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TriMet bus driver cleared of wrongdoing in fatal bike collision

Posted by on April 28th, 2008 at 9:43 am

bikes and buses

The Oregonian reported this morning that the driver of a TriMet bus that collided with 15 year-old Beaverton high school student Austin Miller back in February has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

According to the Oregonian, the Beaverton Police Department deemed the collision was “unavoidable”.

The crash happened on February 11th. Miller, an experienced rider who was coming home from school, was traveling south on the sidewalk adjacent to SW Murray Road. Miller and the bus collided as he re-entered the roadway and attempted to go west (right) onto SW Farmington. The bus was traveling west on SW Farmington and was pulling into a stop at the corner where the collision occurred.

The investigation concluded that Miller entered the roadway against a pedestrian traffic signal.

The Oregonian also reports that no citations were issued and that the Washington County D.A. has declined any criminal prosecution.

Back in February, I reported that Washington County might have some responsibility for this tragedy because they encourage bike traffic to use the sidewalk on SW Murray — a practice that has been proven to increase the likelihood of collisions and is discouraged by several agencies (including ODOT and the FHWA).

According to a source close to the investigation, a lack of on-board cameras, difficulty in determining the point of impact, and conflicting witness statements made analysis of the crash very challenging — even after TriMet staged a detailed reenactment of what might have happened.

Newer TriMet buses have four cameras, but unfortunately this one was older and did not have any cameras on-board. Had their been cameras, it would have been much easier to figure out precisely how the crash happened.

According to the Police report (which has been posted as a PDF at KGW.com — warning, graphic) investigators say “this crash occurred because Austin Miller failed to stop his bike prior to entering the bike path on westbound Farmington Road.” The report also states that Miller “further decreased his awareness to his surroundings by most likely wearing earbuds and listening to music on an MP3 style player.”

KGW reports that Austin Miller’s mom “disagrees” with the report and is “very disappointed” about the outcome of the investigation.

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–For more coverage of the Austin Miller tragedy, visit the BikePortland.org archives.

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Comments
  • BikeBillboards dot blogspot dot com April 28, 2008 at 9:57 am

    A very common mid-block dart-out.

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  • KT April 28, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I read the report (warning: it\’s graphic)… it sounds like the officer did a pretty good job of investigating, but I see no mention of an mp3 player or earbuds in the section where he evaluates Austin on-scene.

    Also, it didn\’t appear that the witness statements conflicted; they all said pretty much the same thing. Curious.

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  • Mike April 28, 2008 at 10:09 am

    It seems pretty lame to me, that when a cyclist is listening to an MP3 player that is an important factor. But when a person in a car is sipping on their coffee, smoking a cigarette, talking on their cell, listening to music WAY louder than earbuds can put out, maybe the heater on a bunch of kids in the car, NOTHING IS MENTIONED ABOUT IT. Why is it any different(if all physical values of the two vehicles were equaled)???

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 28, 2008 at 10:14 am

    \”Also, it didn\’t appear that the witness statements conflicted; they all said pretty much the same thing. Curious.\”

    KT,

    I heard there was some mixed versions as to whether or not Miller was on the bike path or on the roadway prior to the collision.

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  • Liz April 28, 2008 at 10:40 am

    One of the links from KGW (the police report, not the full summary) mentioned an ipod in his pocket, with the text \”locked\” on the screen.

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  • Zaphod April 28, 2008 at 10:41 am

    I don\’t think that I\’m in a position to know who is to blame or exactly what happened. All I will say is that it is a horrible tragedy and my thoughts go out to the family.

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  • Brian J. April 28, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Mike– I\’ve seen plenty of reports in the paper and on TV concerning car \”accidents\” and the use of cell phones is indeed mentioned as a \”possible factor\” in the crash.

    Furthermore, why was the kid on the sidewalk? That\’s where pedestrians belong. Motorists don\’t expect pedestrians — sidewalk traffic — to suddenly become road traffic. It\’s bad enough already that motorist hardly see cyclists on the road. But to come from the sidewalk? That\’s completely off their radar.

    I\’m not taking sides here. Just yesterday I was almost a hood ornament twice in 20 miles. But it DOES underscore the responsibility of us as cyclists to behave predictably (take our space on the road, no darting movements) and to SEE and BE SEEN.

