Woman says she was sideswiped at intersection where safety fixes languish

Posted by on October 28th, 2021 at 12:34 pm

The crash-ridden intersection of SW Multnomah Blvd and Garden Home Rd.

On October 15th, a 42-year old woman claims a driver ran into her while cycling home from a trip to the grocery store. The crash occurred in an intersection well-known to transportation activists and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT): Southwest Multnomah Blvd and Garden Home Rd.

BikePortland wrote about a project to improve safety at this intersection in 2018 and 2019. In one of those stories we touched base with Southwest Portland resident and bicycle advocate Eric Wilhelm:

Wilhelm (like many others in our community) is tired of waiting years for fixes to intersections that are well-known to pose imminent hazards for bicycle users. “It’s been nearly three years since Kurkowski was killed here, with no changes.”

Now it’s been five years since Kurkowski was killed. And fixes to the intersection that once seemed imminent still haven’t happened. That delay was almost deadly for Kwen Peterson, the woman who says she was hit there on October 15th. Here’s her story:

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At about the 4th or 5th green dash I saw the side of a blue Prius that narrows in from behind me and sideswipes me. Most of the force went into my grocery laden panniers and thrust me to the right.

It was Friday, October 15th around noon, sunny day. My bike is hot pink, my classic ortlieb panniers are pink, my pants are red with small black polkadot, my yellow high visibility with silver reflective striping jacket is on, and my rear red light is flashing. Yes, I look like a clown circus on parade.

I was traveling on SW Multnomah going East and the road curves toward the North.  As I approached the curve there were no cars in front of me and I had passed no cars since I had entered from 71st. Upon entering the curve I glanced to my side about 90 degrees but not back behind me since I was following the main road—it was clear. My approximate speed is only about 10 mph since I am packing 25 lbs of groceries. At about the 4th or 5th green dash I saw the side of a blue Prius that narrows in from behind me and sideswipes me. Most of the force went into my grocery laden panniers and thrust me to the right. My bike crashed right and and I fell off the bike onto my left side.

My helmet was cracked near the base of my skull on the left side and my bike’s right rubber grip got road chewed–otherwise no permanent damage done. My left elbow, hip, shoulder, and knee all got road rash and are bruised.

The driver directly behind the Prius stopped traffic with her vehicle and removed my bike from the road. Another male driver helped me from a lying position and up onto my feet and into the bushes on the corner of 69th Ave. The Prius owner by then had walked back down Spring Garden from where she had parked her car. I refused three times for an ambulance to be called.

So what happened? The driver of the Prius explained that her elderly mother had gotten knocked down the day before and was in the hospital with a possible broken hip and she was on her way to visit her. She claims that she had noticed me from a distance, but then as she came in close behind and along side, she forgot all about me. She stated she was too emotionally distracted.

My guess is that because the road is very wide and goes straight up the hill of Spring Garden, that driver’s eyeballs are looking far out to the crest of the hill. I was literally overlooked.

So no amount of signage, paint striping, day-glo clown costuming, flashing lights, or traffic slowing was enough to prevent this incident. More must be done.  Portland Bureau of Transportation knows just what the issues are and how to solve it. I’d raise my hand to enthusiastically vote for securing the funding except that my arm is too bloody and bruised.

(We attempted to verify this story with a witness and the driver (both provided by Peterson), but were unable to connect with them.)

PBOT plan for the intersection of SW Garden Home Blvd and Multnomah Blvd

The intersection has a new design (above), and a project website, but the project appears to be stalled for lack of funding. According to the website, the “project has received $1 million from Washington County MSTIP and $1.2 million City of Portland Transportation System Development Charges. PBOT is actively exploring additional funding options.”

Lisa Caballero

— Lisa Caballero, lisacaballero853@gmail.com
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J_R
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J_R

You should have accepted the ambulance ride and been checked out thoroughly.

The PPB doctrine seems to be if the pedestrian/bicyclist hobbled away, it didn’t happen. And if there’s no PPB report and no ODOT crash report, there’s no need for PBOT/ODOT to correct something that didn’t happen. Sorry, but that’s the way things seem to be.

Chris I
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Chris I

No one wants to deal with the cost of an ambulance, though. You get a bill for thousands of dollars and then you get to fight with your health insurance and the driver’s insurance about coverage. It’s a lot less hassle to just get home or even get to the hospital on your own.

