurance covered my medical bills, I asked my insurance adjuster what bicyclists do who don’t have auto insurance. She couldn’t give me a very good answer.

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    • Sunny July 10, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Even if the driver doesn’t give you her insurance info, the DMV will have it on file as insurance companies notify DMVs.

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      • Kathy July 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm

        Always call the police.They record insurance information on their report, in case–as in my case–the driver can’t or won’t produce an insurance card and the driver does not use insurance to repair their vehicle.

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    • wsbob July 11, 2013 at 10:15 am

      The street can be difficult to exit onto from driveways. Some people know this, and operate their vehicle accordingly. The manner in which the person driving was backing out of the driveway is relevant; what speed, and whether the vehicle paused at the end of the driveway before entering the street.

      Street traffic has the right of way over people entering the street from driveways, but basic defensive road use involves being aware of one’s visibility to other road users.

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  • matthew cruz July 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Incedibly thankful that my roommate and close friend is alive and safe. This was a terrifying day for all of us who know and work with him.

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  • ryan carey July 11, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I’m not sure that skin grafts would be considered minor, especially since your skin is the largest organ that you have and to regenerate it takes a considerable amount of time. Im glad he’s improving though!

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  • Caleb July 11, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    BURRSorry, but I am not worried about misportraying the police in this case (or others like it) in the least; their long history of (in)action on behalf of cyclists speaks for itself. If the PPD traffic squad wants to be portrayed in a more favorable light, they need to earn cyclists’ respect trust with their actions, which up until now have been far below par.

    Nothing I have said has been about misportraying the police, but instead has been only about misportraying an individual policeman. We can acknowledge we don’t know how Hunzeker thinks or feels about cyclists and drivers in general, and thus that we don’t know he was/wasn’t offering an excuse on behalf of the driver, while still keeping in mind that many police officers in the past have indeed not held accountable drivers who have harmed cyclists in collisions.

    I’m not encouraging you to portray anybody in a favorable light, but instead am only encouraging you to portray anyone accurately regardless of how much or little you respect and/or trust him/her/it. I find it ironic you are unwilling to do that given your first comment in this thread – if you want to discourage excuses, acting without integrity for accurate portrayals might hinder your efforts.

    For example, there might be people reading your comment and thinking, “If BURR deliberately neglects accurately portraying policemen, why should I accurately portray cyclists?”.

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