Gravel - Cycle Oregon

Enough is enough: Another death must spur real action

Posted by on June 15th, 2015 at 11:17 am

Aftermath of man who lost control and drove his car up onto the sidewalk.
(Photo: Portland Police Bureau)

Enough is enough.

A man lost control of his Subaru Forester SUV while driving eastbound on the Burnside Bridge Sunday afternoon. He swerved across the lanes and hit two people who were walking on the sidewalk.

35-year-old Bridget Larrabee was seriously injured and her friend Ben Carlson, 36, died at a hospital a few hours later. Carlson and Larrabee lived together in northeast Portland. The man behind the wheel of the SUV was 59-year-old Beaverton resident Douglas Walker. The police originally said he suffered a medical incident and KGW just reported that he apparently “choked on some soda.” Walker remained at the scene after the collision and was released shortly after.

Enough is enough. Now is the time for the City of Portland and City Council to act. No more proclamations or promises, just actions. Get out there and do something before another innocent person is hurt or killed.

We have known for years that the Burnside Bridge needs a physically protected space for people to walk and bike. Currently it is very wide and functions like an urban highway while also serving as a popular bike/walk route. Despite it’s proximity to downtown, vital importance in our bike network, and ample unused road space, for some reason the Burnside Bridge has only a standard bike lane.

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Back in 2012 I was part of a team of local planners and designers that participated in GOOD Magazine’s Ideas for Cities project. Our entry focused on a simple concept: to make bicycling as safe and easy as driving or taking transit. We envisioned a system of protected lanes across the city — including one on the Burnside Bridge.

Here’s a mock design we shared (Please note: This is just a concept. We are well aware that plastic wands would not have prevented Sunday’s collision. The idea is that we need to design physically separated space on the bridge and there is ample room to do it. The details of the design can be easily worked out):

And here’s an excerpt of the narrative I wrote to go along with our presentation:

“Contrary to popular belief, bicycling in Portland isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Cars still dominate the streetscape. In fact, there isn’t a single A-to-B route in this city that has the type of dedicated, connected, safe, easy-to-use facilities like we provide for motor vehicles and transit.

There is no mystery here. To encourage ridership and prevent collisions, we must separate motor vehicle and bicycle traffic…

We don’t lack the knowledge to do this, we lack the political will.”

That was three years ago. Today the solution is still just as easy and cost-effective, but I’m sad to say that we still lack the political will.

The reality is this: If we had physically protected space on the Burnside Bridge, there is a very good chance Ben Carlson would be alive today and Douglas Walker wouldn’t have to live with the sadness and guilt that will plague him for the rest of his life.

“Ghost Ped” placed at site of collision.
(Photo by Scott Kocher)

This isn’t about “bike infrastructure,” this isn’t about who’s at fault, this isn’t about budgets, this isn’t about excuses: This is about being a great city. Great cities do not have dangerous streets like Burnside running right through them. Great leaders do not sit back and only form committees, sign pledges, and hire more planning consultants while innocent people are hurt and killed — over and over and over again.

The community has done everything Mayor Hales could ask for. We have taken action on the streets and in City Hall. Now it’s time for the City to match that action. I realize some baby steps have been initiated; but we need concrete steps taken immediately.

Speaking of concrete… I know there are a bunch of concrete jersey barriers sitting in a maintenance yard somewhere. Let’s get them out on the bridge! Now! Let this immediate action serve as a tangible symbol that Mayor Hales, County Chair Deborah Kafoury (the County owns and manages the bridge), and PBOT Commissioner Steve Novick truly care about the health of their constituents.

What’s the alternative? Do we have to wait until more people die? Do we have to wait until the victim is a family member or close friend of a City Council member? I hope not. Not if Portland is a great city.

Stay tuned. We are eager to report on the upcoming actions and bold leadership of our local elected officials.

— BikeLoudPDX will lead a memorial walk, ride and protest tonight at 5:00 pm on the Burnside Bridge. Facebook event details here.

Harvest Century is September 23rd
Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

250 Comments
  • AP June 15, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Does anyone know if the driver signed a safety pledge? I heard that would of helped prevent this accident!

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    • q`Tzal June 15, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      Is that like an abstinence pledge?

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    • JMak00 June 17, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      How would signing anything have prevented this accident??? Silliness.

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      • Pete June 17, 2015 at 2:49 pm

        Methinks you’ve been reeled in… 😉

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      • q`Tzal June 19, 2015 at 11:02 am

        Zoom!

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  • Kyle June 15, 2015 at 11:22 am

    I’d use Burnside to bike commute into downtown in a heartbeat if we had jersey barriers tomorrow to form protected bike lanes. Or any sort of protection. I switched a few months ago to Morrison because it’s too dangerous to pass cyclists in the narrow bike lane while sharing a lane with 45+mph road-raging traffic.

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    • rick June 15, 2015 at 11:27 am

      Have you noticed some drivers obeying the new 25 mph limit due to the bridge deck fatigue?

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      • Kyle June 15, 2015 at 12:56 pm

        On Morrison? Nope. I watch drivers speeding from the office all day – even when there’s a cop with a radar gun in plain sight.

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        • rick June 15, 2015 at 1:52 pm

          Has that been taking place lately?

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          • Kyle June 15, 2015 at 3:44 pm

            Back in April and early May it was happening several hours daily; lately it’s sporadic. A few months ago there were cones between the lanes and they served to slow traffic considerably; I asked Multnomah County if they’d use them to calm traffic and they seem to not care.

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      • Chris I June 15, 2015 at 3:38 pm

        They will when we have photo-radar on every bridge. Screw the backlash, we need this now.

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      • gutterbunnybikes June 15, 2015 at 7:05 pm

        I’ve been taking Morrison to a downtown work site, and am always the only one moving at 25 (other than those cars stuck behind me who pass me as quick as they can).

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    • John Lascurettes June 15, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      Whenever I ride on Burnside, it feels like people are doing at least 45 if not 55 MPH or more. So just the other day, I was driving eastbound on Burnside approaching the bridge. I was behind a guy that was doing under the speed limit while still on flat land. As we approached the bridge, he started accelerating hard. I went up to 40 MPH (5 over the limit on the bridge and then backed off) and he was still pulling away fast. As he reached MLK at the other end, he slowed significantly back down to “normal” speed (and I caught up with him doing the legal 35). That I have never, ever seen an enforcement on this bridge leads me to not be surprised at all that a collision as inexcusable as this has happened.

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      • Eric June 16, 2015 at 10:42 am

        I have gotten a photo radar van speeding ticket on the bridge, heading east. Many years ago. So PPB know it is a hot spot.

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    • Chris
      Chris June 15, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      Jersey barriers running the entire length of the bridge might not work because the bridge needs to be able to open. They would have to be anchored somehow, and might be too heavy.

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      • kittens June 15, 2015 at 4:33 pm

        There are ways to erect permanent barriers on lift spans: see Morrison

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    • Tom June 16, 2015 at 3:20 am

      You think jersey barriers are a good idea on the bridge? You know what a jersey barrier is don’t you? Can you guess what would happen to the barriers when they lift the bridge?

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  • Adam H. June 15, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Choking on soda is not a medical incident. It’s distracted driving. We’re sick of all the political doublespeak and want real action. Mayor Hales talks about Vision Zero, but his inactions speak louder than words. We need emergency cycle tracks installed throughout the city and barriers installed on our bridges to prevent these kinds of crashes. This is a public health crisis.

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    • A.H. June 15, 2015 at 11:51 am

      Choking — actual choking, not “down the wrong pipe” or whatever, to the point where an airway is obstructed for more than a few seconds — is absolutely, 100%, not-up-for-debate a life-threatening medical incident.

      Yes, we absolutely do need protected pedestrian and bike travel lanes on the bridge, just like every roadway that sees a significant amount of non-car traffic (i.e.: every roadway). Yes, this is another tragic and preventable roadway death. But this cannot be “distracted driving” any moreso than a cyclist drinking water while biking.

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      • Adam H. June 15, 2015 at 11:56 am

        The man was drinking soda instead of paying attention to the road. Clearly he could not handle doing both at the same time. Therefore, he was too distracted to drive safely.

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        • A.H. June 15, 2015 at 12:15 pm

          So should we enforce dehydration of drivers, or would it be better if every time a driver wanted to take a drink, they pulled over (across a bike lane, probably)? What about if a cyclist who’s drinking from their water bottle and crashes into a pedestrian, car, or other cyclist — should they be cited/fined/blamed?

          What other physiological needs are “distracted” enough? A driver who sneezes closes their eyes and moves their head; are these Distracted Sneezers the new scourge of the city’s roadways?

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          • Adam H. June 15, 2015 at 12:40 pm

            These are all straw man arguments. No one is arguing for what you’re saying. Just, if you’re going to take a sip of soda, do it at a time that you can do it safely. Stopped at a light, perhaps. Not barreling down a bridge at 40 MPH.

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            • A.H. June 15, 2015 at 12:45 pm

              Those aren’t straw man arguments at all, just questions about the limitations of what you’re implying; that there are safe and unsafe conditions for taking a drink of something while driving. If you’re gonna put that point forward — that the driver was in an UNSAFE condition for what he was up to — I’d like to know more about the safe/unsafe boundary.

              Specifically, if it exists empirically or if it’s a product of your outrage that’s designed to fit your narrative (that the driver made the decision to drive while distracted).

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              • TonyJ June 15, 2015 at 1:34 pm

                When someone chooses to get behind the wheel they should be asking themselves whether what they are doing is worth the risk of killing someone. When they are driving in a city the primary focus of their attention (sole if possible) should be on driving safely for the conditions.

                Taking a drink of a soda is innocuous enough, but is it worth it? I know that sounds silly, but our society doesn’t think it’s an undue burden to shift the “is it worth it” question to people riding bikes, walking, or letting their kids play.

                If we are going to be serious about reducing traffic deaths then we need to be serious about reducing driving trips. I don’t see another way around it. That shift in culture needs, in my opinion, to start with honest conversations about why we drive and whether it’s worth it (and other impacts should be considered too, like climate change).

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              • Spiffy June 15, 2015 at 4:01 pm

                most Europeans laugh at the idea of cup-holders in cars… they are taught not to have those kinds of distractions in their vehicles…

                distracting when you drink… distracting when you brake hard and your floor is soaked with sugar…

                they’re smarter and safer than us…

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              • Paul in the 'Couve June 15, 2015 at 4:27 pm

                Tony answered well, but to add to what he said. I am a driver. The past few months circumstances that are difficult to change have pushed me to drive more than I cycle. Every single time I get behind the wheel I am operating a machine that weighs either 3500 pounds or 5500 pounds capable of accelerating to 60mph in a few seconds. I agree it is difficult to never tune the radio, never drink from a coffee or water, never look out the window and try to read a sign… but that is the problem. When I am driving a massive vehicle capable of knocking down walls, taking out 12in diameter power poles, and easily killing anyone who gets in my way, the consequences of such actions when they go wrong are very high. Really, they are unacceptably high. We simply can’t keep designing our transportation system around 90% single occupant motor vehicles. There are other reasons, but the biggest one is that it is simply impossible to have safety for pedestrians and vulnerable road users, especially in dense areas and let cars dominate the landscape.

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              • Dan June 15, 2015 at 6:26 pm

                Drive safe & slow, brother, and help control the speed of drivers behind you.

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              • Paul in the 'Couve June 15, 2015 at 8:04 pm

                That’s part of what I actually love about needing to use my beast suburban to haul people, tools and two trailers. I just lumber along a touch under the limit, driving super legal, leaving 5 seconds following, stopping for pedestrians and yellow lights and coming to an absolute complete stop at every stop sign while they can read my “My other car is a bike” sticker and my “Share the road” plates.

