The article below was sent to BikePortland via email by reader Lisa M. I didn’t ask her to submit the piece it was just there in my inbox one morning a few days ago. I’ve chosen to share her story here on the Front Page because I think she captures some important issues and emotions that I and others share (not to mention it’s well written).
During my commute home from work yesterday, a day that had turned beautifully sunny and clear after a sporadic spring hailing, I was involved in a car accident.
I was struck when the other driver ran a clearly visible stop sign, proceeding directly into me. Good Samaritans stopped to make sure I was OK, the police were called and an ambulance and fire truck soon followed. A witness from a nearby home brought me an ice pack while I sat on the edge of the sidewalk, crying. I wondered how badly I was injured, how I would pay for the damages and medical bills, and how to recoup the money I would inevitably lose due to time away from work. The driver, a teenager, apologized and cried while sitting next to me, clinging to the paperwork she had planned to drop off at school. All in all, it was a sad but typical car accident experience.
“What has been done to protect our health and safety? A sharrow here or there, bike lanes that end randomly and traverse road debris and metal sewer grates, a few bike lights and yield signs… nothing of substance.”
Only it wasn’t typical: I was riding my bike.
I was riding on a low-traffic, designated bike route when the car t-boned my back wheel. I was lucky; I ploughed into the ground at high speed, my hip and head forcefully crashing onto and then dragging along the pavement. Had the driver hit me any further forward on my bike, I would have been run over. I’m left with a bulging disc in my spine, a sprained neck, back, hip, and wrist, and the sinking sensation that commuting by bicycle in my city is not safe.
Indeed, I was lucky. Others, like Hank Bersani, have not been. And what is our government doing to prevent these tragedies? What has been done to protect our health and safety? A sharrow here or there, bike lanes that end randomly and traverse road debris and metal sewer grates, a few bike lights and yield signs… nothing of substance. Nothing that actually treats people, not vehicles, as a vested interest.
Our government may have limited resources, but our poorly implemented and thought out bike infrastructure is a problem of priority, not expense.
Bike infrastructure costs less to build and less to maintain than car infrastructure. There is a reduction in healthcare costs associated with regular cycling, and a recently reported study showed an equivalent $0.42 economic gain for every mile biked compared to a $0.20 economic loss for every mile driven. Supporting and encouraging citizens to bike is an investment that pays off, all while leaving extra funds for education and other basic services.
And even in these tight times, the funding is there. We just choose to do nothing. We choose to treat the loss of Hank Bersani, the devastation of his family and friends, and preventing the torment of the next family who will receive a similar solemn phone call as a “waste” of taxpayer resources.
Bicycle infrastructure has and continues to be treated as a frivolous expenditure. The reality is: bike infrastructure is necessary for the basic safety of our citizens. It saves lives.
All I could think about in the ambulance ride was that no one should ever have to experience this. No one should fear for their life just because they ride a bike. Something needs to change and it needs to change now.
I just returned from a trip to Europe where I rode bikes in Paris, Munich, and parts of Austria. The biggest difference there versus here? Cyclists mattered. Pedestrians mattered. They were not “less than” a car, they were prioritized.
Separated bike lanes, bike lights, concrete barriers on busier roads all removed the issue of safety from my mind. Instead I could just focus on the joy of cycling while experiencing often-lost interaction with other community members while we rode the paths together.
This can happen here, but only if we make it happen.
Our safety and the safety of our neighbors is a priority right now, not in 30 years time.
How many more families have to lose a father, son, mother, daughter, sister, brother, cousin, grandparent, husband, wife, partner, friend before we take this seriously?
Thanks for sharing your story Lisa. Hope you heal up well and soon.
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I’m glad she wasn’t injured too badly.
Just YESTERDAY on my commute home I was on the Going St Bike Boulevard and about half a block in front of me a car went through the stop sign at 30 miles an hour barely missing the bicyclist coming my direction. He luckily saw the car and turned just in time. It could have been so much worse. More changes need to take place to make bicycling safer.
I’d be curious to know the description of the vehicle. I was taking the Going Boulevard this morning and saw a vehicle blatently disregard a stop sign about half a block ahead of me at a high rate of speed.
I saw a vehicle do this same thing this morning too. It was guy on bike.
Cars save energy by rolling also. Besides, you all do it for the fitness anyway.
Not true, some do it because it’s cheaper than driving or taking the bus, some do it because the pollution is less riding than driving, for some the added fitness is just frosting on the cake… And might I remind you that a bicycle is human powered, who feels the pain of exertion, while regaining momentum in a car is strictly a matter of slight increase in pressure on the far-right-pedal. Dead dinosaurs don’t feel any pain.
I ride the Going St blvd, too. This past Monday morning, an older woman driving a pickup truck ran a stop sign crossing paths in front of me. I had to swerve quickly in order to avoid plowing into her right rear quarter.
I’ve never felt completely safe on Going, but have appreciated the lower traffic area. Ride aware and defensively – always.
I regularly take Going St and can tell you I have seen this happen on many occasions. I don’t know what is with that area, but people seem to roll through (and some cases, plow through) stop signs without any regard for the multitude of cyclists that use the route.
Each of you should call the police and report this. If they get enough calls they will send a patrol car to stake it out, and probably catch a few dangerous motorists.
I’ve been t-boned at a similar intersection, myself. The driver rolled through, failing to yield, and knocked me and my bike across the intersection. It was two years ago, and I still hurt every day.
The problem is that there’s no infrastructural solution to this particular collision. As long as cyclists ride on any street with auto traffic, some of us will get hit. No matter if there’s a protected cycle track on Cully or Broadway, when I’m riding neighborhood streets with stop signs, some car may still blast through or roll through without yielding. There may be separate lights on the big through streets, jersey barriers, and 3-foot passing laws, but, even on the quietest street in town, I’m still subject to the risk of a teenager texting on her phone.
