By Kristen Hackbarth and Bob Conrad
Within hours of a collision Friday, May 20 involving a Reno Police officer and a person on an e-scooter in downtown Reno, the city issued a press release indicating the rider had run a red light.
A witness at the scene said that wasn’t the full story.
Ky Plaskon, president of Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance (TMBA), said he was downtown filming an interview on bike safety when the accident happened. He said he believed the RPD officer was also partly at fault for illegally stopping a freshly painted bike box.
The bike box is brand new and was last week painted onto Second Street at the intersection of Virginia and Second as part of the city’s downtown micro-mobility pilot project.
The rider was not injured, but Washoe County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incident. No citations were issued, according to a WCSO official.
Plaskon said the scooter rider was nearly out of the intersection when the light turned green for the officer, who pulled forward from the bike box and hit the scooter rider with the right-front bumper of his unmarked car.
“The officer, like most drivers, didn’t know what a bike box is,” he said. “Luckily no one was hurt. It’s an important lesson for all of us as we learn about new markings in downtown Reno — and it’s an important lesson for the City as it tries to modernize our streets.”
An RPD officer on Monday was photographing vehicles stopping inside the box bike, where the new street paint was causing confusion for drivers waiting to cross Virginia Street heading west.
Kerrie Koski, city engineer, yesterday said the bike box was going to be painted green for better visibility and that the micro-mobility construction is still ongoing through this week.
The bike boxes, and many other restriping and traffic flow adjustments, were started last week along Virginia Street from Liberty through Fifth streets and on Fifth Street between Keystone and Evans avenues.
A bike box is a square with a bike painted in it at the edge of an intersection that allows bikes and e-scooter users a place to stop without being hit by other motorists. Vehicle drivers are supposed to stop at the white line behind the bike box.
The irony of the situation for Plaskon is that he’s been championing more bike and micro-mobility improvements in the community for years. He expressed concerns last week about the city’s rapid introduction of bike mobility features.
“We saw huge changes just on the very first day of construction when the street closed,” Plaskon said last week when discussing the changes with This Is Reno. “While the street closure is great and lots of people want to ride on Virginia Street, in terms of micro-mobility, there are some serious issues.”
Members of TMBA said they weren’t asked to help the city in developing the pilot project and bike lanes in downtown Reno and added that they don’t endorse the current changes.
TMBA members said they were asked by city staff after the plan was in place to help educate the community.
“We are issuing this statement as part of that education and clarification to the City’s press release on Friday indicating that the scooter may have been at fault,” TMBA wrote in a press release issued Monday.
The City, in its press statement about the accident, shared links about how to use certain features of the pilot project:
- Protected intersections
- Two-way micromode track
- Buffered micromode lane
- One-way micromode track with parking buffer
- Bike boxes
- Bike signals
A list of safety reminders was also shared:
- E-scooters and other forms of micro-mobilty, including bikes, e-bikes and e-skateboards must obey the same traffic laws as motorists.
- Micro-mobility users are encouraged to always wear a properly-fitting helmet.
- Motorists should be alert, always obey posted speed limits and practice extra caution at crosswalks and when driving near riders.
- Micro-mobility users should slow down and yield to pedestrians.
- Motorists should be on the lookout for travel lane and parking lane changes and new signage posted in the downtown area.
- Motorists should allow for extra time when traveling downtown while pedestrians, riders and motorists alike navigate the changes.
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