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Martin Greenough died one month ago: Here’s the latest from ODOT, the BTA and his girlfriend

Posted by on January 12th, 2016 at 3:08 pm

Martin Greenough ghost bike in front of ODOT HQ
One month after he died, a ghost bike for Martin Greenough remains locked
to a rack outside ODOT’s Region 1 headquarters in northwest Portland.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

One month ago today Martin Greenough died while cycling on NE Lombard at 42nd. Martin was new to our city. In fact, we learned from his housemate that his ride home from work that fateful Saturday evening was very likely the first bike ride he’d ever taken in Portland.

“I am writing to you on behalf of my boyfriend, who died at the NE 42nd and Lombard on Saturday, December 12th and for every other biker who unknowingly chooses to ride in the Lombard bike lane.”
— Melissa Logan, in an email to ODOT Region 1 director Rian Windsheimer

In the past month, a lot has changed for the people who loved Martin. That’s actually a vast understatement. Just weeks before the holidays their lives were thrown into a state of shock and grief that most of us will never understand. But have we — a city of dreamers (like Martin), advocates, planners, politicians, engineers, and citizen activists — changed? More importantly, will the street where Martin died change?

Martin’s girlfriend Melissa Logan wants something to change. We’ve been in touch with her as well as the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance to get the latest on what — if anything — might change after this tragedy.

Lombard (a.k.a. Portland Highway) at 42nd is dangerous by design. It’s a road that looks and feels much more like a freeway where people drive dangerously, often going faster than 50 miles per hour. The section of road where Martin was hit is especially bad. He was under an overpass where there’s a gap in the bike lane. We flagged that gap (and others like it) here on BikePortland in 2013 and a woman filed an official complaint about it (describing the gap as “very terrifying”) with the Oregon Department of Transportation three weeks before Martin’s crash.

Today that gap remains and there are no concrete plans to do anything about it even though it’s a glaring public safety hazard that’s still shown as a recommended bike route on thousands of printed cycling maps people use every day.

The top ODOT official in our area is Region 1 Director Rian Windsheimer. On December 29th, Martin’s girlfriend Melissa Logan emailed Windsheimer with what she referred to as a “small request.”

“Dear Mr. Windsheimer,” she wrote, “I am writing to you on behalf of my boyfriend; Martin Lee Greenough, who died at the NE 42nd and Lombard on Saturday, December 12th and for every other biker who unknowingly chooses to ride in the Lombard bike lane. I have what I feel is a small request that could potentially save the life of a future rider and I’m hoping you can help make it happen.”

Blue line shows path that could be used as an alternate route under the overpass.
NE Lombard at 42nd -14.jpg
Another view showing the space available on the other side of the guardrail from where Martin was hit.

Her request was for ODOT to formalize an unpaved sidepath under the overpass and immediately install a sign encouraging people to use it (instead of the pinch-point bike lane gap). As I pointed out in a previous story, there’s ample space for just such a path behind the guardrail to put a path. And judging from the tire tracks I saw while I was at the site, many people already do this (it’s a classic “desire line” if there ever was one).

“Please know we are reviewing the site and looking for opportunities we can get on the ground quickly.”
— Rian Windsheimer, director of ODOT Region 1

Here’s more from Logan’s email to Windsheimer: “This way every biker would have the option to make a choice about their own safety: instead of putting it into the hands of a driver and a vehicle obeying a 45mph speed limit. I know Martin and I know he would have used the shoulder if he had seen such a sign in time.”

Logan wants the sign installed immediately so it can be “a placeholder while the state and the city figure out what else needs to be done to ensure the safety of those using the Lombard bike lane.”

In addition to the sign and the path around the pinch point, Logan wanted to make sure Windsheimer had visited the crash site. “I believe you’d see the logic behind it if you stood against the guardrail by the bridge where the bike lane ends and witnessed the vehicles going by at an average of 50mph,” she wrote. “I can’t even begin to describe how it felt to see it myself. I’d really appreciate it if you’d visit the site. None of this will make much sense until you do.”

Two days later, on New Year’s Eve, Windsheimer responded:

Martin Greenough

“Dear Melissa,

I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for taking the time to share your comments and thoughts about Lombard at 42nd and ideas for improvements there.