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              • Paul in the 'Couve June 15, 2015 at 8:04 pm

                tow – not two, I am not towing a tandem set up….

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              • Glenn June 16, 2015 at 7:23 pm

                The safe/unsafe boundary is: If you have just run over two people, killing one of them, you are in the “unsafe” region of the graph.

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              • Glenn June 16, 2015 at 7:44 pm

                And WHATEVER you did that resulted in a fatality, was by definition, unsafe, and the wrong thing to do. A.H. your attempt at a reductio ad absurdum argument technique is cute. I’m sure lots of colorfully obscure scenarios could be dreamed up where the driver can’t be blamed. “But what if the driver is in a tractor beam projected by space aliens and can’t control the car?” What if, indeed. Turns out this one is a bit simpler – he’s got the motor skills of a 3-year-old and needs his sippy-cup, but thanks to internal combustion he gets to kill a dude instead of just taking himself neatly out of the gene pool.

                No, YOU calm down.

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          • Tyler June 15, 2015 at 4:02 pm

            If someone fails to control an automobile due to extraneous activity: drinking soda, talking/texting, fiddling w/ the radio, singing the national anthem, etc… that is distracted driving. It should be punished severely and with out fail when it results in injury or death.

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            • A.H. June 15, 2015 at 5:36 pm

              True-life example: driver has a heart attack behind the wheel; crashes, is injured, and injures another.

              What harsh penalty would you impose on the driver, and why?

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              • Dan June 15, 2015 at 6:28 pm

                Heart attack? How does that compare to someone having a cough-cough moment while drinking a soda? Where is it on the scale compared to someone suffering through the trauma of sun glare?

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              • A.H. June 15, 2015 at 10:18 pm

                A “cough-cough” moment is very different from choking. You cannot cough, breathe, or speak while choking. If you don’t clear your airway or have someone clear it for you, you will lose consciousness and die, so choking is a life-threatening medical condition. Coughing is not, but nobody said he was “coughing” when he crashed — they said he was choking.

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              • Glenn June 16, 2015 at 7:42 pm

                Calling BS on:
                1) the “I have to drive” line of thought – YOU built all that driving into your lifestyle.
                2) the supposed “importance” of your two trips – they have exactly no importance to me, and to about 6 billion other people, I’d wager. Or did you mean self-important?
                3) the “I fully do this and seriously guys it has to change!” argument whose mind-boggling hypocrisy should be obvious.

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              • Paul in the 'Couve June 15, 2015 at 8:09 pm

                Rarely do heart attacks come without prior symptoms – feeling ill, pain in the shoulder… If we aren’t feeling well, we shouldn’t be driving. Again, that is a big part of the cultural problem here. I had a drowsy period this afternoon in the heat, I would have been better off to not drive, but that was exactly when I needed to make 2 important trips and I had no other way to accomplish them, but I “powered through” and thus I am part of the problem, but not by my choice. The very fact that we feel so compelled that we absolutely must drive even when we are tired, ill, distracted, angry, emotional, sad, distraught and those circumstances dramatically reduce our safety as drivers – but we expect ourselves and others to drive anyway. This just has to change.

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              • A.H. June 15, 2015 at 10:28 pm

                Agreed! However, cardiac events happen without warning all the time. The best solution is to take the controls away from fallible humans and rely on good hardware and software to guide multiple-ton vehicles at high speed. Say what you will about robot autonomy, at least the robots haven’t killed 90+ people a day for the last 60-odd years…

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          • Anne Hawley June 15, 2015 at 7:00 pm

            Heavens! The terrible specter of dehydration on a routine drive in city traffic! Europeans think we’re nutty for bringing water bottles with us everywhere. Drink something before you leave. Drink something when you get where you’re going. It’s not complicated.

            In city traffic, we no more “need” to eat or drink in our cars or on our bikes than we “need” to text or talk on the phone. What we NEED to do is give our full attention to the road. Period.

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          • Esther 2 June 15, 2015 at 9:47 pm

            Back 20 or 30 years ago cars didn’t have cup holders. This idea that your going to get dehydrated if you’re not constantly drinking is downright silly.

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          • KristenT June 16, 2015 at 1:45 pm

            Soda isn’t good for hydration, so your argument is worth about as much as soda does to health benefits. WATER is good for hydration, however.

            Also, people use the phrase “choking on” when they mean “something went momentarily down the wrong pipe and the person went into a coughing fit to clear it out”, and not to mean “there was a complete and total obstruction of the person’s airway”.

            It sounds like you’re trying to move the blame off the driver, who was obviously not paying attention to his driving if he was drinking. I would urge you to review the Oregon Driver’s Manual, available for free at http://www.oregondmv.com, specifically page 73 regarding Inside Distractions:

            “It is dangerous to eat and drink while driving.”

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        • A.H. June 15, 2015 at 12:26 pm

          Follow-up: citing a source. Choking is a medical condition. What caused the driver to choke, what sort of behaviors and biological responses are or are not acceptable, that’s all up for debate. But if you’re fucking choking, Adam, and crashed your bike into someone, and had maaaaaybe a minute until you lost consciousness, I wouldn’t blame you. I’d help you.

          https://www.nlm.nih.gov/cgi/mesh/2015/MB_cgi?field=uid&term=D000402

          http://www.icd9data.com/2015/Volume1/800-999/930-939/933/933.1.htm

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          • 9watts June 15, 2015 at 1:26 pm

            “Choking on soda is not a medical incident. It’s distracted driving.”

            “So should we enforce dehydration of drivers”

            I’m kind of with Adam H. There are lots of things we have grown accustomed to doing while behind the wheel that were once unheard of. No one who takes a drink before they get in the car and waits until they can pull over to do so again is going to become dehydrated. Your shrieking about medical conditions just goes to show how firmly Car-head has taken hold of our imagination.

            Pulling over used to be something we though wise and prudent for any number of reasons, taking a whiz being just the most obvious. Using your logic, A.H., if someone were to invent a device that facilitates urinating while driving, should we henceforth just shrug and call a collision that happens while the driver was urinating a medical condition?

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            • Joseph June 15, 2015 at 1:58 pm

              Maybe it isn’t a crime to drink from a beverage or to choke on that beverage, but as a vehicle operator, as soon as you encounter a situation where your vehicle is moving but you cannot see where you are going YOU STOP THE CAR. You intuitively know in your vehicle where your hazard signals are, so you engage them after you start to brake the vehicle. We must expect people to handle emergency situations in a safe manner so as a driver you stop the vehicle so you don’t endanger anybody around you. Failure to do so should necessitate fault when it causes property damage (public or private) and should also be a crime when a person is injured as a result of your failure to stop the vehicle when it is appropriate to do so.

              We cannot accept that people should be legally allowed to “drive blind” and injure others when a foreseeable consequence occurs from a voluntary action behind the wheel.

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            • A.H. June 15, 2015 at 5:34 pm

              If “shrieking” is backing up my statement with citation, then I guess I’m shrieking. Way to take the high road.

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            • Dan June 15, 2015 at 6:30 pm
          • hat June 15, 2015 at 3:21 pm

            The question is not whether choking is a medical condition, but whether the person driving should be held responsible for his or her behavior. When a person decides to operate a large metal object, if they make a mistake, however innocuous, they must be held responsible. While it is not likely they INTENDED to kill anyone, this person is certainly negligent.

            “The sun was in my eyes. I was drinking. They weren’t wearing reflective gear. The crosswalk was unmarked.” These all fall into the same category: putting the onus on other people. As a culture we must recognize that we have the responsibility to remove the license of people who do this.

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        • Tom Hardy June 15, 2015 at 12:47 pm

          Kinda like walking and chewing gum at the same time. Some people can’t! So they drive cars.

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        • Middle of the Road guy June 15, 2015 at 2:41 pm

          One can drink from a straw and keep ones eyes on the road. That is not distracted driving. No more than scratching your ass. What about sneezing? Is that distracted driving?

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          • Pete June 15, 2015 at 3:01 pm

            Getting stung by a bee? I’ve had it both driving and biking (once down my throat, once stuck in my helmet – the veritable bee in my bonnet, while pulling a paceline no less!).

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          • J_R June 15, 2015 at 3:38 pm

            Yes. Those are examples of distracted driving. You are welcome to your distracted driving as long as you stay in your lane, yield the right of way when required to do so, and obey all other traffic laws. If you don’t you are GUILTY and should be cited. If you injure someone, you should face misdemeanor charges; if you kill someone you should face felony charges.

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      • El Biciclero June 15, 2015 at 12:11 pm

        Well, drinking while riding is “distracted bicycling”, it’s just that most bike riders will choose their time for refreshment much more carefully than auto drivers, and the consequences of “losing control of one’s vehicle” while riding a bike are seriously less dire than doing the same thing in a car I’ve sucked a lungful of water down the wrong pipe while riding before, but I sure didn’t kill anybody because of it—didn’t even crash. Driving a frickin’ car requires at least 20 times (based on relative destructive energy at the same speed—more at the generally higher speeds of cars) the focus, concentration, and attention of that required for riding a bike. Driving and riding are not “symmetric” activities with respect to legality, responsibility, danger, damage caused, or any other measure you want to use. Driving a car has enormously more egregious consequences—as we see here—if done incompetently, and needs to be regarded and regulated with that understanding.

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        • Adam H. June 15, 2015 at 12:20 pm

          Driving and riding are not “symmetric” activities with respect to legality, responsibility, danger, damage caused, or any other measure you want to use.

          Seriously, this. It’s the reason why “share the road” doesn’t work, the reason “same rights and responsibilities” is BS, and why non-separated infrastructure will always be terrible unless everyone is going less than 12 MPH.

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          • A.H. June 15, 2015 at 12:47 pm

            Agreed! But is there data to support that “most bike riders will choose their time for refreshment much more carefully than auto drivers”?

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            • Adam H. June 15, 2015 at 2:07 pm

              I highly doubt anyone is doing studies on when people choose to drink water, but empirical evidence suggests that someone riding a bike is far less likely to kill someone if they choke on water compared to someone driving a car.

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            • Middle of the Road guy June 15, 2015 at 2:42 pm

              I see people biking, looking at their phones all the time…as well as biking with beverages.

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              • Rob Chapman June 15, 2015 at 3:08 pm

                Have you seen them kill anybody? For the record I don’t mess with my phone or drink out of my coffee mug while riding.

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              • hat June 15, 2015 at 3:27 pm

                Indeed they are negligible, and if they hit a pedestrian should be held responsible. Yet, it does not excuse the behavior of the person in question. People on bikes do not kill 90 people a day in the US. People in cars do this.

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              • hat June 15, 2015 at 3:29 pm

                negligent

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            • mran1984 June 15, 2015 at 3:09 pm

              Why are idiotic comments acceptable? Go ahead and delete this, but If somebody needs a sippy cup…I can’t accept the inability to handle a beverage being classified as a medical condition. You should have been there instead. Go ahead and delete this.Good luck deleting the memory of the remaining victim. If you want to kill someone and get away with it simply run them over.

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            • Kyle June 15, 2015 at 3:52 pm

              You can’t compare “cycling while doing X” to “driving while doing X.” There’s no comparison when it comes to the potential for inflicting serious injury or death on innocent bystanders.

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            • El Biciclero June 15, 2015 at 4:13 pm

              “But is there data to support that ‘most bike riders will choose their time for refreshment much more carefully than auto drivers’?”

              I don’t know why my earlier comment got moderated away, but the gist was that my point was they don’t have to. I could decide I was in dire need of a sip, pull out my water bottle while in the middle of making a left turn through a crowded intersection full of pedestrians, potholes, and streetcar tracks, and if I sucked water down the wrong way, and “lost control of my vehicle”, the only person with much likelihood of dying would be me.

