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Lawsuit filed against city for streetcar tracks deemed ‘unsafe for bicyclists’

Posted by on May 14th, 2014 at 12:00 pm

NW Lovejoy streetcar-1
Track warning sign just a few yards from
where the crash happened.
(*Note that the sign wasn’t there in May 2012.)
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregonian reported last week that a Portland woman named Leslie Kay has filed a lawsuit against the City of Portland after she crashed her bicycle on streetcar tracks. She suffered a bad injury to her foot and is suing the City for $49,999. The incident happened back in May 2012 on NW Lovejoy just west of 13th (map).

According to The Oregonian, the lawsuit, “faults the city for the bicycle path’s design; for building streetcar rail lines that are “placed in a way that make them unsafe for bicyclist(s),” and for “creating a bicycle path design that did not look out for the safety of the bicyclist nor the pedestrians…”

Here’s more from The Oregonian about how the crash happened:

NW Lovejoy streetcar-4
Bike lane used to route onto the sidewalk.

“… she was riding her bicycle along Northwest Lovejoy Street in the Pearl District. As she approached Northwest 13th Avenue, she encountered a bicycle lane that directed bicycle traffic off of the road and into a streetcar shelter and waiting area, where a crowd of people were standing.

“Because the crowd of people in the shelter blocked the bicycle path, (Kay) was forced to remain on the street of N.W. Lovejoy,” reads the suit, filed Friday in Multnomah County Circuit Court. “(Kay) proceeded slowly over the Portland Streetcar rail lines when the bicycle front tire got caught in the rail.”

As regular readers know, the impact these streetcar tracks in the Pearl District have had on bicycle riding is a topic we’ve covered many times in the past. While countless people have crashed on these tracks over the years, this lawsuit is the first we’ve heard of.

It’s important to note that the City of Portland actually decommissioned the bike lane on NW Lovejoy in late 2010 as part of the eastside loop project. Prior to that, Lovejoy was a main bicycling thoroughfare through northwest Portland because it connects directly to the Broadway Bridge. Also worth remembering is that even when it did officially exist, the bike lane between 13th and 12th (where Kay’s incident occurred) was widely unpopular because it routed people up onto the sidewalk directly through a streetcar stop.

Here’s how the bike lane in this location looked prior to November 2010…

Conditions on Lovejoy-3

Here’s how it looks after the bike lane was removed…

NW Lovejoy streetcar-2-2

And in this photo, the green arrow shows where Kay says she was forced to ride…

It was a very rare move to remove a key bike lane on such a primary street in the bike network and it has had consequences. Not only was a direct connection to the bridge removed, but many people continue to use Lovejoy despite its increased safety risks. We raised these issues via the strong concerns of a local resident back in August 2011.

After PBOT decommissioned the Lovejoy bikeway, it took a long time for them to add new signage warning riders about the risks of using the street. They now direct east-west bicycle traffic to NW Johnson instead (or NW Marshall to the north).

Even though there are clear and present safety issues with PBOT’s streetcar track designs — a fact they themselves now acknowledge — this will likely be a very tough case for Ms. Kay to win. The case will likely hinge on whether or not the design of NW Lovejoy is up to current engineering standards.

A recent lawsuit in Seattle might be a good comparison. In April 2012 a judge ruled the City of Seattle was not liable for a bicycle rider’s crash on streetcar tracks. “The legal question was whether we fell short of any engineering standard in designing a road with a streetcar,” said an attorney for the city, “The judge concluded we did not.”

We plan to follow this case closely. Stay tuned for updates.

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Comments
  • Chris I May 14, 2014 at 12:03 pm

    She’s going to lose.

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    • pixelgate May 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      It’d be a shame if she lost. This streetcar shelter gets very busy and the ‘bike path’ is completely ignored by everyone waiting for the train. When you’re going down Lovejoy (it’s downhill and you can get a good amount of speed) and then suddenly you’re greeted with two options: slam into a crowd of people, or try to slip through the street car track and the (very high) curb, most people will go for the curb.