I recently visited the site with my Region Traffic Manager, Maintenance Section Manager, Bicycle and Pedestrian Liaison, and Area Manager so that we could all get a first-hand look at the site. These managers and their staffs are considering what opportunities we may have to improve conditions at the site in the short-term and what longer-term improvement ideas should be considered when funding for a larger scale project in the area becomes available. I’ve forwarded your idea for an additional sign to them for consideration.

I really appreciate you taking to time to reach out and share your ideas for improvements. Please know my staff and I take every crash on our system seriously and are continuously looking for opportunities to improve it.

The exact timing of deployment depends greatly on the types of improvements they come up with, but please know we are reviewing the site and looking for opportunities we can get on the ground quickly.”

Yesterday I asked Windsheimer for any further updates and he gave me the same response with the addition of, “I expect the short-term opportunities the team agrees to move forward to be implemented over the next couple of months as weather allows.”

It’s not clear what those “short-term opportunities” might be; but we plan to keep asking until something materializes.

For their part, the BTA launched an online petition on December 14th. Executive Director Rob Sadowsky told me today they’ve collected just over 60 signatures so far. They plan to deliver the signatures and a formal letter calling for bike lanes on Lombard to Windsheimer this Friday.

Related: The man who struck Martin with his car pleaded not guilty on Monday and is being held in jail on $275,000 bail.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • alankessler January 12, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    If ODOT doesn’t have the resources to fix it immediately, how about immediately putting out some cones to lower the design speed and putting up signs to lower the speed limit on an emergency basis so nobody else has to die?

    The only possible reason for not taking these basically free steps is that our DOT values marginal increases in mobility over human life. It’s despicable.


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    • Adam H. January 12, 2016 at 3:58 pm

      This is the same organization that wants to remove a bike lane on 26th for “safety”. Their lack of urgency in this matter is not at all surprising.

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    • 9watts January 12, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      This is the same ODOT that the VERY NEXT DAY found the resources to take down the cardboard cutouts of people put up around this city by volunteers to draw attention to people who had been killed at those locations (by people driving cars I am going to assume).

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      • Mark Smith January 12, 2016 at 11:09 pm

        Hey…we don’t want to highlight the negative impact overuse of cars have on our society.

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  • Joe January 12, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    sad thing is can happen to anyone.. 🙁

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  • mh January 12, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    How ’bout some unspecified “we” acquire a sign and drive a post into the ground ourselves? Got to do it on the cheap, because that will get them out fast – to remove it, unfortunately. Get pictures.

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  • Adam H. January 12, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    This tragedy is a direct consequence of a city that trumpets its “bike-friendliness” to the rest of the country, yet builds very few safe spaces to actually ride a bike. Either all elected officials and tourism organizations be barred from mentioning Portland’s alleged “bike-friendliness”, or the city needs to start building out a network of protected bike lanes. We can’t continue this charade any longer, or more will die. It’s time the city and state start putting their money where their mouths are.

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    • Jeff Snavely January 12, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      A truly bike friendly location wouldn’t require cyclists to segregate themselves in designated spaces.

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      • Peejay January 12, 2016 at 5:33 pm

        I’m not sure I understand you there. Are you advocating for vehicular cycling? For mixing it up with 50mph traffic? If not, please explain what you mean.

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        • Adam H. January 13, 2016 at 4:45 pm

          Perhaps they were referring to cities like Amsterdam where the majority of the city center is shared space, but the car drivers have been tamed to the point where it’s safe to ride a bike anywhere?

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      • soren January 12, 2016 at 7:33 pm

        If you don’t like the protected lane then just ride in the lane. No one will stop you.

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        • Adam H. January 12, 2016 at 8:08 pm

          Technically it’s illegal to do so, but I highly doubt it’s enforced at all.

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          • B. Carfree January 12, 2016 at 8:36 pm

            It would be if many of us did it. I refer you to stop sign enforcement efforts in Ladd’s.

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            • soren January 12, 2016 at 9:25 pm

              everyone rolls stop signs in pdx, including drivers. the ladd’s enforcement actions are the EXCEPTION to the rule — and a pointless exception.

