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Officials look at how to improve the crossing at Jean and Bryant roads after a young bicyclist is hit on her way to school


REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - A car races through the Jean Road-Bryant Road intersection, which parents say is especially dark and dangerous in the morning and always busy. Two of these trees have been cut down.Parents say they’re not surprised that a car recently hit an 11-year-old girl who was riding her bike in the crosswalk of the intersection at Bryant and Jean roads. Kids have nearly been struck a couple of times in that intersection near Lakeridge Junior High School, says the victim’s mom, Shelley Markstaller.

Fortunately, the Oct. 20 incident wasn’t fatal — “She had guardian angels looking out for her,” Markstaller said — but it did prompt the Lake Oswego resident to join former volunteer crossing guard and parent Cheryl Travers in testifying before the City Council earlier this month.

The women called the intersection “dangerous,” saying it is heavily trafficked by inattentive drivers, dimly lit and has lots of vegetation obscuring drivers’ views of pedestrians.

“You actually can’t see the kids,” Travers said.

Markstaller and Travers urged the City to make safety upgrades to the intersection “a priority,” and the City responded fast, with workers already trimming some limbs from a tree blocking the light from a streetlight.

“We’re very grateful for the City’s quick response,” Travers told The Review.

Jim Bateman, the City’s street and surface water superintendent, said the City has improved safety at the intersection by removing trees and bushes and installing a brighter bulb in at least one streetlight. A contractor with the City was called out to cut tree limbs last Friday, Bateman said.

“There are things we can do right away that should help,” he said.

That matters to Markstaller, who said her daughter was on her way to class at LJHS when she was hit. She said some pedestrians cannot be seen behind a large berm on the sidewalk — where two big pine trees grow — before entering the crosswalk, though she’s not sure if this affected her daughter.

“You usually wouldn’t have a berm right before a crosswalk,” Markstaller told The Review.

Markstaller said her child was lucky because instead of being caught under the wheels of the 2004 Toyota Corolla that hit her bike, the impact launched the sixth-grader into the air. Her head slammed into the windshield of the vehicle and then the asphalt as she crashed to the ground, her mom said.

The child suffered a concussion and a knee injury (from where her leg struck the hood of the car), but she was treated and released from a hospital that day, Markstaller said. The child’s helmet cracked in two places but saved her life, and her little white backpack also absorbed some of the impact, her mom said.

The driver was just a few years older than the victim. The 16-year-old (nine days from her 17th birthday), whom The Review is not naming because she is a minor, has been cited for failure to stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian, a traffic violation with a presumptive fine of $260. That fine could be decreased by a judge, Lake Oswego Police Capt. Dale Jorgensen said.

The driver’s age and her daughter’s pain aren’t things Markstaller wants people to focus on, though. The mother of five wants a light — literally — shone upon the dark, busy intersection, where poor visibility endangers children. A 16-year-old male was struck at the same crosswalk at about 9:30 p.m. on Nov. 4; he suffered minor injuries that did not require hospitalization.

“The intersection itself is an ongoing problem,” she said.

REVIEW PHOTO:  JILLIAN DALEY - Jim Bateman, the City's street and surface water superintendent, told The Review that plans to improve safety at the intersection of Jean and Bryant Roads include trimming trees, bushes and invasive vines.

Problems and fixes

The accidents occurred at a three-way intersection, with Bryant Road running north and south and Jean Road jutting off from its west side. LJHS is nearby at 4700 Jean Road, and there’s a fire station sitting just northwest of the intersection.

One crosswalk spans Bryant and another runs across Jean. Markstaller said it’s a problem area in general, but the Bryant crosswalk where her daughter was struck is especially dangerous.

On the east side of Bryant, there are a couple of pine trees that jut up from the berm that blocks drivers’ view of people who are about to enter the crosswalk. There also is a large maple that will lose its leaves soon, but during most of the year it enshrouds a streetlight next to it. Bateman said the maple could be trimmed back; he also sought permission for removal of the pines, and they were cut down last week.

On the other side of Bryant, where it meets Jean, there was a bulky gathering of bushes on the southwest portion of the intersection. There were also two trees growing directly in front of the streetlight on that side. Bateman said the City or a contractor could eradicate the invasive vines and trim or remove the bushes and the trees there, and they also were torn out. Brighter lightbulbs also could be installed.

But Lake Oswego Police Lt. Doug Treat says the site could have a spotlight on it and it still wouldn’t address a bigger problem: the behavior of drivers, who are trained to look for cars, not people. When a 59-year-old male driver hit the 16-year-old boy at the intersection last Friday, he said he did not see the pedestrian, Treat noted.

“You can’t engineer solutions for human behavior,” he said.

Nevertheless, Markstaller said the area could be brighter. Right now, “it’s just hard to see,” she said, and she’s seen cars almost collide with pedestrians.

