Is it time for ODOT to put bike lanes on St. Johns Bridge?

Cyclist Mitchell York, 55, killed Saturday while riding on bridge

Traffic on the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, October 31, 2016 (KOIN)
Traffic on the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, October 31, 2016 (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Days after an experienced cyclist was killed on the St. Johns Bridge, some are calling on the Oregon Department of Transportation to remove a lane of traffic and create a safe path for bikes.

“It’s so frustrating because anybody that rides over that bridge knows that that could have been any one of us,” cyclist and Bike Portland editor Jonathan Maus said.

Mitch York, 55, was killed after a driver crashed into him on the St. Johns Bridge, October 29, 2016. (Instagram)
Mitch York, 55, was killed while cycling on the St. Johns Bridge, October 29, 2016. (Instagram)

Mitchell York, 55, was killed on the St. Johns Bridge Saturday after 42-year-old Joel Schrantz slammed into him with his Toyota 4Runner, police said.

Schrantz, who appeared in court for the first time Monday, is charged with criminally negligent homicide in connection with York’s death.

Investigators determined Schrantz was driving on bald tires, which caused him to lose control, swerve into a westbound lane and crash into York.

“ODOT’s known for 10 years that could happen,” Maus said. “That has to be a safer bridge for people to bike on.”

York was an experienced cyclist who used social media to log the hundreds of rides he had taken over the years. He rode over 15,000 miles throughout his life.

Maus said Saturday’s fatal crash should serve as yet another reminder that ODOT needs to improve safety on the St. Johns Bridge, and not just for drivers.

Mitch York, 55, was killed while cycling on the St. Johns Bridge, October 29, 2016. (Instagram)
Mitch York, 55, was killed while cycling on the St. Johns Bridge, October 29, 2016. (Instagram)

“They tend to focus on motor vehicle capacity and everything is secondary to that,” he said. “So people get killed… seriously injured or just decide not to use the road.”

The simple solution, Maus explained, would be to remove a lane of traffic in each direction on the St. Johns Bridge and put in bike lanes with the proper barriers.

But ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton says the solution may not be that simple.

“I don’t know if a bike lane would have made any difference,” Hamilton said, adding that the department is looking into whether it could have helped avoid the crash.

Hamilton tells KOIN 6 News the St. Johns Bridge is a freight route and a state highway that also has to meet the needs of heavy traffic. While a bike lane isn’t out of the question, the old bridge’s narrow lanes may make it challenging to do.

Adding bike lanes could also cause serious traffic backups, Hamilton explained.

Members of the cycling community will hold a bridge protest ride Thursday night.