Ghost bike for Christina Holt

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John Brooking

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Jul 3, 2022, 3:52:11 PMJul 3
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Someone has erected a ghost bike at the spot where Christina Holt was killed last spring. Probably many of you have seen it already, but I just saw it on the First Friday ride two nights ago and paused to take this photo.

John Brooking
Cyclist, Cycling Educator, Technologist
Christina Holt ghost bike.jpg

d.b...@yahoo.com

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Jul 3, 2022, 7:51:44 PMJul 3
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Thank you John! (for the photo).

Denise
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George Rheault

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Jul 9, 2022, 7:30:31 AMJul 9
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Did anyone ever get more information about the collision?   Anecdotally, it appeared that Ms. Holt made some very poor decisions resulting in her death.  We encounter a lot of roadside memorials and rarely do we know the story behind them, but this prominent ghost bike could imply for some passersby that the cyclist was victimized by a driver of an automobile when in fact it was likely a very rare instance of the reverse. 

We all make mistakes and I have no idea what she was thinking that day that led her to barrel down a hill into a busy intersection with moving traffic (if that is in fact what she did).  Her life deserves to be celebrated and remembered but her death should be put in some perspective.  A grossly negligent motorcyclist or car driver that senselessly dies in a totally preventable accident holds lessons for all of us and the same thinking applies to cyclists.  


Nick Kaufmann

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Jul 9, 2022, 6:16:50 PMJul 9
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For me there is no restriction on ghost bikes. Doesn't matter the circumstance. It is a code that signals to me that I'm in a car-centric environment and just as much a warning to me to be aware of the dangers and use caution as they are a reminder that this landscape still doesn't value our lives when on foot/bike. No matter the quality of decisions that are made by bike or car operators, the amount of risk we accept is built into the design of cars we allow, the speeds we allow, and the street designs we mandate. Ghost bikes are a reminder that the risk we accept and has a huge death toll taken for granted. Not interested in DOT type discourse that puts a personal responsibility lens to try and balance driver/cyclist/pedestrian responsibility equally, and also not interested in 'bad driver's discourse. Both distract from planner and policymaker responsibility. Only takes a quick trip across the border to Canada to see how design and policy influence people's behavior: smaller roads, smaller cars, lower speed limits, automated enforcement, and--go figure-- less aggressive drivers

Christopher Parelius

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Jul 9, 2022, 6:22:22 PMJul 9
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Thank you for this Nick! This was wonderfully said. A properly designed street should be safe for people who do make mistakes or even those who are intoxicated. A death is a failure of city policy to protect people in order to accommodate cars. Only honoring "good cyclists" out of the fear of that others think is buying into a car centric narrative based on the idea that the streets belong to cars and everyone else should alter their behavior around that as opposed to the opposite. 

Winston Lumpkins

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Jul 9, 2022, 7:09:34 PMJul 9
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Amen Nick!

I don't know if further information has been released, or if it ever will be. 
I try to be very compassionate when discussing what happened, as I'm almost certainly not the only person on this list who knew Christina, though I didn't know her well.
 
Certainly the way Christina rode was not the way I ride, but I too don't think fault has any bearing on a memorial, which was probably put up by people she knew.  In northern Maine we have many roadside memorials, many of which are for victims of single vehicle accidents.  It's unfortunate that we rely on vehicles which are so deadly, to the drivers & to those around them... 
 
I understand that the vehicle involved was a larger SUV, traveling at the speed limit of 30 mph.  While I try to remain silent about it as it's overly moralizing, I choose not to drive because I can't accept the moral responsibility that comes with it- the driver could have chose to drive a smaller car, presenting those around her with a higher chance of surviving, or could have chose to drive below the speed limit, which is too high for such a chaotic street, or indeed, could have chosen to forge driving, in case that lifechoice  where to ever rob someone of their life.   Is any of that her fault, or is it society's fault, and the fault of the design of the street?  Should SUVs over a certain size be banned?  Was a large SUV or van parked on Park Ave, blocking Christinas view of the car until it was too late?  Should the clear zones, the no parking zones running up to intersections on Park be increased to 50-60 feet as the latest design manuals for separated bike lanes suggest?

Aside from the last question, the answer to which I believe is yes, I don't have answers... 

I think it's a good ghost bike, and that Christina deserves one, regardless of how she chose to ride.

~Winston

George Rheault

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Jul 9, 2022, 11:47:20 PMJul 9
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Compassion works both ways.  I would suspect the driver of the vehicle is most likely deeply traumatized by the collision and may be for the rest of her life (I know less about that person than Ms. Holt but virtually anyone would be deeply affected being part of this tragedy).

