Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Woman injured in right hook at NE Couch and Grand

Posted by on September 15th, 2010 at 9:25 am

Scene of right hook NE Couch and Grand-1

Scene of a right hook at NE Couch
and Grand this morning.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The morning after PBOT called it their #1 priority location to receive a bike box, a woman on a bike was hit at NE Couch and Grand. Based on interviews with the victim’s friend and the driver of the truck, the crash was a classic right hook. According to her friend who was at the scene, Jill Michaelree sustained a broken foot and/or shin and will undergo surgery.

Michaelree was traveling westbound in the bike lane on NE Couch approaching Grand. A large United Rentals equipment delivery truck (being driven by a professional commercial operator) was traveling in the same direction in the adjacent traffic lane. At Grand, the truck turned right to go north and struck Ms. Michaelree.

The operator of the truck remained at the scene and was very remorseful about what happened. “We both had the green. I didn’t even see her,” he told me.

Here are a few more photos from the scene:

Scene of right hook NE Couch and Grand-7

A bikes-eye view of the intersection where Michaelree was hit.
Scene of right hook NE Couch and Grand-4

The truck that struck Michaelree.
Scene of right hook NE Couch and Grand-3

A man on a bike who appeared to be a messenger stopped at the scene on his way to work. He was upset to see the crash and frustrated about the street design, saying he has told the BTA for months that the intersection was very dangerous. “This is the worst idea to put a bike lane before a major turn. I’m surprised I haven’t seen happen this five more times.”

PBOT opened the new East Burnside Couch couplet in August of 2009. Part of the project was a new routing of the bikeway onto Couch and the addition of a new bike lanes (read our in-depth report about how bikes fit into this project).

In April of this year, we started to hear a lot of concerns from people biking in this area. On May 5th, we reported that former BTA staffer Michael O’Leary was voicing major concerns about the biking conditions. O’Leary wanted PBOT to take a hard look at the s-curve bike lane leading onto the Burnside Bridge as well as addressing right hook issues on NE Couch. A few days later, after someone was hit on the s-curve, PBOT Director Sue Keil issued a statement that acknowledged the safety concerns and said her department would re-stripe the bike lane.

After PBOT made bike safety changes to the Couch bike lanes leading onto the Burnside Bridge, the BTA said they still had concerns. In a blog post on May 17th, BTA advocacy manager Gerik Kransky wrote (emphasis mine), “We are also concerned about the high volume of cars and buses entering and leaving the right travel lane on NE Couch, increasing the likelihood of a right hook crash.”

Last night, PBOT traffic safety specialist Greg Raisman announced 11 new bike box locations throughout the city. He said NE Couch and Grand was on top of their list. “We’ve seen a lot of right turn conflict at this location and we want to see a quick fix.” Raisman said the bike box is paid for, a work order has been written and he expects it to be installed by the end of October.

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  • Matthew September 15, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Ouch ouch ouch. Glad she wasn’t more seriously injured.

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  • Katie September 15, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Can I suggest a headline omitting “claims another victim”? I hate to see anyone hurt, but I clicked over, heart in throat, thinking another cyclist was dead in Portland.

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  • Cychosis September 15, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Speedy recovery to the victim.

    Be careful out there folks (automobile and bicycle operators)!

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  • lisa September 15, 2010 at 9:35 am

    If the bike and the truck both have a green light and are both in motion will the bike box prevent a right hook?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 15, 2010 at 9:43 am


      nothing will “prevent” right hooks… but the addition of a bike box will help separate traffic modes and will make road users more aware that a potential for conflict exists. but you’re right in some respects…. the bike box does not play as large of a role in green light situations as it does when the light is red.

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  • rrandom rider September 15, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Oh, so the driver “never saw her”. I guess that guarantees he will get off scot-free.

    I appreciate that PBOT is putting the bike box on their “fast track”, which is still a month and a half away, but they were told repeatedly since the initial planning design phase that this was a dangerous layout. The earlier accident(s) since it opened further reinforced that point. How many people have to be injured before they can actually make this a high enough priority to just go out there and do the work? If someone is killed between now and the time the bike box is installed there are going to be some real liability issues.

    Also, a bike box will help to prevent right hooks when vehicles and bikes are starting from a complete stop when a light goes from red to green. It will be completely worthless when traffic is flowing along with a green light, which is what this accident is reported to have been.

    In other words, their solution will do absolutely nothing to prevent a recurrence of this crash. The only way to make this area safe is to completely redesign the stretch leading up to the intersection and that costs big bucks, so it’s not going to happen.

    The takeaway message here is for all bicyclists to ride fully in the traffic lane; do not put your life at risk by riding in the bike lane.

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  • Angie September 15, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Thanks for posting this so quickly; I was worried about the cyclist after passing by the scene, where just a beat-up bike and police officers remained.

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  • JAT in Seattle September 15, 2010 at 9:42 am

    but rrandom,… bike lane use is mandatory, no?

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  • Rob September 15, 2010 at 9:44 am

    I second Katie’s (#2)comment: the article title leads one to believe there was a fatality. I’m relieved to find out the cyclist is ok…

    Rob (and Katie) — Thanks for the feedback on my choice of words in the headline. I’ve changed it. — Jonathan

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  • Carol September 15, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Speedy recovery Jill. Glad to hear you were not more seriously injured. “( We will miss you at work.

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  • Velophile in Exile September 15, 2010 at 9:52 am

    And let me guess:

    The PPB is too busy **PORTION OF THIS SENTENCE DELETED** to cite the driver for violation of 811.050?

    And the Multnomah DA will again take the position that you only have a duty to yield to a bicyclist in the bike lane if you actually see the bicyclist?

    When are people going to start demanding that the PPB and DA do their jobs and enforce laws that protect bicyclists?

    Rob (#8), If your definition of “ok” is a “broken foot and/or shin and will undergo surgery,” then you have the strangest definition of “ok” that I have ever heard.

