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Witness helps man recoup damages after bike crushed by TriMet bus – UPDATED

Posted by on March 9th, 2011 at 12:01 pm

“TriMet was upstanding in this incident. Did not hassle me at all, thanked me for the supporting documentation, and apologized for the incident.”

I often receive emails with stories about positive interactions people have with others out on the bikeways. Here’s one I felt was particularly worth sharing. It comes from Portlander Gordon Kelly who posted it to the Shift email list this morning with the subject line “Grateful”:

A couple weeks ago I emerged from Yoga at People’s Yoga on 30th and Killingsworth to find a note on my bike, which was parked in the bike racks outside Cup and Saucer, right on 30th (probably the worst bike parking spot in Portland). A very kind woman named Steph had seen the 72 bus hit my bike — an Xtracycle Radish — and left me a note saying as much, with the time of day and her number. My bike was unrideable but I wasn’t sure of the extent of the damage (I brought it to Clever Cycles, where I bought it in late 2008, for assessment).

I contacted TriMet, who responded with excellent customer service. They took my incident report and the info about Steph’s witnessing the accident. Told me they had video cameras on the front of all the buses (I did not know that) and would review. I sent them photos and testimony from Clever Cycles that my bike frame was irreparably damaged.

To make a long story short, TriMet sent me a check for a thousand dollars (!) to replace my Radish, which should happen this week (the 2010 model is not yet in at Clever Cycles).

TriMet was upstanding in this incident. Did not hassle me at all, thanked me for the supporting documentation, and apologized for the incident.

I am so grateful to Steph. I left her a voice mail saying as much, but wanted to give her a shout out here too. It is rare that a total stranger you’ve never met leaves you a note that saves you, literally, a thousand dollars. I would have had no idea what happened to my bike and probably would have assumed car — not a bus — hit it. I would very likely have not obtained a replacement Radish for years. It took her just a minute to note the accident, time, and bus number and leave me a note. It was one of the nicest, most helpful things someone has done for me in years and I’m just so grateful for her thoughtfulness.

And now I have a brand new Radish coming my way in the next few days that will replace my rather well-used 2008 bike. I also probably will not park this new long-tail in the crappy bike parking outside Cup and Saucer! I’ve always been a little nervous parking there, with cars whooshing by just inches from me, and wondered when a bike would get hit. Didn’t realize it would be mine!

Thanks for letting us share your story Gordon. And Steph… If you’re out there… Thanks for stepping up!

UPDATE, 3/10: We have heard from Steph via a comment. Here’s what she has to add:

“For the record/to dispel any speculation…the bus took the right turn way too tight (from NE 30th to Killingsworth) because it was trying to get in the traffic stream, which is a total mess during commute time. I was riding on Killingsworth and saw the whole crash from about seven feet behind the bus…I was further away, but got closer when I saw the driver was going to hit the corral/bikes. After failing to gain the driver’s attention, I left the note. I also wrote TriMet a nice long email the next day detailing the crash, and they replied within an hour that it would be passed to the correct person. I work for a big and bureaucratic organization, so I know this can sometimes mean the issue gets lost….it was terrific to hear that Gordon got compensation for his bike, and I’m really happy I could help make it right.

While I am not a fan of how TriMet generally interacts with me, as a person who rides a bike but also sometimes takes the bus or Max, I am thrilled that they didn’t try to fight when the evidence clearly showed the driver was in the wrong.

Thanks for spreading the news about a crappy incident that ended okay because one human was nice to another human. :)”

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21 Comments
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    K'Tesh March 9, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    That is great news… Thanks Steph for being so thoughtful. Thanks Gordon for sharing that with all of us!

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    are March 9, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    while it is good that trimet stepped forward to meet its obligation here, the driver should have left a note.

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    Gabriel Amadeus March 9, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    Isn’t this the second bicycle in a bike corral to get crushed by a motor vehicle on Alberta St in recent months? Maybe those flimsy reflective corner markers should be cement pylons instead…

    Anyway, sounds like a positively awesome story all around. Way to go steph and trimet!

