Arrest made in serious injury collision on St. Johns Bridge – UPDATED

St. Johns Bridge, Portland OR
A sign on the
St. Johns Bridge.
(Photos © J. Maus)

UPDATED, at 9:55am on 2/11

Just before 6:30 pm tonight, Portland Police officers responded to a collision on the St. Johns Bridge.

According to their report, a 23-year-old man was riding his bike and a 58-year-old man driving a small pick were involved in a collision. Both vehicles were headed westbound when the collision occurred.

The man on the bike sustained “traumatic injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening.” The man driving the pick-up remained at the scene. So far, the PPB have not released any other details. (*See updates below)

UPDATE, 2/11 9:55 am: Portland Police have made an arrest and released more details…

The pick-up truck driver, Stephen Varney Schwartz has been arrested for running into the back of James Fallon-Cote, a North Portland resident. Fallon-Cote was riding in front of Schwartz prior to the collision.

Schwartz was charged with DUII (Alcohol), Reckless Driving, Assault in the Third Degree, and Criminal Mischief in the Third Degree.

Below is background (and a bit of editorializing) on the St. Johns Bridge:

Not much room at all.

For those of you that are new to town, or weren’t reading this site back in 2005, below is some background on the St. Johns Bridge bike access:

Back in 2005, the St. Johns Bridge was rehabbed by ODOT and there was a study to determine the lane configuration on the bridge. Despite the report showing that one standard vehicle lane in each direction, plus a bicycle only lane would not result in congestion, ODOT decided to not put any dedicated space for bicycles on the bridge. It was a controversial move. The BTA was outraged, writing in an op-ed that “Under pressure from special interests, ODOT simply ignored the facts at hand.” Unfortunately, despite their outrage, they did not pursue a lawsuit that could have forced ODOT to allow bicycle access on the bridge.

Despite ODOT’s past attempts to gloss over the issue, the bridge stands as a huge missed opportunity. Instead of a safe connection over the Willamette for St. Johns residents who ride bikes, an active transportation gateway to Sauvie Island and the West Hills, and a regional tourism draw, the bridge is inhospitable to anyone not in a car or truck.

Because there is no shoulder or bike lane on the bridge deck itself, many people on bikes take the sidewalk — but even the sidewalk is narrower than the minimum width required for a multi-use path.

About a year after the controversy, ODOT began to show some remorse for their decision, but they have yet to make amends. Bike access on this bridge is completely inadequate and — with the new attitude at ODOT these days (I seriously doubt they’d make the same decision if they had to make it today) — I’d love to re-think the lane decision. Perhaps this collision will get the issue back on people’s minds.

Learn more about bike access on the St. Johns Bridge in the archives.

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