      Anyone painting this as a frivolous lawsuit is being incredibly disingenuous about the reality of this portion of bike lane. The city has known this area was a problem for a long time and yet nothing has been done. Oh wait, something has, the paint indicating the street car shelter doubles as a bike lane path has been all but completely worn off on the sidewalk.

      Hopefully 50k teaches the city a lesson. Hope she wins.

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      • davemess May 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm

        I think many (and the article) are pointing out that it’s not a bike lane anymore.

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      • Chris I May 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm

        You forgot option 3: slow down.

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  • PJ May 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Because stopping and making an assessment of a dangerous situation is out of the question? No one forced her to take that route. When I come across a dangerous situation in the road I like to stop and deal with it. Another good idea for next time would be riding up on the ramp and saying “excuse me.” It works.

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    • Craig Collins May 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      No, she was FORCED! Forced to take a route beyond her skill level as a cyclist, forced to be impatient, PBOT designed those rails not for streetcar wheels, but to destroy the lives of Portland cyclists so they would be forced back into their cars and paying gas taxes again.

      I wonder how much of an impact this BS litigious attitude has on PBOT avoiding cycletrack construction altogether. ie. If we build it, they will crash and then they will sue.

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  • Chris Smith May 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    It’s interesting to me that this particular stop is the first lawsuit test case. The ‘squeezed between rail and platform’ happens in many locations on 10th, 11th and elsewhere. It’s not unique to this location.

    In any event I’m sorry she (and many other folks) have been injured on tracks and I’m glad the City is pursuing a grant to to look at better approaches to safety.

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  • Buzz Aldrin May 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    Lawsuits like this are the only way the streetcar people will even begin paying attention to the negative impacts of their projects on cyclists.

    FWIW I would have been riding between the two rails, and not between the outside rail and the curb.

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    • Reza May 14, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      I would ride in the left lane.

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      • Buzz Aldrin May 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm

        or this.

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      • are May 14, 2014 at 5:00 pm

        thanks, reza, saved me the trouble of posting the same.

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    • Dan Morrison May 18, 2014 at 10:12 am

      I’d pick a different street because I’m not a **personal insult deleted by moderator**.

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      • are May 18, 2014 at 4:42 pm

        does anybody monitor these comments?

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  • Jon May 14, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    If the bike lane was decommissioned in 2010 how could she have been directed onto the street car waiting area in 2012?

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    • Reza May 14, 2014 at 12:27 pm

      Because the ramp is there, they haven’t blocked it off or replaced the curb.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 14, 2014 at 12:28 pm

      That’s a big issue with this case IMO. And it’s something that The Oregonian got wrong in their reporting. There isn’t technically a bike lane in this location anymore, because PBOT took it out in 2010. This fact will make it harder for Kay and her lawyer to make their case.

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      • Todd Boulanger May 15, 2014 at 10:57 am

        There will be many questions raised during this lawsuit and its process of settlement etc…in “decommissioning” this bikeway facility: did the City go far enough in the “reengineering” [removing the stencilling / signage or was more required: removing the bike ramp or "closing it" as when traffic engineers close a a crosswalk leg, etc.], what was the responsibility of the bicyclist, etc.

        This was a challenging design location for the era of bikeways in Portland…[its probably older than many Pearl cyclists have been cycling in the city and given this was one of the first "modern" streetcar projects in the US].

        The routing of a bike lane/ track to the rear of a transit platform is a common routing treatment in the Netherlands and other bike friendly cities in N. Europe…though I cannot at this time remember experiencing one set up on a downhill slope with a similar grade and with steep ramps.

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        • Todd Boulanger May 15, 2014 at 7:41 pm

          The choice of novice cyclists to continue riding along the curb line is (and was) common since the west side streetcar line was established. I have always been surprised at how many local riders cannot or will not take the lane in the middle of the tracks. It is much more doable in the slower speeds and single traffic lane of the west side (phase 1)…vs. the east side (phases 2 and >) streetcar environment is a very different animal.

