No sympathy for cyclist struck on Swan Island

Posted by on January 19th, 2007 at 8:41 am

This disturbing account of a car-bike collision on Swan Island was reported by the victim yesterday in the Portland Bike Forums:

[Location of the crash.]
Click for Google Map.

“On January 2nd, I was riding home from work at 5:15p.m. and was was struck by a Jeep Wrangler pulling out from a stop sign. The 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 concluded that I had time to cross in front of the Jeep as she came to a stop.

As I pedaled down onto the road from the sidewalk and began to cross in front of the vehicle, (in a crosswalk) the driver accelerated without looking to the right or even directly in front of her. I was directly in front of her as she accelerated…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.

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. The police officer did not bother to get 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…I 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 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.

…the police officer felt that I was in the wrong by riding on the sidewalk.

The police officer felt that the driver was not at fault because she wouldn’t have expected to see anyone traveling on the sidewalk in the direction that I was riding…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.”

[Riding on the sidewalk on Swan
Island is not only legal, it
is imperative for survival.]

There are many things about this account that are troublesome to me. Besides the lack of empathy and respect shown to a severely injured crash victim, the police officer was flat out wrong in assuming that riding on the sidewalk is illegal.

To the right is a photo of Swan Island Transportation Management Association director Lenny Anderson on the Going St. sidewalk and here’s an excerpt from the Swan Island TMA bike page:

“On Going Street and the Swan Island roadway network, the Swan Island TMA recommends use of the sidewalk. This is legal and at least during peak hours with trucks and anxious commuters, the place to be. Be sure to watch for pedestrians and vehicles turning in and out of driveways.”

According to the victim’s follow-up posts in the Forums, he does not have a lawyer.

This sounds like a perfect situation for Ray Thomas’s Citizen Initiation of Violation Proceedings process which I have covered in-depth here, here, and here.

Man, I am so tired of hearing stories like this. Will we ever live to see the day when the most vulnerable users of our roads are given the benefit of the doubt?

Am I over-reacting? Or should the cyclist seek justice and bring this police officer to court?

What do you think?

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Amy
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Amy

The rider should get a lawyer immediately.

Severt
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Severt

I’m sure all the automotive apologists will express self-righteous indignation about the cyclist being on the sidewalk going in the opposite direction of traffic. Of course, they would also be expressing their outrage if he was on the road and got hit and would then claim he should have been on the sidewalk.

Maybe its because I was brought up in a different generation but when I learned how to drive the concept of looking both left and right before entering a street was beyond question. How many times have we, whether as a cyclist or a pedestrian, seen these yahoos pull up to an interesection, look left to make sure nobody is going to hit THEM and then pull out into the street with no regard to those travelling from the other direction on the sidewalk?

As for the police officer involved I don’t know what to say. I have no faith in our judicial system and have no expectation that any oversight by like-minded peers would result in action. Didn’t we just see a firefighter kick the shit out of someone already laying on the ground and then hear the officials state that although the action was “troubling” it wasn’t beyond the law because they have a right to defend themselves against someone on the ground already being restrained?

You can take it before a jury of 12 “peers” and at least 11 of them will be the same jerks that drive 15 miles over the speed limit, stop 6 feet beyond the stop sign, and routinely fail to look both left and right before proceeding into an intersection.

Ian S.
Guest
Ian S.

Not only does the driver need to be held accountable for her actions, but the officer in question needs to be severely reprimanded and properly trained. Incidents like these affect us all because the officer has, in fact, done more harm than good by reinforcing the wrongful and deadly assumptions of drivers such as this. I would strongly recommend that the cyclist pursue the Citizen Initiation of Violation Proceedings. It may be the only method to bring this officer’s neglectful and harmful behavior to light. Taking such a step could make a critical difference in the life of other cyclists that might otherwise face the same sort of situation.

To the cyclist quoted in this article: PLEASE follow through with legal action! The bicycle community of Portland will support you! Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Brian
Guest
Brian

I absolutely agree… the rider should at least speak with an attorney. I ride this route regularly to and from work when I can’t cross the train track at the bottom of the Waud Bluff trail. During normal hours with the large amount and high speed of truck traffic, it’s MUCH safer to ride on the sidewalk on Basin Ave, especially when you’re south of UPS, such as where this accident ocurred. For the sake of safety, hopefully the Swan Island portion of the NoPo Greenway trail happens sooner rather than later.

Matt P.
Guest

The rider should definitely get a lawyer. Also, the rider should photograph the bicycle and injuries, and photograph the area of the crash. Make copies of the photos, and annotate on them the position of the bike and car on impact, and the location of the front light where it came to rest. Document everything – it’s the best defense against the officer’s case notes. An attorney will suggest other evidence to present in court to defend the case.