    Ride safely everyone.

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  • Toby April 28, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Mike #3
    I do see phone\’s, coffee, etc, mentioned, much the same as earbuds because they are all contributing factors. Being on a bike doesn\’t absolve anyone of responsibility. And while listening to very loud music in a car is dangerous (IMO), earbuds are worse. They not only channel nearly all the sound directly into the ear canal, they also block out other sound.

    It\’s too bad the bus was one of the older ones without the cameras, it would have helped clear things up.

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  • DJ Hurricane April 28, 2008 at 10:46 am

    The investigator concludes:

    \”This crash occurred because Austin Miller failed to stop his bike prior to entering the bike path on westbound Farmington Road from the Mixed Use Path (MUP) on southbound Murray BLVD in violation of ORS 814.410[(1)](a) Had Miller stopped this crash would not have occurred.\” (p. 11)

    The provision the investigator concludes was violated states:

    \”814.410 Unsafe operation of bicycle on sidewalk; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk if the person does any of the following:

    (a) Operates the bicycle so as to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and move into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.\”

    The investigator does not state the basis for concluding that Miller violated ORS 814.410(1)(a), but it is apparently due to the investigator\’s findings that (a) Miller entered the intersection against the pedestrian signal; (b) \”[n]early all witnesses to this crash reported Miller failed to stop prior to entering the lane and no one mentions if he looked to the left when he entered the intersection either;\” and (c) the investigator\’s \”opinion that the bus and the bike came into contact with each other almost immediately as Miller left the MUP and Mann started to move over [through the bike lane and to the bus stop].\” (p. 11-12).

    This violation requires that the cyclist \”move into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.\” ORS 814.410(1)(a).

    Note that a finding of a violation of ORS 814.410 relieves a motorist for liability under ORS 811.055. That section states:

    \”811.055 Failure to yield to bicyclist on sidewalk; penalty. (1) The driver of a motor vehicle commits the offense of failure to yield the right of way to a bicyclist on a sidewalk if the driver does not yield the right of way to any bicyclist on a sidewalk.

    (2) The driver of a motor vehicle is not in violation of this section when a bicyclist is operating in violation of ORS 814.410 (emphasis added). Nothing in this subsection relieves the driver of a motor vehicle from the duty to exercise due care.\”

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  • Toby April 28, 2008 at 10:49 am

    Brian #7

    If I remember correctly, that part of the sidewalk is a multi use path that dumps into a bus pull out.

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  • Brian J. April 28, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Just read the report.

    At the end the report states that witnesses said the that Miller didn\’t react to the bus until it had passed him.

    Many times I\’ve been passed by a bus (like the Tri-Met busses with the engine in the back) and they DO manage to sneak up on me. And I\’m not wearing any earpieces (never do on the road). It\’s an unpleasant surprise.

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  • Jason April 28, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Re Brian J #7: The City of Beaverton has engineered a rather dangerous intersection, encouraging cyclists to leave the street and to ride the MUP by St. Mary\’s all the way up to the Farmington Road intersection.

    (Dditorial comment: I [b]never[/b] use the MUP there; I take the lane and make sure to use enough of it that motorists can\’t crowd me as they go by. And after Austin\’s tragedy, I will never even [b]consider[/b] using it now. Thus, the MUP is effectively bait to injure or kill inexperienced cyclists at that intersection.)

    That being said, after examining the evidence cited in the investigating officer\’s report, I must reluctantly conclude that the teenager made these mistakes:

    1. He rolled into an intersection without looking.

    2. He violated the Principle of Least Astonishment by using the MUP (where the bus driver wasn\’t expecting him to enter traffic).

    3. He [b]may[/b] have also intentionally impaired his ability to operate a vehicle by wearing headphones.

    As is often the case, there is no single error that we can point to here. Also, it\’s harsh to apply 20/20 hindsight and adult standards to a teenager who was just trying to get home.

    Austin was my daughter\’s acquaintance and classmate, and she, like all of the rest of us, are crushed and saddened by this needless tragedy.

    Hopefully this incident will spur Beaverton\’s attention to upgrade the [b]one remaining block[/b] of Murray Boulevard between US-26 and Scholls Ferry Road that still lacks a bike lane.

