Collision on SE Powell at 50th results in death of e-motorcycle rider – BikePortland

Aerial Google Maps view of SE 50th and Powell.
Aerial view of SE 50th and Powell.

Portland Police have just announced that a man involved in a traffic collision on May 4th has died of his injuries. Their statement says Shane Johnson was a “bicyclist” who was operating an “electric motorcycle”. That is incorrect. A photo from the scene (below) clearly shows that Johnson was operating an electric motorcycle.
Here’s the PPB statement:
On May 4, 2022, at 11:17 a.m. East Precinct officers responded to the area of Southeast Powell Blvd/Southeast 50th Ave on a report of a bicyclist struck by a vehicle. Upon arrival, they located the man, later identified as 43-year-old Shane Johnson, severely injured. Johnson had been riding an electric bicycle when he was struck by a vehicle. Medical arrived to assist and transported Johnson to a local hospital with life-threatening injuries. Johnson died on Saturday, May 7, 2022.
Due to the severity of Johnson’s injuries, the Major Crash Team was activated and responded to the scene. The driver of the vehicle remained at the scene and was cooperative. MCT investigators learned from witnesses and nearby videos that Johnson entered the roadway unexpectedly for an unknown reason and believe the driver had no time to adjust their course of travel.
As you can see in the map image, 50th and Powell is a intersection of a major arterial (SE Foster) and a state highway (Powell is Highway 26). This intersection has a history of serious injury and fatal collisions. Just two weeks ago a person trying to walk across SE 47th at Powell was killed when a driver hit them and then left the scene.
This is the 21st traffic fatality in Portland so far this year, 10 fewer than we had last year at this same date.
UPDATE: Based on a photo of the crash scene below, the person who died was not on a traditional electric bicycle. He was riding an e-dirt bike with no pedals, powered by a throttle and capable of tops speeds ranging from 31 to 45 mph. The vehicle does not meet the legal definition of a bicycle in Oregon.
CW: Image of crash scene below
UPDATE, 5:41 pm: A reader shared a photo of the crash scene on Twitter May 4th.
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Is the press release suggesting the cyclist entered the road from a driveway or something?
It doesn’t say where he entered the roadway from – just that he did enter unexpectedly. Maybe he swerved to avoid something in the street – pothole, nail, pedestrian, etc?
My condolences to his family.
***Moderator: I remind everyone that friends and family of the deceased could be reading this thread and to please take that into consideration when commenting. Thank you.***
I assume mention was made of an electric bicycle because an electric bicycle, as opposed to say, a Harley Davidson, was involved in the crash.
I always feel like a bicycle should have cranks and pedals. His electric dirt bike has foot rests.
I believe that’s the way that traffic laws view them as well. If they have pedals and cranks, even if they are essentially semi functional foot rests, and they don’t have the capability of exceeding a certain speed (20 or 28, I think), the law considers them to be bicycles and they can be used on the street and in bike paths. If they just have foot pegs and they don’t comply with speed restrictions, they either have to meet motorcycle safety standards, or they aren’t allowed to be used in the street.
You are 100% correct, Boyd. The pedals are what make the bike a bicycle; the pegs make the bike a motorcycle. (Speed and power are also factors but the pedals are key.)
The confusion is understandable. It appears to be “essentially” a bicycle that has been modified to not need pedals. It looks a lot lighter than a gas-powered motorcycle. It may be a product of a factory, not home modification, but it is still essentially an electric bicycle – except no pedals.
Its really hard to know anything from this police statement regarding the vehicle movements prior to the crash…if Johnson was near the crosswalk etc….its all too silent other than making sure the general public knew he was on an e-bike and that “Johnson entered the roadway unexpectedly for an unknown reason” .
BP and witnesses: thanks for updating article with helpful details.
And my condolences to all involved and their families too.
That “entered the roadway unexpectedly for an unknown reason” is a weird statement. The reason people–on bikes or motor vehicles–enter the roadway is to use the roadway. It’s not like someone walking suddenly darting or stumbling into traffic at a random location.
I’ve never seen a driver’s movements described as “enter(ing) the roadway unexpectedly for an unknown reason”. It would be “entered apparently without seeing the oncoming vehicle”, entered without having the right-of-way”, etc.
