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Man on a bike squeezes himself between TriMet bus and parked car on Hawthorne

Posted by on June 15th, 2010 at 11:11 am

[*Note: The original headline of this story was, “TriMet bus squeezes man on a bike into parked car on Hawthorne.” It was later changed to more accurately reflect what happened.]

UPDATE, 6/17: TriMet has released onboard camera footage of this incident. Read our follow-up story for full details.
bikes and buses

(Photo © J. Maus)

A collision between a TriMet bus and a bicycle on SE Hawthorne yesterday miraculously ended up without serious injuries. According to The Oregonian, the incident happened near the corner of Hawthorne and Maple (map). Here’s more from their story:

“[Sebastian] Case [the man on the bike] said he had passed the bus a few blocks earlier, as it made a stop to pick up passengers next to the Burgerville on the corner of Southeast 12th Avenue and Hawthorne. As he continued east along Hawthorne, Case said he could hear the bus approaching behind him.

“I knew the bus was close behind me,” he said. “But not that close.”

The next thing he knew Case was “sandwiched” between the bus and a green Mazda minivan parked in front of Really Good Stuff, a thrift store. Case was dragged along the side of the minivan by the bus. He then struck and shattered the van’s sideview mirror. The impact sent him toppling head over heels.”

After being treated by emergency medical personnel, Case was able to ride home relatively unscathed. According to TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch, an investigation is underway to determine what exactly happened. I asked Fetsch to explain their policy on passing people on bicycles:

“Bus operator’s SOP [standard operating procedure] is to pass a cyclists giving them at least four feet of space. Obviously something happened that there wasn’t the space.” Fetsch says they’re particularly interested to see if a car that was parked 18″ away from the curb had something to do with the incident.

It’s unclear whether the man on the bike made a last minute swerve into traffic to avoid the parked car, or if the bus operator simply didn’t give him enough room. Oregon law is clear about what is required of motor vehicle operators when passing a person operating a bicycle. ORS 811.065 states:

“The driver of a motor vehicle may only pass a person operative a bicyce by driving to the left of the bicye at asafe distance… a ‘safe distance’ means a distance that is sufficient to prevent contact with the person… if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.”

Although, as a commenter points out below, Oregon’s passing law was watered down with an exception that it only applies when the motor vehicle speed is 35 mph or greater (an exception that was, incidentally, lobbied for successfully by TriMet).

TriMet bus operator Dan Christensen commented on The Oregonian article saying, “As a bus operator I don’t pass bicyclist [sic] on Hawthorne unless I can get half in the second lane. There is just no room.”

Fetsch says they should have more information from the bus’s on-board video camera in the next day or so.

UPDATE, 11:57am: Reader Bob Richardson points out in a comment below that the lanes on Hawthorne where this incident occurred are narrower than a TriMet bus mirror-to-mirror. Here’s a photo:

Not much room to “share” the outside lane.
(Photo: Bob Richardson)

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  • are June 15, 2010 at 11:15 am

    sharrows here, not on bike boulevards

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  • Allison June 15, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I worry that the visibility from TriMet buses is just not sufficient to protect cyclists (and probably pedestrians as well). The blind spots are big enough to hide a minivan, let alone a bicycle.

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  • bikieboy June 15, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Glad Mr. Case is ok – sounds extremely scary. A lot of moving parts & possibilities in the event description, but for this part of Hawthorne the safest thing to do as a cyclist is take the lane.

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  • Otis June 15, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Certainly, this is a case of a poor passing decision, made more notable by the fact that it was made by a Tri-Met driver. It’s lucky Case was not more seriously injured.

    I do hope one thing not lost in this is the need to make more cyclists aware of of what a poor option SE Hawthorne is b/w 12th & ~44th. Or perhaps That’s wrong wording… But, with bike lane/route options available a few blocks to both the north and south, it pains me to see riders hugging parked cars all along this busy corridor. There are signs to this effect. Should there be more? How does this get achieved? And it’s not just Hawthorne. You see it (less) on Burnside b/w MLK and 11th and other places too, but Hawthorne is perhaps the most striking perhaps due to its various retail destinations, etc.

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  • marcus griffith June 15, 2010 at 11:20 am

    lucky guy!

    Until the TriMet video is released, not much people can do but speculate on the details. However, it does seem the bus operator failed to provide enough room.

    Far too many ped/bike vs bus collisions recently. Does TriMet track the number such incidents?

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  • BURR June 15, 2010 at 11:22 am

    The 9.5′ wide lanes on Hawthorne aren’t wide enough to share by a car and a cyclist, and certainly not by a bus and a cyclist.

    Forget about the three foot passing distance, the cyclist is entitled to an entire lane in this situation (ORS 814.430(2)(c)), and the bus driver is required by law to move completely into the left lane to pass the cyclist.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 15, 2010 at 11:31 am

      I agree that if you’re riding on a street like Hawthorne in this situation, it’s best to take the full lane… but the reality is that for many people that’s simply too scary of an idea. I’m strong and fearless and taking the lane on a fast street like Hawthorne would make me nervous.

