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Man suffers serious injuries after hit-and-run on notorious stretch of Barbur Blvd

Posted by on August 19th, 2013 at 6:58 am

Henry Schmidt was recovering at OHSU Saturday.
(Image: KATU.com)

A Lewis & Clark student is recovering from traumatic injuries after being hit by a vehicle that left the scene of a collision on Southwest Barbur Boulevard early Friday morning.

Henry Schmidt, 20, had been biking home after working a late shift at Pok Pok restaurant, and either walking or riding his bike south. The driver, who remains unidentified, lacerated Schimidt’s spleen and broke his clavicle, cheekbone, three vertebrae, and his left leg in three places, according to The Oregonian. Doctors dug glass out of Schmidt’s face and mouth; his backpack and clothes were shredded from the impact, according to KATU.

Around 1 a.m., a TriMet bus driver saw Schmidt’s body and stopped to help. One passenger found Schmidt’s cell phone and notified his parents by calling the number labeled “Dad.”

This collision is awful news and we can only hope that people with knowledge of the incident have the decency to contact the police. But a driver’s choice to illegally leave the wounded man to his fate late at night is not the only factor in this crash. It happened on a stretch of road that the Oregon Department of Transportation has been refusing to consider promptly changing, despite numerous warnings that it is needlessly dangerous.

Still from a recent video shows merged
traffic patterns on Barbur Boulevard.
Image: Friends of Barbur.

Though the details and exact location of this collision weren’t clear as of Sunday night, KATU reported that the collision occurred at the edge of a bridge where, as the volunteer activist group Friends of Barbur showed our readers in a post just last week, Barbur’s bike lanes disappear, forcing bikes to merge with other traffic.

Barbur is designated as a major bike route in the Portland Bike Plan because it’s one of the few connections between southwest Portland and the rest of the city.

Schmidt was hit near the intersection of Barbur with Capitol Highway. It’s not yet
clear whether merged traffic across the Newbury Bridge was related to the collision.
(Image: ODOT.)

Friends of Barbur calls these two bridges, which are already due to receive road work by ODOT, an obvious place to improve the street. In June, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance made an upgraded Barbur one of its top 16 regional priorities. Even the City of Portland’s bike coordinator made the unusual offer, back in January, to design a possible restriping of Barbur, in exchange for just $2,000 to cover the staff time.

ODOT has proposed flashier signage but declined to redesign the street, saying it’s waiting for the subject to be resolved by the ongoing Southwest Corridor planning process. This process is expected to wrap up by the mid-2020s at the soonest.

A recent study by Metro of the results of removing a northbound lane from Barbur on this stretch concluded that it would delay morning rush hour traffic by an average of 20 to 25 seconds per car.

Last week, when Friends of Barbur’s new video seemed to show that the bridges are already often functioning during rush hour as if they had a single auto lane, we asked ODOT for an official response, but never heard one. I contacted ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton Sunday night and will let readers know if the agency responds with any new thoughts about the street.

“Those bridges are terrifying. It [a road diet] just seems like such a simple opportunity to improve conditions dramatically.”
— Roger Geller, City of Portland

In the meantime, here’s what various other people have been saying:

Portland bicycle coordinator Roger Geller, at a January public hearing: “Those bridges are terrifying. It [a road diet] just seems like such a simple opportunity to improve conditions dramatically.”

Kathi Sweet, Schmidt’s mother: “We’re so thankful for the care that he’s receiving and that he’s going to recover. I mean that’s really all that matters. But, the streets should be safe for everybody.”

Portland Tribune commenter Gaabriel Becket: “This is horrible! There are just way too many of these bikes hit by cars and crazy accidents on Barbur. I want to let my kids ride their bikes to school but I don’t because I’m afraid of idiot and psycho drivers. I wish I felt safe enough to ride my bike to the store four blocks down Barbur but I frankly don’t! This is the second person walking their bike off the road to be hit in I think only two years?” [Editor’s note: It’s been three years.]

Don Baack, SW Trails organizer: “Still awaiting the exact location on Barbur re Capitol Hwy and the Newbury Bridge, the northernmost bridge of the two … I am aware of at least one other bicycle collision on the bridges, that one apparently did not make it into the ODOT/DMV data base, but it did make it to court in a lawsuit.”

Damian Miller, Lewis & Clark administrative staffer, in an email to Lewis & Clark bike commuters: “This was not an ‘accident,’ or an astounding moment of ill fortune. This was a crash that could have and should have been prevented. Folks in SW have known for years that many segments of Barbur are unsafe, not to mention unwelcoming to cyclists and pedestrians. Groups including SWNI, SW Trails, and Friends of Barbur have been fighting for years for common-sense bicycle and pedestrian improvements.” More, from an email Miller sent to BikePortland: “The road is engineered for speeds unsafe on a shared roadway; drivers take up that invitiation; ODOT has fought tooth and nail to keep it thus. … Looking at the video that Kiel produced from the footage we gathered, it becomes clear that the bridges are stressful to reasonable drivers. No one’s sure where they should be, should they merge? Yes, no, maybe, oh well. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the folk that drive the bridges every day wouldn’t prefer a clearly marked merge into a single northbound lane. Which means that ODOT, in fighting for the current arrangement, is protecting whom? Speeders.”