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  • Vance April 28, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Who knows? What a horrible tragedy. I\’ve said it before, but I\’m suspicious of the DA\’s office, and the Police. There are now three recent fatalities in which, I feel, the civil component is being anticipated, and that the rulings indicate an effort to prevent what would surely be enormous, slam-dunk-style, civil suits.

    Suspicion turned paranoia? What about motorist attitude, and predisposition? We\’ve all been there. The, \”lane-fade\”, is quickly becoming the motorist, \”middle-finger\”, to cyclists on the public right-of-way. Leastwise, I sure get a lot of folks unnecessarily crowding me, even in bike-lanes, only to return to lane-center once they are by me. Am I being paranoid, I certainly am open to accepting that opinion as I might just be; but I feel there is a certain, \”thing\”, that transpires between me and many motorists. A sort of, \”Oh no you\’re not\”, \”Oh yes I am\”, kind of thing that is insanely stupid, and dangerous. How long before one of these, \”moves\”, kills somebody. And I for one, am not willing to lightly dismiss the notion that frustration could be turning deadly out there.

    Many of you also refer to it as, \”lane-blocking\”, or establishing yourself in a lane, but there is this certain insistence that I, for one, engage in from time to time. There must be a motorist equivalent. Well, heck, what happens when attitudes collide, and physics jumps in and takes over?

    Bottom line = Shouldn\’t really matter who\’s fault what, and on, and on. A bagillion pound bus ran down a human being. If it was an accident, I\’m truly, and deeply sorry for all involved. Accidents happen, and often with unforeseen outcomes. It\’s sort of a dice-roll mentality on my part but dang-it if you are a commercial driver and you kill somebody, at fault or not, you\’ve a demonstrated capacity that must be addressed by revoking one\’s special licensing at the very least. Very unfair if a commercial driver is blameless, I know; but this is life and death. If there is a consequence similar to being banned from a certain vocation, that would be known up front, and could be considered by those seeking to drive professionally, before hand; and could go a long way toward improving the, \”fairness\”, aspect of such a blanket policy as – No matter whose fault it was, you\’re done driving buses, garbage trucks, and cement trucks forever, at least in P-town, once the community loses a loved one.

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  • wsbob April 28, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    It\’s heartbreaking to read the report. There might be a couple questions about the driver\’s actions, but basically it seems clear from details of the report that Austin Miller ran into the bus and fell under it. The bus was across the crosswalk he was approaching, before he reached the intersection.

    The bus, slowing for the stop, was likely traveling less than 16 mph; it was right there before his eyes. Did he miscalculate, thinking the bus would speed on past him in the main travel lane rather than cut over to the stop? At any rate, would the former have allowed him the room he needed to enter the crosswalk/bike-path without colliding with the bus? This part is a little unclear to me, since the report says the bus didn\’t start cutting over until 20 feet west of the crosswalk.

    I thought about whether it was fair to fault Miller as a bike rider intending to to use the westbound Farmington bike-lane for not stopping at the entrance to the crosswalk. Then it logically occurred to me that though the crosswalk signal is for pedestrians intending to cross Farmington, it also serves to insure for people on bikes that the way to the bike-path is clear for them as well. This collision clearly indicates that ignoring the crosswalk signal can have serious consequences.

    About the mp3 player/earbuds; the report does not offer enough to determine that he actually had the buds in his ears. Don\’t people frequently wear those around their necks during times they\’re not actually listening?

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  • Icarus Falling April 28, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    I still must question why the bus driver says she did not see him at all, when many witnesses on the bus saw him before he was hit?

    Regardless of fault, which is of course never going to be applied to a Tri Met driver,(we gave them the ultimate right of way with the little yellow triangle)(maybe we could use a expose on the abuse of this priviledge by Tri Met) if a bus is turning to the right or left, or pulling over to the right or left, that is where the bus driver should be looking!

    We all know he was there, so why did she not see him? All signs also point to him NOT being in the blind spot, as I recall he was hit by the front section of the bus, so that is no excuse.

    If a driver says they did not see someone, especially when that someone is in a crosswalk or a bike lane, it means they were not paying attention, nor looking where they should have been.

    Also, as an experienced cyclist, I sometimes ride with headphones.

    When I do, I make sure to increase my awareness by with extra headchecks, increased eye contact with drivers etc.

