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A bittersweet bike box

Posted by on July 3rd, 2008 at 10:16 am

Bike Box at W Burnside and 14th-5.jpg

The new bike box at W. Burnside and 14th.
Video below
(Photos © J. Maus)

On Monday, the city of Portland installed a bike box in the SE corner of W. Burnside and 14th streets in downtown Portland — the same intersection where Tracey Sparling was killed nine months ago.

This is the eighth bike box the City has installed in the past four months since the first one went in at SE Hawthorne and 7th.

There are a total of 14 locations on the initial list, but only eight of them have been authorized and installed (the other six are pending due to various issues).

Bike Box at W Burnside and 14th-2.jpg

Bikes now get plenty of
breathing room at red lights.

When I heard this one had been installed, I called Tracey Sparling’s aunt, Susie Kubota. She had already ridden through the intersection and noticed it a day earlier.

She said it made her feel, “ecstatically bittersweet.”

At first she was “elated and pleased” to see the bike box, but then she had “a mind-numbing flash” that, had it been installed last summer, her life would be much different:

“…it makes me physically ill to consider that such a simple fix would have definitely prevented the right hook that killed my niece.”

After I visited the site yesterday, I had similar feelings. I’ve shared more of my thoughts in the short film below:

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

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    Darren July 3, 2008 at 10:47 am

    RIP Tracey. May the afermath of your tragedy prevent others.

    Portland, let\’s not rest on our laurels, there is still plenty of work to be had.

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    Bill July 3, 2008 at 10:54 am

    I had a moment of grief viewing the white angel bike at that intersection during the naked bike ride. These unfair moments of joy and sorrow will last in my memory forever.

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    OnTheRoad July 3, 2008 at 10:59 am

    If they ever build that Flanders Street bridge over the 405, let\’s name it the Tracey Sparling Memorial Bridge.

    Sadly, her death and the deaths of the others this past year has finally helped raise bicycles in the consciousness of the average motorist.

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    erin g. July 3, 2008 at 11:31 am

    The strength and compassion for our community that Susie Kubota has displayed in the wake of her family’s loss has been one of the most inspiring things that I have ever seen. After losing Tracey in such a tragic way, Susie emerged as one of the most eloquent and insistent road safety activists in Portland. I am moved by her grace, bravery, and resolute demand for action as our city contemplates new ways to improve road safety and equality. Is it Alice Awards nomination season yet? I am ready to submit my vote for 2008 now.

    I am glad that bike boxes have been installed and am proud of our city for that. However, each time I ride down Interstate and stop at the Greeley barricade to think, I wonder what more could be done in advance to prevent the possibility of unnecessary losses. Let’s keep working together to protect one another and to educate all who share the road, including cyclists, motorists, or pedestrians. Also, let’s expedite solutions that will save lives and make transportation safer and easier for us all.

    Erin Greeson

    We are ALL Traffic

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    Paul Tay July 3, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    B I K E B O X!!

    If ya can\’t beat \’em, JOIN \’em. I still think there needs to be a bike ed program teaching bicyclists to stay out of motorists\’ blind spots.

    It does seem most PDX bicyclists \”get it,\” and pretty much know to mix it up with traffic. But, there\’s still this mentality to stay in the bike lane, even if it means being in the door zone, and in the motorists\’ blind spot.

    If bike boxes will get bicyclists to be out in front of the big trucks and buses, it\’s all good. But, will PDOT install boxes at ALL intersections?

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    Matt Picio July 3, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    I think even if PDOT does not install them at all signallized intersections with bike lanes, that the 14 bike boxes currently being installed will put a visible reminder in the minds of most drivers. It\’s as much about visibility as anything else, and with more and more people opting to ride at least one day a week due to rising gas prices, I think we\’re nearing a critical mass of drivers who \”get it\” and are more alert for cyclists.

    That said, I think we have a long way to go. The city needs to continue to be responsive to the needs of cyclists and pedestrians (as does the county, who owns most of the bridges over the Willamette), and we as cyclists and pedestrians need to continue to hold our municipalities\’ collective feet to the fire and demand the improvements we need so that transportation minorities are protected from inattentive and dangerous operators of motorized transport.

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    Crash N. Burns July 3, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    Thanks Jonathan. I sincerely hope that these bike boxes can prevent other tragedies. Tracey and Brett are in my thoughts often as I commute about town.
    I recently came across this post about things they are doing in Amsterdam to prevent right hooks. Scroll down about a third of the way to see some of their street graphics used to help prevent right hooks.


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    Crash N. Burns July 3, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Sorry, premature submit. Here\’s the link.

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    Patrick July 5, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Sorry to be Debbie Downer here, but again the bike boxes only solve part of the problem. Stopping at a the red light. Last week I was almost nailed in the Everett intersection while the light was green. @5 is on topic, I anticipated the dreaded clueless SUV driver didnt\’ see me.

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    Robert July 5, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    What happens if you do not make it all the way to the front when the light turns green?

    This hardly seems better at all. I just take the lane and wait behind the cars.

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    nerf July 6, 2008 at 1:54 am

    its completely naive and foolish to think that bikeboxes, bike lanes, and even reflectors/lights are going to save your life. I\’ve used all and gone completely renegade on them and know first hand.
    truly it all comes down to your skill on a bike and your awareness while riding.

    when i say skill i mean your ability to keep up with traffic, maneuver, and react to fucked up things that happen i.e. right-hooks, people running lights, pedestrians, crazy rednecks, etc

    but really, above all
    cars, bikes, buses, pedestrians.

    i know i\’m the last person that should be saying anything about safe cycling but i think i \’m still alive because these points.

    bikes are not traffic,
    adapted and get used to it.

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    sabernar July 6, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    I walk by the bike box at NW Everett and 16th and half the time, at a red light, the front car/truck is sitting in the bike box. Bike boxes will only work if they are enforced.

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    mark July 6, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    yeah, I\’ve had a few instances where I\’m waiting in the bike box (I usually just stay to the right of the box area, though) and the car behind is creeping up behind me, until the car is all the way into the bike box and about three inches from my back wheel.

    I had a tad bit of road rage a few weeks ago when me and my girlfriend were rolling on the tandem. Some douche in a Mercedes came into the bike box and started honking and waving us over so he could turn. I said, \”get outta my space! NO RIGHT TURNS! READ THE SIGN!\” He either wasn\’t understanding the concept or didn\’t give a shit as he honked at me while I sat there waiting for the light, never moving an inch until the light changed and I took off as he roared off to the right to get onto 405. Yeah, bike boxes will only work if all those douchebags learn how to act.

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