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Beaverton fatality follow-up: A conversation with police spokesman

Posted by on February 15th, 2011 at 11:33 am

“Given the circumstances, it seems like issuing a citation would probably not stand up in court. Any person could go in and say, ‘It’s dark, rainy, there’s this little red light in the road’. I think any judge would toss that citation out’.”
— Det. Sgt. Jim Shumway, Beaverton Police Department

The community is trying to understand what happened in Saturday’s fatal traffic crash that resulted in the death of 47-year old Bret Lewis. In the meantime, Police investigators work on their investigation, advocates have swung into action, and family and friends grieve at the senseless loss of life.

As I mentioned in my initial report, the police statement about the crash seemed (to me at least) to go out of its way to absolve the motor vehicle operator (now identified as 48-year old James Nguyen of Beaverton) of any wrongdoing. Mr. Nguyen didn’t intend to kill anyone Saturday night; but as a vehicle operator, he has an important legal (and moral) responsibility to use enough care and caution so as to not hit another person who is operating their vehicle legally (which it seems like Lewis was doing) on the same road.

To learn more about the crash and about concerns with how it was framed by police, I had a conversation yesterday with Beaverton Police Department Detective Sergeant Jim Shumway. Sgt. Shumway is the Public Information Officer who wrote the press statement about this crash.

Yellow marks spot that Beaverton PD investigators believe to be the point of impact in Saturday’s crash.

The first source of confusion I wanted to clear up was where the collision occurred. The police made it clear from the outset that Lewis was not in the bike lane on Tualatin-Valley Highway, saying he was in the “curb lane.” (The police also say that Lewis was stopped in the middle of the lane for some reason; a lane where traffic travels at upwards of 50 mph) As you can see from the aerial view above, the roadway configuration at this location isn’t typical. There are two westbound lanes on TV Hwy, then a bike lane, then a right turn lane.

This morning, Sgt. Shumway told me that investigators believe the point of impact was in the outer lane (a.k.a. “curb lane), to the left of the bike lane if headed westbound (police refer to the “curb lane” as the standard vehicle lane — not a right turn lane — closest to the curb).

Many of you were also concerned that the police mentioned the weather conditions (heavy winds and rain) as being a “factor in the inability to see the bicyclist stopped in the traffic lane.” The police also stated that, “It is not anticipated that the driver of the vehicle will be cited.”

Oregon’s basic speed rule (page 33 of the Oregon Driver’s Manual) states that “you must drive at a speed that is reasonable and cautious for existing conditions… you need to think about your speed in relation to other traffic, pedestrians, bicycles, the surface and width of the road, hazards at intersections, weather, visibility, and any other conditions that could affect safety.” I asked Sgt. Shumway whether we should expect Nguyen to be cited for a traffic violation.

“There’s no update,” Sgt. Shumway said, “I’m sure it stands just as it did.”

Sgt. Shumway explained that Nguyen didn’t do anything that would fulfill the criteria for careless driving and that, “Given the circumstances, it seems like issuing a citation would probably not stand up in court. Any person could go in and say, ‘It’s dark, rainy, there’s this little red light in the road’. I think any judge would toss that citation out’.”

Sgt. Shumway explained how, given the rain, wind, and darkness on Saturday night, Nguyen’s visibility would have been severely constrained. “Those things can affect how you see at night. A small light on the back of a bike isn’t like what you’d see on a vehicle… It seems to me it would be easy to not necessarily see that until you got close enough… Until it was too late to react.”

[Note: Police have said Lewis had a "functioning" rear light. Oregon law (ORS 815.280) states that a bicycle must have a reflector or light, "visible from all distances up to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlights on a motor vehicle." We have yet to learn whether or not Lewis' light met this requirement.]

When asked whether or not the driver might have been distracted, Sgt. Shumway said, “There wasn’t any evidence of that and he was adamant that nothing like that was going on.”

I tried to share with Sgt. Shumway, that whether he intended to or not, the inclusion of certain facts and words in the press statement (that led to numerous stories in the local media that copied it verbatim) seemed to assess blame for the crash on the victim and all but completely absolve the motor vehicle operator.

Sgt. Shumway disagreed, saying that his intention with the press release is to merely answer “head off” questions he expects the media to ask. “I don’t think it does that [blames the victim]. What I’m responsible for is describing the circumstances that led to the crash… The media would ask. ‘Why was he stopped in the road?’… It’s not absolving anybody.”

Sgt. Shumway continued,

“What happened here is that this is just an accident, it’s an unfortunate accident. I think people watching on the news aren’t concerned that someone got away with something they should be punished for… Not that it was the bicyclist fault, or the driver’s fault; but that each had a set of circumstances that led to an unfortunate outcome.”

Sgt. Shumway told me he fully supports bicycling and that he wants to use the media to get the message out that “It’s not just cars on the road.” But this case, he said, “Isn’t one that furthers that cause.”

“I think most of the [media] audience is going to look at the story and say, ‘If i was driving a bike in the pitch dark in the rain, I would not stop on a road where cars are known to go 50 mph in the mid-lane of traffic. If I got a flat tire or my pants got caught in the chain, I would immediately move to the side of the road.”

There are vehicle equipment laws and laws that govern how we use our roads, but Sgt. Shumway urged me to “look at the totality of the cirucumstances” in this case. Even if Lewis had a bright rear light, Sgt. Shumway said, “It probably wasn’t powerful enough or large enough to overcome the circumstances surrounding this situation.”

And he should know. Sgt. Shumway shared that he himself has driving on this road many times at night. “I could totally see how you’d miss a small red light.”

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  • K'Tesh February 15, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Thanks for the update Jonathan

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  • peejay February 15, 2011 at 11:42 am

    If you can’t see a road hazard, legal rear light or not, you are driving too fast for conditions. End of story. Why are the police ignorant of this?

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    • Dave February 15, 2011 at 11:50 am

      Because the speed limit has become a mandatory minimum speed limit, and keeping traffic moving at that speed is more important.

      At least, this is how I read our society’s priorities in many/most cases.

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    • q`Tzal February 15, 2011 at 11:56 am

      Because of the pragmatic factors of being in an automotive majority, where our economic livelihood has been tied to cheap high speed mobility since post WW-II, the mere thought of hindering the behavior of auto drivers in any way brings to mind the very idea of complete economic and societal collapse.

      Most Americans cannot imagine life without cars so to suggest that we should limit drivers in any way draws on the direct primal fear of being unable to provide food and shelter for one’s self and family.
      The fact that we as a nation do not have sufficient
      public transit options to service our tax base only serves to reinforce the notion that we cannot limit autos.

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    • Mele February 15, 2011 at 12:24 pm

      Exactly!

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    • kww February 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm

      100% correct. This interview is even more infuriating than the press release.

      The Sgt. talks of a ‘little red light’. What of pedestrians? Preposterous.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 15, 2011 at 11:49 am

    peejay,

    If you can’t see something, how can you be responsible for avoiding it? As we saw with Tracey Sparling case, the courts have decided that if a vehicle operator can prove that they were physically unable to see another vehicle operator, they cannot be responsible for hitting them.

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    • resopmok February 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      That’s why the excuse “I didn’t see them” doesn’t fly with me. It is your responsibility, as a road user, to see and understand the conditions around you and adjust to them accordingly. Just like ignorance of the law is not an excuse to break it, not seeing another road user is not an excuse when you are at fault for an accident. Furthermore, this story leaves me an unanswered question, namely, is Nguyen telling the truth? How many witnesses saw that Lewis was stopped (?!) in the middle of the road? That may be where he ended up, but that also doesn’t mean it’s where he started.

      The ironic thing is, if this was a fatal car accident, none of us would be paying attention to the story, nor would anyone else. Just a little blip on the evening news. We need laws with real teeth to reduce the carnage on our roads. For example, if you are at fault for an accident with injuries, your license is suspended for a year and you must take a driving test to get it back. Like honesty, driving competency needs to be proven, not assumed.

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      • rigormrtis February 16, 2011 at 11:32 am

        It’s also the responsibility of the road user to be seen by others. Otherwise, why do cars have rear lights?

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    • kww February 16, 2011 at 1:57 pm

      I disagree, if the rear light was complying then the driver (by code definition) has 600 feet in which to see the bicyclist.

      At 50mph that is over 17 seconds of reaction time.

      Either the light was working or not, and if not then the driver should be cited.

      No one is assigning intent to the driver, but this is definitely a vehicle violation and the police are not doing their job.

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  • Domes February 15, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I know a lot of people who commute on that road. It’s truly unfortunate that better routes do not exist. Perhaps this would be one of those circumstances where seperate bike facilities might be a good option. I often hear the question “what lights do I need to make my bike legal?” To which I respond “well, there’s the law and then there is the equipment you actually need to stay above ground.” A rear reflector? Really? You need lights… and bright ones.

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    • Brian E February 15, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      How dare you say that a better routes does not exist. There are two, Millikan or SW 5th. I use both.

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      • q`Tzal February 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm

        On my trip home from work after 7:00pm from the Beaverton TC out past Aloha.

        SW 5th is neither direct, fast nor long enough.

        SW Millikan is a wonderful way to bypass the nastiest stretch of TV Hwy … at least on a map.

        Millikan is worse in side entering traffic, more stops, slower speeds, discontinuous bike lanes, poor sight lines, poor lighting and my favorite thing: Motor Mile’s test course.

        I used to live at the apartments on Millikan just east of 153rd and west of Murray. I’ve witnessed the same dealer tagged car zipping through the S-curved cobblestone section (map @ http://goo.gl/eGfMR) of street several times in one hour at speeds greater than 20MPH over the posted speed limit for the straight sections.
        In general when Millikan traffic is westbound at the Murray intersection the autos are moving from a single lane to a wide double lane road laid out just like TV Hwy. As can be expected all the drivers burst forth from the gate and flood out in to the empty expanses of Millikan at speeds higher than on TV Hwy.

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        • Brian E February 17, 2011 at 9:12 am

          You are right about that cobbled “S” section. It is bad. In dark, wet, low visibility situations I would be very careful in this 500 ft. section.

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  • K'Tesh February 15, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Domes
    I often hear the question “what lights do I need to make my bike legal?” To which I respond “well, there’s the law and then there is the equipment you actually need to stay above ground.” A rear reflector? Really? You need lights… and bright ones.

    And still people wonder why I have such a large investment on reflective materials and lights for my bikes.

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    • Perry Hunter February 15, 2011 at 12:04 pm

      I hear that. Disdain my flashing light, my yellow jacket and reflective vest as anti-fashion all you want – visibility is life.

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      • Mick Kenland February 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm

        It should be state law that bicylce riders on public road be requied to wear a florescent vest or jacket. It’s just too easy to miss the sight of a bike until it’s too late.

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        • jacob February 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm

          No thank you! I’d like to be able to hop on my bike and ride the 3 blocks w/out having to wear special clothing.

          I enjoy having the choice of whether I wear dayglo reflective clothing or not.

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          • jacob February 15, 2011 at 3:02 pm

            er edit… 3 blocks TO THE STORE…

            ;)

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          • rigormrtis February 16, 2011 at 11:34 am

            I’d like to hop in my car at night, not turn on the lights and not use my seatbelt either…..but that would not be responsible, would it?

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        • Gregg B February 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm

          How about we enforce the existing laws. Such as cracking down, and banning, sales of retail products that are falsely marketed, and sold, as “sufficient” bike lighting.

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        • spare_wheel February 15, 2011 at 6:52 pm

          no.

          i often wear black but if you cannot see my 300-800 lumens you should not be on the road.

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          • Did I miss it? Again? February 16, 2011 at 12:05 pm

            You have a 300-800 lumen tail light?! How much did that cost and where did you get it?

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          • spare_wheel February 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm

            total lumens — only about 170 lumens in back.

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        • El Biciclero February 16, 2011 at 11:46 am

          We should also outlaw black as a color choice for cars, ban tinted windows, and require an audible alarm to sound any time a car door handle is activated from inside the car. It’s often too hard to read a driver’s intentions until it’s too late.

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        • Brian February 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm

          It should be a state law that drivers do not proceed forward if they cant see what is in front of them. It’s just to easy to hit things if you can’t see whats in front of you.

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    • q`Tzal February 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      Ditto.
      Whine about my overpowered head and tail lights all you want.
      The only complaints I hear are from cyclists.

      From auto drivers I get wide clearance, minus ragin` cagers, and call outs for “Durn! That’s a bright light!”
      From patrol officers I have gotten thanks that I am taking responsibility for my own safety riding amongst the somnambulant motoring public.

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      • Gregg B February 15, 2011 at 3:32 pm

        I fully-agree that at some point, we have to take responsibility for our own safety.

        I’ve been cycling in out in the middle of nowhere; near the middle-fork of the John Day river (central/eastern Oregon). Only to have motorists recognize & thank me, at my next mid-day rest stop, for having such a bright tail-light in use.

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      • NW Biker February 16, 2011 at 9:40 am

        There’s someone in my neighborhood (Saltzman/Thompson area) who apparently commutes who has the best light setup I’ve ever seen. Amazingly bright front light and an array of bright red blinking red lights on the back. Thompson Road is narrow with no bike lane and no shoulder to speak of, and I don’t like riding it in the daylight. I’d love to know what those lights are!

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    • John Lascurettes February 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm

      My philosophy is that you can never be too visible.

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      • rigormrtis February 16, 2011 at 11:35 am

        Mine is that I should abdicate my personal safety to others and hope for the best.

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  • lisa February 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I was driving from NW Portland to Lake Oswego last evening at 5:30. The roads were loaded with cars, the rain was pouring down and it was dark. It was brutally tough to see anything. As I was creeping along, I saw so many cyclists sharing the roads and the majority of them were clearly under lighted. I wanted to warn them how hard it was to see them, tell them I was a cyclist who lights myself up like the proverbial Christmas tree and that they needed to do the same. It’s not too hard to understand how the driver in this incident might have not seen the poor cyclist until it was way too late.

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    • wsbob February 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm

      Many people probably aren’t getting the help and advice they need to adequately light their bikes: what it takes to be seen and be able to see…what’s involved in keeping the lights to maximum illumination…what they’ve got to spend to be able to really be seen.

      Those department store low end bike lights aren’t cutting it. Double A batteries that people always have to remember to charge up results in a lot of dim lights being used.

      In this respect, times-are-a-changing, but what percent of the general public know that bike lights have recently become available that can be plugged directly into the computer’s USB port to be charged up? Simplicity translates to greater consistency of use.

      High power bike lights can be expensive, as in r-e-a-l-l-y expensive, like the Dinottes q`Tzal mentions further down; over a $100, and in some cases, way over. There are bike lights for less than $100 that are far superior to the low end Bell lights Fred’s sell, but how do you get people to invest in them? I’ve tried to get my neighbor to equip his bike with a light that’s more visible than the minimum, but…when people don’t have jobs, their priorities shift elsewhere.

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      • q`Tzal February 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm

        I

        wsbob
        High power bike lights can be expensive, as in r-e-a-l-l-y expensive, like the Dinottes q`Tzal mentions further down; over a $100, and in some cases, way over. There are bike lights for less than $100 that are far superior to the low end Bell lights Fred’s sell, but how do you get people to invest in them? I’ve tried to get my neighbor to equip his bike with a light that’s more visible than the minimum, but…when people don’t have jobs, their priorities shift elsewhere.

        I like the quote near the end of DiNotte’s “why choose us” page:
        Big box stores and larger online retailers are often challenged to understand all of the products they sell. We find many customers have more knowledge than those who staff the usual places they shop.

        It is difficult to justify the purchase of such an expensive bike light; there has to be some justification. Too often, even in bike only shops, the lights are misunderstood, misrepresented or simply ignored because they area not required for sale.

        Professionally trained bike sales people might know their frame geometries and cyclist fitting techniques inside out but lighting goes in the realms of electronics, battery chemistry and optical quandary of illuminance vs. irradiance.

        As a practical pragmatic cyclist I want the most bang for the buck. All the lights for sale have actual intensities that have been replaced with notes of power usage “5 WATT LED!!!”. Few list beam spread or side visibility. Fewer still list if the circuitry is incompatible with the lower voltages provided by rechargeable batteries.

        It is too easy for the average person to approach the subject with all sincerity and leave in total brain lock from all the potential ways to screw up.

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      • Michweek February 15, 2011 at 3:35 pm

        I just buy the expensive lights for those I am close to and care about, they usually end up using them because they don’t want to spend the money on something else and now this nice one is suddenly free and once it’s free being safe is obviously worth engaging in. Just buy your neighbor the damn lights, share a meal and call it even. They won’t be upset, they’ll be grateful and someday you might receive a gift of equal value when they do have a job.

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  • Schrauf February 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    The officer must not be familiar with bright flashing bike lights. Not sure what was used in this case, but a Planet Bike blinkie (the $20 kind) is easily visible in any amount of wind or rain from hundreds of feet away – a mile, in good conditions. The steady rear lights can be tougher to see, because they can appear be be bright lights far in the distance, when they are actually close.

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  • Alexis February 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    It’s seriously disappointing that this conversation doesn’t significantly change the tenor of the Beaverton’s PD’s original statements. It’s particularly frustrating for someone to say that they support cycling and yet they don’t think that a motor vehicle operator rear-ending and killing a cyclist is a good case to point out that motor vehicle operators must be responsible for proceeding at a safe speed because they are not the only ones on the road.

