BikePortland

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


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.

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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.

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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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