I think in Lisa M.’s case, graduated driving licenses might have prevented the driver from being behind the wheel in the first place, which is why I support such laws full heartedly. Harsher penalties or “driver always at fault” laws like those in the Netherlands might also have helped. The guy who hit me got cited for careless driving: his insurance was liable for my medical costs, and he faced a several hundred dollar fine. How many parents would let their teens drive if the penalty was much more expensive and punitive (thousands of dollars and loss of license)?
To sum up, I think that legal remedies that encourage safe driving and alternative transport are a better solution for this kind of collision than infrastructural changes. The years of back and neck pain I’ve felt are not worth the comparative freedoms that auto users now enjoy.
My take is that preventing younger drivers from driving won’t help. You will then have 20-25 year olds driving like this instead of 16-20 years old (and there are young drivers that are very responsible). Driving is a skill, and practice makes perfect. There is no way to get around the need to actually drive to become a better driver. We need parents to actually teach their kids to be safe and courteous- this goes for cycling parent too!).
Just my 2 cents.
It would help, actually, as judgement abilities are not fully developed until a person is in their 20’s.
Not speculation at all.
“Judgment” is quite the broad abstraction. I don’t think the article you posted directly corroborates Arem’s statement.
But beyond that, where are the scientific facts that allowed the writers of that article to make such blanketing conclusions about adolescents? How many people did they study? How wide a variety of “cold” and “hot” circumstances did they study each individual in? Do you think every data point they based their conclusions on tells the same story?
I can’t help but consider the possibility that they made their conclusions based on statistical majorities and simply chose to leave out the story involved in the minorities.
Here are some, perhaps, more useful links regarding development in judgment abilities.
I think you’re wrong. I drove much more responsibly when I was in my mid-20s as compared to back when I was 16, just due to the fact that the raging hormones had subsided considerably. Age and maturity have a lot to do with it. I don’t think driving experience helps to calm drivers – actually, I think its the opposite: the more someone drives, the more prone they are to road rage and blatant disregard for others.
I don’t want to paint all teens with the same brush, as I know there are responsible teen drivers out there, but living next to a highschool for a year, and having to walk past its parking lot each morning to get to the MAX station to go to work….was easily the scariest year of my life.
“…there’s no infrastructural solution to this particular collision.”
I wonder about severe speed bumps + stops signs for intersections along bike boulevards. At least people would have to slow way down and be jolted as they pass through the intersection in their cars.
I’m not so sure that reliance on the legal system is the way to go. I doubt many of us think about the legal and financial consequences of each action we take as we drive nor do our children when they first get licenses. The legal system will penalize the at-fault driver after the fact, but it won’t prevent the collision and possible injury to the cyclist from occurring in the first place. Infrastructure, on the other hand, actually prevents or reduces the possibility of collision and therefore actually protects the cyclist. Personally I think funneling cyclists onto neighborhood streets that are already well-used by the people who live there (residents driving, kids playing, cars parked) adds danger and complexity to the cyclist. Try to plot a safe route across town by car and by bike and see how much more direct it is by car. Access to main streets with appropriate protective infrastructure provides more safety and equality than the bike boulevards concept.
“Our government may have limited resources, but our poorly implemented and thought out bike infrastructure is a problem of priority, not expense.”
Well put. Get well soon, and get back out there on a bike sooner!
I see this all the time heading north on bike boulevard Williams. Cars will approach the stop sign and only give a cursory look around and just roll through the stop sign.
You can see when a driver wants to do that and than can’t because he actually sees you, whereas is if he didn’t see you, you can tell he wouldn’t have stopped at all.
I never trust any car approaching those stop sign anymore and am ready to take evasive action when I see a car coming up to one.
The bike boulevards are safe-ish, but the stop signed cross streets are a perpetual hazard.
Williams is not a Bicycle Blvd/ Greenway. NE Holman/ NE Going/ NE Tillamook are.
Killingsworth to Mogran on N Williams is a Greenway. That’s the section I’m referring to:
Splitting hairs. The hazard remains the same. What’s worse is when the drivers do not look at all.
Sort of splitting hairs. The dynamic in the greenway sections is a little different. Cars approaching stop signs on the southern part of Williams are on the lookout for other large vehicle cross traffic, so they stop and look pretty carefully. They don’t want to get t-boned by a truck.
The greenway isn’t heavily traveled and most of the time there isn’t any traffic, so cars get in the habit of not looking carefully and just rolling through the stop signs. Which works just fine most of the time, until there is a bicycle there and not looking carefully means the bicycle doesn’t get seen at all.
I am lucky that most of my commute is on the springwater, but going through sellwood at rush hour is pretty annoying with cars cutting through the neighborhood to avoid Tacoma or 17th. Have witnessed cars running stop signs numerous times.
I attended a PDOT presentation recently at SMILE showcasing the 19th Ave greenway. I’ve been riding home (south) on 19th lately, just for a preview. Seems like there are some traffic control measures that will be installed at 19th and Tacoma. That was a big area of concern. But, the most truthful statement made all night was that traffic is like water. Restrict one path and it will find another way.
wow. what a story. This message needs to get out there. It is a basic safety issue. –not unnecessary “pet bike” projects for the few…
So, what’s the suggested solution? Bike boulevards without vehicle crossings? It seems like this horrible collision was the result of negligence, not infrastructure. Stop signs are infrastructure.
At least part of the solution is more rigorous driver education, training and testing, a different attitude among law enforcement personnel, and greater consequences for hitting and injuring non-motorized road users.
“greater consequences for hitting and injuring ALL road users”
doesn’t that sound even better? as far as i know, unless you are under the influence, you can still kill road users in vehicles and be driving again real soon.
Indeed. Currently, motorized traffic is the entitled Ruling Class on the roadways. The palpable attitude of “society” is that if you aren’t driving a car, there is something wrong with you and you don’t matter quite as much as a “normal” person who had the good sense to drive.
