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Portland man seriously injured in collision on Highway 6 near Tillamook

Posted by on July 3rd, 2013 at 10:40 am

Aftermath of a collision on the Highway 6 yesterday.
(Photo: Oregon State Police)

The Oregon State Police are investigating a collision that happened yesterday afternoon on Highway 6 (Wilson River Highway) east of Tillamook. According to an OSP statement, 29-year old Portland resident Joel Westrom was riding westbound on the shoulder of the highway when he was struck from behind by Suzanne Flood, a 65-year old Milwaukie resident driving a Mini Cooper.

The OSP statement says Westrom, “reportedly moved into the car’s path” prior to the collision. Investigators believe Flood was driving 55 mph prior to the collision. Westrom has sustained serious injuries and was flown to OHSU. The police statement also says he was not wearing a helmet.

Skid marks (note the car and bike in the upper right).
(Photo: Oregon State Police)

I was disturbed by the “moved into car’s path” statement in the press release so I called OSP Public Information Officer Lt. Gregg Hastings. Hastings said the investigation is still ongoing, but roadway evidence (location of skidmarks in above photo for instance) and the statement of the driver have led to the initial hunch that Westrom might not have been riding on the right in the shoulder prior to impact. Another reason Hastings gave for this assumption is that a popular hiking trailhead (Kings Mountain) is very close to where the collision occurred. “The person might have pulled out and gone wide into the road, possibly crossing it, based on the roadway evidence,” he said.

Worth noting is that this highway is part of a coastal biking route recommended by the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation on their “Recreational Bicycling Rides” page. This collision occurred near milepost 25, which is close to Lee’s Camp Store and the Elk Creek Campground. According to the elevation chart supplied by PBOT, it also appears this was a downhill section of the road. The collision occurred at around 4:00 pm, so the sun would have been bright and glare could have also been a factor. Also worth noting is that the road has recently been repaved, so there is no lane striping to designate where the shoulder area begins.

So far, Hastings says, they have not interviewed Westrom to hear his side of the story. We’ll update this post when we know more.

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Tony
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Tony

Looks like the road narrows right there, perhaps the cyclist was moving tot he left to stay on the asphalt. Interesting that the skids seem to come from the left as well, like maybe the mini was attempting a pass and had to pull back over quickly? All speculation of course.

Too many injuries out there, I hope Joel makes a full recovery.

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

The lack of lane markings likely played a major role in this accident, but it’s still the responsibility of an approaching driver to accommodate forward road users and slow the F down. Also, the driver’s age.

The driver’s claim that the cyclist “swerved” into her lane is absolutely hogwash. Just look at the damn skidmarks that went to the right towards the shoulder! Can’t wait for a civil judgement to excoriate the driver for lying.

dan
Guest
dan

Once again we have an Oregon tourism organization promoting cycle tourism in unsafe areas, and then sitting on their hands and not getting involved / making a statement when cyclists following their recommendations are injured or killed. It disturbs me that they don’t feel they have any responsibility to at least make a statement in these types of cases.

BURR
Guest
BURR

what the previous two commenters said –

1. road narrows, requiring cyclist to move left to stay on pavement

2. skid marks indicate driver was veering right towards the shoulder

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

The TV news has already blamed the cyclist with the “swerved into the drivers path” comment and of course he wasn’t wearing a helmet which infers that he is irresponsible. Too many collisions!

BIKELEPTIC
Guest

I would like to take a poll of every driver that hits a cyclist and how many says “The cyclist swerved in front of me.” I would imagine that it would be pretty high. In fact, I imagine almost all cyclists swerve in front of drivers. You know, that’s what we do. Especially in shoulderless, back-forest roads where visibility is limited and people are known to drive over the speed limit.

Jeff P
Guest
Jeff P

i’m pretty sure this has been stated before but Washington County Sheriff’s Department has stated [when being interviewed for a rash of encounters on Hwy 26] when on roads in Oregon it is illegal to drive on the shoulder – they are for emergency use only. Bikes are seen as cars in this instance according to WashCo and so having OSP state that the bike was not on the shoulder means the bicyclist was following the law – they should not be able to hold that against him. Tragic none-the-less.

Ed
Guest
Ed

What others have said. It is a shoulder, not a bike lane and a rider has full use of the road way. There is often a lot of debris in the shoulder and you have to move over some times.

It is your responsibility as a vehicle operator not to rear end other vehicles.

Ed

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

This section of HWY 6 is pretty terrifying. I’m actually surprised that this is considered an acceptable route to the coast for cyclists. You would definitely need some balls to take the lane here, as the drivers are going 60+mph, but the shoulder is only about 1ft wide in some places, so options are not good…

It will be interested to see what the investigation yields. I would not assume from the skidmarks that the driver swerved and hit the cyclist. If the cyclist did in fact move to the left side of the westbound lane, the driver may have skidded and swerved to the right to avoid him. The location of the impact relative to the skidmarks is critical here.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Has OSP cited any actual evidence that the cyclist “reportedly moved into the car’s path”? We hear this claim over and over and over again when a cyclist is hit by a car on a rural Oregon highway. Usually it ends up being just the uncorroborated claim of the driver of the car that hit the bike.

By the way, I have ridden this exact stretch of road, to get from one mountain bike trailhead to another. There are places where there is a “shoulder” to the right of the white stripe, but it’s only a couple feet in places. In other places it is nonexistent and you pretty much have to pray that people will move over and give you enough room.

If I’m already riding down the edge of the lane, and then a car comes by, does that count as “moving into the car’s path?” Apparently OSP treats riding on Oregon’s shoulderless highways (which are far too numerous!) the same as riding on the sidewalk: technically legal, but if you get hit by a car they WILL assume it’s your fault.

