Crashes on Sam Jackson Park Road underscore ice dangers

Posted by on January 3rd, 2013 at 10:22 am

A Portland Fire & Rescue truck slid on ice
on Sam Jackson Park Road yesterday.
(Photo: PF&R)

A man crashed while bicycling downhill on SW Sam Jackson Park Road yesterday. Then, when Portland Fire & Rescue responded to the crash, their fire truck slid on the ice and smashed into a guard rail.

According to Portland Fire & Rescue, the crash happened during yesterday’s morning commute. When they arrived, the man who crashed his bike was up and walking around. Here’s more from PF&R about the conditions that led to the crashes:

“The ice was reportedly caused when the drainage along the side of the road became blocked with leaves. This caused water to flow over the roadway and subsequently the cold weather created ice.”

Sam Jackson Park Road is a narrow and windy road that leads directly up to the hospitals and campus buildings of Oregon Health & Science University. Anyone that’s ridden it knows the road is prone to getting wet from runoff in the heavily wooded areas around it. When temps drop, that water turns into ice.

A reader that emailed us yesterday about this crash feels people on bikes should avoid using this road both for ice and other reasons:

“… Cyclists really should avoid this road both up and downhill. Ambulances use it as the primary route to the emergency room and cars swing wide around the corners so a downhill cyclist runs a pretty high risk of getting struck head-on. I know I won’t be using this route any more myself.”

John Landolfe, the transportation options coordinator at OHSU, says they put out an alert to bike program members about the conditions on Sam Jackson. As a detour, he recommends using SW Terwilliger and the Aerial Tram. “Sam Jackson Park Road is just too steep, narrow, and shaded for two wheels in freezing temperatures,” says Landolfe.

Luckily, no one was seriously injured in the incidents yesterday; but they are an important reminder that chilly temps lead to slippery, icy roads and that you should avoid riding on Sam Jackson Park Road during freezing weather.

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Tony
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Tony

I has a crash at Mt. Tabor on Sunday afternoon, 4pm, sunny, 43 degrees… hit a BIG ice patch and went down pretty hard. Didn’t get hurt too bad, but watch out!

Tony
Guest
Tony

At the 69th St. Entrance… there is still ice there I think.

Justin
Guest

Stay safe! And remember, the tram is free on the downhill and connects to Moody Ave cycle track.

John Landolfe
Guest

Insider’s Detour to Terwilliger (from the top of campus): from the upper tram terminal, take the tram elevator to the bottom. Take the catwalk to the only door and enter the garage. Take the elevator directly in front of you to the bottom. Exit the garage. Bike left or, if its congested or icy, walk to Terwilliger’s bike lane (80ft).

You’ll clear 16 stories in 3 minutes. This is not unlike Super Mario’s commute to work via green pipes.

rain bike
Guest
rain bike

And the upper elevator works *most* of the time. If it’s not, just ride down Campus Drive. Watch the speed though. There are stop signs.

Ted Buehler
Guest

If you see a clogged storm drain, report it to PBOT’s maintenance hotline. either 823-SAFE or SAFE@portlandoregon.gov

Include specific location details — for standard streets give the address of the nearest building, otherwise give intersections or other landmarks.

I sent in a maintenance request for a clogged storm drain in the new cycletrack at 800 NE Multnomah. We’ll see how soon it gets cleared. (The drain packed with dirt, it’s been clogged for a looong time…)

Ted Buehler

Ned
Guest
Ned

If the clog is not causing a safety issue you can also report the problem using the contact information here: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/319801

Ted Buehler
Guest

Ned, thanks for the tip. I just called in a pesky dirt-clogged drain on Clay and MLK (Burger King side of Clay), we’ll see how the response time compares with the report on Multnomah.

From the city’s web page Ned cited —
“Given the City’s limited budget and staff and the size of the infrastructure, PBOT relies heavily on citizen involvement to help keep streets safe and catch basins clean and to notify the City if a higher level of maintenance is needed at a particular location. …notify the City that help is needed. Call 503-823-1700 and report the particular location. ”

Keep that hotline busy, folks…

Ted Buehler

Adam
Guest
Adam

I can’t comment on how quickly the City responds to clearing drains, but I can say, I called that hotline a while back to report a pothole I fell into on my bike, and it was paved the following week. It was fantastic!

