Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Man riding motorcycle dies after collision with delivery truck at Williams and Monroe (updated)

Posted by on August 11th, 2015 at 2:45 pm

A man died early Tuesday, Portland police said, two days after a collision between a motorcycle he was riding and a Red Cross blood delivery truck turning left off of North Williams Avenue at Monroe Street.

It happened at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday on the corner just outside Urban Nest Realty, one block south of the Waypost and immediately west of Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. According to a police statement on Tuesday, the man in the motorcycle had been trying to overtake the truck on the left, presumably by entering the bike lane, when the truck made a legal left turn.

This is to my knowledge the first traffic fatality on Williams since its late 2014 redesign that created a wide left-side bike lane and various crosswalk improvements, and restricted auto traffic on many blocks to a single lane.

Here’s the PPB’s initial description of the collision:

Officers learned that the delivery truck driver was heading northbound on North Williams Avenue and took a left turn onto North Monroe Street when it collided with a motorcycle. The motorcycle riders, an unknown age male and 29-year-old female, were thrown from motorcycle. The male suffered life-threatening injuries and the female was also seriously injured. The delivery truck driver, who was in the process of delivery blood to the Red Cross, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

An investigation into the crash is underway. The Major Crash Team was unable to respond and the Portland Police Bureau is being assisted by the East County Major Crash Team.


Police later identified the man as Robert Gabriel, 32. His passenger was Tasheena Kuehl, 29. She “remains in the hospital and is expected to survive,” police wrote Tuesday.

As the main conduit between North and inner Northeast Portland and most of the rest of the city, the Williams-Vancouver couplet is Portland’s single most-ridden bike route.

Update 5 p.m.: Here’s more from the PPB. I’ve updated the text above to reflect this.

The driver of the delivery truck involved in this crash has been identified as 29-year-old John Millar.

Investigators have learned that Millar was driving northbound on Williams and began to make a legal left turn onto Monroe Street when Gabriel, riding a motorcycle, attempted to pass him on the left and crashed into the truck.

Investigators believe that excessive speed and alcohol were factors in Gabriel’s driving and crash.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

70 thoughts on “Man riding motorcycle dies after collision with delivery truck at Williams and Monroe (updated)”

  1. Avatar Jonathan says:

    Terrible. I won’t speculate, other than to say that as a cyclist and a motorcyclist, I’m really hoping this motorcycle wasn’t in the bike lane.

  2. Avatar ethan says:

    When Williams was being redesigned, I was pretty excited about it… until I saw the design. I knew it wasn’t going to be too long before someone was killed on this street.

    1. Avatar paikiala says:

      Even a stopped analog clock is right twice a day. Confirmation of a negative bias is not evidence, so much as coincidence.

      1. Avatar resopmok says:

        All my evidence may be anecdotal, but when I almost get left hooked on the same road three times within ten minutes, then I feel like there’s something wrong with the design.

      2. Avatar soren says:

        I would like to see use numbers on Williams before and after the reconfiguration. My guess is that Williams has seen a drop in use.

    2. Avatar Adam H. says:

      That’s what happens when we build-in conflict into our streets.

      1. Avatar Pete says:

        I don’t think design killed this motorcyclist.

  3. Avatar Alex says:

    It doesn’t really matter who was at fault here, the fact is that N Williams saw one fatality in more than a decade, and since the re-design, nearly every single person I know who’s crazy enough to still use N Williams has had a near-miss or a collision.

    This re-design is going to continue taking lives and everyone responsible for it’s design should be ashamed.

    1. Avatar ethan says:

      “nearly every single person I know who’s crazy enough to still use N Williams has had a near-miss or a collision.”

      Yep. I have an interesting dilemma. I used to Williams because I was coming from downtown. After the switchover (and moving offices to the Lloyd District), I switched to 7th (both changes happened around the same time). Since 7th has gotten so much worse since then, I’ve switched back to Williams…

      But that’s not safe, so I’ve been trying a random assortment of back-streets. The route that I COULD take to work, the most direct route (NE 15th) has no bike facilities, so I COULD take the next most direct (MLK), but there are no bike facilities, so the next most direct (NE 7th) is dangerous due to drivers avoiding MLK, so the next most direct (Vancouver / Williams) is also dangerous due to mixing zones, etc.

