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Thursday, May 17, 2012

The sharrows didn't help

Our condolences to the loved ones of Kathryn Rickson, the 29 28-year-old woman who was run over and killed by a semi last night while riding her bicycle in downtown Portland.

It appears that Rickson was in one of Portland's green "bike boxes" when she was hit. Now she is in a different kind of box. Urban cycling is inherently dangerous.

Comments (51)

The real purpose of green boxes is to put bicyclists in front of cars to slow them down. The City leaders think it's smart to make car driving slower, more difficult. Putting bicyclists in front of cars assures collateral damage to bicyclists.

And putting up a ghost bike won't bring Kathryn back. My condolences to Kathryn's family and friends.

The article says nothing about her being in a bike box. There is one at that intersection, but from my reading she and the truck were both moving at the time of the collision. None of this will bring her back, though, and your point about the dangers of cycling is well-taken.

This is sad, indeed. Two people weren't paying attention at the same time with tragic consequences.

So what's the solution, ban the delivery or movement of goods in areas cyclists use?

I blame the stupid Portland planners and dreamers who keep encourging the hare and the ox to use the same trail.

I hate to agree with Lars, but one set of traffic laws and control devices for bikes and cars is beginning to make more sense. Passing a semi on the right side is suicidal.

Urban cycling can definitely be dangerous. It is equally true that the conventional wisdom about the threshold for what constitutes safe driving is dismally low. Safe drivers do not crash into things or run things over. I have maybe somewhere around 35 years left of driving if my health holds out, and I promise with absolute confidence I am never, ever going to run over a cyclist or pedestrian.

As Jack noted, urban cycling is inherently dangerous. Even when I lived in NW Portland and biked to and from work each day, I wouldn't ride in downtown traffic. Nearly getting nailed by a Tri-Met bus one day brought me straight to Jesus on that issue.

I was reading a note from a guy who says he bikes some 16 miles a day and can't believe how clueless most cyclists are: riding with headphones, blowing through signals, weaving in and out of traffic, etc. Sometimes I wonder if, due to their pronounced antipathy toward motor vehicles, the City "leaders" aren't deliberately making things less safe for cyclists.

A young life cut short is truly sad. Bike lanes and bike boxes only help, when combined with common sense. I apologize in advance for the following suggestion; perhaps we should plaster these stickers on every bumper, it just might save a life.

Ugh, the dreaded right hook. That's what killed the cyclist in front of the Crystal Ballroom a few years back, and the dude coming down N. Interstate. All three instances also involved trucks, if I'm not mistaken. It is something I am *constantly* on the lookout for, both when I'm driving and when I'm cycling. I feel horrible for the family and friends of Ms. Rickson.

At the same time, Jack, it's pretty weak sauce to point to the presence of a green bike box and say "ah ha! There was a bike safety measure taken here, yet someone died, so it's all a failure." You could similarly point to EVERY car wreck that has ever happened and find four or five safety measures--all aimed at autos--that failed. Someone ran a red light, someone changed lanes wrong, someone didn't use their turn signal correctly, someone drove too fast, or braked too late, or whatever. That happens in every wreck, yet nobody ever points and uses it as some sort of indictment against vehicles, the way you are doing right now with bikes.

Urban cycling is inherently dangerous.

True that!

The linked article has a photo of the intersection. The green bike area shown makes no sense to me. It is out in the intersection. As a cyclist or a driver I would have no idea how to interpret that.

That's my criticism of the bike boxes as well...the signage is confusing, they are fairly unique, and so out-of-town drivers (or people unfamiliar with the concept) are always uncertain what to do. Meanwhile most cyclists who ride the same route everyday assume that everyone is on the same page, and that everyone will yield to them in a bike box. Tragedy ensues.

"I have maybe somewhere around 35 years left of driving if my health holds out, and I promise with absolute confidence I am never, ever going to run over a cyclist or pedestrian."

You better knock on wood or something. Fate doesn't care for being tempted so boldly.

Knowing Portland, my money is on "ban the delivery or movement of goods"...

And a dead car occupant in the Portland metro area every three days is proof that driving is inherently safe. (Data from Oregon barnch of the American Autoobile Association.) That's at least about 20-30 dead car occupants, or more, since the last cyclist died. More proof that driving is safe.

Go by car.

Thanks for the timely bike loon perspective. But if I'm going to get hit by a truck, I would rather be in a car.

Urban cycling is inherently dangerous. Encouraging people to commute downtown on bicycles is inviting them to serious injury or death.

Number of O-live comments to date about truck killing bicyclist-132

Number of O-live comments to date concerning bicyclist critically injuring pedestrian in Klamath Falls last week-9.

And it was on a walking path!! Where's the bike lobby's outrage?