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      • Paul Manson May 16, 2014 at 2:35 pm

        That same configuration of a lane and shelter is on SW 5th at Mill St.

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    • MaxD May 14, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      the route was still on a lot of maps?

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    • Spiffy May 14, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      correct, she wasn’t directed anywhere… she was riding in the street, and continued riding in the street…

      in her mind she wanted to use the ramp and sidewalk, but she decided not to… she continued on the street…

      I don’t know how long she was riding down the street but the streetcar tracks were there the entire time…

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  • zuckerdog May 14, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Why is the suit for $49,999? Are there different thresholds for the size of claims? Regardless, it seems very American.

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    • Spiffy May 14, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      Kay is seeking $3,559 in medical expenses, $1,676 in personal expenses and more than $44,000 for her pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

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      • Spiffy May 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm

        so it seems that she’s actually suing for $49,235…

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    • Scott Kocher May 14, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      I know nothing about this particular case, but claims under $50,000 go to arbitration, which is generally a less expensive venue for a victim to present a case. For example, requirements for medical expert witnesses to testify live are relaxed. However, if the other side doesn’t like the result, they can appeal from the arbitrator’s ruling and ask for a trial “de novo.”

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  • Leilani May 14, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    I’ve wrecked along this street at a different place along the tracks and broke my rib and was nearly ran over. There’s no easy way to avoid riding along the tracks in this particular area. The “bike lane” is ridiculous and riding in the left lane is just as dangerous because you can’t cross the bridge in that lane so you’re forced to cross lanes.

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    • Chris I May 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      There is no marked bike lane in this section. If you choose to take Lovejoy eastbound, you should take the lane.

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    • Reza May 14, 2014 at 6:34 pm

      I agree that getting to the Lovejoy ramp bike lane from the left lane is cumbersome at best. It’s best to transition to the bike lane right as you’re crossing 9th Avenue. Negotiate a gap in traffic and cross the tracks as perpendicular as possible to avoid getting stuck.

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  • Babygorilla May 14, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    zuckerdog
    Why is the suit for $49,999? Are there different thresholds for the size of claims? Regardless, it seems very American.
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    Its so that the case qualifies for the court’s mandatory arbitration program and also has a lower filing fee (Oregon court filing fees depend on the amount of damages sought)

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  • Bike-Max-Bike May 14, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Lawsuits are the only thing left to stop the City from intentionally harming cyclists. Every time I ride around the tracks and their dangers I wonder what if the city installed similar dangers for drivers? How long would that be tolerated? If you’re on a bike you are a second class citizen in PDX.

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    • Chris I May 14, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      Train tracks existed in Portland before bikes and cars were here. If the city is trying to “intentionally harm” cyclists, they apparently had amazing foresight over 100 years ago when they first started allowing train tracks in the city.

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      • Mij May 14, 2014 at 1:38 pm

        Weird, Bike-Max-Bike should already be comfortable in his position that “Bikes don’t belong everywhere” (http://bikeportland.org/2014/05/13/something-has-gone-wrong-in-portland-105851)

        Bikes don’t belong there so you shouldn’t want to be able to ride there. There’s plenty of other streets. See, it’s so simple.

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      • Alan 1.0 May 14, 2014 at 2:25 pm

        You think train tracks arrived before walking machines, velocipedes or high wheelers? That would surprise me more than Portland’s recent political machine’s ignoring of trackless trolleys.

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        • GlowBoy May 14, 2014 at 5:06 pm

          Well, the first really practical bicycle as we know it – that is, the safety bicycle with equal sized wheels, chain drive and pneumatic tires – arrived about 1890. So yes, the rails were here first.

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          • Alan 1.0 May 14, 2014 at 7:57 pm

            Definitions! So, pushing back the other way, railed transit was on Portland streets in 1872. Have we learned nothing in 142 years? :-)

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            • davemess May 15, 2014 at 7:55 am

              Yes, many of of us have learned to be really cautious around tracks.

