Joe Bike

Woman killed while walking on Barbur Boulevard was ‘brilliant’ PSU researcher

Posted by on March 19th, 2020 at 12:14 pm

Iulia Hanczarek.
(Photo: Portland State University)

Iulia Hanczarek was coming into her prime as a chemist and researcher at Portland State University. She had dreams of a doctoral degree and missions to space. At just 39 years old, she had a lot of important discoveries ahead of her. Staff at the university describe her as “brilliant”.

But just after midnight on Tuesday her life was cut short when a man chose to drive his car while drunk and hit and killed her as she walked home in southwest Portland. According to police, Ivan Cam was driving approximately 50 miles per hour prior to hitting Hanczarek. Cam told crash investigators the window of his car “suddenly exploded” and he didn’t even know what he’d hit. He now faces charges of manslaughter, DUI, and reckless driving.

“Iulia was just beginning her scientific career, and this is a huge loss.”
— Jay Nadeau, associate professor of physics at PSU

“It’s such a sad, senseless loss for PSU,” university spokesperson Christina Williams shared with me in an email this morning. “Portland State is heartbroken to hear about the tragic loss of one of our young and brilliant lab managers. It is deeply sad to learn about the loss of a precious life in a preventable traffic accident.”

Jay Nadeau, an associate professor of physics at PSU and head of the Nadeau Lab, has lost not just a friend, but a pillar of her laboratory. “Iulia was the first full-time person to join my lab and basically helped to build it from scratch,” she shared with me yesterday.

Nadeau met Hanczarek a few months before she started as a PSU faculty member in 2017. “I met Iulia while house shopping and getting ready to move my lab,” she said. “She was sitting on the steps of the Science Research and Teaching Center chatting with another student about how they would need to find jobs after they graduated. I said, ‘Hey, look me up if you need a job! I’m new and hiring!”

Hanczarek was a chemistry major and Nadeau needed a chemist for several of the studies she was working on. Nadeau’s lab studies the motility of microbial life (motility is the ability of an organism to move independently, using metabolic energy). With Hanczarek’s help, the lab studied microbes on Europa, a moon of Jupiter that’s 390 million miles from earth. “The first project we did together involved seeing whether fluorescent dyes used to label bacteria could survive under Europa conditions,” Nadeau shared.

After that project, Hanczarek focused her work on the swimming patterns of marine bacterium and how their movement was affected by simulated microgravity. She dreamed of testing her hypothesis in real microgravity conditions and she and Nadeau had just applied for a research grant to send an experiment to the International Space Station. Hanczarek had published several papers and was just beginning her scientific career.

“This is a huge loss,” Nadeau said.

SW Barbur Blvd with Parkhill Drive on the left.

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Looking down on Barbur from SW Parkhill Drive.

Given the location where Hanczarek was hit — on Barbur near SW Parkhill, an unfriendly, car-centric area owned and managed by the Oregon Department of Transportation — I asked Nadeau if perhaps she was biking and her bike just hadn’t been found. I couldn’t imagine someone walking there at that time of night. Nadeau said Hanczarek loved to walk.

“She liked to work in the evenings, and to decompress she would take long walks,” Nadeau shared. “She thought nothing of walking seven miles home several times a week.”

Hanczarek immigrated with her family to the United States from Romania when she was a young girl. After growing up in the California Bay Area, she and her family moved to Oregon. She has a sister who lives in Portland and her parents live in Rainier, Oregon.

Hanczarek lived in the Arnold Creek neighborhood, just a few miles from where she was hit on Wednesday. Where Barbur Boulevard meets SW Parkhill Drive might have been the most dangerous part of her walk home.

“It’s very wide and scary to walk across.”
— Eric Wilhelm

Southwest Portland resident Eric Wilhelm has ridden and documented street safety concerns in this area for several years. “There is no sidewalk along the roadway, but people often walk in the bike lane or in the mud next to the curb,” he shared via email this morning. “The crosswalks at Parkhill are unmarked and the posted speed is 45 mph there. It’s very wide and scary to walk across, but I do often see people walking here. There have been at least a few crashes in this stretch.”

A Barbur Road Safety Audit published by the Oregon Department of Transportation in 2015 mentioned one other fatal crash at this location in the 10 years between 2004 and 2014. That tragedy also involved someone walking who walk killed by someone driving too fast while drunk.

There’s a TriMet bus stop at Parkhill and Barbur. Hanczarek might have been leaving the stop prior to the collision. Page 79 of ODOT’s audit describes access to that stop as “challenging”. “Discussions” were had between ODOT officials and TriMet about removing the bus stops, but nothing ever came of them.

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I visited the crash location late last night in similar conditions that Hanczarek would have experienced. Even with very few people out driving, their high speeds mixed with the expanse of the roadway and lack of safe space for walking, caused a lot of anxiety.

