A Chef’s Death Aboard Her Bicycle Has Triggered Calls for the State to Cede Control of a Dangerous Portland Road

A locally renowned chef lost her life recently in a gruesome bicycle accident in a notoriously dangerous intersection southeast of downtown Portland. The chef’s death has sparked protests and a call from one city commissioner to transfer control of the area from the state to the City of Portland, according to Oregonlive.com. As Oregon accident lawyers representing bicyclists and others harmed or killed in dangerous intersection crashes, we heartily endorse options that will that create or expedite the changes necessary to make Portland’s roads safer for all users.

The fatal collision, which occurred at the intersection of Southeast Powell Boulevard and Southeast 26th Avenue saw a semi-truck hit a bicycle. The bicyclist, 50-year-old Sarah Pliner, died at the scene. According to BikePortland, the collision occurred as the driver of the 53-foot semi-truck attempted a right-hand turn from northbound 26th Avenue to eastbound Powell Boulevard.

The accident that claimed the chef’s life was far from the first for this dangerous intersection. A 2014 Powell Boulevard safety audit that the Oregon Department of Transportation commissioned listed “heavy north/south bike traffic” as one of the primary safety issues at the intersection of Powell and 26th.

In 2015, two bicyclists suffered massive harm in separate incidents at the location. A 22-year-old man lost a leg after a pickup truck hit his bicycle and another man suffered a broken leg when a Jeep struck his bike.

While 26th Avenue is a city street, Powell Boulevard is not. It is under state control.

In a statement, the director of ODOT noted that last year the department reduced the speed on Powell Boulevard to 30 mph in the area in question and also built pedestrian islands. The director further pointed out that the department had “even transferred ownership of an ODOT road to local control. To keep our community safe, no change is off the table.”

A Previous State-to-Local Transfer: Portland’s 82nd Avenue

That last option — transfer of the road to local control — is the one supported by Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. The commissioner called Pliner’s death “preventable.” She asserted that the Portland Board of Transportation and community advocates had previously supported the addition of a bicycle lane along Powell Boulevard, but “ODOT opted for a different option,” leaving the area “far too dangerous for pedestrians and bike riders,” according to a KOIN report.

The precedent for this type of transfer is Portland’s 82nd Avenue, which Hardesty cited as the “model,” according to Willamette Week. In the case of that East Portland thoroughfare, the transfer happened after two pedestrians died in April 2021 and a motorcyclist died in a September 2021 crash. These kinds of state-to-local transfers can potentially expedite much-needed repairs and upgrades that improve the area’s overall safety, especially for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists.

Any action that will lead to more safety protections for bicyclists and pedestrians, or a faster implementation of safety improvements, is something we can all embrace. Accidents, though, remain a reality. Whether your bicycle injury resulted from a needlessly dangerous road design, a too-long ignored repair, or a vehicle driver’s negligence, you’re entitled to take legal action and seek compensation for the harm you endured. The experienced Oregon bicycle accident attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC zealously represent all of our bicycle clients as they seek to use the court system to hold those responsible accountable for their actions (or inaction.) Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.

50 SW Pine St 3rd Floor Portland, OR 97204 Telephone: (503) 226-3844 Fax: (503) 943-6670 Email: matthew@mdkaplanlaw.com
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