D.A. Concludes Investigation of Crash That Killed Kathryn Rickson. It’s Time to Act.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office has completed their investigation of the death of Kathryn Rickson. On May 16th, Rickson was bicycling on SW Madison when a crash involving a large truck taking a right turn on SW 3rd Avenue took her life. The BTA responded to this tragedy with a call for specific changes. In response, the Portland Bureau of Transportation stated that they would have to wait until results of the D.A.’s investigation before implementing any changes.

The investigation is complete. It is time to implement some changes.

Here, again, are the changes the BTA has called for:

  • Bike activated sign indicating the legal right of way for people who ride bikes, similar to the treatment at NE Couch and Grand.
  • Safety warning in the bike lane to alert people to be aware of the blind spots of turning vehicles.
  • Ensure the roadway is properly lit and street lights are free of obstruction.
  • Give exclusive signal control to people who ride bikes, similar to NE Broadway.
  • Assemble a short-term working group to analyze citywide safety concerns at similar intersections and propose proactive solutions.
  • Revisit commercial driver safety education in the context of vulnerable road users. Are current eduction standards sufficient? What improvements are warranted?
  • Repeal Oregon’s mandatory side path law.
  • Require all commercial trucks operating in Oregon to install mandatory side guards.

During Southeast Sunday Parkways in August, the BTA partnered with Franz Bakery to spread the word about biking around large trucks. Franz brought one of their big yellow trucks and the public was welcomed to sit in the driver’s seat to see the serious limits of conventional mirrors on trucks.

While seeing these blind spots was scary and enlightening, it was also exciting to learn that companies like Franz are starting to equip their trucks with a mirror that directly addresses those blind spots — blind spots like the one in which Rickson was killed. Knowing that these life-saving devices exist, we are calling for one additional safety improvement:

Whether or not criminal wrongdoing was involved, the BTA is firm in our belief that crashes like the one that killed Kathryn Rickson are preventable.

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Comments (14)

  1. read Permalink  | Sep 26, 2012 04:48pm

    all seems smart though no mention of educating cyclists?

  2. Pete Permalink  | Sep 26, 2012 06:17pm

    Do you actually believe (as the investigation suggests) that she was traveling down the right travel lane and saw the truck signaling a right turn 80-100′ before the turn and decided to continue to try and pass it? If so, I don’t think it’s “cyclists” that need education here…

  3. Randall S. Permalink  | Sep 26, 2012 08:29pm

    Educating drivers doesn’t seem to stop motorists from killing cyclists (or pedestrians, or other drivers), so why are you bringing it up?

  4. RMRollo Permalink  | Sep 27, 2012 05:52am

    While tragic the evidence clearly shows that the fault here lies solely with the cyclist and not the truck driver. Time after time i have seen cyclists disregard the rules of the road then when tragedy like this happens the cycling community refuses to address the irresponsible actions of the cyclist. Had this young lady been riding in a responsible manner as the driver was this would not have happened. In this case it is not the trucking cmmunity that needs changes bur the cycling community itself. Tend to the beam in your own eye..

  5. TechChef Permalink  | Sep 27, 2012 10:02am

    First, it is sad that this woman lost her life and I feel for her family. I also feel for the driver who will have to live with this. Especially since it wasn’t his fault.

    Oregon law states that cyclists are to obey the traffic laws the same as cars.

    ORS 811.411(c) which says with respect to passing on the right:

    (c) Overtaking and passing upon the right is permitted if the overtaking vehicle is a bicycle that may safely make the passage under the existing conditions.

    I would suggest that the presence of a truck signaling a right turn is an existing condition indicating that passing may not be safe.

    Witnesses stated the truck had started the turn and had his signal was on.
    The cyclists mistake of not paying attention is the cause here.

    The BTA needs to support Cycling education and licensing. Every other vehicle in this state requires one.It is time we have a licensing systems for cyclists. This would help insure proper education for them and the fees can go to maintaining bike lanes and such.
    Also Cars need to be allowed to pull into the bike lane when making a right hand turn. This is the only way to ensure that the cyclist does see the vehicle.

    Arthritis prevents me from riding a bike anymore, but I see more and more cyclists running stops and breaking all kinds of traffic laws.

    In the last month alone I have almost hit two cyclists running 4 way stop signs after I had come to a complete stop and was already entering the intersection. Once at night and the cyclists did not have any lights. Another law broken there.

    It is time for cyclists to take responsibility for themselves and get educated to the rules of the road and safety and the way is licensing and tests

  6. Carl (BTA) Permalink  | Sep 27, 2012 10:41am

    This article is mostly a reminder that on-street changes were were put on hold pending the results of the D.A.’s investigation. In retrospect, I should have mentioned the BTA’s already-robust education efforts and our efforts to bring more road safety education to Oregonians.

    As I type this, 6 of our staffers are teaching our 10-hour bike safety class in three elementary schools through the City’s Safe Routes to School program. Meanwhile, two other advocacy staffers are fighting for legislation that would help provide MORE education programs.

    If you don’t think the BTA promotes bike safety education, we must not be doing a good job promoting our work…or you’re not paying attention.

