(Photos: Marcus Griffith)
Despite the City of Vancouver’s efforts to redesign an adjacent parking lot in 2009, the blind corner at the northeast end of the I-5 Bridge continues to have frequent collisions between people bicycling and illegally parked cars.
The parking lot where the bridge path comes out belongs to Clark County Public Utilities, and it’s infamous for regular bridge riders.
“Once I came around the curve, there was no where to go because cars were in the parking lot blocking the bike path.”
— Chiara Caballero
33-year old Vancouver resident Chiara Caballero was heading north on the east side of the I-5 Bridge at a “decent speed of 10 or 15 miles per hour” when she started to make the blind turn at the north end of the bridge. When she made the turn, her path was blocked by a car.
“Once I came around the curve, there was no where to go because cars were in the parking lot blocking the bike path,” said Caballero.
According to Caballero, she swerved to avoid the parked car and ended up wrecking, causing severe damage to her bike and receiving “strained ligaments and tore muscles.”
“It’s a nasty, blind curve and cyclists just take it too damn fast.”
— Bob West, Clark Public Utilities
Caballero isn’t the only recent collision at that that corner.
In April, 27-year old North Portland resident Michal Hoffman and three of his friends headed to North Clark County for distance training when they took the blind curve while going “under race pace, but still pretty fast,” according to Hoffman.
“I was leading and as I turned off the bridge, there was a family with a small child getting out of a car right by the bridge… I braked and hit their car… [and] everyone else slammed into me,” He said.
According to Hoffman, he broke his arm but thankful the child wasn’t hurt.
Based on his years of watching bike traffic on the bridge from his nearby office window, Clark Public Utilities employee Bob West thinks he can sum up the problem.
“It’s a nasty, blind curve and cyclists just take it too damn fast,” he said during an interview at his office. West said he would like to see “slow down” signs or even a traffic mirror so that pedestrians can see cyclists coming down the bridge.
As if by cue, a group of people wearing matching white and black spandex came flying around the corner on their bikes, almost hitting a man about to step on to the bridge path.
City of Vancouver Senior Planner Jennifer Campos said the city is aware of the safety problems caused by improperly parked vehicles in the adjacent parking low and is taking steps to mitigate the hazards.
“We restriped the parking lot to create parallel parking stalls and to better delineate the parking area through there as a part of a grant back in 2009. We will be installing sharrows through there this year as well to further increase the visibility of cyclists,” she said.
Campos also added she will talk with the Vancouver police about “added enforcement” for illegally parked cars.
Part of the problem, according to several cyclists, is that a “small, impossible to see” sign is the only sign that identifies the pavement by the corner as a no parking zone.
It’s not clear at this time if the city will increase no-parking signage when sharrows are installed.
And even if they do, all the signage in the world won’t prevent every act of illegal parking and it won’t change the fact that blind curves must be taken with extreme caution — especially if you are riding fast.
UPDATE, 3:17pm: Reader Gabriel M. just sent in this awesome video of riding across the bridge. We spliced it to just show you the curve portion…