Special gravel coverage

Portland had zero bike fatalities in 2010 (again)

Posted by on January 26th, 2011 at 12:33 pm

A Sunday ride-9

A family enjoys a sunny winter
ride on SE 52nd Ave.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Lost in the end-of-year festivities and perhaps overshadowed by a startling number of people killed while walking on Oregon roads in 2010 (60), lies a positive statistic that deserves our attention. In 2010, there were zero fatal bicycle crashes in Portland.

According to PBOT data, this is the sixth time since 1999 that no one has been killed while riding a bike in our city (others were 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2008).

Back in 2009 I shared an interview with Greg Raisman — who’s not just one of PBOT’s most knowledgeable traffic safety experts, he’s also a passionate advocate for safe streets. Here’s a quote from that interview (emphasis mine):

“All traffic fatalities are a symptom of the same disease. It’s equally sad and tragic if a person is killed while walking, biking, or driving. It also appears that the conditions that make it safer for the most vulnerable make it safer for everyone. As roads become safe enough that a child can safely walk or bike to their friend’s house, the roads also become safer for driving to that friend’s house when you have to.”

Words to live by as we get ready for Mayor Adams’ Fifth Annual Transportation Safety Summit on February 8th.

UPDATE: I’ve published a follow-up to this story with more 2010 traffic fatality data.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • BURR January 26, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Angela Burke doesn’t count?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 26, 2011 at 12:42 pm

      Investigators have determined that Angela Burke was not on her bike when she was hit. It’s been reported from day one that she was walking her bike and attempting to cross when the collision occurred. Thanks for asking.

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  • rider January 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    What is the status of Karl Moritz? The guy seriously injured in Ladds back in June.

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  • michweek January 26, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    What happened to the heart attack victim at PIR?

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    • Rob January 26, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      David Oliphant was sadly not able to be revived after collapsing at the end of an OBRA race at PIR in June. My guess is that PBOT doesn’t track data related to racing events.

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  • J P January 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    And James Hill in West Linn – granted not in Pdx…but..

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  • Nick January 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    Just curious: 60 people died while walking in Oregon — how many of those were in Portland?

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  • Spiffy January 26, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    that’s great news for a city with a lot of people on bicycles… sometimes with all the crashes being reported we forget that non of them in Portland were fatal…

    that’s something we can all be thankful for…

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    • adam February 6, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      thankful is not enough. if you want to achieve safeyty and not merely be glad none of our friends were killed within arbitrary city limits during one calendar year, you have to think a little harder.

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  • Paul Hanrahan January 26, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I wish there was a tri county view of bicycling in this area. Many of us do not live within Portland city limits per se, but considers ourselves Portlanders by proximity. I ride between Portland and Clackamas County daily. It would be good somewhere for there to be a more inclusive veiw of the tri county area for the rest of us

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  • h January 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I kinda agree with Paul. It is a bit like Willamette Week that only covers Multnomah County, little else. Jonathon Maus did cover articles from other counties from time to time. It is really up to him but we could suggest him to include Clackamas and Washington whenever possible. BTW, I live in Clackamas County and work in Portland. I find many useful info in BikePortland. Thank you.

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    • craig January 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm

      Yes, what are the stats for the tri-county area, and for the state?

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  • S brockway January 26, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    I too wonder about Karl Moritz and his family

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  • mabsf January 26, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Oh the snappy remarks I could make about Matt Greenlick right now, but it’s not worth it!

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    • Jeff January 26, 2011 at 5:08 pm

      you mean Mitch?

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  • craig January 26, 2011 at 4:13 pm


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  • Kevin Wagoner January 26, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    This is great news. I would not have guessed this. Thanks for sharing.

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  • jim January 26, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I think that the influx of new riders have brought a new more rule compliant bunch of riders to the flock. They were drivers before and were used to going by the rules and also they are naturally a little more cautious. 5-10 years ago there were a lot of crazy cyclists riding the wrong way real fast… kamikaze like, dare devil delivery dudes… I think there is more peer pressure to be more compliant now. Also drivers are now learning to be more cautious around bikes with so many more on the road to look out for, especially after the well publicised catastrophe’s we had a few years back.

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  • Tim January 26, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    This is a very good thing, a good thing indeed.

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  • 3-speeder January 26, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    This actually is a very interesting statistic that Jonathan highlights.

    One could argue that the “startling” number of deaths while walking is a result of some sort of systemic shift in transportation mode choice and behavior. If these shifts were systemic, one would expect citywide trends to mirror statewise trends. Although I have no statistics to conclude it, one could reasonably infer that such systemic shifts would also create “startling” statistics about deaths while bicycling, since both modes share vulnerability traits.

