Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on October 23rd, 2013 at 11:46 am
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
Around 8:15 this morning, two people collided at the intersection of NW Broadway and Hoyt. According to a witness who was riding a bike behind the collision, someone driving a car southbound on Broadway, turned right onto Hoyt and hit a bike rider who was going in the same direction. Ambulance and police responded to the scene and the bike rider was taken to the hospital.
Our witness says it happened during a green light and the person in the car "appeared to be yielding to through-bicyclists, then seemed to suddenly turn." The witness also added that foggy windows in the car might have been a factor. We're awaiting more details from the Portland Police about the person's condition and any other information about the collision.
It's worth noting that this is a very busy intersection for bicycling and that the right-hook potential has been well known by the Portland Bureau of Transportation since at least 2007. Back then, they put this intersection at the top of their list to receive the city's first batch of bike boxes. (Interestingly, this is one of the only bike boxes that isn't colored green. This is because the FHWA wanted PBOT to test whether or not the color made it safer. As we shared back in 2008, it seems like a no-brainer that color is key; but studies and that FHWA experiment have been inconclusive so it remains uncolored.)
But we all know that bike boxes are mostly intended to be effective only during red light situations. When the light is green, people in cars are allowed to ignore them and the intersection is treated like any other place with a bike lane to the right of right-turning auto traffic (which many people think is an inherently unsafe design). What makes this intersection tricky is that there is a lot of bicycle traffic going straight and a lot of auto traffic turning right. And since it's at the bottom of a hill, bike speeds tend to be very high. This means people in cars might have trouble estimating the time it takes for the bike rider to arrive in their path.
Back in October 2012, PBOT expressed concerns about the safety risks at intersections with a combination of high bicycle speeds and a bike box. At SW 3rd and Madison, one of four intersections they noticed an increase in right-hooks following installation of a bike box, they implemented additional measures to help prevent right-hooks. However, even after a major redesign of this segment of Broadway back in July, the basic design of this particular corner was left unchanged. (Likely due to the fact that crash data didn't show an uptick here. However, we all know bicycle collisions are vastly under-reported.)
So now, we're left with an intersection that still has safety issues. As we pointed out on several occasions earlier this year, Broadway is a very busy bike route and it deserves the very best bike facility we can muster. We've also been hearing more and more of late that many families with kids on bikes pass through this intersection en route to the Emerson School (105 NW Park) every morning.
Here are a few ideas that might make this intersection better:
- PBOT should seriously consider installing a bicycle-only signal phase. This seems warranted given the amount of bike traffic and the safety issues.
- People on bikes could slow down a bit and ride at a safer speed — especially when people are driving nearby.
- PBOT should consider additional pavement markings, caution signage, and/or other traffic calming devices.
Do you ride through this intersection? What do you think about it? Do you have ideas on how it could be safer?
UPDATE, 10/24 at 9:30 am: The man hit is a parent at The Emerson School which is just a few blocks away at NW Park and Couch. He broke three ribs according to people who know him. We have also heard back from the PPB. Here's what they say about the collision:
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Driver was making a right hand turn to go westbound on Hoyt from Broadway. Driver yielded to 2 bicyclists before making his turn but did not see the cyclist he collided with. The cyclist suffered what appeared to be minor injuries after he went over the handlebars. The driver was very remorseful, as he himself is an avid cyclist.