"This is the thing that we just don't know how to keep from happening," he said. "It's just awful."

And it will happen again. The more cyclists on the road, the sooner it will happen again.

When will these dumb cyclists learn to not ride on the right side of a semi? A sad and tough lesson to learn.....

Knowing Portland, my money is on "ban the delivery or movement of goods"...

Mine would be on "force the delivery or movement of goods to take place by bicycle/adult tricycle".

I grew up in the Tigard suburbs biking and delivering newspapers on roads with very little shoulders and during the golden age of cars where they unquestionably owned the roads. You pretty much had to be very vigilent and respectful of the law of physics in riding a bicycle under these circumstances. There was no bike boxes or lanes. In some ways, this bicycling environment forced me to be a much safer bicyclist. Sam Adams' bike boxes might actually encourage bicyclists to be less vigilent and keep less of a keen focus on their immediate surroundings.

Another thing I don't find helpful at all as a bicyclist in Portland is the extended curves. I'd rather have wide roads (2 lanes each way) where possible so as to allow more space between cars and bicyclists.

It sounds as though both truck and bike had a green light and were moving, so the matter of the bike box is mere coincidence. Bike boxes only "protect" bicyclists at a red light (by intentionally placing them in front of vehicles), and frankly I find it safer to just line up with the cars, not try to jump in front of the queue.

In this case, the bicyclist likely entered the so-called "no-zone" (the truck driver's expansive right-side blind spot). This blind spot is not only the subject of a major USDOT safety campaign but is also covered in depth in the current Oregon DMV Driver's Manual for motorists.

At the end of the day it does no good to claim "I had the right-of-way" that what will be inscribed on your grave marker? This truck was making a very tricky maneuver and needed all the room he could get. If you want to see an extreme example of how bad it gets - watch TriMet buses make the right hand turn from S.W. Harrison Street onto S.W. 6th Avenue on the PSU Campus. You'll be left shaking your head as to why a traffic engineer was allowed to create such a situation...and it boils down to a simple design flaw with the Transit Mall (namely: eliminating a key bus stop in favor of a MAX station) that if rectified would have these 40' hunks of metal making their left turns at a protected location (as in, pedestrian movements are prohibited across the path of the left-turning buses) and well removed from pedestrians and bikes.

I just tried to walk around that combat zone on 5th/6th at that upper end of PSU today,, and it's a horrorshow. Holy Flying F*€k!

Bike boxes only "protect" bicyclists at a red light (by intentionally placing them in front of vehicles)

Actually, in this case, the green "bike box" is adjacent to, and parallel to, a crosswalk. Nobody knows what the heck it is supposed to mean. And that is exactly where she was crushed.

p.s.: As I was passing by a worker fell off an 8 ft. stationary mobile scaffold, and remained stunned for awhile, not answering his buddies' call outs. In the NFL, it's called a "t.v. timeout." He "sustained" a concussion -- it's renewable!

This already tragic story is compounded by the fact that the cycling community actively resisted the PPB's efforts to change the way this type of intersection works in order to prevent this exact type of accident.

The O had this animation on its site back in 2007 illustrating the PPB's proposed rule change that may have prevented this young woman's death. Oregon's approach to right turns in the presence of a bike lane is unsafe and needs to be reconsidered.

Bob Clark and I apparently had similar experiences in that we had paper routes that we delivered by bicycle on narrow roads with no bike paths and other stuff. You learn quickly.

In Portland, they enable stupidity.

A human powered bike weighs 125-250 pounds (with rider). When riding near a commercial vehicle, weighing as much as 80,000 pounds, it should be given a wide berth. The same is true for motorcycles or passenger vehicles.

Mass doesn't care about right of way. Portland's "bike culture" is dismissive of the laws of physics and (frequently) delusional.

I have heartfelt empathy for Kathryn's friends and family. I pray she rests in peace and that her loved ones can find their way forward.

Why does the Oregonian use the term "right hook"? Vehicles, including bikes that are turning right are making a right turn. Right hook makes it sound as if it's derogatory, if that's the right word.

What is it with all these Planners? They outlaw left turns about everywhere downtown, then make right turns sinful. I guess we can only go one direction-straight-and follow a bike at their selected speed.

Bike lanes are lanes. You need to signal and move into them before turning right. That being said, it works for a car, but not large/long vehicles. They need to make a wide turn and the bike lane simply appears to be open.

This pushes me back to a license to ride a bicycle, just as there is a special license to ride a motorcycle. The tests for motorcycles and the training emphasizes the fact that you need to operate the vehicle as if you cannot be seen and the fact that you are equivalent to a bug on a windshield when a collision takes place is drummed into your head. This needs to be done to save the bicyclists lives. Helmet laws and special licenses are a part of the answer.

