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Car/bike collision in Milwaukie sparks engineering questions

Posted by on November 14th, 2007 at 11:37 am

According to media reports, late last night a bicyclist was involved in a head-on collision with a car in Milwaukie, a city that borders Portland to the south.

Here’s a snip from the Oregonian:

“Gabriel Lee King, 20, of Arcadia, Calif., was riding north on the southbound shoulder of Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard about 5:15 p.m. when his bicycle crossed 22nd Avenue and collided with the car, said Kevin Krebs, a Milwaukie Police Department spokesman.”

Check a Google Map of the intersection.

King was last reported to be in stable condition with non life-threatening injuries. The Oregonian also adds that no citations were issued in the collision (one blogger wonders why the there’s no “uproar” about this) and that alcohol was not a factor.

Some Milwaukie residents are discussing this crash on the Shift email list. The emails have centered around the engineering of this particular intersection.

Heather Andrews, a Milwaukie resident who also works for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, wrote:

“the intersection where this occurred has big safety issues. SE 22nd is a major exit for cars wanting to access SE River Road, and the high speed of McLoughlin combined with the small angle they need to turn to exit (thus not slowing or looking) almost ensures bad stuff will happen there.”

Dave O’Dell rode by the crash immediately after it happened. “The whole area needs to be re-engineered with safety as the top priority (over traffic flow) if you ask me.”

But another Milwaukie resident Matt Picio chimed in and said,

“…it would have helped a great deal had the cyclist NOT decided to ride the wrong way up the shoulder at 5:15pm. Assuming he was riding 15 mph (not unusual, since he was going slightly downhill), his closing speed with the oncoming traffic was 60 mph…That intersection is surely badly engineered, and the City of Milwaukie is working with ODOT to fix it…but this particular incident has nothing to do with the bad design – a cyclist riding the wrong way at or after twilight on the shoulder of a busy 45 mph road during evening rush hour – not smart.”

Read more from the Shift list thread here.

Ironically, this crash happened on the same day the Clackamas Review ran a story about how the City of Milwaukie has just done a major overhaul to their Transportation System Plan that “focuses on all modes of transportation”.

Concerned cyclists are also urging the City to create a Bicycle Advisory Committee and there seems to be some positive momentum to make the city safer for bikes. In light of this crash, the timing for that couldn’t be better.

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Jenn
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Jenn

I agree with both Heather and Matt, however this incident seems isolated. Especially riding down the wrong side of the road, drivers can\’t anticipate cyclists coming AT them.

However, I hope something positive will come out of all these car/bike collisons because this is getting ridiculous.

Hanmade
Guest
Hanmade

I understand why the cyclist was going nothbound in the southbound lane, it is the most expedient way to go from river road to downtown Milwaukie. I do the same thing, although at 5:30am going to work, but am very aware and careful about my vulnerability to any traffic (at that time I never have any). Milwaukie needs to improve that area, there are several issues there beyond just the intersection (I could write a lot more here). I am glad it wasn\’t any worse, and I hope they work to improve it soon.

Spanky
Guest
Spanky

in defense of cyclists NB on teh SB traffic lane shoulder, the right most lane NB at that area is not bike friendly. It is narrow, and traffic moves at high speed. There is also a controlled merge from traffic leaving the River Road area and lane changes made from left to right by car traffic, which adds danger to cyclists.

I don\’t see much presently, by way of cyclists wanting to avoid the traffic NB, which is heavy, and fairly fast on the approach to dowtown Milwaukie.

Bicycledave
Guest

I\’ll be leading a ride to the rally on Saturday morning about 10:30 am from a little south of this crash near the spot where Daniel Frank was killed in October of 2006. We\’ll be meeting at the Safeway parking lot just South of Fred Meyer and North of GI Joes.

Everyone in the area interested in improving traffic safety is welcome. Look for an announcement from Elly Blue tomorrow listing all the rides to the rally.

Hope to see you there,
Dave

David Dean
Guest
David Dean

Because Milwaukie\’s transportation system seems to be centered around the two large arterial roads (HWY 99E and HWY 224,) in my experience, riding around Milwaukie on a bicycle is very frustrating.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Did the cyclist have a light for visibility at 5:15 PM? If not, that could be a huge contributing factor.

