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Citation for ‘Careless Driving to a Vulnerable Road User’ given in July collision

Posted by on August 6th, 2013 at 10:57 am

Amundson’s garbage truck is on the right..
(Photo courtesy Jason Lee.)

The Portland Police have issued a citation to 39-year-old Christopher Amundson for his role in a collision that happened on Friday, July 12th. As we reported the day it happened, Amundson was driving a garbage truck southbound on SE 17th when he made a left turn onto SW McLoughlin. Amundson’s truck collided with 22-year-old Charles Casperson, who was riding his bicycle in the crosswalk in the same direction.

Amundson has been cited for Careless Driving. Additionally, since Casperson sustained serious, trauma-level injuries, Amundson’s citation triggers Oregon’s Vulnerable Roadway User law (minor injuries don’t trigger the VRU law, as we saw in the case of a man who ran into the back of a child trailer in December 2012). The VRU comes with some combination of added fines (up to $12,500), community service, an appearance in court, completion of a traffic safety course, and a license suspension.

This is the second Careless Driving to a Vulnerable Roadway User citation given out by the PPB in less than a month.

The PPB cited school bus driver Renee Bates for the same infraction for her role in the collision that resulted in the death of 55-year-old Billie Jean Neel on July 11th. Bates was attempting to turn right onto SE Division from 148th, when she ran over Neel, who was walking in the crosswalk.

The VRU law passed the Oregon Legislature in 2007 and there have only been a handful of cases where it has been applied.

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Comments
  • Dwainedibbly August 6, 2013 at 11:03 am

    This is a case where using the VRU law was clearly justified. Hopefully law enforcement agencies will begin to use it more often.

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    • 9watts August 6, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      Any reason to think the PPB has taken a renewed look at the law, or how they (have not) applied it? I don’t think these two incidents are necessarily so different from many others over the past six years.

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      • dwainedibbly August 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm

        I’m trying to be optimistic. Hopefully they really are taking a new look.

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  • Art Fuldodger August 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    from previous BP coverage of this crash:

    “Under Oregon law, a person is allowed to ride across a crosswalk using a bicycle but forfeits the right of way if the bike is moving faster than walking speed.”

    So is the inference that the PPB issued the Careless Driving citation because the cyclist was moving at walking speed? Or…?

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    • John Lascurettes August 6, 2013 at 5:45 pm

      The specific text of the statute is this (emphasis mine):

      Operates the bicycle at a speed greater than an ordinary walk when approaching or entering a crosswalk, approaching or crossing a driveway or crossing a curb cut or pedestrian ramp and a motor vehicle is approaching the crosswalk, driveway, curb cut or pedestrian ramp. This paragraph does not require reduced speeds for bicycles at places on sidewalks or other pedestrian ways other than places where the path for pedestrians or bicycle traffic approaches or crosses that for motor vehicle traffic.

      It’s not cut and dry as to whether one must keep the reduced speed while in the crosswalk. It is crystal that you must reduce speed before entering the crosswalk (and if there’s a motor vehicle approaching).

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      • John Lascurettes August 6, 2013 at 5:47 pm

        PS: I’m nothing even resembling a lawyer. It’s just that it seems weird wording in the law to me.

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        • pixie August 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm

          Law often comes down to language, and the wording here reflects the main point of the statute: unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk. The references to crosswalks are in relation to operation of bicycles on sidewalks, not to use of crosswalks in general.

          The statute in question is ORS 814.410(1)(d), and reads as follows:

          “(1) A person commits the offense of unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk if the person does any of the following:

          [ (a) - (c) deleted ]

          (d) Operates the bicycle at a speed greater than an ordinary walk when approaching or entering a crosswalk, approaching or crossing a driveway or crossing a curb cut or pedestrian ramp and a motor vehicle is approaching the crosswalk, driveway, curb cut or pedestrian ramp. This paragraph does not require reduced speeds for bicycles at places on sidewalks or other pedestrian ways other than places where the path for pedestrians or bicycle traffic approaches or crosses that for motor vehicle traffic.”

          [ (e) deleted ]

          Subsections (2) and (3) are also relevant to understanding subsection (1).

          ” (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.
          (3) The offense described in this section, unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk, is a Class D traffic violation.”

          The violation is about improper bicycle use on sidewalks, not in crosswalks. The language in the first sentence of subsection (1)(d) is about areas of sidewalks where potential conflicts with motor vehicles might exist, not about crosswalks. In fact, the specific language referring to crosswalks is “when approaching or entering a crosswalk,” which is not exactly the same as “using a crosswalk.” Furthermore, this is only a violation when the second condition of the sentence is met: “…and a motor vehicle is approaching the crosswalk, driveway, curb cut or pedestrian ramp.”