Eric Wilhelm
Guest
Eric Wilhelm

The proposed design isn’t any good either. Expensive, shiny, but all about the cars and completely ignores the network-level designations of Multnomah as a more important Major City Bikeway (top rung) and GH Rd is City Bikeway while they are rather minor carways (4th and 5th rung District/Neighborhood Collectors.) Both are without sidewalks and abused as cut-through routes for suburban traffic to end-run congestion on bigger highways (and soon: congestion pricing.) Tell me the sky would fall if we put up some stop signs.

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

This is my neighborhood and the events described above are far too common. I’ll occasionally stop in at the Old Market Pub and grab an outside table at the far corner, next to the road(s) and observe user behavior. The percentage of drivers both speeding (heavily) and cutting the corners is approximately 90%, with some people drifting not only into the bike lane but over it and into the shoulder to the right of the bike lane. As far as I can tell, the redesign that was supposed to be done this last Summer (but now on hold) does NOT have any sort of separation or even plastic bollards for westbound traffic. The light and sharper corner should at least reduce eastbound collisions at the SW Garden Home/Multnomah split, but as Eric said, it’s mostly eye candy.

Trike Guy
Guest
Trike Guy

Even approaching that intersection with an abundance of caution and one eye on my mirror I never felt safe there.

I have since abandoned that route for routes that, on the face of it don’t appear as safe but don’t include overtaking cars driving straight through the turning bikelane.

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

With regards to the incident above, an incredibly simple, cheap fix could implemented TOMORROW by PBOT. Put a bunch of the big orange trashcan-style traffic cones exactly where the collision occurred. When travelling “straight” on Garden Home, putting a kink right where the yellow X is in the first picture would greatly reduce driver speed. You can still make all the same maneuvers (e.g. turning left from Garden Home onto Garden Home), but speeds heading eastbound on Garden Home would be greatly reduced.

Tom Hardy
Guest

The only solution that would work here is be traffic lights wWITH retractable spike strips for the vehicles that have red lights.

Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

I think that would work pretty much everywhere and I like the idea.

Matti
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Matti

… and 69th could be made northbound/right turn only at the Garden Home intersection to simplify this mess.

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

Because of past experience while east-bound at that intersection, I move just to the left of the bike lane and signal left. Seems to work so far.

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

I hope you got the driver’s info, if you end up with injuries that weren’t immediately obvious you will need that info (also to fix your bike if it’s damaged); also, I’d recommend adding a rear-view mirror to your gear, to me a mirror is more important when I’m riding that all that high vis stuff that people end up not seeing in the end after all. BTW, my guess is that the driver was not actually overcome with emotion, but distracted by a phone call or something else inside her little PC Prius bubble.

igor
Guest
igor

I used to ride this intersection both ways when I was commuting to Washington Square. Going westbound cars will wander over the bike lane as they turn onto Garden Home, and going east bound is even worse.

The eastbound intersection is simply designed for cyclists to be right hooked. There’s noplace else in Portland where I’ve experienced an intersection where cars going straight cross over a bike lane that curves left in front of them. I used to just take the lane from the top of the rise 100 feet west of the intersection so nobody could pass me, and ignore the bike lane.

A traffic light would be great, but simply putting three stop signs up would also improve that intersection for cyclists. The fact that it’s been a known issue for years, that the city has an improved intersection design, but no interim improvement until money is found seems negligent to me.

Vince
Guest
Vince

With opening of Trader Joe’s in the long vacant and former Lamb’s location, scheduled for this weekend, it is likely that traffic will increase in this area. Yet another intersection on my no ride list.

Mark Remy
Guest
Mark Remy

Who is “Kurkowski”?

Mick O
Subscriber
Mick O
Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

I don’t know if this is a new thing but it seems to me that lately people have been justifying assaulting others with their cars by the mere fact that they themselves are suffering some real or imagined distress. This driver basically admitted to being incapacitated by their own brain in the form of real or imagined emotional distress. They should’ve never got in the car if they were all flipped out about whatever was going on in her life. But instead often please just take themAt face value and rarely even issue a ticket.

Severe tickets should be automatic when a human is injured by a car.

Kath Youell
Guest
Kath Youell

I completely agree! If that’s how she felt a Lyft or a taxi would’ve been a better idea (assuming that someone who gets behind the wheel in that emotional state wouldn’t deign to be seen on a bus).

soren
Guest
soren

We live in a society where spending $20-50 on a “lyft” would mean not having enough food or not being able to afford rent. We also live in a society where many have been economically displaced to resource-starved areas that lack the transportation infrastructure riches you and I take for granted. Some choose to drive when they shouldn’t, in part, due to the inhumane and immoral inequity that is the basis of the comfortable lifestyle of many inner Portlanders.