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Bicycle rider injured in collision on Highway 30 near St. Johns Bridge

Posted by on May 20th, 2020 at 11:22 am

Photo from the scene.

(UPDATE, 12:36 pm: We know now the victim is Merritt Raitt, a well-known local rider. Read more about him in a note at the end of this post.)

This morning a man riding a bicycle was hit by a car driver while trying to cross over lanes of Highway 30 just north of the St. Johns Bridge.

The collision hasn’t been reported by authorities or on other media outlets, but we received details about it from a reader who was driving nearby and pulled up a few minutes after it happened.

According to our source (who pulled over to help the rider) the bicycle rider was riding northbound on Highway 30 and had just gone under the St. Johns Bridge. He then tried to merge across two lanes in order to enter the left turn lane that would take up onto NW Bridge Avenue to access NW Germantown Road (or the bridge).

“He safely pulled in front of a truck to get to the left turn lane,” our source shared. “Rider then merged into the next lane to the left and the truck driver watched him get rear ended by the car. Car driver (who said she hit him at 55 mph*) said she saw him come into her lane and veered into the left turn lane to avoid him. Hit him and her windshield shattered.” (*Note: Speed limit at this location is 45 mph.)

Thankfully, the bicycle rider appeared to be OK although this person we heard from said he definitely hit his head and likely suffered a concussion.

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Location of collision. Bicycle rider was in bike lane on the right and was trying to get into that left turn lane.

Highway 30 is a very important and well-used route for bicycle riders. It’s the only direct (and flat) way to access Sauvie Island and the West Hills/Forest Park from Portland. Despite this, the Oregon Department of Transportation has resisted changes that would increase cycling safety.

In 2016 we highlighted a major ODOT paving project that included this exact location. That project was a perfect opportunity to increase cycling space, lower speed limits, add more caution signage, and do more to make drivers aware that this is a popular cycling corridor. We made several reasonable suggestions to ODOT staff and they ignored them.

Last year advocates once again organized to encourage ODOT to make bike safety updates as part of a scheduled paving project.

This morning’s collision might have been difficult to prevent because merging across multiple lanes of a highway is almost always a risky proposition. But the lack of safety on Highway 30 — for all types of users — is unacceptable and something needs to change.

———

UPDATE, 12:38: The rider was 60-year-old Merritt Raitt. He just emailed us from Emanuel Hospital where he’s recovering. He has seven broken ribs, a mild concussion, some chipped teeth, lots of sore muscles and “very little road rash”. He’ll be there overnight but considers himself “extremely lucky”. He also shared his recollection about what happened:

“I don’t remember getting hit but I do remember merging to get to Germantown and my memory is I had plenty of room and made it to the turn lane where the light was red and that is the last thing I remember before waking up in the ambulance. I know that is a tricky crossing and I have done it many times. I’m not saying the witnesses have it wrong. .. I really feel like the made it to the turn lane and was hit there. I don’t want to make a big deal out of this.”

Raitt is a well-known local rider. Not only is he one of the strongest climbers in Portland (especially for his age) he’s also the guy behind that amazing “Commuter Dreams” video that earned him international acclaim back in 2010. He also made a film about his “Circle Century” around Ladd Circle in 2011.

———
UPDATE, 1:28: Here’s what the Portland Police Bureau says about the collision:

Preliminary information suggests the bicyclist and the vehicle were both traveling northbound on Hwy 30. The vehicle was traveling in its lane of traffic and the bicyclist was in the bike lane. As the two approached the intersection of Northwest Bridge Avenue, the bicyclist crossed Hwy 30 against the crossing signal and collided with the front passenger side of the vehicle, which had the right of way.

The bicyclist was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital with trauma injuries.

Both the driver of the vehicle and the bicyclist were given the investigating officers’ business card and the PPB case number. Witness were interviewed and police reports have been written. No citations were issues in regards to this crash.

“Against the crossing signal” is a strange thing to say because Raitt wouldn’t have been using one. He’s an experience rider who was merging across lanes. He wasn’t using the crosswalk. It’s still unclear how the PPB determines the driver had the right-of-way.

— 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 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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was carlessSteve ScarichHello, KittyMattJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) Recent comment authors
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9watts
Subscriber

#odotknows
the same ODOT that told us that they didn’t care for Vision Zero, preferred instead to tally ‘Fatality-Free-Days’

Alex
Subscriber
Alex

I hate riding HWY 30. It needs to be fixed.

aboom
Subscriber
aboom

Has there been any support in extending the westside/eastside waterfront path to St. Johns bridge/Sauvie bridge?