      There aren’t really any routes left that I feel safe on, anymore between my work and my house.

      1. Avatar Jonathan says:

        Rodney? Not perfect, but feels pretty safe to me.

        1. Avatar WD says:

          I ride Rodney regularly (maybe 2 – 4 times / week) and it feels like aggressive driving is getting worse there. Just like all the other greenways, the City isn’t doing anything to curb cut-through motor traffic that’s trying to avoid Williams. The one diverter helps in the immediate vicinity, but south of there aggressive driving is a problem, especially in uphill sections where people on bikes aren’t moving fast.

          1. Avatar lop says:

            For a while after the diverter went in I would see a sign on it, presumably from a motorist, asking others annoyed by the diverter to contact him about getting the city to get rid of it. What confused me was that it would be hard to read if you were biking by. Never mind driving. You’d really only see it if you were on foot, got out of your car, or stopped on your bike.

          2. Avatar Amy says:

            I use Mallory between Fremont and Going, sometimes Garfield. It’s more intuitive and I can make a right into Fremont instead of a left.

    2. Avatar LC says:

      This re-design is going to continue taking lives and everyone responsible for it’s design should be ashamed.

      Actually everyone responsible should be fired, the people in charge should be fired and held legally responsible, before it is re-redesigned correctly.

    3. Avatar Pete says:

      Why doesn’t it matter who was at fault? If I use a ladder to climb over a barbwire fence on a bridge and jump to my death below, is it really the fault of the fence designer, or the person who decided a fence should be put up to help prevent people from jumping?

      Did the city have a public input process on the Williams redesign? If so, how many of you commenting here attended? In my city, we had three proposals for a particular bike project about 5 years ago. I went to both open houses and very few bicyclists were there, despite it being well advertised by the city and local blogs. A similar left lane design was chosen by popular demand (and for several logical reasons), and now everyone complains about how confusing it is for drivers and bicyclists.

      If the bike lane is on the left, the conflict is with left-turning drivers. If the bike lane is on the right, the conflict is with doors and right-turning drivers (and pedestrians).

      Again, poor design did not kill this motorcyclist, poor decision-making did.

    4. Avatar was carless says:

      Really? As someone who doesn’t live in the neighborhood, I’ve had just the opposite experience. I used to be regularly run off the street by buses and squeezed into parked cars by other cyclists, but the new lane is great. I take it, no problems at all!

  4. Avatar Todd Hudson says:

    “Investigators believe that excessive speed and alcohol were factors in Gabriel’s driving and crash.”

    1. Avatar ethan says:

      “attempted to pass him on the left and crashed into the truck.”

      If someone on a bike were there, they would have probably been hit by the drunk person on the motorcycle as well.

      Why do we have un-protected bike lanes on the most used bike route in the city?

      1. Avatar meh says:

        The collision was at an intersection, how do you propose protected bike lanes in that situation?

        I guess Williams could be a no left turn street and all the streets on the west side would dead end a Williams.

        1. Avatar WAR says:

          Protected bike lanes might have removed the temptation to take the physical space. The intersection wouldn’t have been enough room if it was the only thing open. Think about it.

      2. Avatar George H. says:

        No amount of bike infrastructure will stop reckless day drunks from making really bad decisions.

        1. Avatar WAR says:

          No amount of bike infrastructure will stop reckless people from making really bad decisions.

          1. Avatar q`Tzal says:

            Corollary to “man invents better mouse trap, nature makes a smarter mouse”
            “society produces safer environments, humanity produces a ‘better’ id10t”

            Always leave room for the dedicated rule breakers. We’ve killed off too many lions and tigers and bears for nature to “prune the family tree”; guess it’s up to us.

