Oregon

Deadly 'Right-Hook' Kills Another Cyclist In Portland

OPB | Oct. 23, 2007 9:25 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:18 a.m. | Portland, OR

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By Andrew Theen

A Portland cyclist died Monday when he collided with a garbage truck in North Portland.  That is the second fatality in two weeks where a cyclist collided with a large truck and it's the fourth cyclist to die this year.

The latest two incidents have a common thread: a vehicle turns right across a bike lane.  It's called a right hook.

Cyclists and law enforcement officials believe something needs to be done but there is little consensus about what.  Andrew Theen reports.


Ghost BikeA chalk white ghost bike stands at the corner of Interstate and Greeley Avenues in North Portland. It's a stark reminder of the perils of what happens when cyclists collide with large vehicles.

Monday veteran cyclist Brett Jarolimek was killed when his road bike slammed into the side of a garbage truck turning right onto Greeley Avenue.

Lieutenant Mark Kruger says according to witnesses the garbage truck signaled to turn and slowed down considerably.  The truck passed Jarolimek further up Interstate.  The driver of the truck claims he checked his mirrors before signaling to turn.

Mark Kruger: “I can't say what the bicyclist was paying attention to or wasn't.  But as far as I can see, as far as our investigators can see. it appears he, you know was going too fast for the conditions there probably, and may not have realized that the truck was signaling and intended to turn.”

Jarolimek worked at the Bike Gallery in the Hollywood District.  Bike Gallery president Daniel McGinnis said he “was instantly engaging” and had a wonderful sense of humor.

Photos, flowers,  and letters of remembrance already dot the accident site.

Down in southeast Portland's Coventry Cycle Works, owner Sherman Coventry shakes his head when he hears the news.  Coventry didn't know Jarolimek.  He says he has a couple of close calls on his bike every  year, some from what he calls his “own stupidity.”

Coventry thinks cyclists and drivers alike need to be more observant.  He recalls a bike safety course he took three decades ago.

Sherman Coventry: “The assumption is you are part of the traffic.  So it's a cooperative thing.  It's not enemies, it's a cooperative thing.  So you both have to learn.   You have to learn how to make the dance happen.”

Coventry finds disagreement in his own shop.

Jeff Smith: “It's a constant job to try to stay safe, even in a bike lane.”

Jeff Smith worries about the so-called right-hook accidents - the same situation as the two recent fatalities.  He thinks bike lanes create “a false sense of security” for cyclists in what is essentially a “car culture.”  Smith says overall aggressiveness on the roads is what concerns him most.

Jeff Smith: “Cyclists and pedestrians too, lots of pedestrians get killed and injured and a lot of car users get killed and injured.  And people just got to do whatever they can to watch out for themselves. But I'm not going to stop riding my bike.”

Sherman Coventry says he believes with more bikes on the road the conditions are safer because people are becoming more accustomed to their presence.  He says  he disagrees about bike policy with a lot of cyclists, including his employees.

Sherman Coventry: “I really think cyclist and motorist training is the only answer in the long run, and that gets to those cultural assumptions.”

The two deaths in the past few weeks seem startling.  Last year no biker died in Portland as a result of a collision with a vehicle.

Lieutenant Mark Kruger says it's a tragic incident, but he hopes pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers are more careful about their surroundings.

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