    As has already been mentioned, it appears to be ok to talk on your cell phone, in a car that many times will contain high power stereo systems with multiple subwoofers and amps, while also dealing with passengers, and other distractions.

    I certainly do not buy the idea of placing partial blame on the wearing of headphones in a auto/bike accident.

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  • DJ Hurricane April 28, 2008 at 1:51 pm

    The investigator seems to think that the ability to carefully listen for motor vehicles is a requirement of the \”due care\” standard for cyclists, but not for motorists, since motorists are legally allowed to keep their windows closed and to listen to the radio at any volume so long as it is not audible 25 feet from the vehicle (in Portland) or talk on a cell phone.

    Is this a double standard, or simply a difference in the standard of due care for the two modes of travel?

    The investigator seems to believe that, because cyclists are the more vulnerable roadway users, they have a higher standard of care. But, since it\’s the motorists who are at great risk of killing other users, aren\’t they the ones who should have a higher standard of care, if anyone does?

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  • wsbob April 28, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Icarus, she saw the rider:( investigative report/ go to pg 13/kgw pdfposted as pdf at KGW.com

    \”I asked Mann where the bus was at when she first saw Miller. She said the bus was about halfway through the intersection and was starting to slow for the stop. I asked her where Miller was and she said he was about 2 to 3 car lengths north of the intersection and was riding southbound on the MUP. I asked her if she approached this bus stop different than any other bus stops, and she said she was a little wider than normal because of her unfamiliarity with the route and the stops. She said she was also a little wide because she saw Miller approaching. I asked her whether her approach was more in response for the stop or for Miller, and she said more for the stop because she expected Miller to stop before entering the roadway\”

    Then there is the following segment of witness/rider on the bus Robert Summers statement(pg 10/ kgw pdf):

    \”He said he was on the bus from the start of the route and said he was seated near the front of the bus ear(sic) the driver. He said he didn\’t see where Miller came from, but said he didn\’t think the bus driver even knew she hit anything. He said the driver never reacted until 14 other people yelled at her to stop. He said he felt two bumps and said he thought the bus ran over Miller twice\”

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  • Joe April 28, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    wow, have to tell someone to stop after hitting someone or something. geez!

    RIP Austin.

    Joe

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  • bahueh April 28, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    fact is, having the ability to hear what is around you while riding is an advantage we, as cyclists, have to protect ourselves against approaching traffic…both ahead and behind.
    removing that from your arsenal of \”self-protection\” is assinine from my POV.

    I am seeing more and more riders wearing headphones (not that Miller was or was not) and feel its utterly irresponsible, especially if you cannot hold a straight line on a bike…one swerve without hearing the car/truck/semi approaching behind you and you\’re dead…game over.

    another fact, drivers have what are called \”rear and side view mirrors\”….drivers ed taught me to check mine every 10-20 seconds to see what is approaching. I actually have noticed more and more drivers noticing me and giving me right of way when they want to turn right across bike lanes…

    spatial awareness on a bike is a valuable tool….its part of being a \”vulnerable road user\”. you can argue and whine about could of\’s and should of\’s but in the end, the car always wins, now doesn\’t it? understaning that little fact in a global way will bring you home in one piece…

    stopping at stop signs. obeying pedestrian walk signals. slowing down at odd intersections, choosing wise routes with less traffic, not riding with two earpieces, helmets, checking over your shoulder often, not riding in blind spots to the right of cars, not riding on wet paint strips or just-off parallel across wet train tracks, not riding with your head down, fingers covering your brake levers, front and rear lights at night, etc…

    speculating what an investigator did or did not think after the fact is secondary or tertiary to actually taking the actions to keep yourself safe so the investigator has less to do, now isn\’t it?

    all of you justifying your actions by comparing the driving habits of \”motorists\” is ridiculous…sorry, it is. in listening to headphones, you\’re addding one more factor into these recipes of human behaviour that create these deadly collisions….accidents are NEVER caused by one thing, they\’re caused by a series of events and factors leading up to the accident. in removing a few of those critical components, you avoid the accident…