  5. immediately west of Legacy Emanuel Medical Center

    According to the pin in the map and it being on N Williams, it’s just east of the Medical Center.

    1. Avatar Champs says:

      At least I’m not the only one who gets turned around with east and west in Portland.

      I don’t struggle with orienting in general, but my brain uses the river for reference, and that has a tendency to move relative to where I am 😉

      1. I have not figured this out either. Something about Portland throws off my natural internal magnetic north – and that’s something I’ve been great with elsewhere. I almost always think West is North and have to pause and think about it. Which is really screwed up because Portland is on such a grid that all directions should be super easy.

  6. Avatar Carl says:

    Drunk people operating motor vehicles at high speed can make ANY road unsafe. To spin this as an indictment of Williams’ design is laughable. Where’s the outrage over how the Broadway Bridge design failed to keep a drunk guy from driving his car across it on the sidewalk?

    1. Avatar wsbob says:

      Good point that using this collision to imply that the road’s design is at fault, is a mistake.

      This collision having occurred around closing time for bars, it will be no surprise if tests confirm that alcohol was a contributing factor. Add to that the illegal and risky road use, reportedly on the part of the motorcycle rider.

      People too drunk or otherwise impaired, to safely operate their vehicle or use a given road in general, do not necessarily mean the road’s design is responsible for collisions occurring.

      Williams Ave’s reconfiguration, wound up with some quirky aspects, settled upon as the least unfavorable of options…with lots of community participation in the process of deciding upon the design. People have to be alert and responsible to be able to use the road’s unique design safely, but when they are, it seems as though the design does work.

    2. Hey Carl – if you’re addressing this to Alex, worth noting that he posted his comment before the police said alcohol was involved. If you’re addressing this to me, it’s true I would have been less likely to post this on BP if I’d known that alcohol was involved … but we did indeed run a post about the Burnside Bridge’s design being partially at fault in this summer’s sidewalk fatality.

      1. Avatar Ted says:

        Hmmm…2:30 am and a motorcycle tries to pass a truck in the bike lane? Yeah, why would you want to wait and see If alcohol was involved? Much better to run with it and stir up the “N Williams bike lane sucks” discussion again. It is posts like this that continually to remind me that this is a bike advocacey blog in desperate search of topics that generate clicks (mostly from the same handful of people) then it is any kind of news website with any sense of journalistic integrity.

        1. Avatar WAR says:

          I like you Ted.

          1. Avatar Carl says:

            Sheesh indeed! I don’t know how you deal with these people (myself included).

            My comment, for what it’s worth, was aimed at the chorus of commenters who must either be new to town or incapable of remembering when Williams looked like this:

            For the record: I, too, believe that street design plays a role in most any crash and that design can always be better. I was one of the first to speak up when ODOT suggested otherwise on Barbur (

            This week, for the first time that I know of, the designs of Williams and the Broadway Bridge sidewalk both failed to a keep drunk people from crashing into things on them. Meanwhile, the design of 82nd Avenue killed a pedestrian at Glisan — an intersection where, as far as I know, ODOT has no plan to spend any part of their allotted $5.4 million for safety improvements. 82nd is a street that, unlike Williams or the Broadway Bridge, actually kills numerous people every year.

            These crashes ARE violence and if we are truly concerned about stopping them, we should focus our outrage on the streets that consistently perpetuate that violence. I’m not convinced that Williams is high on that list.

      2. Avatar WD says:

        This is very relevant, and I appreciate the story, Michael. Violence on our streets, especially streets where the City is experimenting with untested street design, is important to know about. This violence is happening right where the City expects us to ride our bicycles, so I feel this is very, very relevant to anyone who travels through there.

        1. Avatar WAR says:

          Violence always happens in areas that are taken from the poor. Good job.

        2. Avatar Pete says:

          This is not about violence on our streets. Violence implies intention, and neither the driver nor the motorcyclist intended to inflict pain on each other.

          Carl nailed it on the head. BP should send him $5 for COTW…

          1. Avatar WD says:

            I’ve heard violence defined as “the unlawful exercise of physical force,” and that’s how I’m using it here. I feel it applies to reckless driving: unlawfully applying the physical force of your vehicle to your surroundings.