The feeling I get when that odd statement is combined with the police report’s misidentification of the victim as a “bicyclist” (not just in the statement’s body, but as the first word of the headline) is that the report’s writer felt that this is another case of a careless bicycle rider suddenly darting into traffic, and that the “unknown reason” statement wouldn’t have appeared if the police hadn’t so carelessly misidentified the motorcycle as a bicycle.
I’ve never seen a driver’s movements described as “enter(ing) the roadway unexpectedly for an unknown reason”.
Bikes (or motorbikes as the case may be) do weird things that cars do not, such as ride along the sidewalk, sometimes against the flow of traffic, for a while then enter the roadway at a curb cut, or sometimes, just jump the curb without an externally obvious reason (perhaps to get around an unseen obstacle, for example).
So before I assess whether this is an example of police bias, I’ll wait until I at least know what the cops know. Because sometimes bicyclists and motorcyclists riding on the sidewalk do sometimes “enter the roadway unexpectedly for an unknown reason.”
When riding my bicycle, I enter the roadway unexpectedly all the time because I have no mirror, so to see what is coming up behind me, I turn my head and that usually causes me to veer into the traffic lane. Been lucky so far. Need to stop doing it!
Very sad to hear he passed away.
To the point about PPB’s comment on the type of bicycle. I would argue that given the drastically increasing incidences of crashes and severity of those crashes on ebikes, it is a relevant data point to the crash. Even more so if the type of ebike is one with a throttle, which almost seem more common than pedal assist these days.
I agree if the bike was a throttled e-bike and/or was being operated at a high rate of speed it might be worth mentioning. And if that was the case, those details should be added or left off completely. They don’t do this type of thing when reporting on a car crash do they? Do they ever say, “Man was operating a truck with a high lift kit…” or “Man was driving an electric car…”
Of course the vehicle matters, Man was driving a Corvette would be mentioned… Man driving any sports car would probably be mentioned.
As a cyclist I think it matters, E-bikes do accelerate much faster than bicycles and the users are different, I don’t think we should lumped together.
I live by the Tillamook Greenway, E-bikes do 20-25 on it, the normal bicycle rider is half of that. A crash at an intersection would matter.
Do they ever say, “Man was operating a truck with a high lift kit…”
When people die, perhaps they should. I’ve been hit by a vehicle while on foot, and if it’d been a lifted pick-up, I likely wouldn’t be here.
Making our transportation network safer requires understanding how it’s used. Given that power-assisted bikes change the way cyclists ride, this strikes me as a potentially relevant detail.
Modifications are often pointed out in collision reports, because vehicle modifications are seen as dangerous.
It’s common to include vehicular details even if that wasn’t done in this case. We could just as easily ask what age, perceived gender, name, and certainly his picture have to do with anything.
In any case, articles on BP often include vehicular and/or demographic details.
Info without context is useless which makes it the responsibility of whoever is reporting to decide what provides context and when they’re just pandering to confirmation bias.
I personally it useful to distinguish between e-bikes and human powered bicycles. While I actually prefer that others ride e-bikes (I find them more predictable in terms of speed/trajectory than human powered cycles), they move differently, and they’re generally ridden as low power motorcycles rather than as bicycles — most riders depend overwhelmingly on electric and not human power.
I agree, just last week commenters were including “Dodge drivers” as a a group to be reckoned with. These details are relevant in motorized and non motorized vehicles no matter the number or wheels or axles.
RIP to this guy and the heartache so many will feel from this crash.
Car drivers typically don’t get emotional over the type of vehicle in an accident. They normally focus on the driver: they were drunk, they’d just smoked a 100 lb bag of weed, they did a hit and run, they had no drivers license, they had stolen the car, etc. Everybody knows you can kill people in any type of automobile – it’s usually the fault of the driver, not the fault of the automobile.
The fact that Portland’s traffic fatality rate is down by almost a third compared to last year, which was off the charts, is great news. Considering that the homicide rate is continuing to climb, I had just assumed that the rate at which people were being killed by people in cars would also be going up. I hope this trend of relatively low traffic fatalities continues. That being said, 21 people killed is 21 too many.
A thread that might be read by family and friends of the deceased is probably not the best place to post this “great news”.
Fair. I could probably have framed that in a more sensitive way
I zoomed in on my original photo and can read SEGWAY on the seat, which led me to this.
So it’s not an ebike, no pedals. It’s an electric motorcycle.