    What if a pedestrian had been crossing here? It’s a crosswalk (unmarked) because it is an intersection and so a pedestrian would have been perfectly legal to cross the road, as long as the driver was far away enough to stop (and there’s no suggestion that the driver failed to stop because the cyclist appeared there suddenly, only because he didn’t see him in time). The driver is clearly responsible for not hitting the pedestrian, who almost certainly would not have been lit with a bike light-strength light, if he/she was lit at all. Likewise, the driver is responsible for not hitting the cyclist, even if the cyclist is stopped in a regular travel lane for unknown reasons.

    If there is no traffic citation for this driver that will hold up in court, our traffic code or its enforcement is fundamentally broken.

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    • Charley February 15, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      You’ve hit the nail on the head so hard here, I think it went out the other side of the board. If it’s too dark to see a cyclist with a light, how could you miss a mother walking her baby across the road in a stroller?

      “What if a pedestrian had been crossing here? It’s a crosswalk (unmarked) because it is an intersection and so a pedestrian would have been perfectly legal to cross the road, as long as the driver was far away enough to stop (and there’s no suggestion that the driver failed to stop because the cyclist appeared there suddenly, only because he didn’t see him in time). The driver is clearly responsible for not hitting the pedestrian, who almost certainly would not have been lit with a bike light-strength light, if he/she was lit at all. Likewise, the driver is responsible for not hitting the cyclist, even if the cyclist is stopped in a regular travel lane for unknown reasons.”

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    • rigormrtis February 16, 2011 at 11:37 am

      Maybe he was being objective, a concept lost on most people visiting an advocacy website.

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      • Zoomzit February 16, 2011 at 12:03 pm

        Objective would entail looking at factual evidence and applying agreed upon set of constructs based on this evidence.

        The undisputed factual evidence is that there was a bicyclist who was stationary and in the lane of traffic. This bicyclist was hit due to the motorist being unable to see him in time to take necessary evasive action.

        Based on existing traffic law, the motorist was driving too fast for existing conditions and was unable to operate his vehicle safely. Based on this factual objective evidence and existing traffic law, this motorist should be cited. If you disagree with this assessment, then you will have to provide objective criteria (cite traffic law) that points to why the motorist should not be cited.

        When we start discussing whether it was smart for the bicyclist to be in the lane of traffic, or whether he should have a had a better light, or if the bicyclist in someway contributed to his own death… these are subjective topics. We either 1. do not have the necessary factual information to make a objective declaration or 2. we have disagreements as to what the criteria are for “safe” or “smart” or a host of other things.

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  • Rafa February 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    “I could totally see how you’d miss a small red light.”

    Wow. How’s this statement not absolving the driver?

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    • q`Tzal February 15, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      Because, quite frankly,
      1) Red light is the least visible part of the spectrum to the human eye.
      2) Too many bicycle tail lights are poorly aimed
      3) Too many bicycle tail lights are so small as to visually be confused or missed versus the visual size (field of view:degrees, minutes, seconds) of other light sources in the field of view
      4) Too many bicycle tail lights are underpowered versus the other road users. In optimal conditions at full power my Dinotte tail light puts out 140 lumens of red LED sourced light. This is exceeded by a factor of 10 by one average car tail light. Most affordable (and I dropped some serious $$$ on it) bicycle tail lights are in the 1 to 20 lumen range.
      5) Too many bicycle tail lights are ignored in terms of their internal batteries so that despite the rated light intensity the light is operating far lower than the was initially seen. When the cyclist uses the same light daily it is easy to miss a gradual decrease in intensity.

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      • Gregg B February 15, 2011 at 3:35 pm

        Happy to see a fellow DiNotte user here; we need more of them.

        As for poorly-aimed lights – wow, those PlanetBike SuperFlash lights are so bright, and cheap…but so many cyclists dont bother to ensure they’re always pointed rear-ward.

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        • q`Tzal February 15, 2011 at 5:23 pm

          DiNotte has positioned themselves in a very low price bracket for high intensity lights.

          Before I discovered DiNotte I had worked out electrical schematics, LED supply sourcing, reflectors, lenses rechargeable batteries and charging circuit.
          In attempting to fabricate a durable housing with no welding or metal fabrication skills or equipment found a great deal of overhead cost. I could get good (UV resistant) plastics injection molded in minimum orders of over 10,000. Some people suggested PVC pipe (not UV resistant) or Tupperware! Metal fab companies were not much better price wise.

          I made a big ol` spread sheet that I could plug all my prices in to.
          I discovered that:
          IF I made it entirely myself
          AND nothing went wrong
          AND I actually knew enough to perform skills perfectly the first time that I had only researched online
          AND I didn’t have to pay for large batch orders of custom plastics
          THEN my price could be up to 5% less than buying a DiNotte headlight back in 2004.
          IF anything went wrong I could see my costs ranging up to 300% over what DiNotte was charging and I might still not have a working light.

          If you have the skills and proper tools I say go to it and save money. The only way I know to get their lights cheaper would be to make my own in their factory without telling them.

          They aren’t the prettiest lights but letting Function win over Form has won them loyal customers with lights that won’t die.

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  • Kim McAuliffe February 15, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    My daughter was hit by a bicyclist going full speed on a mixed bike path (walkers and bikes). The bicyclist did not take any responsibility for the accident which badly bruised her. She needed xrays, her teeth damaged the inside of her mouth and she was temporarily unconscious. I feel the bicyclist was to blame for poor judgement. Riding too fast close to people. My daughter was 18. What if he hit someone younger.

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    • matt picio February 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm

      Kim – what a terrible thing to have happen, I’m glad your daughter’s injuries weren’t more serious. I don’t know the particulars about your specific instance, so I can’t comment on them. It’s certainly disappointing that the cyclist didn’t take their share of responsibility. I’m not sure saying the cyclist “was to blame” is wholly accurate – again, not knowing the particulars, but most multi-use path collisions are shared fault, with both parties acting unsafely and/or unpredictably. Have you tried contacting the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition? The WPC is involved in pedestrian safety and pedestrian rights, and if you have specific concerns, they will be responsive to them. wpcwalks.org is their website.

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    • Pete February 16, 2011 at 10:16 pm

      My cousin was killed by a drunk driver, but I’m not sure it’s relevant to this story, not that I don’t feel badly for your daughter. I’m also not sure what you mean by “full” speed – MUPs typically limit bike speed to 15 MPH, though rarely post it. Personally, I see (daily) pedestrians acting as carelessly as this cyclist was made out to be by ‘stopping in the middle of a lane where cars are know to drive at 50 MPH’, but yeah, if a cyclist hits a pedestrian the public perception leans to it being the cyclist’s fault.

      If it was a stalled car in the lane, lights off, and it was hit with enough impact to kill an occupant, the police would document the incident with enough evidence to be accountable to insurance companies. If the evidence showed they were driving too fast (i.e. long skid marks or deep damage) the driver would be cited. The citation would open the door to successful subrogation by the victim’s insurance company, and likely to a successful civil suit by the victim’s family. The incident might make the news, but there would not be a police spokesperson saying “Yeah, I drive on that road and I could see how you might hit a car stopped in the middle of the lane with its lights off.”

      Further, the logic that “of course the driver didn’t see the car because it didn’t belong in the lane without moving” might be perceived as irrational.

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  • Ryan Marquardt February 15, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    So, to be legal while riding on the road, I need a light or reflector visible from 600 feet.

    If I expect to have the police/prosecutor enforce the law in the event that I do get hit (assuming I’m not a fault), I need to be lit up like a car.

    Something is really wrong with this picture, and either the ORS needs to raise the bar bicycle illumination and/or law enforecement needs to see this as more than just an unavoidable accident if the bicyclist had illumination meeting the ORS requirements.

    My condolensces to the victim in this case, as well as to the driver that killed him. I can only hope that this leads to more lights on bikes, all vehicles being more aware of the basic speed rule and their responsibility as road users, and some lives saved.

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  • Alan February 15, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I can’t say anything civil so I guess I’ll take a couple (hours? days?) to calm down. It’s okay to kill someone if they just have a little red light – and by the way, I support bicycling!

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    • Suburbn February 15, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      Nothing civil is appropriate. Except civil court. BPD dropped the ball, and no amount of rain can cover for this, yet they still plan to have a summer pic-nick in August.

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  • David February 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    I’m assuming there were witnesses? I might have missed it but how do we know where the collission occured?

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  • esther c February 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I’m still baffled by the idea that the cyclist was just stopped in the middle of the traffic lane. Did the officer say there were other witnesses to corroborate this?

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    • wsbob February 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm

      Esther…check out maus’s other story, where you’ll find a link for the PD Media Release. It says there were other witnesses.

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  • Joe February 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    bike buffers… I want to stay away from 2ton death machines, that can’t see… such a sad story… how
    many must die.. 21st century?

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  • Joe Rowe February 15, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve got a lot of questions about the statements that came from more than one witness. How many people are on record as a witness? What was their distance and velicity (speed & direction) from the point of impact at the time of impact?

    There are horrible weather conditions noted in the police report. Given those, how can so many people testify under oath that they saw the bike in the car lane?

    If they could say under oath the bike was not moving and in the car lane, then the visibility must have been pretty darn good. In that case, the driver should be cited.

    The cops are biased in this press release, and there are major questions about the witness bias here.

    Please help keep this in the press until the questions are answered.

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  • wsbob February 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    “…(police refer to the “curb lane” as the standard vehicle lane — not a right turn lane — closest to the curb). …” maus/bikeportland

    The curb lane is not necessarily next to the curb? Now seriously: How many members of the general public, or even the media…are familiar with that PD wonky distinction between a right main travel lane/standard vehicle lane located next to a bike lane…and a standard vehicle lane located directly next to the curb? I think very few do.

    So the first thing Detective Sergeant Jim Shumway might have done before sending out the Media Release, is re-read it, and ask himself if what he’s writing will be able to be accurately understood by those who will be reading it, and in some cases, writing news stories based on the information therein.

    In this collision exists a situation where, because of the content of DS Shumway’s Media Release seeking to describe basic details about it, many people were inadvertently led to believe the collision occurred in front of the Audi Dealership to the west of Tuallaway Ave, in the lane closest to the curb.

    Now, through Maus’s interview with DS Shumway, the story is that the collision actually occurred in the right main travel lane (what the dept apparently refers to as the ‘curb lane’) of TV Hwy.

    This changes the circumstances entirely. Now, instead of having stopped in the lane closest to the side of the road, out of the main flow of traffic, it would appear that the cyclist may indeed have been stopped right in the middle of the road where traffic thickest and fastest.

    I’m encouraged that DS Shumway consented to an interview with bikeportland’s Jonathan Maus for the purpose of clarifying certain aspects of this collision and the business of writing police media releases. In future though, I hope that DS Shumway could take greater care to make sure what he writes is something that people not with the department are able to understand over several readings.

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  • Alan February 15, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks, Jonathon. And thanks to Sgt. Shumway and the other first responders, cops and medics, who do a tough job under adverse conditions to the best of their professional ability for a society fraught with contradictions and conflicts ranging from road users to designers to traffic policy enforcement to the court system to legislators. I would personally like to see more responsibility assigned to motor vehicle operators for safer operation of their vehicles under all circumstances.

    (BTW, speaking of confusion, there is more than one “Alan” posting here. I’m the one who was posting in the other thread about the road stripes.)

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  • rider February 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Schrauf
    The steady rear lights can be tougher to see, because they can appear be be bright lights far in the distance, when they are actually close.

    I was under the impression that solid state lights are better for judging distance than blinking ones, which is one of the reasons blinking lights are illegal in many European countries.

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    • matt picio February 15, 2011 at 1:37 pm

      There are also some studies which appear to indicate that strobing taillights cause a hypnotic effect that encourages drivers to steer towards them. This is in part why Randoneering events prohibit the use of strobing lights.

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  • Zoomzit February 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    This seems to be devolving in to another car vs. bicycle discussion. I wish everyone could “walk a mile in the other’s moccasins” as it were.

    There are very significant issues relating to being a car driver that isn’t necessarily intuitive to the bicyclists. Primarily, the driver has generally poor visibility and poor sense of sound than the bicyclist and has a poorer appreciation of the speed in which they travel.

    On the other hand, the bicyclist generally can see and hear better, but is a far more vulnerable on the road and must exert far more physical energy in starting and starting the bike.

    The Beaverton PD seems to quickly rationalize the driver’s behavior because he himself is a driver, but has no comprehension what it is like to be a bicyclist.

    For me, every time I step into a car, it’s a bit of a revelation in that I can better appreciate how the “other half lives.” I wish all drivers and bicyclists could spend more time experiences the world outside of their respective mode of transport.

    I’m not trying to absolve anyone in this, but there always seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of both sides in the car/bike debate.

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    • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      You make a good point about more fully appreciating others’ perspectives, but I’m not sure how the driver’s difficulty comprehending his speed is relevant here. Or why I as a cyclist should take note of this. This seems like something for those who design cars to take account of, Undo some of those wonderful creature comforts that have isolated car drivers so incredibly from their surroundings. Put those spikes into the steering wheels rather than airbags. I don’t think the outcome in this case would have been the same if the Prius had been so equipped.

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      • Zoomzit February 15, 2011 at 1:17 pm

        I agree with you that cars and our infrastructure in general has done a poor job in protecting and accounting for other road users outside of the automobile.

        On the other hand, I don’t think I as a bicyclist fully appreciated how important it is to have bright clothing, lights and reflectors until I was an automobile driver trying to discern bicyclists in the pouring rain. I am not at all implying that the bicyclist in this instance didn’t take these precautions (I don’t know) but I am making a general point here.

        One other point worth making: The bicyclist appears to be legally in the right, but dead. Whereas the automobile driver is legally in the wrong, but unhurt and apparently will avoid any sort of prosecution. There is a fundamental asymmetry with regards to how bicycles and automobiles interact and what the penalties are when one of them makes a mistake. There needs to be far stiffer penalties for automobile drivers, period. This is especially true with regards to conflicts between cars and bicycles/pedestrians. There needs to be more symmetry of consequences between active transport and cars if we want to make our roads safer and increase ridership.

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    • matt picio February 15, 2011 at 1:45 pm

      That’s a valid point, but most cyclists also drive, even if only on occasion. Far fewer regular drivers also cycle in that same environment. I think you argument holds much more weight (pun not intended) when discussing large/commercial trucks, since very few cyclists have operated any vehicle over 10,000 pounds.

      The basic points identified upthread are valid, though, and not car-specific: If a vehicle operator can’t see a solid object in their path, even if that object is unlit and dark-colored, then they’re driving too fast for conditions – period. Either they need to wait until it’s raining less, or they need new wipers, or brighter headlights (or CLEAN their headlights), or drive slower. We have a society where we do not take that restriction (or responsibility) seriously, and these are the results. It could be a truck and a car, a car and a bike, or a bike and a pedestrian – doesn’t matter, the basic speed law applies to all modes, and our collective failure to obey it boils down to convenience – we want to get from point A to point B as fast as possible, and we don’t want to be the slightest bit inconvenienced doing so.

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  • spare_wheel February 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    “I could totally see how you’d miss a small red light.”

    why are the police speculating when they could easily test a similar light? a test might have shown that the light was visible but not noticed due to the drivers cognitive bias.

    _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    i think its time to legally require brighter tail lights. annoyingly bright 1 watt led tail lights (that put a pb superflash to shame) are now available for $26.

    http://www.amazon.com/Portland-Design-Works-Radbot-Light/dp/tags-on-product/B0030BS30K

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    • Dave February 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm

      Except that just leads to more “the light wasn’t bright enough, so it’s his fault” rulings in court.

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  • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks, Jonathan, for following up with the police. I find his statements to be quite disappointing overall, however. The gist of his argument seems to me to be–even if he doesn’t quite say so outright–that this road is built for cars and those in cars traveling at the speeds we know they do (50mph was mentioned–is this the limit? how fast was the driver of the Prius driving? I’m sure his car has a black box that will reveal when he braked, how fast he was driving, etc.) can’t be held responsible for watching out for or taking account of the possibility of a cyclist. To me the fact that the cyclist was stopped is irrelevant. Under the circumstances if I had been the cyclist I know I would not have been traveling at a high rate of speed, and the car driver clearly was. So to make so much of the fact that the cyclist wasn’t moving (again do we have any corroboration of this by anyone not in the car?) seems an effort to place blame or add another layer of blame to the cyclist rather than a statement of fact or relevant to the situation. Poorly lit, stopped where he shouldn’t have been, and by implication, riding at a time and place where it was generally considered unwise to do so.
    WHO GETS TO DECIDE ALL OF THESE THINGS? MAKE THESE JUDGMENTS?

    We have so far to go. This incident (I’m not sure why the police officer felt it was necessary to emphasize that this wasn’t just an accident but an unfortunate one–are there fortunate ones?) reveals so much of what is wrong with official (police, driver, media) conceptions of what is right and proper on our public roads, whose opinions to validate, how much scrutiny to apply to the specifics of a situation, etc.

    Keep up the good work, Jonathan!

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    • wsbob February 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

      “…To me the fact that the cyclist was stopped is irrelevant. …” 9watts

      It shouldn’t be irrelevant to you. Are you familiar with the type of traffic that exists on this section of TV Highway? There’s a lot of it, and it tends to travel very intensely and fast, relative to the road’s location to town.

      If Maus’s latest determination…with the help of DS Shumway is correct…of where the collision occurred is correct, the cyclist was stopped right out in the middle of one the main lanes of travel. On this road, this is an extremely dangerous thing to do.

      Cyclists have tail lights…Bret Lewis was reported to have had one…but they don’t have brake lights. So to an approaching driver, a cyclist with a working tail light, stopped in the middle of a main travel lane could, on a dark, rainy night, perhaps easily be mistaken for a moving cyclist.