The "official" police statements infer that Ms. Holt was not sharing the road with others, but entering an intersection at high speed (from downhill momentum) when she categorically did not have the right-of-way.  If that was the case, road design, Canadian or otherwise, would probably have been unable to change the outcome.

Non-vehicular travelers on our public ways have every right to be extremely militant in demanding an entitlement to belong on those ways just as much as automobile drivers - especially after 100+ years of being second-class citizens.  But putting yourself and others in an extremely unsafe situation to assert that entitlement is just something we cannot condone which is why I wondered to the group whether any definitive details had come to anyone's attention that may disturb the police account.

A lot of "what-ifs" can be applied here like any accident.  One hypothetical is the driver could have noticed the cyclist with just enough time to swerve to avoid Ms. Holt and into a trio of nearby pedestrians the driver did NOT see until it was too late.  That chain reaction of horror did not actually happen but it is certainly a possibility in many areas of Portland or any other similar urban environment.  If it had, I believe Ms. Holt (who I never met) would have recognized that asserting her rights to our collective roads would not have been worth this price to others.  It certainly was not worth the price of HER life either.    

Christopher Parelius

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Jul 10, 2022, 10:01:06 AMJul 10
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I agree with your point about compassion and I don't think anyone is blaming the driver nor should they. I feel like most people in their situation would be traumatized by this and I think we should keep that in mind.

That being said I do think that road design could have prevented this. Canadian standards would not have to be sure but that's because they still prioritize automotive travel. If we designed our streets on the Dutch example, specifically wulnerfs, removal of stop signs and signals, aggressive road diets, a commitment to 20 is plenty, speed tables that bikes can avoid to slow them down on problematic steeets, continious sidewalks etc the speeds that led to her death would not have existed. 

I even take issue with the concept of right of way. Streets should be placed where people cars and bikes can mingle together safely. That's real equity of public space and it naturally encourages people to drive/bike slowly. I fundamentally believe that all streets should be shared streets anything short of that is car centric imho.

-Chris


John Brooking

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Jul 10, 2022, 9:44:01 PMJul 10
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I'm still not convinced we have the full story. This story (same one George linked to in his first message) describes the sequence as:

According to the crash report, the 31-year-old woman driving the car Holt collided with was going east down Park Avenue at about 30 mph, toward Mellen Street, when Holt turned left from Mellen Street onto Park Avenue and hit the car.

A witness told police that Holt failed to stop at a red light on Mellen Street before making her turn and was cycling against the flow of traffic.

Zack suggested to me early on that perhaps her brakes failed. That would account for her not stopping. I asked someone with more mechanical skills than I have whether it would be possible to tell from examining the bike afterwards if there had been a brake problem before the crash. I don't remember exactly what he said, but my impression of the conversation was any damage done to the brakes in the crash would be very obvious crash damage, but if there was no obvious crash damage to them but they still didn't work, it's very possible they hadn't worked before the crash either. I have to wonder if the police thought to check this.

I think the BCM was trying to get a copy of the actual police report, but I have not heard if they had done so.

If it was a brake failure, I can't think of too many design fixes for brakes failing on a downhill grade. Someone mentioned the sight obstruction of parked cars on Park Avenue, especially if they were large vehicles, but as I've said before, having the cars further from the curb, due to the separate lane, would further obstruct the sightline for any size of parked vehicles. So maybe that separated lane was itself a harmful contributor in this case. Having the cars go slower could perhaps have mitigated the damage such as to not be fatal, but could not have prevented the crash itself, if it was brake failure on a downhill grade.

John Brooking
Cyclist, Cycling Educator, Technologist

Scsmedia

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Jul 10, 2022, 10:53:39 PMJul 10
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The crash report notwithstanding, I doubt she was going 30 mph based on where the car ended up on Mellen Street.  I am skeptical of the idea of bike break failure.



 Someone mentioned the sight obstruction of parked cars on Park Avenue, especially if they were large vehicles,

There is a bus only stop on the west side of Park Avenue* so there is plenty of sight line distance.  I turn right here almost every day and that bus only area is helpful in turning.  Mellen Street is also a No Right on Red intersection (not a factor in this incident).

I am sorry I have to say this, but I believe Ms Holt was a reckless rider who probably made this maneuver every day on her way to work.  About a week after the accident, I saw another guy do the exact same thing.  I was heading up Mellen Street and he flew by me and never stopped at the red light.  If he had been 10 or 20 seconds earlier, I would have hit him.