46 mph top speed, 0-31 mph in 4 seconds, able to climb 45 degree grades (from Segway website). Not street legal, I think.
A motorcyclist can do things a cyclist can’t, including getting into accidents in different ways. This affects the accident reconstruction.
At least in Bend, there is zero law enforcement on some of these ‘outlaw’ vehicles. I was talking to a mechanic at a bike shop and he had modified his e-bike, so it would go 45 mph on flat ground. I asked him where it was legal to ride, and he just laughed. His experience was that the only time a cop every pulled him over and gave him a warning, was when he was going 40 mph in a bike lane in a 30 mph zone. He said that now he just goes the same speed as car traffic, in the car lane, and is not hassled. He has no vehicle license plate of course.
Meanwhile my son was eternally hasslled while riding his 49 cc fully licensed and insured mo-ped that included pedals and realistic braking power. But now electric ANYTHING gets a free pass for every behavior, no licensing, no insurance, no accountability. Almost seems like some corporate pressure somewhere to boost sales at the cost of lives & injuries.
Regulations just need to catch up. We should be encouraging the electrification of all small gas motors. Small 2-stroke engines like the one you note above are horribly polluting and should be banned in urban areas.
They are so bad. Noise and particulate pollution are out of control. Counterintuitively, also very fuel efficient.
If it was DOT legal it would be a motorcycle instead of a moped, and need a full motorcycle license, which means a training class, and a DOT approved helmet. It would need full time lighting. On a motorcycle, the the lights come on when you start it and you can not turn them off.
Riding a motorcycle isn’t that much different from riding a bike, except the amount of time you spend at (or over) car speeds. Its at least 2 days of training, much of it focused on mitigating the way things happen VERY fast when you’re doing 40 instead of 15 mph. Now, if you’re doing it in a bike lane its every hazard of Interstate and Greely but for your entire ride. Left hooks become a major concern along with people pulling out in front of you. Neither of those are major hazards at average pedal bike speeds.
Motorcycle training (I have a MC license) is very useful for drivers and cyclists too.
The Segway video was referencing the performance specs of the larger x260 model, the bike in the pics above looks more like the smaller x160 model, but it’s kind of hard to tell. Besides power and range, another significant difference in specs between the two is that the x260 has a headlight whereas the x160 does not.
Good eye–the “electric bicycle” in the police report is definitely wrong. They should have used your “electric motorcycle” or “motorcycle”.
First to the family of Mr. Johnson I am sorry for your loss. Looking at the Segway dirt-ebike I would call it the love child between a KTM E-XC and a Walmart mountain bike. Under Oregon law it should be classified as a off-road motorcycle (dirt bike). Not legal for street use. In fact the only place to ride it would be on private property or a OHV area in Oregon. Even Segway defines it as an electric Dirt Bike. Most of the deaths occurring on Portland streets can be linked to someone breaking the law, making them a preventable death. From the information released this tragedy was very preventable.
I’m going to grammar police the title of this thread – it’s either ‘on SE Powell at 50th’ or ‘at SE Powell and 50th’, and not ‘on SE Powell and 50th’.
Damn hate to hear this. Sorry for all involved.
From the second photo, it looks like the vehicle (Toyota SUV) was east bound on Powell headed toward 50th, the impact with the cyclist was on the front of the Toyota, the impact was at a more-than-slow speed (as shown by the damage to the hood). Unclear if the collision happened in the center turn lane or if that’s where the driver pulled over and stopped. The bike ended up on the north curb of Powell, two lanes from the vehicle, and other debris is also there. May be a clue that the cyclist was traveling in a northerly direction at the time of collision, and the impact sent with the east bound Toyota sent the bike north-east. Note the bus stop that the bike is laying near is close to but a little east of 49th. The collision may have happened in or around the 49th / Powell intersection.
So, what happened? Did the bike come from 49th onto Powell, was it trying to cross Powell, merge onto Powell, or other? Was the Toyota traveling straight on Powell or using the center lane to make a turn or merge?
Until we restore traffic enforcement in Portland this will continue to happen. RIP Shane. My deepest condolences to his family and friends
Until we establish traffic enforcement. Have we every really had it?
If by “traffic” you are referring to automobile traffic, we don’t know enough from this article to say if the motor vehicle was doing anything wrong. The article indicated the cycle entered the roadway suddenly, likely making it not the fault of automobile traffic.
