A man who was riding his bike was hit Sunday around noon on Southeast Division. It happened as a group of riders were crossing southbound on 117th. The driver of the van that hit him didn’t slow down at all, despite having a red signal.
The victim was Mark Linehan, one of the leaders of nonprofit bike advocacy group Bike Loud PDX. In the video above (taken by Amit Zinman), you can see that the van driver plowed right into Mark, just narrowly making full contact. Luckily, Mark was not seriously hurt and was able to get up and walk away from the incident. His bike sustained significant damage.
Also in the video, you can see that the walk signal had at least 15 seconds on the countdown remaining for the bicycle riders as they cautiously made their way across the intersection. Drivers in the two lanes closest to them had stopped, but the van driver continued on their path. The bicycle riders were in legal positions on the road and it’s worth noting that almost everyone on the ride were dedicated bike advocates who are well-aware of both the laws and the dangers in not following them.
Another rider in the group, Paul Buchanan, immediately chased after the driver. Paul told me this morning that he and other road users caught the driver near SE 112th and Powell. They called 911 and the police arrived within five minutes. I’m still awaiting a response from the Portland Police Bureau to confirm, but I’ve heard that the driver has been cited and possibly charged with several misdemeanors (will update this post when I have that confirmation).
Ironically, Mark was in front of a small group of riders who were on their way to the World Day of Remembrance of Road Traffic Victims event. BikeLoud PDX hosted the ride to help folks get to the location of the ride (SE 122nd and Powell) safely. Most of the riders wore yellow, hi-visibility vests (event organizers asked folks to wear yellow); but even that didn’t prevent this driver from hitting Mark.
I reached out to Mark to hear his side of the story. “I feel shaken up but am otherwise fine. I have a minor bruise that is not bothering me. I was very lucky,” he said.
Mark confirmed they were crossing with the “Walk” signal in their favor. He said he had just hit the “beg” button to activate the signal. The striping and signals at this intersection are only two months old thanks to the recently completed Division Transit Project that was a partnership between TriMet and the Portland Bureau of Transportation.
Here’s more from Mark:
“The crosswalk is well marked with broad white zebra stripes. The cross-traffic in two of the three lanes on SE Division was stopped, but one was clear and a white van came blasting through against a red light. I was most of the way across SE Division when I saw the van out of the corner of my eye and turned sharply left. think that is what saved me. My front wheel was hit (and destroyed) by the van, but I was only brushed by the side of the van. Perhaps I was hit by the driver’s side mirror, which ended up in the street. I was knocked off my bike but not badly hurt.
I’m very thankful it was just me. A few seconds later, and more of the group could have reached that lane – and been mowed down by that driver.”
A TriMet bus was right behind the white van driver that hit Mark, so there should be good camera evidence in addition to Amit’s video if it’s needed for a future investigation.
UPDATE, 9:25 am: The PPB have confirmed for us that the driver has been arrested.
25-year-old Yingzhi Chen, of Seattle, was arrested/cited and charged with Reckless Driving and Failure to Perform the Duties of a Driver (Hit & Run). The van was towed as evidence.
UPDATE, 11:15 am: We’ve uploaded a longer video that shows clearly that Mark and the other riders entered the intersection on a green WALK signal.
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117th and Division*
As a cyclist, you can do everything correctly and still face life and death situations in travel. This highlights that there is a lot of work yet to be done, infrastructure being the smaller half in my eyes. We need a shift in culture, and remember how to care for and value each other as we move through our lives.
I won’t be surprised to learn that the 25-year-old driver from Seattle was REALLY busy on his/her cellphone – too busy to notice what was happening on the road ahead of the van.
Just this morning I was crossing a parking lot and noticed a car coming toward me. The driver was looking down – probably at her cellphone – and did not look up for 5-6 seconds, until she was almost on top of me! Fortunately I anticipated her inattention and did not walk in front of her car.
We have a crisis of inattention by drivers – they are simply too distracted by their phones, GPS devices, you name it. We need a War on Distracted Driving in our country. What if a device could be added to every car engine that automatically jammed any cellphone signal as long the engine was running?
“We have a crisis of inattention by drivers – they…” understand full well that police do not cite drivers for violating the traffic laws.
And they drive accordingly.
I’m glad that the cyclist is OK, and that the police made an arrest.
