City of Portland street cleaner truck douses riders on Williams

“No honking, no alert, just drove by and soaked us all.”
— Caroline Dao

Last night just after 10:30, a group of people were headed home from the Timbers game, riding up North Williams Avenue near Knott Street (just north of Russell). According to Caroline Dao, who was in the group, a City of Portland street cleaning truck was also headed northbound. As it approached, Dao says, it “soaked us all.”

“No honking, no alert,” Dao recalled via email to BikePortland, “it just drove by and soaked us.”

According to one of the riders in the group, the street cleaner doused the group with a high-pressure spray. No one was hurt in the incident, but there “a lot of angry folks,” Dao says.

Halley Weaver was also in the group. “We heard several riders shouting profanities behind us,” she recalls, “and looked back just in time to be soaked by the street cleaner.” Weaver says her friend, Adam George sped ahead to stop the driver and get the license plate number. Here’s how Weaver describes what happened next:

“Adam rode ahead and stopped the truck (which aggressively lurched towards him several times) until he turned off the water. Then Adam came back to the side of the road and the driver turned back on the water, soaking even more cyclists. Adam once again halted the truck until the driver got out and shut off the bike lane side nozzle.”

George left a complaint about the issue on the City of Portland’s 24-hour street maintenance hotline. Portland Mayor Sam Adams is also aware of the incident. One of the victims contacted Adams about it via Twitter, asking him, “Are we debris to be washed to the side?”

“I am very sorry,” the Mayor replied.

PBOT spokesperson Cheryl Kuck says, “We are investigating the reported incident. We take all reports of safety concerns regarding our trucks and operators very seriously.”

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

Thanks for reading.

BikePortland has served this community with independent community journalism since 2005. We rely on subscriptions from readers like you to survive. Your financial support is vital in keeping this valuable resource alive and well.

Please subscribe today to strengthen and expand our work.

83 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Mulvey
John Mulvey
13 years ago

Shocking. The city has street cleaners? Never seen them in outer southeast…

captainkarma
captainkarma
13 years ago
Reply to  John Mulvey

I’ve seen their trails, a lot like snails.

shirtsoff
shirtsoff
13 years ago
Reply to  John Mulvey

You have to call them. They’re are not on regular schedules as far as I am aware. They only appear when summoned. It let’s the city prioritize how the funds are spent on street cleaning but may result in neglect in neighborhoods that aren’t aware of the hotline or don’t care to leave a quick message.

T.J. VanSlyke
13 years ago

Glad to see this made BP! I was one of those cyclists, returning from the Timbers game. If it had been a hot day I might not have minded!

Todd Boulanger
Todd Boulanger
13 years ago

I did not think that street sweeper/ cleaner trucks could move faster than an urban cyclist.

Sadly, Perhaps it is time for all City service vehicles to have video cameras fore and aft…like city buses.

TonyT
tonyt
13 years ago
Reply to  Todd Boulanger

My experience is that there are often separate sprayer trucks that precede the sweepers. These sprayer trucks move much faster.

Nick V
13 years ago

Not to place blame on anyone, but could the cyclists not hear the truck coming?

beelnite
beelnite
13 years ago

Nick. Why would that matter? It’s certain the driver saw them! I’ll go ahead and place blame. Dude driving the truck was rude to people who live in the City he works for. He was rude on OUR time.

Nick V
13 years ago
Reply to  beelnite

Well to avoid a scene and all this hubbub, I might have just hopped up off the street for the 10 seconds it probably took for the truck to pass. That way the driver can do his job and move on. That might not be the “right” thing to do, but it would be the “nice” thing to do. Not unlike when a snow plow comes down the street in the winter – I’m sure as Chicago gonna get out of his way.

Mike Fish
Mike Fish
13 years ago
Reply to  Nick V

Sounds pretty extreme Nick. Maybe to be polite we should also walk out bikes on the sidewalk during rush hour since lots of cars need to pull out of on-street parking spaces.

noah
noah
13 years ago
Reply to  Mike Fish

Yuh, plus the truck came from behind without warning.

craig
craig
13 years ago
Reply to  beelnite

quoth Mr. Hand

Chris
Chris
13 years ago

“Are we debris to be washed to the side?”

WOw, thats dramatic. Don’t take this action taken by an individual and turn it into “mayor Adams rage.” I am sure Adams hasn’t issued a memo directing street cleaners to spray cyclists.

