A 60-year-old woman who says she was hit by a car driver while bicycling on Northeast 53rd Avenue Saturday said the incident was so upsetting that she will no longer ride her bike because, “It’s gotten too unsafe.”
The collision happened on 53rd at NE Glisan, and the woman was bicycling on a designated neighborhood greenway route (known as the 50s Bikeway). As you can see in the photo, 53rd has green coloring across the intersection (adjacent to the crosswalk) that aims to create a visual continuation of the bike lane. According to a witness, the bicycle rider was headed northbound when the driver turned left across the lanes and struck her.
The woman, “Bee F.” posted about her experience on Nextdoor on Monday. Here’s what she wrote:
“I just can’t cycle on roads any more. It’s gotten too unsafe. I was struck by a southbound car turning left illegally across the marked bike crossing. Police and EMS had to come and the driver was cited (I have a police report). The light had turned green and I was proceeding in the marked lane. She had come out, then stopped, so things seemed normal, until she floored it. I had no time to escape. She said she didn’t see me.
It’s gotten so dangerous that every ride, every day, I think I’d be dead if I didn’t keep my eyes peeled and react quickly when a car breaks the law. I’m too old for this and my spouse is so afraid. I am going to have to cut back to cycling only trails now, no roads at all. At 60 and not being a driver, I feel I’ve lost my most important mobility tool and that life will never be as good for me. I’m very sad.
I hope that you will consider and encourage friends and family to be extra cautious around marked crossings where peds, cyclists, wheelchairs, etc… have the right of way once we have “dipped a toe in the water” to signal our intent to cross. Because we are not motor vehicles that could hurt someone driving, it is human nature that we are not part of threat assessment; thus, invisible. So, the only way to stay safe is to ACTIVELY scan for people in crosswalks. I hope you will. I hope no one else has to lose so much as I just did.”
For anyone who cares about Portland, this is gut-wrenching to read. Especially since she was using a “low-stress, family friendly” neighborhood greenway, which the Portland Bureau of Transportation says “foster the best elements of Portland’s transportation culture by creating safe streets.”
If we can’t keep people like Bee safe from the reckless inclinations of car users, we can’t create a safe system.
As for the infrastructure here, I originally assumed it was what PBOT calls a “crossbike”, a type of crossing treatment the city has used with increasing regularity since they debuted in 2016. But according to a PBOT source, the green paint here is a bike lane extension from a bike box at a signalized intersection.
Legally-speaking, bike lanes continue through intersections whether they are painted or not. This was always the case, but a rogue Portland judge muddied the waters with a controversial ruling in 2009 that led to confusion (and mimicry by a judge in Bend nine years later). Thankfully, a bill passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2019 has settled the matter once and for all.
That bill should help clear up confusion that has dogged these crossbike designs since they first went in. It’s also interesting to note that PBOT has collaborated with Portland State University to research the effectiveness of crossbikes. At the recent meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, PBOT Bicycle Coordinator Roger Geller said the research, “found a beneficial effect for both people biking and walking where the crossbikes were installed.”
Crossbike or not, confusion still might persist around these painted bike crossings as to how they impact right-of-way decisions by users. Laws around painted crosswalks are much more widely known and respected. It’s unclear in this specific case on Glisan whether either party in the collision was confused by the infrastructure itself or if there were other contributing factors.
NOTE: If anyone witnessed this collision, Bee would love to hear from you. Please get in touch with me and I’ll pass you along.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and email@example.com
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