Report from the bike safety meeting and press conference

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A large crowd in City Hall.
Slideshow below
(Photos © Jonathan Maus)

Just four days after the second fatal bicycle crash in as many weeks, City Commissioner Sam Adams called together an “emergency meeting” to discuss the issues and brainstorm solutions to improve bike safety in our city. Following the meeting was a press conference that was jam-packed with concerned citizens and the local media.

Around the table of the closed-door session were close to thirty people from a variety of backgrounds. Below is a partial list of attendees:

Inside the meeting.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

According to the agenda passed around, the stated purpose of the meeting was to “Develop a package of truck/bike improvements that will achieve immediate and sustained safety results.”

As we went around and introduced ourselves it became clear that this was a high-powered group. As you can see from the list above, there were high-level people from all the “Four E’s” of Encouragement, Enforcement (PPB), Engineering, and Education.

It’s no secret that when Adams — who oversees PDOT in his role as Transportation Commissioner — puts a high priority on an issue, he wants things to happen as fast as possible (or “as is prudent” he says). Today, it was clear that he is very concerned about bike safety and he is ready to do something about it.

After we all introduced ourselves, Adams presented an overview of how the Platinum Bicycle Master Plan and the Freight Master Plan were related. He said, “We are a bike city as well as a trade city.” With both of our recent fatalities coming at the hands of large trucks, Adams is re-invigorating the conversation about how we plan for future increases in both bike use and truck traffic.

Adams used this meeting to tap the collective wisdom of the assembled experts. His first order of business was to ask us what we thought the problem was. He called on people randomly for their input. The ideas touched on many of the issues the 800 or so comments on this site have brought up over the past week.

All the while, Adams’ staffer Jesse Beason scribbled everything on huge sheets of paper. All the ideas will be organized, typed up, and then delivered to everyone in advance of our next meeting three weeks from now. (That meeting will be open to the public so stay tuned for details.)

After defining the existing problems, Adams turned to PDOT’s bicycle coordinator Roger Geller. Geller gave a presentation on the statistical analysis of bike/freight/auto crashes.

Between 2002 and 2006 the Police Bureau completed 221 detailed crash investigations that involved bicycles. Of those, Geller said, the “right hook” was the most prominent type of crash with 9.5% (cyclists running stop signs was #2, accounting for 8%).

Adams asked Geller to discuss the pros and cons of “the two pre-dominant” ideas for intersection improvements: bike boxes and the police-proposed California-style bike lane law (where motorists can legally enter the bike lane before making a right turn). We also heard Lt. Mark Kruger’s perspective on both of these ideas.

PDOT put together a very detailed and comprehensive analysis on bike safety in Portland for this meeting. You can download it on

There was an interesting discussion about the enforcement issues with City Attorney David Worboril. He discussed the infamous “failure to yield law” and he answered questions and tried to clarify the citation policy that has been so frustrating and confusing for many.

Out of respect for the confidentiality of this meeting, I won’t go into more detail right now. However, you can be assured I will be covering this more next week.

At the end of the meeting, Adams passed around a sheet with a long list of ideas and potential solutions from an engineering, enforcement, and education standpoint. We went down the list, offered our feedback, and added new ideas as necessary.

I feel like this meeting was a solid first step. Important issues were brought to the table, and it was very encouraging to have representatives from so many different areas get an education about bike issues. All the people that are in a position to vastly improve bike safety were at this meeting. Now, the challenge will be to agree on solutions, and then implement them.

PDOT has just released the following list of potential solutions:

Potential infrastructure solutions

*Treating 14 of the city’s top difficult intersections, which will include N. Interstate at Greeley and SW 14th Avenue at Burnside, with a “bike box” to reduce bicycle crashes referred to as a left and right “hook”. Here are the 14 locations:

*Bike box at stop bar at intersection

Potential equipment solutions

Potential enforcement and crash investigation solutions

Potential education solutions

I was happy to see a large turnout of at least 100 people (mostly all cyclists) at the press conference.

Below is an audio clip of Sam Adams’ opening statements at the press conference. Others that spoke included Roger Geller, lawyer Mark Ginsberg, trucking representative Bob Russell, Lt. Mark Kruger, and the BTA’s Scott Bricker.

Sam Adams opening statements:

If you attended the press conference, what did you think? Please share your thoughts.

A slideshow from the meeting and the press conference is below.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

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