I have a nagging feeling that all the “world class” infrastructure in the world is only marginally useful unless traffic laws and allocation of responsibility for causing injury are changed pretty dramatically, which is going to be a hard sell for a majority who have for years operated as superior entities and grown used to suffering negligible legal consequences for irresponsible driving that results in injuries and deaths.
We blame victims far too much. Again, if you don’t have the good sense to drive, you’re asking for it and if anything happens, it’s your own fault for being foolhardy. Don’t run with the bulls if you don’t want to get trampled. It reminds me of the quote from the 1999 movie Mystery Men: “The police said he fell down an elevator shaft. Onto some bullets.”
So-called “accidents” rarely are.
“I was struck when the other driver ran a clearly visible stop sign,”..
Not to sound cold, but this seems to be about awareness on the part of both people involved. I agree with you, Zach. I was not there, nor is the area of the incident specified, so there is no way of telling, but I will say that one should use all physical attributes available in defensive riding. It is imperative to your survival to dispel the belief that signs and sharrows and such are you guardians. Use your ears, look under and around cars use reflection, learn to ride a pace line straight with your eyes closed.
BECOME A CYCLING NINJA!!!!!!!!
p.s…it posted before I had finished…BTW, I am glad you were not hurt worse. Get better quick!
I ask myself the same question Lisa ends with every time I hear of a bike crash with more serious injuries than scrapes and bruises. Great piece and (like your GOOD ideas post) hits the nail on the head about the main issue: safety and priority for people riding — we need enforcement solutions as well as infrastructure solutions.
“The biggest difference there versus here? Cyclists mattered. Pedestrians mattered. They were not “less than” a car, they were prioritized.” Exactly. Hope you heal soon.
“…A sharrow here or there, bike lanes that end randomly and traverse road debris and metal sewer grates, a few bike lights and yield signs… nothing of substance. Nothing that actually treats people, not vehicles, as a vested interest. …” Lisa M
In many places where it’s installed…in Beaverton, Hall Blvd from Canyon Rd to Cedar Hills Blvd is an example… infrastructure for bike travel does tend to be hodge-podge, done as coincidental travel by motor vehicle supporting construction allows. Signs are this is because, by much of the public, travel by bike isn’t particularly considered to be a very practical means of transportation for a wide ranging representative sample of the public.
It would take a lot of money to create and maintain the kind of safe, high volume road infrastructure for bikes that people think of after returning from trips to European countries that have it. Without a general public recognition that bikes are a viable means of practical transportation worth investing in, function of bike infrastructure that’s created will continue to be somewhat limited to being a sort of risky to use novelty.
Anybody reading have a parent whose age ranges somewhere between 60-80 years, even 45 years, physically active but that hasn’t ridden a bike for 20 or more years? Ask them how them how they’d feel about taking an am or pm ride on the commute route from Downtown Portland through NE on Williams Ave, or out Broadway to the Hollywood district.
Lisa…sorry that you were hurt.
This is just awful, and I am sorry for your experience. I keep a toehold in Portland, but currently live in Europe– Eastern Europe to be exact- Warsaw to be precise. And even though the entire infrastructure is leftover from communist times, they have more miles of separated and safe cycle track than PDX, which continually pats itself on the back for its bike friendliness. This article is an important and well-written piece from the everyday cyclist and represents all the angst of the cycling community. But I take this moment to ponder the other side of the equation, or rather the chicken and the egg dilemma. Europe treats its pedestrians and cyclists better perhaps simply because there are more of them. While Americans will get in their cars to drive around the corner, most city-dwelling Europeans will walk or ride just about anywhere in town. Of course this goes back to larger questions of walkable neighborhoods,local, small businesses and city planning, issues that PDX has long recognized are tied to the transportation issue. This insightful story reminds us of all these issues, and while on the right ‘track’, PDX still has miles to go.
Well said, Lisa! Hope you mend quickly and thank you for sharing.
Many cyclists have been saying the same thing as Lisa for years, you don’t need to be hit by a car to understand the deficiencies in the system.
Yet the city still plods along their merry way, patting themselves on the back for all the ‘improvements’ they have provided for cyclists, while at the same time ignoring their critics.
Portland really hasn’t done anything significant for cyclists in years, their record is a litany of poor engineering designs, band-aid fixes, lack of money, lack of political will, and lack of a bolder vision.
The city is no longer a leader, the cycling scene in Portland is being led now by the cyclists themselves.
Great article, with a message that needs to be repeated on a regular basis. I hope you recover soon!
Something similar happened to me, and from these comments it sounds like we’re not alone.
In my case I got t-boned while riding on SE Salmon by a person in a car slow-rolling through a stop. Luckily for me she was going super-slow; it just happened she was super-oblivious too.
Cars blowing stops across bike boulevards is a chronic problem. I usually experience a few near-misses as I travel the length of my main routes, SE Salmon and SE Lincoln.
Lengthwise, the routes are great; there are few cars, their drivers seem to realize they’re sharing the roads with plenty of people on bicycles. But it’s the cross-traffic that’s the menace.
Drivers are in a hurry cutting through neighborhoods that seem to bog them down. Maybe they’re unfamiliar with the neighborhood, and they may not realize they’re about to cross a bike boulevard. Many just seem unfamiliar with the concept of the 2-way stop. Add to that the fact that visibility is often impeded intersections, and they don’t bother looking both ways until they’re well into the intersection.
Dear City of Portland: This is a problem.
I’m not sure what a fix might be. Some indicator on the stop signs that cross-traffic doesn’t stop? Or that it’s likely to be made up of bicycles? Pavement marking that lets you know you’re crossing a bike boulevard? Enforcement? I’d love to see cops on bikes patrolling the length of the boulevards occasionally, doing so from the perspective of a bicycle rider (though I can’t imagine this countering such a chronic problem). Maybe the busy cross-streets need to be calmed as well as the boulevards themselves?