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              • Alan 1.0 May 16, 2014 at 2:04 pm

                Hah! Well said, sir, and true enough. Still, I hold that institutional memory is (should be) greater than individual experience (or lack thereof) and that the city has overlooked trackless systems to the detriment of the overall safety of all street users, and has promoted tracked systems with insufficient regard for bike usage.

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    • Reza May 14, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      Drivers have the misfortune of having to drive on slippery rails when it’s wet out.

      You’ve convinced me. Clearly we should rip the tracks out.

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  • David May 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Outside of the streetcar issues, this article just reminds me of how pathetic bike access to our bridges is. The Morrison Bridge is a perfect example–we now have great access on the bridge, but it’s a huge pain to actually get on the bridge from the west side during rush hour. Same with the Broadway Bridge, Hawthorne Bridge (right hook city), etc.

    Ugh.

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    • Reza May 14, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      What? Accessing the bridge from the west side it’s fine, just take Alder. Riding west INTO downtown is the most annoying part.

      And there’s the east side which literally connects to nothing.

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  • Austin May 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Johnson is a pretty great alternative to Lovejoy. A couple extra blocks out of the way, but at least there aren’t tracks that jump in the way. Also, sharrows everywhere. And the traffic is slower. And bikes are everywhere.

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    • Reza May 14, 2014 at 6:44 pm

      The cut-through drivers are everywhere as well.

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  • Spiffy May 14, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I’ve been in that little narrow strip between the curb and tracks many times… although I usually get out of it and into the middle of the lane asap… traffic is never going over 20 mph so I never feel like I’m holding people up, especially since they have another lane to use…

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  • q`Tzal May 14, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    The real equity question is:
    “Have similar lawsuits by automobile drivers against any level DOT (federal, state, municipal) ever ruled in favor of the driver on the grounds that driver ign0rance & inattention is trumped by road system design failures?”

    I can’t recall any lawsuits like that but I distinctly remember being 6-7 years old and being stunned at adult $tupidity in regards to some ol` lady dumping hot coffee on her lap when she should have been driving safely instead.

    On on hand I feel like it is the responsibility of every road user to wake the f up, pay attention to their surroundings and proceed safely OR NOT AT ALL. That last little bit applies particularly to when my trucking dispatcher tries to send me to unload somewhere it is obviously impossible to get a 53′ trailer in & out of without damaging property.

    On the other hand it seems like the level of vigilance and situational awareness needed to consistently not get hit borders on clinical paranoia. When this is compounded upon a bikeway afterthought system that too often routes bikes in illogical, irrational and unpredictable ways is it little wonder if it appears to be a bicycle eating pitcher plant designed specifically to injure and kill.

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    • Chris I May 14, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      Regarding the coffee incident:
      http://www.hotcoffeethemovie.com/Default.asp

      Worth watching.

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    • Anthony May 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm

      q`Tzal
      I can’t recall any lawsuits like that but I distinctly remember being 6-7 years old and being stunned at adult $tupidity in regards to some ol` lady dumping hot coffee on her lap when she should have been driving safely instead.

      Yeah, not to get off-topic, but this tired and uninformed anecdote that still regularly gets trotted out always bugs me, so:

      A. the car was parked, B. she was the passenger, C. the coffee was served at higher-than-recommended/scalding temperatures and McD’s had had hundreds of complaints about it in the years leading up to the incident, D. the woman sustained horrific third-degree burns all over her crotch and buttocks, E. they wrote to McD’s multiple times seeking only the $ to cover the cost of her hospital bills, but the company refused, which led to them litigating

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      • q`Tzal May 14, 2014 at 3:58 pm

        Common sense and legal viability of a court case are natural enemies.

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      • GlowBoy May 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm

        Don’t forget F. She never collected a dime.