Steven Scharf

*  This is the only intersection with a bus only area on the right side of a intersecting street (There is one on the other side at High Street, but there is on turning right there as it is a one way street).

Nick Kaufmann

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Jul 10, 2022, 11:00:38 PMJul 10
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If you're noticing similar "reckless" behavior in the same spot every time that's a clue it's a design issue

Scsmedia

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Jul 10, 2022, 11:19:49 PMJul 10
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They both ran red lights.  Those red lights are designed to protect them from traffic proceeding across the intersection.

Steven Scharf


John Brooking

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Jul 10, 2022, 11:41:39 PMJul 10
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Steve,

I don’t see where you get that they both ran red lights. It said that Ms. Holt did, which I assumed meant that it was green for Park Avenue. 

Furthermore, here  is my understanding of the movement. The red arrow is Ms. Holt’s path, turning “left from Mellen Street onto Park Avenue”, and the blue is the car driver’s path. If this is correct, then neither bus stop is relevant. Is your understanding different?



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winston.lumpkins

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Jul 11, 2022, 7:57:27 AMJul 11
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I should remind all to stick to good practice for debate & avoid using names/addressing people directly- this is a difficult issue for all of us.

It strikes me as very, very hard to mitigate either the possibility of mechanical failure, or erratic behavior, by either cyclists or drivers...  Those who behave erratically (I have been nearly hit I simply don't know how many times by drivers failing to even slow down at stop signs as they intersect main streets which have right of way) usually know they are doing so, so education doesn't seem to work. 

~Winston

Christian MilNeil

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Jul 11, 2022, 9:05:44 AMJul 11
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Speculation about whether Christina, who is dead, deserves blame for this is pointless, and frankly cruel.

We know that traffic engineers can design streets where people who make mistakes don't die from them: Oslo, Norway, with a population about 10 times that of Portland's, has all but eliminated traffic deaths by aggressively reducing vehicle speeds.

Christina would likely still be alive if the driver who killed her had been going 10 mph slower. But we have a bureaucracy and speed limits that treat dangerous speeds as normal and acceptable, and then bend over backwards to blame the victim to justify the status quo.

The city of Cambridge MA has begun using some good messaging on this subject: instead of victim-blaming language that justifies putting bikes and pedestrians at risk of distracted, dangerous drivers, they're emphasizing slow-speed street designs that keep everyone safe even when someone makes a mistake (this is a slide that city planners have been using in presentations for street design projects; this one's from a project in Porter Square):
Screen Shot 2022-07-11 at 9.02.22 AM.png





Christian MilNeil
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Emma Scudder

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Jul 11, 2022, 10:09:56 AMJul 11
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Thank you for sharing this, Christian. The conversation that has been going on in this thread has been stomach-churning to follow. It is clear that the education needed is within this group, as purported advocates for safer streets in Portland. I hope to see conversations moving forward that are far more focused on systematic changes to our streets, rather than useless debates that blame and shame people.

Scsmedia

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Jul 11, 2022, 10:20:35 AMJul 11
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I meant Christina Holt and the guy I saw ride his bike down Mellen Street without stopping at the red light.  I also thought the driver was proceeding in the other direction.

Steven Scharf


Christopher Parelius

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Jul 11, 2022, 11:49:07 AMJul 11
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I would make the argument that safe streets are safe even for people who are being reckless. 

Another question is why are people  habitually doing this? I don't find that leaving to individualisic moralism is an easy way out of solving a problem. Is there a, way to make this behavior safe? As I've stated before speed tables discourage high speeds even for cyclists. 

Ill give you an example of what I mean
Think of a spot where people are crossing the street far from an official crosswalk and are getting hit. Instead of discouraging the behavior improve the spot to make it safe by adding a raised crosswalk, neckdowns, and signage. 



I would also push back against the idea of relying too much on traffic lights mosty because they create the mindset that road users don't have to take caution when entering an intersection when their movements are sanctioned. "Well it's their fault because they had a red light" as opposed to negotiating the intersection as the conditions apply. This obviously only works when lanes are reduced and traffic can't move very quickly which should be the case in an urban environment anyway.

-Chris

IMG_8997.jpg

Christopher Parelius

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Jul 11, 2022, 11:56:27 AMJul 11
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Apologies I'm exhausted and I realized I bumbled a sentence. It should read
"I don't find that leaving it to individualisic moralism is sufficient. It's an easy way to dismiss finding solutions to a problem." 