              Now, due to the differing nature of the control mechanisms of bicycles and cars, I would be more likely, while riding my bicycle, to decide that I could wait for a more opportune time to take a drink of water, that such an opportune time was likely no more than 5 minutes from now, and that I would probably not suffer any severe effects of dehydration within that 5-minute span.

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      • Duncan Parks June 15, 2015 at 11:35 pm

        Can you actually, truly choke on a liquid? I mean, full obstruction of airway? Versus, you know, gagging and couging, which are not fun but also should not be completely disabling.

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        • Joseph E June 16, 2015 at 9:04 am

          A low-viscosity liquid, eg mainly water? No, I don’t think you can!

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    • Mike June 16, 2015 at 6:06 pm

      Choking is absolutely a medical emergency. People die from choking as it cuts off airflow to the lungs=death. I know emotions get involved with a story like this but the act of choking is not like texting or other forms of distracted driving. The fact that you got so many thumbs up on such an uninformed comment is as scary as you minimizing choking

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  • rick June 15, 2015 at 11:26 am

    Awful. I sometimes use the Burnside bridge due to the beautiful views and separated bike / ped lanes. This is sickening.

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  • chris June 15, 2015 at 11:27 am

    I think the two-way cycletrack model is a bad one because of the high risk of head-on collisions — both bike vs bike and bike vs car. If a car can drive up onto the sidewalk, it can just as easily cut through those bollards into the cycle track. At any rate, physics indicates that head-on collisions are far worse than being side-swiped.

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    • MaxD June 15, 2015 at 11:36 am

      I agree with Chris- not a fan of the 2-way cyle-track. But I would love protected bike lanes on each side of the bridge. If you take a lane off, there is plenty of room to do this. The 2-way cyle track does not easily fit with the rest of the bike network and is very difficult to expand. Also, narrow the motor vehicle lanes and lower the speed limits (on all bridges).

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 15, 2015 at 11:43 am

        You guys. That is just a concept. We will be publishing a more technical follow-up story soon about the possible Burnside Bridge designs, limitations, and so on.

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        • Belinda July 23, 2015 at 10:17 pm

          Jonathan, will you please help us spread the word about a fund we have set up for Ben’s surviving partner, Bridget? Her medical costs are growing and she could use any small (or large) contribution. We hope that the tragedy that galvanized you to write this post and organize this ride will encourage you and others to help. http://www.gofundme.com/x4mc4v9ss

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      • soren June 15, 2015 at 11:52 am

        There is space to “Burrard” the Burnside bridge in both directions.

        http://www.citylab.com/politics/2014/12/after-a-series-of-failures-how-vancouver-finally-built-a-controversial-bike-lane/383272/

        The only thing that is lacking is political backbone.

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        • Clark in Vancouver June 15, 2015 at 12:22 pm

          Agreed.
          Vancouver tried a few times and then did it. Now, they’re going to make it even better over the next year.
          I remember being in the area of the Burrard Bridge the night they were installing the jersey barriers. I hadn’t followed the news and back in those days nobody could have imagined there to be any opposition. There was some though and it was tough for awhile but now it’s okay. You have it easier there as you can point to an example of where it’s needed. That this isn’t just for recreation. Flexible sticks won’t stop a spinning car from crushing someone on the sides. Once I walking on a bridge and suddenly a speeding sportscar spun around and smashed against the concrete barrier right next to me. If that had not been there I would have been pushed against the outer railing and crushed or pushed into the river.
          In my opinion, all bridges should have generous walking and cycling infrastructure on them. It should just be part of the building code. Unlike, say, an arterial street, you can just go a block over. The bridge is the only way.
          If the lanes on this bridge are so wide that people speed, then they should be narrowed.

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          • Pete June 15, 2015 at 1:05 pm

            Excellent points. I hope the Port of Hood River keeps this in mind as they plan the replacement for the bridge over the Columbia there (which doesn’t currently allow peds or bicyclists).

            Burrard’s bridge (and every bridge, as you point out) is a great example of where true physical separation makes sense. My experience driving in downtown Van around certain protected bike infrastructure, on the other hand, isn’t quite as good. (Have to admit I haven’t cycled there much, but that will change in September).

            http://bikeportland.org/2015/04/14/ask-bikeportland-driver-green-lanes-means-139330#comment-6338371

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        • Justin June 15, 2015 at 12:51 pm

          Funny that you mention the Burrard Bridge, since I just read today about Vancouver’s expansion on the 2009 success there. http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/06/02/vancouver-set-to-claim-another-bridge-lane-for-active-transportation/

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        • Chris I June 15, 2015 at 3:43 pm

          This is the ideal solution. Removing one eastbound lane will have zero impact on traffic, provided they open it back up near the signal on MLK at the east end. It will provide protection for pedestrians and cyclists on both sides of the bridge.

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          • paikiala June 15, 2015 at 4:10 pm

            zero? based on your expert analysis?

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            • hat June 15, 2015 at 4:46 pm

              E-bound Burnside:
              AM volume 5051 and PM volume 10762.

              I forget the threshold PBOT used for Foster or Division, but I think three lanes still seems excessive.

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              • Zach June 15, 2015 at 6:59 pm

                In my experience driving East over the bridge during rush hour, Burnside can have congestion going all the way back to 21st but the bridge has enough capacity that it stays clear

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            • soren June 15, 2015 at 7:49 pm

              i seem to recall a 2009 climate action plan that called for a 30% reduction in VMT.

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              • paikiala June 16, 2015 at 12:19 pm

                VMT is a city-wide number. Individual streets can still be congested, particularly if they are one of a few that cross significant geographic barriers.

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            • Chris I June 15, 2015 at 8:47 pm

              The signal at MLK is the bottleneck. Anyone that drives this street knows that. The eastbound lanes in the middle of the bridge simply function as storage for cars waiting on the signal.

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      • hat June 15, 2015 at 1:16 pm

        Often 2-way cycle tracks are too narrow and separated by mere bollards (such as a few in Chicago). But consider if the Burnside had a similar concept to the Morrison, a gigantic concrete barrier that is impenetrable to even the most soda-congested driver.

        http://i1300.photobucket.com/albums/ag97/Caudipteryx/Screen%20Shot%202015-04-24%20at%2010.34.33%20AM_zpsfmrhlskg.png

        This concept would need to be engineered with the future streetcar in mind, but probably the most significant part IMO would be the elimination of the 3-block Couch bike lane where at least 9 people have been hit (I know I am probably not the only person who has been right hooked at Grand/Couch, but was not injured).

        http://pdx.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?appid=28c26c3acc604f2cba87aff0fe7f7b24

        The current ridership on Burnside is abysmal, and this could easily double it given a decent separated lane. It might save a life or two in the process. All we need is leadership who cares.

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        • paikiala June 15, 2015 at 4:11 pm

          As always, the trick with such proposals is the details at the ends. The on-off pathway operations.

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          • hat June 15, 2015 at 4:40 pm

            Yeah, dedicated signaling would be a big part, particularly at Burnside and Grand. Would love to see something from the professionals. As always, I appreciate what PBOT folks do on their off time.

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      • Brad June 15, 2015 at 2:57 pm

        I would love to see a barrier like on the S. side of the Morrison bridge installed on both sides of the Burnside bridge. I’ve mentioned before how much I hate biking on the Burnside bridge and this is the reason why. Every time I bike over that bridge, I envision a car swerving and taking me out at 50mph.

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  • spencer June 15, 2015 at 11:37 am

    Well said Jonathan! Its asinine to provide that much real estate on the bridge with no safe space for vulnerable road users. That is exactly what I fear when I cross the bridge, and it just happened. Act NOW Mayor Hales!

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  • Ted June 15, 2015 at 11:42 am

    As someone else said, the bollards shown there would have done little to stop the car involved in this accident.

    Additional, what does this proposal look like at either end of the bridge? How do bikes get into and out of this configuration?

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    • Fallaballa June 15, 2015 at 11:50 am

      it was just for a magazine article, it wasn’t a proposal.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 15, 2015 at 11:55 am

      Ted… Please. Like I said above, the mock concept in this post was just a design exercise. It was proposed to merely illustrate a point and not intended as a serious engineering plan.

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  • Scott H June 15, 2015 at 11:47 am

    We’ll never be a great city as long as we have a Mayor who effectively does nothing but sit at his desk while Portlanders are senselessly killed every day.

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  • michael June 15, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Douglas Walker should lose his privilege of driving, if not permanently, then for at least 10 years, and then be required to take driver’s education class again.

    on another note – I’m also don’t think the 2-way cycle track is the best solution for Burnside for reasons already noted. I would rather see protected lanes on each side

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    • hat June 15, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      Anyone who injures another person while driving a motor vehicle should lose their license for at least 6 months period.

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    • Middle of the Road guy June 15, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      One could also argue that it is the fault of the infrastructure. If the infrastructure was sufficient, this would not have happened either.

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      • paikiala June 15, 2015 at 4:12 pm

        The curb on the bridge is pretty high. It will be interesting to see the police report for the estimate of how fast the person driving was going.

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      • J_R June 16, 2015 at 9:04 am

        “One could also argue that it is the fault of the infrastructure. If the infrastructure was sufficient, this would not have happened either.”

        Yes. You COULD argue that, but is that really the type of infrastructure you want and are willing to pay for? Infrastructure that completely overrides the inattention and errors of the incompetent, careless, inattentive operator?

        If you want that, go operate the bumper cars at Oaks Park. The bumpers surround the vehicle on all sides and are almost as tall as the wheels. The barriers along the sides of the “guideway” are the same height as the bumpers. Is that your preferred infrastructure?

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  • ac June 15, 2015 at 11:49 am

    the photo seems to show that a raised bikeway isn’t separation enough

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    • Dwaine Dibbly June 15, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      You’re certainly right about that. “Separation” should mean a physical barrier, at least as tall as a Jersey barrier.

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      • paikiala June 15, 2015 at 4:15 pm

        Separation means space, like a buffer for a bike lane or parking lane for sidewalk.
        There are different levels of ‘protected bikeways’.
        A barrier can have different levels of permeability. A parking protected cycle track is one form of permeable barrier – it won’t necessarily stop all drivers all the them, but most of them most of the time.
        An impermeable barrier as on Burrard in Vancouver, B.c., is one form. The portions of the MUP along Columbia Blvd that are raised up from the road level is another.

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  • Todd Hudson June 15, 2015 at 11:49 am

    >Currently it is very wide and functions like an urban highway while also serving as a popular bike/walk route.

    It’s like this throughout the high-crash corridor designated area of Burnside.

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  • ethan June 15, 2015 at 11:52 am

    I just spoke with someone who works on the bridges for Multnomah County and voiced my concerns about the design of the bridge.

    I told him to “focus more on safety and less on vehicle throughput” – I heard that he was jotting down the notes, so maybe something will come of it. However, I won’t be holding my breath.

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  • Allan June 15, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Putting Jersey barriers on the deck would not work for a number of reasons. a) the bridge lifts in the middle and the extra weight would probably not fly on that section. b) adding extra weight onto the bridge causes it to wear out faster, this type of barrier was part of the reason that the bridge in downtown Minneapolis fractured several years ago. The types of barriers that would ‘protect’ a bike lane on the bridge are probably not the kind that would prevent a car from driving over them, unfortunately.

    The type of accident that happened over the weekend will probably be with us until driverless cars take over. Rare, but not solvable with our current roadway tools. The car jumped onto the sidewalk. That’s a lot of force that almost no barrier short of linked jersey barriers will stop

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    • Steve B June 15, 2015 at 12:22 pm

      Good points. What do you think about the type of barrier that’s on the Morrison? Would that work with the lifts? Seems hardy enough to prevent a car from crashing through, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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    • PaulaF June 15, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      What about something like those freeway cables?

