Collision on St Johns Bridge kills bicycle rider – Updated

Collision on St Johns Bridge kills bicycle rider – Updated

View of the west end of the St. Johns Bridge. Despite being a very popular and important bikeway, it's quite inhospitable for users not inside a motor vehicle.

View of the west end of the St. Johns Bridge. Despite being a very popular and important bikeway, it’s quite inhospitable for users not inside a motor vehicle.

A man died while riding his bike on the St Johns Bridge today. He became the 37th person to die as a result of a traffic collision in Portland thiss year.

Not many details have been released. I’ve pasted the most recent police statement below:

On Saturday October 29, 2016, at 11:25 a.m., North Precinct and Traffic Division officers responded to the West end of the St. Johns Bridge on the report of a crash involving a bicycle rider and a driver.

Officers and medical personnel arrived and located a male adult bicycle rider critically injured. Medical efforts were not successful and he died at the scene.

The involved driver has remained at the scene and is cooperating with investigators.

The Traffic Division’s Major Crash Team is responding to conduct an investigation.







This hits home for me because I ride at that location at least a few times a week.

The St Johns Bridge is a vital connection point to Forest Park, Sauvie Island, the West Side, and more. Unfortunately it’s a very auto-centric place where biking is high-stress and can be dangerous.

ODOT had a chance to reconfigure the lanes on the bridge when it underwent a major renovation in 2005, but they decided against bike lanes despite an independent traffic engineering study (PDF here) that showed there would be no loss of capacity or operational impact if they striped one standard motorized vehicle lane in each direction instead of two. ODOT sees this facility as an important freight route and wanted to make sure it maintained as much freight capacity as possible.

ODOT’s regional manager at the time was Matt Garrett, who is now the agency’s director. In 2005 I had a tense exchange with Garrett where he essentially admitted that there is nowhere for bicycle users to go on the bridge. The sidewalks are technically not wide enough for bicycle riders and walkers and the main lanes are not safe for mixed traffic.

In 2012 they added sharrows; but those are hard to see and most people in cars and trucks go so fast it doesn’t feel safe to use them.

I’m in Bend this weekend racing cyclocross. I’ll have more to say about this on Monday. I shared more thoughts about it on Twitter. You can read the full thread here.

I’ll update this post as I learn more.

UPDATE: Police have arrested the driver :

The driver involved in today’s fatal crash on the St. Johns Bridge was arrested after a crash investigation by Traffic Division officers.

42-year-old Joel Aaron Schrantz of North Portland was booked into the Multnomah County Jail on a charge of Criminally Negligent Homicide. He’ll be arraigned on Monday.

The bicycle rider has been tentatively identified as a man in his 50s. Family has not yet been notified so the deceased’s name is being withheld at this time.

Investigators learned that Schrantz was driving his 1995 Toyota 4Runner northbound and was stopped at a red light on Northwest Bridge Avenue at the entrance to the St. Johns Bridge. When the light turned green, Schrantz accelerated into the curve and lost control of the vehicle as it began to fishtail as he turned onto the bridge. Schrantz failed to maintain control of his vehicle as it slid into the westbound lanes of the bridge, where he collided with the bicycle rider who was riding westbound across the bridge. The rider was knocked from his bicycle and came to rest underneath the front of an unrelated vehicle being driven westbound.

Investigators examined Schrantz’ vehicle and noted that the rear tires were bald and had no traction. Investigators learned that Schrantz was aware of the bad condition of his tires and other vehicle equipment issues making the 4Runner unsafe to drive.

Schrantz’ driver’s license is suspended and he’ll face additional traffic charges once the investigation is complete. He was not impaired by drugs or alcohol.

UPDATE #2: The man who died was 55-year-old Mitchell York of northeast Portland. The PPB say investigators have learned that, “York was a dedicated bicycle rider, logging more than 500 miles a week.”

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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