George Rheault

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Jul 11, 2022, 12:18:32 PMJul 11
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Effective street design anywhere still depends upon people following rules AND engaging in a defensive, "respect everyone out there, we all share this environment" mentality.
.  
Willfully violating that philosophy undermines the whole safety system.  Whether it be a drunk driver blowing past a posted speed limit (leaving aside whether that limit is set correctly) or a cyclist whizzing down a hill on the wrong side of the street against a red light.  In both cases these operators expect others to do most or all of the work to avoid a collision.  Obviously the driver with a vehicle is much more likely to cause more havoc, but that does not forgive the cyclist.

When one's "mistakes" and "errors" change from outside your control to fully intentional, then our society typically shifts responsibility back onto the person who made those intentional choices.  Often imperfect, but this thinking is a major lodestone of the human community. 

This thread began with a post about a bike memorial at the scene of a terrible death.  I was curious if information had come to light that would help us better understand what had happened (the newspaper reporter appeared to have had access to the crash report so I thought perhaps those in this group may have as well). 

The memorial asks everyone passing by it to reflect on Ms. Holt's death in a very specific way.  It is not cruel or pointless therefore to honor that request and consider the circumstances of this event especially when those who loved her best (or some of them at least) focus our attention back to the very time and place of the tragedy. 

We do no favors to the bike/ped agenda when we insulate ourselves from criticism.  The automobile culture refuses to accept responsibility all the time when car drivers are negligent or grossly negligent in hurting others ("the cyclist should have been wearing a helmet...the pedestrian should have worn bright clothing...the wheel-chair user should not have been out after dark...the non-drivers should have done this or that blah blah blah blah").

BUT two wrongs do not make a right.

A.) Let's do everything to make safer transportation environments (FYI: Oslo took decades to get to where they are but they at least have the benefits of a much denser environment than we have and a comprehensive public transportation system that allows many residents to be indifferent to bans on cars while living their daily lives - no surprise the preconditions for Oslo's success - intense housing density and huge public transportation investments - are deeply resisted by a majority of southern Mainers).

B.) But we must also encourage sane, safe sharing within those environments by EVERYONE.

It credits our movement to do both (A.) and (B.) simultaneously.
    

Christopher Parelius

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Jul 11, 2022, 1:43:06 PMJul 11
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I do agree that yes to some extent that we have to insure that we follow the rules where necessary. That being said often rule breaking in these contexts because the rules or designs only take in to account the needs and capabilities of automobiles. The only way for other road users to accommodate their needs in a way that isn't extremely inconvenient is to break said rules. This is especially true when there is a pattern of behavior.

The most vulnerable users shouldn't and cannot conform to the rules meant exclusively for those whose power and speed exceeds theirs. When we are talking about rules we have to keep this context in mind. These rules are meant for automobiles and the design of streets even ones with bike lanes still prioritize motorvehicle throughput and speed they rarely take into consideration 

Im also skeptical about how effective respectability politics really is. Usually asking nicely doesn't result of the status quo changing. This has been true of almost every social movement in the US and this also true in the case of Amsterdam. Amsterdam is the bike paradise it currently is because of a concentrated campaign of protests under the banner "Stop Kinder moor" or "Stop Murdering Children"

-Chris 

stop_de_kindermoord_lay_down.png.jpg
thumb_carfreeprotest.jpg

Milo Ackley

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Jul 12, 2022, 8:01:49 AMJul 12
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So, most of this discussion seems to be stemming from this sentence, which is based on a hypothetical conjecture on the part of the poster: "We encounter a lot of roadside memorials and rarely do we know the story behind them, but this prominent ghost bike /could imply/ for some passersby that the cyclist was victimized by a driver of an automobile when in fact it was likely a very rare instance of the reverse." (Emphasis added on "could imply")

Most people (I would say "no one" but that's clearly not the case here) are not looking at this memorial and jumping to conclusions of blame. They are looking at this memorial and thinking, "Someone lost their life here. I should be careful." Full stop. I don't think anyone needs to worry about cyclists coming away from a memorial about a DECEASED CYCLIST thinking, "The road belongs to me, too! So I can go do whatever I want!" because obviously, they can't go do whatever they want! And for those who look at it and think, "oh, a car made contact with a cyclist and the cyclist died, that's sad", they are not wrong. That's factually what happened! And parsing the blame like this doesn't really matter in any constructive sense because it doesn't do anything helpful to prevent things like this from happening in the future. The perpetuation of ideas of road safety are happening through the presence of the memorial simply as it is. Let's keep energy directed at direct action we can do to make our streets safer and less traumatic for everyone involved.

-Milo (they/them)

Christopher Parelius

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Jul 15, 2022, 6:03:30 PMJul 15
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Well put Milo. In wholeheartedly agree.

-Chris 

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