        3. Avatar Ted G says:

          Drunk driving kills thousands of people every year, this one just happen to occur on a street with a bike lane. That is a coincidence nothing more nothing less. To suggest that the bike infrastructure had anything to do with it is just as absurd as suggesting the Broadway Bridge design had anything to do with a person being struck and killed on the sidewalk.

      3. Avatar wsbob says:

        “…but we did indeed run a post about the Burnside Bridge’s design being partially at fault in this summer’s sidewalk fatality.” andersen/bikeportland

        Michael…here’s the link to the story bikeportland wrote about the collision in June of this year on the Burnside:

        No report associated with that collision, suggesting that alcohol was a contributing factor. Reports suggested that it seemed the collision may have been due to distracted driving; some guy fumbling with his soda, failing to control his vehicle. The bridge itself, just guessing, is something near 100 years old.

        The bridges pedestrian infrastructure design consists of curb elevated sidewalks adjoining the main deck of the bridge. The guy let his vehicle crash into and jump that curb and then onto the sidewalk, crushing a person walking there. How many times over the life of this bridge, have collisions of this type occurred on this bridge, that could be said were partially due to the pedestrian infrastructure for this bridge being faulty? Very few if any, I suspect. There’s nothing really wrong with the Burnside’s simple elevated sidewalk pedestrian infrastructure, except that: motor vehicle traffic perhaps is allowed too high a speed in crossing.

        The linked bikeportland story features an illustration of a possible separated road use design using bollards with the caveat that the plastic bollards could not prevent cars from crashing through them. So for a bridge such as the Burnside, what’s the idea in mind for suitable physical remedies that would keep out of control cars from invading where people walk? Waist high concrete Jersey Barriers?

        I’m wondering how many people may be seriously starting to think that every bridge crossing shared by motor vehicle and foot traffic, should provide greater barrier protection for people walking; and biking as well, I suppose.

        1. Here’s another story we did on the Burnside subject in which we talked about the safety hazards caused by the wider-than-necessary general travel lanes and the extraneous third eastbound auto lane. Those are the design issues on the Burnside.

          The idea that every crash is in part the responsibility of the public, even those that involve alcohol, is controversial. But BikePortland subscribes to that idea on Williams as it does on Barbur. This fatality happened in the bike lane of the city’s most-ridden bike route. It was worth reporting.

          1. Avatar wsbob says:

            I just now kind of quickly browsed over the bikeportland story you provided the link to; there’s a lot in it to think through. Long story short: the bridge has an extra eastbound main lane, acquired when the city’s earlier streetcar era went by the wayside. Availability of that lane may someday come in handy should the city decide to recommission it for streetcar use.

            Considering use of road space used by that extra lane by reconfiguration of the bridge deck according to the graphic visualizations to enhance usability of the bridges’ bike lanes is fine, but I’m very skeptical that doing so would be effective in tricking people that drive excessively fast, into keeping their speed down.

            I think bikeportland reporting on the late night/early morning motorcycle guy, possibly(very) drunk, misusing William’s Avenues’ street lane configuration is a valid subject here, even though a bicycle wasn’t involved. Doesn’t seem right though, to fault the configuration of the street for types of collisions or close calls that reasonably alert people, responsibly using the road, seem able to easily avoid.

            Was it somehow out of a misunderstanding of the road’s lane configuration that the person operating the motorcycle tried by way of the bike lane (In Oregon, motor vehicles are not allowed to use bike lanes for travel.), at an intersection, to pass the delivery truck on its left side? A bit difficult to say, I suppose. Why did he not try to pass on the truck’s right side. Hard to ignore the possibility that the guy on the motorcycle was out for thrills, gambled and lost. That kind of behavior is not the fault of the road, nor is it the responsibility of the public to configure its roads to accommodate road users that willingly use reasonably designed roads, irresponsibly.

