TriMet bus operator allegedly drives into people on Williams Ave, then flees – UPDATED

This photo shows a TriMet bus driver who drove through a crosswalk despite the presence of people walking and biking.
(Photos by Abraham Sutfin)

Last night a TriMet bus operator turned her bus directly into a group of people who were using North Williams Avenue. Witnesses reported that contact was made between the bus and a trailer attached to a man’s bicycle, but luckily there were no injuries. According to people at the scene, the bus operator forced her way through a crosswalk that was full of bikers and walkers while honking repeatedly, then fled only to stop several blocks later after people chased her down.

Ironically, the man whose trailer was allegedly hit was on the “Save The Humans” traffic safety protest ride happening as part of Pedalpalooza.

The incident happened around 7:15 pm last night at the intersection of N Williams and Fremont. A group of people were biking north on Williams when a #4 TriMet Bus (#3106) wanted to turn left. Based on photos taken at the scene there were several dozen riders already north of Fremont before the bus operator started the left turn.

Local business owner Abraham Sutfin snapped several photos from the sidewalk outside his store across the street. I’ve shared them below in chronological order:


The photo below was taken by Halley Weaver from behind the fracas south of Fremont. It shows Kathleen Youell (who was, incidentally at the Mayor’s recent safety meeting at City Hall to speak up for people who ride with familes), pedaling her kids in a cargo bike. Weaver said Youell had been, “pushed into the shoulder and hasn’t gotten back into the bike lane because the bus cut into the bike lane way back at the crosswalk where the bike lane striping began.” Also note that both the light and the walk signal are green:

Note that just prior to this intersection, the bike lane is painted solid green. Then just before Fremont it becomes striped and veers right to mark a mixing zone where vehicles who want to turn left are required cross over the bicycle lane. This location has been problematic ever since it was designed. Back in December we covered a collision here and a few months later PBOT addressed concerns by adding more green paint.

According to two witnesses who saw last night’s collision, the bus operator failed to yield to people who were in the bike lane. Cameron Schnur told us he and a few others had left the bike lane because it was full and was riding in the adjacent lane. “I look behind me, and all I see is a bus. I was riding with a trailer, which I’m not used to doing, and it still felt like this bus was pretty uncomfortably close.”

Here’s more from Schnur:

“I see the bus cut through the “merge” to the turn lane, without yielding to our cyclists who were continuing straight, next to it in the bike lane. I didn’t see what happened to those cyclists that the bus cut off; I was later told that they were forced to the curb. As far as I knew at that point, they could’ve been hit.”

Then, according to Schnur, the bus starting “honking rapidly” and continued through the crosswalk where several people on bikes and foot were using. The bus operator continued through, forcing people to get out of the way.

“It [the bus] is not slowing down. I believe Aaron [Tarfman, the man who’s trailer was allegedly hit] was on the opposite side of the bus from me (cut off by it). I am in front of the bus (it’s turning behind me). At this point, I turn and begin banging on the side of the bus with my hand to get it to stop, but it does not. It continues through the crosswalk and accelerates to the next intersection, fleeing the scene. According to Aaron/another witness, the bus clipped Aaron’s trailer on that turn. I didn’t see that, but am not at all surprised by it. From the look of that fast, honking turn through the crosswalk, I feel it’s a miracle no one was hurt.

Aaron, another cyclist or two, and I, book it down Fremont to catch up to the bus to cut it off. We pass a cop car on the way; their windows are down. I yell something about ‘this bus just tried to kill us’ but I’m not sure I’m heard.

We catch up to the bus a few blocks down, and get it to stop. Another cyclist (not sure who) shouts that the bus should call this in. We see the bus driver get on the phone. Then, a few passengers come out of the bus to tell us to move. We exchange a few words, mostly “you guys are in the way, move” and “that bus driver just tried to kill us” and within a few minutes, we move on, and let the bus go.”

Another witness confirmed Schnur’s account of the bus operator “forcing her way” through the crosswalk while it was full of people. And another source told us the ride was about 50 people strong at the time of the collision, but they were not corking (stopping cross traffic) against a light.

Shane Strudwick was on the bus when the collision occurred and shared her account of what happened on Twitter last night. From her vantage point on the right-side rear of the bus, she felt like the bike riders were “interfering with TriMet.” “I was on that bus,” she wrote, “he wasn’t hit. He slammed the side of the bus & impeded its route.” Strudwick added that in her mind, “the driver did everything she could to avoid him.”

TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch says they are aware of the incident and are currently looking into it. We’ll update this post when we know more.

UPDATE, 3:11pm: Aaron Tarfman, the man whose trailer came within a foot of the bus, just shared his account with us:

“I was preparing to leave the ride early to get back before sunset. So instead of heading straight north, I turned left on Fremont (too much traffic to make a right turn) and did a U-turn in order to go east. As I was maneuvering over towards the curb, the bus made a left turn and I started to get really scared as I saw the side of the bus keep inching towards me. At closest approach I think it was less then a foot from my face. I also was afraid that it would destroy the trailer.

With the adrenaline pumping, it was difficult to figure out how the trailer didn’t get squashed, and thankfully the side of the bus followed it’s path back into the lane.

I chased down the bus (along w/ two others) and put myself in front of it in order to address the driver. However the woman driving refused to speak to me. She did however, let off passengers ostensibly to ‘talk to me.’ I was very clear to the passengers that my beef was NOT with them and apologized to them for the inconvenience. I repeated, that I simply wanted to talk to the driver. I support transit users as they’re also helping reduce traffic and pollution.”

CLARIFICATION: This post originally stated that the bus made contact with a man’s bicycle trailer. We are working to clarify whether contact was actually made, or whether the bus merely came within inches of it. Sorry for any confusion.

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