      Until there are separated facilities on main streets, perhaps it’s worth making a new law that it’s prohibited to pass someone on a bicycle in the same lane on streets where there is not ample room to do so?

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  • Alexis June 15, 2010 at 11:29 am

    @Otis: The cyclist commented on the Oregonian article that he was going to a destination on 15th, and had only gotten on Hawthorne at 13th. Telling cyclists that Hawthorne is a bad option would not have helped this situation and in general is not the solution. Minimally, people need to be and should be able to ride safely on arterials for short distances to reach their destinations.

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  • J.R. June 15, 2010 at 11:34 am

    I agree with are #1.
    Many comments in the Oregonian’s story focused on complete separation of bicycle and automobile lanes. I think that is unnecessary and unrealistic. The 2030 plan if funded, would make many more visible options away from arterials like Hawthorne but sometimes, your destination is on or near an arterial. Plus, the width of many of our side streets does not alleviate this particular problem. I’d be more interested in recovering all the space taken up by private motor vehicles parked on public rights of way.
    More so, sharing the existing space we all pay for makes the most sense and lowering speed limits is a good way to bring parity to both modes without overly inconveniencing drivers.

    This incident is a perfect example of the importance of using the full lane when cycling on narrow streets. (I type that as a reminder to myself as much as anything.)

    I passed this crash yesterday while on a bus going the opposite direction and cringed when I saw the bike leaned up against the ambulance. Great news that Mr. Case is uninjured and his attitude about the whole thing is refreshing.

    (are: today is the deadline for BTA board applicants by the way…just sayin)

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  • Memo June 15, 2010 at 11:42 am

    @Alexis, could you please send a link to that article. The one Jonathan has up above states that the cyclist passed the bus at 12th. In that case he definitely did not get on at 13th. The Oregonian maybe telling multiple stories so we really do not know what happened.

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  • Barney June 15, 2010 at 11:43 am

    The Hawthorne Bridge dumps cyclists directly onto Hawthorne with a lovely bike lane and a couple bike boxes along the way to boot. If I can recall correctly, there is some signage indicating bike routes off of Hawthorne, but there’s nothing to indicate that the next 30 or so blocks are a busy, unmarked, narrow lane street. It’s somewhat misleading and you have to know the area well to know that you’re about to enter a difficult situation. Also, there’s two lanes on Hawthorne…any car (or bus) who passes too close in the right lane is just being to impatient.

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  • suburban June 15, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I saw many share-arrows in NE recently, every block (short blocks) on very quiet streets. I hope we got enough grant money to also grind and burn those silly (ugly, non functioning, expensive) things off, perhaps after a PBOT design review meeting.
    They would not help on Hawthorne, nor on any other street.
    The story as presented gives no reason to attribute fault to either operator.

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  • BURR June 15, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I agree that if you’re riding on a street like Hawthorne in this situation, it’s best to take the full lane… but the reality is that for many people that’s simply too scary of an idea. I’m strong and fearless and taking the lane on a fast street like Hawthorne would make me nervous.

    Until there are separated facilities on main streets, perhaps it’s worth making a new law that it’s prohibited to pass someone on a bicycle in the same lane on streets where there is not ample room to do so?

    So do you ride in the door zone or on the sidewalk on Hawthorne?

    We don’t need a new law, there already are plenty of laws that cover that.

    PBOT promised sharrows on Hawthorne ten years ago, when the heck are they going to be installed?

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  • ILikeYourNewHaircut June 15, 2010 at 11:50 am

    I’m very glad mr. case is okay.

    I make a round trip from 39th and Belmont to NW 23rd everyday and I have never once ridden on Hawthorne. There are many safer alternatives, that go parallel to it.

    Major Eastside roads like Hawthorne and Burnside, Sandy, 28th, 39th are NOT good places to ride on. I cringe every time I see someone doing it.

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  • Bob R. June 15, 2010 at 11:50 am

    It should be noted that the lane width on Hawthorne is actually narrower, mirror-to-mirror, than a TriMet bus. Hawthorne is unusual (but not unique) among Portland 4-lane arterial streets in that it has very narrow lanes. Given the combination of bus width, parked cars, and unpredictable lane usage, these kinds of problems are bound to happen.

    For a photo which demonstrates this, see this (now out-of-date, built by me) for a streetcar on Hawthorne:


    Although the issue of safety of bicycles near streetcars is a hot topic in and of itself, the cramped conditions of Hawthorne could benefit from the predictability (and narrower profile) of a rail-based transit vehicle.

    (Or, the street itself could benefit from a lane diet, but I don’t know if local merchants/residents/motorists would be on-board for such a thing.)

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  • OnTheRoad June 15, 2010 at 11:50 am

    In 1997, City Council adopted Hawthorne Blvd. Street Plan and started implementing it in 2004.