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      • Ben B June 15, 2015 at 2:46 pm

        According to wikipedia, those are designed to deflect by 8-12 feet when struck, compared to 0-4 for concrete and rigid steel barriers, though I gather that they tested them with cars travelling 60mph. I suppose in this case it would have saved the pedestrians, but probably wouldn’t save a bicyclist in the bike lane.

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    • Tony T
      Tony T June 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      The jersey barriers could go on the non-lift portions (where it seems that this collision took place). On the lift portion, as mentioned above, some cable barriers could be installed.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 15, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Another thing I’ve been thinking about is how both PBOT Commissioner Novick and Commissioner Amanda Fritz have acted on other issues when they felt a crisis existed:

    – After Comm. Fritz’s husband died while driving on I-5, she learned that a certain type of guard-rail would have prevented the collision. So she swung into action, using her power and influence to get something done. She got a bill passed in the legislature (SB 921 that requires ODOT to build more of those railings.

    — Commissioner Novick was tired of suicides/attempts on the Vista Bridge so he took emergency action to put up a new fence that prevents people from climbing up and jumping off.

    Both are examples of issues that were acted upon — but only when they became urgent enough for our city council members. There were no committees, no plans, no excuses. Just action and solutions.

    My question is… When will this road carnage rise to that level? And why hasn’t it already?

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    • Clark in Vancouver June 15, 2015 at 12:25 pm

      The same thing happened in Vancouver, BC with the Second Narrows Bridge. The highways minister was stuck on the bridge in traffic because of the ambulances and police tending to a suicide attempt. He went into action and arranged the installation of suicide prevention barriers. With this announcement, cycling advocates saw the opportunity to push for the sidewalks to be widened to make it better for cycling and walking. One side has been completed and is really nice now, they’re currently doing the other side.
      For years people have been asking for better walking and cycling infrastructure on this bridge but it took a minister wanting to make things better for driving that led to something actually happening.

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    • rick June 15, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Fritz has helped turn parks in the outer parts of Portland from fields and former landfills into real parks.

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    • Paul Souders June 15, 2015 at 12:59 pm

      This is OT but I was nearly clobbered by a car going crazy fast on Vista today and thought, wow it would have been ironic that, on this bridge where the city went above and beyond to prevent INTENTIONAL deaths I’d have been killed UNINTENTIONALLY

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  • Amy Subach June 15, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I hope that Hales, Novick, and Fritz start getting things done. Let’s give them one more chance.

    One more chance that Ben Carlson will not get.

    One more chance.

    And then it’s time to get them out of office. Help us encourage politicians to implement Vision Zero RIGHT NOW. HOW MANY MORE MUST DIE?

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    • Tom Hardy June 15, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      See if Fritz can get on the bandwagon and have the same cable barriers that she got installed on I-5 on the Burnside bridge to protect bicycles and Pedestrians. One in the middle also to keep the cars and trucks in line so they don’t run over each other while they are celebrating with a soda.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 15, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Here’s the FB event details for the protest/memorial ride/walk tonight on the bridge. 5:00pm https://www.facebook.com/events/1602169116718505/

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  • Lisa Marie June 15, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Thank you for writing this, Jonathan. Enough is enough. We indeed can become a great city, but our streets need drastic change to make it so…

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  • Nicholas Caleb June 15, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Enough is enough. Apparently, there won’t be a sense of urgency until we continue to show up en masse until we get proper safety infrastructure and enforcement of the law.

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  • Lester Burnham June 15, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    This is absolutely pathetic. Is there any safe place in this “Platinum” city for cyclists or pedestrians? I don’t expect much from Hales and friends on this one either.

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  • J_R June 15, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Once again, the PPB and the City management fail to do anything to get the community to recognize that distracted driving or whatever has ANY consequences.

    A driver supposedly suffers a “possible medical event” is checked over by emergency responders at the scene and is, in essence, pronounced “recovered” and safe to leave. It’s clear to any motorist that all he has to do is claim “distraction” or “medical event” and he gets off without more than a fine of less than $300.

    Just another “unfortunate accident.” BS!

    At least the PPB spokesman stated “the pedestrians were doing nothing wrong.” Can we PLEASE get the PPB to declare that the driver was at fault in the initial media events? How f@#king clear does it have to be for the PPB to assign blame to the motorist?

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  • Reza June 15, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Why does this guy who got tragically hit and killed by a runaway driver gets wall to wall BikePortland coverage, yet the girl who also got tragically hit and killed last year by an Amtrak bus driver near the Greyhound station got nothing?

    http://www.columbian.com/news/2014/aug/21/bus-driver-cited-june-crash-kill-vancouver-teen/

    Both were pedestrians.

    Both were not at fault.

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    • rick June 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      I think The Oregonian covered that sad story.

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    • Spiffy June 15, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      apparently we weren’t properly fed up last year…

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  • Justin June 15, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    I used to think that bike lanes and bike boulevards would be enough. Recent experience, and especially the carnage of the last few months, has made clear the need for separated cycle tracks in addition to the boulevard network – for the safety of both cyclists AND pedestrians.

    Doing the following would demonstrate a real commitment from our current leadership:

    1) Build barriers to protect pedestrians and bikes on the Burnside bridge (and while we’re at it, expanding the bike lanes).

    2) Add separated cycle tracks from 28th as far east as you can go. There’s plenty of space for this, if you’re willing to take away on street parking.

    3) Fix the absolute mess of 16th to 28th on Burnside, an area made worse by the recent additions of traffic calming measures which seem to have made little to no difference. (Each crosswalk needs a safety island, crosswalk paint, and about 20 signs indicating that drivers must stop for pedestrians. Reducing traffic to a single lane in each direction and adding cycle tracks would do wonders of slowing down traffic – if that’s PBOT’s real goal.

    Sure, this is only a small portion of the Portland street network, and even of the 2030 plan. But it’d would make a huge statement in a stretch of road that connects East Portland to Downtown, and which already has more than enough space to make world class bike infrastructure a reality – needing only the political will to make it so.

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  • Joe Rowe June 15, 2015 at 1:11 pm

    Myself and several volunteers at bikeLOUDpdx.org need your help to add your ideas before the June 24th city hall rally ( 8AM ).

    Please just add your ideas to make streets safer. No idea is a bad idea. Anyone can add an idea without logon to anything.

    Just click the link below
    https://docs.google.com/forms/d/16Ym51-7d3Ui0svu0Ux-5JVqanrarr8Jjp8XSAe7B68E/viewform

    Click link above to add ideas to make Portland streets safer for bikes and pedestrians. Signed, Joe Rowe

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  • wkw June 15, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    how many times do I have to say it? A four lane road, is psychologically a highway to many car users, and should have separation for peds & bikes. Burnside, Powell, SW Barbur – do you see the trend?

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    • rick June 15, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      yes, but add BH Highway and SW Canyon Road

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      • Kelly Francois June 15, 2015 at 2:16 pm

        And add in NE Broadway and NE Weidler.

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  • Eric Iverson June 15, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    DOWNGRADE PORTLAND

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  • resopmok June 15, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    At the risk of being chastised, I’ll be bold enough to state that of all the incidents of injury and death reported on this website recently, this is the first one I (for now, based on the current reporting) feel is truly an accident. We can argue about the merits of whether sipping a soda is distracted driving, but I feel I can say with almost certainty that drinking (non-alcoholic) beverages while driving is something we’ve all done without a second thought, excluding the few here who don’t drive at all. And yes, there is the remote chance that the design flaw of our throats can occasionally allow liquid to go down the wrong pipe, leading to a lot of coughing while we attempt to expel it from our lungs.

    I know emotions are running high after the spate of injuries and death caused by motor vehicles recently, but please, let’s make an appeal to reason and not fly off the deep end on this one.

    I do agree too that better infrastructure here could have saved a life, and bridges, which are notorious high speed bottlenecks, are very good candidates for the spending of money on improvement. Realistically though, we can’t line every sidewalk and bike lane with jersey barriers, and we have to be willing to accept that out in the real world, sometimes, tragic accidents are going to happen.

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    • TonyJ June 15, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      Here’s some questions to consider when determining if this was preventable. Where was the driver going? Where was he coming from? Did he have alternative modes to consider? If not, why not? Was his route the most appropriate for his trip?

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      • Dwaine Dibbly June 15, 2015 at 3:43 pm

        Was the driver wearing a helmet?

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        • Opus the Poet June 18, 2015 at 9:01 pm

          And a firesuit? After all race drivers wear them so it’s only logical for the rest of us to wear one every time we drive, too. /s (that’s the Daily Kos label for sarcasm/snark)

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    • ethan June 15, 2015 at 1:38 pm

      It’s still not an “accident.” The proper response to any emergency situation is NOT to drive up on the sidewalk. If anything, the driver could have just slammed on their brakes and attended to their own safety rather than running over the sidewalk and into people walking.

      If someone is able to mount the curb that easily, they must have been going way too quickly. And speeding is no accident. It’s a deliberate choice.

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      • Middle of the Road guy June 15, 2015 at 2:46 pm

        thank you for telling people how to react when they are choking and having a seizure.

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        • ethan June 15, 2015 at 3:27 pm

          As someone who actually HAS had a seizure while driving* I think I know a thing or two about having an emergency situation while driving.

          *unbeknownst to me, I have been having seizures for years. I never noticed them because they normally only occurred when no one else is around and were not the type that causes sudden, violent movements (for the most part).

          The time that I had a seizure while driving was the first time I ever actually noticed I had a seizure. It was scary! It was really, really scary. I was driving on I-84, westbound and more or less lost consciousness. However, I always drive carefully because I know that emergency situations can happen. There was plenty of space between the car I was driving and the vehicle ahead of me, I wasn’t speeding, I had both hands on the wheel, etc.

          When the seizure struck, I was basically unable to move or make any sort of thought. However, I was able to still hold onto the wheel and keep it straight.

          When I came out of the seizure state, I immediately went to the hospital and stopped driving completely until I knew what was causing the seizures, how to handle them, etc.

          Anyone who has a history of seizures and doesn’t know how to control them should not be driving. Luckily, mine are fairly minor usually, and will not drive unless I’ve been seizure-free for over 6 months. I had one at the beginning of last year and it made me too nervous to drive for almost a year.

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        • hat June 15, 2015 at 3:34 pm

          Seizure?

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          • ethan June 15, 2015 at 3:37 pm

            It sounds like speculation to me. I haven’t seen any reports about a seizure. And it seems like it would be a convenient excuse for someone driving.

            Anyone who recently had a seizure should not be driving at all. And I’m saying this as someone who has had seizures. They suck. They’re terrible. But I’d much rather not kill or injure someone else by driving and having a seizure.

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        • Chris I June 15, 2015 at 3:47 pm

          I’ve noticed you’re taking a unique position here. If this man were one of your family members, how would you react? What do you think should happen to the driver?

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      • Chris
        Chris June 15, 2015 at 3:35 pm

        Do you think the driver made a conscious decision to do what he did?

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        • ethan June 15, 2015 at 4:03 pm

          Yes.

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      • Mike June 17, 2015 at 2:58 pm

        Have you ever choked? If not you have no business attempting to tell someone how to behave properly when doing so. Having your airway occluded isn’t something you can think through. It is a medical emergency so it is nice that a lot of experts here try to define what an accident is but to compare this anything other than a medical emergency is just plain sad. I guess if someone is driving along and a chunk of wood crashes through their windshield it wouldn’t be an accident if they proceeded to slam into a pedestrian. You would call it distracted driving wouldn’t you.

