DA finds no criminal negligence in Kathryn Rickson fatality

Community gathering for Kathryn Rickson-32

(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office released a memo (PDF) today on their investigation into the death of Kathryn Rickson. They have determined that the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the man driving the semi-trailer truck, Dawayne Eacret, could have seen Rickson prior to the collision at SW 3rd and Madison and therefore he cannot be held criminally liable for hitting her.

Rickson suffered fatal injuries in the collision on the evening of May 16th, 2012. Eacret was in the process of turning right (south) onto SW 3rd from Madison when Rickson became pinned under the truck’s right front fender. She was transported to OHSU but died shortly after arrival.

The focus of the DA’s decision boiled down to whether or not Eacret could have seen Rickson, either on the road prior to the intersection or in his rear-view mirror prior to making his right turn. The case was investigated by Officer Pete Kurronen of the Portland Police Bureau and the lead DA was Deputy DA Glen Banfield. In addition to a detailed investigation of the vehicles and the roadway, they used three main witnesses in the case; the truck’s passenger and two people in a car that was following directly behind the truck when the collision happened.

“If we cannot prove that Mr. Eacret was aware of her presence it cannot be said that he then consciously disregarded the risk of hitting her.”
— Multnomah County DA

According to the investigation, scrape marks from Rickson’s bicycle prove that the front of the truck was already turned to the right (facing south on 3rd Ave) prior to the collision. Vehicle evidence and witness statements also indicate that the truck’s right turn signal was on at the time of the collision. In the DA’s memo, one of the witnesses inside the car said the truck was “barely moving” just prior to making the right-turn:

Here’s more from the car’s passenger:

“I know for sure that the truck was already turning when the bicyclist went by us on our right at a good clip.” She said the truck driver could not have done anything to avoid the crash. Ms. Sirois reported that the traffic light was green when the truck started to turn right.

The driver of the car that was directly behind the truck said she knew the truck was going to turn because it had slowed down so much. She also told investigators that she believed the truck swung to the left before making the turn. (This is a common move by large trucks to make sure the rear wheels clear the corner on narrow turns. It’s not illegal, but it is specifically discouraged in the ODOT Truck Operator’s Manual).

Here’s more from the car’s driver:

“Ms. Ackerman said the truck’s right turn signal must have been on because she knew the truck was turning. Ms. Ackerman said she was 10 feet from the rear bumper of the truck. She said the truck driver could not have avoided the accident.”

The other main witness was Eacret’s passenger. He told investigators he “did not remember seeing a bicyclist in front of them” as they traveled east on Madison. As for whether or not Eacret swung left prior to the right turn, the passenger said he, “could not recall with certainty but believed Mr. Eacret did not swing left before making the turn.” The truck’s passenger saw Rickson out of his “peripheral” vision approaching the truck prior to the impact.

As for the driver, Mr. Eacret, he has been a commercial truck driver since 1986. He reported to investigators that he “never saw or passed a bicyclist” as he came down Madison. He couldn’t recall precisely when he turned on his signal, but the DA’s memo does say that, “the light was green and he checked his mirrors before turning and did not see anyone in his mirrors.”

“Mr. Eacret said as he was turning he continued to check his mirrors because he is cognizant of bicyclist and pedestrians,” reads the memo.

Eacret was “uncertain” whether he swung left prior to the turn. Its also worth noting that was not using a cell phone at the time and his blood contained no alcohol or controlled substances.

Along with witness statements, investigators tried to reconstruct exactly where Rickson was traveling prior to the collision. Surveillance camera footage from City Hall (located one block west of 3rd and Madison) captured both Rickson and the truck between SW 4th and 5th Avenues. From the footage, investigators have determined that Eacret had a 13 second head start on Rickson from 4th Ave. eastbound.

The DA’s memo notes that Rickson was riding in the middle of the right traffic lane between 4th and 5th (where there is no bike lane). This is important because Officer Kurronen concluded that the driver of the truck, “cannot see a cyclist if the cyclist is lined up directly behind the trailer.”

So, the question is; when did Rickson move from the middle of the right lane (between 5th and 4th) to the bike lane (which starts between 4th and 3rd)? And, did she move to the bike lane early enough to be seen in Eacret’s side mirror and therefore have some obligation to avoid her?

The DA knows from witness statements that Rickson did indeed move into the bike lane at some point, but the surveillance footage doesn’t show that block.

Using calculations of speed and distance extrapolated from the surveillance footage and matched with witness statements, Officer Kurronen determined that at speeds of 12.5 mph to 16.6 mph, Rickson would have been between 83 and 110 feet behind the truck when it started its turn.

With these facts and observations on the table, in order for a criminal prosecution, the DA had to prove that Eacret’s actions were “criminally negligent” or “reckless” under the circumstances. Those two terms are defined by law:

Criminal Negligence means that a person “fails to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to be aware of it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.” Recklessly means that a person is “aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists.”

Looking at the circumstances, the DA’s memo spells out why they have declined to prosecute Mr. Eacret.

The DA says Eacret never passed Rickson prior to his turn and that, “instead, all indication is that she approached his truck from behind.” While Officer Kurronen determined the truck’s side-view mirrors wouldn’t help in seeing Rickson while she was directly behind the truck, the DA’s memo states that, “The same test indicates that if Ms. Rickson was… to the right/in the bicycle lane, she would be visible in the standard flat side view mirror but would be very small and difficult to see in the truck’s convex mirror.” (The memo also notes that Rickson had a flashing white headlight on her bike.)

Here’s more about that key question of when Rickson entered the bike lane (emphasis mine):

“It is unknown when Ms. Rickson moved from out of Mr. Eacret’s view in the middle of the right traffic lane to the bicycle lane. If Ms. Rickson moved over after the truck was angled into the start of its turn, then the mirrors would have been useless for spotting her. We know that Mr. Eacret had a 13 second head start from 4th Ave, which put him at 3rd Ave some time ahead of Ms. Rickson. What we don’t know and cannot know beyond a reasonable doubt is whether Ms. Rickson moved into the bicycle lane in time to become visible to Mr. Eacret before he made his turn.”

The DA says Eacret, “did what he was supposed to do in his situation” and that, “there was nothing he could have done to avoid the collision.”

“Mr. Eacret followed the proper procedure and rules of the road as he approached 3rd Ave and before he made his turn… He slowed to almost a stop, checked his mirrors and slowly made his turn while continuing to check his mirrors. According to Ms. Sirois who was in the car directly behind Mr. Eacret’s truck, the first time anyone ever noticed Ms. Rickson was after Mr. Eacret had already started his turn…

If we cannot prove that Mr. Eacret was aware of her presence it cannot be said that he then consciously disregarded the risk of hitting her.”

In their conclusion, the DA says that, “This tragic event was an accident and is not chargeable as a felony homicide or other traffic crime.”

I have also followed up with the PPB Traffic Division to confirm that they do not plan on issuing a traffic citation.

——

Community gathering for Kathryn Rickson-16

Mourners at an event for Kathryn Rickson back in May.

When I first read this decision, I immediately thought of Tracey Sparling, another young woman who died following a collision with a large truck back in October 2007. Similar to that case, the DA declined to prosecute because they determined it was simply impossible for the truck operator to have seen her. The PPB didn’t cite that driver either because, as an officer told me at the time, “We’ve determined that there was just no way he could have seen her.”

While Oregon’s “Failure to yield” law seems clear, it clearly isn’t. This tragic and sad case once again clarifies that when it comes to yielding the right of way, as a PPB Sergeant explained to me back in 2008, it’s a matter of perception. “Basically,” said the officer, “the driver has to perceive he has to yield the right of way.”

I’m not sure what the right answer is here; but something about this remains very unsettling to me. How can we allow large vehicles on the road whose driver’s are physically unable to see other people on the roadway? Why do we have bike lanes to the right of lanes where right turns are permitted? Should we just accept that people will continue to die in these right hooks? And that when they do, we’ll just have to shrug our shoulders and call it a “tragic accident”?

UPDATE, 4:42 pm: The Bicycle Transportation Alliance says via a blog post that it’s “time to act” and they are renewing a push for several safety measures.

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David
David
9 years ago

That intersection is scary. One of the worst moments I have had riding happened right there. My girlfriend (J) and I were riding at a decent clip in the bike lane passing cars (they had traffic–we didn’t). When my girlfriend entered the intersection (I was about 100 feet behind her), one of the cars decided to turn last minute. J braked hard and hugged the curb and I started yelling, and the car actually stopped before running her over. It could have been so bad. Driver took off, probably not nearly as shaken as we were.

2 points:
1. Something should be done about that stretch of road before somebody else dies.
2. If they found that there was no way that the truck driver could have seen her, we need to make changes so that this doesn’t happen again–no right turns for large trucks there, better visibility requirements for trucks, I don’t know…something! Let’s not just wash our hands of this and say, “Welp, he couldn’t have seen her, next.”

jim
jim
9 years ago
Reply to  David

No bike lane passing where cars are turning. obvious

Randall S.
Randall S.
9 years ago
Reply to  jim

So then we agree that cars shouldn’t be allowed to turn there? Good! Although a better long-term solution would be separate bike/car lights.

John
John
9 years ago
Reply to  Randall S.

No. Merge into line on approach to the intersection. If you must overtake, overtake on the left of right turning cars. If you’re in front of, behind, or to the left of a right turning car, it can’t hit you.

Judy
Judy
9 years ago
Reply to  Randall S.

We are not agreeing that cars shouldn’t be allowed to turn. This is the same situation at every intersection. Cyclists should not be passing through an intersection in a bike lane to the right of cars..

John Lascurettes
9 years ago
Reply to  Judy

Judy, it is the law that if there is a bike lane (a lane of traffic), that the car driver must yield to the traffic in the next lane (bike lane). There is no ambiguity about it. So as far as “shoulds and should nots”: Cars should (MUST!) yield to bikes in the bike lane next to them, bikes should be careful.

Judy
Judy
9 years ago

John, it may be the bad law in Oregon but not anywhere else. Good luck with that with drivers drivers visiting from anywhere else. And, as we see in this situation and many others this law is not working very well. There seem to be a great many right hooks up there in Portland. There is the expectation of safety and the inability of the drivers to see the cyclist. If you are in traffic lane in front of the turning driver he sees you. and if you are in the traffic lane behind him, you see him and can pass left. Passing to the right through an intersection is stupid.

007
007
9 years ago

Exactly! I do not know who all these people are that keep saying not to pass cars on the right. WTF? It’s crazy! They obviously are not experienced cyclists.

David
David
9 years ago
Reply to  jim

As in cars wouldn’t be able to overtake cyclists in the bike lane, or that cyclists should be traveling the same speed or slower as cars?

Judy
Judy
9 years ago
Reply to  David

Cyclist should be passing on the left near or through and intersection.. just as all passing is done on the left.