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  • Matthew K April 28, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    OK, OK. Cyclists should, indeed, not impair themselves by riding w/ headphones/earbuds while in traffic. I agree that you are placing a limitation on one cue that you have to keep yourself safe. HOWEVER, it is not enough to simply listen for traffic, as there are a number of high-speed vehicles that you cannot hear while riding: Hybrid cars that are running on batteries, other cyclists overtaking you and, believe it or not, Tri-Met busses. Because busses\’ engines are at the rear of the vehicle, and the bulk of the vehicle is between you and their engine, it can be very hard to hear them \”sneak up on you\” especially when they are slowing down. You _always_ need to visually scan any area where you are entering traffic, and you need to ensure that you have plenty of time to do any visual scans well before entering any traffic. This is why I think hipsters blowing stop signs (esp. where cross-traffic doesn\’t stop) are really setting themselves up for a crash: just because you don\’t hear any cars doesn\’t mean there are no cars. Always visually ensure that there isn\’t a car there before you enter cross traffic areas…

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  • l April 28, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    This is terribly disappointed. It is such a shame that Austin is given fault for this. I hope that Trimet, someday, will take responsibility for the lives that have been taken.

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  • Matt Picio April 28, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    bahueh (#19) is spot-on. (I am not saying Austin did any of these things, I just agree that there are things cyclists can do to be safer)

    (#21) – unfortunately, it appears that Austin was at least partially at fault. Leaving a sidewalk and entering the roadway requires us as cyclists to stop. It\’s pretty apparent that Austin Miller and the Tri-Met bus were trying to occupy the lane space simultaneously. The driver expected him to stop, and Austin probably expected her to yield. We don\’t know for sure, but it\’s reasonable given the report. It\’s also reasonable that the bus driver had some culpability, but the evidence isn\’t enough to warrant court proceedings. That well and truly sucks – Austin\’s family is never going to get him back – they\’ve suffered a terrible loss, and had any of a number of factors not been present, it wouldn\’t have happened. This is truly a tragedy, and I hope that they can find healing.

    This intersection is totally and completely unsafe for cyclists – it would be better if they could take the lane. It would be MUCH better had the city not decided to install the \”cut in\” for the bus stop. Beaverton needs to fix this intersection. period.

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  • wsbob April 28, 2008 at 9:10 pm

    I\’m not absolutely sure where the responsibility for that particular road infrastructure lies, but have heard that the Farmington part belongs to the county.

    This bus didn\’t sneak up on Austin Miller. Coming to it on different roads, bus and rider were at right angles to each other, and approached the intersection at virtually the same time, the bus a little ahead of Miller on his bike. One of the witnesses stated that the bus turned on its signals just about the same time Miller entered the roadway:

    \”She told me she first saw Miller entered the roadway without stopping at the same time the bus turned on its blinker and start to pull over.\” witness Melissa Vanevery (pg 9/kgw pdf)

    That account backs up my feeling of why Miller, a kid very familiar with this particular route and intersection might did not stop before entering the roadway (actually, as I understand it, the bike path on Farmington): He didn\’t stop because the bus driver, possibly not having the turn signals on as it passed through the intersection, gave rider Austin Miller reason to believe that the bus was not going to turn across the bike lane and into the bus stop, but rather, continue westward in the main traffic lane, clear of the bike lane into which he proceeded to enter.

    That\’s just my own thought on that particular point. That intersection is deadly. It\’s a kind of miracle that somebody else wasn\’t similarly run over before Austin Miller.

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  • Austin's Best Friend April 28, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Austin should have stopped. I get that. But Mann SAW him, and still hit him? I don\’t understand how that\’s possible. I can\’t even wrap my mind around the idea of someone visibly noticing a cyclist and continuing to pull over. It seems irresponsible and dangerous and irrational.

    Anyone see that Mann was on meds? Anyone notice that the meds that she was on were whited out? Hmm. I, for one, am a bit suspicious.

    No matter whose fault it is, it doesn\’t bring him back. He was my best friend. And, even if Tri-Met gave his family all the money in the world, it wouldn\’t be enough to resurrect him. I am angry at the City of Beaverton, and I am angry at Tri-Met. But on top of that, I am devastated at this tragic loss and the idea that people are turning a human life into a debate about your own selfish ideas.

    I believe that both Austin and Mann committed offenses. However, I am of the very strong opinion that Mann should receive the bulk of the blame because she was the last one who could have avoided the collision and she failed to do that.

    Rest in peace, Austin. And for the rest of you- ride and drive safely.