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  • Scott Kocher May 14, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    What a shame Portland went with streetcars with steel wheels in tracks instead of rubber wheels on concrete like in some other cities.

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    • Chris I May 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      We also have these machines you describe. I believe they are called “busses”. Trimet has over 600 of them.

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      • GlowBoy May 14, 2014 at 5:11 pm

        Too bad Portland never adopted the “trackless trolleys” (i.e., electric buses powered by overhead wires) found all over Seattle. You get the route-permanence and pollution-free operation of a train, with much lower development costs, and much less noise than either trains or diesel buses.

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        • Chris I May 15, 2014 at 8:12 am

          Portland had trolley busses for several decades, but RCT worked to replace them in 1950s to avoid regulations stipulated by the PUC.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_City_Transit#Trolley_bus_service

          It’s a shame, as the are zero-point-emission vehicles. There was a period in this country where anything that didn’t run on gas/diesel was considered “outdated”. The only reason cities like SF and Seattle still have trolley busses is due to topography. The diesel busses of the time could not climb the hills.

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        • dr2chase May 15, 2014 at 11:10 am

          I think there’s an issue of road wear It’s not intuitive, but a city bus is heck on the road because it has so few wheels and is relatively heavy. (This is if you use the relatively conservative cubic-in-wheel load wear estimate, not the older fourth-power rule).

          On-the-other-hand, the same upfront costs of laying rail could instead be applied to building an extra-strong road.

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        • Jane May 16, 2014 at 9:11 am

          Seattle is currently laying rail for trolleys throughout its main commercial districts. I ride around and over it all day without eating street because I know what I’m doing.

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  • Bald One May 14, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Issues of peds waiting around and walking across cycle paths near light rail and street car stops will continue to be a growing problem for cyclists when new Orange line and Tilikum bridgehead routings come on line next year. Can’t wait! SE 11th/12th and Clinton; SE water Ave; OMSI Bridgehead; OHSU Bridgehead. Add a complicated mix of new signage and tracks in street for extra fun. Did I mention all the buses they will also route through here? It will be (nearly) car-free bliss.

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  • Anthony May 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    q`Tzal
    I can’t recall any lawsuits like that but I distinctly remember being 6-7 years old and being stunned at adult $tupidity in regards to some ol` lady dumping hot coffee on her lap when she should have been driving safely instead.

    Yeah, not to get off-topic, but this tired and uninformed anecdote that still regularly gets trotted out always bugs me, so:

    A. the car was parked, B. she was the passenger, C. the coffee was served at higher-than-recommended/scalding temperatures and McD’s had had hundreds of complaints about it in the years leading up to the incident, D. the woman sustained horrific third-degree burns all over her crotch and buttocks, E. they wrote to McD’s multiple times seeking only the $ to cover the cost of her hospital bills, but the company refused, which led to them litigating

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  • Brad May 14, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Lovely! Just another justification for an already less than friendly council to see cyclists as nothing but expensive trouble and vote accordingly.

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    • Buzz May 14, 2014 at 11:44 pm

      good example of blaming the victim… several more follow your post, congrats!

      :rolleyes:

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      • davemess May 15, 2014 at 7:56 am

        Sometimes victims make mistakes though.

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  • Carter May 14, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    The city cannot make the streets idiot-proof no matter how hard they try. If there are streetcar tracks in the right lane, I ride in the left lane.

    If I found myself in her position, I would stop; and if I tried to ride between the rail and the curb I would do it extremely carefully; and if I did so and slipped into the flangeway and fell, I would blame myself for taking a foolish chance.

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  • i ride my bike May 14, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    They did accommodate cyclists with the cycle track behind the stop. She chose not to use it and made a stupid careless decision.

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    • Carnac May 14, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      Agree. I ride in this area all the time.

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  • dwainedibbly May 14, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    There is a similar streetcar stop still set up like the one in question here. It’s at SW 5th & Montgomery(?) and serves the NS line, southbound.

