SE Powell turn signals fast-tracked after crashes

SE Powell and 26th the site of recent car-bike crashes

Left-turn signals were installed and working at SE Powell and 26th in Portland, June 1, 2015 (KOIN)
Left-turn signals were installed and working at SE Powell and 26th in Portland, June 1, 2015 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — On Friday, the Oregon Department of Transportation announced they would install traffic signals with left-turn arrows at the intersection where a number of car-bike accidents recently took place.

On Saturday, they installed them. On Monday, crews were out at the intersection of SE Powell and 26th to test them – and then turned them on.

ODOT crews installed left-turn signals at SE Powell and 26th in Portland, June 1, 2015 (KOIN)
ODOT crews installed left-turn signals at SE Powell and 26th in Portland, June 1, 2015 (KOIN)

The new signals have green left-turn arrows for north and southbound traffic, ODOT officials said Saturday. They expect the signals to improve safety by reducing crashes involving cars, bikes and pedestrians, said ODOT’s Don Hamilton.

“When we can separate left turns from other vehicles in there and they’re not going to be conflicting with each other in the middle of the intersection we’ve done a lot toward improving safety,” Hamilton told KOIN 6 News Monday.

He said ODOT made the final decision on Friday to install the turn signals after the second crash involving a bike and car. In that case, the cyclist suffered a broken leg and the driver was cited for careless driving.

“We suddenly had two within just a couple weeks of each other,” Hamilton said. “Whatever the reasons behind this are, we’re trying to take whatever steps we can to make this corridor safe.”

Adjustments will likely need to be made, Hamilton said. Because the lights hang on a wire, as opposed to a structure, engineers needed to consider weight and wind before installing the lights.

Hamilton said between 2009 and 2013, there were 252 crashes on that stretch of Powell, an average of about one a week.  One of those crashes was deadly and 3 involved cyclists.

Injured cyclist: ‘I wouldn’t have been hit if turn signal there’

A bicyclist lost his leg after being hit by a turning pickup truck in Southeast Portland Sunday morning, May 10, 2015. (KOIN 6 News)
A bicyclist lost his leg after being hit by a turning pickup truck in Southeast Portland Sunday morning, May 10, 2015. (KOIN 6 News)

A collision between a bicyclist and a turning pickup truck on May 10 cost Alistair Corkett his leg. The 23-year-old cycling enthusiast told KOIN 6 News he thinks the turn signals will solve a lot of the problems at SE Powell and 26th.

Corkett is among the representatives from the biking community that will take part in a work session at Portland City Hall on Tuesday. The mayor’s office will be there as well as city council members, PBOT and PPB representatives.

“I’m not sure what to make of it quite yet,” he told KOIN 6 News. “I think it will be interesting and at the very least it’s good people are talking about it.”

In his case, he believes he would not have been hit if the turn signals had been there.

“I think people are still going to run lights and things like that, but I wouldn’t have gotten hit definitely if that was there,” Corkett said Monday.  “I can’t speak for the other poor guy who had his leg broken but I know in my circumstance I wouldn’t have gotten hit with a turn signal.”

He admitted being a little disappointed that something is only being done now. “But at this point I’m just glad that it will help out other people and hopefully reduce the amount of accidents at that intersection in particular.”

Alistair Corkett supports the left-turn signals installed at SE Powell and 26th, the intersection where he lost his leg in a bike-pickup crash, June 1, 2015 (KOIN)
Alistair Corkett supports the left-turn signals installed at SE Powell and 26th, the intersection where he lost his leg in a bike-pickup crash, June 1, 2015 (KOIN)

Corkett said ODOT has proven they can do things faster than they say they would “when people are getting upset by it or getting hurt.”

His healing is progressing, and he said he may be able to get stitches out in a week or so and then begin more physical therapy. His new bike is being built this week, he said, and he now has a spin bike that “I’ve actually been on” a few times.

Overall, he wants drivers and cyclists to both be more aware of what’s going on. “It’s definitely a two-sided thing. I would really like to see both sides be more vigilant and work together and not be as antagonist as they are towards each other.”

That is something ODOT’s Don Hamilton agrees with.

“Everyone who uses this section of road needs to be very careful and watch out for each other,” he said.

Other safety improvements along Powell between SE 20th and 34th are being designed, authorities said. Among them: rapid flash beacons, left turn signals, improving ADA ramps, better street lighting, better visibility with less landscaping.

The $3.8 million project from ODOT is set for construction in 2017.

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