Wilhelm thinks many drunk drivers opt for Barbur instead of adjacent the I-5 freeway to avoid police and other drivers. He feels ODOT should have done more to make Barbur safe based on the recommendations from their own audit. “I’m really sad that the police report frames this as a case of drunk driving, because it’s the very badly neglected infrastructure which invited this fatal crash to happen,” he said. Instead of waiting for the SW Corridor megaproject, Wilhelm believes, “Barbur needs an interim road diet. That should have been the obvious response to the audit, but ODOT only did the lowest-hanging fruit of bike lanes and some flashing beacons.”

For the rest of Hanczarek’s lab partners, there’s an uneasy sense that it could have been any one of them. Nadeau herself is a daily bike commuter and the entire lab would go on runs and walks together. “If anything good comes of this,” Nadeau said, “it will be that I am buying reflective vests for the whole group now. Vulnerable road users should be extra vigilant during the quarantine. Unlike a zombie movie, there are still cars on the road, and many seem to think they’re the only ones out there.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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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

36 Comments
  • Avatar
    Dylan Howell March 19, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    Tragic story. I hope this area is improved soon.

    Recommended Thumb up 11

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    Chris I March 19, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    Very sad.

    I wonder how many lives will be saved now that all of the bars and brewpubs are closed…

    Recommended Thumb up 5

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      Jason March 19, 2020 at 2:43 pm

      Alcoholics will find a way, but to be fair, it doesn’t have to be alcohol to cause a DUII death.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

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        Middle of the Road Guy March 20, 2020 at 8:54 am

        Addicts always do.

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    Wylie March 19, 2020 at 2:07 pm

    ODOT = Oregon Death of Terrestrials

    Recommended Thumb up 10

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    Jason March 19, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    Isn’t it about time to adopt speed cameras and points based licenses? Bury the offenders in tickets.

    Recommended Thumb up 25

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    Randy McCourt March 19, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    This is such a sad story. It it is time for vehicles to have technology that leaves them in park when the driver is under the influence, distracted, fatigued or all the passengers do not have seat belts secured. The technology exists today and like seat belts, air bags and anti-lock brakes – in a generation these sad stories can stop if we start today.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

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    Alan Love March 19, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve regularly sent emails to ODOT requesting they move forward with Option C (or 3, can’t remember now) of the Barbur Road Safety Audit that would turn the right Southbound lane into a right-only lane onto Capital Hwy, signalizing that turn, and allowing room for proper active transportation options (and make the remaining southbound lane compliant with freight concerns; a Win-win!). ODOT’s response was that NO FURTHER SAFETY ENHANCEMENTS are necessary, because the SW Corridor plan will make everything wonderful. Even if that’s true, in reality the SWC is still a decade away. If you feel this is an unacceptable compromise, some relevant ODOT contacts would be:
    Shelli.ROMERO@odot.state.or.us
    zachary.horowitz@odot.state.or.us
    kristen.stallman@odot.state.or.us
    I realized Option C won’t eliminate all crashes/injuries/deaths, but it’s quite likely a proper, separated section of bikeway and walkway could have prevented the death of this person.

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    • Avatar
      Granpa March 20, 2020 at 10:54 am

      Sending emails to mid-level staffers at the Region level, will not likely result in change.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

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        Alan Love March 20, 2020 at 12:01 pm

        What would you suggest?

        Recommended Thumb up 1

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          Granpa March 20, 2020 at 12:15 pm

          The director, your legislators, the governor. ODOT has shown that their ears are tuned to contractors, freight interests, and their governmental overseers. Ranting at a cube man/woman won’t move the bar.

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  • Avatar
    Dave March 19, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    Remember, drunk drivers are ***deleted by moderator***.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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        March 19, 2020 at 3:54 pm

      That’s a horrible attitude. While I strongly condemn drunk driving and support punishments, everybody is a person. This is no different from calling any other type of criminal a subhuman.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

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      Jason March 20, 2020 at 8:28 am

      Drunk driving is a social disease rooted in the freedom and entitlement associated with motor vehicle ownership and operation. If we were to subvert this notion that everyone is entitled to own and operate a motor vehicle, without question, then we would be taking great strides to reduce drunk driving. The phenomenon has more to do with car culture than anything else.

      After all, you never hear of a fatality caused by a drunk bus rider.

      Recommended Thumb up 13

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      March 19, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    What a terrible, preventable tragedy. I see no reason that the second southbound lane should exist; it should be immediately converted to a barrier-protected sidewalk/bike lane. Through traffic can use the parallel I-5, and there is not enough local traffic to justify two lanes here south of Capitol. In contrast, pedestrians and cyclists need the infrastructure, and there are no other parallel routes to use without going far out of the way.

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      Alan Love March 20, 2020 at 10:14 am

      If you want to see this become a reality, see my post above and email those involved at ODOT.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

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    David LaPorte March 19, 2020 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks for sharing the story of such an amazing person. I travel Barbur by bus or bike every day, and can’t believe such a dangerous corridor is nearly the only connection between SW and the rest if the city. How many more people have to suffer before leaders take action?