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  • rrandom rider September 15, 2010 at 9:58 am

    JAT- my understanding is that it is mandatory unless using the bike lane is dangerous; I think it is meant to apply to situations where there is debris or an obstruction in the bike lane, not this kind of danger. There are plenty of people here who can post the applicable vehicle code.

    Regardless, I would fight a ticket over this as far and as loudly as possible considering the evidence that the bike lane is dangerous at all times.

    Taking the lane through this stretch is safer than the bike lane, but not exactly safe overall. Traffic tends to move at a faster rate than the compromised sight lines allow and it is altogether reasonable to believe a cyclist in the middle of the lane could be hit. But I think it is safer than hunkering in a bike lane hugging the curb with no exit options and hoping for the best.

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  • mike September 15, 2010 at 10:03 am

    I guess I am confused with the rage people like Velo and rrandom. It sucks that someone was hit but what were the circumstances. Was the rider in the trucks blind spot? Could she make eye contact with the driver via the side view mirror. If drivers are to assume that there is a cyclist in their blind spot at all times should you, as a cyclist, assume every car is going to right hook you? I personally prefer to ride on the defensive side.

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  • rrandom rider September 15, 2010 at 10:25 am

    My anger stems from the fact that, *as the story is currently being reported*, the cyclist was doing absolutely nothing wrong- she was traveling in a defined traffic lane, had the right of way, and was struck by a large truck because of the truck driver’s inattention. This sort of incident happens all too frequently. Just a couple of years ago 2 cyclists were killed within just a few months of each other in right hook accidents.

    The truck made a turn across a designated traffic lane without yielding the right of way to the vehicle (bike) that was in it. Yes, bikes are harder to see than larger vehicles. Yes, there are blind spots in the mirrors. This all makes it incumbent on the motor vehicle driver to be aware of their surroundings, including the location of other vehicles, and ensure that they are clear before making their turn.

    I’m also ticked off because the motor vehicle drivers are rarely punished in these incidents. They really can get off by saying they didn’t see the bike. This incident is essentially the same as if the truck made a right turn from the middle lane across a “full size” vehicle lane and struck a car, seriously injuring the other driver. Somehow I doubt they would be let off if they simply stated that they didn’t see the other car.

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  • Geoff September 15, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Hmmmm … a bike box wouldn’t do anything in this situation. The light was green when the truck and cyclist arrived at the intersection.

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  • Paul Tay September 15, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Get well soon, Ms. Michaeltree.

    1) Truck driver: “I didn’t even see her.”

    2) Cyclist was lawfully on the bike lane, the driver’s blind spot.

    3) PBOT to install bike box to “solve” bike lane blind spot problem.

    Good grief, if you guys are just gonna go round-n-round with more bike lanes, boxes, and other genius whack-a-moles NON-solutions, whydon’tcha simply install roundabouts? Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

    They would only confuse horsepower happy cagjaaas, causing them to SLOW down. That would be soooooooo UN-American.

    “Experiments in the Netherlands have shown that running traffic at 30 kilometers (19 mph) per hour, eliminating traffic rules, signals and other controls in urban areas
    altogether, encouraging eye contact — and leaving road users to their own devices and to their common-law duties of reasonable care — has cut accidents, delay and congestion, and saved public funds.” “Safer with the lights out.” The Times, UK, July 8, 2002.

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  • ed September 15, 2010 at 10:38 am

    If you don’t want to get right hooked, don’t ride through an intersection next to a car, and don’t approach an intersection at a speed higher than a car that is already there. If there’s a car next to you, slow down, get behind it, or speed up and get in front of it before you get to the intersection. Assume it’s turning whether there is a signal or not. If it’s a bus or a large truck, for the love of god, your friends and family, get behind it! You are in the kill box! The large majority of crashes happen at intersections. If you aren’t at high alert in every intersection you pass through, light or no light, sign or no sign, high traffic or low, you are asking for trouble. Here’s another crazy thing to do: Before every intersection, give a quick glance back to see what’s around you in your peripheral vision in case you need to do evasive manuevers as you pass through. There are people that will never be right hooked, and it is in your power to make yourself one of those people.

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  • Bob_M September 15, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Bicyclists beware of any rental vehicle! These drivers in box vans, trucks and even rental RVs and trailers, are not professionals and inexperienced in the operation of their machines.

    Heal fully and quickly fellow rider.

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  • spare_wheel September 15, 2010 at 10:47 am

    “I guess I am confused with the rage people”
    and i am confused about your confusion about cyclists getting angry when drivers injure a cyclist.

    “assume every car is going to right hook you?”
    statistically, you are more likely to die of a gunshot. do you also assume every person is going to shoot you.

    “I personally prefer to ride on the defensive side.”
    do you floss too?

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  • Jason September 15, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I wish her the best. Just yesterday morning I was lucky enough to avoid a right hook at that same intersection. I was watching the driver of the Subaru wagon and it was obvious he was not going to even look in the bike lane before his right turn. I slowed down and he turned oblivious to me and my bike.

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  • Traffic Designer September 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

    This all points to the fundamental flaw with bikes lanes and intersections.

    Where else in road design do you place a lane of traffic that travels through the intersection to the right of a lane that can turn right.

    It is a recipe for right hooks.

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  • Paul Tay September 15, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Jason, #19: “I was lucky enough to avoid a right hook at that same intersection. I was watching the driver of the Subaru wagon and it was obvious he was not going to even look in the bike lane before his right turn. I slowed down and he turned oblivious to me and my bike.”

    What does that say about bike lanes?

    J.Maus: “the bike box does not play as large of a role in green light situations as it does when the light is red.”

    If the “solution” only works 50% of the time, is it really a solution or just an impersonation of a solution?

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  • Mindful Cyclist September 15, 2010 at 11:14 am

    I hope she heals soon and will be back riding soon.