    The citizens’ advisory committee for this talked about bike lanes on Hawthorne – making the 4 lanes into two lanes, a left-turn refuge and bike lanes. The business interests pretty much went ape because they thought it would mean less traffic in front of their stores.

    A proposed compromise was to establish bike “climbing lanes” for the hilly east-bound stretches. That also was vetoed.

    These discussions occurred a bit before bicycling became so mainstream in Portland. So the committee members just did not want to impact businesses for the sake of a few cyclists – who some thought should have been taking the Salmon and Harrison bike routes anyway.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 15, 2010 at 12:16 pm


      Thanks for bringing that 1997 plan up. That’s the kind of thing I wish City Hall would go for again, given the much larger bike usage between now and then and the greater understanding of the most efficient and economic ways of using our right-of-way.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 15, 2010 at 11:54 am


    First, I avoid riding on these types of streets when possible. Second, I will take the full lane, but it’s nerve-racking and my point is that only a small % of people will do it. And yes, I’ll ride on the sidewalk if it’s necessary.

    I disagree about not needing a new law. Our vehicle laws could stand a lot of improvement, and I think this is a topic where we could use clearer language.

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  • kitten June 15, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    if you need a sign to tell you the next 30 blocks on Hawthorne are busy and dangerous, maybe you should look around and use your head.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    yep… dangerous bikeways ahead, “just figure it out!”

    … rail tracks you can fall on, “just figure it out!”

    … big arterials that are dangerous to cross, “just figure it out!”

    is it any wonder why America is still so far behind when it comes to biking?!

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  • q'Tzal June 15, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    This most recent incident needs to be included in the 3rd party safety review being done on Trimet.
    This safety review needs to show the blatant disregard some bus drivers have for cyclists.

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  • BURR June 15, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I’m always amazed at people who say you shouldn’t be cycling on a street like Hawthorne.

    It is a public street, and like all public streets it should accommodate cyclists safely. It was identified in the 1996 Bike Master Plan as a bike route.

    Many cyclists want to ride on arterial streets for the same reasons motorists use them – they don’t want to sight see in the neighborhoods and prefer the convenience and speed of through arterial streets. Cyclists also want safe access to the same commercial destinations that motorists do along the arterial streets.

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  • Todd Boulanger June 15, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    The old [out of date] business interests that voiced down the safer 2 lane + turn lane configuration of the Hawthorne Plan are likely gone by now or realize what they may loose in car traffic they gain by foot bus and bike sales traffic along the current Hawthorne…

    I can say that I as a consumer try to avoid traveling along Hawthorne by car AND bike and foot…it is just uncomfortable in all modes and to park on the street (forget about it). Everyone loses now with the poor ‘unsafe’ roadway configuration implemented since the plan. I would enjoy returning to Hawthorne once it is fixed right – as a best engineering practice.

    Road diets are not the ‘traffic witchcraft’ that they were when the 1997 plan was developed and then dropped. Time to reboot Hawthorne?

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  • Did I miss it? Again? June 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    While I agree that Americans shouldn’t need to use deductive reasoningany more than abolutely necessary, many incidents could be avoided if a little more sense of self presevation existed.

    I missed the “just figure it out!” you are quoting. I have noticed a theme of “use common sense”, but that is different than “figure it out!”.

    Cyclists need to be educated about city riding just as much as drivers need to be educated about sharing the road. People should be protected from other people, but they shouldn’t need to be protected from themselves.

    I am not placing the blame on the cyclist or the driver (the facts are not known yet). Merely stating that this unfortunate incident could easily have been avoided if the cyclist recognized what most other cyclists in Portland seem to recognize: that section of Hawthorne is not good for riding. Not much to figure out.

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  • BURR June 15, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    yep, you missed it.

    by a long shot.

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  • Bjorn June 15, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    The explanation of the passing law is incorrect. The law does now apply in this case because the bus was not going over 35 mph. See it under exception B.

    B) At a speed not greater than 35 miles per hour;

    This exception makes the law almost unenforceable in most cases as you have to be able to prove they didn’t leave enough space and that they were going over 35mph. Why would the law be so watered down you might ask, well one reason was heavy lobbying against the bill applying on any route they might put a bus on by Tri-Met… As I remember they were the most active opponent of this law.


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  • Ely June 15, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    @ #24, you are wrong. It doesn’t matter if that section is bad for riding, or if the cyclist knows it; if that’s where his destination is, that’s where he needs to be. In Portland of all places he should not have to risk his life to get there. We do have car-only streets: they are called freeways. The other roads are for everyone.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 15, 2010 at 12:48 pm


    thanks for pointing that out. I’ll edit the story. I was aware of the exception but was thinking there was a chance the bus was going over 35 mph. I’m sure the speed limit there is at least 30.

    And I remember that law getting watered down due to concerns from TriMet… but it’s not all their fault. Lobbying is only effective if people allow themselves to be used and played by lobbyists. Compromise in lawmaking happens all the time… it’s just that when it comes to traffic safety compromise doesn’t just result in diluted laws, it results in injured and dead people.

