A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

In fatal bike crash, waiting for the cause

Written August 30th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

Riding a recumbent, a cyclist Tuesday passes the area on Riverside Drive where a fatal bike crash happened the week before. (My bike is leaning on the right.)

One week after an Albany bicyclist died in a collision with a motor vehicle on a widened section of Riverside Drive, Linn County sheriff’s detectives are still trying to determine exactly how it happened.

The crash killed Kelli Kennedy, 52. Her family published her obituary in the Aug. 30 edition of the Albany Democrat-Herald. A wife and mother of three, she worked at Assurant, an insurance company with offices around the world including one in Albany.

My deepest condolences to the Kennedy family for their loss. Riding a bike was one of Kelli’s favorite things, her obit said.

The crash happened shortly after 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 23, on Riverside about 500 feet east of the junction with Bryant Drive.

The cyclist was riding west on Riverside, toward Bryant Drive, when she was struck by a 2002 Chevrolet Avalanche. The sheriff’s office has withheld the name of the driver but said in a press release the person was cooperating and “impairment does not appear to be a factor in the crash.”

I asked Sheriff Michelle Duncan for details, including the name of the driver and whether the cyclist was riding on the shoulder.

“Determination of the exact location of the bicyclist is still what we are investigating,” the sheriff replied by email this morning. “I do not have a completed investigation and detectives are still working on it.”

As for the operator of the Chevrolet, the sheriff wrote: “The driver is not being identified yet. There are some things we are being sensitive to in this case until we have the investigation completed.”

That section of the road is part of the 2.4 miles of Riverside, from Oakville Road to Meadow Road, that Linn County had widened and repaved in the spring of 2018. The project included wider shoulders.

Sheriff Duncan confirmed to me that both the cyclist and the driver were going in the same direction on Riverside that morning. The west-bound paved shoulder there is just shy of 5 feet wide.

This road is a popular Albany bike route — out Riverside and then back to town on Bryant Drive and Bryant Way.

Since Riverside was widened, cyclists have had less reason to worry about cars passing them too close — until now. Which is one reason why it’s important to establish exactly how this happened.

“Although we have some ideas of cause,” the sheriff told me, “we are still doing investigative work on this to confirm.” (hh)

10 responses to “In fatal bike crash, waiting for the cause”

  1. Craig says:

    It’s the driver’s word vs. the bicyclist. The bicyclist is not available for comment. The driver is protected by police. It was a clear flat road on a clear day with a five foot shoulder and no cross traffic.

    The assumption is that the bicyclist did not want to killl herself.

    I ride that stretch of road three times last week.

  2. Rich says:

    Thank you for following up on this. We ride that route periodically too and were concerned about the cirmcumstances. Hopefully the investigaion is completed soon.

  3. Dave says:

    I feel sorry for both families involved in this accident
    It is a tough call to determine just what happened .
    Certainly a tragic for both families
    I ride both in-town and out of town and see fault from riders and drivers.

  4. C Sarrett says:

    Please be careful with the implication that if she wasn’t completely on the shoulder she was doing something wrong. In Oregon, unless there is a marked bike lane (an extra wide shoulder doesn’t qualify) a cyclist is allowed to use the rightmost lane of traffic.

  5. Scott Bruslind says:

    Condolences to Kelli’s family during this time of grieving. Like Kelli, riding a bike is a favorite thing for many of us.

  6. Suzi says:

    As the residents on Riverside Drive are well aware, the northern section of the road was widened in 2018 to accommodate the semi truck traffic generated by the straw compaction facility. This improvement project was presented to the residents under the guise of enhanced safety through smoothing out some curves, improved drainage, and the addition of bike lanes., which would ultimately connect to the newly constructed million dollar multi-use path on Hwy 34 running from Corvallis to Riverside Drive. Unfortunately, on the southern stretch of Riverside Drive bike lanes to connect to the multi-use path on Hwy 34 have not been constructed. Also unfortunately, an unintended, but easily foreseen consequence of the safety improvements to the northern stretch of the road is the increased speed of traffic traveling on Riverside Drive. In particular, the stretch of road where the recent tragedy occurred is so smooth and wide open that, without a conscious effort, it is difficult to maintain the 45 mph speed limit. So, bike lane or no bike lane, I would not be comfortable riding on bike anywhere on Riverside Drive. My heart goes out to Ms. Kennedy and her family.

    • Amanda Wilson says:

      You are spot on with this comment. I was sorely disappointed when the “bike lane” turned out to only be a widened shoulder and it stopped at the road where the hay trucks turn on and off Riverside. Kind of obvious biking safety was not the top priority. Why did they not add “drunk bumps” so a driver would realize they were moving into the widened shoulder where bicyclists may be? Simple enough and could save lives.

  7. Craig says:

    Please keep us updated in this Hasso, a lot of us use that route.

  8. Craig says:

    Any word yet on the outcome? So far nobody has been charged and the police are still protecting the driver.

  9. Craig says:

    It’s been almost three weeks


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