    Recommended reading: http://btaoregon.org/category/education/

  7. joe acklo Permalink  | Sep 27, 2012 12:56pm

    Bicycle riders should not alternate in and out of bike lanes. Madison street is on a downhill and if a bike is following behind in traffic then decides to use bike lane to pass on the right that is a contradiction in rules of the road ; so eliminate bike lanes and brake behind vehicles turning right in front of you.

  8. Alan Permalink  | Sep 27, 2012 08:45pm

    BTA, please add to your agenda the increased use of ORS 811.135, the Vulnerable Roadway User law, and related strict issuance of citations in cases of bicyclists and pedestrians injured or killed on Oregon roadways. It is unconscionable that a rider operating legally and with the right-of-way in her favor should be killed by a vehicle burdened under the law, with no repercussion for his violation (ORS 811.050, “Failure to yield to rider on bicycle lane”).

  9. Dan O Permalink  | Sep 27, 2012 10:11pm

    Without reviewing the specifics of this incident, but reading the comments – Wow! It’s on!

    Sidepath law has ample exceptions to be effectively moot. Warnings to be aware of this and that are fine, except maybe for the slippery slope that people begin blaming problems on a lack of warnings. Everybody has to utlimately be responsible for their own safety.

    “Brake behind vehicles turning right in front of you”? Take from someone who has been sideways both wheels locked up in that scenario more than once: I do (unless I can get out around to the left).

    Most people are very reasonable and accomodating, but too many need serious mental health care – not just “safety education in the context of vulnerable road users”. Meanwhile, I’ll do what I have to do. You do what you have to do. Whatever happens, happens. — Manny, to Warden Rankin, in “Runaway Train”

  10. Dan O Permalink  | Sep 28, 2012 08:31am

    Let’s say I’m a mother raccoon – been nursing my babies with the milk of my own body’s energy. I’m tired from lack of sleep, doing the laundry, watching Dr. Phil on TV… whatever else raccoon mothers do. so I go to look for something to eat, in order to produce more milk and survive and so forth. Leaving the babies at home, I make my way toward the dumpsters behind Burger King, but I have to cross the road to get there, and… Smack!

    In a couple of days my carcass is flattened, smeared and partially dessicated on the pavement. A few feet down the road is a fresh kill of some child’s beloved pet; further on some dry bits of bone and fur remnants; and so on, and so on.

    Did the raccoon (and her hungry babies) deserve this? No, it’s just the price she paid for your motorized luxury and convenience.

  11. Dan O Permalink  | Sep 28, 2012 09:15am

    So ‘M’, can I use the ‘C’ word here for some of these bitter commenters who don’t know what it is to Ride Bike!

  12. Dan O Permalink  | Sep 28, 2012 09:33am

    The “proactive solutions” all sound nice, I guess (particularly the education one), but at what point do traffic controls and warnings and what not create a sense that of course traffic Parcheesi will proceed accordingly, and take the edge off of situational awareness of what actually could and may be apt to go down.

    With honest heartfelt respect, the word is “blithe”.

  13. Dan O Permalink  | Sep 28, 2012 09:58am

    @Alan, Absolutely agreed. (Don’t want my remarks about *ultimate* responsibility to save your own skin to give the wrong impression of my views.)

  14. BikeRider Permalink  | Oct 08, 2012 04:28pm

    I would like to point out to drivers what the law on bike lanes is.
    Failure to yield to rider on bicycle lane
    • penalty
    (1) A person commits the offense of failure of a motor vehicle operator to yield to a rider on a bicycle lane if the person is operating a motor vehicle and the person does not yield the right of way to a person operating a bicycle, electric assisted bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, moped, motor assisted scooter or motorized wheelchair upon a bicycle lane.

    This doesn’t give the motor vehicle operator any out as far as I can see. It does not say that the bike loses the right-of-way if the operator has a turn signal on, is in the process of turning, couldn’t see the bike, or anything else. But that is not how the law is interpreted. This part of ORS is rarely enforced even though I see dozens of violations every day that I ride.

    The truck should have stopped before completing the turn to make sure that there were no bikes in the bike lane. Clearly he did not because of the “blind spot” argument. If a vehicle cannot operate safely because of its design then it should not be on the road. There are technical solutions to this problem but it might cost a few thousand to implement.

    I just returned from Amsterdam where the law is strict liability. If you hit a bike with a vehicle you are at fault, period. You are responsible for the accident. That changes behavior a lot. I saw left turns from bike lanes all the time with just a wiggle of a finger. Cars were paying attention and managed just fine. Now the speed was not great for either of them, but the conflict was minimal. Congestion was horrible but people moved and got where they were going just fine. The difference is that people were concerned about others rather than assuming the world belonged to them.

    And the DA has the physics wrong on what happened. If you work out where everyone was, the truck has plenty of time to check to see if a bike was in the lane, and the bike was in the lane for enough of a time period to actually be seen. Most likely the truck checked a block back if at all, and never rechecked. Pulling left and then accelerating into the far lane probably confused the bike rider who may have missed the turn signals because of the “blind spot” caused by other vehicles and the truck being out of position. Finding herself in the intersection and a truck coming across her left her with little to do. Yes, the lack of a bike lane a block back made it harder for the truck to see, but the bike did nothing wrong and had the right-of-way.

    Maybe another solution to this is no right turns if there is a bike lane. That way if you are hit by a car it is clear that you had the right of way and that the vehicle was wrong. But then where this has been implemented vehicles still turn right against the law and hit bikes.