Hopefully, if this story is true, they fire the person operating the street cleaner. But I am a little confused how a street cleaner outran cyclists? Don’t those things move like 5mph?..and aren’t they loud as all heck? Those things drive down my block occasionally and wake up the entire neighborhood.

Oliver
Oliver
13 years ago
Reply to  Chris

I believe that there are two different vehicles; the conventional street sweeper, that sort of looks like a giant bristle-y dustbuster and another which is essentially a big dual axle water tanker with spray nozzles at either end. Sounds like they’re talking about the latter.

Chris
Chris
13 years ago
Reply to  Oliver

Ah, I know the sort. On the same page now. I could conceivably see this happening, but this story reeks of over dramatization. Don’t these trucks spray down at about a 75deg angle, so didn’t the cyclists get hit with overspray from the road being doused? Their account makes it sound like the truck was spraying horizontally directly at them. “Doused” seems like a very strong word as well. Riding next to a SUV on Stark in March is doused, this seems more like “misted.”

Halley
Halley
13 years ago
Reply to  Chris

There was a bit of car traffic on Williams and the sprayer truck blended in with that sound. I didn’t even hear anything out of the ordinary until I heard screaming behind me. By then, I turned around in my saddle just in time to nearly have my bike sprayed out from under me. There was no time to calmly get 8′ out of it’s way and over the sidewalk as it completely sprayed both sides of the street from its way down the center of the road.

I’m just relieved that we had decided at the last minute to ride regular bikes to dinner instead of our recumbent tandem that we have been favoring this summer. Otherwise, we would have had a blast full in our faces and not just the lower halves of our bodies.

wsbob
wsbob
13 years ago
Reply to  Halley

“…Don’t these trucks spray down at about a 75deg angle, so didn’t the cyclists get hit with overspray from the road being doused? …” Chris July 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Maus’ story quotes Christine Dao, saying “it just drove by and soaked us.”: “Chris mentions these trucks shooting water downward toward the street. in his story, Maus reports word of a “…high pressure spray…”, and in what would seem to corroborate that, Halley says: “…to nearly have my bike sprayed out from under me. …”.

How much of people’s bodies were soaked? Was it somehow, head to toe, or was it lower…knee down, or something like that. I’m wondering if the truck’s water nozzles were incorrectly aimed, and whether the driver has the means inside the cab, by which to adjust the nozzles angle. Knowing this would help to better understand how it was these people got water sprayed; if it was unintentional, careless, or possibly deliberate.

Liz
Liz
13 years ago
Reply to  Chris

Personally, I don’t see being offended about getting fricking soaked at nighttime while on my bike “over dramatization”. Everyone has the right to get to where they are going, by whatever means they choose to do so, without encountering situations like this.

9watts
9watts
13 years ago
Reply to  Liz

wsbob’s got a fair question:
“How much of people’s bodies were soaked? Was it somehow, head to toe, or was it lower…knee down, or something like that.”

I’ve watched those trucks do their thing and am always impressed by the fact that they can spray underneath parked cars and get all the way to the curb, without spraying the cars themselves. My assumption therefore would be that:
(a) the nozzles were set correctly and the cyclists were surprised by getting the lower half of their wheels wet (I know I’d be mighty surprised even if perhaps not very wet), or
(b) the nozzles were set differently from what I’ve observed.
Can anyone clarify?

And of course the erratic behavior of the truck driver when pursued by Adam is another matter.

A.K.
A.K.
13 years ago
Reply to  Oliver

Late one evening about two years ago I was walking with a group of friends south on Mississippi ave, around the downhill curve that leads down to Widmer, and one of those large tanker trucks was sitting in the street, idling.

Right before we reached the vehicle it decided to turn on the water sprayer – it certainly looked like it had a lot of force. We all had to run to the other side of the street to avoid being sprayed as the truck started to move forward.

No real point to this story, other than I think the drivers of these vehicles may get tired of “everyone in their way” and probably just expect people to get out of their way while they do their job.

JPDX
JPDX
13 years ago

It was a hot day so isn’t this a good thing to get some water spray. What a bunch of wussies!

TonyT
tonyt
13 years ago
Reply to  JPDX

Yesterday’s high was 71. The incident occurred at 10:30pm when it was likely even cooler.

captainkarma
captainkarma
13 years ago

Uh, isn’t this vehicular assault? I wouldn’t have called any hotline, I’d have called PPB.

John Mulvey
John Mulvey
13 years ago
Reply to  captainkarma

It could count as an assault –if you could prove intent. This being Portland, I wouldn’t suggest calling the police.

captainkarma
captainkarma
13 years ago
Reply to  John Mulvey

valid point.