I don’t ride that area, so I’m not familiar with the specifics. The cyclist performed some bad practices, namely, riding on the sidewalk (not illegal, but more dangerous for precisely this reason), riding the wrong way on the sidewalk (again, a bad practice – cars aren’t expecting you to be there), and riding in the crosswalk at speed (presumed. I don’t know how fast the cyclist was going. If faster than “an ordinary walk”, that’s a violation of ORS 814.410(d) Unsafe operation of bicycle on sidewalk)
Had the cyclist been on the other side of the street on the sidewalk, none of these would have been an issue in this case. In any case, bad practices do not exonerate the driver. The driver could be guilty of violating ORS811.060 Vehicular assault of a bicyclist or pedestrian, since the driver did not look both ways to check for traffic in the crosswalk. The driver also could be guilty of violating ORS811.055 Failure to yield to bicyclist on sidewalk, but there is a specific exemption for drivers if the cyclist violates ORS814.410. None of this changes the fact that most drivers do not come to a complete stop BEFORE the crosswalk, nor do most drivers look both ways for pedestrians and cyclists. I won’t speak to the behavior of the cop – I wasn’t there. If his report is unfavorable, however, then evidence, preferably photographic, is the best way to fight it. The cyclist should also photograph the clothing he/she was wearing to prove that it was reflective (better yet, bring the clothing items to court). Again, get an attorney, preferably one who has defended bike cases before. Also look at the citizen-initiated ticketing process and get the driver cited. That will also help ion court.

West Cougar
Guest
West Cougar

Amy said it all: get a lawyer.

I was hit by a car in a very similar situation: car driver fails to look right after coming to a stop and drives into me while in a marked crosswalk.

I was not seriously hurt, but I was ticketed by the responding Officer. As the ticketed party, I had to go to court, fight and win the citation. Only then would the driver’s insurance treat me as not-at-fault. As long as the ticket was against me, they would not pay for my borken bike, and want me to pay for the driver’s damaged car.

The amazing thing, at the scene the driver was all contrite, apologetic, and clearly knew it was her fault. Once the bills started adding up, she began disavowing all responsibilty.

Now, my case only had a few hundred dollars on the line. Given your injuries and the order of magnitude more financial consideration at stake, GET A LAWYER.

I repeat: GET A LAWYER. ASAP.

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

This might also be a good opportunity to educate that police officer about how to proceed when writing up a car-bike crash. Perhaps initiate a complaint against the officer, with the intention of making it an education experience for him? I have no idea if that’s even possible or appropriate.

Perhaps there is some other way to address such a deeply unsatisfactory law enforcement response with the Police Bureau. Anyone know how to do that?

John
Guest
John

I think this should go to court. It is defiantly not the cyclist fault. One statement does concern me “As I approached the intersection, the Jeep appeared to be coming to a stop at the stop sign. Therefore I concluded that I had time to cross in front of the Jeep as she came to a stop.” This is a dangerous circumstance for a biker, regardless of if we are legally allowed to ride on the side walk. Not getting eye contact from a driver and assuming they know you are there is a dangerous situation. In general when riding on the sidewalk i believe a biker needs to be extremely vigilant, because people don’t expect things on the sidewalk to be moving fast. Riding on the side walk is not like riding in the road, on the side walk i feel that a bike is a pedestrian and not traffic.

Burr
Guest
Burr

WTF? I thought it was recently reported here that the PPB has trained a number of its officers in bicycle accident investigation. Apparently the officer that responded to this incident was not one of the trained officers, nor did he ask for backup by one of the trained officers. Once again, the PPB thumbs their collective noses at the bicycle community.

I third the recommendation to get a lawyer. This shit has got to stop!

Timmy
Guest

I wish Severt weren’t right, but Severt is right. Dang.

Brad
Guest
Brad

What I did not see in the rider’s account is:

How fast were you going?

Was it foggy, raining, or did anything impair the driver’s ability to look up the sidewalk (vegetation, fence, etc.?)

Did you take the prudent and sensible precaution of making eye contact, making noise, or otherwise alerting the driver to your presence before crossing into the intersection?

Did you suddenly accelerate before entering the intersection?

In most accidents, human error generally occurs with both parties to create the circumstances required for the collision to happen. This by no means excuses the driver but some of what you describe (riding the sidewalk, riding opposite the road’s traffic direction, possibly changing speed to “beat the car”, etc.) albeit legal, may have contributed to the recipe also.

The cop was completely insensitive. His conduct was unprofessional, biased, and shows a lazy approach to police work. Bad on him but does it also represent an institutional feeling about cyclists? Why do we expect any serious consideration of cyclists when our “media stars” and most direct representaives to the police are Rev. Phil, The Zoobombers, and Critical Mass? The cops are already predisposed to viewing us a fringe dwelling goofs, screamers, and scofflaws. Yes, justice should be equal and blind but cops are human beings and their POV is shaped by direct and shared experiences. Not apologizing for Officer Jerkweed but just offering a reason why the cops brush us off so non-chalantly.

Plus, I have noticed a disturbing trend on local blogs and newspapers vocalizing a growing anti-bike sentiment. I expect this from right-wing radio hosts but when lefty rags are tiring of us, we have lost the PR battle. The Mercury has been merciless of late.

On a personal note, I am beginning to hate the phrase “vulnerable road user”. I get where it comes from but it makes it easy for non-cyclists to respond, “Feeling vulnerable spandex boy? Then stay off the road if you can’t handle sharing it!”.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

Randy said:

“WTF? I thought it was recently reported here that the PPB has trained a number of its officers in bicycle accident investigation.”

