I’m still awaiting more details from the Police about this morning’s fatal crash near University of Portland at N. Willamette and Haven in North Portland.
So far, all we know is that two cars were involved and one man is dead. KATU is reporting that the police say the man was “pushed into traffic” and that neighbors say they heard an argument prior to the incident. KATU also reports that the drivers of the cars are being held for questioning.
I’ve talked with Traffic Division Captain Bryan Parman and they are not ready to release details about the crash yet (when they do I’ll update the story). So, while rumors swirl, I will share some thoughts about the intersection where this happened.
From news video, it looks as though the bike was found in the bike lane of N. Willamette, in the northbound lane just north of Haven.
On Willamette going north where the bike lane ends at N. Fiske.
At Fiske and Willamette, a sign warns of what’s ahead.
The stretch of Willamette just south of where (I think) this collision occurred is a challenging one from a traffic safety and engineering standpoint. Willamette has a bike lane south and north of this area, but it vanishes between N. Fiske and N. Haven. On the block face of Willamette between those two streets is the main entrance to the University of Portland.
Here’s a short video I shot this morning. I’m riding north on Willamette and I ride from Fiske (where the bike lane drops) to just beyond Haven.
Traffic engineers likely removed the bike lane on this block to make room for a left-turn lane into U of P. On this block of Willamette there is a left-turn lane into U of P, there’s on-street parking in the northbound direction and there is also a pedestrian island which further pinches traffic in this area (just south of Haven).
The speed limit on this stretch of Willamette — even with a narrow road, the presence of a pedestrian island, a shared lane with bicycle traffic, on-street parking and one lane of motorized traffic in each direction — is 35 mph.
According to PBOT, a car traveling 35 mph takes 250 feet to come to a stop and when a collision occurs the result if fatal 65% of the time (versus just a 5% fatality rate at 20 mph).
At N. Fiske, prior to the intersection with Haven, there’s a 35 speed limit sign accompanied by a sign that draws attention to bike traffic.
Many comments have already come in on our initial report. Many of them share feelings that is a highly dangerous intersection where cars regularly go faster than what some feel is safe for the conditions. Also making this area tricky is the presence of many large trees with leaves and branches that can obscure traffic signals and signs.
I have ridden this stretch of Willamette many times. It is challenging in both the north and south directions. A narrow road that tries to combine four lanes of traffic (two for cars and two for bikes), a large entrance to U of P, a pedestrian island and bus stops.
I hope this helps give you a better sense of the conditions in this area. Please remember to reserve judgment and speculation about this incident until all the details have come forward. Whatever information emerges, it seems there will be two pieces of this story: One about a tragic loss of life and the other about an intersection that many feel is unsafe to ride a bicycle on.