David
David
9 years ago
Reply to  Judy

So every time a cyclist is going faster than a car, they should leave the bike lane and go around the car on the left? What if, like on Broadway downtown, there are multiple car lanes going in the same direction? Your idea is to have the people on bikes leave the bike lane and then travel across multiple car lanes to pass the gridlocked cars?

I’m not trying to be rude but honestly you sound like somebody who hasn’t actually ridden a bike in an urban environment. Your advice just isn’t practical.

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago
Reply to  David

You argue as if passing is an entitlement. Passing — by any driver, including bicyclists — is ALLOWED, given it is safe and legal to do so at that time and place.

Cyclists can’t complain that motorists pass when it’s not safe, then whine when they can’t do the same and expect to be taken seriously.

David
David
9 years ago
Reply to  Mighk Wilson

Both of your examples–a car passing a cyclist too closely (in which cyclists end up whining) and a cyclist in a bike lane passing a car on the right-hand side–are examples in which the cyclist _legally_ has the right of way.

I’m not trying to act like it’s an entitlement–I’m trying to explain how the roadway currently functions based on the rules of the road.

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago
Reply to  David

One must differentiate between RULES and LAWS. Traffic rules are (or at least should be) the basis for traffic laws It’s actually adherence to the RULES that keeps us safer. A bike lane encourages (and in some cases forces) cyclists to violate the basic RULE that says don’t pass on the right, especially in places where other vehicles could turn across your path. By providing bike lanes a government must make the LAW conflict with the RULES.

John
John
9 years ago
Reply to  David

I have close to 30 years experience riding in all kinds of urban environments. I would rather lane split at a prudent speed than ride along the curb. Lane splitting you don’t have to worry about someone making a 90 degree turn across your path, plus your vision is not blocked at intersections. Frankly, the idea of riding at full tilt in a bike lane alongside gridlocked traffic is suicidal.

jim
jim
9 years ago
Reply to  John

Lane splitting is not a legal option.

spare_wheel
9 years ago
Reply to  jim

i care more about my safety than i do some minor traffic statute.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  David

i ride that stretch of Madison every weekday after work. Buses should be on the left and a bike lane should cover the whole distance from 6th Ave to the bridge.

Tony
Tony
9 years ago

Thanks for the very comprehensive reporting on this.

As a side note, has anyone else noticed that someone removed one of the wheels of the ghost bike for this fatality? Who maintains/installs these memorials?

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Reply to  Tony

Hey Tony,

I’ve noticed. It happens. Not everyone cares why the bike is there.

Also, Kathryn’s ghost bike is likely to be moved and/or removed soon. That block is owned by the federal gov’t and the admin staff who oversee it are in touch with me trying to get it moved to city property across the street. But the city doesn’t want it either.

matt picio
9 years ago

I don’t see how that’s a Fed issue – the ghost bike is on the sidewalk, which is nominally part of the public ROW. It should be entirely a city issue, since the city dictates items like sidewalk blockages.

Jim
Jim
9 years ago

From a fellow biker (who passes this intersection every day) to another, please please please be careful about passing cars on the right. I often take the lane and ride behind cars just to eliminate the possibility of this type of collision. I feel so sorry for Kathryn Rickson’s loved ones and Mr. Eacret. Blame isn’t important, having this never happen again, whatever it takes, is the most important thing.

Dave
9 years ago

Honestly, this sounds like a reasonable decision to me given the evidence and the circumstances, but I will also say it’s yet another example of poor infrastructure and to some extent muddy, unclear law exacerbating a rather tricky mix of vehicles. We can put responsibility on the truck driver to look out for cyclists and pedestrians, but if the road design and law put them out of his possible field of vision, is it really his fault if he doesn’t see them (given that he made reasonable effort to)?

It’s also unclear whether Rickson could have been able to stop before the collision with the truck.

Certainly, in any case, it is a tragedy that a person died, but I’m not sure it’s necessarily an unreasonable decision to find the truck driver innocent here.

It’s a complicated problem, and a good example of why you have to take the transportation system as a whole, along with infrastructure, law and education, into account when looking at how to make things better.

pixelgate
pixelgate
9 years ago
Reply to  Dave

I agree. I don’t really see how you can fault the driver based on the evidence. Sad situation, everyone should be very cautious when riding.

9watts
9watts
9 years ago
Reply to  pixelgate

Thanks very much for the detailed report, Jonathan. I wonder if all fatal crashes involving people on bikes get this level of attention in a court of law? I hope so, but will admit I’ve not heard this much detailed forensics spelled out before.

I vote for cargo transported downtown by pedal power. It would mean lots of good jobs for locals (+), a shift toward more bikes on city streets (+), and we hope less uncertainty when it comes to this kind of conflict (+).

dan
dan
9 years ago
Reply to  pixelgate

Yes…it does not appear to be the driver’s “fault”, if it’s appropriate to use that word here. However, if the infrastructure is such that everyone is operating their vehicles lawfully and it’s _impossible_ for the driver to see the cyclist, well, we have an infrastructure problem.

Dave
9 years ago
Reply to  dan

Right. So we should take action based on that fact, and instead of trying to punish the driver of the truck, we should be hounding the city to DO SOMETHING about this problem that’s happening all over our city, where our infrastructure and law are forcing people on bicycles into precarious situations.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Dave

Madison there is downhill. No doubt in my mind he should have yielded and she couldn’t stop in time. A lot of drivers think whoever is at the intersection first gets to go first when it is the law to yield to the bike lane no matter what.

John Lascurettes
9 years ago

The DA says Eacret, “did what he was supposed to do in his situation”

Sure sounds like it from your description. It also sounds like Rickson made a series of bad choices in staying visible and asserting her right of way (whether right or wrong). This all goes to show – tractor-trailer trucks don’t belong in a tight downtown core. They just don’t.

Bjorn
Bjorn
9 years ago

I find the statement to be pretty disingenuous, would it have mattered if the truck had just passed the cyclist? Doubtful Brett was killed by a right hook right after a truck passed him and that didn’t matter. These DA’s are always going to find some reason not to charge the driver as long as they aren’t drunk. The complete lack of accountability is the number one reason the city needs to work towards eliminating unnecessary trips by semi trucks on surface streets.

Caleb
Caleb
9 years ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Always? Complete lack? What reasons have you for these claims?

Bjorn
Bjorn
9 years ago
Reply to  Caleb

Can you name a case of a truck driver hitting and killing a cyclist in portland where they were held accountable but were not drunk? I suppose that occasionally they have to pay a 242 dollar fine, but that is the only penalty I can think of and if you think 242 dollars per death is accountability, well then… The truth is that unless you are drunk you get a pass for killing someone even if they have the right of way, because it “could have happened to anyone, I mean between the sun glare and the convex mirrors… etc etc etc”

gr8fulday
gr8fulday
9 years ago
Reply to  Bjorn

I remembering hearing my grandfather say over and over again throughout my life ” It’s better to be alive than to be dead right” You think she had the right of way. That obviously didn’t keep her alive. The driver was cleared of all wrong doing- no criminal and important too is no traffic citation. However, the driver didn’t get a “free pass.” He has to live with this tragedy the rest of his life. If the investigation found she had the right way, I think the driver would have been cited for such. If you read the entire memo posted by the DA, (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-_Kv2GsQnEfakU1UlZjeURPbFE/edit?pli=1) Ms. Rickson was well behind the truck when it began it’s turn. He had a turn signal on and was not driving at a reckless speed. It was an accident. The driver was absolutely as cautious as he could have been.
When riding in traffic on a weekly basis, I never assume I can be seen. I never assume that some law is going to keep me alive. Share the road goes both ways. Help drivers out. If I see them signaling, I slow down and let them turn. I might have the right of way in the bike lane, but I would rather be alive than dead.

Bjorn
Bjorn
9 years ago
Reply to  gr8fulday

My grandpa told me never to bring a knife to a gunfight, I’d still hope that they’d prosecute a person who shot me for no reason even if I happened to have a knife. The idea that the current law requires that the person who fails to yield the right of way to confess to the cop that they saw the person they hit with enough time to stop but decided to keep on going or otherwise they are fine might be part of the problem, but I think that it is more that the law doesn’t necessarily say that, but that is how DA’s and cops are choosing to interpret it.

Caleb
Caleb
9 years ago
Reply to  Bjorn

No, I can’t name a case of a truck driver hitting and killing a cyclist in Portland where they were held accountable but were not drunk, because I don’t proactively seek out these things, and I haven’t yet come across such a case occurring, but that doesn’t mean I, or anybody else, should assume this is a case in which a truck driver should be held accountable for the death of the cyclist.

To claim what will “always” happen is to make a claim about a long period of time which may or may not hold changes you can’t possibly foresee. Yes, statistics of past incidents might say drivers were not held accountable by your standards, but do those statistics give the conditions and subsequent reasoning behind every incident’s result? I imagine that information is somewhere, but since you haven’t cited it, I have no reason to believe you’re taking such information into account, so I naturally tend toward thinking you might not be considering that those conditions and reasoning have potential, so far as we can know, to vary widely in future incidents. That’s the main reason I question your use of the word “always”. Yes, I’m splitting this hair, because public opinion and subsequently so much more is often highly subject to language and the prompting and resulting assumptions behind it.

And I’ll gripe about the proposed “complete lack” of accountability. Legally, drivers can only be held accountable for what the law holds them accountable to, and prosecuted only for what evidence shows they have done. If somebody dies after a driver fails in following a $242 law, but there is no evidence to prove the driver willfully neglected anything else, then authorities can only legally hold the driver accountable to that $242 law. As unfortunate as you think that is, this is the case because law is meant to be impartial to avoid wrongfully convicting people, which has happened in many situations because convicting figures couldn’t keep their minds free of uninformed, biased conclusions. Would you tolerate innocent people being convicted?

In a case such as this, there was no evidence to show the driver did anything out of accordance with the law. So what do you want the driver to be held accountable for? If you want him to be held accountable for Rickson’s death, then you want him to be blamed entirely for something that was the result of their collaborative movement. Since we apparently don’t have the evidence to prove that either the driver or cyclist were out of accordance with the law (the reason people are calling this an “accident”), then wanting to convict him for her death would be wanting to act without evidence. Is that what you’re pushing for? Do you want the driver to be held accountable for Rickson’s death, though we can’t say at all just how much her own choices weighed in on her death?

9watts
9watts
9 years ago
Reply to  Caleb

“If somebody dies after a driver fails in following a $242 law, but there is no evidence to prove the driver willfully neglected anything else, then authorities can only legally hold the driver accountable to that $242 law.”

I hear what you are saying, Caleb, but perhaps some people’s reaction is complicated by the fact that others, like Wanda Cortese, whose culpability in the minds of some observers was much more than zero, also got a $236 ticket for ‘failing to maintain the lane,’ and we have yet to learn whether that was the sum of the penalties meted out by our law enforcement/justice system.