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              • jeff January 13, 2016 at 8:49 am

                they’re not pointless to the residents of Ladd’s who can’t cross the sidewalk during the summer months without fear of impact from some chucklehead on a bike.

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          • soren January 12, 2016 at 9:28 pm

            it’s technically illegal to make a turn or come to a stop without signaling continuously for 100 feet. our cycling traffic laws are beyond absurd.

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            • GlowBoy January 13, 2016 at 7:47 am

              The continuous-signaling requirement has an explicit “safe and practicable” exception for cyclists.

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          • q`Tzal January 13, 2016 at 11:38 am

            It’s illegal to do so if there is a designated sidepath.
            In this case the bike lane was OFFICIALLY ended; the sidepath no longer exists.

            Perhaps the only legal place to ride IS in the primary lane.

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  • ethan January 12, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Is anyone else thinking about removing the extraneous barrels from Clinton and using them to block off the right lane of Lombard?

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    • alankessler January 12, 2016 at 10:36 pm

      If you do, wear your lifting belt.

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  • q January 12, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Close city streets to private autos til the killing stops.

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  • wsbob January 12, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    I want change on Lombard, and all roads: that change would be first of all, for people to exercise the self control to not be DUI on booze, pot, or any other intoxicant that impairs safe road use.

    And for people in general, to not grasp for false hopes that an extra two or three feet added to the width of a paint designated bike lane, will have much, if any effectiveness towards keeping DUI road users from veering into the bike lane and into collisions with vulnerable road users.

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  • Bald One January 12, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Anybody keeping a catalog of known bike lane gaps (where painted bike lanes suddenly disappear) in Portland? I know it’s easy to focus on ODOT, but there are also many, many of these under PBOT control.

    City should be working to catalog, highlight, prioritize, and repair all of these gaps -especially on arterials, where site lines can be blocked, parked cars can suddenly appear, etc. You don’t have to work too hard to come up with a decent list of actionable locations where short gaps exist in an unsafe manner and need closing.

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    • EmilyG January 12, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      In my subscriber newsletter, BP said it was planning on having a Gap Week to talk about them. Not sure if it will include a comprehensive catalog (there are so. many. gaps in this town) but I’d like to flag the gap at N. Lombard and Denver intersection as a problem.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 12, 2016 at 5:48 pm

        Thanks Emily G. We haven’t announced the date but we are about to. Gap Week is still a go. We’ll focus on five gaps… one per day for the week. Stay tuned.

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        • EmilyG January 13, 2016 at 9:41 am

          Excellent! Looking forward to reading it!

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        • Adam H. January 13, 2016 at 4:47 pm

          Looking forward to this! Anywhere near Foster Road would be a good gap to cover.

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  • longgone January 12, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    No matter what comes of this, I send my best out to all in Martins life. I am sure he was a super fellow, and someone I would have liked to have known.
    I’m still sad about this. This segment of roadway has been traveled my me many, many times. The pinch point under 42nd is atrocious. Screw the weather ODOT!! Fix it now! FFS!
    If shity condos can be built in the rain, I’m more than sure something could be made to happen.

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  • Josh G January 12, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    How many public wall maps (like at Whole Foods) need updating?

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    • Alan 1.0 January 12, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      Yeah, getting all the hardcopy maps replaced is difficult, but as Jonathan pointed out on December 23, Metro’s Bike There! map was already updated. Not so with Portland’s version – it still shows a continuous bike lane with no hazard indicator: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/322254

      I pointed out the matter to both ‘Active.Transportation’ and ‘SAFE’ at portlandoregon.gov on December 19. So far, only boilerplate reply indicating 16 week response time.

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    • Mark Smith January 12, 2016 at 11:08 pm

      Do it yourself. Sharpies are cheap.

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  • Spiffy January 12, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Please know my staff and I take every crash on our system seriously and are continuously looking for opportunities to improve it.


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    • Tom Hardy January 12, 2016 at 4:33 pm

      If ODOT has any plans for anything, it is to be at the cost of peds and cyclists.

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    • ethan January 12, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      They will probably “improve” it by removing the bike lane altogether.

      And this might be off-topic to this discussion, but Dekum is really needing some actual bike infrastructure. NE Lombard is the ONLY street in my entire neighborhood with any bike lanes.

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      • Jeff Snavely January 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm

        And they would certainly have a valid point.

        Is there a bike lane somewhere that doesn’t end abruptly?

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        • ethan January 12, 2016 at 5:20 pm

          What point do they have? (Besides the point they make by leaving all non-drivers to fend for themselves on wide, high-speed roads).

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        • Peejay January 12, 2016 at 6:32 pm

          This is the second post you’ve made that strongly suggests that cars and bikes should share the same lane, a.k.a. Vehicular Cycling, although most people here have other names for it. Please be clear that this is what you are advocating for, so when I see your name in the comments in the future, I can make an informed decision about whether to read the words written under it.

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  • Alan 1.0 January 12, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    The westbound bike lane (north side of Lombard) also needs a bypass where the bridge pier pinches it into car traffic. There is room for it.

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    • Chris I January 13, 2016 at 7:13 am

      Lombard doesn’t need to be 4-lanes in this section. The traffic counts do not warrant it. I just drove this on Monday and the problem is obvious. It was afternoon rush hour, and hardly anyone was driving this section. I was heading eastbound, and the existence of the second lane only served to benefit the one idiot who was trying to drive 15mph over the speed limit, weaving between other eastbound cars. Put Lombard on a diet. Paint is cheap.

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  • Scott Kocher January 12, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    I’m hoping for a response soon from ODOT re the gaps in the hwy 30 westbound bike lane between NW Portland and the St Johns Bridge: narrowing to 2′ at NW Doane, and the semi-permanent gravel and ponding a few hundreds yards west of there at the curve at 6589 NW St Helens Rd (aka Hwy 30) which has been the subject of complaints and was featured on BP in the past… without avail. Does someone have to die?

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    • Chadwick F January 13, 2016 at 6:32 am

      Hi Scott. I’ve been working for some years now with the Linnton neighborhood association & with frequent contact to PBOT about sweeping the lanes regularly and ODOT about their sub-par “bike lanes”, the utter shame that is the St. Johns Bridge (identified as an off-road MUP on the bike maps), and Bridge Ave. concerns.
      I would really like to do more, but am pretty busy with other things. However, I can be probably be prodded to do more. If there are others concerned about this ODOT facility (Dirty 30), contact me. Sometimes it feels like yr the only one out there, so perhaps we should start an advocacy group or something, maybe it will re-light my fire a bit. Feel free to contact me if you wish: andycigarettes(AT)hotmail.com

      And now that I think of it, perhaps everyone that lives near an ODOT facility could start a group to tackle ODOT at specific locations, in their neighborhoods or nearby, like the Friends of Barbur group. Perhaps a friends of Lombard group, etc etc.

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  • SE January 12, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    While I completely agree that the gap was a huge contributing factor in the death, the offending drivers condition, (… “smelled of burnt marijuana, appeared slow and lethargic and had bloodshot watery eyes and droopy eyelids” ….) , was almost just as culpable ..IMHO.

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    • Adam H. January 12, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      Our streets should be forgiving to mistakes, and that includes drunk/high driving. People should absolutely not drive impaired, but there will always be a few that do, and roads can be designed so that those people don’t kill or seriously injure someone. Cops can’t be everywhere at once. Infrastructure can.

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      • Eric Leifsdad January 12, 2016 at 10:06 pm

        The roads should be forgiving of errors, but not so much that irresponsible users become a danger to others. For example, posts 9ft apart at every intersection would be very unforgiving to the cars of drunk and incompetent drivers, but would be an effective filter.

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      • Anne Hawley
        Anne Hawley January 12, 2016 at 10:38 pm

        Cops can’t be everywhere at once. Infrastructure can.

        Good slogan. Succinct and simple.

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  • Mark Smith January 12, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    Taking wagers on whether ODOT will remove more bike lane paint.

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  • GlowBoy January 13, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Glad to see that ghost bike locked up in front of ODOT HQ. Don’t be surprised if they have it removed, though.

    It occurs to me the entrance to ODOT’s HQ ought to be buried in ghost bikes.

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    • Alan 1.0 January 13, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      That lock-up staple itself should be painted ghost white.

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