    -Emily

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  • Mark April 28, 2008 at 11:13 pm

    As someone who was a classmate of Austin – my little sister and Austin were extremely close, as well – I am unhappy with the findings of this report. The bus driver appears to have been on medications significant enough that they were whited out from the public record of the police report, yet the investigation glosses over them, giving that aspect of the situation just a perfunctory \”absolutely no evidence\” to suggest it was a factor in the collision.

    It seems pretty obvious to me that the bus driver\’s reaction time and concentration were impaired by the medications she was taking, considering the witness testimonies about passengers shouting at her to stop and her statement, which I didn\’t see in this report, that she thought she was giving the cyclist enough room. If we have laws against people driving drunk, where are our laws against people driving under the influence of these sorts of medications? Particularly while operating commercial vehicles?

    I agree that Austin should have yielded to traffic. We\’ll never know why he didn\’t. It could have been that the bus failed to signal it was pulling over to make a stop (not mentioned that I saw in the report; I thought it was a law here that commercial vehicles have to signal a certain distance or time in advance of pulling over to make a stop), it could\’ve been that the intersection was overly confusing and he didn\’t know whether he should yield (though he frequently trafficked it), it could\’ve been that he was in a hurry and made a careless mistake.

    I\’m not surprised by the findings of the police report. Of course the City of Beaverton has no interest in getting into a court battle with TriMet. I believe it is for that reason that likely factors such as the bus signal and the driver\’s medicated state were glossed over by the crash investigation team.

    But I wanted to say that I know a lot of my classmates are in a real uproar about this report. I don\’t think there\’s any point to that. The police report was never going to bring Austin back to life, no matter what it said or who it found to be at fault. If you understand the legal politics at work here, it shouldn\’t be remotely surprising. I certainly hope that this incident prompts the City of Beaverton to redesign this intersection and get rid of the MUP, because I think the design of this intersection is more to blame than either Austin Miller or Sandra Mann (the bus driver).

    The real fight shouldn\’t be with TriMet over the negligence, real or imaginary, of one of its drivers; that might be this particular battle, but the battle\’s over and the war is against unsafe street planning and anti-cyclist behavior (whether caused by negligence or antipathy; I would think the former in this situation). The object is to promote bike safety to try to prevent these sorts of things from happening in the future, not to maunder about playing the personal blame game in a tragic accident that has already occurred.

    And for those who knew Austin Miller, celebrate the life he had.

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  • Matt Picio April 29, 2008 at 7:28 am

    Mark (#25) – This is not a comment on the quality of the investigation, or the veracity of anyone\’s claims – but the medications being whited out likely has nothing to do with whether they affected the driver. With recent changes in medical reporting, KGW and others can\’t legally report some of that information, and the police can\’t legally release it unless the driver has authorized it. It\’s the reason why when you get medical treatment now, you have to sign a paper acknowledging you\’ve read the privacy notice, and that you have to sign to authorize the release of medical information to another doctor, or another clinic. There\’s nothing inherently sinisteror duplicitous in this, it\’s the agencies covering their legal ass. The medications whited out could be aspirin, acetominophen or ibuprofen – if they were prescribed rather than over-the-counter, then the information can\’t be released.

    So, unless we can actually find out what those medications were, speculation is just that – speculation. Is it frustrating? Hell yes – someone died, and at the moment at least no one is doing anything about it. Something absolutely should be done – no one should have to suffer the loss of a friend, lover, relative, co-worker, etc when it could have been reasonably prevented. Washingotn County is notorious for poor cycling infrastructure, and Tri-Met is notorious for not taking bikes and peds seriously. (Speaking of which, whatever happened to all Tri-Met buses having a \”Share the Road\” bumper sticker? Are the drivers still being trained for that?

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  • Paul Vincent April 29, 2008 at 9:01 am

    The Oregonian this morning reports that the bus driver was taking prescription medications that would not lead to any cognitive or motor deficits. Based on that information and the information in the report, the bus driver does not appear to have been impaired by an intoxicant.

    The report appears to be an even-handed, dispassionate summary by an un-biased third party. The report appears to be a dispassionate account of the most probable conclusions of fact based on a thorough investigation. It seems unwarranted, and fundamentally unfair, to accuse the officer of a bias towards Tri-met or the bus driver without any basis for the accusation.