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  • John Liu May 14, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Should one expect to be able to ride everywhere without possessing city riding skills or good judgement?

    I ride that road to the bridge 1-2X week. It does require attentiveness. That’s riding in the city. There are other routes with no streetcar tracks.

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    • dr2chase May 15, 2014 at 11:11 am

      Yes. That’s the standard we set for cars and pedestrians.

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      • John Liu May 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm

        Drivers take classes, training, and have to show competence in a test before they get a license. We (I, at least) scoff at many drivers’ skills but the truth is, every driver on the road has far more formal training in driving than most city cyclists have in riding.

        Pedestrians have to be attentive, not step out in front of buses, and avoid walking while spaced out and tripping over curbs.

        So I don’t consider it a problem that city cyclists have to have some basic skills and attentiveness as well. Falling on the streetcar tracks as you ride is the equivalent of tripping over a curb as you walk. You know the tracks are there, they are open and obvious, you chose that road and that lane, you made the decision to ride over tracks, how can you really blame anyone else for your fall?

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        • dr2chase May 15, 2014 at 5:37 pm

          I don’t think that we construct roads with any embedded hazards for cars comparable to railroad/streetcar tracks for bicycles. It’s as if a road were constructed with refrigeration and water spray, to ensure that it had a coating of wet ice at all times. “Drivers, be careful, icy road (by design!) ahead”.

          Instead we get national standards for striping and width and construction, and breakaway signs, and guardrails and collapsable buffers, and we spent a hunk of money to plow and de-ice roads where they are made slippery.

          That said, I’m a huge fan of fat tires, so that I don’t have to spend time worrying about this sort of road hazard.

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          • davemess May 16, 2014 at 7:13 am

            But the analogy to curbs for pedestrians is completely similar to tracks for bikes.

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            • El Biciclero May 16, 2014 at 10:03 am

              Only if we constrain pedestrians to walk on the curb like a balance beam, or leap up to a foot-high curb, or make curbs out of metal so they are slippery when the pedestrian steps on them, or make a gutter trench deep enough to trap a foot and sprain an ankle right next to the curb so pedestrians have to be sure to step over the gutter as they step up onto the curb, or erect electrified bollards of some sort along the curb spaced such that pedestrians must approach the curb at a right angle or get an electric shock…

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              • dr2chase May 16, 2014 at 10:23 am

                Or leave little sharp hunks of metal sticking up out of the sidewalk for people to trip and fall …

                https://flic.kr/p/dWYrVM

                So basically, yeah, we crap on pedestrians too.

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              • davemess May 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm

                Except there is no requirement for someone to use the streetcar track lane in this instance. She could have (legally) used the left lane (as others have said they do).
                I can’t think of a lot of instances in this town where the recommended (or legal, with the OR side path law) bike lane/path is in a track lane. And many marked lanes/paths do try to hit the tracks at a 90 degree angle (granted some don’t do a stupendous job at this).
                I guess I just don’t think taking tracks at 90 degrees is a huge burden for cyclists to overcome. I’m sure some of us will never agree on this.

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        • El Biciclero May 16, 2014 at 11:11 am

          Driver training pretty much consists of learning the basics of operating your vehicle and somewhat learning the rules of the road; it does not consist of studying maps of every city in which you might drive to learn where the traps are that can destroy your car and cause you injuries. It does not generally consist of learning or practicing how to handle your vehicle if you hit a sudden ice patch and lose traction, or have a front tire blowout after hitting a pothole

          Which driving skill would you consider equivalent to dealing with tracks on a bike? Backing up? Parallel parking? Driving on ice? Driving down a narrow street with 8″ of clearance on each side? Pulling into a tight perpendicular parking space? Whatever the equivalent skill might be, how often would a driver in an unfamiliar city find themselves facing a situation in which they must quickly decide between, say, instantly parallel parking or driving over an ice patch?