You’re right here’s the article I did on that:

Six officers get certified in bicycle crash investigation

Anne
Guest
Anne

How many times have I had a close call myself, and the driver said, “Oh, I didn’t expect to see you there?” I’m sick and tired of it – part of being a good driver is watching for exactly those things you don’t expect.

I wish there were mandatory refresher courses for drivers, or at least periodic testing. But apparently it’s wishful thinking even for teenagers to get Drivers Ed these days – I know my alma mater in PA has stopped offering it altogether, when it used to be mandatory for all students. Does anyone know its status locally? I know it’s just a small piece of the puzzle (not driving would be a better solution), but I’m just curious.

Lenny Anderson
Guest

As the manager of the Swan Island TMA I am really saddened by this story. It is the first incident of this type that I am aware of down here in years.
Because of the limited bike infrastructure on Swan Island…no bikelanes, and limited sidewalks, we do recommend the latter, especially in the peak hours.
At this location and others there is no sidwalk on the other side of Basin Avenue, a high speed one way stretch between Going and Anchor Streets.
As is typical of almost all drivers entering a one way street, there is no attention paid to the counter flow direction. As both pedestrian and bicyclist, we have all seen this over and over again. It also appears that the motorist did not come to a complete stop…she probably saw a gap in Basin Avenue traffic as she slowed and then took off.
I encourage the victim to get a lawyer…Ray Thomas would be the man, document what happened, and trust no car and don’t count on the cops…it is a jungle out here.
The Swan Island TMA will be seeking funds from the Bureau of Environmental Services CBO grant process to construct additional and in places wider sidewalks to connect the Waud Bluff Trail to the Going Street bridge.

Val
Guest
Val

As far as riding on the sidewalk is concerned, sometimes it is the only way. Where it is legal, it legal because it is preferable to being in the traffic, as is reflected by the Swan Island TMA Bike Page. Of course, you need to shift modes and ride as a pedestrian, giving due respect and yeilding right of way to pedestrians, but at that point, you have the same rights as pedestrians, rather than no rights, as seems to be implied so many times. I have had many encounters of this type, and have even had one foot run over while walking by a driver who, you know it, did not look to the right before turning to the right. I have come to accept that this is the standard procedure for drivers: when turning right from a stop, plant the chin firmly on the left shoulder to check for traffic. When there is an opening in the oncoming traffic, remove the right foot from the brake and press the accelerator firmly to the floor. Once the car has moved at least three feet forward, turn head to look in the direction of travel. Since I frequently find myself on the left side sidewalk, my response to this situation has been to invest in a 100 decibel horn. As I approach a stopped car, I begin honking. I do not move in front of the car until I see the driver’s head turn, and see the proverbial whites of their eyes. The shocked looks alone are worth it, and my safety is greatly enhanced. I know this doesn’t help the Swan Island rider much, but it has kept me out from under many bumpers.

Fritz
Guest

We can woulda, shoulda, coulda until our eyeballs bleed, but the fact is the Jeep driver ILLEGALLY RAN A STOP SIGN and put somebody in the hospital.

At this year’s National Bike Summit, representatives from the American Motorcycle Association will speak to cyclists about their Justice For All Campaign. I think that’s a good start and we all should campaign for enforcement of traffic laws.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Lenny, you should get in contact with the rider and perhaps, if you can, appear as an expert witness at court.

Severt pretty much wrapped it.

Cops? Do you see why many of us have less than flattering views of you?

You’re not there for us when the law is on our side and then you expect us to continue with blind obedience to it.

You know, I think that ALL cops should have to take turns as bike cops, and perhaps, oh I don’t know, 10% of their time on bikes should be in plain clothes. As it stands, they sure don’t get a sense of what it’s like with a big “POLICE” on the back of their jacket, riding on the sidewalks.

andy
Guest
andy

Like other people have said, it’s the officer’s behavior which is the most troubling to me. And it’s clear that, with only six (six?!?) officers certified in bicycle crash investigation, we need something better from the police. So here’s a proposal:

The police department should implement a new strategy: all beat cops must patrol on bike for two full months every year, one month in the summer and once in the winter. No exceptions. This would have a number of benefits:
1.) The police would be much more accessible and have much more interaction with the community in general. After all, you see much more when you’re on a bike than you do behind the windshield of a car. Consider if there were a couple of police on bikes riding that route up Williams – they’d probably have a better sense of what kind of trouble the teenagers are getting into.
2.) The “walk a mile in my shoes” phenomenon: the police would get first-hand knowledge of all the crap cyclists have to deal with on a daily basis. I imagine they would have a lot more empathy for cyclists after a couple of months of getting cut off, run down, and generally shat upon by the driving public. Plus, they’d need to get really well acquainted with all the bike laws.
3.) A healthier police force is in the best interest of the public, is it not? Less taxpayer dollars going to disability claims, etc.

Burr
Guest
Burr

Brad wrote: “Why do we expect any serious consideration of cyclists when our “media stars” and most direct representaives to the police are Rev. Phil, The Zoobombers, and Critical Mass? The cops are already predisposed to viewing us a fringe dwelling goofs, screamers, and scofflaws. Yes, justice should be equal and blind but cops are human beings and their POV is shaped by direct and shared experiences. Not apologizing for Officer Jerkweed but just offering a reason why the cops brush us off so non-chalantly.”