    What I really think this intersection needs is some “Yield to Bicycles” signage like they have going Eastbound on the Hawthorne Bridge where it breaks off to MLK or on Broadway and Williams. Some paint on the bicycle lane across Grand could help as well. There is way too much bicycle traffic not to have something.

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  • Steve B. September 15, 2010 at 11:16 am

    Ouch! Broken bones and surgery, that’s pretty serious. Jill, I hope you have a speedy recovery.

    Although there are many things about the Couch/Burnside bike facilities that cause me consternation, I actually enjoy using this bike lane to zip past the clog of cars during rush hour here, with the exception of the serious right hook threat we see manifested in Jill’s crash.

    It would be nice for the city to consider banning right-turns by autos (at least temporarily) at dangerous intersections like this. I find the bike box doesn’t help me much once traffic is flowing, only when the light is red.

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  • aljee September 15, 2010 at 11:18 am

    “”assume every car is going to right hook you?”
    statistically, you are more likely to die of a gunshot. do you also assume every person is going to shoot you.”

    i don’t have stats to back it up, but i have a hunch that if you ride this intersection everyday you are a tad more likely to get hooked than get shot.

    i too ride like every driver doesn’t see me. or at least the ones that i can see will turn across my lane. of course, there may have been no turn signal – that’s much harder to predict.

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  • are September 15, 2010 at 11:25 am

    i agree with random that the bike lane here is unsafe. i never use it, and i try to shrug off the shouts from motorists. better than a traumatic brain injury or whatever.

    the problem is that any striped bike lane built to AAHSTO standards is going to be treated by the city under 814.420 as presumptively “safe,” and the courts will probably back them up. again, however, a traffic ticket is still better than a traumatic brain injury.

    as others have noted, the green box has zero to do with the right hook on the green signal phase, except possibly to raise slightly the motorist’s curiosity whether there might be a cyclist over there.

    on the other, other hand, i almost hope they do put a green box in here, because that is as yet a nonstandard treatment, and the city cannot argue mandatory sidepath.

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  • slammy September 15, 2010 at 11:27 am

    hopefully in the future, a motor vehicle operator will see the green bike box whie in motion, and remind themselves that the intersection is multi-use, and do a quick right mirror check. i think that is how bike boxes can be effective in preventing moving right hooks. This may take a few years.

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  • Joshua Cohen September 15, 2010 at 11:27 am

    I ride this section of Couch most days, and never use the bike lane between 6th & Grand because of right-hook risk.

    Couch is downhill from 12th to 6th (with no bike lane) so it’s easy ride at the same speed as traffic.

    Why not just erase the bike lane between 6th & Grand, and paint sharrows in the right lane from 12th to Grand?

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  • are September 15, 2010 at 11:28 am

    re comment 22. for what it is worth, the green box is coupled with a no right on red. again, this is no help on the green phase. however, i would suggest that if you ban right turns onto grand you will instead get more rights at 7th, 8th, etc. where there does not happen to be a striped bike lane. hmn. so the city striped a bike lane inside the right hook at the one intersection motorists heading north mostly choose. sounds negligent somehow.

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  • are September 15, 2010 at 11:30 am

    good luck with that, comment 26. one might as why there was no pushback on this at last night’s BAC meeting? a green box at couch and grand was at the very top of greg raisman’s list, and all it does is exacerbate a bad situation that PBoT created by striping the lane in the first instance.

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  • davemess September 15, 2010 at 11:37 am

    I find the argument of “I didn’t even see her” hard to believe. I mean how often do you see a car and cyclist going the same speed with the bike in the blind spot? Even if the cyclist is coming up on the rear of the car going faster, she still would have been visible for a while in the truck’s mirror. Usually the car has just passed the cyclist, and if you can’t see a cyclist you just passed, you should not have a driving license!

    Why shouldn’t we be upset about things like this!?!?!

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  • 151 September 15, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Out of sight, out of mind.

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  • BURR September 15, 2010 at 11:40 am

    Riding in a bike lane to the right of right-turning traffic is suicidal for cyclists.

    Installing bike lanes to the right of right turning traffic borders on criminal negligence.

    Bike boxes are not the solution.

    Merge zones need to be provided so that cyclists can move to the left of right turning traffic, and vice versa.

    Providing merge zones might result in the loss of a few curbside parking spaces.

    The city needs to come to grips with this question: which is more important? Curbside parking or cyclist safety?

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  • Esther September 15, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, as someone who rides this at least 50% of the time for my commute – while both driver and biker defensiveness will solve much of the problem, and a bike box will help, the fact is that the bike lane appears from NOWHERE on that very block. So it’s not like bike lanes that drivers have been next to for awhile and are therefore expecting cyclists on their right- instead, they have been on Couch for 7 blocks without room to pass, so they have been ceding the lane and bikers have been taking the lane.

    Then, JUST before a right turn that 33% (or 50% or more in the right hand lane) of the cars are going to be making, a bike lane suddenly appears. While preparing to turn, turning on blinkers (if we’re lucky), looking for traffic from the left, getting into the right lane, etc. most drivers have probably not even noticed that there is now a bike lane for the last 100 feet that wasn’t there before, and suddenly bikers are going to be on their right instead of in front and behind them.

    I just don’t use the bike lane on this block. I have been taking the lane for 40 blocks down Sandy, and I’m taking the lane for the previous 5-7 blocks on Couch anyway, so….why get over now? I take the lane and make cars stay behind me because otherwise I experience close-to-right-hooks all the time. Most cars don’t use their right turn blinkers, most cars don’t expect bicyclists passing on their right.

    One time a Trimet driver was behind me and started honking since I didn’t get into the bike lane on that block. After crossing Grand, I promptly got into the bike lane between Grand and MLK. At the MLK light, she opened her door and yelled at me for not using the bike lane. I explained that almost all drivers in the right lane turn right, most of them cutting me off and most not using blinkers there, so I wait till the next block. She nodded thoughtfully and went “Ok!” and went off on her merry way. It was a good interaction, but not one that you usually get to have.