BURR
BURR
13 years ago
Reply to  John Mulvey

cops probably would have cited the cyclist that blocked the truck

q`Tzal
q`Tzal
13 years ago
Reply to  John Mulvey

Intent is proved in the same manner as guilt is implied on the rear driver in a rear end collision.
1) The cyclists were in front of the truck. The law states that a “reasonable person” would see a valid road user in front of them and share the road in a safe manner. The Basic Rule Law

Oregon Driver Manual, Section 3, Rules of the Road – p33
The basic rule states you must drive at a speed that is reasonable and
cautious for existing conditions.

For a vehicle with other functions (spraying any substance) that can endanger the safety of other road users the use of those functions in a way that endangers said users would be “careless driving” (Section 5, p77).
2) The spraying of water from this sort of truck uses detracts quickly from the total range that the vehicle can cover before it needs the tanks refilled. As such standard operating procedure dictates that the sprayers only be turned on when needed to preform their appointed tasks.

Because the cyclists were in front AND the water spray was off AND then it was turned on we can infer that a “reasonable person” driving this truck saw the cyclists and CHOSE to turn the sprayers on.

Unless of course his lawyer decides that he is not a “reasonable person” which will hopefully make him un-insurable as a professional driver because he would then have a court documented history of unstable behavior behind the wheel.

John Mulvey
John Mulvey
13 years ago
Reply to  q`Tzal

I hope readers of this blog will take a very skeptical view when commenters give lay legal analyses.

It’s very easy for those with no particular training to take some snippet they read somewhere, conflate it with their own version of “common sense”, and present an argument that sounds sensible but is incorrect.

Here, q’Tzal is making incorrect analogies between different types of legal processes that he doesn’t understand –civil, criminal and tort. Up above, Paul Johnson strenuously defends a made-up legal theory that would be rejected in two seconds by every judge in the country.

It’s a very good thing for people to understand their legal rights and responsibilities, but posts like these confuse and harm more than they help.

So don’t get your legal advice from a blog!

wsbob
wsbob
13 years ago
Reply to  John Mulvey

At least allow some investigation of the driver’s truck and actions on the driver’s part before jumping to what are possibly wild conclusions that directing reportedly high pressure spray from the city truck, toward people riding their bikes, was intentional on the driver’s part.

Comments to this bikeportland story seem to indicate there wasn’t so much as a single injury, scratch or crash to anyone or their property. That’s a fortunate thing. Now let the city and Public Works come promptly forward and explain how this occurrence came to happen.

q`Tzal
q`Tzal
13 years ago
Reply to  John Mulvey

OUCH! Burn!
Pardon my uneducated quasi-legal smack talk.

The only solace of the armchair lawyer is that so many professional lawyers seem as incoherant as to the law as the “common man”.

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
13 years ago

I know an operator who belongs in jail!

Bob R.
Bob R.
13 years ago

The City that Wets?

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
13 years ago
Reply to  Bob R.

Given the rampant unemployment in this city, that’s a lot more apt than the actual slogan.

Joe
Joe
13 years ago

wow someone could have crashed !
Yesterday was weird, on Taylor I was brake checked and lady nailed my right side with her car, I’m ok but after that, car right hooked 2 lanes in front of me, driving habits getting crazy this ” summer ” so far

Chris
Chris
13 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Yeah I have noticed that too. Its extreme this summer, the general public is becoming completely unhinged. Had a lady lean on her horn and lurch forward at me for crossing the street…on a MUP crosswalk…with a big blinking sign with a bicycle on it.

Joe
Joe
13 years ago

Chris
Yeah I have noticed that too. Its extreme this summer, the general public is becoming completely unhinged. Had a lady lean on her horn and lurch forward at me for crossing the street…on a MUP crosswalk…with a big blinking sign with a bicycle on it.

makes me think are these ppl from Oregon? not that it matters, just saying. my fav was dude driving in bike lane on Stark til Natio pwky. green lane dude..
I get this this all the time in Wilsonville, just unfriendly, sad ppl don’t care for others

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
13 years ago
Reply to  Joe

Welcome to Oregon!

Editz
Editz
13 years ago

A.K.
I think the drivers of these vehicles may get tired of “everyone in their way” and probably just expect people to get out of their way while they do their job.

What, do these people get paid by the mile? Let the cyclists get out of range before turning on the water.