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        • Paul in the 'Couve June 17, 2015 at 3:54 pm

          One, as far as we know here, the only evidence is that the driver says he ‘choked’ on pop and that is just simply taking his word for it, the perpetrator. Second, asperating some liquid and coughing is not the same as “choking” in general. In a really severe case maybe, but was he given the heimlech maneuver or transported to a hospital? No, he was not. So he wasn’t choking in any definition that people think about when they mean Choking as a medical emergency. Rather, he says he got some liquid soda in the wrong pipe (asperated liquid) and we don’t even know that that actually happened, just his word for it, as an excuse for killing and maiming. For all we know he actually just reached down to find a french fry he dropped. Further, it seems reasonable to conclude he was driving at at something like 35mph or faster at the time.

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    • Gary June 15, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      I don’t begrudge someone for taking a sip of a drink while operating a car, if they were otherwise focused, maintaining a safe speed, and in control. I certainly hydrate while driving. Moreover, I’ve had a drink go down the larynx while driving on several occasions. What did I do? II maintained control of my car. I slowed down and kept my lane. I would NEVER turn the steering wheel due to “choking.” It’s really not that complicated.

      So my problem is this: the driver was either doing something else to make the situation dangerous (speeding, distracted, whatever), or he is simply incapable of properly operating his vehicle under unexpected circumstances. He wasn’t unconscious. Thus, I am quite comfortable to say this was preventable and not an “accident.” A person should be properly trained to drive their car under all circumstances. If one simply can’t avoid swerving off the road while sneezing or coughing, they shouldn’t be driving. Simple as that.

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  • q`Tzal June 15, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    What is it about American society that allows us to brush off, excuse and rationalize as necessary all of these automotive deaths?

    According to NHTSA and displayed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year
    The number of people annually killed in motor vehicle “accidents” has stayed above:
    10,000 since 1918
    20,000 since 1925
    30,000 since 1946.
    It peaked at 54,589 in 1972.

    It is very important that we solve small “easy” problems in our local areas.
    This in no way prevents us from asking and attempting to answer the question WHY America is so much better at apathy towards others. Maybe we might even come up with something resembling a solution.

    Even if we can’t solve the Big Picture problem quickly or easily we know what the toll will be if we do nothing.

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    • ac June 15, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      i don’t believe you’ll find one person who thinks accidental death is acceptable or “necessary”, but i think you will find plenty of people who are ok with some risk in their daily lives or, to put it differently, who don’t want to have each experience mollified to a purity of safety that makes the experiences so restrictive as to be unwanted.

      I know the point of the link you indicate is to show absolute totals, but the fatalities per 100m VMT shows a reduction over time to a current lowest ever…which, if nothing else, shows that safety is appreciated and pursued

      I agree we can do more, but, at some point, we’re going to have to answer where the line is between lack of freedom for safety’s sake and living our lives as we’d like to enjoy without oversight

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      • paikiala June 15, 2015 at 4:27 pm

        In the 2012 OECD tabulations for fatal crashes per 100,000 population, the US was almost the worst member nation with over 10.
        The UK had 2.8 per 100,000, Australia had 5.7.

        Live you life the way you like, but your errors should not cost me my life.

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        • hat June 15, 2015 at 4:51 pm

          Yes.

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      • hat June 15, 2015 at 4:34 pm

        ‘i don’t believe you’ll find one person who thinks accidental death is acceptable or “necessary”.’

        Yes, ask how many deaths by car is acceptable. Then ask how many if that person is a family member.

        “but i think you will find plenty of people who are ok with some risk in their daily lives”

        IF people treated conducting an object of significant mass at velocities that kill people as just that. But I and many people I know do not want to be around people who take potentially deadly and unnecessary risks, which I see every 5-10 minutes on the road.

        “who don’t want to have each experience mollified to a purity of safety that makes the experiences so restrictive as to be unwanted.”

        Here “purity of safety” means what? Since it is too difficult to be absolutely safe, we should accept the current state? It seems to say that I should not be held responsible if: I choose to casually drink soda while driving and it results in death.

        “I agree we can do more, but, at some point, we’re going to have to answer where the line is between lack of freedom for safety’s sake and living our lives as we’d like to enjoy without oversight.”

        This is false logic. What freedoms are we lacking due to safety. Unfortunately, people are free to use a cell phone in their car as long as it is handless. People are free to drink and eat and argue in their cars. But if they choose to do these things and cause injury or death, they must be held responsible.

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      • Paul in the 'Couve June 15, 2015 at 4:55 pm

        The problem with automobiles is they force us as drivers to take other peoples lives into our hands. In cities especially, it isn’t the motorists that are most at risk, it is the pedestrians who aren’t doing anything to endanger anyone. This crash being a case in point. Driving a motor vehicle is comparable to only one relatively common human activity in the risk that it poses to other, innocent, people – shooting guns.

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        • hat June 15, 2015 at 5:26 pm

          The use of cars and guns often comes with similar results and need to have similar consequences.

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      • Dan June 15, 2015 at 6:42 pm

        We are nowhere near that point.

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  • J_R June 15, 2015 at 1:36 pm

    Let’s completely change the Burnside configuration. Bikes and pedestrians in the middle with barriers on both sides. Autos get the outside lanes of the bridge WITH NO RAILINGS. Let’s see if that causes motorists to slow down.

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    • Chris I June 15, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      The county will spend millions on the Morrison to change out the “dangerous steel grates”, but they won’t do anything for pedestrian safety. I think it is telling.

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    • Spiffy June 15, 2015 at 4:47 pm

      I’m guessing you’ve never walked/biked the I-205 bridge because you’d never recommend that configuration if you did… it’s absolutely horrible to be trapped in the middle of fast moving traffic with no escape and nothing to look at expect cement and asphalt…

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      • resopmok June 15, 2015 at 5:44 pm

        Enjoyable and safe infrastructure aren’t mutually inclusive, are they? Barring the occasional driver that somehow confuses the bike path leading on to I-205 from the north end, this is exactly the sort of design I see many here advocating for.

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      • J_R June 15, 2015 at 5:54 pm

        I’ve ridden the I-205 bridge many times. And, yes I agree that it’s not a pleasant environment for cycling.

        I was being facetious when suggesting that configuration. I don’t for a minute believe anyone would allow such a bridge to be constructed.

        Can you imagine how carefully motorists would drive in a lane 14 feet wide with a 200 foot drop into the water? Do you think any motorist would drive 45 mph and take a sip of a soft drink? No. The motorists would concentrate on DRIVING. How do we get the motorist to exhibit this level of attention to driving when everything we do makes THEM safer?

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        • Nathan Alan June 15, 2015 at 6:35 pm

          People would be extra careful with the scenario you described until they became complacent with it. Ultimately they would behave no differently than they do now; they’re in their safe quiet cocoons, insulated from the rest of the world.

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          • J_R June 15, 2015 at 7:28 pm

            Until their “cocoon” drifted over the edge, toppled off, and smashed into the water 3 seconds later. They wouldn’t make that mistake again.

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  • TJ June 15, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Focus is always at the site of an accident. We have flawed infrastructure everywhere. OR flawed if we’re building infrastructure to balance the accepted car culture — where a driver kills a pedestrian on a sidewalk and is allowed to go home. Accountability through stronger enforcement and penalties is a must.

    Slow Portland down.

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  • Tony T
    Tony T June 15, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Okay, I’ll say it. If Ben Carlson was a relative of the Mayor or Amanda Fritz, we would most assuredly see something happen. After Fritz’s husband was killed, the cable barriers that were languishing in bureaucracy got fast tracked NOW.

    And remember, we have a budget surplus.

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    • Adam H. June 15, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      We have a budget surplus that Mayor Hales wants to spend on repaving projects, i.e. smoothing out pavement for uninhibited motoring.

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      • J_R June 15, 2015 at 2:51 pm

        I just rode through Ladd’s Addition on the new pavement. It doesn’t seem much different than it did before except for the repair of the deteriorated place where the buses stop northbound at Ladd’s Circle. That was much better; the rest was just as smooth as it was before. Meanwhile in other parts of the community, little progress on pavement or safe infrastructure.

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        • lahar June 15, 2015 at 4:08 pm

          Repaving Ladds like repaving lower SE Ankeny is a waste. The greenway that ride everyday has parts that are a disaster.

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  • Chris L June 15, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    What charges will be brought? This qualifies as criminally negligent manslaughter, yes?

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    • Tony T
      Tony T June 15, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      Nope. Unfortunately you pretty much need to be drunk, driving REALLY fast, or fleeing the police. Other than that, oops! You’re free to go!

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  • Tony H June 15, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    I have this phrase that has been popping into my mind for quite a few years: Every time you start your car, you are declaring these deaths/injuries to be acceptable losses. Too extreme?

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    • Middle of the Road guy June 15, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      You should also add: Every time I buy a product that was transported by a motor vehicle, I declare these deaths to be acceptable.

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      • q`Tzal June 15, 2015 at 9:44 pm

        Every time I open my mouth I take oxygen from an asphyxiating strawman.

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    • LC June 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm

      Not in the least. Especially if it’s one of those people who claim that they’d otherwise be on their bike “if it weren’t so dangerous”.

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  • matt picio June 15, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    “The idea is that we need to design physically separated space on the bridge and there is ample room to do it”

    Except that we *don’t*. The Burnside bridge’s issues are mostly that cyclists feel uncomfortable due to relative speed, and cars drive too fast. Overall, when cars aren’t hopping the curb, the Burnside is a safe bridge to ride.

    And here’s the other issue. Let’s say you disagree with me. Fine, that’s totally cool – you believe the Burnside Bridge is unsafe. Here’s the rub – the Burnside is due for a seismic upgrade / bridge replacement. It likely will be cheaper to build a new bridge. Multnomah County is going to oversee and spearhead that project, which will start in the next 5 years.

    If you want to have a say in what bike/ped amenities are on the new/refurbished Burnside Bridge, you need to start showing up for the committee meetings with the city and county, and bringing up your concerns. You need to be vocal, NOW, and repeatedly, starting NOW.

    Portland Pedestrian Advisory Committee
    Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee
    Multnomah County Bicycle/Pedestrian Citizen’s Advisory Committee

    Effectively, no one shows up for the county meetings. There have been maybe 5-6 people in the LAST FOUR YEARS. This is despite the efforts of myself and others to encourage people to show up. County transportation actually listens to and accommodates public input. (I know, I am the chair of the committee, and I routinely talk with county transportation staff, the bridge division, and Mike Pullen, the county’s Communications Coordinator) If you want something done, you have to SHOW up, and speak up.

    Here’s my challenge to all of you as BikePortland readers – rather than simply complain, how about showing up at the city and county meetings and complain officially, to someone who gets paid to listen and respond. As far as the city and county go, you all don’t exist until either you show up for a meeting, send an email, or march on city hall and the county building. We need ALL of those things right now if we want change, and now’s the perfect opportunity. We need troublemakers and loudmouths and civic-minded rational folk. We need the BTA to step up, we need activists and advocates to hit this square on from every angle until action is taken.

    YOU make the difference. Doesn’t matter if this is your first time showing up for a meeting, or a ride, or whatever, or if you’ve been doing this forever and are an original Shiftie/Sprockette/Zoobomber/BTA founder. Right now, we need you, even if it’s the smallest thing. If you want change, stand up.

    If you’re not voicing an opinion where the city and county can see it, then it’s the same as saying you agree with me that the Burnside Bridge is basically safe.

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  • RH June 15, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    I keep checking back to this article in the hopes that Jonathan has added an **UPDATED** paragraph saying the Mayor is taking somekind of immediate, useful action. [sigh]

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    • J_R June 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm

      He’s thinking about calling an “urgent listening session” in preparation for not doing anything. Prove me wrong, Charlie.