    Recommended Thumb up 16

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      Tad Reeves March 20, 2020 at 9:07 am

      I used to do Barbur every day when I was living up by PCC Sylvania, but switched to Terwilliger after a few scary days of riding in the rain and feeling my life was in jeopardy. Barbur from Terwilliger going South isn’t so bad, as there’s more space and a clear bike lane. But north of that is just scary. No room, and people just going way too fast.

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    MarionBerry March 19, 2020 at 9:32 pm

    ***Comment deleted: Sorry, but right now I’m not comfortable with discussions or sharing information about the identity or personal/business life of Mr. Cam. – Jonathan***

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      Chris I March 20, 2020 at 6:27 am

      Are they responsible for all of those crappy houses you can see from I-5?

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        Jason March 20, 2020 at 9:02 am

        ***Comment deleted: Sorry, but right now I’m not comfortable with discussions or sharing information about the identity or personal/business life of Mr. Cam. – Jonathan***

        Recommended Thumb up 1

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          drs March 20, 2020 at 1:30 pm

          ***Comment deleted: Sorry, but right now I’m not comfortable with discussions or sharing information about the identity or personal/business life of Mr. Cam. – Jonathan***

          Recommended Thumb up 0

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            Jason March 20, 2020 at 1:53 pm

            ***Comment deleted: Sorry, but right now I’m not comfortable with discussions or sharing information about the identity or personal/business life of Mr. Cam. – Jonathan***

            Recommended Thumb up 0

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              Jason March 20, 2020 at 3:15 pm

              Sorry Jonathan, I forgot about the liability you’ve been burdened with by the comments we make on this forum.

              Recommended Thumb up 2

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          Maria March 22, 2020 at 10:13 am

          You’ve poorly researched the Cam family as this is not the same individual. It’s a shame the moderator is allowing false information to be posted in the comments.

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      Jason March 20, 2020 at 8:43 am

      Do you mean this cam family?
      https://www.kptv.com/weather/cams/

      Since you’ve done the digging, do us a favor and show us the dirt.

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      J Reade March 20, 2020 at 9:01 am

      Can you give me something more than just “google it”? Cam and Woodburn are pretty broad.

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        drs March 20, 2020 at 1:38 pm

        ***Comment deleted: Sorry, but right now I’m not comfortable with discussions or sharing information about the identity or personal/business life of Mr. Cam. – Jonathan***

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    Fred March 20, 2020 at 9:56 am

    I bike, walk, and even run on this section of Barbur all the time. There is simply no way to do it safely here, but it’s still the best route to and from downtown b/c it’s relatively level. Otherwise you have to huff and puff over the hills on Terwilliger and Capitol, or you follow the river and then have to conquer the steepest hill in Portland – the Corbett hill which I have never been able to ride up without dismounting (even walking it is a cardiac challenge).

    ODOT and PBOT need to put their heads together and come up with a way of making this section of Barbur safer for people outside of motor vehicles! It’s way past time for a road diet, with protected walking and cycling lanes, two travel lanes for motor vehicles, and a center turn lane.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

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      Alan Love March 20, 2020 at 10:16 am

      Sorry for sounding like broken record, but see my post above and please contact those involved at ODOT. Nothing will change if people don’t voice their concerns to those that make the decisions.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

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      Eric Wilhelm March 24, 2020 at 4:37 pm

      The LaView switchback is a much more reasonable slope to climb if you take Virginia up to Taylors Ferry (maybe using the sidewalk for that one block of PBOT’s Taylors Ferry negligence.) The final block that meets Corbett is still pretty steep, but overall it’s more manageable than climbing either side of Corbett and with almost no auto traffic. Corbett being open to through car traffic is another instance of PBOT’s neglect in managing our street network where even the routes available as workarounds of ODOT’s dangerous roads are still largely overrun with cars.

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    Adam March 20, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Will the Trimet Light Rail project slated for Barbur include new sidewalks?

    That project can’t come soon enough for this s****y street.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Lenny Anderson
    Lenny Anderson March 20, 2020 at 11:08 am

    The SW Corridor plan needs to bite the bullet and reduce Barbur to one through lane each way as was done with Interstate Avenue. Double lanes, whether on arterials or couplets, are recipes for this kind of disaster. Converting the inside lane of Barbur to transit only…light rail and frequent service bus…will save a ton of project money, make the transit project much more rider friendly and will save lives. Bus only lanes can be painted on Barbur this week as soon as ODOT gives the OK!

    Recommended Thumb up 9

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      drs March 20, 2020 at 1:40 pm

      Need to pour concrete and build curb separation. Paint is not enough.

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    Bike Guy March 20, 2020 at 11:55 am

    A road diet just means the drunk drivers pick a different road to drive on.

    We need real accountability including long prison sentences – which I am very happy to see my tax dollars go towards – for vehicular manslaughter. The Multnomah County DA must have the easiest job in the world.

    Recommended Thumb up 4

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      Adam March 20, 2020 at 4:51 pm

      Yes… and maybe that road will be I-5, where they are all SUPPOSED to be! A four/five lane Barbur running feet from a six-lane I-5 freeway makes zero sense.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

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