    I’m usually against any removal of any SIR facilities but in this case….either bring the bike lane back a few blocks (or all the way to the Sandy interchange) so everyone has time to get used to the presence of a bike lane, or get rid of it for this one block and put in sharrows and lots of marking about bikes in roadway.

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  • BURR September 15, 2010 at 11:43 am

    re comment #30.

    Undoubtedly there was no pushback at the BAC because PBOT has succeeded in stacking the BAC with members who all agree with PBOT’s agenda as far as facilities for cyclists are concerned.

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  • Adam September 15, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Looking at the huge size of that truck, I am so thankful this incident was not more serious than it was.

    Look forward to a bike box here very much!!!

    Hope one is also coming to NW 14th & Everett (pretty please?)

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  • Bonnie September 15, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I fully agree with @davemess
    Why are we not discussing the probability that the truck was behind Jill, then passed her and promptly ‘forgot’ that she existed? There’s nothing noted that the truck and Jill were at a red, that Jill came to the red after the truck, etc. (and not that those conditions would be any excuse, either.) I’d call this negligence, at best, on the part of the truck driver.
    @ester is correct, too. Cyclists are set up by design to be right-hooked at that intersection.

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  • Jeff P September 15, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    my experience is that “I didn’t see her” equates to “I didn’t bother looking”.

    All too often people still do not ‘think’ that bikes will be there – even if they just drove past one.

    Speedy recovery; hopefully it won’t dissuade her from continuing to ride.

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  • Stig September 15, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    A bike lane is just another line in the road. A bright green box will surely help reduce the likelihood of collisions by increasing awareness: watch for bikes.

    To me, the most dangerous things on the roads aren’t the cars and trucks. It’s the traffic engineers.

    Placing a bike lane to the right of right-turning traffic is the same sort of thing as giving traffic turning right a green light while at the same time, giving pedestrians a walk signal. The streets are dangerous by design.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 15, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    a few thoughts:

    — Bonnie (and others), we aren’t discussing where the two vehicles were prior to the crash because we don’t know that yet. the police report will tell us more.

    — Green bike boxes have been proven by several major research studies to improve the perception of safety and yielding behaviors at intersections…. even in green-light situations.

    — BURR, I think you should be careful referring to the BAC membership when you have not attended a meeting for quite some time. In fact, last night there was quite a lot of pushback on PBOT’s bike box plans and on other PBOT agenda items.

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  • tonyt
    tonyt September 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Take the BIG lane before intersections like this.

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  • matt picio September 15, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    Kudos to the truck driver for remaining on the scene and being responsible. Hope that ms. Michaelree heals quickly.

    rrandom rider (#12) – ORS 814.420. Unfortunately, it seems the courts have determined that any given bike lane is de facto “safe” based on there being a planning process, so the only way to legally be outside one is due to enivronmental conditions like obstructions, potholes, glass, etc.

    rrandom rider (#14) – We don’t know that the driver was inattentive. There are a number of factors that could cause the driver to legitimately not see the cyclist. That said, the driver should still be charged with “failure to yield”, because seeing the cyclist is not a requirement for that statute.

    Mindful Cyclist (#23) – I think what the roads really need is LESS signage. The current roads already have far too much.

    Steve B (#24) – Part of the bike box treatment is to ban right turns on red. That wouldn’t have helped in this specific case, It’s not practical to ban turns in general at that intersection, as there will be a LOT of traffic turning onto Grand.

    With all due respect to the planners, I think this was poorly designed – the bike lane should be to the left of the right turn lane, just as it is at other intersections with MLK / Grand, like Weidler is.

    davemess (#31) – You’re assuming they were both traveling in the same direction at the same time before the stop.

    BURR (#33) – It’s not suicidal, it’s just hazardous. Installing bike lanes inboard of the turning lane wouldn’t be half the problem it is if ORS 814.420 did not mandate bike lane use.

    I agree with Esther (#34) 100% – extend the bike lane or remove it entirely.

    Jeff P (#38) – I’ve had that experience too, but in my experience those types of people rarely act remorseful after the collision.

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  • Bob September 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I also take the lane until after crossing Grand. It’s downhill and the lights are timed so the drivers rarely get frustrated.

    Still, I assume all cars will turn right in front of me bike lanes or not. Careful out there!

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  • Charley September 15, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Cue BikeSnobBYC:
    “A man on a bike who appeared to be a messenger”. What, was he riding a track bike and have lots of tattoos? Oh yeah, that’s what a lot of people look like!

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  • are September 15, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    jonathan. i was certainly there, as you know, and i would not describe any committee response to greg’s presentation on bike boxes as “pushback.” some questions about how the copenhagen box at hawthorne and seventh would work, but even there not “pushback.” and not one word about couch at grand, even though this is very obviously a situation that was created by striping the bike lane to begin with. not a word.

    unlike burr, i am not impugning anyone’s motives, but if the role of BAC is to critique PBoT’s planning from the cyclist’s perspective, what the heck was last night about? less than half an hour for the entire presentation, and zero opportunity for anyone not on the committee to feed back. i was biting my tongue.

    matt arnold designated three committee members to follow up, but the box on couch at grand and the copenhagen box on seventh at hawthorne are going down in october, done deal.

    i came away fully intending to follow up with greg, and rich newlands, and the three committee members designated to the project (alicia crain, mark ginsberg, and ian stude, as i recall), but this incident this morning has gotten me angry. in case it doesn’t show.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 15, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    thanks are,

    i won’t debate the definition of “pushback” but there were concerns raised by BAC members about PBOT’s bike box plans.

    i can tell that you are angry and that’s good… because we need more activists like you offering concerns/feedback/constructive criticism and more importantly, following up with those concerns. I hope you’ll keep us posted with your communication about this with the BAC.

    last night’s meeting was not perfect. there wasn’t enough time to discuss these bike boxes and it wasn’t clear if PBOT’s list was even open to change.

    my only hope is that you put your anger/frustration into action and that you use it to try and improve how our streets work for bikes (which I know you will do).

