Noted Chef Sarah Pliner Killed While Cycling Near Cleveland High School

The intersection has been the scene of injury and death for years.

Celebrated Portland chef Sarah Pliner, 50, was killed by a truck while biking through the intersection of Southeast Powell Boulevard and 26th Avenue yesterday, the Portland Police Bureau said.

Officers responded just before noon to a crash near Cleveland High School and found Pliner dead at the scene. The driver who hit her stayed at the scene and is cooperating with the investigation, police said.

Pliner was the founder of Aviary, a restaurant on Northeast Alberta Street that WW named Restaurant of the Year in 2012. Aviary closed in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.

The intersection of 26th and Powell is notoriously dangerous, according to the Street Trust, a local nonprofit that advocates for safe, low-carbon transportation on city streets. The group called for immediate action in the wake of Pliner’s death, citing two other accidents at the intersection since 2015.

“The Street Trust is demanding that the city of Portland and…Oregon Department of Transportation cooperate to immediately physically separate from motor vehicle traffic all vulnerable street users, including people on bicycles, pedestrians, and transit riders, until a full investigation of yesterday’s killing is completed,” the Street Trust said in a statement.

Street Trust executive director Sarah Iannarone says she wrote to ODOT in November with her concerns about the stretch of Powell near Cleveland High where Pliner was killed.

“As the parent of a Cleveland High School grad who worried—quite rationally—whether my child would make it back and forth across Powell alive each school day, I can’t help but wonder what criteria (such as the presence of schools or community centers) and/or how many deaths in a concentrated area it takes before we’re willing to fully commit to Vision Zero?” Iannarone wrote then.

Vision Zero is Portland’s plan to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injury on city streets.

“We don’t know anything about this yet,” says ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton. “When we know more, we will consider changes to the road. We appreciate the Street Trust’s interest in this.”

On May 10, 2015, a cyclist named Alistair Corkett, then 22, was struck by the driver of a pickup truck at the same intersection and lost one of his legs, according to The Oregonian. Weeks later, Peter Anderson was bicycling through the intersection and was struck by a Jeep, breaking his leg.

BikePortland.org first reported Pliner’s death.

Pliner managed one of the greatest comebacks in Portland restaurant history. Months after opening in 2011, the building that housed Aviary burned down, ignited by a stray firework on the Fourth of July. Pliner reopened 10 months later and soon after, in WW’s estimation, built Aviary into a top dining spot.

“Aviary is turning out some of the most interesting and delicious dishes in the city, while delivering a product and price point that are accessible to a broad strata of eaters,” WW wrote in its review.