HJ
Guest
HJ

Hwy 30 is a menace. It really sucks that you have to ride on it to get to Sauvie. It would be so easy for them to make it better too. It really wouldn’t take all that much. ODOT just has no problem with people getting killed so they don’t. It’s disgusting.

notsoclearcut
Guest
notsoclearcut

If PDX can’t get control of its streets from Oregon then maybe it needs to become its own state. I am not sure if the goals of Oregon are reconcilable with the goals of Portland

Eawriste
Guest
Eawriste

Excellent reason to make a protected path along Hwy 30 and the St. John’s. Correcting inherently dangerous designs by separating modes should be ODOT’s priority.

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

I’m sure the motorist was given a PAINFUL slap on the wrist for recklessly and negligently speeding!

JK, did PPB make the cyclist apologize for attacking her car with his body?

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

Yep. Sad that this facility will now score better for safety “enhancements” now. ;-(

This is one of several reasons that I dream of a “foot ferry” (bicycles too) from Frenchmans Bar Park to Sauvie Island…traffic safety and [natural disaster] security. Perhaps a Frog Ferry 2…someday…

ES
Guest
ES

There was another collision in that area in the news recently: https://www.koin.com/news/crashes/bicyclist-hurt-in-crash-on-hwy-30-in-nw-portland/

Josh
Guest

Yikes, glad to hear the rider is recovering.

I haven’t ridden on Hwy 30, but looking at online maps I was hoping maybe you could make a two-point left turn at the light. But then I looked at street view photos, and there’s almost no space at all to wait. Seems like it’d be about as dangerous waiting in the shoulder next to speeding traffic as to try and move with it. No idea how TriMet thinks people are supposed to cross this highway to catch the bus there, either.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Wasn’t ODOT supposed to build a multi-use path parallel to this highway years ago? I kept hearing from people in planning circles it was some stipulation they were supposed to honor as part of a funding package they received or something, but never did.

Anyone else add details to this?

qqq
Guest
qqq

The rider’s account makes sense. The driver’s account also makes sense, and is close to his account. The problem could have been that she was going too fast, so he thought he had time to get across her lane, but didn’t. And she wasn’t paying attention enough, and was going too fast to slow down, so tried to veer left as she said, and hit him.

The police report doesn’t make sense unless both the other accounts are way off. Both rider and driver said he was merging across lanes, not crossing at a signal. And why would her windshield be broken if he hit the side of her car? I guess it’s possible.

casual observer
Guest
casual observer

Glad to hear that Merritt is recovering, he sounds like one lucky dude. Thanks for reporting Jonathan.

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

I am thankful the cyclist (and the driver*) are still alive. There must have been at least 30+ mph speed differential between these vehicles.
*the driver’s high-speed evasive maneuver could have caused them to roll or hit oncoming [truck] traffic head-on.

todd.boulanger
Guest
todd.boulanger

Would someone follow up on the status of the other injured cyclist reported (7 May 2020) near this same location?

Charles Ross
Guest
Charles Ross

I’ve often ridden this route but merge with the turn lane on the south side of Highway 30, before it goes under the bridge. Highway 30 is a dangerous road, full of rural commuters, work trucks, who, by-and-large have little respect for bicyclists. The highway should be called ‘interstate 30’ as that would more accurately reflect the speeds of motor vehicles that one sees.
For a bicyclist it presents the same problem as another dangerous intersection across the river: the onramp to 1-5 as one pedals south along N. Greeley Ave. The cyclist, moving along a long straight bike lane has to move left into traffic at the entrance to a freeway in order to continue along that street.
What is the solution? Stop your bike! Turn your head and look back. Do not trust your mirrors.
I hope he has a speedy recovery.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

The “driverless vehicle” statement betrays their allegiance to the all mighty car.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

This is why speeding kills vulnerable road users. You look down the street, know you have enough time to cross if the vehicle is going the speed limit, but they’re not and they get to you too soon and you’re dead.

Seems to me that if the car driver had no been speeding there would have been plenty of time to make it across the lane. It sounds like they DID make it across the lane but the driver thought they were going to hit the cyclist and veered into the cyclists path in the turn lane.

Pat Lowell
Guest
Pat Lowell

I’ve been in a similar situation where I was riding in the shoulder and then merged into the traffic lane with the intent to continue into the left turn lane. There was a car some distance behind me, but everything would have been fine if they kept on their path. However, they saw me coming, freaked out, and accelerated into the left turn lane to get around me right as I was about to enter the left turn lane. Fortunately, I somehow saw them out of the corner of my eye and veered back into the travel lane as they sped around me. (I think that’s what happened – it went so fast that I can’t be sure.) That was the day I decided to start riding with a mirror!