On Salmon I frequently cross 45th, and watch it like a hawk when I do. It’s often got some frantic cross-traffic coming out of it here, behind the hedge on the right:
That might seem to suggest the shrub should be trimmed, but that would be the wrong approach. It’s stuff like that shrub that makes this a cosy, livable neighborhood. This place shouldn’t be altered to accomodate speedy, efficient travel. Instead, the people travelling through this place should adapt to it, slowing down and seeing more.
I know what would fix it, but nobody likes that idea… RPGs aren’t that expensive, and it isn’t like you would need very many of them. I’m sure that after the second time a stop sign runner gets blown off the street with a real RPG you could station LEO with dummy units and get the same effect as issuing real ones, so long as people don’t know which ones are real.
My jaded opinion says that these drivers know full well that they’re are unlikely to encounter any traffic much less a vehicle which will do them serious harm should they hit it, thus giving them a greater incentive to roll stop signs when crossing bike blvds.
I think this is true. Especially when traveling down some streets on which a driver encounters a combination of 2- and 4-way stops. After traversing a few intersections that have 4-ways, then encountering a two-way, it is very likely that a driver will be lulled into thinking cross traffic is going to stop. It might be helpful to have some kind of additional warning on 2-way stop signs at intersections that cross a bike boulev…er, neighborhood greenway. Maybe a pavement marking similar to those at RR crossings (well, maybe not similar to, but in the same spirit as) would draw enough extra attention. Who knows. But it all boils down to everyone paying attention, and shifting from an attitude of self-preservation to one of looking out for others you might harm if you’re not careful. Unfortunately, that runs counter to human nature, which is to watch first for things that will hurt us, then (if at all) things we might hurt. That seems to imply that we need to make hurting someone else painful somehow, such as with much harsher legal penalties. So we’re pretty much back to better laws and better enforcement.
If you find an all-way stop in Portland without an ALL WAY rider under the sign, call it in to 823-SAFE.
Lisa, I wish you as full a recovery as possible.
I hate to say it, but Lisa, you need to get a lawyer. I am not a litigious person but lawyers will level the field and help you get a proper settlement.
Infrastructure changes that funnel car traffic to a few major arterials and create separate bike paths (and things like bollards that prevent a lot of through traffic & crossings on those streets) plus bike lights at any major intersections all decrease the amount of crossings and possible collisions between bikes and cars.
And it would make this kind of accident less of a regular occurrence.
How did Portland get a Platinum status bike cuty?
With that award, many $ are not available because of the perception (not the reality), that the job is done. And the job is NOT done, as most of those posting here seem to know. Those responsible for lobbying for platinum status should lead with compassion instead of pride and really consider just what they have done.
That’s why I try to stay of of bike blvds as much as possible. I almost get hit almost every day on my comute my cross traffic on the very short time I’m on tillamook commuting to work and drivers are lurching put from their stop signs. I feel like the little white bile symbols mean splatted cyclists on the road. Also, if you are the victim of an accident, you are responsible for zero percent. Did you get their insurance and info? If in doubt, get a lawyer! Call mark ginsberg!
Yeah, if there are witnesses and if the police issued a citation, it should be pretty clear situation. I don’t know if those two conditions are true for Lisa, but if they are, she might get a new bike (or repairs), and all her medical expenses would be covered. The driver who hit me admitted fault, and once he did, his insurance company (State Farm) was very accommodating. I guess it all depends on the circumstances, but she shouldn’t lose sleep over it too much. Just get as well as you can, Lisa!
The sad reality is monetary compensation means little when the a period of your life, or all of your life is compromised by anothers inattention , or worse yet,entitlement.
The accident is unfortunate and I feel sorry for the rider but it needs to be said that I commute on the Going St bikeway all the time and I have seen cars run the stop signs and I have seen bikes run the stop signs that cross north and south on this road. Two days ago I saw a bike rider blow through the lighted intersection at Williams and Fremont going north on Williams with a car on his left stopped at the red light and a car coming from the west on Fremont. Until everyone gets over the idea that they can do whatever they want on a bike or in a car this will not stop no matter what infrastructure you have in place. As a daily rider it irritates the hell out of me that so many bike riders feel the rules of the road do not apply to them. Of course it is more dangerous when the cars do it but never the less we all need to play by the rules.
I agree. Its not an infrastructure problem, its a compliance issue.
By both sides, by all road users.
The obvious difference remaining that I still need exercise less care securing the baseball bat I keep in the hallway than the handgun I keep under my bed.
I’ve had more experiences of near-misses, actually being hit, and deliberately harassed while riding along NE Klickitat Street–a recently designated bike boulevard– than on any other route that I regularly use, including NE Broadway/Weidler and all of the Lloyd District.
The cops and lawyers should be doing everything possible to search the vehicle that ran down the victim and collect the records of every cell phone in the vehicle.
If there was intent to use a cell while driving, then there is intent to injure. The perp needs a fair trial and the harshest sentence allowed by law.
I was nearly hit a few days ago by someone on a cell who was not aware they had run me down. Had I not made a severe dodge I would have been under the truck. I had time to take out my camera and snap a nice photo of her driving on the cell. I asked her to stay while the cops came. She drove off. I have the plates. Is there anything I can do?
Joe, I don’t think it was a hit and run. From the article, it sounds like the teen stuck around (“The driver, a teenager, apologized and cried while sitting next to me, clinging to the paperwork she had planned to drop off at school.”).
I vaguely remember something about a citizen able to perform a citation. If you have the picture from the camera as well as a license number, you might want to consider checking with one of our cycle friendly attorneys.
Transportation planner: Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, separated, cycletrack.
Transportation planner: What’d I say?
Crowd: Cycle track!
Transportation planner: That’s right! Cycletrack!
Crowd: Cycle track!
Crowd: Cycle track!