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      • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 1:30 pm

        My point was that whether the cyclist is going 0mph or 4mph, the differential between the speeds of the cyclist and the driver (35mph? 50mph?) is going to be about the same. I don’t see that under the circumstances the evasive maneuver of the driver will have been so much more successful if the cyclist had been going 4mph instead of 0mph. I understand that it is possible that in hindsight this is exactly the difference that would have saved Bret’s life, but the larger point is the gross differential in speeds and the quick fixation on his being stopped as opposed to traveling much much slower than Mr. Nguyen.

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        • wsbob February 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm

          9watts, I hear what you’re saying, but bear in mind that the traffic this road carries is large volume and very intense. It’s not a road upon which to be avoidably stopped or traveling abnormally slow.

          I expect you just grabbed the 4mph figure out of the air as an example (and traffic sometimes does travel at that speed and slower when it gets backed up…but not on the night of this collision, if I understand the reports correctly.) which is o.k., but I would say that a vehicle in a main travel lane of this road should be traveling at no less than 15mph in the absence of other immediate traffic such a vehicle to a slower speed.

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          • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 2:28 pm

            wsbob – 4mph is the speed I could imagine I as a cyclist might be traveling at under the prevailing conditions. I thought I said that.

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          • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 2:42 pm

            “If I got a flat tire or my pants got caught in the chain, I would immediately move to the side of the road.”
            How do we know Bret Lewis had time to do this? Why does James Shumway get to decide how long it is reasonable for anyone to be stopped? What if Shumway’s wife’s car stalled at an intersection on TV Highway at night in the wind and rain? What if Bret Lewis wore glasses and couldn’t see because the driver who’d just passed him too close splashed him with muck from a puddle created by folks driving that stretch of road in cars with studded tires, causing him to veer into the travel lane and be forced to stop to wipe off his glasses?
            It must be nice to pass judgment on traffic minorities, not to mention dead members of traffic minorities.

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          • wsbob February 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm

            “wsbob – 4mph is the speed I could imagine I as a cyclist might be traveling at under the prevailing conditions. I thought I said that.” 9watts

            9watts…It’s no big deal, but re-read your comment. I don’t think you did say that.

            Regarding your next comment, questioning how long the cyclist was stopped on the road, go to maus’s other story and click on the link for the police Media Release. It mentions that witnesses saw the cyclist stopped on the road, but no actual duration of time over which the cyclist was stopped there seems to yet have been reported; So how long was he observed having stopped there? 5 seconds? 15 seconds? 30 seconds? A minute?

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          • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm

            Hot Rod
            How many lights/reflectors do I want on my bike? Enough so that if I am hit, it is obvious that the driver did it intentionally.

            So the woman who wears long johns and a trench coat won’t be found guilty of inviting assault walking down the street at night alone?

            Pragmatic yes. But what solace does this offer to Reese Wilson, mowed down in broad daylight on Multnomah Blvd recently by the driver fussing with her dog in the backseat? I don’t think she will be convicted of all-but-killing the man ‘intentionally.’

            The reflectors and lights are a very good idea, but the conclusion about culpability don’t work for me.

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      • RoadShare February 15, 2011 at 5:44 pm

        Interesting point. The fact that bicycles are not required to implement brake lights seems counter-productive to cyclists’ safety. For that matter a true licensing system could include a cycle inspection to ensure required lighting components are in place and up to the minimum standards (which should be raised). Of those here who are justifiably upset over an outcome such as this one, very few seem to want to shoulder such costs and responsibilities that might make a significant impact to the overall level of safety enjoyed by cyclists.

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  • ecohuman February 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Jonathan, you specifically try to read the driver’s mind concerning his intentions (“Mr. Nguyen didn’t intend to kill anyone Saturday night”), and to expound at length on his “legal and moral responsibilities”, but you seem uninterested in trying to do the same with the *bicyclist’s* mind. Why?

    And, why did you immediately assume the Beaverton Police Bureau was committing fraud by “going out of its way to absolve the motor vehicle operator of any wrongdoing”? I’d be more convinced that you were actually interested in fairness and compassion if you practiced it when reporting on someone’s death.

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  • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    Do we know how the circumstances of this particular fatal accident might have been handled in states or countries with different laws? How about those places where it is the driver’s legal responsibility to take precautions to avoid collisions with non-motorized participants in traffic?
    Shumway’s glib and sweeping dismissal of the possibility that the driver could be held responsible here really irks me.

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    • Alan February 15, 2011 at 1:31 pm

      Steetsblog had a piece about that subject just last Friday. The circumstances are a bit different but it makes clear the different social views of road between USA and Netherlands.

      BTW, I notice that both Jonathon in the above article as well as some commenters are still referring to a “turn lane” next to the curb. There are no signs, stripes or other road markings indicating that it is a turn lane until 2/3 block west of the collision site. The distinction may be moot in this case but as there’s plenty of criticism of BPD’s words, it’s best to use them accurately ourselves. That part of the road is (poorly) marked as a shoulder.

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  • John Lascurettes February 15, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Imagine this. Instead of Bret being stopped in the lane, let’s pretend for a minute that it was a downed tree branch (which has no reflectors or lights). Now let’s imagine that it was Ngueyn that died after losing control after colliding with the tree branch. I would put money down that the quote that Sgt. Shumway would say in an interview would be along lines of, “people need to slow down when visibility is impaired.”

    Yes, I’m assuming a lot, but he’s just so flipping cavalier about Ngueyn failing to adhere to a basic speed principle.

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    • Will February 15, 2011 at 1:15 pm

      I’m in agreement here. The fact that it doesn’t seem to enter the Sgt’s mind that slowing down is an options shocks me.

      I forget: are the signs on the side of the road a speed MAXIMUM or MINIMUM?

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  • Hakkon February 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I drove by this accident scene immediately following the tragedy. There were multiple witnesses stopped, as well as a Tri-Met bus (not sure of its role in everything). The follow ups note that there were numerous witnesses, and the the driver cooperated, so this seems to be validated. Police were investigating, and the evidence markings were set out within the right traffic lane (rather than the right turn lane).

    As far as the weather, I can assure you that the wind did make the visibility that much worse, as it was blowing the rain into the windshield. Traffic was generally moving far below the stated speed limit on the highway prior to approaching the accident site due to the weather (although that in no way means the driver was also operating at a proper speed). It was about as poor as visibility can be; we were commenting during the drive how dangerous it was. In those weather conditions it would have been difficult to see a small bike tail light at even 20 mph if the bicycle was stopped.

    This is truly a tragedy, but I do not think that assigning blame is in any way productive here. I am not a biker, yet I highly value sharing the road and take every precaution possible to ensure their safety (and I am disgusted when others do not). However, I can confidently say that given the conditions I experienced, it would be unreasonable to expect any driver to notice a small light on a stopped bicycle.

    There are some many other cases where drivers are truly to blame – lets save our finger pointing for those instances. In this case, I think a more productive activity would be to evaluate ways to prevent another tragedy. As a responsible motorist, I came to this forum looking for ways I could be safer in this very same situation. I’d like to think that the only positive outcome here is to spread the word to other motorists in hopes that we can prevent a recurrence.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

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    • matt picio February 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm

      I don’t agree. If the road conditions are that bad, you pull off the road and wait until the rain eases up. We as a society refuse to do that because it’s inconvenient. This collision didn’t have to happen. Not to put it all on the driver – do we know which way the bike was facing when it was stopped? The tail light might not even have been visible to the driver. It’s obvious that the cyclist bears some measure of responsibility in regards to the causes of the crash. As in most collisions, any one factor being changed could have prevented it. But it’s been stated many times, and not just by me – If this were a boulder, or a tree branch, or a downed power pole, and the Prius hit that instead, whose fault would that be? The power pole, for being there? The weather? The power company? Certainly they are contributing factors, but the real fault lies with the vehicle operator, whether he drives a Prius, a Harley, a 17-ton Tri-Met bus or a bicycle. Operating a 2,000 lb vehicle should be a sobering responsibility. 5 pounds of pressure on a gas pedal can kill a human being with even a moment’s inattention, just as 5 pounds of pressure on a trigger can fire a gun. We need to stop viewing the unintentional weapons so less seriously than the intentional ones. They both kill.

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      • Paul in the 'couve February 15, 2011 at 2:23 pm

        Mat,

        Matt, I can agree with your conclusion, but I have to add that the same goes for a cyclist. If the visibility is so bad that cars can not be operated safely at 20 mph then it is a very bad decision to be on a bicycle (or on foot) in the roadway.

        If we honestly expect motorists to park their cars because of low visibility then we also need to admit that a cyclists should also wait for the visibility to improve.

        In fact, this might be a case were the only realistic safe option for a cyclist is to proceed cautiously on the sidewalk and stop at every cross street.

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        • El Biciclero February 16, 2011 at 2:46 pm

          I think we often lose sight of the vast differences between bicycles and motor vehicles. If I am driving blind in a 2500-lb. vehicle, I can seriously injure or kill other people on the road, or in the vicinity of the road. If I am on a bike, weighing 200-250 lbs.–1/10 of the weight of a car–traveling at 15mph–1/2 to 1/3 the speed of a typical car–I 1. Probably have better visibility than any driver, due to the lack of a sparkly, glare-marred, distorted view through a rain-covered windshield, and 2. Definitely have next to zero destructive capacity when compared to any driver of a car.

          Your statement kind of makes no sense, because if we expect motorists to refrain from driving under dangerous conditions–and they do so–then the real danger is removed from the road and there is no reason for anyone else to avoid the street. Rain and wind aren’t dangerous; driving under conditions where one can’t see is. To say, “well, if I’m not allowed to drive, then you’re not allowed to ride your bike, either!” is just immature. It implies that riding a bike creates the same amount of danger for everyone else as driving a car while blind, which is not true. If you put me on a bike on TV Hwy at night, removed all the cars, and continually dumped buckets of water over my head while bumping my shoulder intermittently, I gar-ron-tee you I would not kill anyone, even if the street were crowded with other non-car-users. In reality, removing either mode from the street makes conditions “safer” for the remaining road users. I would argue that removing cars would make things orders of magnitude safer all around than removing bikes, but that isn’t convenient for the majority. Most people would argue for their “right” to a clear path so they can drive blindly and too fast for conditions.

          I find too many arguments against cycling rely on grade-school notions of “fairness” rather than on rational evaluation of the gravity and cost of being privileged to operate a large piece of complicated, dangerous machinery in the presence of other people.

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        • matt picio February 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm

          Paul – if the weather is that bad, I agree completely. Take a look at my other comments in this and other threads (look for the pirate hat!) and you’ll see my arguments are for all modes, not just cars. The reason why I put an emphasis on motor vehicles at times is because a 2,500lb car (including occupants) is far more damaging than a 250lb bike (including rider) – they cause 10x the impact damage.

          If it’s raining THAT hard, everyone should be off the road until it stops. Good luck getting people to actually do it, though.

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          • Opus the Poet February 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm

            Actually your ratio is way off because of the speed differential. The destructive power of a vehicle varies linearly by weight, but by the SQUARE of the difference in speed. IOW the bike +rider weighs in @250# and is traveling @15MPH, the SOV motor vehicle weighs 2500# and is traveling 50MPH. The motor vehicle does not 10X, but 10X for weight and 11.111111111X for speed for a total of 111 times more damage. Which when you come down to it is an even greater argument for banning motor vehicle travel in bad weather but not HP travel.

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      • valkraider February 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm

        matt picio
        I don’t agree. If the road conditions are that bad, you pull off the road and wait until the rain eases up.

        So why didn’t the bicyclist pull off the road and wait until the rain eased up?

        (My point is that jabs can be thrown either direction, and are usually counter-productive)

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        • are February 15, 2011 at 4:10 pm

          maybe he was trying to do exactly that when he was killed

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        • matt picio February 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm

          I don’t know – it’s a pity we can’t ask the cyclist. I will say, that without the view restrictions and the windshield, cyclists can typically see and perceive their environment much better than motorists. Also, on TV highway, 12 mph could be a perfectly safe speed when 40 mph would not. There are a lot of factors that could make it safe for a bike and not for a car – and if this were a bike striking and injuring/killing a pedestrian, I’d make the same argument, that the cyclist should have slowed down, and if they couldn’t see they should have gotten off the road.

          The basic speed law applies to everyone.

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  • Joe Rowe February 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I want to thank Sgt. James for giving the bike community the respect of talking with Jonathan. Cops have extremely difficult jobs.

    I was thinking of calling, but I don’t want to add any more work for the police. I do feel that the press release by Sgt. James was written in haste, and without intention, blames the cyclist and exonerates the driver. I still feel something needs to be done. The press release could have been done better, so I plan to write Sgt. James a letter to show that changing a few words could remove his accidental bias.

    http://www.flashalertnewswire.net/images/news/2011-02/1412/41973/Fatal_accident.pdf

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  • concernedmotorost February 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    These are disturbing comments. Do none of you drive a motor vehicle at night? Have none of you ever seen the cyclist dressed in black with a little red light (which you don’t see until it’s WAY too late) riding in the worst weather ever, showing you her/his middle finger because you honked to let him/her know that s/he was in danger of interfacing with the body of your motor vehicle due to his/her negligence???

    What I really read here is that “Someone has died and someone has to pay, and it can’t be the cyclist because they’re smaller. Therefore they can’t be at fault.” Somehow the phrase, “Get a rope!” jumps out at me repeatedly.

    “What if a pedestrian had been crossing here? It’s a crosswalk (unmarked) because it is an intersection and so a pedestrian would have been perfectly legal to cross the road…” Uh, REALLY??? This is unworthy of printing, let alone response.

    “the police statement about the crash seemed (to me at least) to go out of its way to absolve the motor vehicle operator”—perhaps many of us see the exact opposite–cycle Nazis going out of their way to blame a motorist. It must be time for a mass ride to insult motorists, run into a few pedestrians, and ding up a few Beemers. Then you can perhaps develop your own personal ‘cyclist law’ and start whining until you can impose it on all of the motorists. Maybe we could just abolish all traffic laws for anyone on less than four wheels.

    I used to be so proud of Portland and it’s progressive attitudes, but it seems that cycling and its attendant issues have been co-opted by a few fascists. Do you really think motorists are out there waiting for a chance to hit a cyclist??? Obviously not (I hope). So what gives you the right to endanger the sanity and peace of mind of a motorist just because you demand the right to act stupidly? Perhaps motorists should sue the families of victims.

    Have you ever considered that it’s just not safe to ride a bicycle under certain circumstances…and that insisting that it IS safe and blaming others for the results is childish at best and criminally negligent at worst?????

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    • Zoomzit February 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm

      Ugh. I don’t even know where to start with your comments. Let me just start with this:

      Have you ever considered that it’s just not safe to <i<drive a car under certain circumstances…and that insisting that it IS safe and blaming others for the results is childish at best and criminally negligent at worst?????

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    • resopmok February 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      The peace of mind of a motorist should always be on edge – they are driving a machine capable of causing significant property damage or great injury or death if it isn’t operated properly. Excusing people with bad driving habits is not acceptable. This means understanding there are conditions in which it may be unsafe to drive as well – at least for people other than the driver. Calling other people Nazis and fascists is certainly not going to produce constructive dialogue, and it makes your whole argument very, very weak.

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      • beth h February 15, 2011 at 2:50 pm

        “The peace of mind of a motorist should always be on the edge…”

        Consindering how the modern automobile is designed to insulate the driver from all outside noise, climate and other distractions, I’m not sure how the motorist’s mind can be on edge at all. Half the problem is that the modern automobile wraps the operator in a cocoon so that they become more relaxed, not less. It’s a polar opposite from the experience of being fully exposed while riding a bicycle. What an irony, especially when so much of modern bicycle marketing is about how fun and relaxing it is to ride a bicycle…

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    • davemess February 15, 2011 at 3:10 pm
      • q`Tzal February 15, 2011 at 5:36 pm

        Hanlon’s Razor

        Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

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    • Charley February 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm

      Wow. So, if someone hits you while you’re walking your baby across the street in a stroller, and then says “I couldn’t see the stroller” then they’re automatically absolved of wrongdoing? What if it’s raining, should you spend the night on the side of the road waiting for the weather to clear up?

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    • BicycleDave February 15, 2011 at 5:27 pm

      I’ve driven at night, in the rain etc. You are right. Visibility is extremely impaired. A reasonable person might come to the conclusion that continuing to drive in those conditions, even at 30 mph, will eventually end badly.

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  • Pat Franz February 15, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    “A small light on the back of a bike isn’t like what you’d see on a vehicle…” … If all you’re concerned about while driving is not running into other CARS.

    Mr. Lewis was operating a legal vehicle. Not a car, but another legal vehicle. As an auto driver, you are obligated to watch out for more than just the things that can do YOU harm. In fact, you are more obligated to be on the lookout for the other road users that you are most likely to endanger.

    Looks like Officer Shumway is resigned to that not happening.

    I, for one, am not.

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    • RoadShare February 15, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      Perhaps bicycles should be required to carry lighting that is on par with what motorcycles are equipped with. A bicycle, being even hard to see would seem to create a need for perhaps even greater lighting. The problem here might very well be what qualifies as a “legal vehicle”.

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      • matt picio February 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm

        Except that rocks, downed power poles, etc don’t have any lighting – and motorists still have a responsibility to avoid them. Pedestrians aren’t required to have lights – neither are wheelchairs. If you can’t see the cyclist, then you probably can’t see the guard rail on the turn ahead either, or the washout in the road.(flash flooding is common in this type of weather)

        When you decide to operate a vehicle which is stronger than 100 humans, and can overcome them with a few pounds of pressure on a foot pedal – you take on a greater responsibility of care. Stop treating it like a toy, or GET OFF THE ROAD.