Spiffy
Guest

cars swing wide around the corners so a downhill cyclist runs a pretty high risk of getting struck head-on

I call BS on this… if this were the case then we’d be seeing a lot of head-on collisions between cars… I think people are doing a fine job of staying in the lane…

Over and Doubt
Guest
Over and Doubt

Agreed. I ride down (never up!) Sam Jackson quite a lot during the dry season and have never encountered this.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

I have ridden down Sam Jackson year round for over a decade and have never felt threatened by a car swinging into my lane.

“Cyclists really should avoid this road both up and downhill.”

When temperatures are low and its icy, caution is required on any road. IMO, the Sam Jackson descent is the best part of my OHSU bike commute. Sometimes when its dry I even scream, “wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!”, as I descend.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Ride the fattest tires your road bike will fit in winter, and run them 20% under recommended pressure. Keeping 23c tires upright on ice is as impossible as keeping two infatuated teenagers from fucking.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

If the road is closed to cyclists for a safety issue then the tram should be made free to those with a bike as a mitigation, IMTO.

The emergency response to this incident also brings up an issue many US jurisdictions are struggling with:

should fire departments respond to all non-fire calls with fire equipment? (In Vancouver WA >70% (perhaps over 80%) of all calls are non fire related (traffic, injuries, etc.), as an example.)

Given the reported ice on the steep roadway and the outcome it seems a poor dispatch choice to send a large fire apparatus to such a call, even with its greater weight. This crash then rendered this area at a greater risk for fires with this unit damaged or delayed due to the crash. The replacement cost of such equipment is many times that of an EMS Fire SUV, etc.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Hey, there could have been zombies. Then where would they have been?

Mark
Guest
Mark

Todd Boulanger
If the road is closed to cyclists for a safety issue then the tram should be made free to those with a bike as a mitigation, IMTO.

The tram is free for downhill trips. Why you’d want to travel up Sam Jackson is beyond me.

Indy
Guest
Indy

Because there are hundreds of destinations besides the single one the tram takes you to.

Over and Doubt
Guest
Over and Doubt

Agreed, go up via Terwilliger instead. (Turn left at the gas station.) You get a bike lane and much longer lines of sight–which help when you’re climbing, when you have the most speed disparity with cars.

Kris
Guest
Kris

Cyclists really should avoid this road both up and downhill.

Have you seen that road? It’s beautiful. Unless there’s actual evidence of cyclists getting seriously injured or killed there more than other roads in the area, it would take a lot to make me avoid it.

Indy
Guest
Indy

Not to mention there is no pedestrian access down the hill to Terwilliger for much of OHSU.

Over and Doubt
Guest
Over and Doubt

Eh? There are sidewalks. I often ride them with my Xootr in the summer (always with speed under control, of course). But agreed, they’re not necessarily contiguous.

Over and Doubt
Guest
Over and Doubt

…on Campus Drive, that is.

Varner Seaman
Guest
Varner Seaman

Lots of icy areas around in this weather. I crashed in Washington park on the ice with hard as heck 23’s on Sunday. So I agree with the note above about running low pressure, fat tires.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Black ice got me once on a warm, sunny day in Beaverton. There was a cold wind vectoring around the building I was working in onto a small frozen patch on black asphalt underneath a large tree. Who knows what evil lurks in cold shadows…

Todd B., good point about fire equipment response. I’ve actually seen a ladder truck respond to a report of a heart attack. And a diesel, no less, which typically requires warming up before driving it hard.

Nick
Guest
Nick

In Vermont where I lived for 6 yrs, many of us ran studded bike tires (35-45mm) as standard winter issue. High pressure for dry days, lower pressure when the ice is lurking. Helps keep you upright and gives you a helluva workout.