“As unfortunate as you think that is, this is the case because law is meant to be impartial to avoid wrongfully convicting people…”

I was with you up to that statement. Wrongful convictions are a feature of our ‘justice’ system it seems, but taking a narrow, technical view of fault in dreadful collisions like those we learn about in the pages of bikeportland is not properly ascribed to or explained I don’t think by a desire to avoid wrongful convictions, but rather is due to a consistently deferential stance within the justice system vis-a-vis those who drive motorized vehicles.
Hank Bersani, Christeen Osborn, Steven Dayley, Reese Wilson, Karl Moritz
= straight roads good visibility

Caleb
Caleb
9 years ago
Reply to  9watts

I can imagine the frustration people are facing as penalty disclosure in past cases remains at a minimum. In fact, I assume their opinions are complicated by such factors, as well as their own convictions about how to interact with society. This much, though not explicitly stated, I consider evident in the posts I respond to, and in reaction I’m just trying to encourage an unassuming mind in us all, that we might strive for as accurate a perspective as possible on the events under scrutiny. If I were to make claims that other people didn’t find true, then I would hope they would ask me what information prompts those claims, and then scrutinize that information, too.

I just don’t see any use in predictions pertaining to distant times when we struggle enough making information about current events accurate. When somebody makes such predictions, they have a reason, right? Some have stated they want a new DA. I think it seems clear they believe the DA won’t practice integrity they’re looking for in future cases. Could you imagine jailing or executing somebody for something we assume they will do but haven’t done yet? I imagine people would cry “injustice”. In the same way, is it “just” to remove public figures such as the DA based upon our predictions…especially those that stem from assumptions on past events, as well? Sure…it might be preferable for many, but where’s our integrity if we push for such things?

I agree that wrongful convictions are a part of our “justice” system, as that’s primarily what inspires my disdain for lofty claims. When I said law is meant to be impartial to avoid wrongful convictions, I was referring to the system of checks that are integral to the concept of our legal system (which I admit I know little about) whose creators, I thought, intended to prevent wrongful convictions. I suppose such checks could have also been implemented by those who sought to circumvent the law, though. I have no doubt people with either intention create and change laws still today, but the fact stands that if the law can’t convict without clear evidence, it can’t wrongfully convict through evidence. Of course, law can’t rightfully convict without clear evidence, either, but I personally don’t find the former as a tolerated means to the latter an acceptable practice.

I would like to add that I don’t think the view on fault is necessarily narrow. After all, broad views consist of narrow views. Sometimes investigators, prosecutors, etc can only act on a portion of a broad view, because a lack of information doesn’t allow them to make use of the rest of it according to the law. The law might be narrow, yes, but that’s one reason there are many laws, and I imagine holding authorities accountable would be difficult if the law was broad.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Bjorn, all drivers have to say when they hit a ped or a cyclist is “I didn’t see him.” But that’s no excuse if they hit another car. Shows where the value is — on the property. Maybe if we insure our bodies and brains, then the power structures and insurance companies will defend us.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Bjorn, I’ve been right hooked twice by vehicles that just passed me. One a city employee who hit & ran but other drivers chased him down, and one a hit & run where I ended up in the hospital.

Andy
Andy
9 years ago

You have to ride defensively, particularly when large trucks are involved. I personally don’t assume that someone will not turn right unless I have made eye contact with them.

This is particularly a problem when bicycle traffic is going faster than car traffic because the driver is more likely to be unaware that you are there.

Caleb
Caleb
9 years ago
Reply to  Andy

Agreed. I glance repeatedly at the wheels directing the vehicle whenever right hooks are possible.

Bjorn
Bjorn
9 years ago
Reply to  Caleb

She may have done that as the driver stated that he swung left before turning right so if she was looking at the truck tires it would have appeared he was moving into the other lane before he turned.

Caleb
Caleb
9 years ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Yes, I was thinking this also.

spare_wheel
9 years ago
Reply to  Andy

i have yet to learn how to read intent from a motorist’s eyes. i am also just not quick enough to glance at a wheel and predict when a motorist will decide to turn. does the BTA or someone else offer advanced cycling classes where i can learn these skills?

Ian Brett Cooper
9 years ago
Reply to  spare_wheel

You are absolutely right. There is no way to judge what a car will do based on eye contact or wheel orientation. This is why cyclists must match their speed to the situation, reducing it in situations where motorists pose a potential threat. Blasting through an intersection on the right of gridlocked traffic is suicide. A bike lane won’t save a cyclist from harm if she is acting in ways likely to get her killed.

Paulie
Paulie
9 years ago

Bike lanes are unnecessary when the speed limit is 20MPH and the street is level or heading downhill. I feel they put you at greater risk. Sharrows would be safer. The only time bike lanes make sense are when there is a large differential in speed between bikes and automobile traffic. If you’re going close to the same speed, you should just mix the traffic.

This was a tragic situation, and I can’t blame the truck driver for this incident.

Chris I
Chris I
9 years ago
Reply to  Paulie

Bike lanes are necessary to enable cyclists to pass congested auto traffic. Make bikes wait in line with the cars, and you’ve just removed any speed advantage they might have. The goal should be to design safer intersections, just like the Dutch have done. Separate infrastructure is safer if it’s done right.

Josh
Josh
9 years ago
Reply to  Chris I

Bike lanes are *not* necessary to allow cyclists to pass congested auto traffic. A wide curb lane does the same thing, but without creating the illusion that the cyclist has a safe lane of their own.

Seattle law, for example, allows bicycles to pass motorists on the right whenever it is safe to do so. (But then, Seattle also doesn’t have a law prohibiting motorists from safely merging right into the bike lane before making a right turn, or a mandatory bike lane law — those two legal defects contribute to many issues in Oregon.)

Chris I
Chris I
9 years ago
Reply to  Josh

In practice, I believe they are. I ride in outer-east Portland, where bike lanes are rare, and often terminate before intersections. Even when there is a wide curb space, I am often unable to pass on the right because cars will shift over prior to making a right turn. So when I come up on a red light, cars are scattered all over the place, and I often have to mount the sidewalk to get around them. This effect even happens when there is a striped bike lane, but compliance is generally much better.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Paulie

Paulie, because I make the effort to bike to work, I’m not going to sit through green lights in backed up traffic on Madison because you think it is improper to ride faster than cars. That’s one of the benefits of urban riding. If you know how to ride, you’ll get there faster than if you drive. Start bike commuting every day, you’ll understand.

dwainedibbly
dwainedibbly
9 years ago

On a positive note, this week Mercedes-Benz showed off some new, fuel-efficient trucks which have the side guards which would help prevent fatalities like this. The economics may be the only thing which get this sort of thing installed on trucks. Safety isn’t going to do it.

JRB
JRB
9 years ago

As others have opined, it seems to me that the fault here does not lie with either Kathryn Rickson or Dawayne Eacret, but with a combination of factors beyond either of their control. Kathryn’s death, however, was preventable, and the blame for this tragedy lies with the laws and bike infrastructure that put her in a position where even when she was acting lawfully she was at grave risk from a driver also acting lawfully.

Unfortunately, I doubt that this and other senseless cyclist deaths will be enough to prompt our lawmakers to make the reforms necessary to prevent this from happening again. Commerce and motor vehicles are literally the kings of the road. I am afraid that in the eyes of our society no sacrifice is considered too great to maintain their privileged position.

Chris
Chris
9 years ago

I say the solution to preventing right hooks is to change the Oregon Vehicle Code thusly:

For all intersections with no right-turn lane, bike lanes end 30 feet before the intersections. From that point until exiting the intersection, bicyclists proceeding straight are required to take the right-most lane (with hand signal) and motorists proceeding straight in the right-most lane are required to yield the lane.

And it’s a Class B violation to pass a bicyclist on the left within 50 feet of any intersection when turning right at the intersection. The PPB’s made-up law about having to “perceive” the bicyclist is specifically disclaimed as a requirement for the violation.

And throw in a rule about no more building bike lanes in door zones while you’re at it.

Over and Doubt
Over and Doubt
9 years ago
Reply to  Chris

Meh, given likelihood of enforcement. Good try, though.

Pete
Pete
9 years ago
Reply to  Chris

In California the rules are designed around bikes merging through right-turning traffic when going straight. The lane markings are even dotted a certain distance before the turn to indicate the merge. Where I live there are many stop lights and I’ve gotten in the habit of signaling and taking the lane in certain intersections (as the rules are designed to allow), but we don’t have many hills or big trucks along my common routes. On greens I tend to just assert myself on the line, which would force a driver to swing pretty wide to the left to cut me off.

Having lived in Oregon for over a decade prior to moving here I wasn’t used to it but now prefer it. Someone proposed this change in Oregon several years back and it was debated in length here on BP, but obviously never followed through legislatively. The perception is that drivers aren’t allowed to use bike lanes as right-turn lanes there, but I learned in Ray Thomas’ class that there isn’t actually specific verbiage legally forbidding it (shhh! :).

Often I find this merging works well with motorists as it doesn’t cork their right on red (I get occasional waves and thanks even), and I see other cyclists doing this but not many. Of course you still get the occasional ignorant driver honking behind you, especially when I take the lane at upcoming lane drops to prevent those who continue down the bike lane to cut other drivers off on the right. The relevant rule is CA Vehicle Code 21202, exemption 4. I’ve even considered making a jersey that says on the back “HONK if you don’t get CVC 21202!”…

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Pete

When I approach a green box, I put my bike in it whereas other cyclists just line up in the bike lane. I think my tactic is safer because it prevents a driver from even thinking of turning right and it allows a lot of cyclists to congregate in the box and start at the same time. This is what the green box is meant for but nobody uses them correctly.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Chris

Chris, drivers still do not understand “yield to the bike lane.” I think your idea is beyond the comprehension of most of them.

Dan V
Dan V
9 years ago

Maybe we just need to stop mixing modes of travel; bikes and peds don’t mix (Esplanade), bikes and cars/trucks don’t mix (ad infinitum), and, in many instances, cars and trucks don’t mix well (especially in bad weather). Separate, defensible lanes (barriers or big buffers)…

spare_wheel
9 years ago
Reply to  Dan V

its ironic that you are using an accident partly caused by “bike infrastructure” to support the argument that bikes and cars/trucks don’t mix. bikes and cars mix just fine when both are in the lane. and in downtown pdx where traffic is timed to ~15 mph there is little reason to not take the lane…everywhere. imo, we need to paint sharrows all over downtown and make it the usa’s first woonerf zone.

Dave
9 years ago
Reply to  spare_wheel

I would say it’s a collision partly caused by *bad* bicycle infrastructure – and a woonerf is actually typically (in the Netherlands) a residential zone with no/little through traffic. Speed limits are set to walking speed, and bicycle and foot traffic are prioritized heavily.