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  • OnTheRoad June 15, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Here is link to Hawthorne Blvd. Trans Plan: (7.6MB pdf)

    On page 10 (pdf page 13) it talks about bikes on Hawthorne. The main tenet of the plan was to make the Harrison and Salmon bike routes better, and to then link them to Hawthorne with bike oases at the destination.

    It does say, however, that the outside lane of Hawthorne will be a shared facility and that signage and pavement markings will so indicate (where are the sharrows?).

    I always take Hawthorne westbound, since the downhills allow me to take the lane and stay up with cars. I also take eastbound Hawthorne occasionally just so drivers are reminded that it IS a shared facility. I typically avoid Hawthorne eastbound at 5:00 rush, but if I did ride, I would be taking the lane and force cars to pass. Sorry, in this lane you should expect bikes on the roadway and the lane is supposed to be shared.

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  • Esther June 15, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I have to say, I think the cyclist saying he’s OK (as well as the media reporting so) is a little misleading, I have a hard time belieiving he is not going to experience some ongoing pain and other injury issues based on the description of what happened. I know several people who felt ‘fine’…the day of the accident after getting hit–but not afterwards. I’d be curious to find out about his longer term well-being. I have one friend who was “OK’ the day of and 6 years later, is still on pain meds and getting physical therapy (and also FINALLY had her case litigated).

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  • mechanic Mark June 15, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    The speed limit on Hawthorne is 25mph, the same as on the side streets to the north and south. The difference is that Hawthorne has two traffic lanes in each direction, making it easier for motorists to pass slow moving bicycles.

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  • kiwimunki June 15, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I’d like to see the on-street parking lanes on Hawthorne removed entirely. The space currently being used for people to store their private property (cars) free of charge would be better used to accommodate the traffic on this busy arterial – pedestrian, cyclist, and auto alike. The parking lane should be re-purposed for an expansion of the pedestrian space (to bring the 8-ft sidewalk up to the current 12-foot code) and a bike lane. The extra room would allow everyone to relax a bit.

    Yes, overflow parking into the neighborhoods would be a significant problem. A pay-by-the-hour underground/aboveground parking structure somewhere along the strip could alleviate strain on surrounding neighborhoods and provide parking for the driving patrons of local businesses. Anyone have a money tree we could harvest to fund something like that?

    It’s dreaming, but this neighborhood (and the safety of those who frequent it) is worthy of transformation.

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  • Bob R. June 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    kiwimunki –

    What you propose was discussed (not formally, just one of many brainstormed ideas) by various folks attending meetings in the Streetcar System Concept Plan SE District Working group meetings… The idea would be to provide satellite garages which would serve existing parking needs without forcing more spill-over onto residential side streets, while maintaining 4 travel lanes on Hawthorne. The space freed up by eliminating side parking would be used to provide wider sidewalks and wide bike lanes. (And also, at certain blocks, room for center-island streetcar platforms.) Under that scenario, streetcars would have run in the center lanes, away from the bike lanes.

    Again, this was just brainstorming, but it was discussed in various ways by more than one participant. Ultimately, it was dismissed as unfeasible (rightly or wrongly) because Hawthorne had just undergone a lot of construction and it was felt that locals wouldn’t want that level of reconfiguration any time soon.

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  • Steve B. June 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    Glad you’re OK, Sebastian. Sounds like a horrifying encounter.

    Regarding bike infrastructure on Hawthorne, my understanding is that the biggest impediment to bikeway improvements is the Hawthorne Blvd Business Association. They fear any improvement for bikes will come at the cost of losing business to their driving customers. If anyone has more background on this, I’d be interested.

    I find it shameful that such a thriving corridor has teeny-weeny sidewalks, lackluster crosswalks, and 6 lanes dedicated to auto traffic. During the street fair, they didn’t dare close a single travel lane to give over to people on Hawthorne. Given the density of development here, I would think this area would be ripe for Portland’s first streets-to-parks reclamation. Lately, it seems like every city in America BUT Portland is doing radical, game-changing things with their streets.

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  • BURR June 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I was aware of the exception but was thinking there was a chance the bus was going over 35 mph. I’m sure the speed limit there is at least 30.

    The speed limit on Hawthorne was recently lowered to 25 for the entire length of the boulevard.

    Does that mean that motorists and bus drivers all stick to the speed limit? Of course not!

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  • Alexis June 15, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Link to the story what the cyclist has commented on:


    His comment:
    I stay off the “thorn” whenever possible. One of the joys of riding a bike is being away from traffic. I got onto Hawthorn at 13th and was going to visit a friend on 15th. Figure the odds:(

    I read more carefully the difference between story and comments and suspect maybe the comment is a typo, that he meant he got on at 12th (that would be more consistent with general bike traffic flow as well), since it was also he who said that he passed the bus at 12th. Either way, the point stands — he was using Hawthorne as a last-blocks route to a destination, not because he doesn’t know of other routes nearby.