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  • rachel b June 15, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    I would bet the driver was texting and driving.

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    • Pete June 15, 2015 at 3:16 pm

      Why would you bet that? Certainly doesn’t seem to show up in the police report, and they tend to look into things like this, especially in crashes resulting in death.

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      • rachel b June 15, 2015 at 4:18 pm

        Because far more people text and drive and get in collisions, there is ample motivation to lie about it, and the soda story (to me) isn’t plausible and doesn’t ring true. Just my opinion, Pete.

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        • Pete June 15, 2015 at 4:49 pm

          Fair enough, but believe it or not texting while driving is not one of the highest causes of collisions. (I say that with a fair bit of bittersweetness, as a dear neighbor of mine was killed by a woman who was proven to be texting when she drove onto the shoulder and killed him, yet didn’t even lose her license… long story).

          Speeding is still by far the leading cause of crashes in our country, but it doesn’t rule out that the driver was doing both.

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          • rachel b June 15, 2015 at 5:51 pm

            Agreed! Speeding was no doubt a factor, just to get up over that curb. I’m sorry about your neighbor. 🙁

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            • Eric June 15, 2015 at 10:24 pm

              I’m trying to find the 1920’s or 30’s poster — I think it was “speed kills” or similar with the grim reaper (riding shotgun?) in a hotrod cresting a hill.

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      • LC June 15, 2015 at 4:26 pm

        It doesn’t show up in the police report because the driver didn’t say “I was driving and texting”. A question I have, is it SOP to check a person’s cell phone records by default in a situation like this, or does there have to be direct evidence like a witness to said texting to be backed up by a subsequent investigation?

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      • Spiffy June 15, 2015 at 4:51 pm

        people will rarely admit it… and will police subpoena his phone records just in case? unlikely…

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  • Adam June 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    Drivers need both hands on the wheel. I’m not sure when the car became an extension of the living room exactly, but eating a hotdog and drinking a 40oz slurpee at the wheel, especially on a high-speed bridge, is not exactly exemplary driving behavior. I’m not surprised he crashed, choking hazard or not.

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    • Pete June 15, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      Why? Are you saying that having one hand off of the steering wheel when driving straight will result in loss of control?

      Of the three causes of distraction while driving – manual, visual, and cognitive – the latter accounts for nearly two thirds of all crashes if I remember correctly (links not handy, sorry).

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      • Spiffy June 15, 2015 at 4:53 pm

        Are you saying that having one hand off of the steering wheel when driving straight will result in loss of control?

        that’s exactly what the hands-free cell phone laws tell us… they tell us that amputees can’t drive safely… both hands are obviously needed… this driver was clearly dangerous simply by the passage of hands-free laws…

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        • Pete June 15, 2015 at 10:54 pm

          If that’s the case, why weren’t radios in cars outlawed years ago?

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    • resopmok June 15, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      Cars with manual transmissions are still manufactured, and, under certain conditions, safer and easier to control. According to your logic, they should be made illegal.

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  • Ryan June 15, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    I’m always amazed when I hear that drivers who maim and/or kill people with their cars receive no charges because it “wasn’t their fault.”
    “I just didn’t see them!”
    “I was driving into the sun and couldn’t see them.”
    “I mistook the gas pedal for the brake pedal, accelerated when I went to brake, and lost control of the vehicle.”
    “I lost control of the vehicle because I was choking on soda.”
    Imagine if I were out target shooting with a rifle, accidentally shot and killed someone, and used any one of those excuses- “Uh, I meant to flip the saftey but accidentally hit the trigger” – think they’d just say, “Oh, well in that case…”? No, they’d say, “When you picked up that gun you accepted responsibility for what happened while it was in your hands. You were clearly negligent in your operation of that instrument and, despite your claim that you had no intention of harming anyone, that has been the result of your negligence.” But for some reason, with cars, we seen to not expect anyone to take responsibility.

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    • Rob Chapman June 15, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      I absolutely agree with you Ryan. We need to eliminate excuses for negligence. When I get behind the wheel I take it as seriously as handling a firearm. Still haven’t “accidentally” run over or shot anybody.

      Years ago in the military we replaced the phrase “accidental discharge” with “negligent discharge”. Just that little semantic change put the onus of safe weapons handling where it belongs, on the person in control of that weapon.

      How do we make a similar language shift to place the responsibility for traffic violence where it belongs, on the operator of the conveyance causing injury/death?

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    • hat June 15, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      Yes.

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    • Chris I June 15, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      I actually take issue with the term “losing control of the vehicle”. By definition, the driver is always in control of the vehicle, because they are the only one applying inputs (steering, braking, acceleration, etc). By saying they “lost control” it implies that the car has a mind of its own, like some wild animal. In reality, this report should read as follows:

      “The vehicle operator was consuming soda while driving at a high rate of speed, going eastbound on the Burnside bridge. The driver reported that he choked on this soda and then proceeded to drive up onto the curb, striking and killing a pedestrian.”

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      • El Biciclero June 15, 2015 at 4:43 pm

        One loses control of a vehicle when friction goes away (e.g., icy road) or the control mechanisms malfunction (e.g., steering wheel falls off, “sticky throttle”, etc.). I suppose a passenger could reach over and yank on the steering wheel, and being unconscious is a gray area, but otherwise, you make a good point: wording is often crafted to make it sound like there was nothing the driver could have done—it was the car’s fault!

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      • Eric June 16, 2015 at 10:51 am

        Not necessarily, the car can stop responding to the driver’s inputs due to what is happening dynamically. For instance, if a car is plunging off of a bridge and in a free fall, does the driver have control? If the car is sliding down a hill on icy streets, is there control? If a driver performs an evasive maneuver on the freeway to avoid an unseen stalled car, resulting in rolling over their vehicle and it tumbles into oncoming traffic and kills someone else, is that driver negligence? Even if the tumbling driver was fully alert and a very good driver? I really don’t think its that black and white.
        Choking on a soda is a lame excuse though…..

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    • Joshua June 15, 2015 at 3:54 pm

      Agreed. Jonathan’s suggestions might have prevented this death. Or maybe they wouldn’t have. Either way, it’s irrelevant. Because even a slightly safer space for bicycles/pedestrians on the Burnside Bridge only makes being a cyclist or a pedestrian safer in that one single location.

      How about we start pushing for a solution that will help solve the problem everywhere? How about we actually start holding drivers accountable for their actions?*

      We need to seriously elevate the charging and punishment of distracted vehicle operation in this city/state/country.

      The strawman argument is that “accidents happen”, but no, they don’t. This has been covered extensively on this blog, so it’s quite frustrating to see that Jonathan’s initial response only involves infrastructure improvements. Very few of the incidents I ever read about are truly an “accident”. All involve some behavior or action on the part of the driver that led to the crash (often speeding). So let’s start holding people accountable.

      Would that mean more and heavier fines, and actual meaningful punishment? Yes. Would that mean more people going to jail for vehicle related incidents? Yes. Should that mean a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy for vehicular incidents? Yes.

      I can hear the cries now, about how unfair this would be to drivers, to those that just made “one single mistake”. (But no one ever makes one single mistake. Just because it might be the first time the behavior resulted in a crash, doesn’t mean it’s the first time it happened, or even the first time it negatively affected other road users.) And furthermore, how unfair is it to those that bear the actual burden of these incidents? Those that are injured or killed. Those that ride in fear of being injured or killed. Those than never ride, for fear of being injured or killed.

      Let’s steer this conversation towards treating the operation of a dangerous, two-ton hunk of plastic and metal as a privilege, one that carries with it an extreme amount of responsibility.

      *And yes, for all you anti-bicycle arguers out there, this policy should apply to cyclists too. If a cyclist causes injury or death, they should be held fully accountable.

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    • Paul Souders June 15, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      This, so much.

      When I was learning to shoot (long ago, far away) it was drummed into my head that whatever happened after a weapon passed through my hands (not even IN my hands — like, if I left it loaded or put it away without cleaning it or set it down without engaging the safety) was MY fault. Not an accident.

      TBF my HS driver’s ed teacher (equally long ago and far away) tried to instill some of the same message. “Driving is not a right, it is a privilege” etc. But this was long before cars had cup holders.

      At least 1ce/week I see a driver (usually on an on-ramp) eating something with a spoon. Oatmeal or yogurt. And it shoots through my head, wow would that person try to eat yogurt and shoot a gun at the same time?

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  • Ryan June 15, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    I mean seriously- could you imagine the responses?
    “I didn’t mean to shoot him, I choked on soda and lost my aim.”
    “WHY WERE YOU DRINKING SODA WHEN YOU WERE FIRING A DAMN GUN?”
    “I didn’t see that hiker because the sun was blinding me.”
    “SO WHY THE F*** WERE YOU SHOOTING INTO THE SUN?!?!?”

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    • Paul in the 'Couve June 15, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      Exactly!!

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  • Aaron June 15, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    I still remain aghast at the fact that there are people who can percieve this as an ‘acceptable loss.’ Would you say that to Amanda Fritz?
    For those that do (and I don’t know the full story about the driver, but if it was due to fod/drink, then it’s worth noting that New Jersey has seen the danger of this for many years
    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/snacking-driving-cost-new-jersey-article-1.1530947

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  • jason June 15, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Even though this was not a bike accident, it could have been. but either way we don’t know what happened yet so people should drop the jumping to conclusions. It is a waste of energy.

    But on the topic of Portland’s biking system, people need to get out and travel to other cities and countries. Portland is lacking big time on innovation. They are doing some really cool stuff in Europe, and even Vancouver BC has lots of dedicated bike ways. All we have is that lame Springwater that is only there due to an existing powerline and railroad.

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  • Spiffy June 15, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    driver user the Burnside bridge for 2 things…

    1) flooring it so that they can speed up 10 mph to the 35 mph limit posted on the bridge, so that they can then…
    2) slam on the brakes when they hit the wall of 25 mph traffic on the other side…

    whoever decided that the bridges should have higher speed limits than the surrounding roads should be fired… bridges are one place that we should never be intentionally encouraging people to speed up 10 mph and then slow down 10 mph all within 1/2 of a mile…

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  • Brad June 15, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Now let’s all calm down, folks. We can agree that this was a terrible tragedy but I am very confident that a solution can be found. That’s just what we intend to do by taking the mayor, city council, and most PBOT staff on an emergency fact finding trip to Copenhagen and Utrecht to learn first-hand how European cities avoid such carnage. Rest assured, there will be quite a few sumptuous working dinners at Michelin starred restaurants and confabs in luxury hotels to get to the heart of this matter.

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    • Anne Hawley June 15, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      Sarcasm and unlikely luxury aside, this would probably make a real difference. Every City employee I ever worked with who was sent to see How It’s Done in other cities (emergency services, sewer repair, cable franchise, whatever) came back inspired with new vision. Maybe Portland didn’t implement everything, but having important staff who’ve seen the light does steer the conversation out of its ruts.

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      • Eric June 15, 2015 at 10:06 pm

        It would also make a huge difference if they (Mayor, Council, PBOT, and PPB) would get on a bike and actually ride Portland as it is now. What happened to our bike cops?

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        • Anne Hawley June 16, 2015 at 12:21 pm

          I think it would be amazingly instructive if a couple of Electeds and staff could ride first in Amsterdam – or even Davis – and then ride in Portland. We’d have change so fast our heads would spin.

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          • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 16, 2015 at 12:47 pm

            Anne,

            Hate to break it to you but Portland electeds and staff have taken many trips to Europe already… And while it has had some impact on knowledge and perspective, I’m afraid it isn’t as life-changing in terms of results as you might hope.