It’s not just any area where cars and bikes share the road. Downtown Portland definitely doesn’t qualify for that kind of designation, no matter how many sharrows you put down. Streets like SW Broadway would almost surely have separate cycle infrastructure in the Netherlands.

spare_wheel
9 years ago
Reply to  Dave

woonerfen have been in both residential and commercial areas. but since you are being such a stickler…how about a winkelerf.

http://lafv.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/documentaire-fotografie/winkelerf/

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Dan V

Right-o. Separation. Ban internal combustion vehicles from downtown, especially diesel-spewing trucks.

lyle
lyle
9 years ago

I wanted to point out that the fact that she was in the lane of traffic approaching 3rd isn’t something I think can be blamed on her, or labelled negligent, even though the report states that it was a major factor in determining blame. Probably 80% of the time I follow this path towards the bridge, buses will be stacked up and waiting on the City hall block, in addition to a queue of cars waiting to turn right into madison from 4th, who seem to frequently (if not always) ‘lurch’ into the area where you’d follow if you were going on the path the bike lane would take you through the intersection.

Even if there aren’t buses stacking up, sticking ass-out into the right lane, etc., I’ve just come to the point where I assume that I need to be in the lane of traffic, even going so far as to be in the left lane, and do it reflexively at this point.

That said, I think that it’s a reminder to drive defensively, especially around big rigs, and especially when they’re downtown or in narrow confines.

I just assume I will be hit and killed if I assume that they can see me or are aware of my presence at all times, and ride accordingly.

Spiffy
9 years ago

did not see anyone in his mirrors

yet there was somebody there…

I’m tired of people using this admission of guilt as a defense statement…

he clearly didn’t check to see if the bike lane was clear, he just didn’t see anybody…

there’s a huge difference between not seeing somebody and there being nobody there… if you’re driving a huge motor vehicle and you don’t see something that’s there then you’re driving recklessly and it’s your fault when you hit it…

the cyclist would not have continued if “Rickson would have been between 83 and 110 feet behind the truck when it started its turn.”… I mean, seriously, how many riders see a truck turn 80′ in front of them and don’t stop for it?

The driver of the car that was directly behind the truck said she knew the truck was going to turn because it had slowed down so much.

Ms. Ackerman said the truck’s right turn signal must have been on because she knew the truck was turning.

so the main witness isn’t sure the truck’s signal was on before turning, they only assumed themselves that the truck was turning because it slowed down a lot and swung left, in the opposite direction of the cyclist, before actually making a turn…

we need a new DA…

Bjorn
Bjorn
9 years ago
Reply to  Spiffy

Ginsberg? Thomas? maybe getting behind a DA candidate who isn’t so quick to drop these cases is a good suggestion.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Reply to  Bjorn

I don’t think either of you are being fair or conscious of the facts in your assessments of the DA (and by extension the PPB). The PPB spent about 100 hours on this case (they tell me). And DA Chuck Sparks, who wasn’t the lead author of this but whom guided the case, is about as bike-sensitive as someone can be. I trust the current DA and the PPB’s handling of this case. There will always be bias in these cases because the person on the bike is dead and we can’t talk to them… But given the constraints of the law, I don’t see how one could disagree with the DA’s decision. Yes, my heart is not feeling good about living in a society where this decision has to be made… But the issue here isn’t with the cops, the DA, the truck driver, or with Kathryn… I think it’s a larger context issue about road design, traffic law, traffic culture, social norms, vehicle codes, and so on.

Bjorn
Bjorn
9 years ago

I agree that a conviction is hard to obtain because any defense attorney is going to trot out the “it could have happened to anyone defense” but I still feel that the prosecution should go forward because:

1. In portland we might be surprised by jurors with higher expectations about noticing people in bike lanes and crosswalks.

2. Having actual cases where prosecutions failed would be helpful in getting tougher laws, currently a lot of legislators are under the mistaken impression that we have laws that protect vulnerable road users, clearly we don’t.

Bjorn
Bjorn
9 years ago
Reply to  Bjorn

At the very least maybe we’d have a better argument for eliminating the mandatory sidepath law. Clearly she would have been safer staying in the main vehicle lane even though the Oregonian so botched their story that people seem to think she was passing on the right of the truck with no bike lane present.

Caleb
Caleb
9 years ago
Reply to  Spiffy

Spiffy, what makes you so certain he “clearly” didn’t check to see if anybody was in the lane? Based upon the information in this article, it’s easy to imagine she was behind the truck at the time he might have looked to see if anybody was in the lane. Further, even if she was within his vision, but he didn’t “see” her, he wouldn’t have been driving “recklessly” as defined by law, because he wouldn’t have “seen” the threat to her safety.

I also wondered as I read the article why anybody would not slow down or stop and wait for the truck to make the right turn if they were 80 feet behind it when the turn started, but why exactly do you consider such wonder a reason to question the DA’s integrity? If she did indeed see the truck was turning right at 80 feet from behind, she clearly didn’t let the truck make its turn before continuing.

At 10 mph, it would take 7.5 seconds to travel 110 feet and 5.7 to travel 83 feet. At 16.6 mph, 4.5 and 3.4 seconds. Maybe she actually sped up and was going 20, when it would take just 3.8 and 2.8. At all speeds mentioned, that’s quite a bit of time, but still an easy amount of time to consume paying attention to other happenings such as looking for other cyclists before getting in the bike lane, watching cars, watching pedestrians, bicycle issues, dwelling on a day at work or something at home, just spacing out, whatever. Maybe she simply didn’t realize he was indeed turning right until it was too late.

Otherwise, what alternative are you trying to get across? That the truck driver knew she was coming and thought he could turn before she arrived? That he wasn’t looking for anybody at all? Without evidence, the DA can’t do much about these possibilities.

The witness who decided a signal must have been on because they thought the truck was turning certainly jumped to a conclusion, but even the uncertainty of the signal being used or not is no reason to come down on the DA. After all, he didn’t say the witness used sound logic, or that he agreed the signal must have been on.

beck
beck
9 years ago
Reply to  Spiffy

please. you’ve never been in the cab of a truck. i am a truck driver. i am a cyclist. i bike to work to drive my truck. i’ve been assaulted by a truck driver. i’ve been yelled at and spit on. i know your point of view but do you know mine when i’m in that truck? you have no idea how many blind spots there are and how quickly your environment can change. why don’t you stop for a minute and think. perhaps ms. rickson was riding around with her head in the clouds. who knows what was going on with her. you as a cyclist automatically think you can do no wrong. things like incomplete stops, riding around in the dark with no lights or reflective anything on. blaming everyone around you except for yourself. this was an incredibly tragic accident but don’t go pointing the finger at the driver because you assume truck drivers just don’t give a shit.

Dave
9 years ago
Reply to  beck

Just for the record, I have been continually impressed by the care given me by truck drivers in Portland. I used to live quite close to the Pepsi, Portland Bottling and Franz factories in NE Portland, and I always, and I mean always, felt they were watching what they were doing when driving trucks around those areas. It’s far more than I can say about the average person operating automobiles around the city. So thank you for that. I’m willing to give a truck driver the benefit of the doubt that they were driving carefully in a tough situation unless the opposite is obvious.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Spiffy

And just because he said he looked in his mirror…

Erik E
Erik E
9 years ago

Just wanted to mention you have to ride in the middle of the lane between 4th and 5h because of all the ruts and bumps left in the street by the busses. If you have any speed going down the street there in the dark you risk crashing just like the guy did on Vancouver/Broadway a few months back.
Isn’t it Copenhagen that doesnt’ allow traffic in the downtown core, if they can do it why can’t we?? And I remember reading (on here) about a city in the States that eliminated all right turns from their public transit system, which at least is the city saying “Hey right turns are a safty hazard to our citizens”. And…can’t we start a campaign to require right-side truck guards on all truck traffic in Oregon?
This was a tragic situation and I would really like to see something good come out of this; everyone involved deserves that at the very least.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Erik E

Those ruts on Madison NEED TO BE FIXED NOW! They are a real safety hazard to cyclists. PBOT ARE YOU LISTENING? Before someone gets hurt badly.

Joe
Joe
9 years ago

Every Ghost bike I ride past my heart drops, give the peace sign to them.

q`Tzal
q`Tzal
9 years ago

We need to hold the trucking industry to higher standards on safety equipment, and especially better mirrors and more lights.

We also need to identify streets and intersections that geometrically will not safely support routine access by large trucks. Oversized cargo like wind turbine blades and the Space Shuttle going to LA require special permits and escorts; perhaps we need to clearly redefine “oversized” in urban areas to reflect the hazards of “normal” truck sizes in increasingly dense urban settings. Perhaps off hours truck access, perhaps large trucks only with police escort.

The trucking industry will take this as an attack on profitability but safety standards should never be considered a cost choice.
We all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That right to “life” should include the right not to be killed by the defectors freight mode.

Psyfalcon
Psyfalcon
9 years ago
Reply to  q`Tzal

I bet it would make a lot of truck drivers very happy too.

Give me a giant truck and tell me to drive it to NY? Ok. Drive it IN NYC, not so good. It costs the drivers who are paid by the mile, and the city and people who are collateral damage. I’d really like to see loads delivered by van or box truck off of the very major streets. Pay those drivers hourly too, so they aren’t trying to rush.

q`Tzal
q`Tzal
9 years ago
Reply to  Psyfalcon

I would prefer automated delivery by tubes.
Some of these systems are still in use on a large scale. Hospitals still use pneumatic tubes for timely delivery of tissue and liquid samples, stores commonly use them for secure delivery of cash to and from the POS; heck even Denver International Airport uses a a 25 cm diameter system for moving aircraft parts.
Pneumatic power works for low mass and shorter runs. Vacuum power dies off at even shorter runs and lower masses. That combined with the ease of a single leak in a system compromising the entire system you can see why they haven’t propagated.

While it would be sweet to completely replace trucking with full cargo container sized tubes or even pallet sized tubes like in the CargoCap system I’ve begun to think the only way to actually roll this out is by infiltration.

While driving 53′ trailers these last few months I’ve noticed that there is a lot of freight that is bulk: powders, liquids, granular(like breakfast cereal) or just plain small. The Cargo Cap system has a good idea in that a smaller size allows the use of pipe jacking instead of tunnel drilling.

I think that the cost of implementation could be exponentially reduced by going with 1′ to 2′ diameter cargo capsules; the smaller the better. If the cost of transport of tiny capsules across an Internet of freight is cheap enough businesses will be begging for more lines and bigger diameters.

Then just let market forces run their course.