KRhea
Guest
KRhea

Another danger spot all week so far and still this evening: Going up the SW Montgomery climb to Patton/Council Crest be very careful at Montgomery and SW Elm St, there’s a huge patch of thick ice on this curve from water draining into and across the street. If you’re coming down Montgomery you’re on it before you know it and going down hard is a very good likelihood. If you’re climbing up the hill it’s not as bad and you have time to see it and adjust.

joe kurmaskie
Guest

I went down on Sunday to some black ice in Sellwood. just scuffed knee and some gravel palms but it was a wake up call.

jim
Guest
jim

No studded tires on that firetruck?

Pete
Guest
Pete

Studded tires are overrated. At anything but the slowest speeds the coefficient of friction of metal studs is not as good as a winter rubber, and at the speeds that they’re effective they may as well use chains, especially with something at such high weight. Studs on a lightweight bicycle, on the other hand, can be pretty effective.

I lived for years at elevation in the gorge, switched from studs to Blizzaks, made a huge difference – highly recommended.

AlphaMonk
Guest
AlphaMonk

“Enough is enought! I have had it with these motherf___ing bikes on my motherf___ing road!!!” 🙂

AlphaMonk
Guest
AlphaMonk

Sorry – that’s the first thing that popped in my head when I read Sam Jackson road..

Adam
Guest
Adam

I feel torn on this matter. I hate the idea of telling bicyclists they can’t ride anywhere, because we pay road taxes just like everyone else, and should be entitled to travel on just about all roads, just like everyone else.

However, I also agree that there are better routes in this area to ride your bike on, that get you to exactly the same place. SW Terwilliger leads to OHSU, and is gorgeous, and has a great bikelane! There is also the aerial tram, which is free coming down.

However, the thing that made me the maddest while reading this article, is the fact there was a storm drain clogged up with leaves, which is what caused this crash in the first place. I am seeing far too many clogged drains lately. Is it really that hard for them to get a frickin’ street sweeper out there? An accident could have been avoided, not to mention risking the lives of the fire dept. Rant over.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Sam Jackson is way faster to get down from OHSU than Campus to Terwiliger. I take it a couple of times a week. And yes you need to be careful, but to say there is no reason to take it is silly.
It’s also faster uphill (though steeper it is a good bit shorter), though I usually take the tram as I”m coming from Hawthorne bridge anyway.

Pretty disappointing they didn’t even think about making an uphill bike lane on sam jackson when they redid the road last summer. But It is pretty narrow.

Over and Doubt
Guest
Over and Doubt

Way faster to get down? Maybe if you’re commuting outside of rush hours, and more reliably in summer and other breaks when students and faculty are less likely to be there. Otherwise, Sam Jackson is often a steep and ivy-trimmed parking lot. (So is Terwilliger, but its bike lane serves as a clear path…mostly.)

Pete
Guest
Pete

Where I live we’ve had a bunch of recent flooding because, despite the city’s army of vacuum trucks scouring the streets, my neighbors still come out nightly with leaf blowers and push their leaves into the gutters. We have large city-issued rolling ‘green’ barrels and city ordinance requires that lawn clippings and leaves are disposed in them and not pushed into public ways. Fortunately it doesn’t freeze here as often as there, but humans will be humans.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

a good route for a risk averse biker whose fears fast descents might be the tram.

a good route for a confident biker who appreciates natural beauty and a fast descent might be sam jackson park rd.

Joe
Guest
Joe

This rider I believe did not get up and walk around. He broke things.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

i’ve broken things multiple times and each time I got up and walked around.

crashing a bike is treated like its some sort of greek tragedy on bike portland. i can’t even remember who many times i have hit pavement/dirt.

Lazy Spinner
Guest
Lazy Spinner

When Jen Voight crashes, emergency services respond to treat the pavement.

Lazy Spinner
Guest
Lazy Spinner

JENS! I’m sorry. Please do not attack me, Jens!

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

This rider actually got up with endorphins/adrenalin cuz he ended up with multiple pelvis fractures, a torn AC joint, and a two and a half day hospital stay… 🙁 He had already ridden 5 miles around Fairmount and down the hill with NO ice along the way and this “major artery to the hospital” should have had salt or gravel at the least over this patch of ice which was only there because of a clogged drain…