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        • RoadShare February 16, 2011 at 5:06 pm

          But rocks, downed power poles, etc. don’t have any brains and are incapable of applying logic. So many cyclists want their bikes to be considered as serious transportation and point out rules governing others using the roads. But when it comes to potential rules governing cyclists, even when it would potentially benefit them from a safety standpoint, it seems to be a non-discussion. You can’t have it both ways.

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  • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    concernedmotorost
    Have you ever considered that it’s just not safe to ride a bicycle under certain circumstances…and that insisting that it IS safe and blaming others for the results is childish at best and criminally negligent at worst?????

    And why is it so unsafe (I think we agree on this)? Does it have anything to do with cars? The speeds at which they feel entitled to travel? The exculpation they can count on from the policy if something goes badly awry?

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  • OnTheRoad February 15, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    This video on the AROW website shows how differently people in other countries treat bicycle safety and collisions:
    http://www.activerightofway.org/p/when-the-safety-of-bicycling-is-taken-seriously

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm

      OnTheRoad,

      Thanks for sharing that video… but it’s not similar to this case at all.

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    • Another Doug February 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

      Hmm, I’m not sure it is that much different. Perhaps the news media was more sympathetic. However, given the level of recklessness reported by witnesses, it seems the driver pretty much got off without much of a penalty. I think that he would have received a reckless or careless driving citation in Oregon, so the difference on the legal side is not readily apparent.

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      • OnTheRoad February 15, 2011 at 3:08 pm

        I was mostly amazed at the public and press reaction.

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      • are February 15, 2011 at 4:22 pm

        the driver was required to spend 800 euros on a retraining course before his impounded vehicle was returned to him. the media and public opinion were all over him. frankly i find this quite relevant to the present discussion. incidentally, do we know nguyen’s driving history?

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  • Spiffy February 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    wow…

    just, wow…

    that’s the saddest thing I’ve heard from the police in a long time…

    if there had been a Model A Ford stopped at that intersection with their tiny hard to see tail lights, and a pedestrian was walking across, and somebody plowed into that car with weak taillights and pushed it into the pedestrian, then we would be seeing a completely different response from the police… I don’t see how this is different…

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    • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 2:02 pm

      nice analogy. This group of folks responding here includes some really smart and insightful people.

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    • wsbob February 15, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      “…if there had been a Model A Ford stopped at that intersection with their tiny hard to see tail lights, …” Spiffy

      Also agree that this isn’t a bad analogy. How many people today are even familiar with how bright and visible a Model A tail light is? Actually, my recollection on this isn’t exactly clear.

      Definitely not as bright, or as large as tail lights on most modern motor vehicles. Brighter and bigger than probably the majority of tail lights cyclists use to light their bikes. Another important detail I can’t remember for sure: Model A tail light’s may include a brighter brake light filament, which bike lights don’t have.

      The most important thing about Spiff’s analogy though, is that a Model A is a motor vehicle…a car. On that stormy night, if the driver had plowed into the back of a Model A with it’s wimpy rear lighting, stopped in the middle of a main travel lane, instead of a bike with tail light, would the police and public’s response to the collision have been different than it was to the cyclist being hit there? Would the police have cited the driver for rear ending a motor vehicle?

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  • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    matt picio
    Operating a 2,000 lb vehicle should be a sobering responsibility.

    Not that it really matters, but we don’t sell any 2,000 lb cars in this country anymore (not sure about the SMART). A Prius weighs very close to 4,000 lbs, FWIW.

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    • Gregg B February 15, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      My 2006 Smart Car tips the scale at just under 2,000lbs.

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    • valkraider February 15, 2011 at 2:54 pm

      9watts

      matt picio
      Operating a 2,000 lb vehicle should be a sobering responsibility.

      Not that it really matters, but we don’t sell any 2,000 lb cars in this country anymore (not sure about the SMART). A Prius weighs very close to 4,000 lbs, FWIW.

      It’s not that we don’t sell them, it’s that people aren’t buying them en-masse (although Portland is better than many places in the USA)

      (not that it matters too much – 2000lbs can be quite deadly as well)

      Approximate 2010 curb weights:

      Smart Fortwo: 1850lbs
      Lotus Elise: 1980lbs
      Lotus Exige: 2070lbs
      Mazda 2: 2300lbs
      Toyota Yaris: 2310lbs
      Hyundai Accent: 2360lbs
      Mazda MX5: 2460lbs
      Honda Fit: 2470lbs
      Hyundai Accent Hatch: 2470lbs
      Nissan Versa: 2540lbs
      Chevy Aveo / Suzuki Swift: 2550lbs
      Kia Rio: 2570lbs
      Mini Cooper: 2570lbs
      Honda Civic: 2600lbs

      Although I bet most cars are in the 4000 to 5000 pound range.

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    • Did I miss it? Again? February 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm

      My Impreza weighs in at 2300 lbs, but does not have anti-lock breaks, electronic stability control or hid lights.

      Which is safer for a vulnerabler road users a newer 4000lb car with tons of safety features or an older, lighter car that does not have those features?

      If you can make anti-lock and stability control systems weigh nothing, then you could be rich.

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  • q`Tzal February 15, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    This blog post
    Sgt. Shumway explained that Nguyen didn’t do anything that would fulfill the criteria for careless driving and that,

    Sgt. Shumway
    “Given the circumstances, it seems like issuing a citation would probably not stand up in court. Any person could go in and say, ‘It’s dark, rainy, there’s this little red light in the road’. I think any judge would toss that citation out’.”

    The citation of “Too Fast for Conditions” would apply here.
    Reckless or careless driving almost certainly takes in to account the state of mind of the driver.
    “Too Fast for Conditions” does not. The posted speed for here (http://goo.gl/XdcZs) is 45MPH as determined by ODOT based on open road standards. Estimated speed of impact would show evidence that would support the ticket.

    The factors that lower the safety of the posted speed limit are as follows:
    > Rain – heavy enough to, in combination with dozens of on coming headlights, obscure all road markings while making all of the road surface slick due to hydroplaning, not just low areas.
    > Darkness
    > Development – by many current design standards 45MPH is too high for an area with the side pullouts and known pedestrian crossings. ODOT also striped in a bike lane here: where are the drivers supposed to slow down? Drivers leave the travel lane and enter the bike lane at full speed and then begin slowing while in the bike lane of after.

    So what I’m saying is the road is too fast for itself

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  • shirtsoff February 15, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    It seems as if the conclusion to be reached from the officer in regards to cycling is that we need bigger and brighter lights for night time conditions. The kind of lights that may interfere with others’ ability to see but at the same time make not-seeing-us impossible are what is needed. This seems in contradiction to other users’ concerns with bike lights becoming “too bright” or “distracting” but consistent with the officer’s comments.

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  • Jerry_W February 15, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    The rider was in the traffic lane at night, maybe stopped in the lane. I’m sorry but I’m not seeing that much quilt to throw at the driver of the car. If the police at the scene didn’t find him at fault, I think they made a good call. I surely can not defend a bike rider who puts himself in that position. There may be better ways to commit suicide.

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  • Gregg B February 15, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    This is a terrible tragedy. Although insufficient lighting is very chronic in inner SE Portland (where I live at the corner of two busy bike blvds), so I imagine poor lighting is equally terrible elsewhere.

    Its risks and situations like this that are exactly why I own and use a DiNotte tail-light, with nothing less than a properly positioned Planet SuperFlash as a backup. For as long as visibility is good enough to see regular vehicle lights ahead, there’s absolutely zero chance that anyone will ever be able to deny seeing me…even at noon on a blistering hot clear summer day.

    DiNotte’s $200 tail-light is a heck of a lot cheaper than an ambulance ride, a neurologist vist, or yes…even a casket.

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    • beth h February 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm

      “DiNotte’s $200 tail-light is a heck of a lot cheaper than an ambulance ride, a neurologist vist, or yes…even a casket.”

      Well, sure — if you make enough money to buy one. There are folks out on my regular route home riding $50 Magnas without any lights at all. For them — and for a lot of other riders –$200 is pretty darned steep for ANY bicycle accessory.

      If bicycles came fully equipped with lights and fenders, the way some do in Europe, perhaps more people would begin to see them as vehicles instead of sporting equipment or toys. And perhaps — a loooong time from now, maybe — that change in perception would begin to make a difference in safe the roads are for cyclists.

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      • Gregg B February 15, 2011 at 3:19 pm

        A typical bike hardly costs $50/year…even the el-cheapo WalMart junk will need tubes, tires, a pump, often a different seat, a bag or pannier & its associated rack, rain proofish clothing, a helmet, etc… I grew up dirt-poor, and even today am certainly not “rich” by any stretch of the imagination…if people like me can find the resources to use sufficient lighting, then what is the true underlying issue? Its priorities; what do you value, and how far are you going to diligently protect that?

        If you’re going to ride at night, then sufficient nighttime lighting is critical, if you value your health, if you value your safety…and if your own life is important to you. In that scope, a $200 tail-light that ensures you’re well-seen during all weather conditions, is nothing more than basic due-diligence.

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        • Machu Picchu February 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm

          The people riding the 50 dollar magnas didn’t “grow up dirt poor”, they’re that way right now. Even though you are not rich, you certainly are no longer dirt poor, or you would not be using a $200 tail light.

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        • Did I miss it? Again? February 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm

          If the consumer can’t afford a $200 bicycle, what makes you think they can afford a $200 accessory?

          You should try working at a bike shop for a short period of time. Voluteer at the CCC, I guarantee it will be an eye opening experience.

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          • Gregg B February 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm

            Ok, so some folks are caught up on how a $200 light is worth more than taking responsibility for one’s own life…I guess it all depends on priorities, and how each person budgets for & works towards those priorities.

            How about this: ensuring the one of the really bright and well made $20-$30 LED based lights (i.e. http://www.ridepdw.com) are not only mounted securely on the bike, but also ensuring that it has good batteries. Above-all, that the vehicle operators diligently and consistently ensure that their safety equipment is mounted/pointed in its most effective direction.

            Based on my extensive area observation, a properly mounted $20-$30 light is still far too much to ask. At what point will the majority be willing to put forward the money, time, and effort, to start taking responsibility for their own safety?

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  • Hot Rod February 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Last night I took my evening bike ride on the exercise bike at the workout room at work – it was fairly safe – only a drunken psychopath could have driven thru the brick wall and hit me.

    After that, I got in my gas guzzling Civic and drove home. By this time it was nearing 11pm. I saw a cyclist cross the street at an intersection about 100 yards in front of me and noticed that he wasn’t very visible. He turned and continued on the sidewalk in the same direction I was going. He had dark clothing, a dark helmet, no rear light. I knew that he was there and was looking for him just to see how visible he was since I had read about the fatality on this website. I was looking for him, knew he was there, but HE WAS ALMOST INVISIBLE!!!!! It is easy to understand how an automobile driver could have hit THAT person – at least he was smart enough to stay on the sidewalk. He did have a front light but it wasn’t very bright.

    We will never know what really happened in the fatal accident, unless the driver told the truth. He could have distracted by 1000 different things, but of course he might not admit it – would you? If the cyclists rear light had decent batteries, was on, was pointed correctly and wasn’t blocked by panniers, clothing etc then the driver should have seen it. BUT all of those things have to be correct or the light will be of little use. Above 40 mph with wet pavement you are overdriving your headlights – but the law REQUIRES that you drive up to 65 mph (on freeways) with low beams if there is oncoming traffic. Are we really concerned about safety? Not that much.

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    • John Lascurettes February 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm

      There is no law, anywhere, that requires you to drive at minimum 65 MPH. Anywhere. Show me otherwise.

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      • valkraider February 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

        The only minimum speeds I could find that are actually defined are 40 and 45mph in some states and some circumstances.

        However California law specifies that it is against the law to drive in such a way that impedes or restricts the reasonable flow of traffic.

        So I imagine that if the speed limit were 75mph and traffic was moving at 80mph you could theoretically get a ticket for driving as fast as “only” 65.

        It probably wouldn’t happen though, and probably wouldn’t stand up in court, and is completely irrelevant for this tragedy.

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        • John Lascurettes February 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

          Valkraider, correct on all counts. Also to note in California, the basic speed law overrules the minimum or impeding traffic laws when there is a conflict because of conditions.

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    • Charley February 15, 2011 at 3:43 pm

      I’d like to point out that, as invisible as that guy was, you didn’t run into him. You were aware of your surroundings and avoided a crash. Mr Nguyen can’t say that.

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  • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    The discussion of more powerful taillights is great, but it is not clear to me that under the circumstances it would have made a whit of difference. Bret Lewis had a working taillight, which I think Mr. Nguyen admits to seeing. So I think his rate of speed is more of an issue here than the presence of a more powerful light. I can just see the police report of a future accident like this where the driver says the cyclist’s taillight was so bright he assumed it was a motorcycle and that it was traveling at a much higher rate of speed than turned out to be the case.
    Another cyclist dead; driver not at fault.

    Why don’t we speculate what would have happened if Mr. Nguyen had come upon a stationary taillight that turned out to be an accident–one involving another car. How–or would–the police absolve him of all responsibility? Would others (including folks here) be equally quick to suggest it was the driver of the stopped car’s responsibility to pick up and move his car out of the travel lane, and quickly please or else you’ve got it coming? This is all so ridiculous. I think Mr. Shumway should spend more time commuting on a bike and see how glib the reports he might write would be then.

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    • Gregg B February 15, 2011 at 2:47 pm

      Your point is excellent, and very valid; we do not know how his lighting was setup.

      Without knowing, I have to fall back on the bulk of my own experience. From not only as a motorist, but also as a bike commuter that has found myself on Portland roads during all seasons, and under all typical area weather. I also fall back upon my experience as a randonneur that has survived pouring rainstorms, not only within city limits, but also on narrow twisting back-country roads, in the middle of nowhere, at 3am.

      As a motorist, a cyclist, and a pedestrian, it is far too often a common experience to be startled by an invisible cyclist while crossing over Portland’s local bike blvds. The causes are consistently due to a combination of dark clothing, and the cyclist’s failure of due-diligence towards sufficient lighting.

      Being rear-ended is always a concern, although I doubt there’s a judge out there whom would agree that a couple of properly-aligned bright red blinking lights could be anything other than either a construction sign, emergency or tow vehicle, or a vulnerable road user. In all of those cases, it seems reasonable for a driver be considered negligent in failing to slow and/or stop. It remains to be seen if this tragic accident could have been avoided through the effective use of sufficient lighting…for the sake of us all, I hope we eventually learn those details.

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  • 99th Monkey February 15, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Sgt. Shumway
    “Given the circumstances, it seems like issuing a citation would probably not stand up in court. Any person could go in and say, ‘It’s dark, rainy, there’s this little red light in the road’. I think any judge would toss that citation out’.”

    So……. the the police, rather than the judiciary, make the final decision of of guilt or innocence, and choose not to ticket a motorist, who was in violation of one or more ORS , because they think the judge/jury would rule in favor of the driver? Therefore they also take away the surviving relatives opportunity to file suit in civil court? And we call this an “impartial justice system”?

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    • Andy February 15, 2011 at 4:51 pm

      99th Monkey
      Sgt. Shumway
      “Given the circumstances, it seems like issuing a citation would probably not stand up in court. Any person could go in and say, ‘It’s dark, rainy, there’s this little red light in the road’. I think any judge would toss that citation out’.”
      So……. the the police, rather than the judiciary, make the final decision of of guilt or innocence, and choose not to ticket a motorist, who was in violation of one or more ORS , because they think the judge/jury would rule in favor of the driver? Therefore they also take away the surviving relatives opportunity to file suit in civil court? And we call this an “impartial justice system”?

      This was my thought too. Police have no business bringing charges or not based on what they think a judge will decide. That isn’t their job.

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  • BURR February 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    How do they know the cyclist was stopped in the road and not just pedaling in the travel lane because of hazardous conditions in the bike lane?

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    • wsbob February 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      According to the Beav PD Media Release, witnesses observed the cyclist stopped in the travel lane of the road.

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      • Joe Rowe February 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm

        The cops are on record, they say more than one person testified their vision allowed them to see a lot of detail. A) bike was not moving b) bike was a 3 feet away from the bike lane

        It also seems that the bike was hit in the intersection where the bike lane stripes don’t exist.

        None of this matches up. If the visibility was terrible, how can we have so many witnesses with so much detail.

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        • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 5:15 pm

          I think the reason this works is (a) the cop affirmed the perspective of the driver that conditions and the cyclist’s location were to blame, or at least he the driver wasn’t, and
          (b) speed differentials. (were the witnesses in cars? I’ve been assuming they were standing on the sidewalk or otherwise unencumbered by being inside a car) If this is so, the witnesses would, like the cyclist, not have been moving (fast) and so could have perceived him better than someone speeding down a highway under poor visibility conditions.

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        • wsbob February 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm

          If the police report was available to be read by the public, it may offer some perspective on the situation.

          I can’t remember without going over to the location to check, but there may be a bus stop near the intersection of Tuallaway Ave and TV Highway (I believe there’s a motel/restaurant in the block east of Tuallaway); some of the witnesses may have been standing there.

          This collision got a lot tougher to understand, once clarification from maus’s interview with DS Shumway revealed the cyclist was said to be stopped in a main travel lane rather than at the side of the road. People are right that vehicle road users are responsible for not rear ending someone in front of them.

          I’ll go out on a limb and say that in this particular situation, the expectation of avoiding the type of vehicle hit…a bike, may be a bit different from that of hitting a motor vehicle, because a bikes lighting equipment isn’t required by law to meet the same standard as those for motor vehicles, maybe in no other way except that motor vehicles have to have a brake light, and bikes don’t have to have one.

