A resident of Portland was killed on Saturday just before 11:30 am while biking on a rural highway in Polk County.
According to Oregon State Police, 55-year-old Adam Joy was riding southbound on Wallace Road NW (Highway 221) about 10 miles southeast of McMinville when he was struck from behind by 47-year-old Robert Weeks who was driving a 2021 Ford F-350 truck. The collision occurred near the 11.5 milepost marker, which is near the entrance to Spring Valley State Park (approximate location pinned on a map here).
Here’s an excerpt from the OSP crash statement (which is likely based solely on the recollection of the driver and a cursory investigation):
“The bicyclist fell over, into the lane of travel, just as the F-350 passed. Even though the F-350 had slowed when passing, the rider of the bicycle was run over by the F-350 and was pronounced deceased at the scene. The operator of the Ford remained on scene and was cooperative with the investigation.”
The roadway on this section of Wallace Rd is two standard lanes. There is little to no paved shoulder space beyond the two lanes. While this highway might look unsafe for cycling, that’s only because of how fast drivers go on it. The surrounding area is very popular for cycling with the bike paths in Spring Valley and the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway nearby (the latter being just on the other side of the Willamette River). The Wheatland Ferry — a fun way for bike riders to cross the Willamette River — is about two miles away and the Wallace Rd. section of the bikeway route is less than two miles from where Joy was hit.
It was notable to me that OSP said the “bicyclist fell over in the lane of travel.” Given the width and striping of the roadway, it would be impossible for a bike rider to fall over to their left and not be “into the lane of travel.” Also, Oregon law (ORS 811.065) states that a driver of a car or truck must only pass a bicycle rider if they can do so at a safe distance. In this context, “safe distance” is defined by Oregon statute as, “a distance that is sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.”
I’ve asked Oregon State Police if the driver was/will be issued a citation and will update this story when I hear back. UPDATE: Cpt. Kyle Kennedy says, “The investigation is ongoing and those determinations will be made by the investigations in conjunction with the local district attorney.”
It’s interesting to me that OSP says they can’t comment on possible safe passing law implications due to a pending investigation; however they were willing to report that Joy fell over before that investigation was complete.
UPDATE, 2:50 pm: A commenter verifies that the victim was a school teacher in Vancouver. “The rider who was killed was a beloved middle school science teacher at VSAA in Vancouver. He left hundreds of grieving students and staff in addition to his family.”
A letter sent home to families Monday morning from VSAA Principal Lori Rotherham described Joy as a warm and involved teacher.
“He was very loved by our students and loved his students in return. We will miss Mr. Joy deeply, and our thoughts are with his family and friends,” Rotherham said.
Joy, 55, had worked in Vancouver Public Schools since August 2000. Before coming to VSAA six years ago, Joy had worked as a math and science teacher at Discovery Middle School for 17 years.
UPDATE, 6/13 at 3:25 pm: Bike Clark County Executive Director Peter Van Tilburg just sent us this note:
Adam Joy is a tremendous loss to our cycling community. He commuted daily from his home in Portland to Vancouver where he was a middle school teacher. He spent many long days, on his own time, teaching an after school bike curriculum to students. Over the years he ran this program, Bike Clark County often donated helmets so he could give them away to the students in his class. He was a frequent patron of Bike Clark County’s bike shop and just recently purchased two refurbished bikes for his two children that are still in the shop.