Mike Fish
Mike Fish
13 years ago

The city should release more information other than ‘we’re investigating the incident and take it seriously.’ Taking it seriously is publishing the name of the driver and then saying he’s been suspended pending further investigation. If they don’t name his name, there’s no way for us to hold the city accountable for what it does in the future regarding this case.

Bob R.
Bob R.
13 years ago

“I know I would vote against conviction […] if it went to court and I was on the jury.”

Maybe so, but by making this post, you’ve probably just sealed the deal on getting kicked off of any jury for a similar case in the future. Lawyers tend to Google things these days.

John Mulvey
John Mulvey
13 years ago

You’ve been reading too much ‘Guns and Ammo’, Paul. Please consult a knowledgeable lawyer before you go exercising this right you claim. You might just save yourself from a life sentence for murder.

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
13 years ago
Reply to  John Mulvey

I don’t read or subscribe to Guns and Ammo. I think you might be surprised to learn that this is not the UK, though.

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
13 years ago

Eliminating me by name would severely impact the jury pool. Very common name, you know.

BURR
BURR
13 years ago

The City That Works, LOLz

Adam George
Adam George
13 years ago

Most of the spraying that I saw, and was directly hit by, happened while we were stopped at a red light, so it wasn’t hard for the truck to catch us.

Bob R.
Bob R.
13 years ago

Snark: Maybe the city heard all the complaints over the years about debris not being removed from bike lanes, and decided to just spray everything in sight. 🙂

Roland Aden
Roland Aden
13 years ago

Dangerous and juvenile. Someone should be fired.

chad b
chad b
13 years ago

Lets not forget, there are two sides to every story, even if most bikeportland readers have the blinders on… The motto seems to be, “guilty until proven innocent” for anyone not on a bike!

Anton
Anton
13 years ago

Glad you got the whole story, JMaus. @Nootelluh.

Mike Fish
Mike Fish
13 years ago
Reply to  Anton

The city doesn’t give you much info – they just say we’re investigating. If they’d comment or make the driver available for comment that would be great, but it’s not in their best interest.

marshmallow
marshmallow
13 years ago

i hope that water didn’t come from reservoir number 4…it’s full of one man’s pee

wsbob
wsbob
13 years ago
Reply to  marshmallow

“…it’s full of one man’s pee” marshmallow

That would surely be, a lot of pee.

marshmallow
marshmallow
13 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

yes, that’s why the city emptied the reservoir…for one man’s tiny bladder of pee

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
13 years ago
Reply to  marshmallow

It’s kind of silly when you think of how many people boat and play in reserviors anyway…you know they’ve been peed in, and it’s not like anybody cares.

Spiffy
13 years ago
Reply to  Paul Johnson

I don’t think a lot of people boat and play in the city drinking water supply reservoirs…

wsbob
wsbob
13 years ago
Reply to  Paul Johnson

“It’s kind of silly when you think of how many people boat and play in reserviors anyway…you know they’ve been peed in, and it’s not like anybody cares.” Paul Johnson

Talking about city reservoirs, we’re off topic now. About the water in the Mt Tabor reservoir though, I think probably a lot of people don’t well understand how their city’s water supply system works. I’ll admit I don’t. One Oregonian news article described, in one sentence, the reservoir water in question, as being ‘finished’ water, without explaining what ‘finished’ in this context, meant.

Implication from that sentence was that the water you see in Tabor’s reservoirs has received all the city water treatment it’s going to get. According to this account, from that reservoir, the water is going to the pipes and then to your taps. I think this is generally the basis of the feds whine about every municipal water supply in the country needing to be covered, so it’s all sterile and whatnot, for the public’s protection. Still…that one guy taking a wizz in the reservoir can prompt city officials to drain the whole thing…for the public’s protection…is hysterically absurd. Note that on its editorial page, in a feature article, the editorial staff of our wonderful newspaper, The Oregonian…defended the decision to empty the reservoir because of this one guy’s pee…as a logical and reasonable thing to do.

Back to the great Portland water spray truck incident: Let’s see if the city can or will let maus know this week, just how it happens that its driver somehow managed to spray people riding bikes, after being repeatedly alerted to the fact that the inappropriate spraying was occurring.

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
13 years ago
Reply to  marshmallow

Was Mt. Tabor Reservior 1

Adam
Adam
13 years ago

I know some people are probably upset. But really, picture the scene of it all. It’s really kind of funny.

Opus the Poet
13 years ago
Reply to  Adam

In a movie or a TV show it would be funny. IRL not so much.