Travers said she also witnessed a couple of close calls at that shadowy intersection while driving her daughter and son to LJHS last school year. Travers said she watched a car almost hit a child riding a bike; another time, a vehicle almost struck a young pedestrian.REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - A pedestrian makes his way through a crosswalk at Bryant and Jean roads. The dense trees to the left made it hard for drivers to see walkers and bicyclists, but the City since has removed two of them and cut back another.

The Review highlighted the visibility issue of the intersection in a March 10 profile of Travers, a volunteer crossing guard who bought her own traffic cones and gear to make the crossing safer for students during dark mornings.

Travers reached out to the City and the police department this summer. She said police let her know that it wouldn’t be possible to have an officer parked at the intersection every day, especially when other schools have safety issues in their neighborhoods as well.

Jorgensen said City records show two other crashes at the intersection in the past five years involving cars only — both in October 2011. There hadn’t been any crashes with pedestrians or bicyclists until the incidents on Oct. 20 and Nov. 4, he said.

In March, City Traffic Engineer Amanda Owings told The Review the City was looking at safety issues at the site because it had been brought to staff’s attention as a possible problem area. She said then that a study could be planned in the future that would determine if a traffic signal is warranted, and such a study is currently underway. A consulting firm is already completing “data collection and visits to the site,” Owings said.

“The next steps are to perform an analysis of signal warrants and projections of growth, and develop a list of possible improvements,” Owings said. “The completed report is expected in early 2017.”

Growth is one of the problems. Markstaller and Travers noted that a lot of traffic on area roads is competing with pedestrians and bicyclists.

According to traffic counts from 2015, Jean Road sees 8,023 vehicles per weekday, while 6,974 vehicles per weekday roll down Bryant Road north of Jean and 10,451 per weekday trundle south of Jean. (The City does not collect weekend data.) Jean and Bryant are not residential streets but are classified as “major collectors” in the City’s Transportation Plan, City Engineer Erica Rooney said.

“This means they serve a broad area connecting local street to arterials,” Rooney explained.

Similarly classified roads include South Shore and Iron Mountain boulevards, she noted.

REVIEW FILE PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Cheryl Travers served as a volunteer crossing guard for LJHS but said she had trouble finding someone to take her place when she began to have health troubles.

Crossing guards wanted

An effort to keep crossing guards at the intersection has begun, but school officials said more people are needed. LJHS parents and staff usually are the ones who volunteer.

Travers was the main volunteer last year, but her daughter is now a freshman at Lakeridge and her son is an eighth-grader at LJHS. She said it would have been difficult enough to remain a volunteer with her kids now at two schools, but she’s also started chemotherapy, a five-year process to decrease a risk of breast cancer that stood at 50 percent. She said she spoke with the school to get another parent to take the role, but she had little luck.

“I think it is such a hazardous intersection with visibility, etc., that people are reluctant to take this on,” she said.

Since Markstaller’s daughter was hit by a car, LJHS Principal Kurt Schultz said school staff has served as crossing guards and would continue in the role until volunteer crossing guards take over. They were to start Nov. 7. Schultz said that he welcomes additional volunteers, who can join the volunteer team through the Parent Club or by contacting the front office.

“Additionally, we are in ongoing and supportive conversations with both the school district and the City of Lake Oswego about traffic patterns and student safety,” he said.

In a letter to LJHS families, he noted that nearly 1,000 students and adults are trying to reach the same destination at the same time. The LJHS community will continue its commitment, he said, “to stand together to keep kids safe and learning.”

Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Heather Beck said school principals take the lead in responding to situations as they occur, and they “do an exceptional job of handling emergencies and following up with their parent communities.”

“We are all extremely thankful that the Lakeridge Junior High School student who was involved in the accident is recovering well, and that she was wearing a helmet,” Beck said. “We have been in communication with Mayor (Kent) Studebaker and City staff regarding the Bryant Road and Jean Road intersection; they have been very helpful and responsive.”

In addition, a traffic study of the area surrounding the junior high will soon be conducted because a project to replace the LJHS building — which sits on shifting soil that’s caused the foundation to crack — is on the bond scheduled to go before voters in May 2017, Beck said.

Markstaller said the efforts to improve or assess the site by the school district and the City is a relief to her after what her daughter’s been through.

“I’m delighted your daughter is OK,” Studebaker told Markstaller at the Nov. 1 City Council meeting.

She told him everyone’s OK now, but that the lights from the emergency vehicles spiked her adrenaline when she first arrived on the scene of the crash.

“It was very scary as a parent to come driving in and see all of those lights,” she said.


By Jillian Daley
Reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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HOW TO HELP

Lakeridge Junior High School Principal Kurt Schultz says his school is seeking volunteer crossing guards for the Bryant and Jean roads intersection. The LJHS Parent Club organizes the recruitment of volunteers at http://www.lakeridgejuniorhighparentclub.com/volunteer.html. For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call the school at 503-534-2343.

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