Martin Greenough died on December 12th 2015 after being hit by a reckless driver on NE Lombard. Greenough was struck in a notoriously dangerous spot where the road narrows and the bike lane abruptly disappears — forcing bicycle users to share a lane with vehicles that regularly travel 50 mph.
In light of Greenough’s death, the Oregon Department of Transportation will fill that deadly bike lane gap.
By this summer (at the latest) there will be a new bike path in the eastbound direction of NE Lombard Street where it goes under NE 42nd Avenue. According to ODOT the path will be 450-feet long and six-feet wide. It will be constructed off the highway and will go behind existing guardrails and columns that support an overpass. Here’s the official statement from ODOT:
We will be starting construction this winter on a new, 450-foot off-street bike lane in the eastbound direction of NE Lombard Street (US 30 Bypass) under the NE 42nd Avenue bridge. Construction should be finished in spring 2017.*
The space under the NE 42nd Avenue bridge is narrow and currently the bike lanes on NE Lombard are not continuous under the bridge. The space is limited because it is next to the railroad line on one side and the bridge piers can’t be moved.
Since a fatal crash involving a bicyclist in December 2015, we have been working hard to gure out how to increase bicycle safety in this space- constrained area. The project will build a new 450-foot long, 6-foot wide bike lane off the roadway, in the eastbound direction on NE Lombard Street. The lane will be located behind a barrier that also protects the bridge piers from being hit by a vehicle. We will also install new signage for the eastbound bike path.
This same gap in the bike lane exists in the westbound direction as well. I’ve asked ODOT why they aren’t planning to do anything in that direction (I’ll update this story when I hear back). UPDATE: ODOT says they lack right-of-way on the other side of the street. There’s a freight railroad there.
I observed the area closely right after the collision.
Here’s an approximate location where the bike lane will leave the roadway and go behind the barriers…
The view from under the overpass. The new path will go to the left of the barricades…
Here’s a view taken from the overpass. The new bike path will be to the left of that barricade (not the end of the bike path near the truck’s front wheel)…
Not only is this gap unacceptable and dangerous by design, but the agency knew about it beforehand and took no action. ODOT was under a lot of pressure to do something. Then Bicycle Transportation Alliance Executive Director Rob Sadowsky said at the time that, “I think a protected bike lane would have saved this person’s life.”
After this preventable tragedy, ODOT promised to analyze this section of road and try to do something. But they always say that, and I was starting to think it was just another stall tactic to make activists go away. It’s ironic that I heard about this project only after I asked them whatever came of that analysis.
Suffice it to say I am very pleasantly surprised to learn about this. It shows ODOT is willing to learn from mistakes and try to do better.
That being said, we should never forget why this path was created. Martin Greenough unwillingly gave his life for 450-feet of bike path. And if it was there on that fateful night, he’d still be alive.