——

Stay tuned for more on this collision.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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John R.
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John R.

Tragic but Damian Miller nails it: “This was not an ‘accident,’ or an astounding moment of ill fortune. This was a crash that could have and should have been prevented.” This carnage is on ODOT’s hands, let’s hope that it prompts them (finally) to action while our good thoughts go to his healing, the driver being turned in, and no more blood on this stretch or road. Thanks for continuing to cover these “accidents.”

i ride my bike
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i ride my bike

How effective are GoPro cameras at night to say, to catch a license plate, anyone know? Seems to me these might be the way to go at least for the comfort that theres a good chance if hit it will catch the plate numbers.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

Even if riders don’t have GoPro cameras or similar devices, a couple of surveillance cameras permanently mounted would watch over this trouble spot.

Integrate photo-radar into a permanent device and watch how quickly manic drivers become good citizens.

METROFIETS
Guest

If they are planning to repave the bridge are they not required, by law, to at least add bike lanes?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Bicycle_Bill
It seems like another lawsuit is in order. I would like to know if ODOT has included that required 1% in the reconstruction project.

C-Gir
Guest

As far as I’ve heard the law interpreted (like in Eugene with South Willamette St) all they have to do is CONSIDER adding bike amenities. They don’t have to actually do it.

I hope that’s not really true though.

David
Guest
David

Might be time to take a hint from Seattle and add in our own protected bike lanes if the city/state refuse to do it.

matt providence
Guest
matt providence

this is totally tragic. I’ve ridden, raced, and messengered for 20+ years around the country and I find Barbur one of the worst roads I have ever ridden. Drivers haul ass around twisty corners and cyclists couldn’t be any more exposed. I’m not sure why more cyclists don’t take Terwilliger, which is essentially parallel to much of Barbur and much more protected. Sure, its a slight detour, but well, well worth it.

Pat
Guest
Pat

I’m really interested to know exactly where the accident occurred. I thought it was the intersection of southbound Barbur and Capitol Hwy, which is notorious for right hooks (but did get some improvement last year with the green-painted bike line), not the bridge area.

Terry D
Guest
Terry D

I commuted this stretch from NW/ downtown for five years. These bridges are aweful….what other political preassure can Portland do TO ODOT to get them to listen?

My letter explaining how this road almost killed me is in “thier file” amungst many others I am sure….but as usual ODOT not care about what is needed locally….they are still controlled by comercial interests.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

I’d like to see the law changed to discourage drunk drivers from getting any break by going home, sobering up, then turning themselves in. When this driver gets caught, throw everything at them (hopefully hard, and heavy).

Now as to that stretch of road… ODOT are you listening now?

Dave
Guest
Dave

I would suggest that, periodically, police should publicly beat a phoning/drunk/aggressive driver. The mayor should do nothing to discipline the officers involved. Drivers have been at the top of the food chain too long–they need some collective fear introduced into their psyches to correct and direct their behavior.

Alain
Guest
Alain

Despite the “direct” or “practical” nature of any route, I would think safety would matter first, so (always) take the safe and perhaps unpractical route because your life is worth more than being inconvenienced.

And please don’t take this as blaming the victim, clearly the driver of the motor vehicle is at fault. I am simply saying that folks should be encouraged to be safe. Most of us know that human beings are fallible, that the later at night it is the more likely people will be drunk on the road, that with new mobile devices people will be distracted (at all hours), and that taking chances (or risks) does not always work out in our favor.

Besides, the safe routes tend to be more enjoyable (less traffic noise, etc). Of course, I learned this lesson painfully, after being hit several times… getting hit made my decisions more sensible. Luckily, I lived through the bad experiences I had, but many others are clearly not so lucky.

So, how to encourage more people riding bicycles to take safer routes?
Are the maps not good enough? Are the online resources not visible enough? Why are riders taking these risks? Yes, ODOT, PBOT and other agencies should be told to change this situation on the road, but we all know how slow they move… and how unlikely it is that any change to the roads will come quickly.

Lastly – Michael, Jonathan – do you keep a running tally of the hit and run incidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists?

I ask because I feel it would be good to lead a story like this with the total number for the year, and maybe over the last 3-5 years. I feel like I read one of these hit and run stories (on average) once per month, but maybe the occurrence is less frequent?

And Henry — I hope you recover to full health and mobility.

Alain

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Given the importance of this connection (and the lack of alternatives) I wonder how the “work zone” for this section will be handled? (

Given the recent strong efforts by ODoT the work zone may be much safer than the existing conditions?!)

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Wasn’t it That Hannah Scum who left the scene of a car bike crash on Macadam cause he was drunk, and got away with it?