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  • hanmade September 15, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Ok, I’m at work and didn’t have time to read all of the comments, but I saw nothing in the article stating whether the truck driver was using his turn signal or not. It is against the law to turn with out it. If the signal was used (and I suspect not), then there would be a good chance the cylcist would have seen it and taken evasive action, been on the defensive. This is a very big point. Anyone?

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  • rrandom rider September 15, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    hanmade- While I certainly hope that the truck was using its turn signal as required by traffic code, it wouldn’t necessarily have had much effect on what evasive actions the cyclist could have taken. If the truck driver was well in front of the bike and turned on its signal 100′ before the intersection he would still be guilty of failing to yield the right of way, but the cyclist would have had a better chance of stopping in time to avoid being hit. However, if the turn signal was used under any other circumstances there wouldn’t have been much the cyclist could have done. Part of the problem with being confined to a narrow bike lane abutting the curb is that the options for evasive actions are extremely limited.

    matt (#42)- I think we are getting into semantics here, but unless the cyclist did something like pop into the bike lane from the sidewalk just before the collision, I don’t see any way to avoid stating that the truck driver was inattentive. He made a turn across a legal traffic lane. It is incumbent on him to make sure that the lane was clear.

    Now, this is all based on the information as it is currently being reported. If we learn circumstances were different, the interpretation of events could change.

    charley (#44)- I got a chuckle out of that too. I was thinking he must have been on a fixie and blew through a red light to get there. 😉

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  • Joe September 15, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Last night go out for a spin, 2 miles in my City 3 right hooks. could have gone way
    bad but locked up the back wheel and good loud voice helps. all of them knew I was there after they passed.

    Hope she heals well.
    Bike Safe all

    Wilsonville rd Nightmare.

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  • 8pmhangover September 15, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I’m so sick of this crap happening to us.

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  • Brian September 15, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    As the victim’s husband (not friend as mentioned in the article, I should have been more clear, Jonathan), I can assure everyone she’s shaken up and in pain, but will hopefully be fine, with only three broken bones in her foot and a few nice lacerations.
    Her brand new KHS will need extensive repairs. And one of her socks, a very nice and beloved sock, was also ruined. Miraculously, her shoe was pulled off her foot before the blood started gushing.
    The driver was cited for a bike lane violation and the police, in my opinion, did a pretty fair job of handling the case. One was even so kind as to transport the broken bike to the hospital for me, so I could attend to my injured wife.
    The driver I found to be apologetic and a nice guy.
    But saying that — as a daily bike rider myself who also drives — I’ll also say this to drivers: LOOK IN YOUR MIRRORS BEFORE YOU TAKE A FUCKING RIGHT TURN. especially on Couch.
    If everyone did that one, simple, little thing, we wouldn’t have these problems. As for Jill, she did nothing wrong, and had been riding legally in the bike lane.

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  • beth h September 15, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Over at savvycyclist.org there’s a whole plethora of reasons that site’s proponents list for NEVER riding in a bike lane.

    Unfortunately, they’re in Florida.

    We are here in Oregon, where the law states that if a bike lane exists, you are required to use it. Questions of judgment as to whether a bike lane is safe don’t generally get left up to the rider, except in cases where there is obvious blocked (due to deliveries being made or construction impeding the lane).

    Getting bike laws changed or improved in Oregon is about as easy as getting a sales tax passed. We will see many more right hooks before this is over. Anyone out there who has the energy to keep fighting, good for you. But frankly, the best advice I’ve taken away from this so far is what # 17 has to offer:

    “If you don’t want to get right hooked, don’t ride through an intersection next to a car, and don’t approach an intersection at a speed higher than a car that is already there. If there’s a car next to you, slow down, get behind it, or speed up and get in front of it before you get to the intersection. Assume it’s turning whether there is a signal or not. If it’s a bus or a large truck, for the love of god, your friends and family, get behind it! You are in the kill box!”

    Just as I don’t allow myself to be lulled into a false sense of safety in a bike lane, neither do I let it happen while siting in a green bike box. I would daresay that. among the more indignant voices here, there is plenty of impatience, at least as much as is exercised an any given day by most motorists. And everyone’s impatience is what’s going to get people hurt.

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  • Mike Myers September 15, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Stating that this was a rental truck is a bit misleading. It was a rental equipment delivery truck. The driver was a delivery person who delivers to the Portland area. As such, they SHOULD have had sufficient training to watch for cyclists. Not only that, but the vehicle in question is a flatbed! Quite a bit of visibility out of the window in the back of the cab. The driver failed to look over their shoulder or use their very adequate mirrors. Someone should follow up with the rental company, as they take their equipment safty VERY SERIOUSLY, and I would think that their driver safty would reflect that attitude.

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  • Mike Myers September 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I meant “driver safety training”

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  • jv September 15, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    I have avoided being right hooked many time by motorists, and also have tried to be supremely cautious when driving to look in the right side mirror and check for bike traffic before turning. However, the solution to right hooks is NOT to put up more signage/ visual road clutter or to prohibit right turns. Bikes should just not be to the right of turning vehicles. I think the solution is to have bikes merge with traffic so that there is never a car to the left of a cyclist while turning. Right turn lanes do this very well, and should be part of the street design at that intersection. Or, absent a right turn lane, the bike lane should move into the main travel lane, so that cyclists are encouraged to take the lane and motorists are aware that they are doing so. Roundabouts are also a great solution to much of this issue, as it forces all traffic in the same direction. Bike lanes in this situation give riders the perception that they can proceed safely, and do not exercise due caution. I never pass trucks on the right near intersections, and slow down and get behind them if they are slowing, as it is sometimes very difficult to see their turn signals.