    Must say, as long as I’m calling attention to the comments, Sebastian is far more kind and patient with the Oregonian commenters than I would be. Go Sebastian, hope you are able to stay in one piece out there!

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  • BURR June 15, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    It does say, however, that the outside lane of Hawthorne will be a shared facility and that signage and pavement markings will so indicate (where are the sharrows?).



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  • Shetha June 15, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    Speed limit on Hawthorne is 25 mph — this is a change within the last two years I believe. There are signs between 12th and 39th of bicycle in roadway. No one really notices that, though. I agree the parking needs to go, loading/unloading needs to be done off-street, and they should install a garage or two (near retail) to accommodate parking to make the businesses happy. Also – one lane of car traffic each direction should do it. Left turns are pretty categorically banned for the most part.

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  • are June 15, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    re comment 12, the story as presented does in fact give reason to fault each operator: the cyclist for not asserting a position farther left, making it impossible for the bus to attempt the pass, and the bus driver for passing too close. sharrows are indeed useless on the bike boulevards, but would serve a very necessary function on hawthorne, indicating to the cyclist a lane position farther to the left, in the center of the travel lane, and indicating to motorists that they should expect to see cyclists asserting the lane.

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  • are June 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    re comment 9, i am already working on the legislative committee, but do not feel i have spent enough time in portland trenches to run for the board, thanks.

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  • beelnite June 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I should have reported mine, but I “spoke” with the driver.

    Saturday night – about 11:50 p.m. Lots of bikes on the #14 Route. I have lights. I pass the #14. Twice! The third time he rolls up and passes and dives for his stop on 30th.

    Yes I had to jump onto the sidewalk to avoid being crushed. Amazing because I really felt the driver and I were aware of each other since 7th Ave. I mean – I made eye contact a lot… Did I mention I had lights? Ah… I feel he did see me… and just wanted to teach me about cycling faster than a TriMet bus.

    I rolled up to the doors and stood there until he’d look at me. He did. I held up two hands about 6 inches apart and said, “It was that close!”

    Nothing from the driver. No expression. Just threw her in gear or whatever and drove off. I got the impression he felt I shouldn’t be there. Not sure but I think he said something to me over his loudspeaker – external. Just odd.

    I kinda stood there for a minute, didn’t say anything else, just feeling kinda lonely and insignificant. I’m crushable. Not a person. An annoying cyclist in the way.

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  • kiwimunki June 15, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Bob R. –

    Thanks for that update. Sorry to hear that plan got shot down, I (clearly) think it’s a great idea! Question for you: if the project was sidelined because Hawthorne residents wouldn’t want another major construction project in the ‘hood so soon, when would be a good time to try again? Have any surveys been conducted to gauge the neighborhood sentiments?

    Again, thanks for the info – great to have an inside perspective on this.

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  • BURR June 15, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    The TriMet operators must be getting training from RTD Denver operators…


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  • esther June 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    scary. glad he came out alive with no permanent injuries. i think taking the lane is your only recourse when people will pass you whether they have room to clear you or not.

    i don’t ride hawthorne because i don’t enjoy it, but bikes have every right to be there as much as cars.

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  • brettoo June 15, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Imagine this on Hawthorne.

    Granted, Hawthorne is probably narrower than Dunsmuir. Granted, some taxpayer subsidized car storage along Hawthorne would have to go. Granted, I prefer to use Salmon and the other quiet streets for my many trips in that area.

    But imagine how a layout like this could revitalize Hawthorne by making it so much more attractive to people who walk and ride bikes, even for short distances, to retail and commercial destinations there.

    Bob, maybe it’s time to re-start that discussion about remaking Hawthorne by reviving the old Hawthorne streetcar, taking out the car storage, and adding bike lanes and wider sidewalks. The way Portland is developing in the inner city areas, seems like you’d gain at least as many customers as you’d lose by taking away car parking and maybe a car lane. By the time it could actually happen — funding, meetings, processes, construction etc — it’ll be time for repaving anyway.

    Here’s the link again in case I didn’t do the html tag right: http://pricetags.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/concrete-not-paint
    It’s a pretty attractive picture.

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  • WOBG June 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Just a detail: It’s tough to ride that section *uphill*, and parallel routes are less stressful. It’s easy to take a lane on Hawthorne at *downhill* speeds, though.

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  • doug June 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I realize that he was just on Hawthorne for a few blocks, which makes the most sense for his trip, but the comments are developing more along the lines of whether or not people should expect difficulty on roads like this, and whether or not cyclists should bother to use busier roadways.

    I realize the law allows us to be on those roads, but generally speaking I don’t see the point sometimes – just because it’s written that way doesn’t mean we need to be there. Some roads are designed as major arteries to deliver cars to their destination more effectively. I think we should stay off those streets as much as possible. If you can keep up with traffic, go for it – but otherwise do your best to stick to the bike boulevards or side streets. Yes, we need more bike infrastructure, but we also need to be reasonable about not getting killed, understanding that buses are carrying a lot of people and do so pretty efficiently, and that these roads do their job (mostly) at keeping cars off of calmer streets that bikes benefit from.