          Also, the second sentence of subsection (1)(d) indicates that you do not have to reduce your speed when riding a bike on a sidewalk other than in situations “where the path for pedestrians or bicycle traffic approaches or crosses that for motor vehicle traffic.” Subsection (2) then says, subject to exceptions, bicylists have the same rights and duties as pedestrians “in a crosswalk.”

          Given that many people reduce this statute to (1) Bikes must travel at the speed of a pedestrian when using a crosswalk and/or (2) Bikes using sidewalks must travel at the speed of a pedestrian, I would argue that the laws regarding bicycles can be unclear and confusing to all road users, even lawyers. In general, bicycles are treated as vehicles, but sometimes there are special rules for bikes only, and sometimes, as in this case, a bicyclist may be considered to have the same rights and duties as a pedestrian when “on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk.”

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          • John Lascurettes August 7, 2013 at 9:05 am

            Precisely my point above, thanks. So where the previous article says a cyclist moving faster than walking speed forfeits his rights in a crosswalk I take as something far less than accurate. I’ve even questioned Ray Thomas’s recommendation that cyclists can never go over walking speed anywhere on a sidewalk – though I think that’s more of a recommendation from him that is a “there is no doubt to the legality” angle than a “this is what the law requires.”

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          • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 7, 2013 at 9:23 am

            Thanks for that analysis pixie. I’ll clarify with Ray Thomas; but I think I learned something by reading your comment. I’ll be more careful in the future when we reference that law/situation.

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    • KillMoto August 7, 2013 at 9:08 am

      Just ask the cyclist how fast he was going. Why not – that’s all the evidence police use to rule out motorist speeding, even while 99% of all vehicles on the road have black boxes that will tell a precise, true answer.

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  • 9watts August 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    “Careless Driving to a Vulnerable Roadway User citation”

    Something’s amiss with the syntax in that phrase. The ‘to’ seems out of place.

    Perhaps ‘A citation was issued for Careless Driving endangering a Vulnerable Roadway User’ would work better?

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    • 9watts August 7, 2013 at 9:21 am

      In the linked article about the father and son stopped at Division who were run into/over the citation was

      “Careless Driving with an accident.”

      Who comes up with these names?

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  • Chris Sanderson August 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Seems like the VRU law is still lenient.

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  • Tony August 6, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    I believe the driver in December 2012 was a woman (this is via a friend who was at the scene).

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  • Joe Rowe August 6, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    When bikes are mowed down like this, the helmet preaching is an abuse of power. Bike Portland is guilty of this.

    BikePortland owes the victim and all cyclists an apology for the helmet bias in the primary coverage of this accident. Mention of a helmet is bias we see often from the Oregonian and cops. Rather than do their job, these preachers abuse power and get into a mode of helicopter parents, who justify their bias.

    I arrived moments after a similar accident, and the cop seemed pre-occupied telling everyone about the lack of a helmet. Meanwhile he noted no lights. Me and other witnesses spent our time telling the cops the bike had lights that were smashed, and look here are the batteries a few feet away.

    The cyclist is not required by law to wear a helmet. BikePortland refused to make an apology, and added more justifications. When cars go out of control and hit buildings we don’t get all preachy saying “was that building wearing a helmet? Cause it would have helped”.

    Posted 11;40pm Previous post by Tony at 9:56pm.

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  • John Liu August 7, 2013 at 1:18 am

    For some reason, I have more close passes from garbage trucks than from other types of commercial vehicle. I ride to work at 5:10-5:30 am so I encounter mostly garbage trucks and Tri-Met buses. The bus drivers are, for the most part, quite cautious when passing me, going way into the other lane to avoid coming close to me. The garbage truck drivers, almost without exception, make no effort to adjust their line and will pass with their vehicle encroaching right into the bike lane. Since I tend to ride near the left edge of the bike lane, this makes for some close shaves. I’m not jumping to a conclusion from a few incidents; this is after daily encounters over 2 years of pre-dawn commutes. I’m wondering what training garbage truck drivers get.

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    • Ivan August 7, 2013 at 8:32 am

      I agree; garbage trucks seem to be disproportionately dangerous here in NYC. one often reads of garbage trucks running over people while making turns. one rarely read of buses doing the same thing. And yet there are many more buses than garbage trucks on the road. I don’t know if garbage truck design makes it very difficult to drive them safely, the drivers are incompetent or reckless, or both.

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  • jd August 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Glad the police are using VRU. I hope through some miracle more drivers remember the potential consequences to another human being of a moment’s carelessness and it never has to be used again.

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  • Alan 1.0 August 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Citations for Careless Driving Causing Death to a Vulnerable Road User and Careless Driving Causing Serious Injury to a Vulnerable Road User were issued on August 6, 2013, for a collision on November 20, 2012, in the 10800 block of Southeast Washington Street.

    http://www.portlandoregon.gov/police/news/read.cfm?id=4317

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