    Motorists have to look right at turns for people crossing the street, but it is a dangerous design to have faster moving bikes passing to the right of turning vehicles, as there are so many variables that can obstruct vision.

    Also, since we are at it, I wonder if her injuries might have been less severe if there were underride bars/guards on the side of all heavy trucks like this. These seem to be standard equipment in Europe these days, and help prevent cars/bikes/pedestrians from being stuck under the rear wheels of a turning vehicle in an accident.

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  • rrandom rider September 15, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    Brian- my sympathies go out to both you and your wife. I sincerely hope she has as fast and complete a recovery as possible. Hopefully the fact that the driver was cited at the scene will help you recover damages.

    I think it shows a lot of character to acknowledge the driver’s concern. I’m sure the vast majority of drivers who hit bicyclists feel terrible about it afterward. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to carry over into how many people drive in a way that prevents these collisions from happening in the first place. You are absolutely right- one simple look into his mirror could have avoided this entire situation.

    Once again, this shows the failure of our current laws. If I were to walk down the street swinging a bat with my eyes closed, I would get a lot more than a traffic ticket if I hit someone and sent them to the hospital with broken bones. These collisions need to be looked at as criminally negligent acts that can (and do) kill people, not as “accidents” that deserve a stern look and cheap fine.

    beth (#52)- I get what you’re saying about the need to ride defensively and how a cyclist’s impatience can put them at risk. I don’t see anything in this story to indicate that either of those factored into today’s collision. I try to be aware of everything going on around me while I’m riding and predict what others might do that put me at risk. I slow down if a vehicle looks like it’s going to turn right in front of me even though it’s my right of way. But it’s not reasonable to hit the brakes and let every car in the right hand lane to clear an intersection before I dare proceed through it. I know that’s not what you’re saying, but my point is that while defensive riding is important, there are limits to what is reasonable to expect us to do and still get from point A to B in a realistic time frame. Lowering the speed limit to 5 mph would probably come close to eliminating fatal vehicular collisions, but no one is going to suggest such an extreme measure.

    I guess I’m just angry today and feel like ranting.

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  • Michael M. September 15, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    I’m beginning to think that the only thing that is going to resolve situations this kind of traffic engineering creates is a lawsuit — against the City of Portland (for creating the right-hook situation) and/or the state (for making bike riders use sidepaths).

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  • Paul Tay September 15, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    RE: “We are here in Oregon, where the law states that if a bike lane exists, you are required to use it.”

    Oh, ratz. How come I’m like da last to git da dang doggone memo? It never even occurred to me as to why I should put myself in some cagjaaaas BLIND spot.

    Bike lanes, boxes, and ‘toopid laws just for cyclists….all way OVER-rated.

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  • Liz September 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    I think one thing that hasn’t been mentioned here at all is this: if the Ankeny Street “bike” boulevard wasn’t such a shitty facility that’s completely overrun with impatient non-local motor vehicle traffic during rush hour, then perhaps cyclists would choose to ride that, instead of Couch?

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  • jim September 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    It would be safer if cars had to take the lane before they turn (bike lane) No more right hooks

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  • Brian September 15, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    As a daily bike commuter for 30+ years — I shudder at the poor driving habits I see every day and also shudder at the poor cycling habits. People riding along oblivious to both the cars on their right and the traffic on their left. I agree with ed’s comments (#17). Cyclists can do a lot to reduce their chances of being doored or right-hooked by assuming every car is about to get them and positioning appropriately. I have one quibble with ed — he says “Before every intersection, give a quick glance back …”, but I would say “check your mirror”. I also agree that in a perfect world cyclists would not have to ride with this degree of awareness and caution. But that’s the reality.

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  • Matt September 15, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Ok. there is one thing that i don’t think cyclist understand. If you see a big truck just stay behind it or away from it, instead of being right on the corner. Think about it. If you can’t see that driver, do you think they can see you? This accident had nothing to do with checking mirrors or even not paying attention. It was because she got too close to the truck and he couldn’t see her. I don’t think the truck driver should have been cited. I personally think the girl should have been for not following the road laws.

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  • Matt September 15, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    I think if cyclists are to be riding around then they should have a riders license and bicyclist safety training as most bicyclist think they own the road.

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  • rrandom rider September 16, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Matt- Licensing and training obviously aren’t effective at educating motor vehicle drivers considering your ignorance of the relevant traffic laws in this instance. Unless you were there to witness the accident, you are pulling ASSumptions out of your… imagination.

    If the driver passed the bike before making his turn, he has no excuse for not noticing her in advance and determining her location before proceeding. Regardless, he made his turn across a legal traffic lane without ensuring that it was clear. That is why he was cited for failure to yield the right of way.

    Oh, and my wife and I pay for our driver’s licenses and car registration, including the new Multnomah County surcharge, even though we log a total of about 5,000 miles a year. You’re welcome for the subsidy.

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  • John September 16, 2010 at 8:30 am

    I just assume that every driver is drunk and on their cell phone. That being said, sometimes the best defense is a good offense.

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  • Greg September 16, 2010 at 8:47 am

    I’ve ridden the Couch route many times during my morning commute, and I quickly stopped riding in the “Hit Me Lane” where this unfortunate crash occurred. The threat of a ticket won’t force me to put my safety in jeopardy.

    I agree whole heartedly with #28. There is no need for a bike lane here.

    What can a cyclist do to have the most impact with PBOT?

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  • El Biciclero September 16, 2010 at 9:42 am

    “What can a cyclist do to have the most impact with PBOT?”

    Get run over.

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  • Mindful Cyclist September 16, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Matt Picio (#42): I agree with with notion there is too much signage. We need to get smarter about it and find out what we really need and what we don’t.

