Man severely hurt by collision with garbage truck on SE McLoughlin (updated)

Man severely hurt by collision with garbage truck on SE McLoughlin (updated)

The garbage truck that hit the man is at right.
(Photo courtesy Jason Lee.)

A man riding across a McLoughlin Boulevard crosswalk on his bike was “traumatically injured” Friday morning when a man in a garbage truck turned left on a green light and the two collided in the middle of the crosswalk, two witnesses said.

Police didn’t released the injured man’s name Friday, or any details of their own investigation.

Both the man in the truck and the man on the bike had been southbound on Southeast 17th Avenue at about 11 a.m. as they approached the intersection, witness Jason Lee said. The truck was making a left turn onto McLoughlin.

Lee, who spends most of the day on his feet as general manager for K&J Express Wash on the southeast corner, said the injured man was in his 20s and was not wearing a helmet when the flat-fronted garbage truck hit him on his right as it turned left across the crosswalk. The man’s head struck the windshield of the truck, which was moving at about 15 miles per hour, Lee estimated.

Men cross the 125-foot crosswalk where another man and a truck collided Friday morning.
(Photos: M. Andersen/BikePortland)

Carmen Liebing, manager at the AT&T store across 17th Avenue, confirmed Lee’s account.

McLoughlin, a state highway, divides the Sellwood and Moreland neighborhoods from the rest of the city. At 17th, it’s seven lanes wide, divided by a center median without a pedestrian safety island.

Lee said near-collisions occur at the intersection crosswalk several times each day, and predicted that more will take place after TriMet’s Orange Line brings more foot traffic to the area.

“The speed limit’s 45 here, which means people are going 60,” Lee said.

Jason Lee, who manages the auto service station at
SE McLoughlin and 17th, said the intersection is unsafe.

Standing in the gas station lot, Lee gestured to a woman who was waiting to cross the same intersection on foot.

“I would almost willing to bet you money that they’re going to cut her off,” Lee said. Sure enough, two cars turned left, several lanes in front of the woman, as she set out across the 125-foot crosswalk. “See, they don’t pay attention.”

It’s a harrowing street to cross on foot: though 30 seconds is enough time for most people to walk across McLoughlin, the “walk” light displays for only four seconds, followed by 26 seconds flashing “don’t walk,” with no countdown. Because someone crossing has no further indication of how long before the signal changes completely, it’s little wonder why someone crossing with a bike would be tempted to hurry.

Under Oregon law, a person is allowed to ride across a crosswalk using a bicycle but forfeits the right of way if the bike is moving faster than walking speed. Even if a person is moving at walking speed, vehicles are not required to yield to them as long as at least half a traffic lane separates them.

Lee, the witness, said he thinks McLoughlin should have a pedestrian bridge, like the one that crosses Powell Boulevard half a mile to the north.

The police investigation is ongoing. Whatever the details of this incident, however, there’s no question that McLoughlin is one of the worst places in town for people on bicycles. The street is difficult to avoid for people coming in or out of the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood.

As a state highway, McLoughlin’s design is largely controlled by the Oregon Department of Transportation rather than the City of Portland; as a designated corridor for wide-load freight, it’s one of a handful of urban streets where wide-load freight access would be a higher priority than other uses under interpretation of a new state law whose public comment period closes Monday.

I’m sure it’s been depressing to read about this week’s awful run of bike-related injuries, and it’s depressing to write about them, too. It’s important to remember, of course, that even in a terrible week like this one, riding a bike (and driving a car) in Portland have been getting safer and safer. We write about the times when it isn’t because if everyone accepted traffic crashes as normal and inevitable, we’d be unlikely to take steps to further improve our streets for everyone.

This weekend will bring some happier bike-related news, I promise. Let’s work together to make sure that future weeks will be happier, too.

Update 7/16: Police have identified the injured man as Matthew Charles Casperson, 22, and ODOT and TriMet have shared their plans for improving this intersection.

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