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"Eric’s Law" would honor fallen cyclists

Posted by on April 7th, 2007 at 6:17 am

A bill that would require transportation departments to erect a memorial sign whenever “a cyclist is killed in an accident involving a motor vehicle” will get a hearing at the state capitol in Salem on Wednesday (4/11).

So far, 14 lawmakers have signed on as sponsors of House Bill 3020, which was created in response to the death last summer of Eric Kautzky.

Kautzky, a teacher at Tigard High School, was struck from behind and killed on June 18, 2006 while riding on Tualatin-Sherwood Road (the driver was convicted of 2nd degree manslaughter). More details on this incident here.

Kautzky’s family worked with State Representative Jerry Krummel (R-Wilsonville) to spearhead this bill which they refer to as “Eric’s Law.” They say it, “will allow families to remember loved ones killed in tragic crashes.”

According to an email from Rep. Krummel’s office, the signs are, “designed to enhance public awareness about cars and bikes sharing the road.”

The bill would create an application for the memorial signs that must be filled out by an immediate family member within 18 months of the crash date.

The design and placement of the signs would be left up to transportation departments, but the bill stipulates that the sign must include the name of the victim.

I’m glad they are seeking to include the name of the victim. I think personalization of memorials is essential if they are to have an impact on roadway users. The signs won’t have the visual and emotional impact of Ghost Bikes, but they’re a good start and I hope this bill moves forward.

You can submit written comments on this bill to:

    House Transportation Committee
    900 Court Street, NE Room 353
    Salem, OR 97301

You can also email comments and/or questions to Committee Administrator Judith Callens at Judith.h.callens@state.or.us.

NOTE: At BikePortland, we love your comments. We love them so much that we devote many hours every week to read them and make sure they are productive, inclusive, and supportive. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone. It means you must do it with tact and respect. If you see an inconsiderate or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan and Michael

  • JE April 7, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Have to disagree with this one. The (already stretched) ODOT money and resources would be better spent elsewhere. The signs won’t get the attention of the inattentive motorists who need to be reminded to share the road. Finally, in the example sign above, nothing is said about the nature of Eric’s death.
    If a sign is to made, it should read “(motorist’s name) was convicted of manslaughter for hitting a cyclist here.” Make it big and red with white letters. Have the hand making of it and the installation be part of the motorist sentence.

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  • Matt Picio April 7, 2007 at 9:32 am

    With the deepest respect and sympathy for those who’ve suffered the loss of loved ones, I repectfully disagree completely with this law.

    I am adamantly against more signs of any kind, and strongly believe in removing any signs along roadways that aren’t the standard caution and warning signs. (the sole exception being informational signs as to a destination) We already have too many signs along our roads, distracting drivers at key moments. Reducing driver distractions would reduce fatalities of all kinds, including cyclists and pedestrians.

    My nightmare scenario would be a cyclist being hit and killed by a car because the driver was distracted by the 4 signs on the side of the road commemorating deceased cyclists on a particularly dangerous stretch.

    If we’re going to mandate something, how about mandating that DMV must provide a list of those cyclists and pedestrians killed by cars (and the drivers involved, like in JE’s post above) to everyone who is applying for or renewing a driver’s license. Better yet, how about a mandatory test in addition to the regular one, specifically dealing with the laws regarding bikes and peds.

    I respect that the families want to honor and remember their loved ones, and to call attention to the problem, but I’d rather do it in a way that doesn’e distract other drivers while they’re on the road – I think that merely exacerbates the problem.

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  • Benign Neglect April 7, 2007 at 11:29 am

    I don’t think that shaming somebody does the trick, just create harder lines.

    I like the idea of the signs – and if it is not the driver, I am sure passengers will start to notice them.

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  • Dabby April 7, 2007 at 11:38 am

    I have been trying to get a memorial sign put up on SW Broadway in downtown Portland, using our own money, we just wanted to have a legitimate, approved sign, for a beautiful fallen messenger, Kristine…

    Though, as I pointed out, we wanted ot only use our funds, and put it in a approved spot, the city will not let us due to the fact that it is illegal to put up a memorial sign in the city of Portland.

    This information was related to me through Sam Adams office….

    On the same piece of sidewalk, are no less than 12 permitted signs (advertising businesses), and four more banner advertisements, some for a event that happened two months ago…..