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  • Bob R. June 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    kiwimunki and brettoo –

    (I don’t want to veer too far into the streetcar discussion — although I’m a strong proponent, a streetcar is not a required component of a Hawthorne makeover and I don’t want to be seen as hijacking this important thread to talk about streetcars.)

    As it stands today, the local district working group sent along a number of recommendations for corridors in SE to the larger System Advisory Committee. The SAC’s job was to integrate proposals from the various districts into a larger system proposal for the entire city, including further prioritizing and phasing.

    Concurrent with all this, the project consultants (URS) threw a wrench into the Hawthorne discussion. Although I have promoted narrow streetcars on rails as a solution to the narrow-lane problem on Hawthorne, it turns out that streetcars have more rigorous safety standards than buses regarding minimum clearance (because they cannot veer), and streetcars, as designed for Portland, apparently require a 10′ lane even though they are 8′ wide. The reason given is that this is a safety clearance between lanes and that streetcars can lean, have mirrors, etc.

    Now, I have spoken to people well connected in streetcar circles, and the response to that has been “well, that’s URS”. There are potential technical solutions, such as replacing mirrors with video cameras (as TriMet has done on the new Type IV LRVs, which are slightly wider than all previous MAX LRVs), designing suspensions so the cars don’t lean as much, etc., to eek out that 6″ of difference in lane width.

    But it was because of the consultants saying that the lane width was a major hurdle that the System Advisory Committee proposed a new course which avoids Hawthorne until 39th, using Belmont instead. This has its own problems and trade-offs, and personally I’m not pleased with that idea (the District Working Group had other plans for Belmont), but that’s where it stands today.

    Further study is underway and the SAC’s work is nowhere near finalized, so this all could change.

    But if the advice of the consultants proves correct, putting a streetcar on Hawthorne below 39th will require either a lane diet (go from 4 to 2 + turn lane), or elimination of parking to add space for peds/bikes/wider 4 lanes.

    More info can be found here:

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  • Did I miss it? Again? June 15, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I guess I missed it in the article; where was his destination that required him being on that section of Hawthorne? Was that in the Oregonian article?

    Am I wrong for suggesting more cyclists exercise common sense, or not assigning blame before all the facts are known?

    If the cyclist wants to ride Hawthorne, go for it. If the cyclist wants to ride on 205, go for it. I am all for assisted suicide too!

    Unless he was going to a shop located midblock on Hawthorne, there are safer routes. Or am I wrong about that?

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  • Giant Hogweed June 15, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Jonathan #8

    “I agree that if you’re riding on a street like Hawthorne in this situation, it’s best to take the full lane… but the reality is that for many people that’s simply too scary of an idea. I’m strong and fearless and taking the lane on a fast street like Hawthorne would make me nervous.”

    Anything we can do about educating people that it’s not as scary as all that? Or at least, that if you’re on a street like Hawthorne, taking the lane is actually safer than hugging the parked cars? Jonathan, I see you getting impatient with the take-the-lane crowd, but as this incident shows, people need to ride on major streets, if only for a few blocks, and under current conditions, they MUST develop the confidence to take the lane.

    I am a 36-year-old woman on a heavy hybrid who rides about 12 mph. When I ride on a street like Hawthorne, I ride right down the middle of the right lane, if not slightly to the left of center, because it is perfectly obvious to me that it is IMPERATIVE for my own safety to do so. I feel much safer in such a situation than on streets like Williams where I am forced by law to ride in the door zone.

    No, it is not pleasant to ride on Hawthorne, it is not quiet, and the air is not fresh. For long distances in SE I will take Lincoln/Harrison, but to go for example, from a doctor appointment on 45th to Powell’s on 38th, I ride in the middle of the right lane on Hawthorne.

    I understand the discomfort associated with holding up car traffic behind, but on a street with two lanes in each direction, it’s much less of a problem. That’s why to go from NE to SE, I have taken to crossing the highway on 33rd rather than 28th. I hate 28th because I will not ride in the door zone, therefore I have to hold up cars behind me if there is oncoming traffic. So I’m not strong and fearless, I’m anxious and trained as a woman to be nice and trained as an American that car drivers are more important than I am. And yet, this overly-cautious Nervous Nellie rides on 33rd across the highway, because there are two lanes available and I can have the whole right lane to myself, and drivers can more easily pass. And I feel perfectly comfortable doing this.

    Door-zone riders and bobbers-and-weavers who think taking the lane is “simply too scary” probably have never tried it. They ride the way they do because they believe it is safer, but they are mistaken, and you should not accept their false beliefs as a given. Unfounded fears can be overcome through education and practice.

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  • pdxebiker June 15, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    My experience with MLK N of Broadway is very similar.