            Again, the NUMBER ONE problem we have in Portland is a lack of political will… Not a lack of knowledge or inspiration or funding. It’s all politics. And going on a trip to Europe might get a politician excited for a few weeks — but the local political grind will wear them down soon thereafter.

            And I can tell you from experience, when you’re in a room of bigwigs and other policymakers here in America, it does not give your argument much currency to say, “I saw XYZ in Europe and it was amazing!”… In fact, it almost makes you less credible and influential.

            Of course there’s always a chance that a trip to Amsterdam or Copenhagen could impact a politician so much that they actually do become a bold champion that acts on their knowledge — but I have yet to see that happen.

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            • J_R June 16, 2015 at 2:26 pm

              But the NEXT one might be that life-changing event, so it’s better not to pass it by.

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            • Anne Hawley June 16, 2015 at 8:44 pm

              Fair enough. I haven’t been in a lot of rooms with bigwigs, but I’m all too familiar with being dismissed on the rare occasions when I was.

              You’re absolutely right that inspiration has to be coupled with actual DOING THINGS. Since City Hall shows no sign of doing things – good and exciting and 21st-century things – I guess I assumed they were lacking inspiration.

              This is the most uninspired, tepid administration I can remember.

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  • J_R June 15, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    When I was first learning to fly an airplane, my instructor impressed upon me that the first job was maintaining control of the aircraft. It was a higher priority even than complying with directions from air traffic control or watching for other traffic. Lower priorities included communicating with air traffic control, determining one’s position, fuel management, worrying about arrival times, etc.

    It doesn’t like motorists have ever been told about priorities much less that their top priorities are maintaining control and paying attention to the task of driving.

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    • NC June 16, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      Aviate, Navigate, Communicate was drummed into me too.

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  • OnTheRoad June 15, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    So 150+ comments of outrage about why the city/county hasn’t done something to prevent a collision on this bridge.

    Go out on a limb and predict where the next accident will take place and start lobbying for changes now to prevent it.

    Get those infrastructure changes in place BEFORE the next collision takes place or you will be partially culpable for it happening.

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    • hat June 16, 2015 at 7:06 am

      I’ve been trying to do this for years for many, many intersections. I’m sure I’m not the only one. We have no one in the city council who cares.

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  • poncho June 15, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    How about jersey barriers protecting the sidewalk snd bike lane with one way cycle tracks on each side of the bridge? Then some sort of affixed guardrail bolted to the bridge deck where it lifts? Seems pretty simple and cheap.

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  • pixelgate June 15, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Sorry I can’t read through 170+ comments, but what prevents a psychopath from seeing this news story and realizing that all they have to do is open a can of soda, get in a car, and they then have the freedom to mow down a cyclist or pedestrian just to see what it feels like or because they’re a sicko out to kill someone, and when the cops show up you can use the choking on soda excuse and the cops just let you go home?

    This is messed up

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    • Spiffy June 16, 2015 at 8:43 am

      we’ll see what charges the perpetrator ends up with…

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  • gutterbunnybikes June 15, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    Just curious if the drivers cell phone was checked for texts or what not? Choking on soda is a pretty lame excuse. Pretty sure many of us have “choked” on soda pop more than once while driving, and never lost control.

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    • Pete June 15, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      As a matter of due diligence they’ll pull his records because a person was killed (you can bet that insurance companies and probably civil court will demand this information). Unfortunately, as we’ve learned from the Amtrak incident, correlating the exact timing of calls and texts with a split-second impact isn’t an exact science. There’s a timestamp, and calls have a duration as well, but no GPS positioning is correlated, and it’s difficult to prove that sending texts led to the collision; if a small number are sent, it’s possible the driver pulled over to do so safely, and phone conversations are perfectly legal with the proper hands-free devices.

      (Maybe PPB’s policies and procedures are different, but my neighbor Mike is a detective here in CA who worked with the detectives who investigated the death of our other neighbor, Stan. Mike was not allowed on the case due to his relationship with Stan, but he was still privy to details due to ‘professional courtesy’, and he filled me in – we all used to ride together).

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      • J_R June 16, 2015 at 2:31 pm

        In spite of your story, I don’t believe that police agencies “routinely” examine phone records. At least, it doesn’t say so in news stories. What is reported is whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet regardless of whether or not it is required.

        If it became known that phone records were examined for crashes, that might have an impact on phone use. The current, virtually unenforced prohibition against phone use doesn’t produce very high compliance.

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        • Pete June 16, 2015 at 6:37 pm

          As I said, I don’t know about PPB ‘s policies, but I know for a fact that if a mobile phone is found on or near the driver of a crash that results in a death, my county’s sheriff’s department’s detective will attempt to get hold of the phone records for the time around the crash. It requires a court order, so they have to convince a judge that there is probable cause to believe that the use of the device may have played a role in the crash. If the judge denies probable cause to subpoena the records, then it goes on file as being ruled out as a factor.

          Again your local practices may vary, but it’s typically a CYA thing, I’m told from the detective that lives across the street from me and his deputy buddy that we ride with sometimes. Who knows, maybe they’re feeding me lines… it’s the Internet, good on ya for taking it with a grain of salt.

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  • LESTER June 15, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Spiffy
    most Europeans laugh at the idea of cup-holders in cars… they are taught not to have those kinds of distractions in their vehicles…

    Of course most of them have never driven across Texas in the summer, either. 🙂

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    • 9watts June 15, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      You are right. That would be pretty far out of their way.

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    • Opus the Poet June 18, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      Hell, they are putting hydration systems in Sprint Cup race cars, so getting a drink without killing someone at speed is possible. I know these systems have been in place for at least 5 years and there have never been any wrecks attributed to a driver using the system in a race. There were a couple that leakage of the hydration system was blamed for the wreck, but nothing where the driver getting a drink was a factor.

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  • kittens June 15, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    I know from personal experience that there are often speed enforcement actions on the Burnside at night. Apparently, this is not a strong enough deterrent to prevent rampant speeding.

    Honestly, I can see no reason we have not installed permanent speed cams on ALL the willamette bridges. If drivers are going to continuously flout the law then we need continuous monitoring. Pulling over a couple cars every few weeks is going to do nothing and has done little.

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  • Eric June 15, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    Terrible incident. Well-written article. When will the driver be cited? At best, this is failure to exercise due care (running your motor vehicle into people or things is automatically at least one violation, regardless of circumstances.)

    As for immediate action vs political process: please just do something right now. Even if they only put cones out ala better naito, at least you would have the noise of cones stuck in the wheelwells to warn you of approaching SUVs.

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    • Spiffy June 16, 2015 at 8:45 am

      cones are a great idea that’s cheap and easy…

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  • ac June 16, 2015 at 9:10 am

    paikiala
    Live you life the way you like, but your errors should not cost me my life.Recommended 14

    I agree, it shouldn’t. But, the world is complex. You’d have to be a hermit to avoid the mistakes of others, even then nature itself is unpredictable and even lethal. Or, is it everyone else’s responsibility to keep you safe? Advocating a removal of all risk has problems that go with it.

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    • hat June 16, 2015 at 10:49 am

      Removal of all risk?

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    • Matt June 16, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      Yes, it absolutely is everyone’s responsibility not to endanger those around them. This is why we have laws and jails for those who just don’t give a damn.

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    • Paul in the 'Couve June 16, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      Generally speaking the principle is that any individual should be able to chose what risks and level of risks to take regarding their own safety and should not be subject to arbitrary imposition of serious risk by other people. This is the principle behind large swaths of what we regulate in this country, and most other countries. That is why all cities ban the discharge of fire arms in the city limits, limit fireworks, ban explosives, regulate industrial practices.

      Of course, the elimination of all risk, even from other people’s actions is impossible, but is there any even remotely reasonable argument out there that the streets are so safe for pedestrians that we are near the point of diminishing returns in terms of risk reduction?

      The big problem we have, the rock we are currently pushing up hill, is the entitlement mentality of driving and automobile dependence. This attitude is so pervasive that it actually takes a real change in perspective – a paradigm shift – for most people to accept that when they get in a car and drive they are: 1) a hazard to other people, 2) responsible for driving in a manner that protects people on the street.

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  • Steve June 16, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Ban all cars! That’s the only way we can prevent these senseless, heinous crimes! OR… we can accept that in this world of ours, terrible and unfortunate things happen, and we will never be able to prevent all of them. People are killed by trains, on boats, while skiing, by errant foul balls, and even, GASP, by cyclists! (http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/bicycle-crash-kills-another-pedestrian-central-park). That doesn’t mean that it’s any less sad when it happens or that we should be indifferent to it, but this idea that we can somehow anticipate and prevent every single one of these, I’m gonna say it, accidents, is ludicrous.

    There have been some pretty reasonable suggestions made here for trying to do what we can to prevent these unfortunate events, but it’s mostly drowned out by the holier than thou outrage I’ve come to expect from the comments section of BikePortland.

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    • rachel b June 16, 2015 at 10:28 am

      Hi, Steve. But….they really are the very definition of “senseless” (and heinous) crimes if the result of distraction and negligence, and thereby easily preventable.

      I’m with you about accepting things we can’t change, and indeed—accidents do happen. But we’re not talking about accidents. It’s not the same as a deer running in front of your car. We’re talking about increasingly comfy/plushy, massive vehicles and a culture that’s made for millions of distracted drivers who treat their trucks/cars like their second living rooms. And a population that knows that if they get in an “accident”—even one that kills someone–they can say, “I choked on a donut” and go home and continue driving distractedly, with impunity. That’s a problem, and it can be prevented.

      I like to count the number of folks I see in a day, driving and texting or talking on phones, eating, drinking, smoking. All these things cause accidents, all are preventable—not just unfortunate. We’ve all gotten way too comfortable in our cars.

      I agree with you regarding (for example) trains and the ridiculous overkill FRA Final Rule of 2005. But that’s a horse of a different color.

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      • Steve June 17, 2015 at 3:29 pm

        Hello Rachel. I don’t think we actually disagree on too much here. People do all kinds of stuff while driving that they definitely shouldn’t be doing, as you point out. I guess the main difference would be in how we choose to define “distraction” and “negligence.” If taking a drink of a beverage while driving is “negligence,” then I’m pretty sure we’ve all been guilty of that. What about listening to the radio/changing stations, or having a conversation with a passenger? Do those things count? Those are also things that I’m pretty sure at least 90% of us have done, but we’ve been fortunate that they haven’t led to these kinds of tragedies.

        Or what about thinking about your shopping list, or errands you have to run, or what to make for dinner, or a conversation you had earlier? Those things may very well be distractions, but how would you possibly prove that they led to something like this? In an ideal world everyone would have laser-like focus every second that they’re driving, but that’s unfortunately never going to happen. So either we decide that, as John Hart suggests further down, we throw drivers in these kinds of incidents in prison without exception, or we try to establish and refine laws defining what exactly constitutes negligence, and use those to hold people accountable.

        It’s an unfortunate aspect of our society that we always need someone’s head on a pike to feel like we’ve done something, to ameliorate our sense of helplessness when terrible things happen. Whether or not our response actually improves anything in any significant way seems to matter far less than the perception of such.

