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Lombard fatality update: Blame, a vigil, and an apology

Posted by on December 15th, 2015 at 12:17 pm

lombardgap

NE Lombard and 42nd.

Martin Greenough is the name of the man who was killed while riding his bike on NE Lombard on Saturday night. He was 38 years old.

Here are some updates on the case as we continue to follow the story and report on its impacts…

The man driving the car that struck Greenough, 26-year-old Kenneth Smith Jr., was in court yesterday to face multiple charges in the incident including Manslaughter in the Second Degree, Criminally Negligent Homicide, Reckless Driving, and Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (Marijuana). KATU-TV was at the Justice Center and provided some important new details about Smith’s family and the crash itself.

According to KATU, Smith’s wife spoke on his behalf at the hearing, saying that he’s “An awesome person and he’s a great father to all three of these kids.” She pleaded for leniency and said the crash was an accident and that Smith had no idea what he’d done.

Smith has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held on $250,000 bail.

KATU has also reported that Smith’s father is blaming the bike lane design as being “partly responsible for the crash.”

This is the first blame on the road design we’ve seen from either party of the crash. So far, no one from Greenough’s family has come forward. (The Portland Police say they live out of state and we can’t find any information about him online.) Interestingly, this comes out the same day The Oregonian is reporting that the City of Portland will offer a surviving victim of a 2012 fatal collision a settlement of $325,000. The victim in that case was suing Portland for negligent road design.

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On that note, the KATU story says that “ODOT wasn’t aware of the interrupted bike lane until it got a complaint about it through the “orcycle” app.” Just to clarify, that’s not true. As we reported the day before Greenough was killed, an ODOT staffer replied to a citizen complaint about the bike lane gap at 42nd Avenue by saying, “Thank you for bringing this bike lane gap to our attention. This section of Lombard was not previously coded as a gap in our bicycle facility inventory.”

Not having the gap coded in a bike facility inventory is very different than not being aware the gap exists. ODOT owns and manages the road. They have signs pointing out that the gaps exist. They made the decision to drop the bike lanes.

Speaking of how dangerous that stretch of Lombard is, noted local activist and volunteer with BikeLoudPDX Terry Dublinski-Milton says ODOT should declare a “safety emergency” in order to get funding in place to build a path around the existing gap by this summer.

Livable Streets Action, a BikeLoudPDX affiliate group, says they will host a candlelight vigil for all victims of traffic violence this Thursday (12/17) from 4:30 – 5:30 pm in front of ODOT’s Region 1 headquarters in downtown Portland (123 NW Flanders St). They’re encouraging people to wear black clothing and bring extra shoes that will be placed in the road to represent victims. Saying that ODOT has, “consistently resisted safety improvements,” the group wants the state legislature to transfer Lombard (and other state highways) to the City of Portland and prioritize funding for immediate safety upgrades.

So far this year 406 people have died while using Oregon roads, that’s up about 24 percent over last year.

Anger and frustration at ODOT has been building for years among people who ride bikes in our region (with both legislators and activists calling for its director Matt Garrett to be fired). There’s a feeling in the communty (a very reasonable one, given their actions (or lack thereof) and the crash statistics on their roads) that the agency simply doesn’t care about the people who use their roads.

What we sometimes forget when venting at a huge public agency is that it’s made up of individual people — most of whom are trying to do their best and who might be just as frustrated about the pace of change as we are.

Last night Jessica Horning posted this to her personal Twitter account:

By day, Horning is the ODOT Region 1 Active Transportation Liaison.

Stay tuned. Up next we’ll have a statement from ODOT about Saturday’s crash.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

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LC
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LC

Looks to me like an ODOT official is admitting fault in this case.

Ted Buehler
Guest

ODOT knew.

They put up a sign instructing bicycles to take the lane. (as Jonathan states in the story).

https://www.google.com/maps/@45.5705112,-122.6210914,3a,37.5y,107.15h,85.81t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sa2BNZuZCgxck1fciAonjdg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

Ted Buehler

Jonathan wrote:
“the KATU story says that “ODOT wasn’t aware of the interrupted bike lane…”
&
“ODOT owns and manages the road. They have signs pointing out that the gaps exist. “

Scott H
Guest
Scott H

Given the percentage of those 406 fatalities that were in motor vehicles, it seems safe to assume that ODOT simply doesn’t care about anyone at all. It’s astonishing that Matt Garrett still has a job after the number of calls for his resignation.

