City of Portland wants to make side guards mandatory on all garbage and recycling trucks by 2022

Side guards installed on a garbage truck during a City of Portland pilot project.

It’s been a long time coming, but Portland is finally about to take a big step forward in road safety. The Bureau of Planning & Sustainability (BPS) announced today they’ll propose a change to the City’s administrative rules that would require all garbage and recycling contractors to fill gaps in the sides of their trucks by 2022. The new mandate would apply to about 195 vehicles that currently don’t meet federal safety standards.

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An opportunity to push the City of Portland forward on truck safety

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A Portland Water Bureau vehicle with side underrun guards (from 2008).
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

A proposed City of Portland administrative rule change is giving street safety advocates a chance to lobby for side guards and other equipment that could make commercial trucks safer.

Given their size, height, and weight, trucks used to haul garbage, cement and other goods on city streets pose a very high risk to other road users. According to the US Department of Transportation, nearly half of all the bikers and walkers killed in collisions with large trucks first impact the side of the truck. Many of the fatalities we’ve reported about here in BikePortland over the years have involved trucks. After the death of Tamar Monhait (that involved a man driving a garbage truck whose operator is now being sued by Monhait’s family), we shared an editorial local lawyer Cynthia Newton who’s “deeply concerned” about truck safety.

That concern is shared by at least one City of Portland Planning Commissioner. Chris Smith has been working on this issue through the Planning and Sustainability Commission for over two years. The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability (BPS) directly regulates residential solid waste haulers and also permits all the trucks for commercial solid waste in the city. As such, they have the authority to require safety equipment — like sideguards and special mirrors — on contractors’ vehicles.

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City of Portland: There’s no funding for truck side guards, yet

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A Portland Water Bureau truck in June 2008.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The dangerous combination of right-hooks and large trucks have been one of the most pressing bike safety issues in Portland for the past a decade. We have lost far too many people because of this deadly combination.

So why aren’t we doing more about this well-known hazard? Like so many of Portland’s bike-related projects, the solution is in the city’s plans, but not in the city’s budget.

We were once again shaken out of our complacency with this issue when a man died while bicycling on North Interstate Avenue yesterday. Official details are still sparse, but it has all the trappings of a classic right-hook.

That horrible tragedy is just the latest in a long line of them.

In 2007 Brett Jarolimek and Tracey Sparling were killed within two weeks of each other when a truck operator failed to see them, turned right, and ran over their bodies. It happened again in 2012 to Kathryn Rickson on a busy bike lane just one block from City Hall.

After all three of those tragedies one of the main responses from the community was the need for safer trucks.

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Is Portland ready to start building streets for smaller trucks?

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truck on right

Big trucks in busy American cities are often seen as a necessary evil. But maybe that’s only half true.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

Cities can’t exist without cargo. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that cities can exist with fewer big trucks.

Two weeks ago, the day after local man Kirke Johnson was killed in a collision with a right-turning semi-trailer truck that apparently failed to yield as he passed it going straight, urbanist website CityLab published an interesting bit of news.

After years of selling 15-foot cargo vans as delivery vehicles in Europe and Japan, Nissan has found a market for them in the United States, too:

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Are ‘bikes-vs-trucks’ battles fading? Advocates say so

Can they share interests, too?
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The long, cold war between Portland’s bike/pedestrian advocates and its freight advocates might finally be thawing, people involved in recent talks say.

The latest evidence: Trucking advocates have signed on to soften a set of state rules that might have essentially blocked all new bike lanes, road diets and crosswalk upgrades on state-owned commercial streets such as Lombard Street through St. Johns, Powell Boulevard through Southeast Portland and the Tualatin Valley Highway through downtown Beaverton and Hillsboro.

After two years of discussion, freight and bike/pedestrian experts have settled on a revised state rule that explicitly allows road changes as long as they don’t physically block the passage of wide freight loads.

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A freight advocate’s perspective on recent fatal collision

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Former chair of the Portland Freight
Committee, Corky Collier.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Not surprisingly, the death of Kathryn Rickson while she rode in a bike lane just one block from Portland City Hall has got a lot of people talking. Apart from the grieving we do as a community when something like this happens, many people are turning their feelings toward finding a solution to the problems they feel might have led to the collision.

Two major strains of discussion have emerged: large trucks and the safety issues they pose in tight, urban environments; and how we design bicycle access into our roads. Today I want to focus on the issue of truck safety (I am not dismissing the bikeway design issue; but it’s worth noting that we covered that at length following a similar fatality back in October 2007).

To get a better understanding about freight movement and truck safety downtown, I got in touch with Corky Collier. Collier is the former chair of the Portland Freight Committee, which is an advisory group to the Bureau of Transportation (think of it as the Bicycle Advisory Committee, but for freight). Collier is also the executive director of the Columbia Corridor Association, a non-profit business association that represents industries along the Columbia River.

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Water Bureau event will focus on bike/truck safety

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Water Bureau Director David
Shaff at last year’s event.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Continuing a campaign they began last year, the City of Portland’s Water Bureau will hold a bike/truck safety event this Saturday.

The Water Bureau says this ongoing effort to improve safety was prompted by a number of near collisions over the years (mostly at the infamous NE Broadway and NE Flint Street intersection, which is close to one of their facilities).

The event will be held in outer Southeast Portland and, like last year, attendees will be able to jump up in to a truck driver’s seat for a first-hand look at blind spots and the dangers of riding near large vehicles.

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ODOT truck division launches bike safety campaign

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

“As a 30-year cyclist, I feel this message is crucial.”
–Howard Russell, ODOT

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has launched a bike safety campaign.

Word of the campaign comes from ODOT’s Howard Russell. Russell is the safety enforcement manager of the agency’s Motor Carrier Division, which he says is a specialized unit devoted to preventing truck-related accidents. In addition to public education, his division investigates trucking companies and does roadside truck inspections.

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