          The question of whether a motor vehicle operator is at fault when colliding with a cyclist who is stopped on the main lane of the road, but is legally equipped with a bike tail light…does seem like a very good question to get a professional answer to.

          It’s the written law that’s saying bikes are granted full access, rights and responsibilities to almost all public roads without a brake light. So does the written law extend to bikes not required to have brake lights, the same protection from other road users that motor vehicles are granted, in the event they’re struck from behind by a motor vehicle operator claiming they could not see the bike?

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        • rigormrtis February 17, 2011 at 9:05 am

          Amazing. People seem to accept witness viewpoints when it supports a bias, and discount them when it is contrary to something they want to believe.

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  • Hot Rod February 15, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Bottom line for cyclists: If you do not want this to happen to you, then put A LOT of reflective tape on your bike, and use at least 2 flashing lights on the rear making sure they are pointing correctly, have good batteries, and they are not blocked by panniers, clothing, etc. Use one of those reflective triangles that is attached to a belt – put it around your waist, on the outside of your clothing and let it hang on your butt. They are not expensive.

    If you don’t want this to happen to other people you care about, then help them to do the same to their bicycle.

    How many lights/reflectors do I want on my bike? Enough so that if I am hit, it is obvious that the driver did it intentionally.

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  • Brad February 15, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Why don’t we let the investigation play out before coming to judgement? The published reports thus far are nowhere near conclusive enough to make one. A few questions that come to mind for me:

    Witnesses – were they stationary or moving? Indoors or out? That makes a big difference in what sort of visbility they had.

    Toxicology reports (if done) on both driver AND victim.

    Weather – quoting the Basic Rule is all fine and dandy but real world weather conditions can change in a heartbeat. I agree that all drivers should be more cautious but, you can see 200 yards or more up the road one moment and then be virtually blinded in a squall the next. A moving cyclist can be easily pushed into traffic by a strong gust of wind. Who are you going to blame for that?

    No one has explained why the victim was in the traffic lane and not the bike lane. On the bike? Off the bike? Lots of unanswered questions here.

    Take a deep breath and wait for answers. I, like others that ride, am deeply concerned about the overall safety situation on our roads but tired of how the readers of BikePortland always seem to adopt a knee jerk “Car is 100% to blame!” mentality. I am especially troubled when such reaction is prompted by a dispassionate standard police press release and taken as “proof” of a grand conspiracy against bicycles and their riders.

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    • John Lascurettes February 15, 2011 at 3:07 pm

      Brad, I don’t think anyone here has said the car is 100% to blame yet. What most of us are taking issue with is that the officer is effectively saying the motorist has no blame when that clearly is not true at all.

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  • beth h February 15, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    “If there is no traffic citation for this driver that will hold up in court, our traffic code or its enforcement is fundamentally broken.”

    There will likely be no citation. The law was written for motor vehicles, the roads were designed for them, and the system serves them. Dress up like a Christmass tree, use the brightest lights you can afford, and ride defensively, but as long as bicyclists and car drivers must share the same roads — instead of each getting its own separated travelways — then we will see more cyclist fatalities for which motorists will not be cited.

    The present system is not “broken”, it’s just heavily skewed towards motor vehicles. In the face of so much pro-car bias in our society, I’m not sure what can be done to actually solve this problem effectively enough to actually reduce cyclist fatalities, and to hold car drivers responsible when a bike-car collision actually turns out to be the motorist’s fault.

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    • Tacoma February 15, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      “The present system is not “broken”, it’s just heavily skewed towards motor vehicles.”

      Would the term “systemic bias” apply here?

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      • JM February 15, 2011 at 3:47 pm

        No it would not. The system is bias towards cyclists actually.

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        • tacoma February 15, 2011 at 4:59 pm

          How so?

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      • matt picio February 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm

        Yes it would – the system is biased against anything with fewer than 4 wheels and anything non-motorized. The hierarchy appears to be: Cars, commercial trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, skateboarders. The gradiations are not equal – there’s a huge jump between motorcycle and bicycle, for example.

        The laws we have for cyclist protection are weakened by addendums, un- or under-enforced, frequently unprosecuted, and when prosecuted, frequently thrown out, or have a reduced sentence applied. And in Oregon the maximum penalty is still pretty light.

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    • Gregg B February 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm

      Like the ability for Toyota to extinguish public concern regarding sticking gas pedals, by doing nothing more than using the car’s computer as a “black box”…a bike equipped with a few cameras, would probably enlighten more than a few lawmakers.

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  • Joe February 15, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    Hot Rod well put, I have been thinking about this alot lately.

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  • Hot Rod February 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    One thing I want to know is this: Did the police take the car drivers phone/blackberry/ipod or whatever communication device was in his car, and review the “calls received”, “calls sent”, etc? My phone has the option to view that data – I assume all of them do. I’d suspect that you can find out when the last text message was sent. If the police did not do look at that data then I think they are not doing their jobs. Perhaps the information can be provided by the car drivers cell phone company.

    As I drive to work in my car I am flabberghasted at the number of people staring at the texting device in their laps. It’s a huge percentage of drivers. Just one more reason to be lit like a neon sign if you are biking – sad, but true.

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    • Joe Rowe February 15, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      We should have a national law that allows a) the police to collect the devices of all occupants involved in an injury accident. b) the police to demand an activity report about calls and messages from the devices in the car(s) c) service providers to design a standard and easy to read report for law enforcement

      The brother of my brother’s wife was just murdered in the Seattle area. They nailed the murderer of Seth thanks to cell phone records.

      http://www.king5.com/news/local/Possible-suspect-in-murder-of-Kent-city-employee-98865679.html

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  • Bob_M February 15, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Burr
    “How do they know the cyclist was stopped in the road and not just pedaling in the travel lane because of hazardous conditions in the bike lane?”

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    • davemess February 15, 2011 at 3:24 pm

      Or we have a similar situation to Barbur, where someone was crossing the street while walking their bicycle? That seems like a completely possible scenario, given what we’ve been told here.

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  • Hot Rod February 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Burr, I don’t think they can know, unless there were other witnesses.

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  • Joe February 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Hot Rod is on target again.. nice posts, key points

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    • Joe Rowe February 15, 2011 at 5:18 pm

      I agree. I see at least 8 people who point out the conflicts in the “numerous witness accounts”. How many of these witnesses were in the car that ran the guy down?

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      • rigormrtis February 17, 2011 at 9:08 am

        It sure is easy to question people who were there when one was not.

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  • JF February 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I have just re-read the police report. Evening hours, bad weather, dark clothing, single rear bike light, stopped in a traffic lane, no helmet, car in his lane, tried to avoid him, driver was not drunk, and driver fully cooperated.

    The interview above validates most, if not all, of this.

    I hate to say it, but tragedies do happen. All we can do is look at the situation and learn from it. Is the blame on one person, or are there things both parties could have done better? Of course. So lets do that.

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    • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      I have to disagree, JF. Bret is dead and his bike was equipped with a working taillight. I am not aware that he did anything illegal. We’ve already run through a whole bunch of possible extenuating circumstances that (a) might have caused him to be where he was, or (b) that suggest if instead of a bike something else was in his place the police report would have read very differently. Culpability does not appear to be as evenly distributed as you suggest.

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      • JF February 15, 2011 at 3:52 pm

        9Watts, I am sorry, i did not mean my post to blame anyone specifically. It is a tradgedy and we need to learn by it. Are there things that we can learn by what infomration about the event has been presented to us? Yes. Both as a cyclist and a driver. That was my intention.

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  • Charley February 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    You’ve hit the nail on the head so hard here, I think it went out the other side of the board. If it’s too dark to see a cyclist with a light, how could you miss a mother walking her baby across the road in a stroller?

    “What if a pedestrian had been crossing here? It’s a crosswalk (unmarked) because it is an intersection and so a pedestrian would have been perfectly legal to cross the road, as long as the driver was far away enough to stop (and there’s no suggestion that the driver failed to stop because the cyclist appeared there suddenly, only because he didn’t see him in time). The driver is clearly responsible for not hitting the pedestrian, who almost certainly would not have been lit with a bike light-strength light, if he/she was lit at all. Likewise, the driver is responsible for not hitting the cyclist, even if the cyclist is stopped in a regular travel lane for unknown reasons.”

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  • Pliant February 15, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    match for a modern auto…They never will.

    Intergrating bikes into metro car lanes was very bad judgement on the part of administrators….3000lbs of car and a bike bad judgement…Like it or not its there BE AWARE…Loss of human life is tragic…those are words. Losing two brothers in the past 3 yrs i feel and know the sense of loss confusion and remorse. To the loved one’s and freinds there are no answers just be glad you had the chance to know him.. laugh with him.. cry with him…he is still here its a bit bittersweet.

    For myself i am always aware of my enviroment or the best that i can be. I find it tragic that a human life was lost in a bicycle accident. I remeber yrs ago leaving my motorcycle due to close calls..it was a very sad day but i believe it saved my life to this day. Todays modern auto’s are equipped with crush zone technology..energy distrubtion mgmt systems….front air bags…side airbags..rear air bags…abs..electronic collison avoidance…all mandated by govt regs for safety….again a big word

    SAFETY

    Plz note cyclists i Am not anti cyclist….until the age of 25 bikes were always part of my life…and my childrens.. there is something about the individuality and the adventure they supply… its captivating.

    With that all said be aware of the enviroment….Look at how cars are equipped for safety…things happen and no amount of diligence will change that. Driving around with a skull cap and flashing reds lights are no

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  • JM February 15, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Best to leave judgement to those that were there, being witnesses and police. It is easy to look at this in hindsight. Basically it is a two-way street… drivers and cyclists need to be defensive. Cyclists rarely are and act as though everyone will just watch out for them and the world is perfect while they tool around w/o helmets, dark clothing, and weak or nonexistant lights.

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    • Psyfalcon February 15, 2011 at 6:45 pm

      I think you have it backward. Most cyclists know how vulnerable they are. Even then, you must rely on the hope that the person coming up behind you isn’t drunk or distracted [last week a driver hit a cyclist, then a house while distracted].

      No amount of lighting and yellow jackets can stop a car driven irresponsibly. People driving the cars must be the ones responsible for what they hit.

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  • Tourbiker February 15, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    If I could hammer just a single thing into our lawmakers minds..It’s that all bicycle tail lights should mandatory, what I call “Daylight bright”.
    1w red-orange, with a “heartbeat flash. to signal it’s a human.

    much like the planet bike blinky.
    and as powerful as the DiNnotte.

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  • craig February 15, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    I seriously hope a forensic investigation proves the truth or falsehood of the the police statement that the bike was [1] stopped (which makes no damn difference) and [2] not in the bike lane (which makes no damn difference).

    There are many reasons the rider could have legally been where police say he was. No matter the conditions, isn’t the driver of the car legally obligated to operate the car in a manner allowing him to see and safely avoid any other car, bike, pedestrian, or other dangerous obstacle in the roadway?

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  • J February 15, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    If the cyclist was indeed stopped in that lane, as reported, then he didn’t just jump out in front of the car, right?

    So, at least theoretically, an attentive motorist would have had more time, not less, to notice a person up front in that lane, right?

    Lights on bikes are important for safety when it’s dark, of course! But so are headlights on cars, right?

    Everyone on the road is supposed to adjust to low-visibility conditions, and not go so fast that they don’t see something “until it’s too late,” right?

    The point of these questions is not to assign blame for this death. The point is that aspects of the police report and interview reflect certain biases that give more blame to the cyclist, and more excuses for the motorist, than would appear to be justified by the preliminary facts as reported.

    This tragedy aside, it’s legitimate for motorists to be frustrated with poorly lit or reckless cyclists. It’s also legitimate for cyclists and pedestrians (and motorists!) to complain about motorists who overdrive their headlights in low-visibility conditions, or who check their email when they drive (which ironically seems to be getting more common since it become illegal in Oregon).

    If you’re truly a “concerned motorist” — or a “concerned cyclist” for that matter — then be concerned about what you can do to be as courteous and safe as possible to those around you. And, “concerned motorist,” that includes not saying ridiculous things like “Perhaps motorists should sue the families of victims.”

    What about the young man in a Multnomah Blvd bike lane who got hit by the woman “attending to her dog” in her back seat, just in the last week. Would you say that to his family?

    And to JM, who said cyclists rarely ride defensively, I say that if this assertion were true, there would be a lot more deaths. Just yesterday on my bike, I had to brake hard when a driver pulled out in front of me from a stop sign. I had the right of way, and two headlights shining brightly. Had the driver looked both ways, she would have seen me no problem.

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  • Stephen February 15, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    “As you can see from the aerial view above, the roadway configuration at this location isn’t typical. There are two westbound lanes on TV Hwy, then a bike lane, then a right turn lane.”

    1) Jonathan, what is atypical about this intersection? It is repeated like that all alone this road, among other places.

    2) That is not a right turn lane. To state it as such again after having it pointed out to you in the previous article’s comments is careless.

    3) Nobody should be standing in the middle of a highway thinking they have the right-of-way. The crossing the street scenario that somebody posted is stupid. If someone is trying to cross the street safely, they’ll be looking at the traffic and won’t step into the lane until the vehicle is stopped and they know that they have been noticed.

    4) Nobody should ever be cycling in the curb lane there. There is a bike lane AND a parking strip to ride in.

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    • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm

      thanks for you insights.
      You obviously don’t understand how our crosswalks work. Waiting for a vehicle to stop before stepping into the road is not how it is done/intended to work.

      As for nobody belonging there that is absurd. It is a nice fiction but the real world just doesn’t work out so elegantly. Riff raff (rocks, cyclists, Shumway’s wife in her stalled car, others who are stopped for pedestrians who have a right to cross etc.) are all perfectly justified in being there. I and many others have outlined hypothetical but perfectly reasonable scenarios by which Bret might have ended up there through no wrongdoing on his part. We may never know but to shout that no one belongs there is unhelpful, wrong, and in light of all that has been mentioned here I think hurtful to Bret and his family.

      How do you know that because someone is encountered where Bret was they feel they have the right of way? That is a huge leap. If your glasses were fogged up or muddied from water splashed on them by a vehicle passing you too closely and you couldn’t see. Would you assume you had the right of way, or would you do the only reasonable thing and stop and clean your glasses?

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      • Stephen February 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm

        I’m fully aware of how OUR crosswalks work. You step onto the road, you don’t step out into the lane of traffic. That would just be asking for it.

        As for being in the lane of the highway: “rocks, cyclists, Shumway’s wife in her stalled car, others who are stopped for pedestrians who have a right to cross” none of those are reasons to leave the bike lane and stop in the lane of traffic.

        “If your glasses were fogged up or muddied from water splashed on them by a vehicle passing you too closely and you couldn’t see. Would you assume you had the right of way, or would you do the only reasonable thing and stop and clean your glasses?”

        As someone who wears glasses, when that does happen to me, I sure as hell don’t stop in the lane of traffic, especially if there is a parking strip, and sidewalk where that could be done safely. Usually I just cruise over and place my right foot on the curb while remaining seated on the bike. If it’s bad enough, I remove my helmet and wipe my whole face off with my shirt as the rain would continue to wash dirt into my eyes otherwise.

        From reading all these comments, I get the feeling that some of you really have no idea how difficult it can be to see a dark object through a windshield if the conditions are right. I just have to think back to November when we had our first significant snowfall here in Minneapolis. The roads were wet (thank you salt trucks), but everything off the roadways was beginning to turn white. I was driving down a road similar to this stretch of TV Highway (no bike lane though) and low and behold there was a black car just sitting in the middle of the right traffic lane. The car was dead and the lights wouldn’t turn on. Knowing full well how difficult it was to see that car (Yes, a full size car. Not a little bicyclist.), I pulled over to offer help. I got to the driver and told her that we needed to get the car out of the road now! Then another driver that had passed before I had, came running from across the highway after he had turned around and said to me, “I’m glad somebody stopped. I went by but had to come back. She was just going to get run over out here.” Think about that, a car in the road, invisible when looking directly at it. The headlights light it up, but it still just looks like the road ahead.

        Moral of the story, light yourself up like a Christmas tree and be seen. I made sure to buy some road flares the next day; pushing that car off the road was very scary.

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  • J_R February 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    So now the standard for bicycle lighting as prescribed by Sgt. Shumway is “the same as that on a car.”

    I call BS.

    Blame the victim.

    I’m also not convinced that the police are able to say for certain exactly where the bicyclist was on the road. Nor am I convinced that the police can be certain that the bicyclist was stopped.

    “it’s just an accident” should be removed from the vocabulary of the police and the media when it comes to what’s happening on the roads.

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  • Editz February 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    was carless
    Thats a huge investment that can be easily swiped – I’ve probably had 10-12 bike lights stole over the past 5 years.

    The light has a quick release so you can take it with you. And like somebody else said, it’s cheaper than an ambulance ride.

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  • Stig10 February 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Need more off-street paths.

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  • Ted Buehler February 15, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    The Prius has terrible forward visibility, as do many other modern cars.

    The “pillars” (metal between the windsheild and door) are really thick, relative to older cars. And they’re at a shallow angle, rather than vertical (again, as older cars have). And the windshield is “short” from bottom to top. And the read-view mirror and its mount block even more space around the “pillar”. And the windshield is close to horizontal, so that water on top of it or fog underneath it blocks vision to a greater extent than on a more vertical windshield.

    This makes for wide “blind spots” in the two front corners.