The world would be a much drearier and less fun place, and cyclists would have a lot less to be thankful for, if we squelched all the shit-disturbers. They’ve accomplished at least as much, if not more, than organizations like the BTA. IMO, both are needed, and being placid and meek accomplishes very little.

Matt P.
Guest

Modifying my earlier remarks – it’s clear from the Google picture, and Lenny’s remarks that there is no sidewalk on the other side, so while riding “the wrong way” is still generally a bad practice, it’s obvious that the cyclist had no other choice on that street. A better choice may have been to cut over to N Channel Ave, which is one-way going the direction the cyclist wanted to go, but that doesn’t change the fact that what the cyclist was doing was completely legal and doesn’t change the contention that the driver didn’t look.

John said “In general when riding on the sidewalk i believe a biker needs to be extremely vigilant, because people don’t expect things on the sidewalk to be moving fast.”

John, in this case, the cyclist was in the crosswalk at the point of impact – in a crosswalk, it’s illegal to be “moving fast”. You are limited to the speed of an average walk. Note that the statute (ORS814.410) does NOT say that you have to walk your bike across the crosswalk (which is what DMV recommends).

Brad – the poster stated that it was “dark and raining”, and that the accident happened at 5:15pm. The map shown at the top of the post shows the surrounding area, which has no encroaching vegetation or obstructions. The cyclist says the driver never looked to the right, which in my experience is the number one problem with motorists (myself included when I choose to be one): they are not watching for any object smaller than a mini-cooper when they turn. The unwritten law of the highway is “Thou shalt Yield to anything bigger than thee”, and cars just don’t notice bikes and pedestrians.

I’ve done this myself – I almost hit 3 people crossing Burnside coming out of the parking garage at 3rd & Pine. In part because I wasn’t expecting them, and in part because they were all wearing black. I don’t have those issues when I bike, because I’m fully aware of my surroundings on the bike – no radio, no glass between me and the sounds outside, and I have a strong kinesthetic sense of my vehicle and how it moves. You just don’t get that in a car. At least, not unless you’re Tony Stewart or Mario Andretti.

Matt P.
Guest

Burr – right on! We need people like that, and we need the helmet-wearing, obey the law fanatically types too. It’s like a bell curve: there’s a small number on either side and most of us fall somewhere in between. Get rid of the extremists on one side and the whole thing shifts in the other direction – it’s a balance.

Sometimes the problem is part of the solution.

Matt P.
Guest

andy said:

“3.) A healthier police force is in the best interest of the public, is it not? Less taxpayer dollars going to disability claims, etc. ”

At first, there will be MORE disability claims – with that many new cyclists out there, some of them are going to fall down and get hurt. After a couple months of riding themselves into shape, though, it’ll definitely have good fitness benefits to the force.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

On the subject of sidewalks, I’ve heard from PDOT traffic safety folks that riding the wrong way on the sidewalk statistically increases your chance of being hit by 200%…or something like that.

It is extremely dangerous and must be done with caution.

But I hardly think that stat absolves the driver from fault or the cop from taking the cyclist’s perspective into consideration.

Also, Swan Island motorists should know that cyclists, joggers, walkers, etc… frequently use the sidewalks because of the lack of shoulders and high-speeds of trucks.

Lenny Anderson
Guest

I will be happy to be an “expert”witness for the victim of this crash, regarding bike commuting on Swan Island.
Contact me at the Swan Island TMA, 503-745-6563 or at sitma@teleport.com
Moving opposite to traffic on sidewalks is definitely risky, but its the only option here, as the only legal path off the Island is up the Going Street sidewalk which Basin joins about a quarter mile south of Wygant, the scene of the crash.
Swan Island was developed by the Port of Portland on a very suburban model beginning in the 60’s. Making it work for bikes, peds and transit has been a struggle, but over 50 employees at Freightliner HQ participated in the 2006 Bike Commute Challenge, so it is doable, but at a much higher level of risk than elsewhere. I almost never ride on sidewalks, except on Swan Island. Does anyone have the name of the police officer? Contact me via the above phone or email if you do.
Thanks.

Matt P.
Guest

Lenny,

isn’t it legal also to take Basin to N. Anchor street and then take that over to N Channel Ave? Or by “legal path” do you mean sidewalk? I have to wonder if it would be safer to just follow the one-way streets and take the lane in this case. Probably not, with all the trucks.

It seems to me that Swan Island is a really strong candidate for having its own seperate bikeways.

Attornatus_Oregonensis
Guest
Attornatus_Oregonensis

It’s good to see this moving ahead. Thanks to Jonathan and to Lenny Anderson for stepping up here. As I and others have said previously, an advocate capable of navigating the legal system is needed to help right this wrong, to the extent that is possible. I have little doubt that the big hammer of the law will come down hard on this one, if given the chance.

Kat Iverson
Guest

Will we ever live to see the day when cyclists stop acting like rolling pedestrians and start acting like drivers?