        I probably should have just cited this post in the first place, since it says basically what I think in the tone I’d like to say it in.

        resopmok
        At the risk of being chastised, I’ll be bold enough to state that of all the incidents of injury and death reported on this website recently, this is the first one I (for now, based on the current reporting) feel is truly an accident. We can argue about the merits of whether sipping a soda is distracted driving, but I feel I can say with almost certainty that drinking (non-alcoholic) beverages while driving is something we’ve all done without a second thought, excluding the few here who don’t drive at all. And yes, there is the remote chance that the design flaw of our throats can occasionally allow liquid to go down the wrong pipe, leading to a lot of coughing while we attempt to expel it from our lungs.I know emotions are running high after the spate of injuries and death caused by motor vehicles recently, but please, let’s make an appeal to reason and not fly off the deep end on this one.I do agree too that better infrastructure here could have saved a life, and bridges, which are notorious high speed bottlenecks, are very good candidates for the spending of money on improvement. Realistically though, we can’t line every sidewalk and bike lane with jersey barriers, and we have to be willing to accept that out in the real world, sometimes, tragic accidents are going to happen.Recommended 14

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    • Rob Chapman June 16, 2015 at 11:39 am

      Demanding that people take responsibilty while operating dangerous equipment is hardly holier than thou outrage. Of course thats the sort of comment I’ve come to expect from traffic violence apologists.

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    • Pete June 16, 2015 at 6:50 pm

      “People are killed by trains…”

      Would you consider a passenger train engineer allowing his train to exceed double the speed restriction into a curve and killing eight people ‘preventable’? How much would you, as a taxpayer, spend to prevent the loss of the eight lives in this derailment?

      I ask because we’ve already spent tens of billions of dollars (going back to 2008) in research and development for a wireless system designed to prevent these situations from happening, resulting in the mandate for deployment of a system called “Positive Train Control” in high-risk corridors by 2015. (Incidentally, this was highly influenced by the growth of crude shipments by rail and the amount of damage they cause when they derail – again, I’m sure insurance companies were involved in the political influence).

      Now, if you look at the number of people killed in train crashes each year, versus the number of people killed by cars… realize that the financial impact of auto-related damage is already mitigated by the additional financial burden we carry called “auto insurance.” So yes, we can accept that in this world of ours, we have a dollar value assigned to our lives, and getting killed by cars just doesn’t really cost that much.

      P.S. This stretch of track in Philly is scheduled to have PTC deployed and tested in just a few months.

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  • ac June 16, 2015 at 9:46 am

    hat
    This is false logic. What freedoms are we lacking due to safety. Unfortunately, people are free to use a cell phone in their car as long as it is handless. People are free to drink and eat and argue in their cars. But if they choose to do these things and cause injury or death, they must be held responsible.Recommended 4

    I am not advocating avoiding responsibility; exactly the opposite. Cities (and societies) are cool because of the complexities of interactions. To live together peacefully, we need to engage in a respectful and responsible manner. Removing the complexities and conflicts is what would make cities (and societies) soulless. Civilization itself IS the management of all these conflicts so that we can all live together and all be free.

    And, I’m not arguing against improving safety. I cited the steady improvements Per Vehicle Mile in the traffic fatality census link. Maybe a metal rail is needed at that curb w/ 35mph traffic 12″ away? Or maybe traffic calming design is needed to reduce vehicle speed? But creating bunker walls between modes of transport because someone might have a medical event while driving is NOT appropriate if we are to have a vibrant city(society). We need to figure out where the line is between those strategies to balance the wonderful things about the complexities and the tragic things about the conflicts. I’m suggesting over-protecting us at the expense of an open and diverse city (society) is not appropriate. There is a choice to be made, and it is not as simple as wall-off-the-world or protect bikes at the expense of freedom to move.

    The health of the city is made up of the openness with which we can all access it and each other.

    For instance, I think bikes should be able to merge with traffic when they need to in order to navigate the city. Being restricted to a bike lane and being forced in to weird bike boxes is odd and confusing. North Williams is an unfortunate design that bowed to bike concerns with infrastructure changes that are unique and confusing when speed & behavior was the issue.

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    • Steve June 16, 2015 at 10:12 am

      I really have a hard time understanding how what they did on North Williams is in any way safer than it was. You’ve got one lane turning into two lanes for a couple blocks and then back into one which just seems silly, and then you’ve got car and bike traffic crossing each other there by the New Seasons. I would really appreciate it if someone could help me understand that.

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    • hat June 16, 2015 at 11:15 am

      “Over-protecting us at the expense of an open and diverse city (society) is not appropriate. There is a choice to be made, and it is not as simple as wall-off-the-world or protect bikes at the expense of freedom to move.”

      I see no one over-protected other than the person who killed another person.

      “Freedom to move” does not equal freedom to move recklessly and with impunity. You are conflating the two. Again, false dichotomy.

      Limiting rights:
      Installing a camera in one’s car so as to limit that person’s behavior would be limiting freedom.

      Rule of law:
      Prosecuting a person for irresponsibly and fatally directing a metal object at another is simply upholding the individual freedom of being protected from harm. No one should have the freedom to hurt another with impunity. But as a culture we FALSELY accept this under certain circumstances, e.g. if one person is conducting a motorized metal object. This is the point many find unjust.

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  • ac June 16, 2015 at 9:53 am

    Joshua
    Let’s steer this conversation towards treating the operation of a dangerous, two-ton hunk of plastic and metal as a privilege, one that carries with it an extreme amount of responsibility.Recommended 7

    Someone in the comments section here once suggested that all drivers should be required to commute by bike before stepping up to the privilege of driving. Traffic design is not without merits, but perspective on the inherent dangers & consequences for tragic collisions would do far more than traffic barriers to improve transport safety.

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  • Tye June 16, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Its a tragic incident, that might have been prevented numerous ways. Thriving civilizations that value quality of life, need enforced laws, planning, infrastructure, and thoughtful citizens that participate in supporting these needs. How about some discussion on how to fund these needs.

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  • David Forsythe June 16, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Wow, I am stunned! Did I read this correctly, that the picture shown of a proposed barrier system using metal guardposts to clearly and cleanly provide an obvious safety separation between motorists and bicycle riders/ pedestrians was proposed to city government 3 years ago and was never acted upon? That represents an appalling show of government irresponsibility in my opinion, and now a man in the prime of life is dead as a result. And unfortunately he most likely will not be the last.
    That kind of fix, simple and relatively inexpensive I am sure by today’s standards, is an obvious no-brainer, especially in the more heavily traveled areas such as the Burnside Bridge. And I am speaking from a motorist point of view.
    While I am totally in favor of bicyclists having the same rights as motorists in using city streets and thoroughfares, the current system of bicycle lanes separated from traffic lanes only by painted lines, where a moment of distraction on either side can have tragic results, begs for a better way. In some areas a motorist must actually cross a bicycle lane to make a right turn!
    We have always been a progressive city so let’s continue that trend to make our streets and bridges safe for all citizens to use regardless of their preferred method of travel. Start slow if necessary, start with the Burnside Bridge, but start, so that this most recent tragedy will not have been in vain, and before another easily preventable tragedy takes place.

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  • ac June 16, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    hat
    >“Freedom to move” does not equal freedom to move recklessly and with impunity. You are conflating the two. Again, false dichotomy.Limiting rights: Installing a camera in one’s car so as to limit that person’s behavior would be limiting freedom.Rule of law: Prosecuting a person for irresponsibly and fatally directing a metal object at another is simply upholding the individual freedom of being protected from harm. No one should have the freedom to hurt another with impunity. But as a culture we FALSELY accept this under certain circumstances, e.g. if one person is conducting a motorized metal object. This is the point many find unjust.Recommended 2

    I agree with that; I am not conflating the two. Don’t put words in my mouth.

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  • The Duke June 16, 2015 at 5:00 pm

    Here’s a simple public service announcement/message that would serve this purpose well.

    “would you speed through a park where children are playing and people are picnicking, relaxing or playing with their children?
    Would you drive with one hand on a burger and soda while talking on the phone in your own neighborhood in front of your own house, where your children or grandchildren are playing?
    Would you? No? then don’t do it on Portland’s streets!”

    “Pay attention to the road, it’s respect for Other people’s lives!”

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  • John Hart June 16, 2015 at 11:39 pm

    Here is the problem: “Walker remained at the scene after the collision and was released shortly after.” Yes, you read it right – the SUV driver who went up on the sidewalk, while drinking a soda instead of watching the road, killing one person and severely injuring another, was RELEASED.

    This is also how all the cyclist-hit-by-truck stories end, with the driver being RELEASED. As a result, drivers have nothing to fear. Kill somebody? No problem. Cripple somebody? No big deal. At worst, the police will drop by a few days later, after their “investigation” is complete, and hand the driver a ticket for $150 or so.

    When people read these “the driver was released” stories, it reinforces the idea that they can run people down with their cars or trucks and it’s perfectly okay. When the stories end differently – like this: “the driver was arrested, is in jail, and will serve a mandatory minimum of 2 years in prison” – people will start to PAY ATTENTION while driving. Until then, there is no reason for them to be careful not to hit anyone, so the soda-drinking and phone-texting and putting-on-makeup… and the killing of cyclists and pedestrians… will continue.

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    • Steve June 17, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      It really sounds like you are of the belief that everyone who drives a motor vehicle is a soulless sociopath. Do you honestly believe that this driver feels absolutely no remorse or guilt for having killed another person? Do you think that all the motorists sitting at home reading this are thinking, “Oh thank goodness, for a second I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get away with killing someone today.” I can say from personal experience that, unless the driver happens to be one of the roughly 4% of the population that actually IS a sociopath, this kind of event will likely haunt him or her for the rest of his or her life.

      While we’re at it, let’s also ignore that there are laws with very stiff penalties against all kinds of things, and those things continue to happen. I’m not saying we should abolish those laws, but treating them as the magic bullet that will somehow stop all the bad things from happening is pretty short-sighted.

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      • Paul in the 'Couve June 17, 2015 at 3:55 pm

        Oh yes, the old “no penalty needed” because of course the driver feels so bad. Someone is dead. He killed somebody. Punishment is appropriate, feeling guilty or not.

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        • Steve June 17, 2015 at 4:21 pm

          Watch your heads, we’ve got assumptions flying around right and left! It’s like nobody is even trying to actually have a conversation and understand the other person. If the driver was truly negligent, whatever that means under our current law, he should be punished according to the law. Fortunately it’s not up to the court of public opinion to do so, otherwise he would presumably have already received the death penalty.

          I never said he should be let off the hook because he feels bad (how would you even measure relative guilt levels anyway?) I was specifically arguing against what I perceived to be John Hart’s implication that every driver involved in a fatal accident feels that it’s “no big deal” unless they go to prison. Maybe some people truly don’t care, and they’re clearly awful people. I guess I just feel like most people already have a built in aversion to hurting other people, and no severity of punishment is going to be more effective at preventing these sorts of things. “Well I would plow through all those pedestrians, but I don’t want to go to prison, so I guess I won’t.”

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          • El Biciclero June 17, 2015 at 6:10 pm

            The implication isn’t as you state; it’s more subtle. It isn’t that someone who has already been involved in a fatal accident thinks it’s “no big deal”, it’s that people lacking that experience feel like they don’t have to be super careful, because if they do happen to slip up and—oops!—kill somebody, nothing really bad will happen to them. Little do they know the psychological and emotional trauma they’re in for if they do run somebody down “accidentally”, but until they have the experience, it’s all a little abstract. However, being without a car or going to jail are a little easier to imagine.

            Just about anybody who has killed someone with their car due to carelessness or negligence will tell you that whatever innocuous thing they thought they were doing in addition to driving at the time is something they will “never” do again, because they didn’t appreciate the danger of the distraction, and they couldn’t appreciate the aftermath of killing someone because it hadn’t happened to them.

            Now does that mean that harsher penalties will deter bad drivers? I don’t know, but I do have a hunch that if we could do something such as actually remove motor vehicles from the possession of habitual bad drivers, we’d be a lot better off on the roads.

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  • Glenn June 17, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    Back around a hundred years ago, automobiles were promoted with the idea that they would always be under perfect human control, and “no one would ever again be killed by a team of runaway horses.” Well, they were half right. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a news report of anyone being killed by a team of runaway horses in the U.S.

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