John Schubert
9 years ago

Maus, you ask, “Why do we have bike lanes to the right of lanes where right turns are permitted?” The answer is because we’re doing it wrong. At some point, it ceases to be a mistake and instead becomes deadly malpractice. After numerous deaths in Portland, Seattle, Davis, Minneapolis, Blackstone Virginia, numerous other America cities, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, I submit we reached this point long ago.
You have in the past attacked me personally, to the extent of doubting my sincerity, when I wrote that it was wrong to put bike lanes to the right of right turn lanes. Have you changed your opinion on that?
I’m curious about the statements from the district attorney about what could be seen in the truck’s mirror.
Did the district attorney’s office conduct a time/motion study to determine whether they thought it made sense to expect someone driving a truck — a very demanding job — to squint into a mirror looking for a cyclist as the cyclist comes into view, while also looking ahead to maneuver the truck and stay clear of traffic ahead? (Note that, according to your description, the cyclist would be overtaking the truck at a speed probably between 15 and 20 feet per second.)
Did the district attorney’s office get an exemplar truck and see where a bike is or isn’t visible in the mirror?
I’ve done this exact experiment with a Chrysler minivan, and the results are chilling. It’s rather stunning how many blind spots there are. A bicyclist can position himself to be invisible to the van driver behind the van’s B pillar, C pillar or D pillar. The bicyclist is not visible during a head turn, nor visible in the van’s inside mirror, nor visible in the van’s right side mirror.
The cyclists who die in these right-hook collisions are the true innocents. They aren’t the ones discussing the subject in this forum. They’re the ones who haven’t given any thought to the operating limitations of trucks, and they make the mistake of trusting their lives to a poorly-designed bike lane.
My advice to all cyclists: asking other road users to “respect” you when you hide from them. Ride to be seen. “Respect” is a lousy surrogate for safe behavior.
My advice to the engineers: “Make them feel safe” is a failed experiment. Enough deaths, already!
John Schubert
Limeport.org

ScottB
ScottB
9 years ago
Reply to  John Schubert

It’s not a right turn lane, it’s a through+right turn lane.

Judy
Judy
9 years ago
Reply to  ScottB

It’s a right turn lane if someone is turning right.. and if you are going through.. you should not be to the right of them.. you should be directly behing them since you don’t know who is going through or right…and then.. if they are turning right.. you should be going through on their left. To think you can pass on the right of what could be a right turn lane is idiotic. And, for an infrastructure to be designed that way is criminal.

Todd Boulanger
9 years ago

“Right Sizing Freight” for urban areas is the next frontier of traffic and roadway safety.

I am always shocked at the size of trucks making deliveries of beer and other beverages in many of our cities.

Why drive a tractor trailer for dropping off a couple of beer kegs? It would make parking in loading zones much easier for drivers and make it less stressful for them to operate in congested cities. It would also open up the market to green delivery vehicles that could actually be make regionally…plus there may be more delivery jobs required.

esther c
esther c
9 years ago
Reply to  Todd Boulanger

Especially in this era of high unemployment. ITs not like we don’t have the manpower to transfer the freight into smaller trucks. 20 or 30 years ago beer was delivered in much smaller vehicles.

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago
Reply to  esther c

As long as you’re willing to pay more for the goods you buy. As for me, I’m not going to pass any vehicle on the right when its driver has the slightest opportunity to turn right.

So many voices here saying essentially: “I’m not going to change, but everybody else has to.” You might want to question why you feel that way.

are
9 years ago
Reply to  Mighk Wilson

i think everyone should be “willing” to pay more for a paper cup at starbucks. in fact, i think the city ought to impose a tax on them.

Alan 1.0
Alan 1.0
9 years ago
Reply to  Mighk Wilson

I hope that society will look for a better solution to this problem than figuring out how to divvy up the tort setttlements for innocent victims among consumers of freight services.

are
9 years ago
Reply to  Alan 1.0

actually, i would suggest that society as a whole simply take care of compensating people who are inevitably injured or killed by stuff that the law of numbers says is going to happen. proving fault in individual cases for purposes of criminal or civil liability is cumbersome and perpetuates a lot of poor behaviors, such as denying fault. i do think we ought also to greatly reduce our dependence on these large, cumbersome vehicles (by which i mean not only semis in the urban core, but the private automobile more generally).

Caleb
Caleb
9 years ago
Reply to  are

I would like to see humanity move away from automobiles, too, but I don’t think I agree with using the law of numbers as a means for determining compensation. No matter what statistics say, physical conditions determine current events, and physical conditions are unique in every instance, thus statistics don’t truly tell us what will happen in any specific case. Further, how would we go about determining when the minority outcome(s) should be assumed?

esther c
esther c
9 years ago
Reply to  Mighk Wilson

Hell yes, I’d be willing to pay a nickle more for a beer if it saved the lives of persons sharing the road with the truck delivering it.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  esther c

People are drinking a lot more beer now. LOL.

Todd Boulanger
9 years ago

Also…PBOT…where are those easy to install tools for improving intersection visibility and saving lives … like the Black Spot Mirrors the Dutch use at intersections with high bike volumes?

How many more stories have to be written like this? Its been over 4 years of community discussion.

Perhaps Freightliner would “sponsor” them in the City?

http://bikeportland.org/2008/05/13/black-spot-mirrors-save-lives-in-amsterdam-7542

ScottB
ScottB
9 years ago
Reply to  Todd Boulanger

Who’s going to pay to maintain them? How would a parabolic mirror on the far side of the intersection have helped in this case?

Kristen
Kristen
9 years ago

JM, thanks for the report. It’s always interesting when the facts are laid out like that.

It sounds to me like the cyclist made a bad choice in trying to pass a turning truck. She was in the lane in one block, and then in a bike lane the block just before collision. The truck was far enough ahead of her that she could have seen the turn signal, seen the intent to turn, and slow up/merge into the traffic lane. 13 seconds is a very long time to not see a truck’s turn signal as you approach from the back.

Yeah, I’m blaming the victim. At some point, bad infrastructure or not, we all gotta take responsibility for our actions. We’re using the roads, we know the risks and hazards, and if we’re not watching out for those risks and hazards then I don’t know who will. It’s not the other road users’ responsibility to watch out for us; that’s all on our own shoulders.

So the infrastructure is crap. If you’re going to use it, also use the brains in your head to stay safe until the infrastructure is not crap. So large semi trucks should not be in the downtown core. Get the city to pass a law about it. Until then, ride in a way that keeps you safe.

John Brooking
9 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

“So the infrastructure is crap. If you’re going to use it, also use the brains in your head to stay safe until the infrastructure is not crap.”

Or demand that engineers stop building crap that lures innocents to their deaths when used as designed. And advocates stop asking for it.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  John Brooking

John, exactly. This is why so many people will not ride their bikes. They do not want to die.

beck
beck
9 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

thanks for being logical on your post.
-a truck driver

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

Kristen, ride a bike to work downtown every day for a month and then see how tough you are. I can tell you from my 20 years of experience cycling to work that a vehicle won’t necessarily have it’s turn signal on as I pass it, but sometime between then and when the light turns green, the driver decides to turn on their blinker. So, while the driver gets credit for using his blinker, he didn’t actually have it on when I was behind him.

Totaled108
Totaled108
9 years ago

As an avid bike rider and commercial truck driver, The same size the the one being driven in the case. I am overly caustion in downtown when in a truck and on bikes. I never pass on the right at intersections that are rights are what most people do. I take the lane, split lanes on the left side of cars when traffic is slow or stopped. And SLOWING down near these intersection.

Obviously the main fault is a piss poor attempt to add onto, instead of starting from scratch.

Also, as of late, less and less cyclists at night are using lights. I have had close calls when riding my bike with these ninjas and salmon.

I hate that this happens, no one should have to fear for their life when they simply want to mave from one place to another.

jim
jim
9 years ago

It is illegal to pass a turning vehicle in Oregon. They just screwed up royally when they started making bike lanes that allow this sort of situation happen. The clear choice is to eliminate bike lanes near intersections, let the right lane be a shared lane. Yeah that means the bicyclist will have to wait in line and smell dirty exhaust, however it also means that they will not be right hooked. If there is anybody to blame it would be the Portland board of transportation for engineering such an unsafe situation that continuously costs these poor cyclists their lives. Yes they should probably be more vigilant and aware of their surroundings, but that just doesn’t always work. There will always be someone just riding along in their own world oblivious to the potential dangers around them. It is responsible of the city to create a false sense of safety with these through bike lanes at the right of where a large turning vehicle can not see them, unfair for the cyclist and the driver. I doubt that all cyclists would agree with my viewpoint, for many of them their priorities are getting from point A to point B as fast as possible with as few stops as possible, they claim they have a great 360 degree vision that is oh so safe- failed fantasy

wsbob
wsbob
9 years ago

“…How can we allow large vehicles on the road whose driver’s are physically unable to see other people on the roadway? …” maus/bikeportland

For this type of collision, in their mirrors, I suppose bikeportland’s publisher-editor is speaking of. Given the comparative speed Rickson apparently was traveling, it’s questionable whether a driver of even a small vehicle would have been able to see her. As people have already noted, bikes show up small in mirrors, even more so in convex mirrors.

Kevin Wagoner
9 years ago

It seems so unfair to know someone could kill me tomorrow and not be held accountable.

Caleb
Caleb
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Wagoner

What exactly do you want the man who drove the truck to be held accountable for? What’s “fair” to you?

jim
jim
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Wagoner

You don’t honestly believe that this was the drivers fault do you?

ScottB
ScottB
9 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Wagoner

Criminally responsible is not the same as civily responsible. The driver can still be sued in civil court.

are
9 years ago
Reply to  ScottB

if the available evidence is what is recited in the prosecutor’s memo, a civil case would be very difficult to make. which is not to say that the trucking company might not pay in settlement what they might otherwise have had to pay in lawyer’s fees.

Opus the Poet
9 years ago

The problem here is not “could the driver see the cyclist” or even “should the driver see the cyclist” when it should be “did the driver yield to the cyclist in the bike lane”. That should be the standard right there, with no excuses for not being able to see out of the vehicle. If you can’t see a cyclist, then you’re driving a vehicle with defective equipment. If you can only see a cyclist in a small area at a certain time then you can’t see the cyclist and you have a vehicle with defective equipment. Then you can give drivers a choice in what rope to be hanged with (metaphor, drivers don’t deserve to be hanged fir hitting a cyclist), driving with defective equipment, or failing to yield to a cyclist in a bike lane. Make the defective equipment carry a large fine for the owner as well as for the driver.

9watts
9watts
9 years ago
Reply to  Opus the Poet

You make a lot of sense, Opus.

Judy
Judy
9 years ago
Reply to  Opus the Poet

Actually I don’t think Opus makes sense. Putting a bike lane to the right of a turning lane is poor infrastructure design. Every cyclist should expect right turning vehicles at any intersection where right turns exist and, they should not be riding through the intersection in a “bike Lane” that is to the right. They should be to the left of any possible right turning vehicle or in the center of the lane as any motorist going straight would be.

wsbob
wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  Judy

Oregon’s law keeping motor vehicles out of bike lanes work fine for cyclists…that know how to use them. Approaching an intersection in the bike lane, it’s possible for people on bikes to position themselves relative to motor vehicles in the adjoining main travel lane, so as to preclude right hooks. That technique and other bike in traffic skills are good reasons Oregonians should consider putting together a bike specific knowledge skills-road test program.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

Be it known to all and sundry that wsbob and I agree on this point, as worded by wsbob here.