I really do like the Strong Town’s take on Vision Zero: If we really want to reduce traffic fatalities, we can’t keep making driving feel more and more comfortable and relaxed. This supports zoning out. Our progress in infrastructure and car design has all been to make driving feel way safer than it actually is.
A zoned out or distracted driver is my #1 fear on a bicycle. If we really wanted to obtain Vision Zero tomorrow the solution is very simple: strap a big spike right on the driver’s wheel. People will suddenly only drive when they need to, and drive slowly and cautiously when they do.
Joking aside, I really do think this is exactly why our bike share of transit modes has stagnated since 2014. Anyone with two brain cells is going to recognize how we are putting our lives in the hands of drivers who will kill us for some stupid reason. Working too many hours, need to rush to get to that Starbucks drive through, going to be late, got a tweet they must read, etc. We can follow all the rules and adorn the brightest of clothes but we will still wet the pavement with our gore because the drivers are the ones operating the lethal weapons without even realizing it. A close call like the one above would push a large amount of people to drive instead of bike for pure safety reasons.
Stagnation would mean our cycling mode share is still 7.2%.
“Stagnation would mean our cycling mode share is still 7.2%.”
No, great progress would mean we might reach 7.2% again. Ridership has fallen significantly since those halcyon days.
I’m pretty gung-ho about riding, and even I am riding much less than in times past. I now prefer to walk where possible.
Comment of the week. Glad they were OK, but this video is scary and a good reminder that experience and clear right of way will not protect you from even the most rote of crossings – in full daylight no less.
Ironically, and tragically, same thing happened in NYC yesterday. Drivers are really cancer. https://gothamist.com/news/street-safety-advocate-hit-by-car-while-biking-to-nyc-memorial-for-crash-victims
That’s a pretty harsh comment about just about everyone. While I am sure you never drive, do you ever get rides with people who do? Are they “cancer” too?
No, but it’s safe to say drivers have a cancer of distraction.
I’m always muttering under my breath at the CARS, not the person behind the wheel. I generally don’t see the driver – because I’m watching the front wheel of their vehicle – the best defense is being aware of it turning. And I try and ride in a safety zone giving them leeway at every opportunity. So for me labeling isn’t necessary. I just see large cumbersome machines that move in unexpected ways when I’m most vulnerable. It’s not like all drivers are “bad”, it’s that all cars can kill. So to someone like me – who only rides on buses occasionally and has no car friends and who literally hasn’t driven in 40 years – all CARS are a cancer. I recognize the need for delivery and emergency vehicles, but feel automobile dependency is a social disease. It has a virus attribute, in that people are infected by the need to feel “in the norm” and then continue to spread the auto affluence to others with “car talk” as small talk – like the weather. We’re so brainwashed by most major media companies to think automobile ownership is the apex of adulthood and the most viable means of finding a suitable mate, it’s become normalized belief. It’s a huge paradigm hurdle just to “think differently” about car culture. Being brave enough to challenge the metal dragons themselves each day makes us warriors of sorts. But I still wouldn’t call a driver anything other than shithead or asshole. And only then if they nearly kill me and seem to find joy in the incident. As a generality, I don’t curse the driver. I curse at the car. It may not make sense at the time, but it’s not the driver who’s about to crush me I see as it’s happening – it’s the car. It all happens so fast, I don’t have time to look at the driver. I couldn’t tell the cops hair color or gender, but I could tell them make, model and color of the vehicle. I guess that’s just my perspective.
NYC also has Vision Zero initiative that produces little results.
Division has three through travel lanes in one direction at this intersection, one of which — in fact, the one in which the driver who hit Mark was driving — was just added during PBOT’s and TriMet’s “safety” project here. So yet PBOT’s project actually added more space for divers on Division, which directly led to this collision. In my view, there should not be any surface streets in a city with more than two through lanes in each direction; it’s antithetical to having a livable city.
I think there’s a left turn, two thrus and a BAT/RTO lane in the EB direction there…
Ah, looking closer I think you’re right. But I don’t know you’re right based on the road design. It’s extremely problematic that we have such ambiguously-designed infrastructure where it’s unclear what people are actually supposed to do.
Thanks for pointing this out. The 3rd e’bound lane is a pretty sloppy and dangerous design by PBOT. The lane skips around from being bus-only, to general purpose, to right turn only…but there is very little paint and zero physical control to prevent someone like just using as a highspeed bypass lane. I have seen retactable bollards used in other countries to keep cars from abusing bus lanes. If this were rail, you could switch the lane to gravel and ties to prevent tired-vehicles from using it. At any rate, this is an obvious problem that the designers simply neglected to address. This cannot be a surprise to PBOT, what do they have to say about it?
