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Riders discover woman driving car on I-205 Bridge bike path

Steven Basden calls police after talking with a woman who drove her
car up onto the bike path in the middle of the I-205 bridge.
(Photo: Paul Anderson)

On Sunday around 10:30 a.m., Half Fast Velo teammates Steven Basden and Paul Anderson were pedaling along on the Glenn Jackson Bridge/I-205 bike path when they made a suprising discovery: a woman in a car was headed right for them.

“She was panicked so I called 911.”
— Steven Basden

For those of you not familiar with the area, the Glenn Jackson Bridge connects Oregon to Washington across the Columbia River and there’s a biking and walking path that runs in the middle of the north and southbound freeway lanes.

Basden said at first the woman (who was driving a small Chevrolet sedan) started to pull over to let them pass, “But we made here stop.” Here’s more from Basden:

“… all of a sudden we see a car coming at us heading southbound around Government Island area. The woman, along with 2 kids in car… thought she could make it off on the South end until we explained construction had the lane restricted and told her about all she could do was reverse it all the way back up.”

Basden said the woman was “panicked” so he opted to call 911. He waited until a Portland Police Bureau officer arrived before continuing on his ride.

According to the Portland Police Bureau, the woman mistakenly drove onto the path from the Washington Side of the river. PPB Sgt. Pete Simpson says there was no damage and she was not given a citation. “Apparently she got confused… and got on the bike path.” To help get her off the path, several officers walked in front of her and she slowly made her way off on the Oregon side.

When asked why the woman wasn’t given a citation, Sgt. Simpson said, “Officers exercised discretion with someone who clearly made a mistake.”

I was curious how easy of a mistake this would be to make, and I’m not familiar with this area myself, so I spent some time on Google Maps. Thankfully, Google has taken their Streetview bike on this path. From what I can tell, she must have entered the path via SE 23rd Street (there’s a fence up that would have prevented her from accessing the path directly from Highway 14). The path itself is about 10-12 feet wide, which is the same width of many vehicle lanes in Portland. At the SE 23rd entrance, Basden said the metal bollard that is normally in the middle of the path had been removed (it’s also not there in the Streetview images).

Here are a few images to give you a sense of what the woman driving the sedan would have seen:

The entrance on SE 23rd looking from the path toward the street

And here’s an image sent to me by ODOT Transit and Active Transportation Liaison Jessica Horning that shows the entry to the path:

The path is surrounded by trees

Here’s the path alongside Hwy 14

Here’s the path as it begins its climb up to the freeway level

And here’s what it looks like where the woman eventually stopped and met with police

If the woman entered the path at SE 23rd as I expect, she would have traveled nearly two miles on the path before Steve Basden and Paul Anderson stopped her. Below is a map showing where she might entered and where she stopped…

Basden said he thinks the path could have better signage and adds that this isn’t first time this has happened to him. We’ve heard about it in the past as well. Back in 2007, we reported on a man who claimed a full-sized Nissan truck drove up onto the path as he rode home from work at night. The man on the bike claimed he was hit by the truck; but the PPB never pressed charges after the driver plead innocence.

Readers who sent me the story and our followers on Twitter have reacted with shock and surprise that the woman drove away without consequence.

“I can’t believe she wasn’t cited,” wrote reader Paul Deming. “Either she is lying or she is so cognitively impaired that she should have her license revoked. I wonder if I could get away with the same excuse if I got pulled over for biking on 205?”

Another reader, Bob McKibben, emailed us to say, “How can the police not cite the driver? How I ask you? That is nuts. She is a danger to all and should not be driving anything anywhere! Where she was is very hard to get too with a vehicle from either end. Unbelievable! The bicycle community needs to make a point here.”

But Eric Lanners shared via Twitter that he likes the PPB’s decision. “You don’t always need consequences to learn… glad to see portland [sic] police don’t just see there job as implementing consequences but teaching and learning.”

Others have pointed out the irony of the situation after a letter to the editor was printed in The Oregonian yesterday from a man angry at people who ride bikes on arterial streets. “And where are the police to at least educate these rude, inconsiderate people, or ticket them?” wrote Gary Gorowski from southeast Portland, “I say get these radicals off the arterials by ticketing them. And reduce the frustration for the people in cars.”

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