TriMet bus kills man who had been walking bike in bike lane (UPDATED)

Posted by on November 26th, 2014 at 7:31 pm

bus stop

The bus stop on 82nd Avenue near Clackamas Town Center where the incident reportedly took place.
(Image from 2011: Google Street View)

A man who had been walking his bike in the bike lane down 82nd Avenue at SE Causey Wednesday night was killed beneath the back wheel of a TriMet bus, Oregon State Police said.

The man, a 60-year-old whose name has not yet been released, had apparently been passed by the bus while walking in the lane, caught up with it, and was beating on the back of the bus before his death.

Here’s the approximate location of the incident, just outside Clackamas Town Center inside the Clackamas County line:

The southbound No. 72 bus, one of TriMet’s new 2012 models, was being driven by Jason Wilhelm, 46.

Oregon State Police, which is investigating the incident because it happened on a state highway, asked for “anyone with information or who witnessed this crash is asked to contact Trooper Bailey at 503-731-3020.”

A recording describing the incident was first shared by Al Margulies on his website Rantings of a Former TriMet Bus Driver. Margulies often monitors TriMet’s dispatch channels for reports of incidents.

In that audio description of the event a man communicating from the scene via radio was initially confused about the cause of death. Based apparently on his interview with Wilhelm and possibly others, he first said it was a fall or heart attack.

The man on the radio later said he was incorrect and that other witnesses informed him that the bus’s dual wheels had run the man over.

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Here’s a transcript of audio that was shared by Margulies at 6:22 p.m. Wednesday. Apparently it’s from a man who was dispatched to the scene Wednesday night and interviewed the driver and other witnesses.

When Vehicle 1 was north of the stop, a stop prior, he loaded/unloaded. He noticed there was a gentleman walking his bike in the bike lane, which is in the street. And this gentleman had no reflective, no lights, no nothing. He was basically walking in the bike lane in his bike.

So Vehicle 1 proceeds to the next stop, he loads/unloads. And according to the operator of Vehicle 1, he tells me he starts to edge out into the street — now mind you, he’s only about six inches from the curb. So he starts to edge out because he wants to get into the travel lane to get going. And anyway, when he starts to go he heard a noise on the bus in the rear and so what he did was he pulled over on the far side of Causey and got out and saw the gentleman laying in the street with his bike. Now, he does not recall the dual passing over him. And according to some witnesses, the guy with the bike was on the sidewalk pounding on the bus. And as the bus drove away, he fell into the street and they believe either had a heart attack or hit his head, and he is deceased.

Okay, the only part I need to amend is according to witnesses, and it would be more than one witness they said that the right rear dual did make contact with the individual and ran him over, basically. So I told you that did not happen, but according to the witnesses, it did happen.

It’s not clear exactly where the man was standing, whether he was riding his bike at any time, or how he fell beneath the back wheels of the bus. KGW reported that “witnesses said the victim was walking the bike and looked unstable before appearing to run into the bus.”

Oregon State Police is working to notify the man’s family before releasing his name.

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John Liu
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John Liu

Sounds totally bizarre. Not your ordinary bus vs pedestrian accident that’s for sure.

Joe Rowe
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Joe Rowe

I was on my bike in the bike lane of 122nd and Trimet bus missed me by an inch. Then drove onward in bike lane. All on video I demanded. Showed bus in bike lane by foot and a half with no cars in either of both car lanes in same direction. Get the video please. Post

Jman
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Jman

What does your experience have anything to do with this case? The bus was servicing a stop in which case the bus would be in the bike lane. Obviously.

Peejay
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Peejay

TriMet is totally committed to its policy of buses crossing over bike lanes to get to their stops, supposedly to avoid conflicts between passengers and bikes. Yet they ignore the death toll that comes from the conflicts between buses and bikes. I’m sorry, TriMet, I know you spent a lot of time defending your indefensible policy, but it’s time to give it up.

davemess
Guest
davemess

I think you are negating that fact that some passengers would have trouble stepping off a curb to get on the bus.

You’re suggesting that buses should just stay in the lane and have people walk across the bike lane to get on? This is just going to create a whole other set of problems.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

That’s actually something I’ve been discussing with TriMet.

I think on certain routes it would be reasonable and safer for road users if TriMet bus operators did not service curbside. This would do a lot to end the bus/bike leapfrog and other problems that spring up when buses encroach into the bike lane.

I need to look more closely into this particular case to find out what happened.

KristenT
Guest
KristenT

When school buses stop to load and unload children, they stop in the traffic lane (usually). There’s a bar that swings out from the front of the bus so children needing to cross to the other side of the street do so far enough out that the driver can see them.