I think bob describes nicely the “give and take” necessary when negotiating with drivers in adjacent lanes. Fore/aft positioning of one’s bike relative to adjacent cars is a key component of avoiding right hooks in everyday bike lane usage. It is part of the larger concept of staying out of blind spots. There is no need to take away the relative freedom cyclists have to pass traffic jams in bike lanes, as long as that freedom can be exercised responsibly.

How to operate “responsibly” (in a self-preserving sense, not a legal sense) is not something all cyclists know how to do. A “program” (not a mandatory licensing scheme) for educating cyclists would be a great thing. There are several available, from “Safe Routes to Schools” for kids, to “Commuting workshops” put on by local bike shops, all the way up to LAB courses that teach advanced traffic negotiation skills. I’m mostly an autodidact when it comes to street skills. My own experience as a cyclist and a driver, my reading of laws and other material, and my ability to put 2 & 2 together have resulted in my not crashing a bike since I was 11 years old–despite years of (fast) riding and commuting both in and out of “traffic”–so I can attest that that method works, as well.

It would go a long way toward educating cyclists if there were a way to raise awareness of cycling educational opportunities. I think hitting it in schools–when kids are young and their interest in getting around by themselves is high–is a great idea. Even putting up billboards or small signs along bikeways to remind cyclists of safe operating principles could be helpful. I see the signs on the freeway that say “Click it or Ticket” to remind motorists to wear seat belts, or the truck-passing instructional signs that show a car passing a truck and have a little dotted line that shows how far past the truck you should be before you move back over. Things like that could serve to educate cyclists and motorists, if done properly.

spare_wheel
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

a statement that illustrates your lack of experience with heavy urban traffic. during commuting hours its often impossible to thread a wall of vehicles to “position [oneself] relative to motor vehicles in the adjoining main travel lane.”

wsbob
wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  spare_wheel

Instead of working on a rude and obnoxious assumption about my experience in heavy urban traffic, which you know very little about, you would have been more productive by working to clarify before posting, your statement: “… during commuting hours its often impossible to thread a wall of vehicles to “position [oneself] relative to motor vehicles in the adjoining main travel lane.”

Threading? Not sure what that has to do with riding in a bike lane, that’s located alongside a main travel lane with heavy urban traffic. Why you find it often impossible during commuting hours for a person on a bike in the bike lane to position themselves relative to motor vehicles in the adjoining main travel lane so as to preclude right hooks, isn’t explained in your comment.

staborrez
staborrez
9 years ago
Reply to  Opus the Poet

All motor vechicles have blind spots. Even bikes with mirrors have blind spots. If anything most commerical trucks at least warn the people traveling behind them of thier blind spots, most have stickers on the trailers describing the blind spots and often also have stickers that show them verying left for right turns or even right turns from the left lanes.

Unfortunately this will always be a problem down town, even with the best of civil designs and such.

Shifting the delevery loads to smaller vechicles isn’t necessarily a good option either. Yes trucks are dangerous, but for each semi that must unload (probably on the east side) and reload into say 5 or 6 panel vans. You’ll do nothing but increase the amount of motor vehicle traffic. And as pointed out in an earlier post, vans have blind spots too. So by taking the semi’s off the streets you’re actually increasing the odds of this accident happening in the future bu number one increasing the amount of traffic in the downtown area, and number two increasing the amount of traffic with bigger than average blind spots.

This is clearly a sad event. But I would have to reluctantly blame the cycleists on the accident. Reguardless of law or design, common sense must the one thing that guides your actions when biking on shared spaces. And common sense dictates that you don’t pass on the right where right hand turns are permited.

As I teach my kids as they ride on the streets, and I say it so much that they groan when I tell them and have it repeat it too me.

“Cars always win”…..

jim
jim
9 years ago
Reply to  Opus the Poet

You also can’t see someone when they are in front of a steam roller, they might get flattened, they probably shouldn’t have been there though. Your argument is weak as in when the driver begins his turn there is no one in his mirror, the bike entered the blind spot after he began his turn, not his fault.

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Opus the Poet

Right on, Opus! It’s basic and I wish PBOT and BTA would put billboards or something all over the place: “Yield to the Bike Lane.” No ifs ands or buts.
I don’t know how these people are getting their ODL without knowing that essential law.

Judy
Judy
9 years ago

It makes no sense to me to be in a bike lane at an intersection. In California the bike lane becomes dashed at the intersection so the cyclist may leave it and control the lane corresponding to the direction that the cyclist will travel through to. It makes no sense to be traveling to the right of turning vehicles. I don’t know how they can be expected to see. I think there is also a blind spot there. Motorists are not supposed to turn right from a left turn lane. Motorists merge right.. close to the curb to make a right turn and cyclists should be merging left to go straight through… controlling the through lane and passing any turning vehicles to the left. I don’t consider Portland bike infrastructure to be “Bike Friendly” if this is what is expected cycling behaviour. This is not how cyclists are instructed to drive their bikes here.

Jake
Jake
9 years ago

I got right-hooked in this same intersection a couple years ago–luckily I walked away with a pair of bloody elbows. A woman I work with was also right-hooked there a few months prior. The person who hit me was an avid cyclist who was in the practice of looking out for bikes. Sticking a bike lane where cars are turning right is terrible infrastructure, period. If you’re going to use the bike lane in those situations, please be defensive. It’s a poor design choice.

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
9 years ago

Hey, don’t take away my bike lane on Madison just because some riders don’t look for right hooks! I use that thing! Hell, I ride down Hall Blvd in Beaverton on my daily commute, and Madison is NOTHING in comparison to the Hall/Greenway disaster. (And yes, on Madison I watch the adjacent cars like a hawk and often SLOW DOWN at 3rd if I think there’s a chance of a right hook).

The reason removing the bike lane approaching 3rd would mess things up is that when you’re coming down Madison at 5-6pm, car traffic is REALLY CONGESTED. The last thing I want to do is merge with that stupid car traffic and wait half a dozen extra stoplight cycles to get through that 2 block stretch. One of the things I love about biking — and one of the things that helps level the playing field — is that I get to bypass the cager backups. C’mon people, don’t force us back to the 80s.

If you remove the bike lane, unless you make it physically impossible to do so cyclists are still going to pass on the right. And if you do make it physically impossible to pass on the right, cyclists are going to hop up on the sidewalk — either on foot or (illegally) on wheels — to get around the car backup. Which will be an even worse mess, and will probably be more dangerous.

Judy
Judy
9 years ago
Reply to  GlowBoy

So, people should get killed so you can go fast? And the motorists should be responsible? And you think that they should watch out for you but not the other way around? The way it’s done in other parts of the country is that you have bike lanes.. but, they become dashed well before intersections where you would merge with motorvehicles. You may have to slow down a little… if there was traffic to get through the intersection and then merge back into the bike lane.. If a cyclists decides to pass on the right.. then it would be their fault if they get killed.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
9 years ago
Reply to  Judy

Hey, LOTS of people get killed so drivers can go fast–to the tune of about 30,000 every year. Why all of the sudden is “people not getting killed” some kind of standard? Pedestrians get run over in crosswalks all the time; should we make crosswalks dashed so that drivers can turn while people are crossing?

Here’s another question to answer for the “just merge into the through lane” solution: downtown is one thing, if everyone is going 15mph, but have you ever tried to merge into 45mph traffic on, say, Beaverton’s Murray Blvd? I’ve been nearly right-hooked along that road numerous times. Even “merging” into 15-20mph traffic on some downtown streets is nearly impossible when drivers are running bumper-to-bumper and not about to let someone going slower than they are into “their” lane.

Ian Brett Cooper
9 years ago
Reply to  El Biciclero

Actually it’s a million every year. 30,000 is only counting the US. There’s a whole world out there where people are getting killed by motorists.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
9 years ago

Right. Should have specified “…in the U.S.”

jim
jim
9 years ago
Reply to  GlowBoy

It sounds like you are putting your speed factor ahead of everybody’s safety.

Mike
Mike
9 years ago

In my 17 years of bicycle commuting one thing I learned from the get-go is never….never pass cars on the right no matter what. I use to say, “yeah but it’s their fault, it’s the motorists fault!” Now with 39 years under my belt I’m a little more reserved, now it’s, “yeah but a lot of good their fault does when your dead.”

007
007
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Well, with 20 years “under my belt” in Portland, 20 elsewhere, and at the age of 55, I say, move over and get out of my way because I pass cars on the right and cyclists on the left.

John Schubert
9 years ago

People often accuse me of blaming the victim, but not this time. I differ with Kristen on this. I blame the city government and the infrastructure. How many times have we seen promises that green bike lanes “raise awareness” and “provide a place for cyclists to feel secure” and “tell others where to expect cyclists?” The victim believed these overpromises.
I’m stunned by the notion that a city should insist on having fewer trucks, or smaller trucks, making deliveries. That ain’t gonna happen. Get realistic.
Nor does it make anyone safer to make truck driving an ever-more-complex job. Spend a couple hours in the cab of a truck maneuvering in the city. It’s hard work that demands immense concentration. Adding more things to look at, to divide the driver’s attention in multiple ways, just guarantees more collisions.
Note to Judy: the dashed bike lane at intersections has problems. Such a bike lane killed Alice Swanson in Washington, DC. How was Alice to know that the dashing meant, “You have to leave this bike lane to avoid getting killed?” She didn’t know.
Every bicyclist can be 100 percent safe from these collisions by being aware. People reading these blogs know this, but Rickson didn’t get the memo. Why? Rickson got the green paint memo instead, and the green paint memo filled up the ‘bicycle safety’ part of her brain’s in-box. This has happened enough times, in enough places, that there should be no doubt about this facility design.
John Schubert
Limeport.org

ScottB
ScottB
9 years ago
Reply to  John Schubert

John,
Prove it. Show us where, anywhere, the City promised green bike lanes were anything more than highlighted locations where conflicts might occur.

spare_wheel
9 years ago
Reply to  John Schubert

“Every bicyclist can be 100 percent safe from these collisions by being aware.”

Considering that quite a few bike fatalities are caused by drunk drivers your statement is very insensitive.

Kristi Finney-Dunn
9 years ago
Reply to  spare_wheel

RIP Dustin Finney.

krissie
9 years ago

A cyclist in Cleveland was killed by a semi-truck’s right-hook. That driver was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison. Look up Sylvia Bingham’s case.

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago

There are basic rules for vehicular movement which are the foundation (or should be, at least) for our traffic laws. One of those very basic rules is that we pass on the left, not the right, and certainly not on the right in a location where other vehicles could be turning right.

Question for everyone here:
Let’s say you are biking along and you overtake another bicyclist on the right as you approach an intersection. That cyclist makes a right turn without signaling or scanning back and the two of you collide. Who’s at fault? Both of you are, but who is at greater fault? The cyclist who didn’t signal or the one who passed on the right? Signaling is a courtesy, especially if turning right, because conventional rules dictate that the following driver yields to the one in front no matter what. Passing on the right on the other hand is a violation of the basic principles of vehicular movement. (And if the following cyclist was not wearing a helmet and hit his/her head hard enough to be killed or disabled, would we be calling for the other cyclist’s head on a platter, or just saying, “Hey, it was just an accident.”?)