          2. Avatar Ted says:

            These two incidents are tragic accidents and not systemic problems that need to be “fixed.” As someone previously stated, pushing for “safer” infrastructure you are sending the message that cycling in Portland is not safe and the data does not support that hypothesis. My feeling is that more responsibility should be placed on cyclists to understand that cycling has inherent risks and I believe that the less you ride the more you are at risk of an accident. That is why car insurance rates for people <25 are higher than the rest of us right? Once you gain more experience and become more comfortable with urban riding, the safer you will be.

    3. Avatar Dead Salmon says:

      Agreed, this is a non-story. The story should be removed or comments disabled. Even MA, the News Editor, appears to agree.

    4. Avatar WD says:

      Carl, I disagree. Street design can keep everyone’s speed down, even intoxicated drivers. Physical barriers – something most world-class cities build around their bikeways – also have the benefit of visually condensing the roadway and encouraging people to travel more slowly.

      1. Avatar wsbob says:

        Street design uniquely designed for the purpose of keeping speed down, can help keep road user’s speed down, but that that type of design may not be commonly possible.

        Bottom line, is that safe road use depends greatly on responsible use of road, irrespective of the road’s design. Drunks or people otherwise irresponsibly using the road, pose a safety hazard that no commonly useable road design option may be able to adequately address. Which may have factored into countries such as Sweden’s effort to control that type of irresponsible road use through some features of the so called ‘vision zero’ initiative.

  7. Avatar Adam H. says:

    collision between a motorcycle he was riding and a Red Cross blood delivery truck turning left off of North Williams Avenue at Monroe Street

    Michael, please stop using this kind of language. The truck did not turn by itself – a person was driving that truck. I’d expect better from BikePortland.

    1. Avatar Pete says:

      I really want to see how you would write this. The truck was indeed turning left, regardless of the mechanisms enacted by the operator of the truck which forced it leftwards. Indisputably, the motorcycle and the truck collided. Are you saying this is grammatically incorrect, or it just isn’t PC enough for modern BikePortlandia?

      1. Avatar Adam H. says:

        A man died early Tuesday, Portland police said, two days after a person operating a delivery truck turned left off of North Williams Avenue at Monroe Street and struck the man riding the motorcycle.

        Not that hard.

        1. Avatar Pete says:

          Your sentence doesn’t convey whether the man who died was operating the motorcycle or the delivery truck… or either. It leaves the reader to imply that the motorcyclist was the loser in the collision, and technically speaking I it was likely the motorcycle that actually struck the delivery truck (which turned left into its path).

          MA’s sentence tells the reader exactly what happened, is grammatically correct, doesn’t introduce bias, and doesn’t require the reader to imply anything. I’m still scratching my head as to why someone would take offence to it.

      2. Avatar Dead Salmon says:

        You are correct – the story is not PC enough for BPers. PC BPers want it written that it was an irresponsible, mean, horrible vehicle driver that mowed down the innocent cyclist, or, in this case, motorcyclist.

        The other PC term used incorrectly by BPers in the comments above is “violence”. Their use of the term is laughable. Just like they refer to a gang shooting as gun “violence”. There is no such thing. They use the term to get some kind of emotional reaction – this is a common technique used by lib tards now-days. I think I read about gun “violence” in today’s O newspaper (the daily fish wrapper as Lars calls it). Laughable lib tards.


        1. Avatar Alan 1.0 says:

          I didn’t realize there was a brand of bike named “Dead Salmon.”

    2. Avatar Paul says:

      A technicality. Who cares? We all know what the meaning is. Jeez

      1. Avatar aaronf says:

        I agree with you, Paul. However, BikePortland has criticized other outlets for similar language, more than once. Here’s an example:

      2. Avatar pdx2wheeler says:

        I care! When you say things like a car turned and hit a bicycle it removes the human element from the discussion. Introducing the human element by saying a person driving a car hit another person on a bike doesn’t gloss over the fact that humans were affected by a collision, not just inanimate objects. It’s a subtle point but critically important in my opinion. It helps shape our perception of the event.