          Also note the recent closure of the I-5 -> OR-217 “flyover” ramp because the expansion joint has somehow “caused” multiple drivers to spin out. If drivers are affected? Close it down and figure out how to fix it so drivers don’t have to pay as much attention. If cyclists are affected? Suck it up.

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          • davemess May 16, 2014 at 12:43 pm

            In a perfect world for cyclists, sure there would be no rail tracks, but there are rail tracks in most cities in the US (I’ve run into them in every state in the US I’ve lived). They also should not be a completely new hazard for most cyclists out there.

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            • El Biciclero May 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm

              Sure, and if you’ve ridden the route before and know where the “bad” streets are, or where you need to take the left lane because you know the right lane is going into track hell up ahead, great; forewarned is forearmed. But if we compare the experience of a driver new to a city and a cyclist new to a city (not the case here, but just for comparison) what should they be able to expect? As a driver in a new city, I expect maybe some last-minute merges or block-circling while trying to find my way around, but I don’t expect to suddenly end up on a street that is canted at a 50-degree angle so that if everyone doesn’t pile over to one side I’ll roll my car. I also don’t expect that I’ll be intentionally diverted through a pedestrian plaza, or have to hop out to push a button to activate a signal, or swerve back and forth across a lane to avoid having my wheels drop into a trench…

              I mean, I hear you–everybody can’t have everything the way they want, and choosing to ride a bike just carries some additional risks–but the more attentive response to driver needs/problems (and the seeming acknowledgement that drivers aren’t to blame if they keep crashing) and the bias of most street designs toward drivers first and all others last is irksome.

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  • BIKELEPTIC May 14, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    I sprained my ankle and tacoed my front wheel on the tracks up on SW 10th near W Burnside in front of Living Room Theater when I was on my way to attempt to get over to the right so I could eventually make a right turn. Never got that far. Ended up sprawled out all over the road and panniers detached from my backrack, etc.

    I don’t really know this person and this situation seems kind of meh. But there are a lot of situations where there isn’t really any place to get over safely across the tracks especially if you need to turn.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • SD May 14, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    This was inevitable. There will be more cases like this. Some more reasonable, some less. I do wonder why there hasn’t been better design around the street car tracks.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

    • Carnac May 14, 2014 at 10:15 pm

      Yes, it might involve diverting bike traffic one block north, away from the street cars and with much less car traffic. Say, to NW Marshall. Which happened when the Lovejoy bike lane was removed. Years ago.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • SD May 15, 2014 at 1:48 pm

        Good design would make things safe for unskilled tourists riding a bike for the first time in Portland as well as experienced cyclists who know that there is an easier route one block over.
        When I drive to places I haven’t driven before, I do not encounter unfamiliar obstacles that may cause me to crash.
        Anyway, when I mentioned better design, I was thinking of other areas that I see cyclists occasionally crash. In these places, cyclists have to approach the tracks at an angle then immediately turn parallel to the tracks and sometimes have multiple cyclists or cars around them or other distractions.
        The street car tracks take up a ton of prime transportation routes downtown and it appears that the approach to safety has been one of closing our eyes, crossing our fingers and relying on lawyers despite knowing that people are crashing with some regularity.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Mike May 14, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    It is interesting that a lot of people here are placing all the responsibility on the cyclist and her decisions that resulted in her being injured. Very rare

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Carnac May 14, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    SHE WAS FORCED to bike down Lovejoy. SHE WAS FORCED to not bike on the very bike-friendly (with lanes!) Marshall, 1 block up. FFS.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • jim May 15, 2014 at 12:35 am

    This has to be the second stupidest bike design I have ever seen. The first being the former Broadway @ I-5. Who in their right mind would design a bike lane that goes directly into where a crowd of people are standing? The sensible thing for a cyclist is to dismount and walk through the crowd. The more likely solution is to try and ride around them on the street where it obviously is not designed for bikes. There should be warning signs directing confused cyclists what to do at this awkward point.
    She made a bad choice as it is obvious where the bike path goes. Both parties are guilty here and no reward for anyone. The city needs to do something about this unsafe condition. They will typically wait years for many more accidents to happen before they do any thing though.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • jim May 15, 2014 at 12:38 am

    What would happen if a cyclist rode into a person at that waiting area? Would that be the cities responsibility also?