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  • wsbob April 29, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Austin\’s best friend (comment #24), it may be a small point to some, but the bus didn\’t hit Austin. Austin hit the side of the bus, fell over and under the rear wheels.

    Also note from the report that the driver incidentally mentions an unfamiliarity with this route. That makes sense to me. Despite the proximity of the bus turnout to the intersection, drivers should not be cutting across the bike lane until the back of the bus is well past the point where the MUP enters the roadway. If I was investigating, I\’d be looking at whether that did or didn\’t happen in this instance.

    Did Austin Miller hit the bus in the main lane of travel or at a point when it was already in the bike lane?

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  • Nelson Muntz April 29, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    I\’d also add to the poster of comment #24 that even if the driver saw Austin approching as she started moving over, a heavy Tri-Met bus won\’t stop on a dime even at slow speeds.

    It\’s a terrible tragedy. Stop looking for scapegoats and playing the blame game as it serves no useful purpose.

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  • Icarus Falling April 29, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    My coimments on the driver saying she did not see him were in reference to initial statements that were reportedly made by her , to witnesses, at the time this accident happened. I also recall a statement that she was not available at the time of the accident to speak to the police. I still question this change in stories, as the police report in no manner reflects this.

    I cannot find reference to point to that now, just recalling what I remember reading when this was first reported.

    A couple of notes.

    She stated in the police report that she \”expected him to stop\”.

    When I see someone, child, adult, or teenager, roll up to an intersection, I expect them NOT to stop. I figure that they are going to roll right out in front of me, and I mentally prepare myself for just such a thing.

    As a bus driver who sees a cyclist rolling toward your bus, it should be your responsibility to expect that the rider is NOT going to stop.

    It is this proven attitude of Tri met drivers that is of great concern. The thought process that they own the road, and bikes should get out of their way has been proven through on road incidences, and even through comments from other bus drivers right on this very site.

    Public Transportation should be just that. Serving and caring about the public, the whole public, and not just those on a bus, or at a stop.

    Also, a combination of prescription medications and headache medicine, as is apparently the case here, along with smoking of cigarettes (the last I checked nicotine is a strong drug), can certainly cause one\’s judgement to be impaired long enough to be a factor in this. The short term effects of such would not be shown through toxicollogy reports, which would come from a test taken much later.

    Yet all these facts are pointed to in the police report.

    Not too mention the disturbing fact shown in the police report that just before this incident, the driver was seen smoking a cigarette on the bus! We all know the ill effects of second hand smoke can be even greater than those created by actually inhaling it yourself. Yet she chose to do so before right before filling the bus with passengers.

    This driver should lose her job for at the least, being caught smoking on supposed \”Public Transportation\”, an act that is prohibited by law. Not to mention fined for that act by the police involved in this investigation.

    This whole thing disturbs me to no end…

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  • rafa April 29, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    turning left = merge left
    turning right = stay to the right
    going straight through = position yourself in the middle

    these are basic traffic principles when operating any vehicle. We\’ve lost sight of how this works because we are accustomed to bike lanes (and to some extent, early education of riding on the sidewalks as a child.) Cyclists need to ride predictably and follow these principles. Bike lanes violate these principles b/c they restrict you to the side of the road. It\’s now our comfort zone and for better or for worse, it\’s here to stay. We\’ve created a whole new principle that only applies to areas with bike lanes. Is it safer or are accidents like this the result of our adaptation to this new traffic behavior?

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  • Anonymous April 29, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    I would like to point out that this intersection is under Washington County jurisdiction not the City of Beaverton.

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  • Opus the Poet April 29, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    I have to say I\’m totally unsurprised at the finding. An at-fault motor vehicle wreck is one of the few circumstances that a government agency can be sued, piercing the sovereign immunity shield. Any finding that didn\’t totally exonerate the driver would have left TriMet open for a wrongful death lawsuit. Some people call me cynical, I just think I\’m a realist…

    Opus

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  • Paul Johnston April 29, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    In the bike vs vehicle conflict, fair is the F-word. Parents, teach your children! Eternal vigilance is the price of life when two wheels mix it up with four.