    The zero-bicycle-deaths-in-Portland statistic doesn’t go along with this.

    Might this statistic be a piece of evidence that if governmental agencies like PBOT actually focus on minority road user (e.g., bicycle) safety in a meaningful way, roads become statistically safer than in places where that sort of safety consideration is an afterthought?

    You can agree or disagree – I just think it is an interesting question to consider.

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    • MarkDavisPDX January 26, 2011 at 10:38 pm

      The quite a few times I’ve driven in downtown PDX, those on bicycles are, for the most part, knowledgeable of what they’re doing and the rules of the road. Although some might come pretty close to my car when switching lanes, for the most part they are visible and it is easy to accommodate one another.

      Pedestrians, on the other hand, are increasingly becoming more and more annoying to deal with. Just today, for example, I was driving down a street, approaching 25 mph when a woman and her child just start walking across the street a short distance ahead of me. I had to brake really fast and honked to let her know, “hey, I could have killed you and your kid if my reflex had been any slower”. I get an angry looked shot at me (“How dare you drive on a road while I’m trying to cross it illegally”) and she just kept on walking, causing the other lanes of traffic to do the same.

      In short: those on bicycles, for the most part respectful of the fact that cars weigh at least 2,000lbs. more than they do. Pedestrians: just start walking and are oblivious to all the cars screeching to a halt around them.

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      • spare_wheel January 27, 2011 at 8:49 am

        25 mph downtown…hmmmm.

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      • gregg woodlawn January 27, 2011 at 9:03 am

        Not cool. Don’t honk at pedestrians.

        It’s great that you stopped and didn’t hurt/ kill anyone. It’s not acceptable that you “Showed her” that you could have hurt her. This is extremely threatening. And she had a kid with her- shame. She didn’t threaten you.

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        • craig January 27, 2011 at 10:51 am

          Once her foot’s in the road (at a corner) she’s got the law on her side, with respect to all cars, all lanes, who are safely able to stop. It’ll get even better when the current law is improved upon with the hand-wave currently being proposed.


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          • naess January 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm

            ummm… in marks o.p. he implies that she did not start with a safe distance, so it would be very vague then.

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        • naess January 28, 2011 at 2:35 pm

          actually, yes she did threaten him. if he couldn’t stop in time his life would have been ruined forever. worse yet, if he had swerved to miss her and her kids, then more innocents would have been hurt by her malicious actions.

          remember theres that nifty “safely able to stop” phrase which if i remember correctly is over 100 feet or some such distance, not the “right now! you must stop as soon as i step out on the street! hey! hey you! you didn’t stop, even though you were pretty much passing me at the time, my foot is in the street now so you must stop, for me!” attitude some pedestrians seem to have.

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        • MarkDavisPDX February 3, 2011 at 1:05 pm

          Of course, honking would automatically mean that I want to threaten a mother and her small child, and “show” her that I could have hurt her.

          The honking did not occur after I had stopped, if it did then maybe I would see your point. The honking occurred as I had to brake hard, as in “Oh crap, watch out lady I might not stop in time”. I literally came to a stop about three or four feet away from her and yet she kept walking. I never use my horn unless it is to warn of impeding danger, which in this case was warranted, or in other cases such as a truck going into my current lane because they can’t see me.

          As for my 25mph comment, I was indeed wrong on that count. I do drive the speed limit and was going with the flow of traffic (probably more towards 9-12mph, not fast at all or even moderate), however I usually drive in 25mph areas around my housing and the number just popped into my head. Just a mistake, not the actual speed I was driving. For more suited purposes, lets just say I was going the speed limit at the time, which I was.

          @naess the last part of your comment is the very notion I am trying to express. While I brake for all pedestrians, whether in a legal crosswalk or not, sometimes people just don’t seem to care about the danger and just think the world is centered around them.

          This is not just pedestrians though, I’ve seen a couple near misses with buses, cars, bikes, and walking all alike. Seems like every day on the drive home from work (soon to be bike home :), just gave up car), I am cut off at least three our four times by cars, and at sometimes by a bus who decides to swing out into traffic just barely a second after turning their blinker on.

          Practice safe driving folks, it’s not a race! Don’t bet on your life that someone will be paying attention enough to stop.

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          • MarkDavisPDX February 3, 2011 at 1:08 pm

            Although reading my last comment I do understand how it could be interpreted as being after the fact of stopping. Sentence wording makes all the difference :). A bit more spell-check and re-reading would have helped paint the picture more accurately, as I do see how, by reading the first post, I seem like a speeding angry new yorker in a hurry to go nowhere :).

