[*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.]
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:
(Photo: Bob Richardson)