Unsafe Streets 

Hit and Run Claims City's Third Bike Death in 2009

WHILE THE CITY UNVEILED bike facilities to make cycling downtown safer on Monday, August 31, two miles of dangerous road in Northeast Portland claimed two serious bike-car wrecks last week, leaving one cyclist in critical condition and the other dead.

Narrow bike lanes are painted down both sides of NE 122nd, but they did not save the life of 52-year-old cyclist James Neal Wagner. He became Portland's third bicycle fatality of the year when a hit-and-run driver struck him early on the morning of Thursday, August 27. Last year, the city had no bike fatalities.

Only ashes from police flares remain to mark the death near the intersection of NE 122nd and Fremont. It is a busy and poorly maintained stretch of road—four lines of traffic and bike lanes cross on- and off-ramps to I-84. Debris ranging from gravel to car parts to a pair of boots litters the road and northbound bike lane where Wagner was struck. Near the crash site, a recent paint job narrowed the bike lane, lopping off part of the letters spelling "Bike Only."

Police responded to calls from the scene of the crash at 2:15 am on Thursday morning, finding Wagner deceased. The police have not yet charged any suspects.

Just a mile and a half down 122nd, a second car seriously injured a cyclist a day after Wagner's fatal crash. Police booked Wayne Conrad Thompson on the afternoon of Friday, August 28, for felony assault in the first degree after he allegedly backed his Kia Sportage into a cyclist in a parking lot on NE 122nd and Glisan. The cyclist was taken to the hospital and listed in serious condition over the weekend. First-degree assault entails "intent to cause serious physical harm to an individual." In this case, Thompson is accused of wielding a deadly weapon: his car.

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