While PBOT placates business owners, another person gets right-hooked at Broadway/Wheeler – UPDATED

While PBOT placates business owners, another person gets right-hooked at Broadway/Wheeler – UPDATED

Mayor and Transportation Commissioner
Sam Adams says safety is his
#1 transportation priority.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

This morning another person was taken to the hospital after suffering injuries in a right hook collision at N Broadway and Wheeler.

Last week I sat in a meeting at the Portland Building and listened to an impassioned PBOT employee describe the agency’s desire to close, N Wheeler Avenue at Broadway to prevent right hooks. The staffer said a partial or full closure of Wheeler was the only solution they have found to prevent repeated right-hooks, “that we think is very likely to cause a serious injury or death.” The staffer added, with a palpable sense of urgency, that PBOT sees this is a “a critical safety problem that we’re focused on addressing in an immediate way.”

There was talk from PBOT at that meeting, and agreement from several key stakeholders, that traffic barricades should be placed on Wheeler right away, without delay, in order to prevent further injury.

Unfortunately, action is stalled because a few businesses in the lower Albina district are concerned about how a closure of Wheeler might impact them (Wheeler is not the only road that accesses the businesses).

On Tuesday, Dan Bower, the head of PBOT’s Active Transportation Division, told the Bicycle Advisory Committee that these talks are ongoing and he doesn’t expect a closure to happen for another “two weeks to a month.”

This morning another person was injured in a right hook at this location.

This morning’s collision follows several others I’ve reported on going as far back as August of 2007.

According to the Portland Police Bureau, and several witnesses I’ve heard from, the collision happened at about 7:45 am this morning. A woman traveling down Broadway toward the river was right-hooked by someone attempting to turn right (north) onto Wheeler. The woman on the bike was taken away to the hospital on a stretcher. Thankfully, the PPB says the woman suffered only “minor cuts and bruising” because the car was reportedly going very slowly at the time of impact.

Mayor Sam Adams has run Portland’s transportation department for the last eight years. He repeatedly says that safety is his “number one priority.” If that’s indeed the case, why does it always take people being injured and killed before significant action is taken to improve these urgent public safety/transportation issues?

Wheeler needs to be closed immediately. PBOT has admitted it is statistically one of — if not the — most dangerous intersections for bicycling in the entire city. They have, as recently as seven days ago, spoken about closing it with a major sense of urgency and concern for the well-being of Portlanders. Yet despite this, because of their fears that a few business owners might not fully support the plans, they have delayed the fix they themselves know is the only solution.

Last week the representative of the lower Albina businesses, Eric Lovell, was asked whether he felt doing something immediately was worth saving a life. While he expressed concerns about business access, he also said, “It’s pretty easy to see that closing Wheeler will prevent the accidents and it’s cheap, so it’s hard to take any position against that.”

On October 22nd 2007, Brett Jarolimek was killed in a right-hook at N. Interstate and Greeley. Two weeks later, Siobhan Doyle suffered a broken arm after being right hooked at the exact location. Saying that, “I don’t want another tragedy,” Adams closed Greeley to right turns that same day.

We’ve been through this before. Why the delay now? Is it because there hasn’t been a fatality yet?

This is not acceptable. Would PBOT rather apologize to the family of a person who gets killed or apologize to a business owner or two for making it a bit less convenient to drive to their building?

— Learn more about the long history of collisions and problems at this intersection via our “Broadway Flint Wheeler” story tag.

UPDATE, 1:30 pm: The BTA has just published a blog post calling on Mayor Adams to “close Wheeler now”.

UPDATE, 3:10 pm: Mayor Sam Adams says he will do a site visit on Monday. Here’s what he just tweeted:

“Wheeler: Got it. I will visit again tomorrow. Meet with staff Monday. Let folks know ASAP.”

So, no promise/plan to close it right away; but there could be action on Monday. I’m planning to be there for the site visit. Stay tuned.

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