J_R
Guest
J_R

Part of the blame belongs to 300 or so state legislators who have served in the Oregon House or Oregon Senate who have only increased the gas tax once since 1993. Add another thousand or so US Congressmen/women and US Senators who have failed to raise the gas tax even once since 1993.

Construction costs have risen 70 percent since 1993. There’s simply lots less money to do good projects that benefit people because of the failure to index the gas tax to inflation.

As much as I rant about ODOT, there are some good people trying do the right thing, but when the budget is so clearly inadequate, lots of stuff gets cut. Since 90+ percent of voters principally identify as motorists, it’s hardly a surprise when good stuff for non-motorists gets cut disproportionately.

Pat Lowell
Guest
Pat Lowell

What part of driving under the influence makes you an “awesome person” and a “great father”? Was it an “accident” that Smith got high and then got behind the wheel?

All of this talk about infrastructure and legal pot is just obfuscating the fact that a sh-tty person did a shi-tty thing. Let’s not lose sight of that.

Mick O
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Mick O

Pat Lowell
the fact that a sh-tty person did a shi-tty thing. Let’s not lose sight of that.Recommended 0

Actually, let’s please lose sight of that as soon as we can.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

Here is a link to the project file when this roadway was most likely last resurfaced (reconstructed) back in 1998. I have not been able to find any newer documents

efiles.portlandoregon.gov/Record/2455007/File/Document/

The bike lanes may have been added after this work was completed.

Todd Boulanger
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Todd Boulanger

The design of this facility has effected the safety of other roadway users too, like the PPB:

http://pdxfanews.blogspot.com/2013/06/fatal-traffic-crash-on-portland-highway.html

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Has it been confirmed that the cyclist and driver were travelling EB and not WB? From the early news video it looked like the “crash site” was on the west side of the overcrossing and on the north side of the shoulder. (This could be a difference of the point of impact vs. landing.)

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Using the Google Earth tool (historical imagery) to look back at the history of striping in this highway segment one can see that:
– this area had bike lane stencils by 2000/2001 and potentially earlier (the civilian satellite image resolution was pretty poor back then – most cities paid for aerial photos by plane preGoogle), so the bike lanes may date from the 1998/99 pavement reconstruction project posted earlier; and
– by 07/2015 then an infill bike lane stencil is added closer to where the bike lane starts/ drops on the east side of the viaduct (perhaps there was a then recent assessment to infill bike lane stencils along Lombard for improved safety, etc.).

The bike lane facility (with its gap) along this portion of NE Lombard / North Portland Highway is likely one of the older ODoT bike lane arterial facilities in the region, so it is surprising that it was not on “ODoT’s books” as has been mentioned last week.

Kristi Finney Dunn
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Kristi Finney Dunn

Portland’s Vision Zero is not only about infrastructure. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/66612.

As the mom of a young man killed in a hit and run, I didn’t blame infrastructure when someone veered into the bike lane. I blame the underage man who chose to illegally drink, who chose to drive drunk, who chose to leave two people injured/dead, who chose to ditch the damaged car while saying he didn’t know he hit anything, and who chose to lie and say he was car-jacked, that he didn’t do it. Even though I forgave him (which I now know he didn’t deserve), I always knew it was his fault.

I understand the infrastructure in this current situation is at issue and may have contributed to this tragedy. But only ODOT’s fault?

This driver has not been proven to be impaired. They say he was… If he was, he shouldn’t have been driving. If he wasn’t driving, regardless of infrastructure, he couldn’t have hit someone. Even if he were sober, he did hit a live person and then he kept on driving like what he’d hit was no more important than a possum. He didn’t call 9-1-1 for help. He didn’t stop to comfort a dying fellow human being. He didn’t stop and cooperate with police. He fled. What a role-model. Sorry, awesome person and great dad he is not, in my book.

And that’s part of what makes these hit and runs especially upsetting. These people who unintentionally (but preventably) kill or injure and then (on purpose) cruelly run away, are often our neighbors, our co-workers, sometimes our family. Sometimes these people who look and act just like everybody else do this to the people they profess to LOVE.

