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View Full Version : Swan Island Bike Accident!


velomal
01-17-2007, 10:35 AM
On January 2nd, I was riding home from work at 5:15p.m. and was was struck by a Jeep Wrangler pulling out from Stop sign. The woman driver was pulling out from N Wygant St onto N Basin Ave. As I approached the intersection, the Jeep appeared to be coming to a stop at the stop sign. Therefore I conluded that I had time to cross in front of the Jeep as she came to a stop. As I pedalled down onto the road from the sidewalk and began to cross in front of the vehicle, (in a crosswalk) the driver accellerated without looking to the right or even directly in front of her. I was directly in front of her as she accellerated. I tried to pedal faster to cross in front of her without being struck. I did not make it across the vehicle before being struck. The front bumper of the Jeep struck the left side of my bicycle and snapped my left ankle on impact. This collision sent me hurtling through the air over my handlebars and out in the right-most traffic lane on N Basin Ave. I landed on my head and on my left hand and fore-arm. I was wearing a helmet and the helmet was cracked upon impact with the road. After landing in the street I scrambled back to the side of the street as quickly as I could, for fear of being struck by traffic on N Basin Ave. I looked over my shoulder to try to get the license plate # of the Jeep that hit, me, but the vehicle was travelling quite fast and was out of range for me to read the numbers within a few seconds. I almost thought the vehicle was going to drive off, but it finally stopped approximately 200-300 feet down the street. The next vehicle coming down on Basin Ave, was an armored truck. This vehicle stopped to block traffic so I did not get run over.
A driver of another stopped vehicle said that they had called 911. The woman driving the vehicle that struck me got out of her vehicle and walked back to the scene of the accident.
A police officer responded to the scene within a few minutes of the call. A fire truck also arrived shortly after the police officer arrived. The police officer did not bother to take a statement from me about the accident. Apparently he automatically assumed the accident was my fault. As a matter of fact, he didn't have much interaction with me at all. I do remember him directing one question towards me, though. He said something to the effect of: "So, you didn't have a font headlight on your bike, huh?". I said that I did, but it must have been knocked off on impact, which it was. The light was in the street and was still operating perfectly. I also had a blinking red tail light on my bike. I was also wearing rain paints with reflective stripes on the legs. It was dark and raining at the time of the accident.
An ambulance arrived within a few more minutes. The paramedics put me on a gurney and tried to calm me down. I was definitely in shock but remember speaking with the firemen and paramedics. I, however, have no recollection of any conversation with the police officer. He took a statement from the driver and assumed that her story was correct. He used this information in writing the police report. This report is extremely one-sided and finds me at fault. In fact, it states that I hit the vehicle. I'm not sure how this is possible since the entire left side of my bike is dented up and I have a broken left ankle.
I was transported to the OHSU Emergency Dept. by ambulance.
I had surgery on my ankle the next day and was discharged from the hospital after a two night stay. I have been out of work since the accident and probably will be for another week or two. I will not be able to put full weight on my leg for at least 8 weeks and probably will no be fully recovered for about 6 months.

Since the police officer felt that I was in the wrong by riding on the sidewalk, I would now like to explain why I was riding on the sidewalk. On Swan Island there are no bike lanes and the roads have very narrow, if any, shoulders. The traffic is mostly commercial, as Swan Island is basically a large industrial park. Every other vehicle is a tractor trailer or delivery truck. There is a sidewalk that is designated as a bike lane on Going Ave. Going Ave. is the street that all traffic accesses Swan Island on, but once on Swan Island there are no bike lanes. The Going Ave. sidewalk bike lane ends at the bottom of the hill where Basin Ave bears off from Going Ave. I was travelling on the sidewalk that runs along Basin Ave. and connects directly with the Going Ave. sidewalk bike lane. I was approximately 1/10 of a mile from the Going Ave. sidewalk bike lane when I was struck. I was riding on the same sidewalk that I have seen countless joggers and bikers travelling on in both directions in the past. Apparently I am not the only one that feels this is the only safe way to travel on Swan Island. I don't feel that travelling in this direction on this sidewalk was a violation of any law. The police officer felt that the driver was not at fault because she wouldn't have expected to see anyone travelling on the sidewalk in the direction that I was riding. It is my feeling that if I was on foot and stepped out into the crosswalk, I still would have been hit by the driver. The fact is that she did not look to the right at all. The law says that a driver has to yield to pedestrians or bicycles in a crosswalk before proceeding across the crosswalk. The bottom line is, if the driver had looked before proceeding, there is no way that she would not have seen me. I had a head light with 4 bright LED lights in it, 2 of which were blinking.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
01-17-2007, 12:16 PM
You should speak with an attorney about this as soon as possible. Best of fortune with your recovery.