Scott Mizee
Guest

Great comments on this post. I, of course, agree with Lenny and Jonathan that the cyclist was in the right here. I especially agree with Matt P. in post #25 that this is just one more piece of evidence as to why “Swan Island is a really strong candidate for having its own seperate bikeways.” We at npGREENWAY have been working with Lenny and others for over two years to gather grass roots support to achieve this goal. In addition to the SITMA site, please check out our site at http://www.npgreenway.org. Our next community meeting is scheduled for February 15th in New Columbia. We would love to see all you there who are interested in an off street water front path that connects St. Johns to the Eastbank Esplanade. You may e-mail us at info@npgreenway.org or check our blog for more information–http://npgreenway.blogspot.com/

Happy Trails!

Thomas Ngo
Guest
Thomas Ngo

This is why I have a halogen HID light on my helmet for riding in these conditions. Cyclists who point their HID lights at drivers might be annoying, but it’s what can end up saving their lives.

Too bad that the investment is not within everyone’s means.

I really like Andy’s idea about putting officers on mandatory bike duty. The behavior of the officer was especially troubling to me as well.

Tony Pereira
Guest

I love you all, but a big problem here is that the cyclist was riding on the sidewalk–in the wrong direction. Don’t ride on the sidewalk! This is exactly why. The fault of the driver is not going to heal your broken body.

I agree that the cop did not handle this correctly. I also understand that riding on the sidewalk may not be illegal, it still doesn’t make it right.

Scott Mizee
Guest

Tony,

Have you ridden this part of Swan Island? In my opinion, the rider is safer on the sidewalk than on the road. However, I do agree that if we are riding on the sidewalk, we need to be extra cautious because motorists do not expect to see cyclists on sidewalks. Perhaps SITMA could install some signs on Swan Island to caution motorists of the cyclists on the sidewalks?

Scott Mizee
Guest

Portland Police officers quite frequently post on the Back Fence Community Policing Forum at North Portland Online. I have posted a link to this post there in hopes that we can get a response from officers on this subject. The post url is http://www.portlandonline.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=581

I think you have to live in North Portland and get a user name to login. See http://www.portlandonline.com/northportland/index.cfm?c=35568

By the way, I agree with Thomas that shining your halogen headlamp to get motorists attention works very well.

ian m.
Guest
ian m.

oh, you were on the sidewalk? i was with you up till that point. the sidewalk is a shitty place to ride. the way to not get in accidents is to get on the road, take the lane, ride aggressively–ride like you belong there and you’ll stay there, come hell or high water. people read that coming off you. people go around you that way. you don’t have confidence, you’ve got nothing in traffic. having a gajillion lights and reflectors and timidly sticking to the sidewalk doesn’t show a scrap of confidence.

sorry about your injuries, and i hope things work out well for you…but if you want to avoid things like this in the future, you might want to rethink where/how you ride.

Brian
Guest
Brian

Ian and Tony:

Judging by your comments, I would guess neither of you have ridden Basin Ave before. I would never make a habit of riding on sidewalks in general, but Basin Ave is an exception. This curvy stretch of road is PACKED full of semi trucks, FedEx trucks, UPS trucks and daily commuters in a hurry to get to/from work. Most vehicles exceed the posted speed limit of 35 mph… some go as fast as 50 mph. As a regular biker on Basin Ave, the sidewalk is the safest spot when you’re south of Ensign St. If you’d like to find out for yourselves, go ride Basin Ave during business hours on a weekday… but be extremely careful.

Paul Tay
Guest

You already KNOW what I’m gonna say.

Mark Johnson
Guest

Bike on Sauvie Island…it’s much more pleasant 🙂

Winter Magic on Sauvie Island
http://portlandor.wordpress.com/2007/01/21/winter-magic-on-sauvie-island/

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

So no disrespect to the victim. He apparently was riding with reasonable safety. But NEVER NEVER NEVER assume (ass-u-me) that a driver will see you. I have experiences at least 2-3 times a week where a driver stops at an intersection and is about to go in front of me. I watch the wheels and attempt to make eye-contact. Most importantly if their not paying attention, I put myself right at the edge of their vehicle. If they go, I’m safe, but more often they see me and I make it as clear as I can (without the option of verbage) that they are not trustworthy. In fact while it was cold and snowy a police car did exactly that in NoPo. Obviously if we cannot trust cops to drive a car carefully, than we cannot trust them to enforce careful driving in others.

joe adamski
Guest
joe adamski

This crash speaks to the lack of both awareness and facilities on Swan Island, a major source of family wage jobs here in Portland. Completion of the npGreenway trail and a connected “intranet” of transportation trails on the Island would not only provide safe access for employees,but have many benefits for employers. Support from the community is important to get the trail funded and built. But this incident happens daily all through the country. the notion that bikes ‘do not belong’ on streets and the fact that cyclists usually face a higher burden of proof in disputes is attitude based. I dont know the cure or response,but making sure we have the knowledge and support from the bike community makes all the difference. Lawyer up and make sure the drivers are held accountable when they are the cause of wrecks.

AND.. lets get npGreenway built..

BL
Guest
BL

The police reaction from my experience where I was hit a driver and it was his fault & he left but I got his plate #is pretty usual. He didn’t want to deal with the paper work & saide so & tried to talk me out going forth to give him a citation since it would mean he would have to do an investigation. I contacted my homeowners insurance who tracked down the other dirver. Then the other driver’s insurance drived tofigure out how to make it 51% fault so it wouldn’t thier insurance. Definitely get a lawyer and let them work it out & don’t say anything since they try to turn your words around. Don’t let yourself get pushed around & don’t give up. Realize that it could take a long time to get this settled.