I agree with those who comment that European respect for pedestrians and cyclists is much greater. That’s been my experience,too. I think that the only way we’ll see greater respect for pedestrians and cyclists here is with enforcement, big fines, and big civil penalties. Since the first two won’t happen, that leaves the third. I recommend pursuing legal action and making it hurt. BTW, Lisa, keep a detailed log of your suffering and inconvenience.
As for motorist behavior – it sucks! Yesterday, I drove to work instead of riding. The motorist behind me for the first mile was really unhappy with my driving. She was gesticulating, pounding on the wheel, etc because she was unhappy that I was waiting for a safe gap in traffic before entering the arterial street. Then I really pissed her off by stopping at three consecutive stop signs. Once we got onto I5, she must have hit 20 over the limit. I’d hate to be near her on a bike.
Every bike should have a bell, same as for lights. Lay on the bell at every intersection routinely. And cellphones need to be secured as if they are weapons, because their use while driving is d@mn sure deadly.
My experience shows that a bell cannot be heard–or, if heard, cannot be interpreted–by most drivers. I’ve found that yelling “Hey!” at the top of my voice gets more attention. But I guess that’s not appropriate when merely cruising through an intersection.
I agree with the comments here.
Because of driver attitudes and the dangers, I have decided to have live cameras on my helmet running all the time when I am out riding in traffic.
If nothing happens, I simply re-use the camera’s storage space.
If something does happen, hopefully, there is video that would prove what had happened and refute any drivers’ denials.
I have one camera facing forward and I have another camera facing backwards.
I consider these as additional insurance.
It’s pretty sad that anyone would feel the need to do this. Just the fact that this is necessary as secondary insurance speaks volumes as to the safety of the infrastructure we have in Portland…
The solution is to obviously mount 2 GoPro cameras on your bike: 1 facing forward and 1 back. That way, if anyone ever runs you over and you die, your family can sue that person into the ground.
Unfortunately, that doesnt fix the problem, and by that time you’ll be dead!
Too many people these days are bicycle haters. The upside of this is that they will all eventually die. The downside – so will we.
I have a feeling that it won’t be until 2 or 3 generations of Portlanders and their children grow up with cycling “as the norm” that it will become more accepted and politically acceptable to support cycling.
I am terribly sorry about your accident and injuries. I am in the same boat as you, as I have been recently hit by a car on N Vancouver at N Cook (at the 405 entrance). The woman did not look before moving forward in her SUV and threw me in the middle of Vancouver. Luckily she stopped and called the police. Yet, none of the other cyclists who witnessed it did not. I left the scene with a broken wrist, bruising, and shaken. She left with nothing- no citation.
It has been 3 weeks now, and I still wonder, why me? I always practice safety as my first priority. I wear a high visible jacket, lights, and a helmet. I consistently see cyclists who fly through red lights and stop signs with no respect for traffic laws. I felt violated and powerless. I am in a cast for 3 months, off my bike, and experiencing waves of depression.
I have been watching the expansion efforts of the Williams bike route, and I see no effort to create a safe commute for cyclists. Why do we have to compete with drivers and busses everyday? isn’t bike riding supposed to be enjoyable- not stressful? Can’t we just move the bike lane over to N Rodney instead?
Lisa- I hope you have a speedy recovery and a fair settlement.
Ouch! Broken wrists are painful and a nuisance…I know first hand. Taking a bath with only one hand becomes a challenge. You don’t offer many details about the collision. Suggestion is that it was a lady in a motor vehicle running a stop sign. It sounds as though you felt she should have received a citation for this, however much good that would have done. More important probably, is whether the lady, since she did stop after the collision to help out, offered to cover any expenses you’ve had related to the collision.
A simple fact that isn’t easily accepted among many readers of bikeportland, is that biking can be risky, as yours and Lisa M’s collisions offer solid examples of. It would be excellent if sophisticated European style bike supporting urban design was something being widely asked for in Portland and the Metro area. For that to happen, there has to be a lot more people saying they want that sort of thing and that they’re willing to pay for it, than there are now.
I think you’re missing the point, Lisa’s crash happened on a bike boulevard that is more or less the equivalent of N Rodney.
Forty-plus years of cycling have taught me a couple of things: 1. Children shouldn’t drive–we should probably make women wait until 21 years, men to at least 25 to drive a motor vehicle. 2.They’re drivers–not people. Their senses of sight and hearing are diminished by being in the can and their sense of territory is grandiose. I know it’s not a ‘nice” thing to say here, but a strong dose of anti-motorist bigotry is a life-preserving mindset.
I’m surprised no one has mentioned scofflaw cyclists yet.
Oh, wait, two people already did.
Thanks to both Lisa and Jonathan for sharing this story. I am so glad that Lisa is not more seriously injured and that she is speaking up about what happened; hopefully she will continue to do so.
But the term “accident” is not appropriate here. Someone ran a stop sign. In my research since my son’s fatal bicycle crash in August, I’ve learned that 95% of crashes in the US are preventable. Someone dies every 16 seconds. There were 32,808 fatalities in 2010. This information is from the NHTSA FARS report.
For Oregon specifically, 317 fatalities in 2010. 30,493 non-fatal injuries. 44,094 crashes just in Oregon, just in one year. The top five causes? 1. 9,593 failed to avoid a stopped vehicle. 2. 6,224 did not have right-of-way. 3. 3,666 drove too fast for conditions. 4. 2,794 failed to maintain lane. 5. 1,915 followed too closely. And right behind those: Improper lane change, inattention, disregarding a traffic signal, careless driving. And on and on
The average person just doesn’t know this information. We hear about crashes and forget about them within minutes. We seem to think it’s the price we have to pay for the convenience of driving. Conversely, we also think we’re better drivers than everyone else so it’s not going to happen to us. But Crashes Are The #1 Cause Of Death Of People Ages 2-34.