jami
01-18-2007, 01:32 AM
first, it was totally legal for you to be on the sidewalk. only downtown is it illegal (and it shouldn't be illegal there). you made a judgement call about what was safest, and you were not wrong. that gal still would have hit you if you'd been on the road, because she'd still have run the stop sign. it might have even been worse, as you could have been right at the center of her car, and she would have picked up more speed.

the only legality worry i see is the speed you were going in the crosswalk. we're supposed to go "walking speed" in crosswalks, so that cars have time to see us. if you were going "walking speed" when you entered the crosswalk (not later, when you sped up to escape the accident), then there's no way you're at fault for this accident. the report definitely shouldn't say you're at fault with only the driver's side of the story reflected.

it sucks that the only thing the cop did on your side was accuse you of not having a light, while you were sitting there with a freshly broken ankle. i betchya he didn't ask the driver about her lights, and she wasn't in excruciating pain.

one thing i didn't realize until i got hit is that unless your bones are sticking out, the people around you don't know how much you're hurt. cops, passersby, and drivers can mistake a pretty seriously injured cyclist for a drama queen with a scraped knee, and we're too stunned by what's just happened to communicate. i'd recommend for cyclists who get hit to tell everyone they speak to right away: "my (fill in the blank) feels broken." people will treat you better and you'll get help faster.

best wishes for a speedy recovery.

velomal
01-18-2007, 11:11 AM
Just wanted to say thanks for your reply to my story. I'm glad to hear that others agree that I shouldn't be the one carrying all the blame. It just seems so wrong for a cop to place all the blame on one party without witnessing the accident and without even questioning both involved parties. The whole thing is just so frustrating. I really don't want to have to get lawyers involved, but since I was presumed guilty and cited by the cop, I feel that I have no choice. I have to try to vindicate myself. It just isn't right for me to have to suffer physically and financially for something that should not have happened. Thanks again. Ride safe.

Jonathan Maus
01-18-2007, 08:43 PM
velomal,
thanks for sharing this story. I want to write about this on BikePortland and see how the community responds to it.

I am tired of cyclists not getting the benefit of the doubt in situations like this.

Jonathan Maus
01-18-2007, 10:34 PM
Velomal, how could I forget...there is a process by which you can initiate violation proceedings in a case like this.

I have covered this in depth:
http://bikeportland.org/2006/01/04/new-campaign-to-bring-motorists-to-justice/

http://bikeportland.org/2006/04/06/citizen-initiated-complaint-results-in-citation/

and especially this one:
http://bikeportland.org/2006/05/25/full-account-of-citizen-initiatied-complaint-process/

velomal
01-19-2007, 01:21 PM
Thanks for thinking that this is worthy of writing about.

I appreciate the links to the articles that you have written about citizen intiated citations. I'm really not sure what route to take, yet. Regrettably, I think I will be hiring a lawyer. I already received the first bill for several thousand dollars, which is just the first of many. I know my Auto Insurance PIP won't even come close to covering the final tally of bills. Not to mention, missed work, a cancelled trip to Europe, and a totalled bike. I guess I have no choice but to fight to vindicate myself and then try to assign some liability to the driver, so that I can be compensated for something that should have never happened.

So frustrating.

steelsreal
01-19-2007, 02:07 PM
I certainly hope you take this to the courts. The actions of the officer sound utterly reprehensible.

I am not familiar with this area and obviously did not witness the event. My upcoming words are not meant to point blame at the cyclist. They are just an observation. I understand there are situations when people feel compelled to be on a sidewalk.

That being said, sidewalks seem to be the most dangerous place for a bicycle to be. Drivers are not conditioned to be looking for us on them, night time and one way streets make it even worse. Again I am not saying the cyclist was at fault.

I just want to point out to any new commuters who may stumble upon this thread, how dangerous sidewalk riding can be. Going against the direction of traffic is even more exposed. I am not saying that we don't have a right to use them, just that we better be paying total attention and not hoping for cars to see us.

Make eye contact, never assume you are seen. Avoid situations like this when at all possible. I work at a local shop and am amazed at how many new riders think the sidewalk is the safest place to be. It is not! Except under the most extreme conditions.

Again I don't know this path, though I know I would have gone many blocks out of my way to avoid sidewalk riding on a one-way street at night. This intersection may not be possible to reasonably avoid?