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • matt May 15, 2014 at 1:45 am

    I’ve only fallen twice in 14 years on Portland’s streets and both times were within 3 blocks of each other, both within 2 blocks of this crash, both because my tires got caught in the Streetcar tracks. Both times I only blamed myself. The bike route (one block north on NW Marshall) is a much better ride; no tracks, way less traffic. Still, I choose to ride Lovejoy because I might(!) be able to catch green lights (instead of stopping at STOP signs).
    Luckily, I was okay and kept riding. I got bloodied and bruised, my bike got some scrapes, and my bar tape was toast, but all in all- good outcome. It sucks what happened to Leslie, but I think the lawsuit is unwarranted. What is the alternative? We like the Streetcar, right? We like our miles and MILES of excellent bike routes throughout our city, yes? We have it VERY good here. Amazing infrastructure, maps, route markings, advocacy, etc, etc, etc. Her tire did, indeed, get caught in the Streetcar tracks but not because she was FORCED to ride there. Again- nothing personal to Leslie, but given all that we enjoy as residents of this top-cycling friendly city, what more can the city do (regarding this stretch of road)?

    p.s. I think the $49,999 is kind of hilarious. Let’s just call it $50,000 and not try and sell it. What’s ONE DOLLAR?

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Craig Harlow May 15, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Mostly because of Portland’s light rail and Max tracks, I now nearly always ride this city’s streets with tires too wide to catch in the rail groove — on a cruiser, cargo, or city bike (although I learned the hard–and stupid–way that tire width doesn’t prevent sliding out on wet rails ).

    I used to commute and crisscross the city on a lightweight road bike. It definitely gives me back a different kind of joy/thrill to feel so fleet and nimble, accelerating and maneuvering a lithe machine on narrow wheels and tires.

    After several crashes and too many close calls, I’ve given up being in any sort of hurry when riding, and I’ve traded the joy of riding like a bird in flight for the joy of a calm, steady heartbeat, more fully engaged senses, and the pleasure of taking in my surroundings as I move through them.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • scott May 15, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    She missed a couple of people to sue if she is only suing the city. Who only sues one person these days? The steel manufacturer should be sued too. Whatever company is responsible for her bike tire that fit into the tracks. The wheel maker who is also guilty of the same infraction. The bike maker who did not place a warning sticker on the bike that told her to look for things in the way that she might hit. Also there was surely someone nearby who did not call out to warn her of the imminent danger. In this entire thing, I believe that she is the only one in the country of the Untied States who is not responsible for her injuries. Contact the census bureau and get a list of everyone alive when this happened, take her name off, and re-write the suit.

    Also where was the steel used for those tracks mined from….?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Norm May 16, 2014 at 7:57 am

    This bi-cyclist irresponsibly chose to use an inherently unsteady two-wheeled vehicle. No vehicle with less than three wheels collapses when encountering a common road condition such as rail tracks, sewer grates, pavement transition, or small debris. The city government is not responsible for keeping bi-cyclists or uni-cyclists upright.

    Her frivolous lawsuit falsely claims she “slowly” crossed the tracks; however, speed is required to keep a bi-cycle upright. What seems more likely is that this impatient bi-cyclist was compelled by her unstable vehicle to make a rash decision and cross the tracks at an unsafe angle. If the bicycle path was blocked, then the bi-cyclist should have done what all other street users do — stop.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Bill Michtom May 18, 2014 at 12:05 am

    If anyone has engineering or design skills, create a spring-loaded metal plate that covers the track indentation except when the train’s weight depresses it. Then sell it to Tri-Met and the city–and everyplace else in the country that has trains and bicyclists sharing streets.

    Save bicyclists and make a fortune (or at least some money).

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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