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.
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.
clear whether merged traffic across the Newbury Bridge was related to the collision.
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.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.