Yeah baby! Bring on the “Auto Bus Sluis”…one of my favourite Dutch devices that have sadly not been adopted here in the US of A. Got Sluis?
Glad the cyclist is doing well AND that the driver is in custody. (It would also be interesting to see the TRIMET bus footage of the incident and any other video footage before the collision to see what the van driver was doing several blocks before.)
The whole world needs a road diet.
I go through this intersection daily on the way to work and the fact that it’s a bus/turn lane there is incredibly stupid. The only thing that drivers can turn in to there (other than people trying to walk and bike lol) is a model train store that’s open for like 4 hours a day. Wonder if the original design was different but some “community input” form the store owner influenced them to change it?
I saw a NextDoor post where drivers complained A LOT about not being able to turn left on Division.
I once asked ODOT why it didn’t get rid of a similar third lane on S Macadam. Macadam widens to the third lane a block before an intersection, then narrows back down a block after. There are no driveways to make right turns onto, and there isn’t even a right turn at the intersection.
ODOT defended the third lane stating:
“The right lane ends situation is a standard operational tool used on highways to relieve traffic volume capacity constraints and supplement through traffic movements. Traffic signals are a bottleneck for through traffic volumes and the added lane north of and extending through the signalized intersection allows for an increased volume of traffic to be accommodated on the highway during peak periods.”
It sounded stupid. This Division third lane seems similarly dubious.
Translation: We want cars to as fast as possible through intersection, with “acceptable” collateral damage.
Alternate translation: We want to get as many vehicles through the traffic light as we can to avoid polluting backups, frustrated drivers speeding through neighborhoods (possibly endangering people walking and riding there), and phone calls to our political bosses from angry and frustrated citizens complaining about how badly we broke the intersection.
We recognize that we probably can’t stop drivers from driving right through red lights if that’s what they’re going to do. We also understand that the public values safety, but it is a gradient that comes with tradeoffs against many other things the public also regards as important, and we’re trying to find the most optimal solutions we can, knowing that no matter what we do, some people are going to be angry with us because they’ll wish we optimized differently.
It only takes 2% traffic increase to cause more pollution than idling vehicles. Traffic diverters through neighborhood streets is better option than having more traffic lanes to appease angry drivers.
I don’t see the false binary between intersection capacity and neighborhood diversion where appropriate. One does not depend on the other.
The comments on twitter about this video aren’t surprising but still quite disappointing. Even if the cyclists were crossing against the light the driver shouldn’t have gone through the crosswalk since there were cars already stopped at it. I’m assuming the van driver was distracted, since it doesn’t look like they even tried to avoid the collision or slow down. Obviously Division is still too comfortable to drive on.
There’s so much to hate about the changes to outer Division. I don’t believe they went far enough. The crossings, median, and protected bike lanes are nice, but it is still fundamentally designed like a highway – a wide, straight road that encourages drivers to go fast and zone out.
I use Division to get to work and the thing I think I hate the most is the complete and total lack of enforcement. No tickets for cars parked on the nice new sidewalks and bike lanes. No consequences for driving a shitbox 2000 Altima with illegal tints and no plates 30mph over the speed limit. No consequence for drivers with their eyes glued to their phones. No consequences for blowing through red lights like this van driver did.
While it is encouraging that PPB seems to have apprehended the driver swiftly, that didn’t stop the crash from happening in the first place. Where we’re at right now, they should be handing out massive tickets left and right. All it takes is a few people getting tickets before word starts to get around that you can’t drive like you’re playing Grand Theft Auto. Can we ticket every single driver who chooses not to take their responsibility seriously? No, in the same way that no road design will really stop a determined driver from misbehaving. But we can certainly use enforcement of existing rules as a tool to influence behavior and reduce the risk for everyone.
Never, EVER presume a driver will do the right thing. Just like in a car, if you enter an intersection, look BOTH ways at all times. I almost was runover by a tram in Amsterdam similarly. There is NO infrastructure that allows anyone to not look around defensively. Pedestrian, biker, car, train. None.
There was no way that we could have seen this van coming at that speed with other cars stopped in their lanes.
Sure there was. YOU DON’T PROCEED UNLESS CLEAR.
I say this as a bike commuter, an Amsterdam commuter with kids. I say this as a pedestrian.