What if Tri-Met installed a bar that swings out of the back of their bus and blocks the bike lane from upcoming bike traffic? That way people wouldn’t ride between the bus and the curb and potentially collide with disembarking/embarking riders.

Jayson
Guest
Jayson

So the solution is stop in the travel lane and let passengers off into a bike lane? That doesn’t seem like a good idea either. TriMet has something like 1,500 operators. The vast majority are very careful around bicyclists, from what I’ve observed as a bus passenger. Also, when I’m biking in a bike lane also on a transit street, I’m careful to keep my distance from the bus. That may seem difficult behavior for some, but it keeps me safe and that’s the most important thing. Until we have completely separate bike facilities, I don’t think there’s anything we can do but be cautious and think safety first. TriMet drivers are far better drivers than the average road user in my opinion.

TOM
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TOM

Peejay
TriMet is totally committed to its policy of buses crossing over bike lanes to get to their stops, supposedly to avoid conflicts between passengers and bikes. Yet they ignore the death toll that comes from the conflicts between buses and bikes. I’m sorry, TriMet, I know you spent a lot of time defending your indefensible policy, but it’s time to give it up.
Recommended 1

Had a TriMet bus do that to me on Powell in the past. I noted time & bus number and emailed their complaint account.

Predictably they answered “we’ll look into it” …yeah right

No further communications from them.

Dwaine Dibbly
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Dwaine Dibbly

On SW Broadway by PSU, every morning, 68 routinely crosses the lane of parking and the “protected” bike lane to get all the way over to the curb. They’ve been doing this daily for several years. It isn’t just one driver.

Jason McHuff
Guest

Let’s wait and see what the video shows, there should be a camera on the front of the right side of the bus pointed backwards that would give a good view of the person.

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

Buses have to get to their stop. Dropping passengers in the bike lane doesn’t work, neither for the passengers nor for cyclists (the bike lane will be blocked by passengers even not by the bus). Bike lanes passing to the right of the bus stop results in cyclists trying to ride through passengers (ref Hawthorne Bridge). Bike lanes on the left solve this problem but are only workable on one way roads. So I don’t see any way around it. Buses have to pull into the bike lane at bus stops, the drivers have to look out for bikes coming along (and in my experience they almost always do) and cyclists have to look out for buses trying to pull over (and I think they usually do). Coexistence works, and there isn’t a practical alternative.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

John,

There are very practical alternatives. Other cities have already done this. The simple fix is to prohibit the passing of the bus (on the right) when a bus is loading/unloading.

wsbob
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wsbob

The challenge, is in getting people to be consistent in not passing the bus on the right, when it’s loading and unloading.

Threat of citations and fines doesn’t mean that much to everyone. Plenty of people on the road seem to lack awareness of danger, or the common sense that would dissuade them from trying risky maneuvers like this.

Kristen T’s suggestion of bike lane barriers swinging out from the bus, has some merit, though the idea I think, raises questions of how much responsibility for their own safety on the road, people that ride should be taking. And, what they can do to prepare to take that responsibility.

Daniel Costantino
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Daniel Costantino

That fix isn’t simple. People on bicycles generally don’t like stopping. That’s compounded in interactions with buses, where bicycles and buses often end up operating at similar average speeds but very different acceleration/deceleration rhythms. If you make it impossible for people to pass on the right (which would be difficult to do without a device likely to cause injury to a bicycle rider if visibility is poor), then a person on a bicycle is fairly likely to try to pass the stopped bus on the left, and there’s a whole raft of other safety issues to go with that.

The fact of the matter is that bike lanes located between lanes where buses operate and bus stops have an inherent conflict, and that there can be potential for serious injury and death in that conflict (although it’s not always huge, how many serious bus/bike accidents have there been on SE Hawthorne between Grand and 12th in the last few years, relative to the number of buses and bikes that go by there?).

Where left bicycle lanes aren’t feasible, the safest alternative may actually be a right-side protected cycle track, with a raised crosswalk through the cycle track connecting a visible bus shelter to the sidewalk. Of course that’s got a serious space requirement, and wouldn’t work without a vehicle lane sacrificed to either parking or landscaping.

Doug Rosser
Guest
Doug Rosser

Dropping passengers off in the bike lane would work if my fellow cyclists would stop and wait for passengers instead of passing on the right.

Adron @ Transit Sleuth
Guest

I totally get Trimet’s crossing viewpoint, it’s like so many of their policies, created by our inept infrastructure and demands and needs by passengers. They have to get to the curb for a number of reasons.