Further, if it is ever necessary to ride the wrong way on a shoulder due to poor road design, as may be the case here, I highly recommend becoming a pedestrian and walking at intersections and any other areas without ample cushion between you and oncoming or crossing traffic.

Suburban
Guest
Suburban

Frusterating. That is a generous description of most Milwaukie\’s bike infrastructure. Designatd bike routs like Linwood and Lake Rd are a joke, and lawsuits waiting to happen. On the bright side, It is getting easier to get around Milwaukie in a class 3 truck, if you do that. Milwaukie is going to go from peak-oil to peak-water inside of a decade. Riding against traffic is dumb

Wayne
Guest
Wayne

In response to Hanmade and Sparky — I am appalled that you can say it is ever a good idea to ride against traffic, much less to advocate that it can be the most expedient way to get from one place to another. Would turning across the bike lane (or using the bike lane for the turn) be the most expedient way for a car to make the turn, and would you accept that rationale? What if the cyclist had been going the right way and the car had been going the wrong way because it was expedient for him to get to next intersection and avoid traffic? Of course not. There is NEVER a reason to go the wrong way. It is ALWAYS against the law. Sorry if it\’s inconvenient but it\’s just a perfect example of how cyclists want it both ways.

Matt Picio
Guest

Hanmade (#2) – unfortunately, there\’s not a lot Milwaukie can do – that intersection is controlled by ODOT, and ODOT has the final say on anything done there.

The situation is made worse by the fact that Metro is trying to push the next MAX line through that intersection to a terminus at McLoughlin and Park Ave. (one would suppose to eventually push the line down to Oregon City) That corridor is already severely constrained and badly designed, and though ODOT and Metro both say there is enough room to handle transit, cars, freight, bikes and pedestrians, a number of us aren\’t so sure.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

What about some of the one way streets around town that route the bike lane THE WRONG way. What kind of message does this send to cyclists and drivers?

Matt Picio
Guest

Patrick (#9) – In Milwaukie, or in Portland?

I think the worst example of a \”wrong-way\” bike lane is SE 97th from Sunnyside to Sunnybrook. Drivers exiting the Kaiser Permanente parking lot aren\’t expecting bike riders from that direction.

Matt Picio
Guest

Spanky (#3) – yes, but cyclists NB also move fast. When I used to regularly ride that stretch, I would ride 25-30 mph. At that speed, cars are only passing you at 15-20 mph relative speed.

When you ride \”head-on\” to traffic on McLoughlin, the closing speeds are 60+ mph. That\’s 3x the relative speed when traveling the legal direction, and if a head-on crash occurs, it would occur with 9x the force. The SB shoulder of McLoughlin is as narrow as the NB one.

Hanmade
Guest
Hanmade

Matt (#8) The area is large enough that ODOT could put a bike path set back from the street and even with some sort of curb /barricade there for safety. As it is now, the shoulder is loose dirt, gravel and broken glass. As I said I ride this at 5:30am, but at 5pm, with rush hour traffic, I would be very hesitant. There is a bike path farther west that winds along the river, but it is inconvenient to get to, not lighted, has some dangerous loose gravel spots, and of course takes longer. The route Gabriel was riding will take you underneath the RR bridge and to a sidewalk along McLoughlin, which eventually puts you back on the path along the river. At this point, this is typically how NB River bike traffic will go. Supposedly the paving of the Trolley Trail will fix some of this, but we have been waiting for years for that to happen.

bikieboy
Guest
bikieboy

Matt (#10) \”I think the worst example of a \”wrong-way\” bike lane is SE 97th from Sunnyside to Sunnybrook. Drivers exiting the Kaiser Permanente parking lot aren\’t expecting bike riders from that direction\”

i rode it for the first time a few weeks ago and was amazed, in part for the reason you give (there doesn\’t seem to be any warning given to drivers exiting the Kaiser parking lot..?) but also because it ends at Sunnyside in a particularly graceless & confusing fashion if you want to continue north, or go west.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

I also ride the wrong way at this area, as it is the most prudent decision to make there.

And, we must remember, as wrong as it may have been proven to be, most of us were taught in school to ride against traffic.

I know I was.