I’m not addressing bikes here specifically because although at first I thought we had a bicyclist hater problem… plus drunk driving, of course, I quickly learned that though there is that element of motorists vs. bicyclists, motorists don’t particularly care about the safety of other motorists, either. And some of the bicyclist behavior I’ve seen! Before Dustin’s totally preventable death (not an “accident”) I was just momentarily irritated at what I witnessed on the roads… plus I sometimes engaged in the very behavior I didn’t like others doing.
Yes, we need infrastructure changes, more enforcement of laws, stricter laws (sometimes we need a law, period), but my personal opinion is we just need, all of us, to make a decision that one death is too many, one serious injury is too many, and we each take responsibility for ourselves in being caring and conscious drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians: people. And we do it all the time. And we pass our knowledge on.
I give big thanks to Trauma Nurses Talk Tough for their help in educating me, horrifying me, empowering me, and graciously allowing me to tell the experiences of Dustin Finney’s family at the DUII and High Risk Driver classes.
more statistics. I keep looking for ‘deaths caused by people riding bicycles’ but every time all I find are ‘people on bicycles killed and injured by people in cars.’ What am I doing wrong?
“In 2009, 630 pedalcyclists were killed and an additional 51,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes.”
That’s because only 3 people were killed by bicycles in 2009. I don’t have the 2010 numbers yet, but I’m quite sure it was still less than a handful.
another interesting study:
“most (92%) bicyclist deaths involve a crash with a motor vehicle.”
“The typical bicyclist who died was a man travelling during the afternoon or evening on a flat road profile with flawless surface conditions and a posted speed limit above 30 mph.”
“The typical striking vehicle was often a freight truck or a large automobile (54%), with an average estimated resale value about one-third higher than expected based on controls.”
“…Yes, we need infrastructure changes, more enforcement of laws, stricter laws (sometimes we need a law, period), but my personal opinion is we just need, all of us, to make a decision that one death is too many, one serious injury is too many, and we each take responsibility for ourselves in being caring and conscious drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians: people. And we do it all the time. And we pass our knowledge on. …” Kristi Finney-Dunn
Good words to live by, but in either of two collisions described in this story, the featured collision involving Lisa M, and the description, posted here in the comments, of the collision involving Brianne, it doesn’t particularly seem that the people driving failed to take responsibility for their actions.
In both instances, unlike some people, they stopped after the collision and tended to the person they collided with. True, it’s likely that the attention of the people driving, leading up to the collision did contribute to the collision, but to what degree is important to look closely at. Is that degree something that can be effectively addressed and countered simply by a greater percent of people that drive, walk and bike, deciding to make a stronger effort to be caring, conscious, and I’ll add…attentive to the inherent dangers of their mode of travel? It will help, but the bottom line is, people are fallible and make mistakes.
Possibly it seems naive or idealistic for me to say that people need to be more caring and conscious drivers and that will go a long way toward preventing “accidents.” I don’t think so. My son was killed on a very straight, very wide street while traveling in a bike lane. His killer chose to drive drunk. Gordon Patterson, a cyclist in Vancouver, was killed in broad daylight while riding in a bike lane by someone who chose to text. Lisa M was struck and injured by someone who was driving unconsciously/inattentively enough to run a stop sign. Tracey Sparling was killed by someone who did not consciously check what had to have been a known blind spot.
I know how difficult it is to be on the road and be on top of all that is going on around me. I’ve had my own close calls where I’ve made mistakes. But consciously, deliberately choosing to be more aware of our surroundings, to stop at red lights and stop signs, to drive the speed limit, to not tailgate, to not use our phones, to not repeatedly change lanes, to simply not be in a hurry all the time, etc., etc., will reduce crashes. One driver at a time. And maybe modeling this good behavior will prevent future crashes as our children learn that driving is serious business, too.
We can all wait around for the politics to change, or the infrastructure, or public opinion, or whatever, but we can also, while waiting, do our part. Traffic isn’t just about me, it’s about we. And that’s the caring part.
“…Possibly it seems naive or idealistic for me to say that people need to be more caring and conscious drivers and that will go a long way toward preventing “accidents.” …” Kristi Finney-Dunn
It’s not naive to consider that people could be more caring and conscientious about the multitude of tasks and responsibilities involved in safely operating a motor vehicle. The reality probably is though, that given the nature of driving, rather than utilizing their driving skills at the optimum level they’re capable of, the rate people generally are utilizing them, is more likely, average. The level of concentration to tasks involved in safely driving a motor vehicle that people generally utilize, wouldn’t likely be comparable to that which for example, a person driving competitively would be utilizing them.
I think encouraging people to take their responsibilities associated with driving can definitely help them be motivated to become safer, more aware drivers. There will probably always be collisions though, whether due to intoxicated or distracted driving or road use, or simple chance. Further down in this thread, someone mentions ‘Driver-less cars’, which I think actually are more commonly referred to as ‘Automated Cars’; cars whose operation is managed by vehicle and road system computers. Something like that may have potential to winnow out much of the human error factor affecting safe travel of motor vehicles.
Just say NO to cycle tracks and separation..
Remember when we were all like “Share the Road”?
And everyone was like, “yeah, Share the Road!”
The slogan should change to:
“Let’s divide stuff up! It isn’t safe to share, I think.”
This is not an infrastructure issue this is a bad driver issue.
The reality is that drivers sometimes don’t “see” cyclists, even in Portland, and unless you build Completely safe & separate bike lanes Everywhere in the city, you should bike like you’re invisible. Reality will always win, even for entitled Portland bikers.
Human error, as with all things in life, is a part of the problem.
But to say that our infrastructure is “not a problem”, to pretend that our roads are set up to provide for the safety of active commuters (as it is generally arranged and rearranged to provide for the safety of drivers) is denying reality.
Get out of Portland. Get out of the US. Go see what real active commuting infrastructure looks like, then you can really understand how bad it is here.