I always think the same thing when I see people riding on Division, Powell or MLK. Of course we have the right to be there, but there are streets running parallel one block over with virtually zero traffic.

I have been hit intentionally and involved in what others call "accidents" several times each. Though I was legally in the right, it is no fun being squashed by a car. I would prefer to be able to ride the next day other than exert my right to be in a hazardous environment... Though I suppose any where they let cars be is technically hazardous to our lives and lungs!

Again I am not trying to shift blame to the cyclist. Being hit in a crosswalk is inexcusable. I just hope others will learn from this and educate drivers and cyclists alike.

Defensive driving is not just for cars!

NEPcyclistic
01-19-2007, 05:21 PM
I certainly hope you take this to the courts. The actions of the officer sound utterly reprehensible.

I am not familiar with this area and obviously did not witness the event. My upcoming words are not meant to point blame at the cyclist. They are just an observation. I understand there are situations when people feel compelled to be on a sidewalk.

That being said, sidewalks seem to be the most dangerous place for a bicycle to be. Drivers are not conditioned to be looking for us on them, night time and one way streets make it even worse. Again I am not saying the cyclist was at fault.

I just want to point out to any new commuters who may stumble upon this thread, how dangerous sidewalk riding can be. Going against the direction of traffic is even more exposed. I am not saying that we don't have a right to use them, just that we better be paying total attention and not hoping for cars to see us.

Make eye contact, never assume you are seen. Avoid situations like this when at all possible. I work at a local shop and am amazed at how many new riders think the sidewalk is the safest place to be. It is not! Except under the most extreme conditions.


I understand what you are trying to say here, but my advice to you, on this situation, would be to take a trip down to Swan Island and see for yourself how dangerous it is for bicyclist down there. This is probably the worst place in portland to be on a bike. Fuck, riding in the left lane on Interstate 5 would be safer, the traffic there moves the same speed as on swan island. The sidewalk in this case is BY FAR THE SAFEST place to be. The speed limit on Swan Island is 40 MPH, traffic itself during rush hour moves at about 50 + mph hour. I've worked down there for 4 plus years now. There are no bicycle lanes, its all commericial traffic, and employees. No one is there to do shopping or such, there commuting to and from work, stressed out or tired. If you aren't familiar with the area, jump on the bike and take a stroll to Swan Island.

steelsreal
01-19-2007, 07:15 PM
It looks like the injured rider updated his post to clarify why he was on the sidewalk. This is why I stated several times that I was not blaming the rider and that I did not know the area.

His updated post and your recent words obviously explain why he was on the sidewalk. I looked at satellite photos and now see what caused him to be riding there. This is an extreme situation and location. There is obviously a need for a dedicated bike road or other infrastructure to support non-lazy transportation to Swan island. I have never had the need to go there, hence not familiar with the area. (the other side of the road looks better to me, though I havent been there.... yet)

None of that changes what I was trying to say. In almost all situations, the sidewalk is your worst enemy. Driveways, entrances to businesses, intersections where the drivers are conditioned to only look in one direction..... Sidewalks are dangerous!

Cars are pulling in and out of numerous non-road areas. They are on cell phones and running in for some quick errand. They are staring one direction looking for an opening so they may lurch dangerously into traffic. They are not thinking about us, or looking for vehicles on the sidewalk. I would love for that to change, but my aspirations and dreams are not going to affect my decisions on the road.

Drivers are isolated from their surroundings, preoccupied with the mental minutae of the moment and like all people self-absorbed by design. I am scared of them and recommend others pay attention to their insanity as well.

I love activism, especially the direct sort. I can see the gallant and noble sacrifice of educating a motorist at the expense of your health, structural integrity, and/or life. I just think my energies are better directed elsewhere. I bet yours are too... Anyway my only point in that monologue was- New bikers! Your life is in your hands! Pay attention to the exhaust spewing, coffin-zombies all about you!

As evidence, I offer the example of this person being hit while traversing a sidewalk/crosswalk. Drivers fault? You are damned straight it is! Take away their license and auction off their car with the money going to dedicated bike routes and advocacy? All for it!!! (not kidding)

That being said, for anyone that can reasonably avoid it, never ride on a sidewalk. Never ride against traffic on a sidewalk. Never ride against traffic on a sidewalk at night into an intersection where you have not absolutely confirmed that the driver staring a different direction has seen and acknowledged your right to exist...

Or do it, whatever you feel is best.