A key principle of safety in any realm is to REMOVE points of failure. A bike lane which encourages cyclists to pass to the right of vehicles whose drivers are permitted to turn right is a point of failure that has been ADDED to the roadway.

resopmok
resopmok
9 years ago

Probably the simplest, cheapest and most effective “solution” would be to make the trailer guards (mentioned earlier in this thread) mandatory for all trailer trucks operating in the downtown core. This way companies who will be effected can focus their money on the portion of their fleet that services downtown. This way, we won’t be adding crazy new rules, costing the public or anyone huge sums of money, and using a device known and proven to be effective at its stated goal. In this case, Rickson probably would’ve hit the guard at a high rate of speed and sustained injuries, but she wouldn’t have been crushed under the truck’s wheels.

So much passion here focused on blaming this person or that person and looking for/finding fault where it doesn’t really exist. It’s that “affect heuristic” coming to rear its ugly head again.

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago
Reply to  resopmok

Isn’t it better to avoid the collision in the first place?

Chris I
Chris I
9 years ago
Reply to  Mighk Wilson

Are they mutually exclusive?

jim
jim
9 years ago
Reply to  resopmok

trailer guards are not to keep bikes out of the tires, they are for improving mpg

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago

Let me make it clear: I do NOT blame the cyclist for her death, because her community and the infrastructure repeatedly told her it was okay to violate a basic principle of vehicular movement. The community created the problem, so the community needs to solve it.

Paul Tay
Paul Tay
9 years ago

Mashable quotes:
J. Maus: “it’s a larger context issue about road design, traffic law, traffic culture, social norms, vehicle codes, and so on.”

J. Schubert: “Every bicyclist can be 100 percent safe from these collisions by being aware. People reading these blogs know this, but Rickson didn’t get the memo. Why? Rickson got the green paint memo instead, and the green paint memo filled up the ‘bicycle safety’ part of her brain’s in-box. This has happened enough times, in enough places, that there should be no doubt about this facility design.”

M. Wilson: “I do NOT blame the cyclist for her death, because her community and the infrastructure repeatedly told her it was okay to violate a basic principle of vehicular movement. The community created the problem, so the community needs to solve it.”

PDX new cycling tagline: “We don’t really have a clue either.” 🙂

Joe
Joe
9 years ago

Its always not as eazy at it sounds, huge trucks and smaller objects don’t go well together, today near Jefferson traffic circle nightmare watched as large truck needed to go down this small street. even going up the curb to make the turn. * BTW he was coming up on me fast * we need to get cars/trucks to slow down!

Red Hippie
Red Hippie
9 years ago

Great reporting Jonathan,

Tough issue to draw a conclusion from. As long as you have bikes and cars/trucks sharing the same roads you are going to have these issues unless there are some major changes. Look at motorcycles which have been required by Law to have day time running lights for over thirty years. This is so that they can be seen. Same applies for a bicycle. Think about what it must be like as a driver to look to your right and see a cyclist 150′ behind in a chaotic scene? Think Light/no light.

There is also a diver/cyclist education component here. There is a system of education for drivers that can be reinforced through continual training and the insurance industry. For cyclist the only available training is informal.

So how do we minimize these issues? There are two tracks I see. Separate the traffic with separate bike infrastructure, or have more requirements in terms of both licensure/training and equipment (lights) for cyclists. Neither are popular or practical for various economic and societal reasons, but until we as a society are willing to go there, then occasional deaths such as this or by the Crystal must be considered acceptable loss rates. Tough to fathom life in these terms, but we do it every day in other forms of social policy (health, recalls, etc.).

Gravity Fed
Gravity Fed
9 years ago

This has to be one of the most difficult bicycle fatality stories Ive ever followed. As I read and re-read the facts presented and the comments here while considering my own perspective(s) Im left with only increased anxiety.

As a driver of trucks and fast cars with zero accidents in 33 years, a motorcyclist, and a 2500-mile a year streets of Portland cyclist Im having a very tough time deciding what is really right and who or what is to blame. Not that I need to blame but how do I make sense of this very sad tragedy in a way that might increase my safety as a cyclist? Moreover I struggle to understand how to operate a motor vehicle safely in such a chaotic complex environment of poorly understood often conflicting laws and rules. Mixed with this are the often unpredictable humans behind the wheels and handlebars.

I love Portland. And the cycling scene is a huge part of why I moved here 14 years ago. But this place makes me as a skilled driver and very experienced two-wheel operator very uncertain as to what is right, legal and non-life threatening. Ive pedaled the streets of DC, NYC, Taipei, Den Hague, and many more. Somehow many of these places seemed safer. Even in the places where cyclists had no rights or protection. At least you know you have none. But here in Portland, for example, the complexity of traffic laws and rules coupled with the uncertainty of all participants is what is getting people killed.

I agree with Mr. Maus: “I think it’s a larger context issue about road design, traffic law, traffic culture, social norms, vehicle codes, and so on.”

The problem here is much larger than most of the commenters here have acknowledged. I can only hope that no one ever ends up the driver or the cyclist in this story. But at this stage I don’t know how to confidently avoid either.

jim
jim
9 years ago
Reply to  Gravity Fed

Portlands planners have created a false sense of security for cyclists that results in them being road kill just as they were pedaling along peacefully in their own special (but unknowingly dangerous) bike lane. The answer is to undo what the pbot has given us and redesign these intersections so they are safe. It won’t happen overnight in spite of people getting hurt or killed. The Broadway intersection at I-5 took many years to get corrected in spite of repeated bike accidents there. Cyclists need make safety a higher priority than speed, this needs to be reaffirmed to the pbot.

spare_wheel
9 years ago
Reply to  jim

word.

Jake
Jake
9 years ago

Trailer guards wouldn’t have done any good; she was under the front fender of the tractor. I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing crash reports and I work in bike/ped transportation planning and design. The right call was made here, and it should force folks to reflect on whether the infrastructure we have is properly designed (no, it isn’t). I always give the bike/ped the benefit of the doubt BTW.

Put yourself in that similar situation; you are in a car or even on your bike you wait for a ped and slowly start your right turn and a cyclist overtakes you on your right. Heck, we even have amongst us a perjorative term for this (shoaling) and yet when our infrastructure encourages or instructs people to do just that to a motor vehicle, or worse a large commercial vehicle, we place the blame almost universally on the driver. Driving a truck requires that you are looking at multiple locations almost at once and contending with blind spots. Schubert’s summation is on the spot.

Dave
9 years ago

Just to mention, in the Netherlands, when there are separated bicycle facilities to the right of auto traffic, they are typically grade-separated, on the same grade as the sidewalk, and the sidewalk and cycle facility remain grade-separated through intersections, so that a right-turning car has to essentially go over a speed bump to turn onto another street.

This has the effect of both slowing the car down, and putting a big thing in the intersection that says to the person driving “hey, this is not your right of way, it’s someone else’s.”

There is also never on-street parking blocking the driver’s view of the sidewalk/bicycle facility, so between that and the cyclists being 8 inches higher up, they have a clear view.

To me, that seems like a pretty reasonable way of doing things, on high-traffic streets that would potentially call for separation.

I agree that much of the bicycle ‘infrastructure’ (which is almost all paint) that we currently create has a tendency to put people on bicycles in precarious situations.

Also, SW Madison from 5th down to the Hawthorne Bridge is one of the most confusing, messy stretches of road in all of inner Portland, auto traffic and bus traffic both changing lanes OVER the bike lane, it’s really crazy.

brownstone2
brownstone2
9 years ago
Reply to  Dave

That is not grade separated. A curb height change is a useful distinction, but even an 8 inch climb is not grade separation.
Grade Separated means ‘total’ separation of the two traffic pavements – one over or under the other – so there absolutely no crossing conflict between the users. Think interstate flyovers, or exit ramps leading to overpasses. That sort of thing.
City streets almost all have on-grade crossings where conflicting users are separated by time to create horizontal space and not by vertical space.
Most of the European bike facilities (most by miles) have on-grade crossings, but usually these are better managed, by pavement shape, color, markings, signs and signals, to minimize two objects trying to be in the same place at the same time. Although more limited in mileage, there are fully grade separated bicycle facilities that carry significant bike traffic – bicycle freeways. Here in the US, there are a few purpose built fully grade separated bike paths, and quite a few miles of Rails-To-Trials where grade separated rail ROW has been recycled into bike paths – first the trains had no conflicts and now it’s bikes.

This crash appears to have been avoidable if the cyclist had refused to try overtaking a moving truck that was just entering an intersection. At that position, it’s impossible for a cyclist or pedestrian on the right to be sure if the truck is about to turn or go straight. This is no place for guessing games, stop and wait to move behind the truck. Only issue here is that the vehicle following the truck has to be willing to allow the cyclist to move into the motor lane in front of them. Not all drivers can deal with this.

Woodstock_Cyclist
Woodstock_Cyclist
9 years ago

I am trying to conclude an argument with an acquaintance. Does anyone know whether Kathryn Rickson had a drivers license? This person contends that if she had, she would have known not to pass the truck on the right. I contend that it doesn’t really matter, but that she probably had a license anyway, so the real problems have more to do with design, signage, and so on. Thanks.

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago

I’d say the license is irrelevant. In the Orlando area we’re in the midst of a big pedestrian safety campaign. Lots of motorists are exclaiming “I didn’t know…” when it comes to crosswalk laws. I imagine most of them have valid driver’s licenses. A license is not an education.

are
9 years ago

ask your acquaintance whether she knows what is the law in oregon with respect to a motorist making a right turn across a striped bike lane. does your acquaintance have a license? everyone “knows” not to pass on the right, regardless whether she has a license. at least everyone who thinks through the possible scenarios. but the statutes in oregon make an unfortunate exception in this case, misleading people who have not thought it through.

John Schubert
9 years ago

Sigh. Right on cue….
Another fatal right-hook, this one in Montreal.
Whether you call it a bike lane, a cycle track, a sidepath, or whatever….. the behavior isn’t safe.
The people behind these designs have a lot of answering to do.
John Schubert
Limeport.org
ttp://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Lachine+attempts+make+intersection+safer+after+cyclist/7298441/story.html

ScottB
ScottB
9 years ago
Reply to  John Schubert

And the people who use the transportation systems without thinking also need to be accountable. No one want’s to pay for perfectly safe roads. Instead of complaining, why not propose a solution.

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago
Reply to  ScottB

John (and I, and others) HAVE proposed a solution: good training for cyclists.

brownstone2
brownstone2
9 years ago
Reply to  John Schubert

John,
Being able to move out into the motor lane, to pass on the left or to follow the truck until it has turned or gone straight through the intersection is not such an easy or obvious choice.
This cyclist was estimated to be traveling “fast” at 12 MPH.
Typically, that is “very slow” for motor vehicles in a 30 MPH speed limit area.
“Taking A Lane” between motor vehicles moving at 20 MPH when you are comfortable at 12 MPH requires a pair of brass balls, because you either force the 2nd vehicle to slow down, or hope they do, or those balls have a shot of adrenaline so the cyclist can accelerate up to 20, and then be prepared to brake hard if the front vehicle suddenly slows to make a turn.
One just does not know what the driver ahead will be doing, till they do it.

Passing the truck on the left – sure, if you are sure it really is turning right. If it’s not, it could just as easily suddenly turn left, into the lane you are in.

Sorry, it’s not really the roadway engineering, and certainly not the right hand bike lane that is the problem. It’s basic cyclist education about how to behave around 50 foot long trucks and buses, especially when they are already moving. It’s also basic driver education about to signal, look and turn big rigs, though this driver appears to have pretty much done it right.

Some truck drivers insist on high speed turns from two lanes out. John, there is no way that a cyclist seeing a truck moving smoothly at high speed two lanes over would predict that that truck will be making a 20 MPH right turn; particularly if the truck is moving fast enough to overtake the cyclist at the intersection.

Again, this does not appear to be the case in this crash, but it’s the cause of many NYC bike and ped fatalities. It may be a right hook, but not the one that happened here.
On-grade intersections are conflicts, by definition. Everyone has to learn the choreography and they can dance safely together. Or else….

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago
Reply to  brownstone2

Oh please, it doesn’t take “brass balls” to make a lane change. We have 65 year-old women graduates of CyclingSavvy who used to be sidewalk riders who’ll tell you you’re full of it. It’s just a matter of being observant and communicating effectively.

A 20 mph overtaking speed means the driver needs less than 150 feet to slow to the cyclist’s speed. One changes lanes only when there is enough room to not cause the need for extreme action on the part of the driver in the new lane. And this is true whether the lane-changer is a bicyclist or a motorist.

are
9 years ago
Reply to  brownstone2

people were not moving twenty at the time this happened. everyone was stopped waiting for the truck to execute its turn.

esther c
esther c
9 years ago

My mantra when I ride is “you may have the right of way. You don’t have a force field.”

Zipping down the bike lane at 15 or 20mph past traffic going at a crawl may be legal but it’s essential to be sure they all know you’re there before you cross an intersection.

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago
Reply to  esther c

That’s a misunderstanding of what “right-of-way” is. No-one “has the right-of-way.” Right-of-way laws are written to determine which party is required to Yield right-of-way to which other parties. The driver behind yields to the driver in front. The driver changing lanes yields to the driver in the new lane. Drivers yield to pedestrians who are lawfully in a crosswalk. Etc.

lil'stink
lil'stink
9 years ago

I don’t get all the “pass on the left, not the right” comments. Madison is a one way street, as are almost all the streets that intersect it. Passing on the left doesn’t work too well if it forces the cyclist into traffic.

There is no easy answer for this problem. Just be safe and keep your head on a swivel. I prefer to ride in traffic on Madison, as it is easy to maintain pace. If I do pass on the right, I always assume that the car(s) in front of me are going to do something stupid and unexpected, a “basic rule” if you will.

Perhaps bicycle safety classes would be helpful. If I had to guess the majority of cyclists in this town couldn’t do an emregency manuever or hop a curb if their life (unfortunately) depended on it.

Mighk Wilson
Mighk Wilson
9 years ago
Reply to  lil'stink

Passing does not “force” you into traffic. Passing is a choice you make. You do it in the same way other drivers do: check behind, wait for an adequate gap, signal, get cooperation from the driver in the new lane if necessary, then change lanes if it’s feasible. I pass on one-way streets all the time.

Alan 1.0
Alan 1.0
9 years ago
Reply to  lil'stink

bunnyhop: the Godwin of transportation biking threads

GlowBoy
GlowBoy
9 years ago

“So, people should get killed so you can go fast?”- Judy
No. People are getting killed because sometimes drivers and/or cyclists (depending on the situation) fail to pay attention and exercise due care and common sense. The nanny state can’t make everything idiot-proof for you.

“You may have to slow down a little… ”
Have you ever been on SW Madison during evening rush hour? Having to merge with traffic wouldn’t make you “slow down a little”. It would make you STOP. And stay stopped for quite some time. As I mentioned above, it would create a crazy and dangerous mess with cyclists taking to the sidewalks to get around the backup.

And I also made QUITE clear above that I DO slow down a little on Madison as I approach 3rd, sometimes a lot, and often making eye contact with driver(s), all depending on the placement and movement of cars to my left. I recognize that cars should yield to me if they’re turning, but I also recognize that many do not. This is a basic Defensive Driving concept (which might resonate better if Oregon were a state that actually required Drivers Ed and more people were actually trained in it).

Funny now we’ve suddenly got a bunch of folks saying you should never, EVER pass anyone on the right. Really? I’m not buying into this new axiom that passing on the right violates some sacred natural law of vehicular movement. Didn’t the BTA successfully lobby just a few years ago to LEGALIZE bikes passing on the right when there is no bike lane? Because cyclists were doing it anyway? Don’t you pass MAX trains on the right when you bike or ride on SW Morrison or Yamhill? Don’t cars pass each other on the right on the freeways and on multilane arterials without everybody getting killed? Don’t drivers pass on the right when they’re passing a left-turning vehicle that’s waiting for oncoming traffic? There are lots of legitimate examples of passing on the right in the real world.

Judy
Judy
9 years ago
Reply to  GlowBoy

Yes, when there are continuos lines of traffic cars pass each other on the right.. but, cars don’t cross the right lane and make a right turn from the left lane, they merge right and turn from the right lane, the cars behind them either wait for the turn or merge left to pass them on the left. No matter how slow you have to go, at the intersection you shouldn’t be passing through the intersection in a bike lane, or to the right of traffic that may turn right into you. You are also making the traffic worse..by disallowing the right turns from occuring. If you pass to the left, the motorists can complete their turns and you can move along more quickly and safely. They can legalize supidity too, but we are not sheep that have to follow what is obviously not going to keep us alive..

Josh
Josh
9 years ago

GlowBoy
The reason removing the bike lane approaching 3rd would mess things up is that when you’re coming down Madison at 5-6pm, car traffic is REALLY CONGESTED. The last thing I want to do is merge with that stupid car traffic and wait half a dozen extra stoplight cycles to get through that 2 block stretch. ….
If you remove the bike lane, unless you make it physically impossible to do so cyclists are still going to pass on the right.

But will they pass on the right with the naive expectation that all right-turning motorists will see and yield to small, rapidly-overtaking, hard-to-see cyclists to their right?

Or will they pass more cautiously on the right, warily watching each vehicle they pass?

That’s the approach Seattle uses — bicycles may legally pass other vehicles on the right, within the same lane, when it is safe to do so. That puts the burden on the cyclist to determine it is safe to pass on the right.

This does not encourage as many beginner cyclists as having a bike lane that continues to an intersection, that’s clear. But it also doesn’t encourage as many beginner cyclists to ride the suicide slot.

Disgruntled
Disgruntled
9 years ago

I did some calculations and came up with the fact that the driver had 3-8 seconds of visibility of the bicyclists in the lane assuming she went to the bike lane shortly after it started. That is sufficient time to check to ensure that there are no bicyclists. I think the driver swerved left against better judgement and caught a cyclist unaware. He may have been going slow but not that slow. He might have not been able to see her because of his dangerous move to the left which could have confused the bicyclist.

Somehow drivers think that turning a turn signal gives them the right of way, or that because the are bigger they can do so. I don’t argue with trucks when they do this stuff but I sure do notice it. When confronted most truck drivers look like they had no idea what they could have done wrong. I suspect most shouldn’t be driving because of lack of knowledge and skills, just based on my interactions with large trucks.

As for this situation, it may not have been negligence but it sure comes close to it. The only solution I see is not using the bike lanes at these types of corners when you see large vehicles around. Use the lane even if it slows others down. If you are going to use the bike lane, be aware that there are always drivers who don’t look or ignore you, and be prepared. The city also needs to look at intersections like this and either extend the bike lane back so everyone has a good chance of seeing the bicyclist or eliminate right turns.

I am not in favor of the California style of merge through the bike lane. The merge part is where the cars and bicycles interact and most cars don’t know how to merge. This happens a lot at 14th and Everett where the standard is to use the bike lane and parking strip as the turn lane. A nice, but now scratched, BMW did that do me, luckily only pushing me off the road and dinging his car on my exposed metal handlebar part.

spare_wheel
9 years ago
Reply to  Disgruntled

sorry but preventing fatalities is more important than catering to the aesthetic wishes of separated infrastructure proponents. imo all bike lanes should end or cross-over before any intersection that allows vehicle right turns (without a signal). how many more people have to die from right hooks before we admit that our infrastructure encourages cyclists to take huge risks?

wsbob
wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  Disgruntled

“…I did some calculations and came up with the fact that the driver had 3-8 seconds of visibility of the bicyclists in the lane assuming she went to the bike lane shortly after it started. That is sufficient time to check to ensure that there are no bicyclists. …” Disgruntled

Within that 3-8 second period of time, the driver of the truck had other areas outside the truck to be looking, in addition to down the side of his truck by way of his mirrors. That responsibility likely wouldn’t have allowed the 3-8 seconds to be spent entirely on looking in the mirrors for a view down the side of the truck for people on bikes in the bike lane, advancing past his truck. As noted in the DA’s memo, once the truck started into the turn radius, image of the view down the side of the truck would have turned away from the bike lane.

People riding in the bike lane are not obliged, to pass a truck that has slowed down in the main travel lane, at an intersection and may be preparing to make a right hand turn. Driver’s of motor vehicles have some responsibility, but not absolute responsibility, to watch for and take precautions to ensure the safety of vulnerable road users. Vulnerable road users also bear some responsibility for taking precautions to ensure their own safety. A state level, bike specific in traffic knowledge and skills initiative could possibly help them in that respect, preventing injuries and loss of life to vulnerable road users.

Ian Brett Cooper
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

“Driver’s of motor vehicles have some responsibility, but not absolute responsibility, to watch for and take precautions to ensure the safety of vulnerable road users.”

I think that’s a pretty cynical reinterpretation of the absolute responsibility all road users have to operate their vehicles safely.

Alan 1.0
Alan 1.0
9 years ago

SMIDSY. Carhead. First roadway design failed Ms. Rickson, then the legal system did.

Alan 1.0
Alan 1.0
9 years ago

I hope that society will look for a better solution to this problem than figuring out how to divvy up the tort settlements for innocent victims among consumers of freight services.

Alan 1.0
Alan 1.0
9 years ago
Reply to  Alan 1.0

sorry, duplicate, delete!