    What the hell is going on here?
    I questioned all the surrounding businesses, and they all agreed that a sign should be put up, (well, one simply agreed they wouldn’t complain if it was, everyone else agreed it should happen)

    I know this article talks about Salem making changes, but these changes will not affect memorial efforts in the City Of Portland, where they are considered illegal…..

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  • Dan Kaufman April 7, 2007 at 11:46 am

    What a great way to movitvate people to bicycle. Not!

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  • Vladislav Davidzon April 7, 2007 at 11:58 am

    This is one of the dumbest things I’ve seen come out of our legislature
    recently in relation to cycling-related public policy. Not only will it
    scare people from biking (because it is ooohh soo dangerous), it is also
    a ridiculous waste of money and resources that accomplishes absolutely

    But of course it does allow the political critters in Salem to get some
    pats on the back without actually accomplishing jack shit. Instead of
    writing solid policy that actually addresses the needs of cyclists (like
    ya know, committing a couple hundred million dollars to building multi-
    use paths) they’re wasting their time on passing bills that accomplish
    jack shit, like this one, and the fixed-gear bill. Eeeek. What a waste.

    If they’re going to do this, the bill ought to require that similar signs
    be put everywhere that *anyone* ever died as a result of a car crash.
    That would actually put things into perspective as every freaking road
    would be littered with signs. That would actually make this law somewhat
    useful — but just scaring people from biking is exactly NOT what the bike
    community needs.

    What an outrageous waste of public resources. Ugh.

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  • Jonathan Maus April 7, 2007 at 12:05 pm


    nothing has “come out of our legislature”
    yet. this is just a bill.

    I’m also not jumping for joy that this bill will solve all our problems, but it is a small thing.

    again, like many other issues I’ve covered recently…this is not an either/or equation.

    we can still ask our lawmakers and bureaucrats to do other things.

    I realize these signs are just a small band-aid and somewhat of a political photo-op, but a group of citizens has worked to make them happen and I don’t see the negatives outweighing the positives.

    I have mixed feelings about memorials in general, but I’m not so against them that I would want to weaken the chances of this bill.

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  • Vladislav Davidzon April 7, 2007 at 12:24 pm


    You’re missing the point. These signs will scare people from biking.

    This isn’t a band-aid solution. This is a step in the dead-wrong direction.

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  • Dabby April 7, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    I think some of you people are missing the point.
    Awareness is needed, and almost demanded…

    Signs should go up……

    Signs that are larger than life, if you ask me…..

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  • Vladislav Davidzon April 7, 2007 at 1:06 pm


    I’m in full agreement — but the signs need to put the light on *all* victims of traffic crashes, not just cyclists, or else you are going to end up scaring people from cycling.

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  • Jonathan Maus April 7, 2007 at 1:16 pm


    I agree with you that in tandem with this we need people to be more aware of the much greater risk of dying in a car.

    i have wanted to do a blog that collects headlines of all the deaths and serious injuries on our roads every single day.

    the BTA wrote about how we’ve already had 100 people in Oregon die in motorized vehicle crashes this year alone…

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  • Richard S April 7, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    I agree with some of the other comments here. There are more important things to work on, plus we should spend whatever money we have on safety improvements, better infrastructure, and the new I5 bridge (OK, that last one was a low blow)

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  • Benign Neglect April 7, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Dan, I don’t think that these signs are to motivate people to cycle. But they can make drivers aware that innocent looking area for car, can be crash traps for bikes.
    You can’t always motivate – 43000 people died car crashes and it doesn’t seem to stop anybody from driving, so I trust that marking crash sites doesn’t stop cyclists!

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  • pdxrunner April 7, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    How about real laws that punish drivers for killing cyclists? For example, how about you lose your license for life if you hit a cyclist? Maybe drivers should actually do some jail time in Oregon rather then get tickets for failture to yield violations.

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  • SKIDmark April 7, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    I don’t think there is enough roadside to put up memorial signs for every victim of a traffic crash.

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  • Mr. Know It ALL April 7, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    If you want to put up a sign as a memorial to someone, get a few donors to buy the sign and go do it. Don’t have the state doing it. They’ll have a committee of bureaucrats wasting money designing and approving the signs. Then another team of bureaucrats to install, inspect and maintain the signs.

    Let’s get the legislature to do things that might actually help us. Like passing the Idaho rules for stop lights/signs.