If this is the best the USA can do, it’s a poor reflection on our country and the effectiveness of our political system to meet the basic needs of its people.
This almost happened to me the other week when i was riding on N. Wabash bike path, but the driver was 40-50 years old and missed me by two feet. Not sure what the answer is other than cars need to stop running stop signs. However I see more bicyclist running stop signs than cars.
I believe that what makes a street a good greenway is also what works against it for safety. Generally, streets are chosen because they have relatively low motorized vehicle traffic volume. That’s a positive; it’s nice to ride on a street like Going that doesn’t have a lot of cars on it.
At the same time, drivers who consistently cross through it have gotten very used to the idea that there usually isn’t cross-traffic. If you play the odds, you can probably roll through the stop signs intersecting a greenway without ever hitting another person on bike or in car. Complacency sets in. I personally have seen more people in cars and on bikes roll through stop signs intersecting Going than I see anywhere else on my commute; it’s the most dangerous part of my daily commute over areas like SW 4th Ave, Naito and Williams.
IMO the answer is to create so much bike traffic on these streets that it is no longer viable to assume it’s completely safe to blow through them on any type of vehicle. And, of course, that’s the Catch-22. How do you get enough people to ride them to achieve that critical mass when it’s currently not safe enough to entice new riders with a high level of trepidation.
My wife and kids ride Going on their school’s bike train. It creates a large enough mass that there is safety because of the number of riders being present in a predictable time frame. It works great. But I wouldn’t want them to do the same ride at 5:30 in the afternoon.
This post got me thinking about what biking in Portland is like compared to what friends in other countries have told me their experiences. I wrote a response about this and that on my blog if it’s interesting to anyone: http://collindonnell.com/2012/04/11/prioritizing-active-transportation-in-the-united-states/
Partially off-topic here, but this discussion raises questions of visibility. My boss gave me a high-viz vest to wear ( mostly because he, a non-cyclist is fearful about me commuting by bike). One thing I think I observe is more folks ‘giving me room’ than I previously noticed. Is it just a case of being more noticed, or maybe (hey, they ARE ugly) in motorist eyes I move from being a agro-bike weenie to a responsible, mature commuter? Anyone notice this phenomenon?
I’ve never noticed any perceived difference between motorist actions when I have different jackets on or with/without lights.
Just for reference, I’m a “VC” style cyclist who doesn’t have problems asserting myself or going at a fast clip when I’m mixing with auto traffic in the center of town. However, I avoid very busy roads without bike lanes such as Sandy/Burnside/etc as I don’t care to ride with traffic of that sort if I don’t have to. On less busy roads without bike lanes I have no problem “taking the lane”.
I’ve used two jackets since I started cycling a few years ago, a bright orange/white rain/wind shell and more recently one of those white/semi-translucent shells.
I’ve never noticed a difference with how cars treat me, but I have not had too many problems. I’ve been hit once (at night, had lights on) but wasn’t injured.
During the day time, I’ve also never noticed any difference between using lights and not using lights. I use lights when I commute in the morning/evening as I want a little extra visibility to those people who are driving while tired to/from work. But when I go on “fun rides” during the weekend I will often not use lights unless it’s overcast or rainy.
Again, I’ve never noticed a difference, but that is just my personal experience.
“I just returned from a trip to Europe where I rode bikes in Paris, Munich, and parts of Austria. The biggest difference there versus here? Cyclists mattered. Pedestrians mattered. They were not “less than” a car, they were prioritized.”
With a $50 registration fee, think of the money we could accumulate that would be used exclusively for our benefit.
Or I guess we could tax everyone else, and let us not forget that we are 3-6% of the population. How much special treatment and how many expensive programs can we really ask for?
Not that much. The idea that the cycling community is doing “so much” in terms of green concepts and action, that we deserve special treatment is absurd.
Having ridden on two wheels, powered and not, for 500k+ miles, in 41 countries on 5 continents, I can firmly say that there is no one responsible for your life on the road other than you. Expect every car to blow the stop sign, wear your earphones and expect to get run down, and please don’t get me started on semi trucks.
Your life is your responsibility. Period. When you get to work by plane, train, automobile or bicycle you accept a certain set of risks for each. If you cannot handle those risks, you better stay home.
“let us not forget that we are 3-6% of the population.”
I’m curious from whence you take this statistic.
I could imagine several ways to calculate a ‘we.’ If by we you mean doesn’t own a car in Multnomah Co., the number is probably closer to 18% (US Census/ACS 2000). If by we you mean bicycle commuters as a share of the total it is 6-8% (http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?c=34772) or 5.5% (http://tinyurl.com/8x9ttzt)
If by we you mean use a bike to get around regularly in Portland, I’d be interested in a good number, and would guess maybe 10%?
Your tone is a bit harsh, but your message rings true. It is terrible the author got hit and suffered injury even though she did everything by the letter and spirit of the law. but she could have done more.
Many long time cyclists ride as if they are invisible, and expect all drivers intend to kill them. They get a serious “A” game on and scan for movement and seek out potential hazards. One can stay between cars where right hook potentials arise, one can cover the brakes and slow, anticipating cars to blow stop signs. One can be wary of dogs (even on leash). One can plan evasive action for anticipated hazards and be thankful that they don’t transpire.
When my son was young I read him the book Watership Down by Richard Adams. It is the story about rabbits on a journey. Everything they encountered was out to kill them, but with their wits and agility they safely reached their destination. It is a fun read that presents a world view that fits well with cycling.
Heal fast Lisa and don’t get hit again.
I don’t understand why ODOT puts up billboard ads about “watch out for Motorcycles”, but never says anything about “watch out for Bicycles/Peds”. A small step to show motorists the city actually cares about folks that may use a different form of transport, so maybe folks that aren’t in cars might get an ounce for respect on public roads. It would be nice to see BIG signs like this on incoming freeway and arterials.
maybe the difference is that if you’re in a car (ODOT’s assumption) and you’re hit by/hit a motorcycle *you* could die?