Singlespeedneil
Singlespeedneil
13 years ago

It’s unfortunate, that the public servant driving the vehicle forgets the cyclists he endangered help pay his salary, and pad his pension.

Hack
13 years ago

moron

Paul Johnson
Seriously, the driver is lucky he wasn’t shot in self defense.

TonyT
tonyt
13 years ago

I can’t imagine that the driver didn’t know exactly what he was doing and thought it was funny.

He might think differently soon.

Oliver
Oliver
13 years ago
Reply to  tonyt
got sprayed
got sprayed
13 years ago

It was more like this truck actually. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ml00gVWhSGY

Oliver
Oliver
13 years ago
Reply to  got sprayed

Yeah, that’s what I had in mind. There’s no way dude was unaware of what he was doing.

Tourbiker
13 years ago

Hosing the riders was rude & Dangerous. the pressures developed by those nozzles are enough to knock a bike down. Most likely would only get the driver a reprimand.

Lurching at ANYONE in front of a motor Veh in an attempt to intimidate ..should get them fired.

Tourbiker
13 years ago

Lets see a “bike 101” on Vehicular Menacing.

Ed
Ed
13 years ago

yikes.

Hugh Johnson
Hugh Johnson
13 years ago

Has it come to this? Shooting at city workers? This isn’t quite the site I thought it was. I hope the moderators don’t condone this.

cold worker
cold worker
13 years ago

the cyclists were also timbers/soccer fans? i see no problem here.

RRRoubaix
RRRoubaix
13 years ago

Sounds like the spray truck operator should lose his job. BUT he’s a city employee, so that’s not going to happen…

dan
dan
13 years ago
Reply to  RRRoubaix

Oh, come on, suspend the guy with no pay for a week, have him make a public apology, and call it good.

danodelion
danodelion
13 years ago
Reply to  dan

Or, follow police procedure and give him time off with full pay.

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
13 years ago
Reply to  danodelion

Why pay him?

fw
fw
13 years ago

The cyclists were riding home from the Timber’s game at 10:30pm? Didn’t the game end at 3pm? Irrelevant? Maybe.

Vinny
Vinny
13 years ago
Reply to  fw

No, this was after the Thursday night game which ended at about 10 pm.

Andrew
Andrew
13 years ago

LOL! “Heading home from the Timbers game.” The game was at 1pm and ended by 3pm. What they were really doing was heading home from getting plastered in a bar after the loss.

ac
ac
13 years ago

personally, i’d sentence the spray truck driver to comute by bike for the remainder of the year

craig
craig
13 years ago
Reply to  ac

Yes. Or better, to be Hally’s butler for a year! (Seinfeld we miss you)

craig
craig
13 years ago

Jonathan, I hope you’ll follow this up with the City. I’ve had three bad encounters with PBOT crews (ref http://bikeportland.org/2010/06/05/sunny-weekend-open-thread-34448) wherein the crew showed blatant anti-bike hostility.

I would love to see the city implement screening practices when they hire PBOT workers, similar to the screening done for police hiring: city personnel who will be operating dangerous equipment and who will have direct contact with the public should be subject, during the hiring process, to psychological screening that weeds out individuals with a propensity toward open hostility or a generally misanthropic demeanor.

It seems clear that person driving the sprayer intentionally assaulted those people on bikes, that he/she didn’t regard that action as serious or potentially deadly, which it was.

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
13 years ago

Spiffy
I don’t think a lot of people boat and play in the city drinking water supply reservoirs…

Hagg Reservoir…

Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
13 years ago

wsbob
Implication from that sentence was that the water you see in Tabor’s reservoirs has received all the city water treatment it’s going to get. According to this account, from that reservoir, the water is going to the pipes and then to your taps. I think this is generally the basis of the feds whine about every municipal water supply in the country needing to be covered, so it’s all sterile and whatnot, for the public’s protection. Still…that one guy taking a wizz in the reservoir can prompt city officials to drain the whole thing…for the public’s protection…is hysterically absurd. Note that on its editorial page, in a feature article, the editorial staff of our wonderful newspaper, The Oregonian…defended the decision to empty the reservoir because of this one guy’s pee…as a logical and reasonable thing to do.

That’s probably because The O hasn’t had half a brain in the editor’s department or anyone actually from here writing for it since the 1980s.

Tim
Tim
13 years ago

If you don’t think this is assault, try throughing a bucket of water on a cop from a moving vehicle, then accelerating towards the officer when they stop you. No better not – you could end up dead.