So I don’t get it when we say it’s all the government’s fault. Because some people have no morals? Because some are just plain uncaring and selfish? Because some people refuse to believe or act like the rules apply to them or that there’s a reason for the laws? Studies show that the majority of drivers have an attitude of “I don’t trust that driver doing [whatever], but I can do it.” Scary.

If I hit someone -God forbid- I can see myself possibly being hysterical, vomiting, passing out, but not leaving. Not helpful actions, but not cruel and uncaring. Hit and run just adds an extra unbelievably horrifying dimension to an already devastating tragedy.

Infrastructure doesn’t cause hit and run. People need to be taught morals. ODOT, PBOT, whoever, need to fix their dangerous roads. Police need to enforce existing laws. Courts need to uphold the laws and be consistent. Legislators need to be logical in making laws. DMV needs continuing education.

I’m so sick and tired of more death and destruction every day.

Kevin Wagoner
Guest
Kevin Wagoner

I agree with Terry, “BikeLoudPDX Terry Dublinski-Milton says ODOT should declare a “safety emergency”. ODOT and/or the Governor really need to take action. Lower the speed limit tomorrow, don’t wait. Stop being complacent.

no thanks
Guest
no thanks

I’m interested in the “I’m sorry” tweet.

If Jessica is really sorry, this would seem to imply that she can or should take action to ensure this doesn’t happen again (otherwise the statement is really devoid of meaning). Let’s hold her accountable, not for the accident itself (i.e. looking at the past event), but for doing something to remedy it going forward (assuming her expression of sorrow is genuine).

I don’t know Jessica personally, and thus do not know the extent of what she could do, But I’m guessing that folks reading BikePortland do know her, and know what her responsibilities are.

Tim
Guest
Tim

“Where the area was and the bike lane, it was just a accident”. – blame the infrastructure, call it an accident and get away with murder. You do not accidentally run someone down while intoxicated and leave the scene. these were choices.

“He would never hurt nobody,” – what do you call killing someone and leaving them to die?

Pat Lowell
Guest
Pat Lowell

I have nothing against drivers (of which I am also one), recreational pot smokers, or people who make mistakes. I am also even in the minority of folks on BP who feel it is entirely possible for careful, conscientious driver to accidentally not see a cyclist.

What is entirely unforgiveable to me is (a) driving under the influence, and (b) hit and run. Those two things automatically disqualify you from being an “awesome person” or a good parent.

Sorry to keep harping on this, but Smith’s wife comment is infuriating. Accidents happen, but DUI and hit & run are NOT accidents, they are incredibly poor CHOICES.

Beth
Guest

Poor road design does not invite people to abuse mind-altering substances.
Both can contribute to the sort of collision that happened here, but they are not cause-and-affect. One is a result of institutional design and the other is the result of individual choice.
I’m not a policy or road design wonk — and frankly, I shouldn’t have to become one just to ride my bicycle safely in this city (but that’s another discussion for another time) — so I can’t speak to the effectiveness of one road design over another.
But I have been a car-owning, licensed driver at various times in my life, and I take a dim view of anyone who commits hit-and-run, whether they’re chemically impaired or not. So does Oregon law, which does not take into account whether or not impaired hit-and-run driver is supporting a family or not. There will be no winners here.

Chuck
Guest
Chuck

There are a lot of things unsaid in this article and the one posted in the Oregonian. Bottom line, no amount of painted stripes and signage is going to protect you from being hit by a car operated by a person under the influence.

Pete
Guest
Pete

For those who are discounting the dangers of poor roadway design, this article (unlike the media coverage of the incident) shows the infrastructure that helped cause the death of a very experienced bicyclist named Jeffrey Donnelly:
http://www.gjel.com/blog/tragedy-strikes-horrific-page-mill-280-interchange-near-palo-alto.html

The challenge in fixing this location relates to bureaucracies in Caltrans, VTA, and Santa Clara County, but with a big push from survivors and the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition they were able to improve a similar interchange one exit north after the death of cyclist Lauren Ward:
http://bikesiliconvalley.org/2013/10/alpine-road-goes-green

I’m sure you’ll notice the (unfortunate) trend here: it seems to take a body count to get these bureaucratic agencies to even take notice.