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

A possible scenario was that the driver mistakenly thought her lane was more to the right and suddenly corrected herself into the cyclist when another vehicle approached from the opposite lane — or perhaps an approaching vehicle encroached on her lane. I could imagine this as the temporary lane dividers in the upper left of the picture are somewhat faint.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Sadly the OSP has released another seemly incomplete traffic incident statement without information from both viewpoints of the incident or independent neutral observation.

The survivors on scene of any traffic crash are those who’s statements are taken as the record of the incident …and since most pedestrians and cyclists are typically dead or have severe trauma (and are now away from the site); the motor vehicle’s driver’s statement sets the “official view” of the crash. One can only hope the cyclist (or pedestrian) is soon able to communicate their viewpoint and also that an independent eyewitness may exist to add detail where it is in doubt.

The photo of the MV skidmarks will make for some interesting crash reconstruction…depending on where the point of impact occurred.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Additionally this incident brings up the inadequacy of many work zone safety plans during road reconstruction or restriping…especially when it comes to corridors with high speeds, high volumes and or little room for vulnerable roadway users.

Adding temp centreline striping is good for two way MV traffic but what about the importance of the a marked fog line for multimodal traffic, famers with tractors and RVers, especially in curvy zones, west/ east sun glare zones, or for night time travel? I wonder if this was a signed work zone and if the posted speed had been lowered for improved traffic safety.

There is much many State DOTs can do to improve work zone planning for multimodal traffic. (NACTO help us! Give me a call)

JRB
Guest
JRB

I’ve done some work with OSP’s troopers who do crash reconstruction, and I think they have a lot of integrity and some serious investigative chops, think of the guys on “Mythbusters.” I wouldn’t be so quick to write this off as OSP taking the driver’s word for what happened as gospel. They do, however, need some physical evidence to work with and there may not be much in this case. It’s unfortunate, however, that the press release appears to speculate as to the cause when OSP itself says the investigation is not complete.

Sunny
Guest
Sunny

Checkered mirrors! Can only mean one thing.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

This is clearly a construction zone. Was the construction zone speed limit 55mph?

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

I wonder if the skid marks were measured to see how fast she was indeed going.

I also wonder as well that if the skid marks are from the rear tires as it may be that the driver slammed on them and tried to turn the vehicle and the back end swung around.

Regardless, it is the the person trailing behind to avoid what is in front of them.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

Oh, and best wishes for a full and speedy recovery, Joel!!

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Sadly the driver may be able to show no civil blame as well due to the lack of the outside white “fog line” and the police backing up the driver’s “innocence”.
As much as I want all drivers to be responsible for their actions and slow down I believe that ODOT specifically bears some serious responsibility for not installing the simple safety measure of white paint.

For the savings of a few dollars people must die.
This. Is. Wrong.

Dave
Guest
Dave

WEAR NEON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
USE A MIRROR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Try various mirrors until you find one that nails it for you. I have found the “Take a Look” eyeglass-mount units to be the best for my own use.
Remember, we share the road with subhuman, uncontrolled top of the foodchain predators. Ride and think accordingly.

SJE
Guest
SJE

Round here, the Mini is the sports car for those who want to keep their hipster cred. I see plenty of Mini’s driven fast.

Mike
Guest
Mike

As much as I dislike the mentality that the car is always at fault here I must admit I am sick and tired of the close calls I am having. I ride for fun/health more than I do for other reasons. I commute from time to time but when push comes to shove I would rather pack up the kids in the car vs a cargo bike. Having said that, I am amazed at the reaction I get when having these close calls. Just today I was riding down west towards the sellwood bridge and some douche turned right in front of me. I locked up the breaks and fortunately was ok other than my heart beating a bit too fast for its liking. Her reaction wasn’t apologetic in the least. No “I am sorry” but only an angry look. The more I ride the more this seems to happen and it scares the crap out of me. My point is that I am becoming more appreciative of jonathan’s fight. In my experience one can follow the rules of the road yet still get plowed over in a blink of an eye.

Lock Pic
Guest

hopefully fast recovery -best wishes for him.

jim
Guest
jim

It is interesting that there are any skid marks at all as I would think a pricey mini cooper built by BMW would have anti lock brakes on it. Most newer cars do.

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Looks like he may have done the right thing and merged over a ways before the shoulder ended.
The passenger side skid mark is right where a rider would be if there was no shoulder.
Which is the case 4 feet in front of the skidmark.
Of course he pulled into the lane.
He had to.

Stretchy
Guest
Stretchy

I just saw similar damage on a grey/blue toyota pickup. Very little bumper damage but a smashed in passenger side windshield. If anyone is aware of a hit-and-run involving such a vehicle, I can give further info to the police.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

One thing I haven’t seen anyone mention in my quick scanning of the article and comments is Oregon’s “safe” passing law (811.065), which states “a ‘safe distance’ means a distance that is sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.”

It’s subject to some interpretation, but when I am on my bike, I’m sitting with my head roughly 6 feet above the ground. If I were to just tip over into the roadway, it would put my head 6 feet to the left of where my tires were. Therefore, a safe passing distance is a minimum of 6 feet from the bicycle’s tires’ point of contact.

As an armchair crash reconstructionist, I say that if the point of impact is determined to be less than 6 feet from the edge of the roadway, then it constitutes prima facie evidence of unsafe passing by the driver.

dan
Guest
dan

It looks like 2 GoPros, one front-mounted and one rear-mounted, are the only defense we have, and sadly they’re only useful after the fact.