Emily
Guest
Emily

We are constantly ignored in the SW for even a modicum of pedestrian and bike safety space on our roads. Barbur is just one of many through-ways with high bike and pedestrian traffic with no bike lane or sidewalk. Vemont Street from Gabriel Park to Oleson is another hit-and-run waiting to happen. You can’t even stand safely at a bus stop along here without being nearly plowed over by Alpenrose trucks and speeding drivers – and this is essentially a residential street with the ridiculous speed limit of 35 miles per hour, and not even a soft shoulder. Shattuck is even worse. It’s not even safe for my kid to walk his bike across the street to a cut-through to a so-called “Greenway.”

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

This ugly section of state highway is begging for a concrete barrier separated bikeway by the simple function of putting the concrete barriers centered on top of the stripe delineating the current bike lane from the auto lane.
Also, on the topic of video cameras, I think that if we have a save and broadcast feature tied to cameras, triggered by the sounds of rending metal or screams of agony, monitoring the conflict areas it would reduce the concern of constant monitoring. If this works for gunshot microphones in LA audiologists should be able to isolate specific frequencies and patterns that indicate something vehicularly illegal has just happened.

Kristi Finney-Dunn
Guest

I am so thankful that Henry is expected to fully recover… except from the trauma! My heart goes out to him and his family.

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

I agree with above comm enters, this was absolutely no accident! This points to a callous decision-making process within the city (and apparently the State) where opportunities to make huge safety increases for modest costs (both in capital and performance) are ignored unless/until fatalities or crash data demonstrate need. Why these institutions cannot simply pro-actively protect vulnerable road users remains a mystery. @ other spots in town this reminds me of:
1. St John’s bridge. There are bottlenecks at either end, yet instead of closing one or 2 traffic lanes to promote slower, safer driving, ODOT adds sharrows, but lets cars and trucks battle it out on 4 skinny lanes with zero speed enforcement while bikes are “protected” with a sign.
2. Interstate Ave: major bike collector between Downtown and North Portland with only a 5-foot bike lane. South-bound, under the Larrabee overpass, the bike lane shrinks to to less than 2.5′ (!!) with no warning, and the adjacent lane shrinks to 10.5′. This means that a bus or full-size truck (which there are plenty of on this road) will be a minimum of 6 inches INSIDE the bike lane! Again, there is no warning for automobiles/trucks or bikes, the lanes just suddenly shrink! When asked, PBOT simply says there isn’t crash data to support doing anything; in other words, we know it is dangerous, but we are going to wait until someone gets killed to fix it. The auto lane width varies wildly along Interstate, but the bike lane remains crammed into the tiniest 5-feet of gutter. This striping pattern, combined with few intersections and absolutely not traffic enforcement, yields people routinely driving 45-50 mph. I believe that if PBOT would stripe the auto lane at 11 feet off the curb for the MAX, while leaving the 5-foot gutter for the bikes, the remaining space would simply serve as buffer. It would be a double, solid white line with a varying gap between them. This would enable autos and bikes to look ahead and see a disappearing buffer, and it would encourage autos to stay in their lane and slow down.

I see this tragedy as a major shortcoming on the part of PBOT and ODOT. These people need to do a better job with our infrastructure. A lot of what is needed is simply paint

MaxD
Guest
MaxD

Emily
We are constantly ignored in the SW for even a modicum of pedestrian and bike safety space on our roads. Barbur is just one of many through-ways with high bike and pedestrian traffic with no bike lane or sidewalk. Vemont Street from Gabriel Park to Oleson is another hit-and-run waiting to happen. You can’t even stand safely at a bus stop along here without being nearly plowed over by Alpenrose trucks and speeding drivers – and this is essentially a residential street with the ridiculous speed limit of 35 miles per hour, and not even a soft shoulder. Shattuck is even worse. It’s not even safe for my kid to walk his bike across the street to a cut-through to a so-called “Greenway.”
Recommended 1

35 mph speed limits in fron of houses is ridiculously fast

gutterbunnybikes
Guest
gutterbunnybikes

I just want to wish Henry a fast and full recovery.

As for hit and runs…I’d like to see them prosecuted at least the same as man slaughter charges, or at the very least upgraded to a class B felony rather than a class C. Especially considering that dealing drugs is a class B felony and that is a crime in which usually occurs with 2 consenting parties.

To leave someone bleeding and injured on the side of the road without calling for help is the moral equivalent of voluntary man slaughter, though honestly I don’t see why it can’t be tried as any number of class A’s. I”m sure I’m not alone in thinking it rivals attempted murder or assault with a deadly weapon.

Opus the Poet
Guest

I had a thought (I know, did it get lonely?) about hit-and-run, specifically the fatal ones. Has anyone ever been prosecuted for illegal disposal of body for not cleaning up the aftermath of a fatal hit-and-run? I don’t know what the penalties are in OR but in TX they are pretty steep, easily twice what gets handed out for your garden variety of hit-and-run.

Joe
Guest
Joe

get well dude…. sad how some just treat life as if it doesn’t mean anything.. stop the car and do the right thing.. we need better laws to protect riders.