From the scene of tragedy: A dispatch from 82nd and Flavel

From the scene of tragedy: A dispatch from 82nd and Flavel

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A friend of Lydia Johnson’s pays her respects at the corner of Flavel and 82nd in Southeast Portland.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

I spent the morning at Southeast 82nd and Flavel, where just 48 hours earlier 25-year-old Lydia Johnson was killed in a traffic collision while riding her bike.

On Saturday morning Johnson was riding eastbound on Flavel Street, perhaps on her way to the Springwater Corridor just a few blocks away. As she approached 82nd Avenue she was involved in a collision with what police describe as a “box truck.” From the police statement so far, both Johnson and the truck driver Joel Silva where going in the same direction. When Silva steered his truck right (south on 82nd) he came in contact with Johnson and her bike.

Judging from the markings I saw on 82nd today Silva’s truck stopped about 50 feet east of Flavel.

Here are a few more photos from the intersection…

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On Flavel going eastbound toward 82nd.

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Looking back at the bike lane from the other side of the street.
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Another view of the bike lane Johnson was riding in.
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This is the corner (on the left) where the collision occurred.

It appears to be a classic right-hook although we don’t yet know any other details such as whether the light was green or red or where either of the vehicles where prior to the collision. Those details likely won’t be made available until after the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office has completed their investigation of the case. As is standard practice, the police have given the case to the DA to determine whether or not Silva bears any criminal responsibility.

This section of Flavel is a 35 30 mph zone and according to City of Portland traffic data (from before neighbors rallied to get the speed limit reduced from 35 to 30) the average person goes about 38 mph and about 37 percent of all auto users go over the speed limit. Flavel as it crosses 82nd is classified as a neighborhood collector street and has moderate traffic.

Here’s video of Flavel with 82nd in the background:

While it’s nowhere near streets like Powell or Division in terms of traffic volume or sheer size, Flavel and 82nd is definitely still a very auto-centric place. Three of the four corners at the intersection have two very wide driveways. There are two mini-marts, a bar, and a Mexican food restaurant (which is really good by the way).

Flavel has three standard vehicle lanes west of 82nd — two for through travel and one left-turn only lane. It also has bike lanes striped on both sides. The eastbound bike lane — where Johnson was likely riding or stopped — is very narrow. It can’t be more than three or four feet wide.

Of the two dozen or so people I saw on bikes in the two hours I watched the intersection this morning, only two or three of them were in the roadway. Even though Flavel is listed as the bike street in this area, and the entrance to the Springwater Corridor bike path is just a few blocks east, almost everyone bikes on the sidewalk.

We know how dangerous the roads are in east Portland – especially on and around 82nd Avenue. That’s why the city has designated it as one of their 10 “High Crash Corridors,” and the Portland Bureau of Transportation launched its Vision Zero Task Force just a few miles north of where Johnson died. At a PBOT crosswalk enforcement action held this past April five blocks north of here at SE Cooper Street, the police handed out 36 citations and eight warnings in just a few hours.

Even with this knowledge and with all our wisdom and rhetoric about how to make streets safer, here we are. Another tragic loss of life. And another right-hook. And another truck making a turning movement. I’ve been reporting on this type of collision for a decade now. I’m not sure what else can be said.

This isn’t a technical problem, this is a cultural problem.

This isn’t just a tragedy for people who knew and loved Lydia Johnson. This is a tragedy for all of us.

I’ve been emailing with some of Johnson’s friends today. They’re connecting with her family to make memorial plans and they’ve just placed a ghost bike for her on the corner.

She was only 25.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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