    My 1984 Toyota has great front vision. Like a wide screen movie theater, pillars are thin, windshield is tall, mirror mounts are small. It has very narrow blind spots compared to a Prius. Whenever I drive a new car it freaks me out how big my blind spots are.

    I suspect cars with big blind spots in front run into bikes, dogs, children, etc. more often than cars with small blind spots..

    Does anyone know what the federal regulations are on this sort of thing? .

    Ted Buehler

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  • CaptainKarma February 15, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I don’t know if anybody is still reading this,I think it’s becoming an entirely separate life force.

    L.e.d. lights do not automatically make you visible, and amping up the watts more & more just annoys everybody. What’s needed is a larger surface (not neccesarily brighter) area and better (more consistent) angular coverage. Cars do have a minimum lighted area vs intensity spec. One super nuclear laser powered tail light improperly aimed is not to be depended on. More surface area (much more) makes better sense than intensity by itself. Seems like lights just don’t stay aimed so much. Back that up with large retro-reflective splashes wherever is possible, & you might stand a chance of being seen.

    All that said, it’s still incumbent on the larger, faster, more dangerous vehicle with the last clear chance to avoid collision, to do so. Bicycles on roads are here to stay, drivers need to adjust to that fact.

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  • PublicComputer February 15, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Bottom Line:
    If the cyclist had been a pedestrian trying to cross the street, even with a small red light, the police statement would have been much different.

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  • Charles Ross February 15, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I’m missing some info here. What’s the speed limit where the accident took place? How fast was the driver going? Skid marks? What sort of damage to the bike, biker, car? This would be important in determining the speed of the vehicle. What if this was a pedestrian instead of a bicyclist? Unless there is a sign prohibiting it, pedestrians have the right of way at any intersection. It doesn’t matter if there is a crosswalk or not. If the driver was going too fast to see a bicyclist, bicycle and its light how could he be able to stop in time for a pedestrian?
    50 MPH was mentioned. Is this the speed limit?
    If visibility was that poor, how fast would have been reasonable under the ‘basic speed limit’ laws?
    The accident was at an intersection. Is there lighting there? Were there any witnesses?
    Ps. the driver that ran over Tracy Sperling should have been cited. The driver of the cement truck claimed that she was in his “blind spot”. I drive commercial vehicles. There is no such thing as a “blind spot”, either in the Oregon Vehicle Code or in reality. There are just vehicles that do not have adequate mirrors.

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  • witness February 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    I witnessed the bike getting hit by the car and called 911. It was a very unfortunate accident that occurred. It’s easy to judge someone or a situation when you’re just going by what the police and media have said, but unless you have actually witnessed what really happened you really don’t know all the facts. The first report on the crash even stated that the driver had seen the guy on the bike and swerved but hit him with the front right of his car. The driver also voluntarily went to the hospital for a blood test to be screened for drugs and alcohol. The report also stated that the biker was not wearing a helmet, which you never know if that would have changed the outcome of the situation. This was a very unfortunate event that happened. But if you want to blame the driver of the car you also need to blame the guy on the bike as well. People riding bikes on public streets have rights and responsibility that they have to follow just like people who get behind the steering wheel of a car. There are comments on here about whether the bike was in the car lane or not and whether it was moving or not. I saw the guy SITTING in the car lane NOT moving about 2 seconds before he got hit in the same lane that the police have stated he was in right before the accident happened. I’m not a police friendly person, but I can tell you from the reports that I have read all the information that has been stated has been correct. Like I said before, it’s easy to judge a situation when you weren’t there to witnessed what really happened. I was there however, and I have read nothing that isn’t facts about what really happened.

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    • michweek February 15, 2011 at 9:10 pm

      But if the victim was on a stalled motorcycle would they have more right to be in the street? No.
      No matter who (or what) is in the street, if you drive into it then you are responsible for where your vehicle went.

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    • JF February 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm

      Thank you WITNESS. The fact that so many on here are “hypothetically” thinking of what happened does not change the fact that something did happen. We must rely the facts. And we need to evaluate what we know happened and learn from it.

      If you were the driver, what would you do differently in this situation? If you were the biker, what would you do differently?

      This is a tradgedy, but we need to evaluate what happened and make sure that it never happens to anyone else regardless if you are the driver or the bicyclist. The only way to do that is to put yourself in both individuals places before the accident.

      All accidents may be avoided if everyone has safety in mind.

      (that being said, if information/facts definatively points blame at someone, then someone was in the the obvious wrong)

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    • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm

      Witness,

      I’m glad you wrote in here. It is very helpful to hear from someone as present as you were in this case. A couple of questions and a comment.
      “I saw the guy SITTING in the car lane NOT moving about 2 seconds before he got hit”
      Help me here. By sitting do you mean fully stopped, immobile, or sitting on the pavement? I don’t think it matters that much as I’ve said before, but since we’ve got you here I’d like to have as much information as possible.
      What do you make of all the scenarios that have been offered here about other immobile objects in the road at this time and place? Rocks, a stalled car, someone stopped to yield the right of way to a pedestrian, or simply a very slow moving vehicle or cyclist? The visibility conditions as described don’t suggest that slowness is to be ridiculed a priori, but rather the opposite.

      You say, referring to the police report, “all the information that has been stated has been correct.” That is helpful, but few of us are in a position to, nor were we, questioning the information or facts; what we were focusing on was the heavy intrusion of judgments about who should or shouldn’t be in the road, or should be acting in certain ways, whose behavior was or wasn’t considered to have been at the mercy of the weather, and what a judge might or might not find reasonable. None of this is information in the usual sense, but judgment, bias, cultural habit, autocentric, etc. What bikeportland and everyone who writes in here have taught me is that this doesn’t have to be this way; this shouldn’t be this way; that we can and must do better. Many of us would like to live in a society that respects people who get around on bikes and on foot more than appears to be the case here. It is just not acceptable to mow people down like this, and for there to be no meaningful consequences; for the authorities to essentially shrug, and by implication if not always explicitly blame the cyclist for being in the way, or for just being a cyclist.

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    • Charles Ross February 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm

      You saw him. How come the guy driving the vehicle didn’t see him?
      T.V. Highway is not a freeway. Under the best of conditions freeway speeds are illegal on that highway. Were conditions so poor that he could not see what was in front of him? Then he should have been going extremely slow. As a driver in a vehicle weighing a couple of thousand pounds you are responsible for knowing what is in front of you. I really don’t know why the issue could possibly be more complex than this. Wind, rain, nighttime, almost 0 visibility, apparently. How fast was he going to not see or be able to respond to what is in front of his vehicle?

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      • wsbob February 16, 2011 at 2:52 am

        Check out the Google street view snap in K’tesh’s February 16, 2011 at 12:04 am comment. You’ll see the 45 mph sign a couple blocks east of the intersection with Tualaway Ave. That confirms this section of the road to legally be a very fast road for as close as it is to Central Beaverton.

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  • Rol February 15, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    Getting off topic, but…

    concernedmotorost
    “What if a pedestrian had been crossing here? It’s a crosswalk (unmarked) because it is an intersection and so a pedestrian would have been perfectly legal to cross the road…” Uh, REALLY??? This is unworthy of printing, let alone response.

    Head on over to ORS chapter 801… http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/801.html
    …and scroll on down to 801.220 where “crosswalk” is defined. It says, legally there’s a crosswalk there even if there are no markings. Apparently the legislature disagrees with your assessment of what’s print-worthy.

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  • Suburbn February 15, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    BPD would be wise to keep their mouth-person shut, and wiser to issue a citation based on the totality of the circumstances.
    A large percent of their crowd control ordinances are past their use-by date, and need to be disposed of properly.

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  • malka February 15, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    jacob
    No thank you! I’d like to be able to hop on my bike and ride the 3 blocks w/out having to wear special clothing.
    I enjoy having the choice of whether I wear dayglo reflective clothing or not.

    You have the choice. Are you willing to accept the consequences of that choice?

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  • Hot Rod February 15, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    Speed limit along there is 40 or 45 I think. I was wondering if the cyclist was actually in the car lane – according to the witness above, he was.

    Someone wrote: “No matter who (or what) is in the street, if you drive into it then you are responsible for where your vehicle went.”

    Sure, you are responsible, but it is not a crime to have an accident or to hit someone IF their negligence contributed significantly to the accident. In this case the cyclist was, according to the witness above, stopped in the car lane at night. Clearly it was the cyclists fault, to a significant degree. Perhaps the car driver was also at fault, but you can’t charge him with a crime because a cyclist did something DUMB.

    Remember the first 3 rules of cycling:
    1) Don’t do anything DUMB.
    2) Don’t do anything DUMB.
    3) Don’t do anything DUMB.

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  • Hot Rod February 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    If it had been a pedestrian that was killed and the pedestrian had walked out in front of a lot of cars in dark clothing and been hit, it would be the peds fault to a significant degree. The car driver would not be cited. We are all responsible for our own safety. A crosswalk will not stop a car. If you want to get on ANY roadway you had better be paying A LOT of attention and STAY OUT OF THE WAY of moving cars, whether you have the right of way or not. Your first right is to make sure car drivers see you before getting in front of them. If you don’t understand that then don’t complain if they hit you. Start by making yourself VERY visible.

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    • Stephen February 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      My thoughts exactly. I wish everybody could understand this common sense.

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      • 9watts February 15, 2011 at 10:08 pm

        I don’t see why ‘the pedestrian in dark clothing’ is the foil here. Brett had a functioning taillight, for crying out loud.

        Yes, responsibility for avoiding bad outcomes is shared. But where is the notion that (a) Bret is at fault, or (b) both are at fault come from in this case? What particulars are these based on?
        Why does it matter whether he was stopped or in which lane he was? Under no circumstances can he as a cyclist be expected to achieve anywhere near the speed of the Prius driver who ran over him, so we are going to have to accept a large speed differential in even the most ideal circumstances, which these clearly weren’t. Since a number of indviduals have been killed by cars in and around Portland in recent years while they were in the bike lane, with not much in the way of legal consequences that I recall, the focus on Bret’s exact location and speed to me seem to some extent a diversion from the fact that in this case–and taking into account the driver’s and the witnesses statements about visibility–the driver was almost certainly going too fast.

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        • Stephen February 15, 2011 at 10:58 pm

          “Why does it matter whether he was stopped or in which lane he was?”

          Because he had his own lane to be in. Sitting in the traffic lane is not an option. Had he been run over in the bike lane, there could be cause for a citation. That’s not what happened here.

          “Under no circumstances can he as a cyclist be expected to achieve anywhere near the speed of the Prius driver who ran over him, so we are going to have to accept a large speed differential in even the most ideal circumstances”

          Nobody is asking him to, hence the bike lane, parking strip, and sidewalk. Choose one.

          “Since…killed…bike lane…too fast.”

          See my above reply to you regarding how a car can be invisible given the right conditions.

          I’m still trying to figure out how you could think that being stopped in the middle of a traffic lane on TV Highway is a reasonable thing that anybody should expect, especially when other accommodations have been made for bicycle traffic.

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          • Paul in the 'couve February 16, 2011 at 10:49 am

            Why not?

            That was rhetorical: Because there are likely to be big heavy cars operated by semi-distracted / half-oblivious drivers barreling down the road at 45mph. Which is why the operators of such vehicles are required to be properly educated in the rules of the road, have passed a drivers test, carry a valid drivers license and have liability insurance. And also why the Basic Rule cited several times above and summed up as “drive safely and prudently for conditions.” is a basic law. Roads are dangerous because of cars, drivers and speed.

            That doesn’t give cars and drivers the RIGHT to expect the road to ALWAYS be free of hazards and vulnerable users. That is the point we are debating in this thread.

            Given a simple alternative, any sane person would obviously choose to not be vulnerable in the traffic lane on TV highway at any time. However, there are many reasons why people do have to place themselves in the travel lane temporarily: Crossing at a legal crosswalk (which this was), bicyclist preparing for a turn.

            Vulnerable road users still have rights to be in the road and the drivers/cars do not have an absolute right to the travel lane. In fact, drivers have an obligation to drive safely for conditions, including visibility.

            In the end it doesn’t actually matter whether Bret had a really good reason to be in the travel lane or not. The responsibility of the operator is to drive in a manner that allows them to see hazards and vulnerable users and avoid them. Period.

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          • Stephen February 16, 2011 at 11:50 am

            “However, there are many reasons why people do have to place themselves in the travel lane temporarily: Crossing at a legal crosswalk (which this was), bicyclist preparing for a turn.”

            Sure, one could be in the travel lane for those reasons, problem is you’re stupid to think that because you are there, you are seen.

            “The responsibility of the operator is to drive in a manner that allows them to see hazards and vulnerable users and avoid them.”

            And it is the responsibility of the cyclist to not put themselves, unseen, in the path of traffic.

            It reminds me of something from years ago. I was riding eastbound on Allen near Hall (just past the 7-11) and there was a small dog walking on the sidewalk. It suddenly darted out into traffic and instantly got run over by a car. The car couldn’t avoid the dog, just like the driver in this situation couldn’t avoid the cyclist. He tried, but it wasn’t possible. The reason both of these situations occurred was because they put themselves in traffic without making sure they were seen.

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    • El Biciclero February 17, 2011 at 9:55 am

      Here’s the problem I have with the “visibility” argument, especially when used to excuse one party from responsibility in a crash: Drivers of cars hit other cars, drive off the road, crash into buildings, etc. all the time. Why don’t we cry “they weren’t visible enough!” in those cases? Before anyone dismisses me as “ridiculous”, here is my more focused point: How visible is visible enough? If a driver can run into another car, which presumably meets or exceeds all standards for visibility, then when a driver runs into a cyclist or pedestrian, how can we know whether the victim was invisible or the driver just wasn’t paying enough attention? We make assumptions based mostly on the word of the driver, who invariably uses the magic phrase, “I just didn’t see him, officer!” To which law enforcement replies, “Oh! All right then.”

      Don’t get me wrong–when I ride I attempt to be as visible as possible, especially at night. I don’t have tons of cash to blow on lights, nor do I want to have to remove six or seven accessories from my bike every time I park it (I already have 3 or 4 I have to detach and take with me, depending), but I have reflective gear and I ride in a roadway position that makes me visible to drivers without being an undue impediment to their all-important progress. When folks like Mick Kenland start suggesting laws that would require me to wear specific clothing just to go to the store, things are getting out of hand. Shouldn’t we require the same for any pedestrian that might cross a street while they are out? How much surface area for this prescribed clothing would need to be day-glo? How much surface area would need to be retro-reflective? What if I am too skinny to meet the surface area requirements? Should it be orange, yellow, or green? Would that choice be left to the citizen? What about when it faded due to sun exposure? I mean, come on! There’s being visible, and there’s keeping your eyes open.

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  • K'Tesh February 16, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Hot Rod
    Speed limit along there is 40 or 45 I think.

    It’s 45 MPH (ideal conditions)

    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=45.488502,-122.81586&spn=0,0.001318&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=45.488502,-122.81586&panoid=eezE8qjgVt_n1SS8-LRtoA&cbp=12,301.31,,0,3.44

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    • wsbob February 16, 2011 at 11:24 am

      The 45mph speed limit sign shown in that Google shot looks to be located between Hocken Ave (to the rear of camera view) and Tualaway Ave, two tenths of a mile further down the road. Given that the night of the collision was stormy with rain, the driver may not have been traveling 45mph at the point of the collision.

      Although, to get a sense of what speed the driver may have been traveling, it’s worth considering the PD’s estimated point of impact at the intersection of Tualaway and TV…and q`Tzal’s observation of where the bike came to rest (which he notes in a February 13, 2011 at 9:40 pm comment to the other bikeportland thread on this collisin…’man-killed-while-bicycling-on-tv-hwy-in-beaverton’.), which appears to have approximately at the midway point of the Audi dealers property frontage.

      What’s the linear distance between those two points? Just looking at the map, it looks like it could be a hundred feet or so.

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      • wsbob February 16, 2011 at 11:26 am

        I should have instead written that Tualaway and Hocken are approximately two tenths of a mile apart.

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  • K'Tesh February 16, 2011 at 12:07 am

    I wonder if the SUV driver who just killed the Dalai Lama’s nephew was driving for appropriate conditions.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/16/us/16brfs-DALAILAMASNE_BRF.html

    And… Yes, he wasn’t cited either

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  • Hal Ballard February 16, 2011 at 12:09 am

    John Lascurettes
    My philosophy is that you can never be too visible.

    What he said :-0

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  • Alan 1.0 February 16, 2011 at 12:34 am

    How common is it that no citation is issued for a fatal vehicle collision? For a serious injury collision? Anyone know where to find such info? (OR or WA would be nice, but any US info would be welcome.) I’m not so much wondering about this particular tragedy, but I am curious about how that affects reports, analysis, data compilation, etc., for studying traffic safety issues at large.

    I see mention of “crime” regarding this case. Traffic tickets (citations) are not criminal charges, just infractions. They can come into play in civil action, but civil action is independent of citations and can proceed even when no ticket is issued.

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  • K'Tesh February 16, 2011 at 12:37 am

    As I’ve stated before, I used to live across the Hwy from the crash site. I’ve heard that Bret was stopped in the traffic lane. I wonder if he was attempting to cross the Hwy there to shortcut over to the apartments, or to Farmington road?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ufobike/5449906575/

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  • John Lascurettes February 16, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Stephen
    From reading all these comments, I get the feeling that some of you really have no idea how difficult it can be to see a dark object through a windshield if the conditions are right.

    I don’t think you get that most of us do understand that. What I don’t think many others get here is that, as riders, we’re well aware of this fact and we tend to slow down as drivers when the conditions warrant it (such as this night in question with all the inclement weather).