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  • sparewheel June 15, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    “and I have never once ridden on Hawthorne…”
    I’m glad that being relegated to slow side streets works for you. I, on the other hand, just want to get to the bank or grocery store as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    “I also take eastbound Hawthorne occasionally just so drivers are reminded that it IS a shared facility.”

    I do this on 39th too. Every municipal road is a shared facility.

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  • Lisa G June 15, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Again, having a rear view mirror for your bike or helmet is indispensable. I always give buses a very wide berth anyway, especially since the recent downtown incident on Broadway.

    I agree with Doug. Some streets were not designed for road sharing and Hawthorne, unfortunately, is one of them; although the ped crossings help, there is still no solution for biking along that street. Taking the lane is probably the best and safest option.

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  • AL M June 15, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Evil evil Trimet bus drivers!

    Sent to Portland to DESTROY, DESTROY. DESTROY!

    Let’s bring back witch burning and BURN BURN BURN, these evil bus drivers!

    In all seriousness, I’m sorry to have to say, S**T happens.

    And for just for you guys, cause I love ya all so much, here is one of the old time classics involving the beloved bicyle and Portland evil bus drivers:


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  • BURR June 15, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    Hey Al, way to represent for the bus drivers!


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  • Jim O'Horo June 15, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    It might not be necessary to remove ALL parking on Hawthorne in order to install bike lanes. In some instances Vancouver has removed parking on only ONE side, and that provided enough space for 2 bike lanes.

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  • esther June 15, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    it brings to mind the old adage,

    you may have the right of way, but you don’t have a force field.

    that is in no way to say it was the cyclists fault.

    it just sucks that we have to choose our routes based on how reasonable the drivers might behave on a given street.

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  • AL M June 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Now I said it 1001 times.

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  • AL M June 15, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    And I can roll my eyes too!

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  • AdamG June 15, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Sharrows please, gets cyclists off the sidewalks and in the road where we belong.

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  • Mike June 15, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    I don’t see why it is such a big deal to recommend taking a route with less car traffic. Lincoln is a good route that parallels Hawthorne. I also see people riding down 39th during peak traffic time and question their sanity. If you have one cyclist holding up numerous cars on a busy road, it is difficult not to sympathize just a little with the drivers. Not sure if this is a stupid way of thinking?

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  • Allison June 15, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    Taking the lane is nerve wracking?

    It’s socially nerve wracking – it seems rude but the truth is, a car can’t really hit you without hitting another car – I suppose you might get rear-ended but that seems really unlikely…

    Taking the lane shouldn’t be scary – it’s the safest strategy for a busy street.

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  • beth h June 15, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    When drivers stop honking their horns and yelling at me from behind to get out of their way — which happens about two to three times a month if I insist on taking the lane on a busy, narrower street — then taking the lane will no longer be more unpleasant than it’s worth.

    Until then, please stop giving people grief and shame for not wanting to take the lane.

    Bicycling should not have to become an exercise in self-defense. I refuse to live my life as though it must.

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  • BURR June 15, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    beth – we’ll stop giving people grief and shame for not wanting to take the lane when they stop giving us grief for insisting that all local streets including arterials are bike routes and should be safe for cyclists, is that a deal?

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  • tbird June 15, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    When will we stop having to share space with the sharks?

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  • sparewheel June 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    “When drivers stop honking their horns and yelling at me from behind to get out of their way — which happens about two to three times a month”


    I have biked up and down Hawthorne 20-40 times a month for almost a decade and have been yelled at no more than 3-4 times. I find drivers in the Hawthorne area to be very bike aware and incredibly courteous.

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  • suburban June 15, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Share-Arrows will not help this street or any street, nor change laws or behavior.
    There are no existing safe routes to school, and even a bus driver can kill with only citations. Share-arrows do not even resemble a solution and driving into breathing children and club-goers is not a crime.

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  • Mike June 15, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    If you can’t ride with traffic then get off the street and mosey onto another side street. You can’t possibly expect to ride along at 5mph and not get a horn blown in your ear. You all hate cars, I realize this, but for crying out loud, be realistic!!! Being polite, giving the right of way, etc. will get you much farther then being stubborn and “taking the lane”.

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  • trail user June 15, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Agreed. I can go from Burgerville to the 7-11 uphill at 25-30 mph before blowing up. I conserve my energy until I need it during the fast parts of my commute. They call this interval training in road racing circles, and it hurts.

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  • Ross Nicholson June 15, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    First of all, from a distance (Tampa), your buses are too wide for that street and should stay off of it. Use thinner buses.
    Second, with all the bicycle attacks going on up there, perhaps the city should do a little PR to keep motorists from attempting to kill cyclists? Are your newscasters contemptuous of men in gaily colored tights riding bicycles? Are your cyclists all or predominately of only one ethnic group, one sex, or one orientation? Are they performing vulgar sex acts on bicycles in your carnivals and fairs? There’s got to be some rhyme or reason for all the trouble up there.
    Of course, down here in Tampa, nobody cares much about cyclists as most of them are homeless and civically dispensable. You have your problems, we have ours. Alas.

