What are Portland’s Worst Streets for Bicycle Accidents?

Cycling in Portland is an excellent means of exercise and a great way to feel the wind in your hair.  Most bicycle rides end in exhilaration and joy, but tragically, some cyclists never return home.

Certain streets have a much higher rate of accidents than others.  You may have noticed the “ghost bicycles” attached to signposts in certain spots around the city.  Painted white and sometimes garnished with flowers or other memorabilia, these makeshift memorials are a heartbreaking reminder of those trips that did not end well for the cyclist.

Ghost bikes in Portland

One street with an especially plentiful collection of ghost bikes is Powell.  This major thoroughfare wails with motorized traffic everyday.  It connects the bike happy inner-city to Portland’s car-oriented outlying neighborhoods and Gresham. Powell was ranked the 3rd worst street for biking during a study of bike collisions in Portland from 2009-2013.  It had 37 collisions in the 5-year period.

The number one worst street for cycling is Division Street, which saw a whopping 59 collisions within that time period.  In close pursuit are NE Broadway (49), SE Hawthorne (42), and East Burnside (35).

The foremost reasons for collisions where the driver is at fault is not having the right-of-way or neglecting to yield.  An example of this happened in North Portland in 2008 when a garbage truck didn’t see a cyclist in a bike lane and made a right turn, killing the cyclist on impact.  The driver was at fault for not checking their blind spot and neglecting to yield to the bicycle.

How do these accidents happen?

The most common cause of collisions when the cyclist is at fault is failure to obey traffic laws, such as not stopping at stop signs or red lights, or riding the wrong way on a one-way street.  This was the case for Mark Angeles, a cyclist killed at the intersection of SE 39th and Gladstone in 2015.  He entered the intersection recklessly after the light had already turned yellow, meaning his right-of-way had been terminated.  The driver who hit him was not cited for Careless Driving to a Vulnerable Road User (ORS 811.135) because she was not driving in a way that would endanger someone; she simply didn’t see him.  They had both lost their right-of-ways, but because Angeles was riding recklessly through a yellow light when he should have been riding cautiously, he was at fault.

Even city streets that were planned with cyclist safety in mind are not completely immune to accidents.  Your best bet to stay safe is to keep a clear head, pay attention to your surroundings at all times, read and obey signs (even stop signs!) and always use caution.  Wear bright colors, use lights, and always ride defensively, that is, ride like every driver has failed their driving test and has no idea what they are doing.  And if an accident should occur, you know who to call.

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