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  • Tourbiker February 16, 2011 at 4:02 am

    I believe It’s very difficult to see out of any windshield with the conditions described, It’s a fast busy street, one that warrant’s extra caution regardless of the conditions.
    All this second guessing for who’s at fault wont bring Brett back. Or even get us closer to the reality of what happened.
    Let’s face it…I could have been one of us out there.

    It’s why we call to arms in such cases.
    R.I.P Brett.

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  • lisa February 16, 2011 at 7:31 am

    I just walked in the door from an hour run in the dark and rain. I saw a handful of bikers with their red rear light clipped on to their backpack. After they had passed me, I turned to see just how visible that red light was up on their pack.

    Guess what? 4 out of 5 pack-clipped red rear lights were completely invisible to an approaching from the rear car.

    Fail.

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    • Machu Picchu February 16, 2011 at 7:10 pm

      Pardon me for livin’, but if it was completely invisible, at what point was it visible to you that they even had one? Or did they give you an audible: “Rider with a clip-on on your left!”? Sorry. Could not help myself.

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  • 99th Monkey February 16, 2011 at 7:43 am

    Tourbiker;
    Indeed, I work about 6 blocks away on Millikan Way, left work that day about 20 minutes after the tragedy and wondered what the sounds of emergency vehicle sirens was about. I plan on being at the memorial service this Friday that Hal Ballard is planning. “Call to arms” may happen at the site, being as so many of us that are DEMANDING enforcement of the 2007 Oregon Legislature’s “Vulnerable Roadway User” Law, which resulted in the creation of ORS 801.608 and modifications to ORS 811.135. ORS 801.608 that defines a “vulnerable user” and ORS 811.135 describing additional penalties for careless driving when vulnerable users are affected. Call to arms indeed. It could have been me on Millikan Way that night, in the dark and rain; watching drivers in my left-handlebar mirror closing on me way too fast, given the conditions, (in my opinion), being splashed and pushed to the left a few inches by each by the side-gusts, that was hit from behind on an only-slightly-safer E-W road than TV highway. I wonder if the extremely blindingly-bright halogen lights at the automobile dealerships that line the N side of TVH, left on for advertising reasons, (why are these not mentioned as a factor ?) were even taken into consideration by the crash site investigation team. Also, are any members of the team trained by the Beaverton Bicycle Police team, (who pretty much “wrote the book” on professional bicycle police procedures, and are recognized as such nationwide; even to the extent that they are called upon by other police departments to provide training procedures for new recruits), to be able to understand the injured/dead bicyclist’s perspective?

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  • valkraider February 16, 2011 at 8:21 am

    So many people who are perfect. I never knew!

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    • 9watts February 16, 2011 at 8:33 am

      So many people who are now dead. So many others who are routinely not held accountable. I never knew!

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      • valkraider February 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm

        Define accountability. Because I know that if *I* took someone’s life – no matter how much or little I may have been at fault – I would probably feel terrible and have nightmares the rest of my life and cry myself to sleep every night. Most people don’t _want_ to kill someone. And a ticket or a fine or a suspended license – they all go away, but the knowlege that you took someone’s life, took someone’s family member – will haunt you.

        People are human. Every single person in this discussion has at one time done something that could have easily killed someone and one tiny variable been different. And every single person in this discussion will do it again.

        It is the self-righteous attitude in this and other bicycle discussions which make the VAST MAJORITY of the population think that we are selfish and whiny.

        Sometimes, despite people’s best intentions, shoot happens. This was a TERRIBLE tragedy, and a life that might not have been lost in any one of a hundred things were different.

        But they weren’t different. And the life was lost.

        We should focus on how to make roads safer – not on vengence.

        There are many cases that demand swift and stern justice. The lady playing with her dog who ran over a bicyclist deserves punishment. The man a few years back who drove over two cyclists on SE Clinton in a fit of road rage – he deserves punishment. The drunk who killed a woman on SW Barbur because he was drunk and out of control deserves punishment. The driver who ran over a bicycle out at the Safeway at NE 70th and Sandy while recklessly fleeing Safeway – deserves punishment.

        In this case, I truly feel that based on the evidence the driver didn’t really do anything *wrong*. As a bicyclist AND a pedestrian, I can’t for the life of me imagine why the bicyclist would STOP in the lane of traffic when he had a perfectly good bike lane and shoulder, with a perfectly good sidewalk. Even in good visibility that seems stupid, in poor visibility it seems – well, deadly. Also, some have stated he had a legal right to be there – well maybe not. ORS requires that you ride in a bike lane if one is available and can be ridden in safely. That muddies up the “legal right to be in the lane of travel” argument. Also, according to ORS you are not allowed to impede traffic, which also could apply here. There is lots of grey area in the law on BOTH sides here that I agree with the BPD that they couldn’t really write a citation in either way…

        People are acting like the driver was in death-race-2000 just mowing down children and nuns.

        But I tell you, anyone here in terrible visibility conditions could hit someone – despite their best intentions and efforts to avoid it. It can happen. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes you a human. And I wouldn’t want to have to live with killing someone…

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        • Stephen February 16, 2011 at 12:45 pm

          This makes far too much sense to be posted in the comments on this website. Do you have a newsletter to which I can subscribe?

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        • Gregg B February 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm

          “…That muddies up the “legal right to be in the lane of travel” argument. Also, according to ORS you are not allowed to impede traffic, which also could apply here…”

          Wrong! You’re spreading a very common myth. With exception only to riding alongside another cyclist, there is absolutely zero mention of anything related to “impede traffic” & cyclists, in ORS.

          Please consider reading this:
          http://www.stc-law.com/slowmoving.html

          To paraphrase the Article:
          “…
          Bicycles Are Not Subject to Oregon’s Slow Moving Vehicle Law

          Motorist frustration must not be allowed to diminish bicyclists’ legitimate right to occupy the traveled portion of the roadway, and even to occupy a full lane when necessary to avoid surface hazards or other potential dangers.

          The existing system allows bicyclists and motorists to share the same roadway – bike riders need not pull over, and motorists don’t have to wait for passing zones to pass
          …”

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    • Opus the Poet February 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      valkraider
      So many people who are perfect. I never knew!

      No, but a lot of the people commenting here know the laws, many can cite the actual law from memory (much like I can do with TX VC 551.103 bicycle travel position in the road). And no matter how you parse it there is a legal requirement to avoid hitting a vehicle in the road ahead of you, regardless of speed differential or visibility of the vehicle. That law is almost identically worded in all 50 states and is commonly referred to as the “Basic Speed Law”.

      The driver of the Prius failed to control his speed such that he was able to avoid hitting a cyclist stopped in the road. This is a violation of the Basic Speed Law. There is no way to parse words around it, the cyclist was in the road, the Prius driver hit the cyclist, the driver was going too fast for the prevailing conditions because he didn’t stop or maneuver in time to avoid the cyclist. Add in the fact that the bicycle was legally lighted which would increase the ability of the driver to see and avoid, and it becomes even more blatant.

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  • k. February 16, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Instead of getting into a pissing match with each other over who is to blame here, why not do something really productive and use this as an opportunity to lobby for better and safer bike facilities and to ensure as many riders as possible are riding safely and visibly? That’s got to be a much better way of honoring the victim here. Sometimes I just don’t get our community.

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  • Ron February 16, 2011 at 9:17 am

    Howdy–

    This wouldn’t give me much confidence:

    “If the police at the scene didn’t find him at fault, I think they made a good call. ”

    I once witnessed a left hook where a driver turned left from the left travel lane instead of the left turn lane. It was obviously a last-minute decision on his part; he must have realized he was about to miss his turn. He didn’t signal, and he hit the gas hard to try and beat an oncoming cyclist. He didn’t make it.

    When I confronted him with another witness (after we had assessed the victim, secured the scene and waited for EMTs), he said he didn’t think the cyclist was moving so fast. By the time police questioned him, he simply didn’t see her.

    No amount of badgering from witnesses could sway the officer. We told him we had witnessed a clear-cut act of reckless driving, including the requirement of wanton or willful disregard for life. The cop issued a ticket for an improper left turn and sent him on his way. The cyclist spent two days in the hospital being monitored for possible internal injuries. She was very lucky.

    The officer exhibited every bit of bias I’ve come to expect in car culture. He actually seemed more sympathetic to the driver, who was obviously distraught over the collision (and likely the subsequent menacing stance of some witnesses. Sorry about that.) The officer told me he didn’t hand out reckless driving citations lightly, because it would have a really significant effect on a person’s life.

    This mindset needs to change. If you run into something with your car (or your bike, or your forehead), you are responsible for that, intentional or not. In this case, I’m not sure how anyone could reach any conclusion except that the driver was going too fast for the conditions, and the few points against his license that infraction represents hardly stack up against a person’s life.

    Thanks,
    Ron Georg,
    Corvallis

    P.S.–This is not to absolve riders of the responsibility to use lights. Get some good, bright lights, and stop whining about the cost. If riding a bike allows you to leave your car at home, or forgo driving altogether, you could be saving thousands of dollars a year. Put a little away, and get a dyno hub. Get lights that bolt on to minimize theft.

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  • Dude February 16, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Do you really need an answer to your question, k? It’s because the blame is obvious and the victim was riding safely and visibly and the motorist’s negligence was the sole cause of the crash. Or did you miss all those important details?

    We want justice. We want people held accountable so we can ride on the roads that currently exist, not more PR campaigns about bike lights.

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    • Stephen February 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

      “It’s because the blame is obvious and the victim was riding safely…”

      Sitting in the middle of the highway at night in the rain is not safe.

      “…and visibly…”

      Obviously, he wasn’t.

      “…and the motorist’s negligence was the sole cause of the crash.”

      See point one.

      “Or did you miss all those important details?”

      You are just pulling fecal matter out of your hindquarters.

      Also, k, there is no need to lobby for safer bike facilities in this area, they already exist. The cyclist wasn’t using them.

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    • k. February 17, 2011 at 9:26 am

      Dude, please see latest news on this. “Obvious” my foot. Jumping to conclusions like you’ve done does no one any good. Take a deep breath and realize that a lot of things are probably more complicated than appear to be on the surface.

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  • Jon Webb February 16, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I know that it’s blaming the victim, but sometimes the victim really is at fault. Bret Lewis was apparently standing in a traffic lane as a car approached. While he had a bike with him, at that point he was more a pedestrian than a cyclist. He had no business standing there. It is terribly unfortunate that he died as a result of his mistake, but, well, that’s why we have to be careful crossing the street, looking for cars and so on. There’s no justification for blaming the driver — he was not at fault for not realizing until it was too late that he was bearing down on a pedestrian who, for some reason we will never know, was standing in the driving lane.

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    • Psyfalcon February 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm

      Being that its a crosswalk, a pedestrian has every right to be there. End.

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      • k. February 17, 2011 at 9:27 am

        Being that he was on a bike, he’s not a pedestrian.

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        • craig February 17, 2011 at 10:41 am

          “Pedestrian” is not the operative term. This is an unmarked crosswalk, and a person riding a bike, walking it or staying still on it–in a crosswalk–is a crosswalk user.

          ORS 814.410 https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.410

          (2) Except as otherwise specifically provided by law, a bicyclist on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk.

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  • Editz February 16, 2011 at 9:49 am

    “I’d like to be able to hop on my bike and ride the 3 blocks w/out having to wear special clothing.”

    I’d like to hop in my car and drive 3 blocks without wearing a seatbelt.

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    • Dave February 16, 2011 at 9:54 am

      And the reason you’re not allowed to do so, is because you *are* allowed to drive your car fast enough that you’d sustain a serious injury if you crashed. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – many of the “safety” regulations we have, are just there to mitigate the fact that we allow and encourage people to operate beyond their capability to control themselves or their vehicle. If you only ever drove 15mph, you wouldn’t need a seatbelt, because if you crashed, you wouldn’t seriously injure yourself (and you’d be much less likely to seriously injure others). But you *can’t* only ever drive 15 mph, because you can’t “impede traffic”. So they force you to wear a seat belt, because they force you to drive fast.

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      • Alan 1.0 February 16, 2011 at 10:42 am

        But even at 15mph, a driver could be thrown away from the driver’s seat with a sharp swerve or by bumping fenders with another car or any number of other ways. A seatbelt keeps the driver in a position where they can better control their car.

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    • El Biciclero February 17, 2011 at 12:52 pm

      A seatbelt is part of the standard equipment on a vehicle, you don’t wear it around like a beauty queen sash, therefore it is not “clothing”. You don’t have to remember to put it on before you leave the house.

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  • 9watts February 16, 2011 at 10:48 am

    “A seatbelt keeps the driver in a position where they can better control their car.”
    I don’t know about that. A seatbelt is going to reassure the driver, too. Not unlike an airbag. The point I think Dave was making is that all these safety features in today’s cars are primarily about protecting you from stupid things you-in-you-car might do/bad things that might happen at (and because of) high speed.

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    • Alan 1.0 February 16, 2011 at 11:21 am

      Seatbelts protect the driver and innocent bystanders by actively assisting collision avoidance (or minimization). Helmets, lights, bright clothes, air bags and other passive safety measures protect only the (potential) victim. Don’t get me wrong, I think they are good, valid safety measures and I tend to use them, but I see a line when it comes to laws regulating my behavior when it affects only me, or when it affects others’ safety.

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      • 9watts February 16, 2011 at 11:28 am

        A seatbelt is active while an airbag is passive? The former protects innocent bystanders while the latter protects only potential victims? This is all very muddled.

        You’re defining potential victim curiously here. An airbag is not only not helping a pedestrian or a cyclist in an accident, I think it is pretty easy to see that the reassurance its presence in the interior of the car provides the driver about what could happen to him or her in the event of an accident is not helping the Bret Lewises and the Reese Wilsons of this world. This phenomenon is called moral hazard.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_hazard

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        • Alan 1.0 February 16, 2011 at 11:44 am

          9watts, I understand your point (some have alluded to it by suggesting sharp spikes on car steering wheels) and I’m not denying it. But if you follow this subthread up past “Editz February 16, 2011 at 9:49 am” all the way up to “Mick Kenland February 15, 2011 at 2:03 pm” (yeah, this new quote/reply system has its quirks) you’ll find that I’m responding to the suggestion of requiring high-viz attire, and the subsequent comparison of such a law to requiring seatbelt usage. I think that comparison is flawed, as I’ve explained, because of the distinction between who such requirements affect: only the potential victim (i.e., person wearing the helmet or high-viz) or third-parties (persons hit by car after driver is knocked away from controls). YMMV

          Like most hazards, the trick to handling moral hazards is avoiding them, not necessarily eliminating them.

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  • 9watts February 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Paul in the ‘couve
    <
    In the end it doesn’t actually matter whether Bret had a really good reason to be in the travel lane or not. The responsibility of the operator is to drive in a manner that allows them to see hazards and vulnerable users and avoid them. Period.

    Very well put, Paul.

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  • 007 February 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Were Nguyen’s cell phone and texting histories checked?

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  • jram February 16, 2011 at 11:09 am

    does the family of the victim have the option of a citizen citation in this situation? I am not really clear on how that actually works, but if the Beaverton PD will not try to bring justice, maybe they can get it going grassroots style. Even if there is a big chance the judge would toss it out (as stated by Shumway), I would want to at least try.

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    • Stephen February 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

      The cyclists’ family were not witnesses to the event. What are they going to use as proof of anything, a bunch of angry, speculative bikeportland blog comments? You would be wasting the courts’ time.

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      • Zoomzit February 16, 2011 at 12:10 pm

        All they need is the officer’s own account of the accident.

        1. bicyclist was stationary in the lane of traffic
        2. bicyclist had a functioning tail light
        3. Bicyclist was struck from behind by an auto
        4. driver stated that conditions prevented driver from seeing bicyclist in time to take evasive action

        It’s not hard to see this as a pretty black and white “driver was driving too fast for conditions” and should be cited. All of the reasons for the citation are there, it’s just that the officer choose to not cite the driver.

        There is a difference between legality and culpability. Legally, it’s hard to argue that the driver wasn’t in the wrong. Culpability is another issue entirely.

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        • Stephen February 16, 2011 at 12:30 pm

          “1. bicyclist was stationary in the lane of traffic”

          Judge: “Were there any hazards in the bike lane or parking strip?”
          Officer: “No.”
          Judge: “Case dismissed.”

          What’s the law that states the reasons that a bike can leave a bike lane? You are all very quick to assume he was following the law. In any case though, he was sitting in the lane of traffic (with 3rd party witness accounts). Sitting in a free-flowing traffic lane is never a reasonable option. Hell, even if he had been moving at 1mph instead of stationary he would have been visible more quickly. (We notice motion and changes far more easily than stationary objects.)

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          • Zoomzit February 16, 2011 at 12:40 pm

            A bicyclist is not required to stay within the bicycle lane at all times.

            All vehicles (including cars) are required to drive safe speeds as conditions dictate.

            Again, legally, it doesn’t matter why the bicyclist was there. It could have been a stationary pedestrian, motorcyle, big rig, elephant or unicorn. The driver could not see a stationary object in time to react to it, for that reason he could be cited.

            Why the bicyclist was there is probably something we will never know, but considering witnesses state that he was stationary, it is immaterial to whether the driver was driving too fast for conditions.

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          • Stephen February 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm

            “A bicyclist is not required to stay within the bicycle lane at all times.”

            Yes they are, except when certain conditions are met.

            “All vehicles (including cars) are required to drive safe speeds as conditions dictate.”

            Vehicles also have a reasonable expectation that other road users will follow the law. Deviation from following the law, does not suddenly shift responsibility to another party. It is a two-way street.