Rules and infrastructure and mode share…none of it matters. YOU are still at risk. You better damn well be sure, like defensively sure, that you are not proceeding into harms way.
Pedestrians are the worst at this. Just blithely presume the walk signal means you can enjoy your earbuds and latte and look at your phone as you step into a place that you may be killed.
In Amsterdam, the pedestrians yell and physically react to a biker distracted buzzing them as they step across the line into a bike path.
In my case, a tram was stopped as I entered Rembrantsplein off of this little no car, 2 way bike path onto double streetcar tracks with pedestrians, bikes and a parked streetcar to my left. There are few lights for bikes at many such intersections, and I presumed the streetcar was going to go from my left to right. But it was parked, and headed away from the intersection. The OTHER streetcar was hidden behind it and headed the other direction, left to right. I barely slowed, looking right for any oncoming streetcar and was hit by the one I didn’t look for, just my front tire.
You NEVER proceed into any place you may be killed.
So no one get mad at me, but I have 4 decades of Portland City riding, why where the riders using the ped signal and not waiting for the green traffic light? I don’t think I would ever use the ped signal for crossing a urban highway.
I was wondering the same thing, but also wondering if it’s legal to make the left turn at all, given that the lights indicate that it’s a right turn only from SE 117th onto SE Division?
I make these kinds of turns from time to time on my bicycle but I do wonder if I have the legal right to do so?
Because they can (legally)? And why not? The problem wasn’t the walk signal, but that a van didn’t even slow for a red light.
Why not? I’m asking as someone who crosses at that type of signal more when walking, and wouldn’t think there’s any benefit to my waiting until the vehicle signal also turns green. Is it because you feel safer if cars are also crossing alongside you, making it more likely people you’re crossing in front of will obey the red? Asking out of curiosity.
Yes, I would use the traffic light not only because I consider myself a vehicle and not a pedestrian, but also the mass of the other cars further signals for the sleeper at the wheel that it’s not his turn to transit the intersection. Undoubtedly, the van ran the light, but misbehaviour on faster roads seems common. There are numerous situations like this, where the cyclist may have the right but considering the speed and too common poor attention of fast moving vehicles, extra caution is necessary. I cut my teeth back in the bad old days (70’s & 80′) were cyclists lacked the infrastructure and relied on their wits & experience to stay safe. Inattentive & fast drivers are something us slowpokes need to avoid as much as possible.
I consider myself a human being regardless of whether I’m using a shoe or bicycle to get from point A to B.
Given that the two lanes of traffic here are forced to turn right only, the lane the van is in may very well have a green light when those red, right turn arrows turn green. The ped signal means no one is (supposed to be) driving across the crosswalk. So, with a cyclist that needs to go across and turn left, the ped signal is likely the safest move.
I ride differently as a single rider than in a group with variable speed. The ped crossing signal usually allows for more protected time to cross an intersection than the vehicle signal change — and you need more time for a group to cross than a single rider (generally).
And also, it depends on the intersection. N-bound at SE 17th & McLoughlin I use the ped signal to cross on my bike every time, because of the Max variable AND the additional time buffer to cross that giant road. S-bound I don’t touch it – I use the vehicle signaling because there’s no Max and the signal timing gives plenty of time to get across (weird, I know).
Yes,I imagine that lots of people ride differently in groups than they do when they’re alone.
Some people aren’t comfortable crossing that. way, Patrick.
You would think that the safest place to cross would be in a marked ped crossing. Mark was the one going through it. The rest of us were crossing (still legally) to the left of the crossing, in part because we know from experience that being too close to the stopped lane cars means not being able to view cars coming through the other lanes.
What I am getting at is that this intersection’s (new) design doesn’t really protect pedestrians or cyclists from these types of inevitable events.
I believe that all intersections should have traffic calming mechanisms to force drivers to slow down and that crosswalks should be far enough from where the cars stop to guarantee safety.
The pedestrian signal only governs the crosswalk. People crossing to its left ran the red light. (I run red lights constantly, so don’t take this as judgment.)
If the crosswalks were wide enough or far away enough from the cars we wouldn’t have to be crossing there. Still legal, for bikes.
Great to hear that PPB responded within five minutes.
A friend an I called 911 to report a fire and were on hold for five minutes.
“The van was towed as evidence.”
Hell yeah, dude can’t hurt anyone else if he doesn’t have a giant metal box.