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    rider March 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Wait, so Trimet hit and ran, got caught, and said, “oh, you got us here’s your money” and that’s okay?

    Maybe the story isn’t complete and the bus driver didn’t realize they’d hit the bike, but it seems to me Trimet didn’t do such a great thing here.

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      matt picio March 9, 2011 at 12:29 pm

      A Trimet driver hit and ran, and when Trimet the organization was contacted, they paid out.

      We don’t know if the driver reported it. Trimet does not routinely check the camera tapes unless asked to. In this case, at least – it appears the organization did the right thing, and without additional prompting. We can speculate on the motives all day, but I’d prefer to say “well done”, and acknowledge the good things while hoping they continue.

      We jump immediately on Trimet when they screw up, we should be equally diligent about singing them praises when they do good.

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        davemess March 9, 2011 at 12:32 pm

        But if this good citizen had not been there, this guy would have been screwed by TriMet. That is not them doing a good job or “well done”. They only did anything when they were called on it, with a witness to back up the story. TriMet should have been the one to contact this guy.

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      Spiffy March 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      that’s my thought… how much time passed between their bike being hit and the person discovering it? was it enough time for a TriMet rep to get there and leave their own note…

      would be interesting to know how it would turn out if the not were not immediately mentioned and a police report was filed… would TriMet step up and say “oh that was us” or would they just let it ride and hope they weren’t caught…

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    Bjorn March 9, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I had the same thought when I read this on the shift list, that it appears that Trimet is protecting an employee who failed to perform the duties of a driver after an accident, although good luck getting the DA to pursue a hit and run where no one was killed.

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    deborah March 9, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Way to go Steph!

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    Paul Cone March 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    What’s a long-tail? Is that a bike that’s longer than normal? If so, does that mean it was sticking out of the corral, where it could be easily side-swiped by a passing vehicle?

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      Spiffy March 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      yes… no…

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    Chrystal March 9, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Good post! Reading this has brighten mood,I work with the public daily. It is so nice to hear things like this.

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    Todd Boulanger March 9, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    You will have to give Steph a ride on the new Radish.

    Cameras facing traffic on buses are a great thing…I just wish they had right hook side and rear cameras too.

    I hope the operator did not knowingly NOT report a traffic crash (sideswiping a parked vehicle). Perhaps the BAC should request the tape – you should be able to see the driver’s reaction if they were aware. And you should still fill out a police report, so that it can be documented for a future safety review of this intersection/ corridor.

    Depending on the typical bus movement for this location (I do not know this route/ corral location very well), then the driver of such a large vehicle may not have known it clipped a parked bike especially if it was the rear tire…unless the operator saw it or a bus rider reported it. Thus the need for buffered lanes and more cameras around areas with frequent (5% or more of traffic volume) large commercial vehicles.

    In Vancouver, we at Niche/ Angst have seen some pretty unbelievable behavior by car drivers leaving the space next to our bike corral…they forget about the parking stop (extruded curb) and continue to gun the engine to launch over the parking stop…some even have struck the rack and tried to push the rack away…something they would not do if a car was there vs. a corral rack or parked bikes. (There is free space (4′) behind this parking space to turn out of the stall.)

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    adamdoug2011 March 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    The bus drivers I interacted with in Portland were, without exception, excellent people and amazing drivers – how they do that job day in and day out I will never know. I used to live in that area and I can tell you that 30th must be one of the worst places for a bus to try to cross Killingsworth.

    I am not sure of the trimet term for this but it is an atrocious thing to ask a bus driver to do. I would always slow down or stop my bike or car when going through that area to allow the bus driver to proceed efficiently. In response, they would always wave. Sadly, many cars would not even notice a bus sitting there, sometimes for minutes on end, waiting for a break in traffic to attempt to cross that street. I kept asking the PPB to do speed traps or crosswalk enforcement on Killingsworth but they never responded. oh well.

    That corner of Killingworth is one of portland’s gems. it has so many wonderful places – I just wish we had a way(bus signal?) to allow the bus operators to go through easier and more on time. ideas? oh, and, yes, people like “steph” are some of the reasons I loved portland.