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  • Ross Nicholson January 26, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    This isn’t fair. Here in Tampa cyclists are hunted down on the road and killed like partridges. If the cyclist is wearing dark clothes and skin color, the driver is publicly congratulated by our police and newspapers. Such cycling laws that we have are designed to harass poor people. It is just a shame that the US DOT does nothing to help spread best practices.

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  • Samuel Stumbo January 27, 2011 at 6:25 am

    This is incredible for a city the size of Portland! I wish I could say the same about Bend… We’re getting there, but it’s a long road! Thanks for that encouragement.

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  • Jackattak January 27, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I think that the influx of new riders have brought a new more rule compliant bunch of riders to the flock. They were drivers before and were used to going by the rules and also they are naturally a little more cautious.

    Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

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    • Anne Hawley January 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      Not sure I understand why. I fall into the category Jim mentions, and what he says is true of me. After an admittedly shaky shakedown period lasting a couple of weeks after I first took up bike commuting, I’ve become more confident and sure.

      But I was a driver for years and I ride with a similar degree of caution and rule observance. The thing is, I’m in no hurry, and I stick to side streets, bike lanes, and separated paths wherever possible.

      I’m sure I’m WAY more annoying to other cyclists than I am a danger to myself or a problem to motorists.

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      • spare_wheel January 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm

        “But I was a driver for years and I ride with a similar degree of caution and rule observance.”

        I found jim’s statement to be funny because there is an entire set of laws that most motorists chose to routinely disregard. Of course, this is never *noticed* by the majority. The harmless and safe infractions of the “minority” on the other hand…

        ” I’m WAY more annoying to other cyclists”

        Nope. No way. 99.9% of cyclists love seeing you on the road.

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        • are January 29, 2011 at 6:48 pm

          i found the converse to be true: using a bike for daily transportation made me a much more cautious driver.

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  • JM January 27, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    The real danger is getting hurt and messed up very badly in a bike accident, you might be better off dead sometimes. Wearing helmets should be required. I am tired of seeing people riding with no protection.

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    • spare_wheel January 29, 2011 at 1:06 pm

      No. The real danger is getting hurt and messed up very badly because a motorist was not paying attention.

      Call me hopelessly naive, but I *believe* that american motorists can learn to be as careful as those in europe.

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    • are January 29, 2011 at 6:46 pm

      and i am tired of hearing this argument. the statistics really do not bear you out. quite a number of people in cars die of head injuries as well. are you “tired of seeing” those people driving about without helmets?

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  • esther c January 27, 2011 at 5:12 pm

    A lot of times, no deaths just means better trauma care.

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  • Marcus Griffith January 28, 2011 at 8:16 pm

    Does anyone have data on how many traffic collisions sent a cyclist to the ER (motor vehicle related or not)?

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  • resopmok January 30, 2011 at 12:16 am

    It’s probably fair to say that most cyclists were drivers at some point, but I still don’t see a specific connection between being a driver and using the streets safely. I usually see at least one each of both cyclists and drivers doing unsafe things on the road every day, whether it’s speeding, running stop signs (yes drivers do this too), riding at night without lights or whatever. There were no cyclist deaths and this is perhaps notable, but many people were still injured throughout all forms of transport. I think the question left hanging at the end of the article is what things we can do to make our streets safer still? Let’s identify what specifically is unsafe about the roads and try to work out solutions to address them, otherwise talking about safe streets is simply empty rhetoric.

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    • jim January 30, 2011 at 10:29 am

      It’s a little hard to follow this post when some of the comments being replied to have been censured out.
      I do agree that there are an awful lot of bad drivers out there that do not follow traffic rules and make the road an unsafe place.
      My reference to the new cyclists in the last few years that had been drivers and are now cyclists, was implying that they are cautious and are following rules quite well because of a bit of a notion that they must go by the rules, they came into this with a bit of uncertainty, where as 10 years ago there were more rogue riders that got away with bad behaviour and now there is more pressure from the cycling community for bikes to not do crazy stuff.
      I know this amuses jackattack and jonathan will delete it just because he can. que sara

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  • John February 6, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    What’s with these bikes that slap your car? This guy slapped my car … it was night, he didn’t have any lights and he was practically invisible.

    Cyclists in Portland generate a lot of bad karma, I’ve commuted many many years by both bike and car and I have to say that many Portland cyclists substitute attitude for common sense.

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