I spent 5 months in Germany last year with bike as main transportation. The biggest epiphany I had was that I didn’t have to second-guess drivers anymore but they actually paid attention. Why? 1. Better training for both bicyclists (ALL kids do bike and safety training in 4th grade) and car drivers. Drivers training is actually done professionally, not by the parents who pass on their mistakes, and paying attention to pedestrians and bikes is a big thing. It also helps that most people both bike and drive, so drivers have a better idea of how a bicycle works. 2. Better bike infratsructure. 3. Slower speed and more uniform speed limits. Better enforcement and better incentives to drive slowly due to narrower streets. 4. Safety in numbers: if you have to expect bicyclists and pedestrians at every intersection you will pay attention. “Not seeing” the bicylists is not an option or excuse.
So it’s not because Germans are better drivers or human beings, the system is better.
Get better soon, Lisa and Brianne!
And let’s not forget the ascendance of 30km/h speed limits in towns in Germany. This is new since I lived there in my youth, and it makes a huge difference to someone on a bike if the car may only go 19mph, or only marginally faster than you are. They are more likely to wait to pass (narrower streets help with that too), since they are already in the gear that permits going your speed. When they do pass it doesn’t involve the testosterone-inspired engine revving all too common on our arterials.
It’s not just the 30 kmh (19 mph) residential zones. Even the regular speed of 50kmh (30mph) is considered slow here. And I think that the uniform speed limit helps. You know that the city speed limit is 30 mph period (and lower in residential areas). There is not a diffent speed limit every few miles like here. That’s too many traffic signs! People just tune out or don’t pay attention. Instead they drive as fast as the street allows – and with the wide streets in the US that’s a lot!
Thinking about kids and bikes, on my bicycle commute today I rode through the Aloha High School parking lot and counted roughly 500 cars. I found the bike racks – there are lots of them with space for maybe 100-200 bikes, I didn’t count. Including the four bikes locked to a chain link fence there were a total of 11 bikes. Aloha has enrollment of about 2100 students of which about 550 are seniors. There are about 120 faculty members. If we assume for the sake of argument that all faculty drive and only seniors have licenses to drive, about 380 seniors or about 70% drive to school, 30% take the bus or walk and virtually nobody rides a bike. I have to conclude that the future of cycling as transportation looks bleak if cycling is virtually non-existent at the high school level. Those car-driving seniors aren’t going to easily get out of their cars.
Thanks for sharing Lisa, and for posting Jonathan. I am a regular commuter and was recently involved in a similar accident and I have numerous close calls. Drivers, in general, do not take the act of driving very seriously because it is fun, there are a lot of distractions (phone, music, coffee, etc) and the consequences are not that great. I am not going to get into a full rant, but I would like to share an article for anyone interested that has informed my understanding of our streets adn what “priority” means to the the people using them:
How about limiting bike boulevards to local car traffic only by putting up barriers in the street after every few blocks. Make the bike boulevards an inconvenience for drivers and force them to the more car friendly streets.
The problems isn’t just that drivers are running into cyclist. They’re running into each other, telephone poles, buildings. Driving requires a high degree of judgement and unwavering attention to a constantly changing environment. We really need a solution that solves the problem for everyone involved. The ultimate solution to this problem may come from something that was just part of science fiction until recently – the driverless car. Google has a working prototype that seems to work amazingly well. Perhaps we can get humans out of the drivers seat and into the passenger seat where they can text or get drunk or whatever without killing someone. http://jalopnik.com/5660478/video-googles-secret-driverless-cars-in-action
A driverless car?
A taxi would be a lot cheaper, and they already exist.
Besides we’re going to have lots of carless drivers before we can purchase this particular version of what Google thinks we need.
Lisa, your story has generated a lot of comments. Please send it to all the politicians you can think of. It is well written and it resonates. Get well, stay well, and keep riding.
Thanks for sharing your story, Lisa. I wish you a full and speedy recovery but I realize what a traumatic event this is.
I agree: this is not an accident. The driver committed a crime by blowing the stop sign. I hope for justice. Drivers choose low traffic side streets to avoid traffic and don’t think about bikes and Peds.
There is nothing inherently safe in a street painted with sharrows. What a fallacy bike boulevards are! How outrageous is it that green boxes and narrow bike lines are our safety equipment?
Lisa please keep on cycling & thanks for sharing. What a difference between here and there. HERE: Portland and other American cites are playing catch up as fast as can be expected in a society designed around by and for the auto industry. Obervation: Portland is doing its fair share and is an example for other US cites as others have pointed out in this thread…and yes there’s a lot more to do. THERE: NL, strict liability laws, protecting pedestrian and bicyclists. A drivers’ insurance is responsible when an accident occurs! A duty to care and be responsible for others. 6% of NL GNP Historically was allocated to bicycle & intermodal infrastructure between 1970 & 2000. Safer streets & traffic calming around schools and community where auto’s mix–and It’s safe to bicycle between home and school! 40-60% of population cycles daily (Amsterdam/Groningen).
I was biking on the Johnson St “bike” boulevard this evening (but sshhhh, without speed bumps, traffic circles, or diverters, it’s really the Johnson St CAR boulevard…) when a driver completely ran the stop sign and almost hit me.
Nevada plates. Of course.
I think there’s a lot of people moving here from EVERYWHERE else. And the problem is, they all grew up in the awful suburbs, where there are no bicycles or pedestrians, and absolutely none of them know how to drive.
I would like to see more diverters.
I also notice, Vancouver BC has signs at bike boulevards, letting motorists know they are crossing a bike boulevard. They are GREAT.
Beautifully written piece. I think as a city…as a country we have so little interest in anyone but ourselves that roadway parity with all users is a long time coming.