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  • Cindy June 16, 2010 at 8:23 am

    I know exactly which Hawthorne driver the author is referring to. He’s an absolute jerk to all riders and other drivers, including cyclists. He regularly yells at at stops the bus to kick off teenagers, swears at cars and bikes, and is rude and pushy to passengers to the point . He used to drive the #20 up over Barnes road and refused to let me off at the stop I requested for OCAC, yealling and insiting he knew which one I wanted better than I did. I had to walk a half mile up Barnes road at 10:00pm. A week later he took the #20 down Sandy instead of Burnside & literally yelled at me when I insisted I wanted off the bus and would just walk an extra 3 blocks.

    On another note, Hawthorne is between 2 excellent bike-friendly side-street routes – Salmon to the North & Lincoln/Harrison to the South.

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  • Tankagnolo Bob June 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I will stand up for my rights as a cyclist, but do stay away from busses and logging trucks.

    I flat out give them the right away, and assume I am invisible. They have so many blind spots, and so much else to deal with. Bus driveres have to deal with traffic and all that goes on in the bus for at least eight hours a day. So I will never be beside a bus, unless I can make a fast pass while they are clearly stopped, and have an “out” if they begin to move.

    Same with log trucks, they have too much weight to avoid my possible wrong move. I leave the road when I hear them coming.

    Stand up for your rights and take your lane, but at the same time, ride defensibly and realize that the laws of physics can and will win over the laws of what should be right.

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  • sparewheel June 16, 2010 at 11:10 am

    “You can’t possibly expect to ride along at 5mph and not get a horn blown in your ear. You all hate cars, I realize this, but for crying out loud, be realistic!!!”

    Fixed it for ‘ya:

    “You can’t possibly expect bicyclists not to ride in sharrows, like Hawthorne. You all hate bikes, I realize this, but for crying out loud, be realistic!!!”

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  • sparewheel June 16, 2010 at 11:12 am

    “Hawthorne is between 2 excellent bike-friendly side-street routes – Salmon to the North & Lincoln/Harrison to the South.”

    They bike boulevards cross very busy roads without a traffic light or stop sign. In particular, the intersection at 30th and Salmon is a death trap. Taking Hawthorne is the SAFER alternative, IMO.

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  • sparewheel June 16, 2010 at 11:13 am


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  • Cate June 16, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    This is no picnic for motorists, either. When I choose to drive, I avoid Hawthorne and never get into the right lane when I have to be there, because it is SO narrow, I feel like I’m clenching my teeth the entire time, afraid I might hit a cyclist- even as a very cautious driver. The street is simply too narrow for everyone! I need to take an alternate (longer, frustrating) route home to avoid it, both in car and on bike. This incident does not surprise me, sadly. Something has to change ASAP so that EVERYONE can travel safely down that strip. Businesses will regret holding back changes when no one wants to travel their street for fear of what can be avoidable- accidents like these.

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  • ILikeYourNewHaircut June 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm


    This intersection has stop signs. And yellow bicycle signs alterting motorists. I think it’s much safer than hawthorne. If nothing else, it’s certainly not the no-stop deathtrap you’re describing above.


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  • ILikeYourNewHaircut June 16, 2010 at 1:21 pm


    Bad link, sorry.

    30th and salmon

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  • Dan June 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    I’ve always thought the lumbering buses are made too wide for the lanes in Portland. What about narrower buses?

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  • are June 16, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    re comment 78, chances are pretty good he meant 39th. the signalized crossing is a block south, at main.

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  • ILikeYourNewHaircut June 16, 2010 at 4:00 pm


    Oh, agreed on Salmon and 39th. Very dangerous, with lights on at the wrong streets. 🙁

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  • david....no! the other one June 16, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    To Dan@#79, PDX used to have narrower and shorter busses. They were almost always full, always a little(5-10minutes)late, because they stopped and picked up every rider until people were standing in the asile from back to front. The companys name was(in my clouded memory)Rose City Traction. I don’t remember any accidents, although there probably were some.

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  • Barney June 16, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    I’m finding that these discussions about accidents/collisions tend towards the suggestion that we, as cyclists, control our own destiny. “I never get hurt because I take the lane/use safer routes/bike defensively” is not a recipe for invincibility. Certainly those recommendations are linked to safety, but making less safe choices does not make us worthy of injury. Let’s not blame the victims because they don’t ride the way we do. Additionally, why not expect more from all of our streets? I sometimes bike on Hawthorne because I pay for that street, too, and deserve the same courtesy and safe driving from the cars around me that I get on the bike boulevard quarantines. And if I get hit on Hawthorne because a bus driver isn’t driving safely, it still won’t be my fault, it will be theirs.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 17, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    major update on this story: TriMet has released onboard video which shows what happened. Read full details and watch video here.

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