Carl
Guest
Carl

The citation question is a pretty obvious one given all of our recent harping. Understandable mistake…bad traffic engineering…the same could be said about the driver at Interstate and Greely. Shouldn\’t the cyclist receive a citation? (PS I say this as someone who also occasionally rides the wrong way there for all the reasons listed above.)

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

\”Shouldn\’t the cyclist receive a citation?\”

Yes. If a law was clearly broken, then by all means a citation should be issued.

Deb
Guest
Deb

Young riders need better riding education, and it needs to start early. Riding rules and guidelines with every bike/ helmet purchase.
SE 42nd Bike path, yesterday at 2:45 a teenage bicyclist ran the stop sign on Rhone @ 42 and hung a right directly in the path of a northbound car. That cyclist is alive today only because the driver of the dark blue sedan was breaking for the speed bump at the same time. The rider never even noticed that he was missed by mere inches.

Carl
Guest
Carl

Good point, Jonathan. He probably wasn\’t technically in the \”roadway\” if he was on the shoulder… Is that what you were implying?

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

Matt,
I know of the lane by Kaiser you are talking about. I was thinking of Hoyt and NE 22nd. I\’ve seen others around town as well, that direct bike the wrong way on ONE WAY streets.
Confusing for drivers and cyclists in my opinion.

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

Dabby,

I knew I WAS taught to ride towards traffic. I was asking my wife about that the other day, but I thought that couldn\’t be right.

Russell
Guest
Russell

@Suburban (#7) –

I\’ve never ridden out that way, can you (or anyone) explain what\’s wrong with Lake Rd, then down to 17th and from there to the bike path? I\’ve ridden from Portland out towards Waverly Dr before and didn\’t find any of that hairy, so I\’m just wondering what happens at Lake . . .

peejay
Guest
peejay

Dabby, Patrick:

I think I\’m about your age, Dabby, and I was they had just started switching over to teaching kids to ride with traffic as I was growing up, but there were some adults who gave us conflicting messages because of what they were taught. In fact, there was a local family who made a big show of not allowing their kids to ride their bikes in the street until the law was reversed.

heather andrews
Guest
heather andrews

Even though I don\’t want to appear to be defending someone who was biking the wrong way, the problem I have with the \”nobody can/should anticipate a cyclist coming at them\” argument is that in a sidewalk situation, bikes *may* be coming at them. And more likely, so may pedestrians. And no car driver could expect people to actually believe the same sort of excuse to work if they had run over a pedestrian.

That is why I was angry to hear about Jerry Hinatsu\’s death last year. He was in a bike lane that was right next to a sidewalk–even if the driver of that car shouldn\’t have been expected to look right for a wrong-way bike, they should have been expected to look right for a pedestrian. How many times have those reading this been walking through a crosswalk on a \”walk\” signal, only to have a close call with a car who wasn\’t paying attention to where the crosswalk was, and whether there was someone in it?

That having been said, this bicyclist was not on a sidewalk because there is no sidewalk there. (Yet another problem with that intersection.)

Bicycledave
Guest

Heather,
I used to run a lot when I was in high school. I can\’t tell you how many times I came upon a right-turning driver that only looked left. They would sit there with their head stuck left until a gap in the traffic and punch it only then looking forward (in the direction they were headed), but too late to avoid running over any pedestrian that might be in front of them.

This crash is a different scenario of course.

By the way I\’ve changed the meeting place for my ride to the rally to Bike N\’ Hike (across McLoughlin from Safeway and Blockbuster) meet at 10:25 Saturday leave at 10:40.

Matt M
Guest

For those that mentioned Lake road as problematic, it is not nearly as bad as the intersection that this accident occured in. Lake needs to be repaved and a bike lane re-painted, but since Milwaukie is broke, this project is several years off.

This accident could have been avoided had there been signage that points cyclist to take a route through the Island Station Neighborhood just a block toward the river. There is a multi-user path that runs from the neighborhood north on the river side of the sewage treatment plant which will keep people off HWY 99E for approx a mile where it hooks into 17th. It is a slightly bumpy path, and might be a little slower, but it is safer, and has good views of the river. Personally I skip 17th into Sellwood. I suggest that people cross over 99E once in \”downtown\” Milwaukie (north of the sewage treatment plant) and take Main st north until you arrive at the 3 bridges and hop on the springwater trail.