However the real blame lies with our infrastructure being built improperly. If things were seperated like they should be this wouldn’t even be an issue. This doesn’t happen in Amsterdam or Copenhagen or anywhere (even some reasonable designs here in Portland, Seattle, etc) that have the bikes go in while the bus stays in the road and the curb is extended. The fact that cyclists and buses have to play leapfrog is utterly absurd.

What needs fixed isn’t the policy from Trimet, it’s the policy of how we build our streets and infrastructure. If Portland really wants to get to 20%+ biking then we really need to get these stops straightened out. What we’re doing now is NOT going to continue to work as biking and transit usage climbs over time. We’ll just have more conflicts until we get the infrastructure right.

Dave
Guest
Dave

I would like to suggest that Tri Met use buses half as large and hire twice the drivers. Pay for it? Raise the gas tax. Tri Met and C-Tran routinely use full sized buses in neighborhoods that can make a Subaru Impreza feel like a tractor-trailer. Keep the big rigs on the freeways–downsize the buses for surface streets. Another way that we suffer from cheapskating public transit.

Jayson
Guest
Jayson

That would be the exact opposite of good public policy. More vehicles and therefore more potential conflicts on the road, less efficient use of limited tax dollars and more pollution. If you can’t see and respect distance from a 40′ bus for your safety and the safety of others, I might question your privilege to use surface streets. The best situation would be protected bike lanes and signalized conflict points, but until we reach that heavenly stage, we all need to exercise caution and respect that safety and life are more important than speed.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

One way in which smaller buses (and more of them) would be very good public policy is that service would be more frequent. That reduces time spent waiting for buses, time spent waiting for transfers, and time spent loading/unloading passengers (and checking fares), so it would also have the effect of substantially reducing average reducing travel time for TriMet riders.

Paul
Guest
Paul

This would be extremely expensive

anie
Guest
anie

It’s hard to blame the trimet driver when the biker did not have any lights. You need to be seen. Very tragic

Dave
Guest
Dave

Jayson
That would be the exact opposite of good public policy. More vehicles and therefore more potential conflicts on the road, less efficient use of limited tax dollars and more pollution. If you can’t see and respect distance from a 40′ bus for your safety and the safety of others, I might question your privilege to use surface streets. The best situation would be protected bike lanes and signalized conflict points, but until we reach that heavenly stage, we all need to exercise caution and respect that safety and life are more important than speed.
Recommended 0

Is there a way to structure TriMet’s driving jobs to reduce any emphasis on speed, then?

davemess
Guest
davemess

They already do. The drivers get in trouble if they’re consistently running their routes too quickly. This is big incentive not to speed.

Paul
Guest
Paul

This sounds like a pedestrian behaving irresponsibly and dangerously around a very large motor vehicle. The fact that he had a bike with him seems irrelevant, except perhaps holding it up may have contributed to him losing his balance.
There are some excellent comments regarding bike lanes vs bus stops, but I don’t think that was the situation in this case.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

Strange behavior, unless he wanted to board the bus and had chased it from the previous stop. Why else hammer on the side of the bus? Speculation, of course.

Carter Kennedy
Guest
Carter Kennedy

Who walks in a bike lane? He should have been on the sidewalk.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

people with broken bikes who don’t want to get in the way of the pedestrians on the sidewalk…

John Liu
Guest
John Liu

More details here. http://www.kptv.com/story/27492978/police-respond-to-fatal-crash-involving-pedestrian-on-se-82nd-avenue

“Georgia Santos said she was walking down the sidewalk on 82nd a few feet from the man and saw him repeatedly teetering.

“I grabbed him to keep him from falling into traffic, and I must have startled him because when I did that and let go of him, he passed me and picked up his pace. That’s when he weaved again, hit the side of the bus and slid to the ground,” Santos explained. “It was very traumatic, and I stood there in front of him before they covered him up and I prayed for him.”

Santos said she also spoke with the bus driver, who was very upset and didn’t know what happened.”

I assume there will be or has been some toxicology test of the dead man? Is that standard in these cases?

It is starting to sound like he may have been impaired or suffering from some condition, and basically fell or slid down to lay on the street between the curb and the bus, such that when the bus started forward, it’s rear wheels ran over him.

Utterly freak accident, I think.

paikiala
Guest
paikiala

There is a structural solution to the right side bike lane v. bus stop issue. It is either 1) a bike lane speed table, or raised bike lane, with the bus remaining in the travel lane, or 2) an island bus riders transition to accross a raised bike lane/speed tabe (as has been done in Vancouver, BC).