Also I am aware of a motorist who was ticketed when at a stop sign & a cyclist darted irresponsibily from the opposite direction on a side walk across & the two met. All agreed the cyclist was improper but they said the law as written made the car liable period considering the cyclist a pedstrian.

Jim O'Horo
Guest
Jim O'Horo

Three points to make regarding this sad story:

First, this has all the signs of becoming a case in civil court. Like others I strongly urge the cyclist to retain an attorney
NOW.

Second, as Jonathan learned in the Randy Albright case, we’re in a public forum, lawyers from both sides of the case can read our posts, and we can be subpoenaed to testify, whether we like it or not. From what I read in the article and the posts, some feel the police report is slanted and/or prejudicial. If so, that’s already more damage and confusion than is needed. We should be very careful about stating supposition and speculation as if it were fact. All that will do is muddy the waters even more. Unless we’re actual witnesses to the collision we shouldn’t be talking about speed, direction, who stopped, yielded, etc. as if any of that were fact. That’s for the court to decide. OK, off the soapbox.

Third, Jonathan mentioned that risk of collision increases 200% when riding a sidewalk facing traffic. Actually that’s a SUBSTANTIAL UNDERESTIMATE. The average risk of collision with a motor vehicle when riding a sidewalk increases over 600% when riding facing traffic vs. riding in the direction of traffic. For the specific circumstances of this collision, “motorist failing to yield at a controlled intersection”, the risk is tilted even more dramatically against the rider facing traffic. Of 131 such collisions involving cyclists riding on the sidewalk included in a random 5-state sample of 2990 bike/motor vehicle collisions only 9 (7%) occurred when the cyclist was riding in the direction of traffic. The remaining 122 (93%) happened to cyclists traveling facing traffic. That’s a 1256% increase in risk, just from going the opposite direction on the sidewalk! Source: Bicycle Crash Types: A 1990’s Informational Guide, USDOT, Federal Highway Administration Pub. # FHWA-RD-96-104, April 1997. Data taken from 1995 reports from CA, FL, MD, MN, NC, and UT; 500 random reports from each state. Though riding a bicycle on the sidewalk on Basin Ave. is legal in either direction, when we consider the extra risk due to rain and darkness, the overall hazard to the cyclist in this case is downright scary. I feel the suggestion to ride to Channel Ave. and follow the sidewalk there makes a lot of sense. Yeah, I know that’s 2 blocks longer, but that way you have a chance of going home rather than to the emergency room.

PoPo
Guest
PoPo

Just some thoughts:

There are two basic ways that police officers usually handle traffic accidents in Portland.
The first way is to facilitate the exchange of information. This means showing up, asking all parties for drivers licenses, insurance information, vehicle registration information and names and numbers of passengers and witnesses. The officer will usually copy all this information on an accident exchange form, which has boxes for all this info, and then give a carbon copy to each of the involved parties for use when dealing with insurance companies or civil suits. During this process most officers will check to see if any of the parties have arrest warrants, are suspended or are driving stolen cars. Officers might also ask drivers what happened, just for a few notes in their notebook. This is the way the vast majority of accidents where the police respond are handled, and is not an official “police investigation.” The face sheet of the exchange form with all the information is sent on to police records and I think then to DMV, but that is all. (There is an area on the back of the form for optional officer notes, but I know few officers who write in them.)

(And just FYI, many accidents occur to which the police don’t respond because they result in slight damage, and this sort of exchange is what the involved parties should do on their own.)

The second way police in Portland handle a traffic accident is an actual “investigation” in which officers interview involved parties and witnesses, take measurements, maybe pictures, and essentially attempt to recreate exactly what happened in the accident. The findings are then written into an official police report which usually includes a diagram. This report is kept by the police records division. All officers receive training on how to do uch an investigation, but most normal “beat” patrol officers don’t do them very often because an officer from the Traffic Division is usually called to the scene to do them. Traffic officers are well versed and practiced in investigating accidents, and I think that the six officers specially trained in bicycle crash investigations probably all work in the traffic division.

So what determines when an accident is actually investigated or information merely exchanged? Portland Police General Orders (available online at the police bureau website) require that hit and run accidents, DUII accidents, accidents involving city-owned vehicles, accidents involving a hazardous materials spill, accidents related to a police “code run” (driving with lights and sirens), and accidents in which a driver is cited for a moving violation are all investigated. In addition fatal accidents and accidents in which a person is entered into the Trauma Unit of a hospital must also be investigated. Note that “Trauma Unit” does not equal “emergency room”. Trauma unit usually means very serious, life-threatening injuries.

I don’t know for sure, but have heard from older officers that the Portland Police used to “investigate” all auto accidents. But after a while officers started being so tied up on accident investigations that they weren’t available for other calls, so the general orders were changed to limit the number of investigations.

Though I wasn’t there, and can’t know anything for sure because of that, the accident described above on Swan Island doesn’t sound like it falls under any of the required investigation situations (most accidents don’t). Thus I’m actually a little surprised that there was a report completed, particularly if the office didn’t interview the cyclist, which would be a natural part of the investigation. I’m not questioning the veracity of the account, just saying that something doesn’t make sense. This seems like a common “exchange of information” type accident.