    This sign bill is a lose-lose for everyone. Are people so stupid that they don’t know that if you hit a cyclist with a motor vehicle that the cyclist is likely to die? Well, I’ll answer my own question: Over 59,000,000 people voted for the village idiot in the last presidential election even after he’d botched the job for 4 years previously. OK, so maybe they ARE that stupid, but I don’t care if they’re stupid – there’s no law against being stupid and it would be illegal to “eliminate” them. So, bottom line is: legislature stop wasting our money and start doing things that need to be done.

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  • sh April 7, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    OMG! I actually agree with Dabby! Hell yeah these signs should go up.

    Memorializing the name (and life) of a cyclist victim in the location near their fatal accident creates an awareness with drivers that resonates much deeper and cleaner than any highway warning or “buckle-up” type campaign could ever hope to. Including the name of the the victim is particularly important, as people connect to a name; a name personalizes the tragedy and makes it real. This identity and the emotional poignancy surrounding it is EXACTLY what might move people enough to perhaps think about their driving mechanics and look out for cyclists in a more meaningful way.

    The argument that these signs might distract motorists (and perhaps cause them to hit a cyclist!) is so outlandish that I can’t even think of how to respond. Will these signs discourage cyclists? Oh man, that could be argued for days (and no doubt will). Ultimately though, we’re talking about funds and energy that encourage road sharing and safe passage for cyclists, and to me those are dollars well spent.

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  • Martha April 7, 2007 at 11:46 pm

    I don’t think this is a solution. Yes I aggree that if you insist on driving around a couple tons of machine, you should be aware that you’re behind the wheel of a deadly weapon. But this is not the way to bring that awareness about. I’m tired of how uncomfortable it makes my friends and family to think about me riding around town, even though I ride carefully. This is just going to further dangerize cycling. I think measures to make drivers take responsibilty for thier recklessness would be a much better.

    As much as I understand the desire to remember those that have fallen, I don’t think that’s what the public eye should be drawn too. Instead of “a cyclist died here” the focus should be “a driver killed someone here”.

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  • Donald April 7, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    I can see allowing private funding of memorial signs at the request of family members (even though I agree with the notion that more signage in general is a bad thing.)

    However, to require public funding of a sign whenever “a cyclist is killed in an accident involving a motor vehicle” seems over the top.

    Do we really need a memorial if a drunken cyclist runs a stop sign and ends up under the wheels of a bus?

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  • Martha April 8, 2007 at 1:09 am

    Indeed, Donald has a point. While I aggree that most car/bike collisions are more the fault of the driver than they are the fault of the cyclist, we aren’t perfect. There have been collisions that were 100% cyclist error, and there will be again. memmorializing every single fatality in this manner really isn’t appropriate.

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  • Dan Kaufman April 8, 2007 at 9:07 am

    Based on the road sign above, I strongly believe that this law would help whip up the FALSE perception that cycling is more dangerous than driving.

    Eric Kautzky was killed by a sleeping driver not a discourteous one. That is the issue that could deserve a state funded awareness campaign, in my view.

    Drowsy drivers are a major problem on our roads and they don’t just kill cyclists. In fact, they are responsible for more than twice as many road deaths as all cycling deaths combined.

    For reference, here is the KGW news video on Eric’s Death, the punishment of the driver and the topic of drowsy driving:

    Finally, I should mention, the second Eric Kautzky Memorial Track race takes place May 12th at Alpenrose Dairy. Please come watch or participate in this race to honor a pillar of our community who was taken too soon. All proceeds go to a scholarship fund in his name.

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  • Sknill April 8, 2007 at 11:12 am

    So we’re trying to discourage people from cycling?

    I think I would think twice if I saw how many memorial signs would be erected.

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  • dabby April 8, 2007 at 11:29 am

    So, where would this fit in with the City Of Portland ordinance against memorial signage?

    Would it over ride it?

    Would our local ordinance just cancel this out?

    Will it make it possible to have signage, legitimately ok’ed by the City Of Portland?

    It does not appear to me at all that this will actually change a single thing about memorial signage in the “City Of Portland”…….but just in unincorporated parts of Oregon…

    In fact, I will bet it does not….

    How can we change the local ordinance?

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  • John April 8, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    If this was expanded to include other automobile related deaths, where would we put all the signs? The forest of memorial signs in the danger zones would surely make a statement, but maybe something less intrusive would work just as well.
    Maybe a red circle painted on the road/path/sidewalk where someone dies. A three foot diameter circle would be easily noticeable from the driver’s seat. It doesn’t need to be a factual memorial, the important part is when a few drivers realize with a little shudder, “I just drove over someone’s gravel and tar deathbed”.