    I ride this area frequently since the Broadway Bridge closure. What should have happened was that the bus stop should have been put at another location and the parking should have been removed for at least a portion of this block. A right turn lane should have been created with the bike lane to the left of it. Much like Madison when you heading WB on the Hawthorne Bridge. It would not be perfect, but think it would be better than this.

    Whenever a bridge is nearby, there is a guarantee of a large number of bicycles. The whole “why not just use Ankeny/Salmon/Tillamook” argument cannot apply to getting across the river.

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  • Valarie September 16, 2010 at 9:57 am

    I’m not a cyclist, but I’ve seen a similar right hook accident there before. I’ve walked by that intersection most days of the week for many years, and prior to the Couch lights being installed, there was an ongoing problem because cars trying to circumvent Burnside pull out on to Grand from Davis/Couch and look left for other cars, rarely looking right to see if there were pedestrians coming. The area is much safer for pedestrians now because of the Couch light, but cyclists, for your own safety, please keep this in mind: You have to assume drivers are oblivious on these two blocks.

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  • beth h September 16, 2010 at 10:52 am

    @ Liz (# 59):

    I used to take Ankeny ALL THE TIME to get onto the Burnside Bridge, until the re-directing of Burnside and Couch meant you could no longer turn left from Ankeny onto Burnside. Now you are FORCED to use Couch to get onto the Burnside Bridge.

    I think re-directing Burnside and Couch into one-way streets was not a great idea to begin with. Everything that’s been done since is little more than tweaking in response to the situations that have arisen. I am still waiting to be convinced that the original plan was a good idea.

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  • BURR September 16, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    What can a cyclist do to have the most impact with PBOT?

    PDOT staff, right up to the chief engineer, have drunk the right hook bike lane koolaid, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it anymore.

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  • BURR September 16, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    I agree with Beth #70, the whole concept of the Burnside-Couch couplet was a bad one right from the start.

    We are now reaping what has been sown by PBOT.

    Criminally negligent, I say.

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  • beth h September 16, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Whoops. Meant to say you can no longer turn left from Ankeny onto Grand and then from Grand onto the bridge.
    Doing that was one of the few times it felt almost ok to be a “vehicular” cyclist.

    And another thing: If the Vehicular Cyclist crowd wants a little more legitimacy they need to come up with another name. Bicycles are not considered actual “vehicles” in all 50 states.

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  • are September 16, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    the phrase “vehicular cyclist” describes a manner of conducting yourself on the roads, not a legal status. in the particular context the phrase might be used in opposition to “victim.” legitimacy not really much of a concern.

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  • are September 16, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    incidentally, re ankeny. i noticed the other day they have taken out the light at 9th and burnside, which used to be a good connection through. is that permanent?

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  • suburban September 16, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    This is a design flaw, not user error. Riding in bike lanes (as designed here and all over town) is needlessly dangerous. Solutions exist, and are ignored.

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  • aaronf September 17, 2010 at 12:30 am

    rrandom rider says:

    “If the truck driver was well in front of the bike and turned on its signal 100′ before the intersection he would still be guilty of failing to yield the right of way, but the cyclist would have had a better chance of stopping in time to avoid being hit.”

    To me, this sounds like the cyclist has no responsibility at all for self preservation.

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  • Dinna September 17, 2010 at 11:19 am

    A few months ago, I was also struck in this intersection under the same right-hook circumstances. Luckily for me I was not seriously injured, but I was really banged up and my bike was seriously damaged. The driver who right hooked me (despite me repeatedly punching the side of his car) completed the turn and drove off.
    While I was on the ground after being turned into, I got the cars license plate number and collected a few witnesses information. The driver later claimed that he had not seen me, heard me, or felt anything hit his car. If he was telling the truth, he pretty much had no idea a cyclist was even on the road with him.
    I’ve tried emailing several people about this intersection since my accident, but (obviously) not much has been done outside the promise of a bike box. I think several things need to happen to make this intersection(s) safer for cyclists.
    1. Signs need to be put up all down NE Couch notifying cars of the cyclists on the road.
    2. NE couch needs to have a car turning lane and a bike lane crossing the turning lane with a bike box at the light (much like the bottom of the Broadway bridge on NW Broadway).
    3.Cyclists need to ride more defensively (including myself, Jill, and any other person who uses that route everyday). Don’t assume the cars are going to stop in this situation, or in any other.

    I still take this route to work everyday, but now I take the lane from the second I turn onto Couch. I’ve had cars yell for me to get in the bike lane, and I always respond with a kind wave and a smile as they pass me and swerve back into the lane in front of me. That’s all you can do really.
    Until something actually gets done, I would encourage everyone to continue putting pressure on the people who can make a difference in the safety of this problem street. AND I would urge everyone to share their concerns about this street with cyclists, so at the very least, they can be more cautious and defensive at this intersection.
    Thanks for listening.
    Be safe out there guys.

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  • random_rider September 17, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    aaronf (#77)- and if women didn’t wear such short skirts they wouldn’t be assaulted.

    Look, every rider has to do everthing they can to protect themselves, but in this situation the truck driver was clearly in the wrong and liable for the collision. I am not going to speculate on whether the truck passed the cyclist prior to the intersection or how far ahead he may have been because we don’t know that. As I said, if he passed her well in advance and signaled his right turn, he would still be guilty of a traffic violation, but the cyclist might have had a better chance of locking up her brakes, giving over her right of way and allowing the truck to break the law without hurting anyone. Short of that, where did she not take responsibility for her safety? Enough with the blame the victim mentality that we hear from most of the media and far too many other cyclists.

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  • El Biciclero September 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    “‘If the truck driver was well in front of the bike and turned on its signal 100′ before the intersection he would still be guilty of failing to yield the right of way, but the cyclist would have had a better chance of stopping in time to avoid being hit.’

    To me, this sounds like the cyclist has no responsibility at all for self preservation.”

    The bike lane is a lane. Imagine this scenario:

    Your are driving your car (or riding a motorcycle) in the rightmost of two lanes traveling in the same direction. Someone in a car overtakes you on your left and then turns across your lane (or merges into you) before you have any time to react. Whose fault is that? Are you going to blame yourself for not taking responsibility for your own self-preservation? Are you going to kick yourself for “driving in the blind spot” of the other driver? Should you have slowed down immediately upon perceiving that another driver was coming up on your left so as to defer to their greater right-of-way–just in case they wanted to suddenly merge into you? Should you have seen them coming up in your rear-view and preemptively changed lanes to get in front of them so they couldn’t turn into you?

    I’ll bet if this kind of thing happened between two cars, not a single person would even think to blame the driver that got hit, because it’s obvious that anyone already occupying a lane has right-of-way over someone else who wants in (or across). Yet when something like this happens to a cyclist, everyone questions whether the cyclist should have done something differently to avoid the collision. I wonder why that is? Oh, I know–CAR HEAD.

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  • John Lascurettes September 17, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    El Biciclero, perfectly put.

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  • aaronf September 17, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Comparing a woman being raped to someone choosing to not yield to a motorist signaling their intention 100 yards ahead is at the very least a disservice to women being raped, and I feel demonstrates that you have no real grasp of shared responsibility.

    Shades of graymaybe?

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  • random_rider September 17, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    aaronf- let me try this again. Your words: “To me, this sounds like the cyclist has no responsibility at all for self preservation.”

    IMO, that is a blame the victim mentality. First, there is nothing to indicate that in this instance the cyclist had any time to react to the truck driver turning across her lane. The 100 yard ahead failure to yield was a hypothetical example used earlier to respond to an earlier post that also claimed the victim was responsible for not stopping in time to avoid being hit.

    Everyone has a responsibility to drive/ride defensively in order to protect themselves and those around them. But sometimes, no matter how carefully one is being, they can be struck by another vehicle through absolutely no fault of their own.

    What we know here is that a large truck driver made an illegal traffic move- he turned across a traffic lane without ensuring that it was clear. He was cited for this.

    You are claiming that the cyclist somehow shares responsibility for being run over because of… I don’t know what; you don’t give any reason. Again, this is blaming the victim based on nothing more than the fact that she was on a bike. There is a similarity, not a perfect 1:1 correlation, but a similarity between this mentality and the example I used that offended your sensibilities.

    It is offensive that some people blame a woman’s clothing for her being assaulted. It is also offensive that someone would blame a person’s decision to ride a bike with them being run over by a truck.

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  • Jen September 17, 2010 at 10:16 pm

    No one would ever engineer a highway where the right lane went straight while the middle lane exited by passing through the right lane, or a multiple lane road where the left turn lane was on the far right. If they did make such roads, no one would be shocked that “accidents” occured, as they seem to be built into the system.

    Yet the “bike lanes” are built with bus stops passing through and stopping on them, delivery trucks using them as parking spaces, and right turning vehicles passing through them.

    I don’t think that all roads through town need to be “bike friendly” but I do think that people who choose to ride bikes as transportation deserve to have safe routes that don’t put them in the “kill zone”.

    I agree that sometimes situational awareness can help prevent right hooks, but if we did not have one lane designed to turn through another lane we wouldn’t have right hooks at all.

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  • SkidMark September 18, 2010 at 12:14 am


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  • spare_wheel September 18, 2010 at 9:24 am

    “But sometimes, no matter how carefully one is being, they can be struck by another vehicle through absolutely no fault of their own.”

    IMO, being struck when you have right of way is that DEFINITION of “absolutely no fault of their own”. I will not ride like some little mouse that fearfully scurries out of the way of every big metal beast it encounters.

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  • wsbob September 18, 2010 at 10:30 am

    “… I still take this route to work everyday, but now I take the lane from the second I turn onto Couch. I’ve had cars yell for me to get in the bike lane, and I always respond with a kind wave and a smile as they pass me and swerve back into the lane in front of me. That’s all you can do really. …” Dinna #78

    Dinna…way to go!

    “… I will not ride like some little mouse that fearfully scurries out of the way of every big metal beast it encounters.” spare_wheel #86

    What?? You may eventually be hit or run over if you’re putting that outlook into actual practice on the street.

    The ‘right of way’ concept is just one of the underlying principles directing people in the way to best use roads. It cannot in itself, overcome basic shortcomings of the street environment to guarantee the safety of vulnerable road users as they travel in the presence of road users operating heavy vehicles.

    I’ve got a bad feeling that you’re going to let your narrow viewpoint get you run over, because you won’t allow your wits, experience and intelligence, guide you in how to safely use a bike lane.

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  • Damian August 6, 2011 at 2:38 am

    OK, I never come to this site. I’m a native Portlander who’s been a messenger since ’96, and I’ve shaken my head at a few things namely too many different ideas(lack of continuity) that frustrate/confuse drivers, but if you ever wanted to create a bike lane with the intent to injure and kill cyclists, this is how you’d do it. A bike box is a band aid on a knife wound. That doesn’t do anything for moving traffic. Why is there even a bike lane when the entire rest of Couch you have to take a lane anyway(which would keep you out of harm’s way). This is complete ineptitude, and it’s something that’s been on the drawing board for well over a decade?! This makes NW Lovejoy look brilliant.

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  • David August 8, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Close call for me on this spot this morning.
    Driver on cell phone and failure to signal his turn. Guy actually started shouting at me after slamming on his breaks. Go figure!

    My feeling is that signage and markings at this intersection are fine and clear. What we need is drivers to be less distracted and more aware of bicycles in general.

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  • JB April 12, 2012 at 9:36 am

    As an engineer with some road design education and a cyclist, more signage does not solve awareness problems (in general). The more Post-it notes you have stuck around the edge of your computer monitor, the less effective any one of them is.

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