My condolences to the family of the cycle rider.
The police should list the posted speed limits and average traffic speeds in the press release, or we’re never going to address a key reason these crashes happen and are so fatal: roads designed to promote speeding traffic, and nearby land use patterns that cause our brains to think these are highways.
eBikes are defined as having:
* Operable Pedals
* Motor of 1000w or less (in Oregon, 750w federally)
* Max of 3 wheels (sorry cargo quads)
* Max speed of throttle bikes is 20mph
* Max Speed of Pedal assisted bikes is a bit of grey area. Local lawyer who literally wrote the book about Oregon Laws pertaining to eBikes argues that they are exempt from the 20 mph speed limitation.
If it doesn’t fit these parameters, it can be legally classified as mobility device, a moped or motorcycle.
Do you have the text or cite for the argument that pedal assisted bikes capable of speed assist past 20mph could be lawfully considered “ebikes” under the ORS 801.258? I didn’t see it in the statute, in the odot link you posted, or in the ebike handbook published by thomas coon newton & frost (if that’s the local lawyer what you were referring to). Resolution should be pretty important seeing as sooo many bikes out there are clearly assisting past 20. These bikes include those that might be referred to as “class III” ebikes in non-Oregon jurisdictions but here in Oregon might be lumped into a group of cycles that include the one involved in Shane’s crash. I can imagine ebike sellers and resellers wouldn’t want the added liability risk either.
A bicyclist can hit speeds greater than 25 mph going down even small hills, 45+ on larger, steeper ones. I’ll bet you could get going close to 60 down Burnside from Skyline. That would be something to see when they got to downtown. 🙂 Are you then considered to be on a motorcycle?
Sorry for all involved and the deceased.
It is interesting to note that there is a ‘Roadside Safety’ billboard (see Monday Roundup of May 2, here in Bike Portland) just to the south of the crash site that the motorist would have just passed. I hope it was not contributing factor to this crash.
Signs are a major distraction for drivers – even traffic regulation signs. Combine that with signs on businesses, billboards, etc and you can miss a traffic regulation sign due to the congestion of so many signs.
I was on Airport Way the other day and there was a guy riding a two stroke full on motocross motorcycle (probably 250cc) without a helmet in the other direction. I’ve been seeing a lot of similar things lately and lot of unlicensed cars with blackout window tint. Are we ever going to start enforcing laws again? Or was the result of Measure 110 a collective “oh, why bother”?
But you can’t catch a dirt bike with a cop car. Unless you’re going to call out the helicopter its just useless. Now I’m in Chicago, and the dirt bikes are going the wrong way down sidewalks and alleys.
No license, no insurance, but no plate, no ID, what are you going to do?
Its time that the PPB (and other area PDs) “accident” investigation teams go to school for a vehicle classification refresher course…its not their fault the marketplace is more complex now vs old days (horses, tractors, motorcycles, cars, pedalcycles, etc.).
Perhaps The Streets Trust should submit an application to do such an annual staff training for PDs?
Nice to see that PPD continues to identify motorists as “cooperative.” It conveys a level of virtue that is unearned.
PPD should say, “The driver stopped the vehicle and talked with police.” That’s it. “Cooperation” has an entirely different connotation. Yes, the driver may not have been able to avoid someone who entered the roadway, but “cooperation” absolves the driver of any potential wrongdoing. These are complex situations and the PPD’s language should reflect the complexity.
JM, time for you to pitch your idea for the “Motoring-mishap writing course” to local gov’ts! Could be a nice sideline for you. 🙂
Cooperation does not “absolve” the driver. It is the law that they stay at the scene. Police will investigate all the facts they can gather, and decide if charges are warranted. This one is no different. We don’t know much about this incident at this time, but witnesses “seem” to indicate the cycle rider was at least partially at fault. The police will have a lot more evidence than we do.
Is there any info on who is putting together the ghost bike? I’d like to help .
I would be willing to help but judging from the comments above many commentators here have little empathy for other types of vulnerable traffic.
Quote: “Their statement says Shane Johnson was a “bicyclist” who was operating an “electric motorcycle”. That is incorrect. A photo from the scene (below) clearly shows that Johnson was operating an electric motorcycle.”
Do we know if Shane was, in fact, a bicyclist? Anyway, the quote above is a little weird – read it again.
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