This Week in the Mercury


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bike on the Sidewalk, Crash into a Cop Car

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 11:13 AM

Here's a quick public service announcement from the Portland Police about why it's actually more dangerous to bike on the sidewalk that to bike in the street.

Last night, a 22-year-old guy was biking on the sidewalk on the north side of Powell Blvd just near SE 50th Avenue. Meanwhile, a Portland Police officer was pulling his Chevy pick-up out of a parking lot on the northeast corner of 50th and Powell, aiming to turn west onto Powell. According to the police, the officer pulled forward to see oncoming traffic and, after believing the sidewalk was clear, pulled forward to enter the roadway. That's when the guy on the bike, who was traveling at 10-12 miles an hour (according to a witness) crashed into the side of the police truck and "suffered small abrasions."

The police determined that while the cyclist had a front light, he was responsible for the crash because he was biking at a "speed greater than an ordinary walk" when he approached the driveway. While it's legal in Portland to bike on the sidewalk everywhere except downtown, you have to bike at the speed of a pedestrian when crossing driveways or entering crosswalks. No citations were issued, but this means the cops don't have to pay for the cyclist's injuries.

Of course, the larger question is: Why was he biking on the sidewalk? Probably because SE 50th and Powell is a terrifying street to bike on. That's the clunky three-way intersection where Powell meets Foster and 50th Ave—there's four lanes of traffic on each side, no bike lane, and if you're not a rider who's super confident about saying your prayers and taking the lane, riding on the sidewalk seems to be the safer option. Fix that, please.

UPDATE 3:50PM— I just talked with the witness of this crash, who happens to be Joe Doebele, owner of local bike shop Joe Bike. Doebele was walking his dogs when he saw the crash and says while the cyclist was going faster than pedestrian speed, he thought the driver was "90 percent responsible" for the crash.

"If he had looked with relative care to the right and left, he would have seen the guy coming, he wasn't going that fast and he had lights," says Doebele. "The first thing I noticed is the driver immediately blamed the cyclist when he got out of the truck. 'I didn't see you, you were in my blind spot.' ... Then when a motorcycle cop showed up, the first thing out of the driver's mouth was, 'No damage to the rig!'"

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