Tonnage rules...everyntime!
This is a sad situation that could have been avoided if the cyclist had simply stayed away from the 80,000 pound, 48 ft truck.
I hope that the cycling groups will emphasize safety in the future. You can be right, and dead.

I second the fact that those bike boxes are confusing. I saw one for the first time a few weeks ago and I had no idea of what I should do.....and the stupid thing was empty.

I used to bike downtown a lot in the past, but only on the waterfront park and back onto one of the bridges. Never did I venture into the transit mall or anywhere downtown. Now forward about 15 years and you have streetcars and Max trains crisscrossing every direction with traffic being squeezed into fewer lanes. Then add a few hundred hipster transplants on bicycles and you have trouble.

I feel sorry for the woman's family and hope there are some lessons learned, regardless of who was at fault.

Don : The real purpose of green boxes is to put bicyclists in front of cars to slow them down. The City leaders think it's smart to make car driving slower, more difficult. Putting bicyclists in front of cars assures collateral damage to bicyclists.
JK: Forcing cars to go as slow as bikes (or pedestrians) is another of those crackpot European ideas. (Like those streets that have no defined pedestrian and car areas.) The people who advocate such things are too stupid to realize that fast transportation is one element of a high standard of living.


PdxMark: And a dead car occupant in the Portland metro area every three days is proof that driving is inherently safe. (Data from Oregon barnch of the American Autoobile Association.) That's at least about 20-30 dead car occupants, or more, since the last cyclist died. More proof that driving is safe.

Go by car.
JK: Of course you are correct that driving is much safer than riding a bike. The only reason that there are more car deaths is that there is vastly more miles traveled by car.

This reminds me of a funny conversation I had with Rex (yes, that one, the Metro electoid). He claimed that riding a bike was safe because there were so few deaths. He had no concept of a rate of deaths. But having no clue seems to be a requirement to be elected to Metro.


MAX seems to be killing people at a pretty good clip this year...I wonder if AAA is including those as "vehicular" deaths.

Are the "Bike Boxes" legal ? I thought the feds said no ?

Unless badges, cuffs, and a lot of negative publicity are involved, Portland government doesn't know the meaning of "illegal". Even a civil lawsuit won tends to result only in a payoff and them back to business as usual.

I'm a bike commuter, and agree that there are dangers involved. At the same time, though, there are plenty of car-related deaths every year, that get minimal coverage. I'd say that if you get in a massive piece of metal and drive it around at pretty high speeds, it's going to create danger for other drivers, bikers, and pedestrians, with bikers and pedestrians being on the losing end most of the time.

It seems at least possible, if not likely, that the driver of the 18-wheeler going east on Madison and turning south on Third was both lost and distracted. It's an odd place for such a truck to be. The many confessions of ignorance above about street markings and signage are further evidence that lack of driver training and knowledge is a big part of the problem.

Allan L., you are full of "seems" and "likely"s. It's also likely that a streaking
comet flashed before the biker distracting her from seeing the semi.


Bicycle safety starts with the bicyclists themselves obeying all traffic laws, including stopping – foot down on the pavement – at all stop signs. Lax enforcement and arrogance on the part of the bicyclists only serve make bicycling less safe. Sammyboy’s chaotic attitude to create a bicycle hierarchy - ranking bicyclists over motorists who actually pay for the roads - significantly plays a role in the bicycle mayhem and arrogance Portland area bicyclists exhibit. Trains are much bigger and heavier than cars, yet cars must stop and yield the right-of –way for trains. There are also times and places where bicyclists need to yield to drivers; but bicyclist that arrogance gets in the way; and then surprise, surprise, another bicyclist down. Then there is the nonchalant bicyclist just peddling along without regard to his or her surroundings –often without a helmet - and not stopping for anyone or anything including pedestrians in a crosswalk.

The accident at 3rd and Madison could have possibly been avoided if 1) The bicycle lane on Madison had a speed limit of five to ten MPH (so the driver of the truck could see the bicyclist coming and so the bicyclist would have time to STOP if the truck was turning across the bicycle lane), 2) The elimination of the bias hierarchy thereby requiring bicyclists to take more responsibility for their actions and loose the arrogance, and 3) Strict enforcement of traffic laws as they apply to bicyclists with hefty fines for offenders.

Commguy said: Bike lanes are lanes. You need to signal and move into them before turning right. That being said, it works for a car, but not large/long vehicles. They need to make a wide turn and the bike lane simply appears to be open.

No, bike lanes are for bikes only in Oregon. Under no circumstances are cars allowed to drive in them, you have to turn across them. (See the link to Oregon Live above that shows that California does it like you state.)