      3. Avatar Pete says:

        “It helps shape our perception of the event.”

        So much so that another commenter rewrote a perfectly clear description of events in a manner that left the reader open to imply that the motorcyclist was the victim of an irresponsible driver.

        1. Avatar pdx2wheeler says:

          Pete, you prove my point! When there is ambiguity in the language then the reader is fills in the details on their own, correctly or incorrectly.

          1. Avatar Pete says:

            You missed my point. The ambiguity I referred to is in the ‘corrected’ sentence above, not MA’s original writing. A truck turning [to the] left is a perfectly acceptable description of its heading.

            1. Avatar pdx2wheeler says:

              No, I clearly understood you were referencing the ‘corrected’ sentence… Oh well, I guess we’ll call collisions between bikes and vehicles “accidents” too, because it’s just a technicality and the language we use to describe these events are just words.

              1. Avatar Pete says:

                Sometimes they actually do happen by accident.

  8. Avatar Craig Harlow says:

    “Officers learned that the delivery truck driver was heading northbound on North Williams Avenue and took a left turn onto North Monroe Street when it collided with a motorcycle. The motorcycle riders, an unknown age male and 29-year-old female, were thrown from motorcycle. “

    Michael, you know I like, admire, and respect you guys, but could you push harder to get specific details behind such statements?

  9. Avatar Craig Harlow says:

    I frequently feel the same frustration about information coming from the police bureau, that there is no attribution for statements about what happened, when clearly the police themselves weren’t there to witness it.

    What is the name of the person who said it? On what basis have they said it? Either someone witnessed events, or physical evidence at the scene suggests what may have happened, or photo/video evidence shows what happened, or there is simply a lack of evidence from which to draw a conclusion beyond best-guessing.

  10. Avatar Steve B says:

    My heart goes out to the friends and family of the deceased.

  11. The irony of it being a life saving blood delivery truck.. It’s in the same vein as getting hit by an ambulance.

    The cause seems pretty straightforward though, and the fault lies with the motorcyclist. If it had been a bicycle, the driver might have been at fault. Does anyone else agree?

    1. Avatar are says:

      if it had been a bicycle, (a) it might not have been going too fast to take evasive action, (b) the motor vehicle operator would have had a responsibility to yield, (c) etc. counterfactual. i have not yet heard whether the motorist signaled the turn.

      1. Avatar Middle of the Road guy says:

        It seems much more probable the inebriated motorcyclist was going to fast for conditions, in addition to being in the wrong lane.
        and that he was trying to pass on the left and made a very poor judgment.

        You are going through some serious mental gymnastics to assign blame to the driver.

        Drunk and reckless = fault of the motorcyclist.

  12. Avatar PorterStout says:

    Portland seems to be losing its chill attitude. More traffic deaths from aggressive driving can be expected, I imagine.

    1. Avatar Dead Salmon says:

      Describe Portland’s chill attitude. I am not familiar with it.

      1. Avatar soren says:

        living in a growing city full of progressives can be stressful for some. i find it pretty chill, however.

      2. Avatar PorterStout says:

        Perhaps you haven’t lived anywhere else. I moved back here from the east coast about nine years ago, and driving (and biking) here was such a relief in comparison. People were just much calmer on the roads, and more courteous. You know, chill. Lately it’s begun to feel more like what I left.

  13. Avatar esther2 says:

    This is a simple and old story of an intoxicated person driving unsafely. It is not a story of bad street design.

    If anyone has a suggestion for a street design that would make operating motorcycles while intoxicated safe I would be interested in hearing about it.

    Sadly, the only way to decrease right or left hooks is to never assume anyone is going to yield the right of way to you. In a 5 mile ride yesterday I had nearly got creamed turning right off of Rosa Parks onto Vancouver. As I approached the intersection at a red light a woman in a little black car decided to go right on red and went right through the bike lane. I had anticipated her murderous driving and was able to slow down and not get killed.

    I find its a very very rare ride where I don’t have one close right hook call.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *