Man dies after colliding with Amtrak train in Milwaukie – UPDATED

Posted by on September 21st, 2010 at 12:00 am

Just before 9:30 pm on Monday night, a man riding a bike died while crossing the train tracks near SE Oak and Campbell Streets in Milwaukie (about seven miles south of Portland).

According to the Milwaukie Police Department, it was a southbound Amtrak train. On KGW‘s newscast tonight, they reported that there were several cars waiting at the train crossing arms (which were down) when “all of the sudden, a man on a bike rode past the cars and onto the tracks.” A Milwaukie police detective interviewed by KGW said the train was honking. There is no explanation at this time why the man on the bike continued onto the tracks.

Google Maps shows SE Oak as a bike route, but I’m not familiar with this area. Perhaps one of our readers from Milwaukie can shed some light? We’ll update this post as more information becomes known.

UPDATE from Milwaukie Police department:

“Witnesses reported seeing the bicyclist pedal past vehicles stopped at the train crossing. The bicyclist drove around the crossing arm. Witnessed believe he was attempting to beat the train.

48-year-old Kenneth Kevin VanLoo (09-22-61)resident of Milwaukie, was found deceased at the scene. The investigation is continuing.”

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h
Guest
h

The accident spot is located just north of HWY 212/224 by Milwaukie Marketplace.It is a local street crossing. It has a pair arm gate with flashing lights. The railroad is quite active…1-2 trains per hours.Amtrak usually travels faster than regular freight train. Maybe the bicyclist miscalucated Amtrak’s faster speed. It occured in dark as well. I live a few blocks from the site. I don’t cross the railroad regularly. It is not the same railroad that parallels Springwater Corridor between Sellwood to OMSI.

Red Five
Guest
Red Five

Aren’t “accidents” something that could not be avoided? This just sounds like plain stupidity on the part of the cyclist. Now look what this poor train engineer has to live with. Not to mention the other people who witnessed the incident.

Was this cyclist in such a hurry that hey basically had to commit suicide? We’re they that so much more important than everyone else that they could not wait?

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

I work near here and I hate the intersection… it’s difficult to turn off of Campbell onto Oak northbound to cross the tracks because of all the traffic on that street…

that’s a really popular shopping center too, with Albertson’s and Rite Aid…

sometimes I ride my bike down there at lunch but I try to avoid that section of road by the tracks… it’s not dangerous, just annoying…

the only way to get hit by a train there short of a crossing signal malfunction is by not paying attention… as is usually the case…

h
Guest
h

Yes it would not happen if he at least obeyed the warning signs. What a waste. Truly sad.

Vinny
Guest
Vinny

I live just up the road. The Amtrak comes through this section much faster than freight trains, maybe 60 mph. Many of the freight trains are still accelerating out of the Brooklyn Yards and are going very slow. The Harrison Street crossing (about 900 feet north of the Oak Street crossing) has some buildings on the inside of the corner which make it difficult to spot southbound trains.

My guess is the guy thought it was just a slow freight train. Then an Amtrak came speeding around the corner. He would have only had about 10-15 seconds from when it first became visible.

Mike
Guest
Mike

Is this story truly bike related or idiot related?

Ronald Fisher
Guest
Ronald Fisher

“Is this story truly bike related or idiot related?”

The two are not mutually exclusive.

Every group has idiots and geniuses, givers and takers, extroverts and introverts.

Cyclists as a group are as representative of all types of people as any other group.

No matter how much people say it, drivers do not have a monopoly on stupidity.

Condolences to his family.

Amos
Guest

My condolences to the family and friends of the victim.

I am very disappointed in some of these comments.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

Amos (and others),

I have been on a plane and in lines and checking into a hotel and now in a shuttle bus… I have not had time to monitor these comments. I’ll take a look now and try to delete/edit as necessary. Thanks for commenting and please – as always- be considerate.

Philistine
Guest
Philistine

I think it’s quite possible this train driver read the bus driver’s rant.

Why didn’t the train stop for the guy? I think they need a green box at this intersection.

This is no different than splitting lanes, passing right turning trucks on the right, passing left turning busses on the left. These drivers are supposed to see us coming up behind them and stop before or in mid turn. This train should have stopped- the rider wasn’t even coming up from behind the train at a higher rate of speed like the usual “accident”, he was in front and going slowly apparently!

Really, if it’s not the cager’s fault, in this case a really big cage, then are we supposed to watch out for large vehicles and stop ourselves? No, I think they should look out for us. If school busses have to stop for trains, then trains should stop for bikes.

Jerry_W
Guest
Jerry_W

Johnathan must investigate this, I think Amtrak is anti-bicycle.

This blog is getting pretty pitiful and hard to read.

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

To take this event which resulted in a person dying to satire Bikeportland with irony and sarcasm is pretty low.

gumby
Guest
gumby

They said there was going to do an autopsy, presumably to see if there was alcohol or drugs involved. There is a liquor store right before the train crossing.

Caliente
Guest
Caliente

I took the survey yesterday.
This is the exact kind of story that I don’t want to hear about–Especially on the main page.

If there is an intersection that could be more bike-friendly, and someone is injured, make a post–for the sake of advocacy. Accidents due to a cyclist’s disregarding traffic control? Leave it off of here.

Still–sad to hear.

jeff
Guest
jeff

The guy was either completely oblivious to his surroundings for whatever reason or high on something.

Very sad for his family. I agree with the sentiments on Amtrak, they’re moving deceptively fast.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

Spiffy and Vinny: Thanks for your insight about this intersection and the trains.

Condolences to the family and friends.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Interview by a Kid said the trains come by at 70 to 80mph movin fast, sometimes no horn until late. RIP, sad story.

Anthony
Guest
Anthony

I feel bad when people die. I feel less bad when people die of their own stupidity. How do you not see or hear a train coming? Why would you try to cross with the crossing arms down? I guess the worlds cumulative I.Q. just went up a few points.

Philistine
Guest
Philistine

oh please spare, you know the train drive is a breeder and a cager. eww.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Captain(s) obvious is obvious. Thanks for pointing that out for us.

There are lessons here.

My condolences to the victims and their families.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

To take this event which resulted in a person dying to satire Bikeportland with irony and sarcasm is pretty low.

if it had been somebody in a car and people were bringing up the darwinism I doubt there would be much sympathy…

I don’t see any questions of equipment failure… look like just plain stupidity…

West Cougar
Guest
West Cougar

Damn Jonathan, you have to do something about the trolls. It is completely out of hand.

As to something actually useful:
In rail circles, it is a well-known problem that Amtrak trains collide all too frequently on lines where the predominate traffic is slow moving freight coming out of a yard. People think it’s another freight train coming and go blithely across a set of tracks not realizing it is a high-speed Amtrak engine coming at them.

The problem is that at night there is no way to distinguish an Amtrak engine from a freight engine. However, if Amtrak were to switch their lights to Xeon’s, with their blue-cast people would have an immediate visual cue as to what kind of train was coming at them.

This is something Congress, and probably only Congress, can remedy given Amtrak’s poor funding situation. Let them know.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Post #1 has the facts right on regarding this intersection.

This summer the city of Milwaukie held a stakeholder meeting to review this area for bike/ped improvements, but it is unlikely to happen soon. Funding needs to be found first. A few years ago the city attempted to install a “quiet zone” at this and several other intersections, which -might- have improved safety at this crossing, but the city could not get it done.

I’m curious if this cyclist was riding in the street and rode around the gate, or if he was on the sidewalk, which I do not believe has a gate. FYI- if you look at this area using the Google Street View- it is out of date, the sidewalks have been improved.

There is a very small group of cyclists who have been actively involved with the City of Milwaukie staff regarding bike/ped improvements over the last few years, and we need more cyclists to get involved. If you live in Milwaukie and are interested in helping improve cycling infrastructure, please contact the city and get involved. Contact the Planning Department and ask to be included on the email list for future stakeholder meetings- 503-786-7630 (tel)
planning@ci.milwaukie.or.us

Johnathan- Please do some fact checking. This is not 7 miles south of Portland. It is closer to 1.5 miles south of Sellwood, which is part of Portland. You make it sound like Milwaukie is way-out-there, when in fact it is right next door to Portland. Thanks!

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Vinny #5 and h #1 …thanks for comments that try provide worthwhile information about the location and the nature of the trains running there.

Caliente #13, your comment doesn’t explain why you don’t want to hear this kind of story. I do want to hear this kind of story, because people talking about it may provide insight into why incidents like this happen.

Despite the cars on the road waiting behind the crossing gates, the bells clanging, the train horn honking and the lights flashing, could this person on the bike somehow still not have known that road users were not supposed to cross the tracks, because a train was coming? I would think that’s one of the first questions to consider.

Beyond that consideration, there’s any number of reason this person might have decided to cross despite all the warnings not to. Some people have got to have the adrenalin thrill of living dangerously. Instead of crossing gates, bells, horns and lights, does that mean our communities should have to erect drawbridge style gates to further ensure such people do not cross railroad tracks when it’s dangerous for them to do so?

Nothing can be perfectly safe. I seem to recall incidents where people have disregarded safety precautions installed on drawbridges, to drive off the end of the bridge deck as it was rising into the air.

Ronald Fisher
Guest
Ronald Fisher

“Damn Jonathan, you have to do something about the trolls. It is completely out of hand.”

Why do you want these comments sanitized? They don’t fit with how you feel, but they do reflect how others feel.

It’s up to Mr Maus to decide if he wishes to censor these posts, but I would be greatly disappointed in him doing so.

Why shouldn’t the discourse here reflect the true feelings of those who post?

Let’s not pretend that somehow those who post here are in some way superior to all others. As I posted before, every group has idiots and geniuses, givers and takers, extroverts and introverts.

josh
Guest
josh

Anyone who thinks a train can just stop for a situation like this (Philistine) needs a reality check and some education. The fact is, the train did stop, as fast as it could. It can take a mile to get a train stopped from cruising speed because they’re so massive. The train was stopped, and all the amtrak passengers were shuttled to Eugene (train’s destination) and the crew of the train were sent home due to the stress of the accident. There is NOTHING a train engineer can do if a car, cyclist, pedestrian, or anyone else crosses the tracks at the wrong moment.

I’m sad for this cyclist, it is a tragedy, but the crossing gates were down, the bells at the crossing were ringing (I hear them from my apartment) and other cars were stopped. It should have been obvious that crossing was very UNSAFE. So spare me your “train driver” bashing. The guy has to live with having just hit a cyclist and not being able to do anything about it.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“… I’m curious if this cyclist was riding in the street and rode around the gate, or if he was on the sidewalk, which I do not believe has a gate. …” Matt #21

maus’s story quotes a KGW story, saying:

“all of the sudden, a man on a bike rode past the cars and onto the tracks.”

That statement seems to suggest that the person on the bike was on the road rather than the sidewalk.

There’s a light rail crossing near where I live. Its crossing gates also don’t block the sidewalk. Almost never though, does a person using the sidewalk cross the tracks once all the warning devices activate.

PDXbiker
Guest
PDXbiker

Caliente #13, disagree, this is a story we should hear about. This is what happens when you blow track crossings and stop signs without exercising “due diligence”. Be you in your car or on a bike. While it wouldn’t have made a difference in this case, we don’t have the luxury of an automotive steel cage around us for protection. As vunerable road users, increased awareness is mandatory if you want to stay out of the hospital, or tragically as here, a fatality.

PDXbiker
Guest
PDXbiker

Meant Caliente #14

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

My condolences to the family.

I have no clue why someone would cross a track with an oncoming train. Are the police considering suicide?

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

@22 West Cougar

You know what they say, you can’t make anything foolproof, because fools are so ingenious.

The problem is not the train. The problem is the individual who ignored all signals and abdicated all common sense.

Putting different color lights on trains would only encourage those fools to take chances with the trains that they identify as being slower.

West Cougar
Guest
West Cougar

“Why do you want these comments sanitized? They don’t fit with how you feel, but they do reflect how others feel.

It’s up to Mr Maus to decide if he wishes to censor these posts, but I would be greatly disappointed in him doing so.

Why shouldn’t the discourse here reflect the true feelings of those who post?”

Because they are trolls. Trolls get off spewing invective and getting a rise out of people. Most people see through it and simply skip the comments of places overtaken by trolls. So you end up with trolls trolling trolls. It like the old saying, bad money forces out good.

In this case I read through to the comments hoping someone might have something to add about the crossing. And indeed someone did, but the invective aimed at a dead guy no one knows anything about was so appalling I decided to speak up and say something.

MotRG: Concerning Xenons on trains, when so many people make the same mistake, as I said this is a well-known problem of Amtrak’s, it may be easy to blame all the people that didn’t follow the rules, but that’s an inescapable part of humanity.

Finally, cut the rule breakers some slack, without them we’d still be under the Queen, or worse.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

I can’t believe that people here are suggesting that the problem lies in the infrastructure. There were cars stopped at the gates, the cyclist road around the cars and the gates, and then got hit by a train. Here’s a lesson for all cyclists: traffic signals and signs apply to you. If you fail to obey the signal or sign you put yourself and others at significant risk. If you fail to obey the signals and signs and get hurt, it is absolutely your responsibility.

Of course I’m sorry this guy lost his life, but if a guy in a car drove around the gates and got crushed, or a guy on foot walked around a gate, I’d say the same thing.

Editz
Guest
Editz

Quoting West Cougar:

“People think it’s another freight train coming and go blithely across a set of tracks not realizing it is a high-speed Amtrak engine coming at them.”

Uh, no they don’t because the crossing arms were down and lights flashing. To willfully bypass these protective measures is the definition of stupidity.

“…it may be easy to blame all the people that didn’t follow the rules, but that’s an inescapable part of humanity.”

What, it’s inescapable that people break the rules? Well, there are also inescapable consequences for doing so. In this case the consequences were fatal. Sorry for the family, but the guy made his choice and it was a very stupid one.

Ronald Fisher
Guest
Ronald Fisher

Sorry Cougar, but censorship takes away the legitimacy of the comments and the site as a whole.

How many comments about cagers have come out of late? Those are the true feelings of the posters. Threats made against drivers and their property occur regularly in the comments section. Do you demand that these comments be removed as well?

The cycling community has the same type of knee jerk reactionaries as are present in the comments section of the Oregonian. Hiding the ugly truth, that there are reactionaries amongst us is running away from the truth.

And love the comparison of someone who had no regard for their own safety with those who stood against tyranny. Talk about making a stretch. But it seems you missed something that came from that little uprising, freedom of speech. Trolls of the right or trolls of the left, whether you like it or not they have the right to speak. And I hope Mr Maus lets these comments stand, although I will support removal of expletives.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

I have sympathy for the train conductor and all the other witnesses who were unable to do anything prevent this very avoidable death.
I have sympathy for the cyclist’s friends and family: their warnings against this sort of reckless behavior fell on ears that were only metaphorically deaf but are now completely so.

I have no sympathy at all for those that are Willfully Stupid. To knowingly choose what is dangerous, illegal and harmful to others and oneself is asking for the hand of Darwin to prove you wrong. That happened here.

It deserves note in a BP.org story as short paragraph to be a reminder to be attentive at all times. More complicated issues like how to position your bike at a traffic stop when traffic wants to turn right is worthy of more discourse; willfully ignoring traffic warnings and laws not so much.

Brad
Guest
Brad

We cyclists make dumb decisions and can get get seriously injured or killed as a result. We are no better or worse than anyone else because, like them, we are people.

Call it trolling, being insensitive, or whatever you like but we as bike riders need to be willing to accept these sorts of negative comments when one of our own is in the wrong. It hurts but it is ultimately the truth. The best way to tone down the charges of smugness that get leveled against us is to be as honestly critical of our own as we are when we rail against car drivers, truckers, Tri-Met operators, and the like for their faults.

Mike
Guest
Mike

More insight on the deceased and the circumstances of the fatal collision is coming to light. The quoted story below is from KGW:

“Co-workers mourn bicyclist killed by train in Milwaukie

by Michael Rollins, KGW staff
Posted on September 21, 2010 at 7:04 AM
Updated today at 12:35 PM

MILWAUKIE, Ore. – A bicyclist was struck by a train and killed about 9:30 Monday night.

Witnesses told police that Kenneth Kevin Van Lou, 49, pedaled around a safety gate and appeared to try and beat the train.

The train was heading to Eugene from Seattle and Van Lou was struck at SE Oak and Campbell.

Amtrak sent the crew home after the accident and the passengers were shuttled in vans. The death remains under investigation.

Van Lou worked at Dave’s Killer Bread in Milwaukie. Owner Dave Dahl posted a eulogy for him this morning on the company’s Facebook page.

Last night, we lost a great employee, and an even better human being, Ken Van Lou. Ken was riding his bike after presumably attending an AA meeting after his shift yesterday. Ken was a man with a similar past to my own who had turned his life around and was a star employee in our bread packaging department. I’m very sad today. Rest in Peace, my friend. – Dave

Dahl’s life was one of depression, drug abuse and crime before he launched what is now a popular brand of bread products.

The comments from Facebook friends echoed Dahl’s sense of loss. Among the remembrances was this post.

‘Condolences to you, Dave, and to Ken’s family. You never know when something like this is going to happen. I am glad, at least, that it occurred on his way back from doing the right thing – coming home from an AA mtg after working at DKB for a boss that had turned his life around, too. He died while he was on the right path (literally). He will rest in peace.'”

-30-

http://www.kgw.com/news/Bicyclist-hit–killed-by-train-in-Milwaukie-103434399.html

West Cougar
Guest
West Cougar

I’m always amazed at the level of sanctimony in the comments. Some thing about traffic rules brings out the Mall Cop in some folks.

But whatever, the mistake was mine. I knew the scene and I came in here anyway.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

just noticed that the cyclist’s birthday is tomorrow…

I have to wonder if he had been out drinking in pre-celebration…

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Drinking and driving is a choice; our fascist state (/sarsasm) does not force people to drive under the influence of intoxicants.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Disobeying rules is about personal responsibility: when I choose to disobey a rule, obstensively in place to enhance my safety, I am taking the responsibility for my personal safety off of the state and shouldering all of the consequences on my person.

I daily cross 3 rail line in the north portion of the NW rail yards. Is it legal: no. Can it be safe with attention to safety: yes. Amtrak blows through here >50MPH. Stop, look listen, the proceed against all rules and laws at your own risk. It’s less safe to cross Hwy 30 there.

Roland
Guest

Getting a little weary of all the carnage out there lately. I’ll bet 2010’s safety statistics are going to suck compared to 2009.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Spiffy–

According to the quoted bit from the KGW story site (see comment #38), “[he was] coming home from an AA mtg after working at DKB for a boss that had turned his life around, too.”

Seems Mr. Van Lou may have had a problem with alcohol in the past, but if this quoted bit of info is correct, probably had not been drinking that night.

Jack
Guest
Jack

Just got back from some time in Europe. As anyone who has been there can probably attest, the trains go way faster through urban areas. The universal sentiment there seems to be backed by obvious logic:

Trains travel on tracks. They are not particularly hard to avoid.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Mike #38 …thanks for posting the KGW story about Kenneth Kevin Van Lou, the person struck by the train while riding his bike.

It seemed likely that the kind of person that would disregard all the crossing signals would be someone with a lot of personal issues. 49 years is a long way to come, and wind up like this.

I would guess that depression and the seductive lure of an adrenalin rush likely had a lot to do with his decision to try beat the train. Listen to your friends and family members in need.

scotth
Guest
scotth

“Trains travel on tracks. They are not particularly hard to avoid.”

zilfondel
Guest
zilfondel

I absolutely love trains, but i really think this country needs to build overpasses over the faster rail lines like this. i mean, we did it with the interstate freeway, even though it cost billions. i see the same sort of thing happen on water avenue in SE portland when it turns right on stark. some of the freight trains can take over ten minutes to pass by.

peejay
Guest
peejay

This is why level crossings are almost unheard of in Europe. You know, where the trains are USEFUL, and people value them. In addition to the obvious tragedy, theres also the tragedy of having an entire infrastructure grind to a halt because of somebody’s carelessness. We can never have high speed rail with level crossings, where something like this could likely kill many of the people on the train.

Tim
Guest
Tim

wsbob – insightfull comment

Sometime people get to the point where they do not place much value on their own life. If you know someone like this – let them know their value.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

There has to be the economic incentive to build street infrastructure that includes things like elevated rail lines. That stuff is expensive. Except for in a few cities, the U.S. hasn’t had such an incentive…yet.

There’s a great documentary about the high speed train line built in…I think it’s South Korea. If I understood the narrative content clearly, that line was built in large part to bolster the country’s economic strength by allowing its workers to overcome the significant obstacle that distance travel in that country is.

No fancy rail line or crossing would likely have saved this guy’s life though. People living on the edge often find any number of hazardous ways to try counter difficulties they’re having.

Tim…hey thanks!