I’m sorry Mr. Raitt was not so lucky – I’m sorry about the pain he must be in (both physical and psychological) and wish him a full and swift recovery.

SD
Guest
SD

I am interested to know the type of vehicle. A lower hood height may be one of the reasons that Merritt came away from this without much more serious injuries.
More importantly, I am extremely glad he is relatively ok. Hopefully, he’ll have a speedy recovery.

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

Working in NW industrial area and living in St Johns, it took me a long time to figure how to (more or less) safely transit onto the bridge from NB US30. There is a crosswalk at NW Front Ave about 1/8 mile prior to the turn lane onto the bridge. I learned to hit the crosswalk button and keep pedaling, listing for traffic to stop. By that point i was usually able to cross two travel lanes to the the center turn lane leading to the bridge.
This is not ideal, but the safest way I know. And were i wanting to continue to Germantown, this would require crossing the bridge lanes at the west end and then continue to Bridge Ave to Germantown.
Sad to hear about this and every collision. And looking forward to real facilities being designed that prioritize all road users as opposed to motor traffic.

Peter Hanue
Guest
Peter Hanue

“It’s the only direct (and flat) way to access Sauvie Island and the West Hills/Forest Park from Portland.”

The West Hills/Forest Park are accessible from a wide variety of roads, not just Hwy 30. Am I mis-reading this sentence?

 
Guest
 

This is why I hope we have a multi-use path built on the southwest side of the road. Building one on the northeast side would do nothing to eliminate these conflicts when accessing the bridge.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

with a 35+mph speed differential, it seems this guy is pretty lucky to be alive. Report is that he was hit by a car, and from the bike frame damage, it looks like the frame absorbed a lot of that initial energy. I don’t think this would have gone as well for him if he had been hit by one of the Bro-dozers that so frequently ply HWY 30 at speeds well over the posted limit.

drs
Guest
drs

The police report sounds like an out and out lie. The officer’s description is shameful and it should be criminal. People on bikes have a right to merge into traffic to change lanes. To use the terminology that is generally applied to pedestrian crossing when referring to what is obviously a vehicular movement, frames the incident in a way that implies that the bicyclist committed a traffic infraction, despite the fact that all eyewitness accounts suggest that the cyclist was not at fault, or at least was behaving in a way that is legally permissible. If the officer really believes their own account, they should have cited the cyclist for jaywalking.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Has PPB still not issued a clarifying statement? How on earth could they say he was crossing against the signal? He wasn’t at the signal, he wasn’t crossing, he was changing lanes!

Apparently anyone not in an automobile is a pedestrian to the officer who made this statement? Talk about cyclist nullification.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

This is why we have speed limits. It isn’t just about the unfriendly physics of impact speeds. At higher speeds, things happen faster, and incidents occur that wouldn’t happen at lower speeds. If the driver had actually been going the speed limit, Mr. Raitt would have had a higher probability of getting across without getting hit – and would have had an easier time finding a gap to get across in the first place.

I’ve made this left turn a number of times, and sometimes had to stop and wait on the shoulder for a safe gap (itself not a very safe thing). There have been also been at least a couple times it ended up being dicier than expected because oncoming traffic was quite a bit over the speed limit. Lower speeds would make the whole thing geometrically less dangerous.

Let’s do a little math here: if the driver was actually going 55 mph as claimed, in the traffic lane, that’s covering 90 feet of pavement per second. How long does it take to ride a bike from the shoulder, across two lanes of traffic, and to the left-turn lane? Even a strong rider is going to take a few seconds. Also, there’s very good reason to do it on the move, it will take at least twice as long to do it from a dead stop. If it takes 5 seconds to get across while moving, for example, that means a cyclist has to not only look for gaps in traffic at least 450 feet back, assuming they want to detect vehicles going 55 mph or less, but accurately judge the approach speed – all while looking over their shoulder. If traffic is heavy enough to force a stop, at least you can see traffic more clearly … but now you’re looking at a 10-second crossing, so then you have to look back at least 900 feet for this particular motorist, or about four Portland city blocks. Even 900 feet may not be enough if the vehicle is going 70, which is not uncommon on Dirty Thirty. I can fairly well judge the speed of approaching vehicles maybe 100-200 feet back, but three football fields? Pretty tricky.

This is why we need to get serious about speeding again.