    Don\’t get me wrong, I don\’t blame the parents; I\’m a dad and my kids sure as hell didn\’t listen to everything I said. They made mistakes despite my warnings. I am so grateful they survived and so sad for Austin\’s parents. Not their fault, not the bus driver\’s fault, and how can you blame Austin? Kids, and people, do what they will. Sometimes they are lucky, sometimes they are not.

    That Police report was tough reading. It made me cry.

    I\’ve been a cyclist all my life and learned that survival is mostly up to the rider, fair or not. It\’s just physics. Sometimes a driver will totally blow it and mow a blameless cyclist down. Mature and eperienced riders watch out for this all the time. We still get killed and injured, but this doesn\’t sound like that. I hate to say it, but this sounds like a kid with his mind on other things. (At fifteen, that\’s how I was). Ever happen to you? You drivers? Watch out for those kids. Watch out for everyone. You are driving an instrument of death. Cyclists are just trying to get from A to B and they can\’t hurt any one. I see those white bikes, the ghost bikes that mark where a cyclist died, I see them all over town. A driver\’s mistake results in a ticket or a fender bender.

    A cyclists\’s mistake can end his life. And so can amotorist\’s mistake.

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  • wsbob April 30, 2008 at 12:09 am

    The report says the bus didn\’t start turning in until it was 15-20 feet past the cross walk (as I remember it, the crosswalk and the MUP align with each other.) I\’m guessing the bus is 30 feet long.

    The investigator finds marks on the rubber fender molding and more going back towards the back of the bus (he also notes something awry with the right front headlight but later, doesn\’t incorporate that into his recreation of the collision.)

    Firemen moved the bike from its original location before the investigator arrived, making speculation about the exact point of impact more difficult. In fact, the investigator states he is unable to do so.

    I\’m not particularly faulting the investigator. He seems to have done a fairly good job of investigating, but I suppose I feel that his concluding opinion is not helpful to understanding the extent of the cause of this collision.

    It\’s reasonable to place some, even a lot of the responsibility for the collision on Austin Miller, but for some reason, the investigator felt compelled to go beyond that, saying that the collision wouldn\’t have occurred if Miller had stopped before entering the roadway. My feeling is, that\’s a gratuitous, simplified accounting of why this collision occured.

    People will read that report and the news articles borrowing from it (one was in the Oregonian already today..see writer David Austin) and come away believing that no other physical and human contributing factor to that collision was significant given Austin Miller\’s own fault in the collision.

    I worry that this is an oversight on the part of the investigator that may lead to other accidents before problems inherent in the physical design of the Murray/Farmington/bike lane/bus turnout/MUP intersection are corrected.

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  • Katherine May 5, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    Im going to miss you Austin!I love you.Hope to see you in eternity..=)

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  • zagreus May 6, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I have read several references to a bus being hard to hear because the engine is in the rear. Honking to let a cyclist know that you are there will more than likely cause a distraction and lead to an accident, or being taken as a personal affront. I usually pump my air brake once or twice to let the cyclist know that I am behind him or her. Is that helpful, or is there a better way of letting someone know that we are there?

    If a cyclist pulls ih front of us because he does not khow we are there, and we hard brake to avoid hitting him, we unjure our passengers.

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  • K May 6, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    I commute to work everyday. I grew up here in Portland. I ride a bike mostly because I cannot afford to own a car. I see dumb drivers all the time, and yes they sip coffee and talk on cell phones, I have been one of those people, burger in one hand, soda in the other steering with my knee. Now I ride a bike because car payments, gas, and insurance are too expensive. Motorists are much more careful now than I ever remember, they frequently pass me in the wrong lane putting themselves at risk of an accident to do so. I only take up two feet of space, I have lights front and back, I am not unpredictable, I do not swerve, I do not dart in and out, I ride a straight path, on my side of the white line. I am not rude or disrespectful, I do not expect people to see me, I watch for them! I also have a mirror attached to my helmet, so I can see who is behind me. I take responsibility for my safety. All the strict enforcement, bike boxes, and media attention will do nothing for people who treat bicycling as a casual do whatever I want and I don\’t care what anybody thinks activity. The fact is, when you get two or more vehicles on a road together there will be accidents, no matter how careful anyone is. Pedestrians and bicyclists in Portland are morons anyway, they all have terrible attitudes and feel entitled to ignore basic laws that are designed to keep them safe. I was taught from a very small child to respect all cars on the road, and that the road is for cars.

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