Which means if there is heavy bike traffic you may have to stop and sit in your lane for a very long time, holding up traffic, until there is no more bike traffic before you can turn.

Nearly every day, I take the Fremont Bridge to Williams Ave (probably Portland's most biked street) then I turn north to Fremont and head east towards MLK.

I have to turn across a bike lane and always do so at the broken lines. I am terrified that I will run over a bicyclist there. They will pass me on the right willy-nilly even when I am pulling my utility trailer.

That's bad enough, but what really gets my goat is the number of moron car drivers who use the bike lane as an extra space to squeeze ahead of four or five cars to make the right turn onto Fremont. I reward them with a long blast from my horn.

If an officer were posted there during rush hour, he would make his weekly ticket quota in a few hours.

No, bike lanes are for bikes only in Oregon.

Sorry, but don't use OregonLive as an absolute reference.

ORS 811.440:

811.440 When motor vehicles may operate on bicycle lane.
This section provides exemptions from the prohibitions under ORS 811.435 and 814.210 against operating motor vehicles on bicycle lanes and paths. The following vehicles are not subject to ORS 811.435 and 814.210 under the circumstances described:
(1) A person may operate a moped on a bicycle lane that is immediately adjacent to the roadway only while the moped is being exclusively powered by human power.
(2) A person may operate a motor vehicle upon a bicycle lane when:
(a) Making a turn;
(b) Entering or leaving an alley, private road or driveway;
(c) Required in the course of official duty.
(3) An implement of husbandry may momentarily cross into a bicycle lane to permit other vehicles to overtake and pass the implement of husbandry.
(4) A person may operate a motorized wheelchair on a bicycle lane or path.
(5) A person may operate a motor assisted scooter on a bicycle lane or path.
(6) A person may operate an electric personal assistive mobility device on a bicycle lane or path. [1983 c.338 §645; 1991 c.417 §1; 2001 c.749 §24; 2003 c.341 §8]

Not that I wanted to turn this in to a bike vs car thread but I can't deal with comments like..."No, bike lanes are for bikes only in Oregon." Like sidewalks are only for walking?

If you drive a car in Portland the rules apply, if you drive a bike in Portland the rules are really more of a "series of guidelines" that's become the real rule of the road in Portland.

If you drive a car in Portland the rules apply,

I assume that this sentence is aspirational, and not descriptive. Posters above who are on high alert for cycling transgressions seem not to notice the almost universal failures to stop, signal, yield, use the proper lane when turning, observe speed limits or respect the prohibitions on cell phone use by -- wait for it -- motorists! Indeed, if motor vehicles respected the rules, this unfortunate young woman would be alive today.

The whole idea of putting a straight through lane to the right of a turn(able) lane is magnificent failure of good sense. Once upon a time, it was incumbent on all road users to merge and turn safely together without running over each other. I remember making a serious effort not to get stuck between something big and a curb just as a matter of course. This is a case in which having the bicycle take the lane is the only safe answer. The bike lane gives a false sense of safety. I don't remember any "right hook" fatalities like this when we all had to use the same lane and take our turn.

That said, it isn't her fault for buying the ideology and bad sense they churn out of those planning cabals. They've got a nice little empire going and aren't going to give it up voluntarily. She's a victim of bad transportation planning, in my view. They invite her to expect to ride straight through and she does. Not her fault.

The current fashionable idea is MORE separation of cars and bikes. I think that is less safe, but it gives a false perception of safety -- lulls one into magic thinking that a pavement line will stop a tragedy. Only an excess of caution on both sides will do that.

"...if motor vehicles respected the rules, this unfortunate young woman would be alive today." I wasn't aware taking a right turn on a green light was illegal, passing on the right though is and the right side bicycle lane enables this. In a car you would naturally be behind the truck not beside it as you enter the intersection. When in an environment dominated by much larger and heavier motorized vehicles it would be in your best interest to behave like one as best you can and don't do what a car can't do and the city shouldn't make it possible in the first place with these exclusive bike lanes that encourage situations like this.

Tom, you are completely in error about the rules of the road. I certainly hope you are not in the habit of driving a car or truck on our roads.

In that area of town a semi would not be traveling very fast. I cannot in my wildest imagination see how a bicyclist would not be able to see what was happening and be able to avoid it. Maybe it is my age, but when I was riding a bicycle I had a healthy respect for a car. I wouldn't have gotten within 10 feet of a semi.

I blame Sam Adams and the council of clowns that has made this possible and if I were a relative of that young woman I would be suing them personally for creating the atmosphere that allowed this to happen.

Allan, thanks for the advice. Here's some for you, wear a helmet. Portland is a small town perhaps some day we'll run in to one another.


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Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 115
At this date last year: 21
Total run in 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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