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  • K April 8, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Money and legislative energy would be better spent on appropriately punishing negligent drivers involved in cycle related accidents. If I were run down by a car, I’d rather have them get more than a traffic fine than have a sign raised in my memory- but maybe I’m just not sentimental enough. So far as memorializing accident victims in the public’s consciousness, I think highly publicized and tough punishment of dangerous drivers will leave a greater and more long lasting impression than a road sign.

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  • Joe Rowe April 9, 2007 at 12:22 am

    Yes to signs in memorial of murdered cyclists!

    Make one call to Salem, don’t waste your time on this online debate.

    Ask each committee member if they are yes or no and post your call results here. I will call one of them Monday myself. I hope they don’t dodge the question.

    Lookup house rep phone numbers:

    Transportation Committee Membership:
    E. Terry Beyer, Chair
    George Gilman, Vice-Chair
    Carolyn Tomei, Vice-Chair
    Peter Buckley
    R. Tom Butler
    Tobias Read
    Greg Smith

    Find your local rep.

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  • DK April 9, 2007 at 8:30 am

    Give me a break. Cyclists have more problems then to try and memorialize friends and loved ones. What about the idiot who risked his life on se 39th ave. this weekend…during a downpour no doubt? Would the sign read…This is the site of the unfortunate death of “so and so” who so stupidly decided to ride his unlit bike in a rainstorm on this freakin’ busy street.

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  • Dabby April 9, 2007 at 10:59 am

    I would like to say that “required” signs are not a good idea…..

    Simply having the ability to get signs up…..

    This is what we need.

    If there is a strong enough feeling about wanting one up, you should be able to personally finance it, get it approved, and get it up…

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  • Donald April 9, 2007 at 11:41 am

    I second Dabby’s tought, as long as it’s the family who initiates the process. No group should be able to mount a sign without the family’s OK.

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  • Matt P. April 9, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    “The argument that these signs might distract motorists (and perhaps cause them to hit a cyclist!) is so outlandish that I can’t even think of how to respond.”

    All signs distract motorists. Some are required, because the information they convey is more important than the momentary distraction. All signs also impede visibility. I don’t think either of those statements are outlandish.

    Also, I by no means said I expected it to happen – I said it would be tragic if it *did* happen. That’s why I referred to it as a “nightmare scenario”.

    I could just as easily take the other tack expressed in this article – let’s have a sign for everyone killed by a car – pedestrians, cyclists, drivers. Let’s make them the size of billboards, fund them using road-building funds, and make it mandatory to put one up. Maybe when people see signs *everywhere* they’ll start to realize how dangerous cars really are when driven carelessly.

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  • Paul Cone April 9, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    I was recently in Costa Rica and noticed that in various places along the road, they have a giant heart painted in the lane, as a pavement marking. I asked my friend about them and he said “it means somebody died there”. It doesn’t say how or why, but I don’t think that matters — what’s important to realize is that somebody did died, and it could have been prevented. A pavement marking would not be permanent and need to be maintained but the effect would be still the same.

    Also, I think all you “give me a break” people might change your tones if you knew someone who had died on a bike.

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  • Michelle April 9, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    I like the heart idea. But paint wears off pretty quickly – just look at the inside stripes of bike lanes.

    Here’s a darkly comic approach to roadside memorials, not meant for actual installation. (For those of you with no sarcasm detectors, it’s a joke.)


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  • The sanity April 9, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    I have to agree that just a law allowing the memorials to go up would be enough. As some have pointed out, in hispanic culture it is common practice to see crosses erected in the spot where a loved one died and decorated with flowers. Beyond just being a way for a family to memorialize their loved one, it serves as an excellent reminder to motorists – when you pass a curve with 6 or 8 crosses erected, you can’t help but slow down and be extra cautious.

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  • Wes Robinson April 10, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    I doubt this would be very reassuring to the “interested but concerned” crowd…

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  • sh April 10, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    oh man!


    i wish i’d thought of that. they even nailed the soundtrack…

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  • Donald April 12, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Just saw a short update on this on KATU.com.

    “House Bill 3020 would allow other families who have lost a loved one in that way to put up and maintain a road sign at the location where a cyclist was killed.”

    Doesn’t sound as if it’s a mandatory directive.

    If that is indeed the case, HB 3020 is certainly something I can support.

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  • Dabby April 12, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    We have all learned that just because they are paid to report the news, it doesn’t mean they report it right….

    I would do some more looking into it before taking KATU’s word as the gospel…

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