Keeping in mind that an officer is never required to issue a traffic citation, why in this case did he decide not to? Who knows. Maybe he didn’t know the law as well as he should. Maybe there was a stack of calls from other people that he had to respond to and didn’t have the time. Maybe he heard an emergency call dispatched nearby and knew he should go help er officers as soon as possible. Maybe he was lazy and wanted to avoid paperwork. Maybe he looked at the totality of the circumstance–directions of travel, weather and light conditions, actions of the parties after the accident–and just decided that a citation wasn’t merited. Maybe he decided whatever civil actions and investigations taken on by the insurance companies we pay so much money to each month would be the best adjudication. Maybe he was brand new and nervous about attempting it on his own. Maybe the officer knew or saw something not obvious to the rest of us. Maybe he simply made a mistake. (I’m sure people who were at the scene can eliminate many of these options–I’m just trying illustrate the large number of possiblities.)

We have high expectations for our police officers, and that is a good thing. And clearly the bicyclist in this accident was disappointed by the police service she received. I have high expectations too. Usually they are met, but indeed sometimes I’m disappointed as well. (And I’m sure that I’ve also disappointed my fellow citizens sometimes.) I have learned that each officer is different. Some are kind and empathetic, some are jerks. Some are young and naive, others are old and jaded. All have good days and bad days, just like everyone. Most have families and homes and are venturing to make their way through their lives as best they can. Virtually all started out with an idealistic sense of public service and wanting to help others, though many have lost it.

While the officers who make mistakes or bad calls may need and deserve individual criticism, I will say that every frustrated comment and barb about “the cops” in general not only alienates potential allies, but also chips away at the above-mentioned idealism of all officers and slowly but surely turns them into exactly the kind of jaded, pessimistic, poor communicators who frustrate us. They are succeptable to this chipping because they are human. I’m not saying not to be frustrated or to lower standards, but let’s just be careful about how we ask for change (how about petitioning the Bureau for all bicycle-related accidents be added to the mandatory-investigation list?) lest we simply make things worse.

Scott Mizee
Guest

Wow PoPo. That is an excellent post. Thanks for the education and your time to write it. I hope all the above will read it.

jeff
Guest
jeff

Thanks PoPo, excellent post. I think you are right on in suggesting that perhaps bicycle related accidents should trigger an investigation.

velomal
Guest
velomal

Thanks to everyone in the Portland biking community for all of your thoughts concerning this incident. I am the cyclist who was injured in this accident and I would like to respond to a few of the comments and try to clear a few things up. You should all know that I will be hiring a lawyer and I will be fighting to vindicate myself. Hopefully some good will come from the outcome for the cycling community.

First of all, anyone who still thinks that there is ANY safer way to ride on Swan Island, when riding from Leverman Ave, which is where I work, is crazy. There is no shoulder or sidewalk on the other side of the road. This is a twisty road along which many, many big trucks and anxious commuters drive very fast, especially at 5:15 p.m.

I will admit to being a relatively new bike commuter, but I am always cautious and try my best not to put myself in harms way. After the fact I do agree with a lot of the comments that folks have posted about making eye contact, flashing lights in driver’s eyes, and blasting horns. I am sure I will employ some of these tactics when I am well enough to get back on my bike. None of this helps me right now, of course. For the record, I was approaching the crosswalk cautiously and did not increase my speed until I realized I was about to be squashed.

I would also like to say that the fact that I ride on the sidewalk on Swan Island is not because I am a timid rider seeking the “safety” of a sidewalk. Nor is it because I am too lazy to travel a few more blocks out of my way in order to travel with the flow of traffic. The simple fact is, as Lenny has said, it is the safest way to travel on Swan Island, PERIOD. Go check it out at 5p.m. tomorrow night if you don’t believe me. Why does everyone who has experience biking on Swan Island agree with me? Coincidence? I think not.

That being said, the thing that really gets me is how the driver is not being held accountable for her actions. How can the police officer, who, in fact, did fill out a complete police report with a diagram and an extremely biased description, place all the blame on me? I appreciate and agree with the comments from PoPo, but it leaves me wondering why the officer that attended the scene did not take a statement at all from me. How can someone write a report that is supposed to acurately recreate the events that occurred, when only one party is inteviewed? I was definitely in shock and pain, but if the officer had spoken to me in rational manner, I’m sure I would have responded as calmly and accurately as possible.

In Brad’s post, he stated, “In most accidents, human error generally occurs with both parties to create the circumstances required for the collision to happen.” I agree with this statement and I am just looking for the driver to assume some accountability. Of course I feel that she is more at fault, and therefore think that she should be ultimately liable for what happened. But thanks to the extremely incompetent, insensitive, and unprofessional police officer who responded to the accident, I was the one who was presumed guilty and now I must fight to prove my innocence. I guess it will be up to the courts to decide this one.

So much more to say! How do I respond to all of these comments at once? I just want to say thanks to Jonathan for thinking this was worth writing about. Hopefully it has made more riders aware of some of the dangers that lurk out there. I urge you to be careful on sidewalks and to observe the laws that are in place, especially the crosswalk law that Ray Thomas has written about on several occasions and is trying to get changed. Also thanks to Lenny Andersen. I will be getting in touch with you soon.