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      KJ March 9, 2011 at 7:51 pm

      Yeah, totally.

      I routinely will try to help buses turn there if I am using the intersection by bike or foot at the same time by crossing as a ped on the Bluebird/Extracto side of that intersection. That intersection is a bear for anyone to try to cross or turn at at various times of day. Even with the ped signal on.

      Oddly, the car drivers will stop for me while I am waiting to cross on my bike pretty regularly…it’s kind of annoying. Especially since they get all annoyed that they are being so nice for you and you try to wave them on. anyway I digress.

      I feel bad for buses tying to turn here. That doesn’t excuse the driver, if they knew they hit something, from reporting it, mind. I love the bikes racks there, but I do think the city could allot more clearance for turns. Or put in a signal or something, there isn’t a signal from like 8th or 15th? to 33rd. And the speeding is pretty standard.

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    Steph (yes, the one referenced in this note!) March 10, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Well, that sure was nice, Gordon. I appreciated your voicemail and actually saved it because it was so kind! Sorry I never rang back…it’s been a busy week.

    For the record/to dispel any speculation…the bus took the right turn way too tight (from NE 30th to Killingsworth) because it was trying to get in the traffic stream, which is a total mess during commute time. I was riding on Killingsworth and saw the whole crash from about seven feet behind the bus…I was further away, but got closer when I saw the driver was going to hit the corral/bikes. After failing to gain the driver’s attention, I left the note. I also wrote TriMet a nice long email the next day detailing the crash, and they replied within an hour that it would be passed to the correct person. I work for a big and bureaucratic organization, so I know this can sometimes mean the issue gets lost….it was terrific to hear that Gordon got compensation for his bike, and I’m really happy I could help make it right.

    While I am not a fan of how TriMet generally interacts with me, as a person who rides a bike but also sometimes takes the bus or Max, I am thrilled that they didn’t try to fight when the evidence clearly showed the driver was in the wrong.

    Thanks for spreading the news about a crappy incident that ended okay because one human was nice to another human. 🙂

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      Dwainedibbly March 10, 2011 at 5:58 pm

      Steph: First, let me say that that was an awesome thing to do. Second: from your vantage point, did the TriMet driver intentionally hit & run, or was he unaware of what had happened? That’s an important point that could use some clarification.

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        Steph (yes, the one referenced in this note!) March 15, 2011 at 10:19 am

        I’m not sure if the driver realized that he or she had hit anything other than the corral, but I, honestly, have a hard time believing that he or she could have overlooked sideswiping a bike. I stopped my bike and got into right-side rearview mirror position and started yelling and waving my arms…which a pedestrian 15 feet away saw and heard. With bus windows closed and a focus on the bad traffic, it’s possible that the driver didn’t realize he or she hit a bike and corral….but, honestly, I think that a person would have to be rather unaware to not notice the impact or me, looking like a fool yelling and waving.

        That’s all speculation on my part, but it’s what happened, from my perspective. I ride Killingsworth home, and there was no 72 bus pulled over with a driver calling dispatch to report the crash. Yes, it’s completely possible the driver could radio (safely? legally? under Trimet policy?) from inside the bus, but I have no way of knowing what happened. So….yeah, there’s that.

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    maxadders March 10, 2011 at 8:50 am

    Does a longtail like an Extracycle Radish even fit in a bike corral? I don’t mean to blame the victim, but personally I’d be nervous about letting any part of my bike dangle into the street. Glad Trimet resolved it, though.

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      J.R. (Dir. Keeping Lights On) March 10, 2011 at 9:06 am

      yes, they fit.

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    boneshaker March 10, 2011 at 9:32 am

    My Big Dummy fits easily in a bike corral and there aren’t too many bikes bigger than it.

    To me, based on what I have read here, it sounds like the bus operator failed to stop after causing an accident. I don’t think that is the right thing to do. You cause an accident, you leave a note.

    Paying up after getting caught is not exactly the honorable path.

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