            “Again, legally, it doesn’t matter why the bicyclist was there. It could have been a stationary pedestrian, motorcyle, big rig, elephant or unicorn. The driver could not see a stationary object in time to react to it, for that reason he could be cited.”

            You are a lost cause. Like I’ve already suggested. Go sit on TV Highway and see how much sympathy you get after being run over for doing such a stupid thing.

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      • jram February 16, 2011 at 1:19 pm

        “The cyclists’ family were not witnesses to the event.”

        But they are witnesses to the loss they no doubt feel every day. It is okay for you to believe that the driver is in no way responsible, but, for the family’s sake, I would at least like to see this decided in a court of law. Writing the whole thing off with a press release seems quite insulting to the victim and his loved ones.

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  • 9watts February 16, 2011 at 11:36 am

    rigormrtis
    It’s also the responsibility of the road user to be seen by others. Otherwise, why do cars have rear lights?

    And so did Bret! Why are we still belaboring this point?

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    • wsbob February 16, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      It’s been reported that Bret Lewis’s bike had a functioning bike light. Given the circumstances of this collision, it’s important to consider whether that light…I’ll presume it was a tail light being referred to…was adequate for the conditions on the road that night.

      Not all bike lights are equal in terms of brightness and visibility. His bike is reported to have been stopped on a main travel lane. Was his bike and the tail light facing directly towards approaching traffic?

      Or, since he was for whatever reason, stopped in the traffic lane for no apparent reason, did the bike somehow get turned at an angle to the road, reducing its visibility to oncoming traffic?

      Motor vehicle lights…headlights and tail lights…are much more consistent in terms of minimum brightness and display far greater square inches of light surface. Motor vehicles are bigger vehicles, which partly explains why they have the degree of lighting they do.

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  • 9watts February 16, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Stephen
    The car couldn’t avoid the dog, just like the driver in this situation couldn’t avoid the cyclist. He tried, but it wasn’t possible. The reason both of these situations occurred was because they put themselves in traffic without making sure they were seen.

    your comparison of Bret’s behavior with that of the dog is a real stretch. Bret had a functioning taillight and was not darting into traffic. He was already in traffic. In fact he was traffic.

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    • Stephen February 16, 2011 at 12:09 pm

      He was stopped in traffic. He should not have been stopped in the traffic lane, period. Just because he had a taillight does not mean he was visible. Hell, just look up to a comment from earlier today where someone said they went running this morning (dark and raining) and 4 of the 5 taillights on the cyclists could not be seen.

      The situation is similar to the dog in that the driver could not respond to the hazard as it became visible too late.

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      • Zoomzit February 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm

        Stephen
        The situation is similar to the dog in that the driver could not respond to the hazard as it became visible too late.

        It’s not similar to the dog. Your description of the dog accident is that the dog darted into traffic. Legally, this could have been considered an unavoidable accident.

        For the bicycle accident. The bicyclist was immobile in the lane of traffic. If you can not see an immobile object in the lane of traffic in enough time to take evasive action, then you are, by definition, traveling too fast for conditions.

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        • Stephen February 16, 2011 at 12:39 pm

          I suggest you sit on TV Highway at night, in the rain, and see how long you last. You won’t get any sympathy for the outcome because motorists have a reasonable expectation that you will not be there.

          People need to not be so naive in thinking that if they have a light, they are visible and all blame, should anything happen, rests on the other person. Pedestrians and cyclists have an obligation to make sure they are seen and and have been noticed before they move into traffic. Common f’ing sense.

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      • lisa February 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm

        Seconded.

        If one of those cyclists I saw this morning with their red rear light clipped up on their backpack had been hit by a car, I would have stayed as a witness. I would have had to honestly tell the investigating officer, “The cyclist did have a functioning rear light but it was up on their pack and it was not visible from the rear.”

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      • Machu Picchu February 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm

        Sounded from your own account that the dog “became present in the traffic lane” too late, not that it wasn’t visible. It’s not the same as this situation. We really don’t know why this man was in the lane. Obviously a really bad place to be at that moment, but since we don’t know what the reason was, you should quit thinking you’re smarter than this poor guy who got creamed. Have some decency.

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  • drew February 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Cars are sold with reliable headlights (like bikes should be), and drivers are supposed to be trained on how not to run into anything on our public right-of-ways.

    Motordom has successfully changed the social construct to make it so that pedestrians and bike riders are at fault unless proven otherwise for getting smashed by cars. This happened in the 1920s. Huge financial interests are dependent on having people drive cars. Enormous subsidies ensure that we continue to drive.

    The best we can do is get lit up like a Christmas tree and hope for the best. If you get hit on a bike, the sympathy tends to go to the motorist.

    On hiking trails, the mountain biker must yield for the hiker. Greater kinetic energy bears more responsibility. The mt bike lobby is unlikely to change this. We will not blame hikers for unexpectedly being in the way any time soon.

    Yet, I can imagine what the motorist had went thru as well. There is a This American Life radio show you can listen to on the internet that is an essay by a driver who killed a bike rider. It’s about 10 minutes in to the show:
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/359/life-after-death

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    • davemess February 16, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      Trail sharing is of course on the scant few trails that allow both bikes and hikers in Portland……

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  • Paul in the 'couve February 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    drew

    Motordom has successfully changed the social construct to make it so that pedestrians and bike riders are at fault unless proven otherwise for getting smashed by cars. This happened in the 1920s. Huge financial interests are dependent on having people drive cars. Enormous subsidies ensure that we continue to drive.

    And that’s the nub of the problem and the reason those who insist we shouldn’t really expect a motorist to be fined for hitting a pedestrian or a cyclist just don’t get what those of us of the opposite opinion are saying.

    I, for one, understand what Stephan and Zoomzits are saying, I disagree on something deeper. They are ASSUMING exactly what Drew points out – that Roads are FOR Cars and only cars have a right to the road, except in concession to special circumstances. Which is effectively – but not legally – the status transportation in at least 99% of the USA.

    The argument that cyclists and pedestrians are making can be stated explicitly. We reject the defacto abrogation of all right to safety in the public roadway to anyone not in a motor vehicle.

    The actual written Law still requires motorists to drive in a manner that is safe, and to keep speed appropriate for conditions. The law doesn’t make a bunch of exceptions for whether the person you hit has a light on, or needs to be there or even if they were breaking a law themselves. If someone is occupying a lane and you hit them you are at fault. If you hit them because you were driving too fast for the visibility then you were violating the basic rule.

    Unfortunately Stephan and Zoomzits are correct that the Law as APPLIED by police and judges makes all kinds of exceptions. But pointing this out is merely begging the question. It is precisely this bias for automobiles, that goes well beyond the bias in the law as written, that we are arguing against.

    The roads are public rights of way. The right to walk or use a wheel chair, push a stroller, or ride a bike on the public right of way, as a means of getting from point A to point B or for recreation, has not been rescinded.

    Perhaps, if we knew the story Bret could have been cited for blocking traffic and/or not being in the bike lane. We don’t know what Bret was doing or thinking, but we can think of plenty of reasons why he might have had a reason to be there that would excuse at least 10 or 20 seconds in general.

    Bret’s actions are largely irrelevant from the legal standpoint of the other driver. The fault in an accident belongs to the one who could have last avoided the accident. Bret wasn’t moving – we don’t know why – the car was. The driver hit a person who was in the lane. Bret didn’t jump out in front of the car, he was there. He may (or may not) have had a legal reason to be there, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to run him down.

    What we want is a change in the way the law is enforced and applied. Roads are unsafe. Pedestrians, children, cyclists and skateboarders don’t make the roads unsafe. Cars traveling at speed make the roads unsafe. The law recognizes that to a fair degree and always has. Over the years enforcement and judges have eroded the protections of the public from cars. This is partly understandable because most of the public is IN a car. But it is a civil rights issue for those who cannot drive, and those who cannot afford to drive.

    Stepping aside from the immediate example. How many pedestrians have been hit in cross walks in Portland, in the daylight in the past year? And what citations and penalties were given to the drivers? In most cases no citation at all. In a few cases a simple failure to yield. Only in cases where the motorist fled, or was drunk have they been given any serious punishment.

    The defacto rule of the road is as Stephan and Zoomzits claim. If you aren’t in a car, stay the F**K out of the road. And that is exactly what we need to change.

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    • Zoomzit February 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      So, let me clarify my comments to say that you’re saying exactly what I have been trying to convey, in a far more effective manner.

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    • Stephen February 16, 2011 at 3:51 pm

      “If you aren’t in a car, stay the F**K out of the road.” -Poul

      I’m not claiming that. People can go in the road, just don’t be naive. If there is a bike lane and parking strip, there is essentially zero reason to be traveling in the traffic lane. If you are trying to cross the road, don’t put yourself in traffic until you know that you are seen and conditions are safe to do so. If you are stopped, don’t sit in the traffic lane. Period.

      valkraider, above, gave plenty of examples where other users of the road should have the expectation of safety, while still being proactive about it, and protection within the law.

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    • RoadShare February 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm

      Anybody using the road has the possibility to make them unsafe, be it a pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist, or motorist. True that the motorist is capable of causing the most direct damage, but any of the above if acting in an unsafe manner are capable of effecting others and themselves in both direct and indirect ways.

      Here’s another thought. Get rid of the automobiles and the roads would become safer, but only for as long as the roads are still around, and were maintained, which wouldn’t last for too long. For at least the foreseable future, there will always be modes of transportation that that will employ more than two wheels and will far outweigh a bicycle. Removing such modes of transportation are not an option. Trying to address the issue of us v.s. them is much more realistic in my mind. You can place blame all you want, but accidents are always going to be part of the equation, even in the best of situations.

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      • El Biciclero February 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm

        “Get rid of the automobiles and the roads would become safer, but only for as long as the roads are still around, and were maintained, which wouldn’t last for too long.”

        I’ll wager it would be a lot longer than most people think. It’s amazing how long roadways will last if you take multi-ton vehicles off of them. Roughly 4 million times longer. Weather will destroy roads faster than foot or bicycle traffic.

        “For at least the foreseable future, there will always be modes of transportation that that will employ more than two wheels and will far outweigh a bicycle.”

        It’s precisely this weight factor that makes roads so expensive in the first place. I’d love to see an analysis of the cost of a new roadway if only non-motorized traffic were to be allowed on it, compared to the same roadway if it were designed for motor traffic. Then do the same for a bridge…

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  • adam February 16, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    I like how police, in bike cases, determine what a judge might think of the tickets they issue apriori. thus determining that since it is obvious that a judge would not agree, the popo decide it would be a waste of resource to even write the ticket. ummm, wtf?

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  • coyote February 16, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Accident Smackcident, the driver has the responsibility of not hitting large objects in the road. If he could not see it in time to avoid it, he was going too fast for conditions. If you are driving a car and you hit a stationary something the size of a human being, on some level you have made a mistake.

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  • buglas February 16, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Consider this – I’m about to cross the TV Highway. I’m at the intersection, I spot a nice gap both ways, and I kick off with a good power stroke.
    DAMN! I just wrapped a shoelace into the front sprocket! I got more than one turn before I noticed – my foot is pulled up tight against the crank arm. I can’t pedal. I can’t step off. I stop where I am, put the other foot down, and try to crank backward to get free. That car that’s coming will swing into the other lane…

    We’ll probably never know why Bret Lewis was stopped in the motor vehicle lane. You choose your assumptions, I’ll choose mine.

    RIP Bret. But for the grace of God, it could be me.

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  • Paul in the 'couve February 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    blockquote cite=”RoadShare”>
    RoadShare

    Here’s another thought. Get rid of the automobiles and the roads would become safer, but only for as long as the roads are still around, and were maintained, which wouldn’t last for too long.

    It would cost far far less to build and maintain roads for other means of transport. There are many sections of Roman era cobblestone roads still used by bicycles and carts in France. Cars are the #1, 2 and 3 reasons our road system is so expensive.

    For at least the foreseable future, there will always be modes of transportation that that will employ more than two wheels and will far outweigh a bicycle. Removing such modes of transportation are not an option. Trying to address the issue of us v.s. them is much more realistic in my mind. You can place blame all you want, but accidents are always going to be part of the equation, even in the best of situations

    You are begging the question again. No one has claimed that all accidents can (or must) be eliminated or that non-motorized modes have zero contribution to make towards safety. All we DEMAND is that motorists who by at least 3 orders of magnitude (probably more like 5 orders) are the most dangerous and destructive users in the system be held responsible for operating their machines safely as the law actually requires – as written and the police and the courts stop excusing motorists from responsibility while blaming cyclists and pedestrians for merely existing.

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    • RoadShare February 16, 2011 at 10:50 pm

      Yes, I’m sure it would be cheaper to construct roads for other modes of transport. But what percentage of the public do you think is going to get behind such projects when only bicycles are allowed, and who’s going to pony up to subsidize such roads?

      In my opinion, you’re demanding something that is unrealistic in our society. I’m not saying that your demands aren’t justified. But to change the system that has been in place for as long as it has is going to take much more than simply demanding it be so. So get as vocal as you want, but if push comes to shove and you’re out there on two wheels, you’ve already drawn the short straw.

      Motorcyclists have been dealing with issues like these for a long time and have watched things continue to deteriorate. In many ways the roads are only getting more dangerous for those of us on two wheels — just think about how many drivers out there are on their cell phones, talking or texting that weren’t doing so just a decade ago. It often seems that it’s one step forward, and two steps back.

      Keep up the good fight, but in the meantime if you’re out and about on two wheels, you’d better plan for the worst and hope for the best.

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      • resopmok February 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm

        Paul:
        “All we DEMAND is that motorists … be held responsible for operating their machines safely as the law actually requires.”

        RoadShare:
        “In my opinion, you’re demanding something that is unrealistic in our society.”

        Either you didn’t read what was written (which I suggest doing before responding to it) or you are really cynical about our society and the people who make it up. Considering that there exist other countries where motorists are in fact held responsible for the safe operation of their vehicles, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask the same of our own, is it?

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        • RoadShare February 17, 2011 at 7:04 am

          I did read what was written. I’m definitely cynical about our society.

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      • El Biciclero February 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm

        “But what percentage of the public do you think is going to get behind such projects when only bicycles are allowed, and who’s going to pony up to subsidize such roads?”

        Heh. This is kind of funny. I thought we were getting rid of the automobiles…? If no automobiles are allowed on the roads, what are people going to do? Sit at home all day wringing their hands because they can’t conceive of any other way to get anywhere? My guess is they would find some way to go out and about, either on foot, on a train, or on…wait for it…a bicycle. And the answer to who would pony up to “subsidize” such roads is…wait for it…everyone, just like they do now. Automobile use is a self-destroying pursuit; roads are expensive because cars and trucks drive on them, and the revenue generated strictly from driving, e.g., gas taxes and auto registration fees, etc. does NOT cover that expense. The amount of road construction and maintenance costs that are not covered by motor vehicle use fees/taxes (NOT so-called “road taxes”–there are no such things–but “auto use fees/taxes”) are currently covered by other kinds of taxes collected from everyone, driver or not. If, by some stroke of temporal magic, use of internal combustion or electricity had never been applied to vehicular travel, would we no longer need roads? Ask the ancients–of course we would need roads. Would roads need to be paved? Ask some of the very first bicyclists–they probably would. Would the cost of creating the necessary paved roads be anywhere near their cost today? No way. Who’s to say whether the amount NOT covered by driving-specific revenue would equal the amount necessary to construct much lighter-duty roadways than we currently build, but I would bet that if cars did not exist, everyone would still find a way to get around, and nobody would have a problem paying the necessary taxes to maintain roads.

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  • scotth February 16, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    So it’s cool if I kill someone as long as it’s dark and rainy? Good to know.

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    • Opus the Poet February 17, 2011 at 7:11 pm

      Dark and rainy are not required, just say “I didn’t see (him/her)” and get out of jail free. Unless you hit a major politician or a LEO on duty (off-duty cops are just as much fair game as us civilians).

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  • Tacoma February 17, 2011 at 9:55 am

    My heart aches for Bret’s family, friends, and community. In trying to make some sense of this tragedy, I feel the discussion has been mostly useful (at least for me) and I hope we are able to listen to each other.

    One question that I’ve been wondering about is if Bret was “stopped” in the road, couldn’t he be considered a pedestrian at that point? This is why I support Jonathan’s inclusion of pedestrian issues that come up from time to time – bicycle riders can become pedestrians almost instantly.

    The reason I mention this is that I wonder if the circumstances would be viewed differently from that perspective. I believe a couple of other commenters have mentioned similar thoughts. Maybe he’s crossing the road? I don’t know. But that’s one option that helps me make some sense of why he was where he was. Anyway, my sympathy to his family and friends.

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    • Tacoma February 17, 2011 at 11:42 am

      Sorry, people. Didn’t notice Jonathan’s update today at 9:11. I started my comment before that and was interrupted before posting and then didn’t notice that there was an update. Thank you, Jonathan!

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  • DUII_Velo February 17, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I am on a bicycle because I have a criminal conviction for DUII in Washington County. I can not have driving privilages for three years. I am your worst enemy according to WCSO, Beaverton Police and the Hillsboro Police. That said, I have written several letters to the judge that sentenced me to say, “I believe I will be killed/paralysed in Washington County on my bicycle before my debt to Oregon society is done, 2013. I was hit on TV Hwy in the summer of 2010 while riding my bicycle on TV Hwy, and the police report was off the hook! I was at fault it alleged! I talked with the BTA and became a member to assist in the fight within Washington County to balance their disdain for bicycle riders on their roads. I WILL be there on Friday, So should you. Cheers.

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