Finally, I promise to be an advocate for the npGreenway Trail because I don’t plan to stop commuting by bike because of this, but it sure would be nice to have a safer route.

Scott Mizee
Guest

Thanks Swan Island Rider “velomal.” I hope we see you at our community meeting on February 15th. I hope that one of the good things that comes out of this is a safer route for cyclists from North Portland to downtown. Your cases is an excellent illustration of why it is necessary. See you all in New Columbia at 7PM Feb 15th.
http://npgreenway.blogspot.com/2006/12/next-community-meeting-february-15th.html

Lenny Anderson
Guest

The Swan Island TMA will be seeking funds for adding 750′ of multi-use path/sidewalk to the west side of Basin Avenue between Anchor and Wygant. This will still have bicyclists travelling against the one way direction, but with only two driveways to cross and no streets. Just south of Wygant is a marked crosswalk for getting to the east side of Basin for the climb up Going Street.
We are also hoping that with a planned seismic retrofit of the Going Street bridge to get a wider sidewalk with a barrier for safer bike and ped travel in both directions.
As a kid growing up on Multnomah, I was hit on my bike by guy making a left turn…I was riding with traffic but on the sidewalks. So I know the deal, but believe me Basin Avenue is only for those who love to play tag with 18 wheelers.
The TMA is working with employers, neighbors, employees and every agency we can arouse to get a complete above the curb multi-use bike/ped network on Swan Island, including the Waud Bluff Trail and use of the private “Cement Road” to Lower Albina. Over the last few years using funds from Bureau of Environmental Services and TriMet we have improved the Going Street sidewalk, adding marked crosswalks, refuge islands and missing sidewalk links. But tons of work remains to be done.
Meanwhile, we see more and more bike commuters leaving their cars at home, making more room for freight on Swan Island’s busy roadways.

eritter
Guest

Wow. Sorry this happened, and hope “velomal” recovers fully. I haven’t ridden Swan Island myself, and I think I’ll continue to avoid it at rush hour.

Re: Paths:

About the proposed separate network:
Sometimes separate bike paths work well — for example, the Springwater Corridor and the eastside path from OMSI to Sellwood Park are popular and scenic, as well as effective ways to get somewhere by bike.
Sometimes off-road paths tend to attract criminal mischief — for example, I had a friend who lived in a little neighborhood on the west side of Hwy 26, where there’s access to PSU by a bike/ped path. They had frequent problems with car break-ins, theft, used needles, and other issues: people were using the path to evade capture by police in cars.

I fear that the Swan Island area is more like the PSU/freeway zone, and less like the park areas. It’s dark at night, few eyes on the street, few access points for police. Yet there are yards to be burgled and it’s close enough to freeways and neighborhoods to be attractive as a meeting place for illicit business.

If cyclists and pedestrians win their separate, safer paths, will there be enough cyclists and pedestrians to police it?

Re: Self-Policing:
Paid and trained police officers are the obvious solution, but they’re not the only option.
Are experienced bicyclists willing to take a more active role in traffic enforcement and education?
I live near Alberta and Vancouver, and I’m disturbed by the reports of teenagers harassing cyclists. Would it be possible to create a bicycle-based “neighborhood watch” that rode those streets when school lets out, to mitigate these kids’ pranks? Or even take a direct approach to the school itself?

I’d also be interested in getting cyclists volunteering as traffic deputies. I fantasize about a little crossbow with sticky tips, to suction polite notes about driving rules and Portland’s bike routes onto inattentive vehicles, but that’s impractical.
What are the legalities of citizen’s arrest?
How do we report license numbers on dangerous drivers’ vehicles, and will such reports be used to improve the situation?
Can we self-police better, and help with training for new bikies, to increase the consistency of bike behavior?

Another thought from Trike here:
Can the 18-wheeler drivers be recruited to help via CB radio? If the dispatchers and drivers started recruiting at Swan Island, these guys could turn things around pretty quick.
Truck drivers work together. They often use CB to warn each other about road conditions – including problem drivers, bikes, cows, etc. And occasionally, you hear rumors about them “enforcing” good driving manners on some poor unsuspecting sucker who is cutting up the lanes in a zippy new pickup.
As a cyclist, I’m usually rooting for the professional drivers, who are much more fun to share the road with than most commuters.

David Dean
Guest
David Dean

In the forums the cyclist indicated she was cited by the officer:

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.

This is curious since it appears to be contrary to official policy.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Please do not take this as a insult to any cyclists out there. I believe everyone has the right to ride wherever they please BUT…… I have seen too many times cyclists swerve out in traffic or cross streets without looking because they assume they have the right of way. Maybe they do. But do you really want to take that chance? The chance that the guy in the car behind you feels the same way. Or in the case above assume that the person in that jeep has seen you. In the case of the car VS the bike, the car always wins. So please lets go back to our childhoods and STOP, LOOK and LISTEN! Regardless of what you think your rights are. I would rather take a few seconds to look around rather than spend a few weeks in the hospital.
Again I respect all those who choose to ride instead of drive but do you raelly want to see more memorials on every street corner or worse yet have one of them be yours?