If you are interested in proposed future bike projects in Milwaukie check out the TSP:
http://www.cityofmilwaukie.org/milwaukie/projects/tspupdate/tspupdate.html
Scroll down and click on the bike chapter # 6. Matt P, Heather Andrews and I were very involved in creating this plan.

Lastly, Jonathan says \”Milwaukie, a city that borders Portland to the south.\” Funny, sounds like something a Portlander would say. I\’m a 3rd gen Portlander and I always thought of Milwaukie as a place you drive/ride through to get someplace else, but then I moved to Milwaukie 5 years ago and realized what a great place it is and that even though it has it\’s own set of problems it has alot to offer.
Matt

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

When and where did the \”most of us\” grow up who were taught to ride against traffic?

I\’m in my forties, and when I got my drivers training (in MN where — unlike Oregon — it was actually required), we were taught to ride with traffic and walk against it. And that was far from the first time I\’d heard the message. I remember practicing what is now known as vehicular cycling back in the Seventies when I was ten years old, because that\’s what I was taught to do.

Lisa
Guest
Lisa

Yup, me too– in another midwestern state.

Matt Picio
Guest

In Michigan, growing up in the 70s, I was taught to ride AND walk WITH traffic. I recall specifically being taught not to walk against traffic because drivers weren\’t expecing me to do that.

Then again, we\’re talking metropolitan Detroit, home of the car.

Michigan requires new drivers to pass a road test, and all those from out-of-state who do not have a valid license. Like Oregon, the periodic retests are a joke – 10 question multiple choice, same as here (wait a sec, do they still do that here?)

Matt Picio
Guest

Hanmade (#13) – yep, I agree completely, and hopefully the Trolley Trail is actually going to happen next year like they keep saying it will.

bikeyboy (#14) – exactly. Once you\’ll at Sunnyside, it like \”where do I go now?\” \”What is the purpose of this bike lane?\”

Patrick (#20) Is that striped now? I\’ll go over next time I\’m that way and check it out. Thanks for the heads-up.

Re: Lake, Linwood: Lake isn\’t bad, except during the very height of rush hour in the afternoon. Linwood in Milwaukie is terrible, and has been brought to the city\’s attention. Linwood outside the city is even worse, but if you think it\’s hard to get Milwaukie to do bike improvements (and actually it\’s not, it\’s just the money is so limited) just try to make bike improvements in unincorporated Clackamas County.

Mike the Bike Kenney
Guest
Mike the Bike Kenney

I ride 22nd to 99E northbound heading against traffic 3 times a week. The cars coming off 99E to 22nd are traveling 45-50 mph and most don\’t use a turn signal. I avoid the corner by getting over to the left the block before 99E. I have avoided the bike path to the west along the river because of tree roots and loose gravel. Just recently I noticed that the path has been repaired. I WILL be using the path in the future.

Robert
Guest
Robert

Pedestrians and non motorized vehicles have too many rights in Portland.
Being right, but dead from a collision, should also be considered by anyone trying to challenge 3,000 pounds of flesh eating cars.
First of all…Our streets are designed from old tires recycled into asphalt and the light does not bounce back for great vision for drivers over 35.
Secondly add a bit of rain and the low amp wattage street lights shining a bit of yellow hue is hardly enough light for clear vision when you add the above elements with a bit or good old Portland drizzle on every window on the car.
Now add a cyclist zooming down the right hand side that in most instances is an illegal pass in Oregon for a motorized vehicle.
Setting up a typical evening with a right hand turn as I exit the city to go home
I have been a downtown driver and have noticed how aggressive bicyclists are weaving and dodging between the cars, particularly when rush hour is under way. As a motorist trying to make right hand turns and in that moment needing to make sure I will not block the crosswalk, meaning is there enough space, secondly did the light change before I was able to make the turn in the split second between the pedestrian coming into the crosswalk and me having time to make the turn. But oops did I also remember to look in my right hand mirror to make sure the bicyclist zooming down the path that a second ago was two blocks back and now in a path I am crossing into while making a right turn. I think everything needs to be reconsidered and passing on the right for a bicyclist should be a violation in the city. It’s hard enough to pay attention to the cars, traffic lights, pedestrians and the amount of space in front of me and the cars around me. Just my own POV