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Jury decision expected today in Kathryn Rickson wrongful death lawsuit

Posted by on February 26th, 2014 at 8:29 am

Community gathering for Kathryn Rickson-1-2
Community advocates Roger Averbeck, Gerik Kransky,
and Cameron Whitten at the rally for
Kathryn Rickson on May 18th, 2012.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

This afternoon at the Multnomah County Courthouse, a jury will hear closing arguments in the wrongful death civil trial of Kathryn Rickson. Rickson, a 28-year-old graduate student and aspiring playwright at Portland State University, died following a collision with a semi-truck at the intersection of SW 3rd and Madison on May 16th, 2012.

A representative of Rickson’s estate alleges that the trucking company, Delaware-based Golden State Foods Corp., was negligent because one of their drivers, Dawayne Eacret, failed to see Ms. Rickson and yield to her presence prior to the collision. Rickson’s family is seeking $1,789,281.93 in damages. Attorney’s for Golden State Foods deny the allegations and maintain that the fault of the collision belongs solely to Rickson.

Rickson’s attorney is Cynthia Newton of Swanson, Thomas Coon & Newton (a BikePortland advertiser). In the complaint filed with the court, Newton notes that Rickson was in the bike lane and had flashing lights on the front and rear of her bicycle at the time of the collision. Newton also details a specific list of actions by Eacret (and his assistant and passenger in the truck at the time of the collision Josiah Reed) that she believes demonstrate the negligence that led to Rickson’s death. Here’s an excerpt from the complaint:

(a) Mr. Eacret failed to initiate and maintain a reasonable lookout for bicyclists in the vicinity of and within the designated bicycle lane;

(b) Mr. Eacret failed to request or instruct Mr. Reed to keep a lookout for and inform him of bicycles approaching on his right side as he approached the intersection;

(c) Mr. Eacret failed to stop the tractor trailer before running over the bicycle and Ms. Rickson;

(d) Mr. Eacret failed to maintain reasonable control of his vehicle under the circumstances;

(e) Mr. Eacret failed to yield the right of way to Ms Rickson, who was lawfully occupying the bicycle lane;

(h) Failing adequately to train their employee drivers concerning legal requirements, safe driving, and lookout practices for operating trucks in delivery route communities around foreseeable bicycle traffic;

In their response to the complaint, James Gidley of Perkins Coie, the legal firm representing the defendants, denied the allegations. Gidley alleges that Rickson was negligent on several accounts including: “failure to keep a proper lookout for her own safety; operating her bicycle at an excessive rate of speed given the location, circumstances, and presence of other vehicles; failure to keep her vehicle under proper control; and failure to yield the right-of-way to the vehicle driven by Dawayne Eacret.”

Prior to the collision, Rickson was riding eastbound on SW Madison toward the Hawthorne Bridge. Eacret was driving in the same direction and the collision occurred as he turned right onto SW 3rd.

Rickson’s death led to renewed calls for safer infrastructure and hundreds gathered for a public rally at the intersection just two days after the collision. In September 2012, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office found no criminal negligence in the case. The DA was not able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Mr. Eacret could have seen Mr. Rickson prior to the collision.

It might be worth noting that this intersection has been the focus on considerable attention by the Portland Bureau of Transportation. It was one of the first to receive a green bike box in April 2008. Then in October 2012 (five months after Rickson’s death), PBOT flagged it as one of four bike box-treated intersections that saw an alarming uptick in right-hook collisions after the bike box was installed. In a report, PBOT said that excessive bike speeds on the slight downhill and other behaviors by people riding bicycles were contributing factors to those collisions. PBOT is currently working with PSU researchers on video analysis of the intersection to come up with new ways to make it safer.

Stay tuned for updates following the jury’s decision.

UPDATE, 10:20 am: According to Rickson’s lawyers, the case has been settled out of court. There will be no jury decision today. We’ll post details of the settlement if/when they become available.

— Browse our archives for more Kathryn Rickson coverage.

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  • q`Tzal February 26, 2014 at 8:54 am

    trucking company legal defense team
    … operating her bicycle at an excessive rate of speed given the location,…

    HA!
    The unsafe speed for bicycles would have been the posted speed limit.
    If a bicycle is overtaken by a vehicle that right hooks them it can be because the driver was exceeding the speed limit even more.

    That statement by the defense team above all others indicates that despite the law they don’t think bicycles should be on the road. Their personal preferences aside they and their drivers must obey the law.

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    • paikikala February 26, 2014 at 9:26 am

      People will always make mistakes. This is why we have courts.

      Everyone involved with the road system needs to be actively involved placing safety first. Users, designers, operators, legislators, enforcers and adjudicators.

      The driver could have chosen to pause and double check, or ask his passenger to check (it was dark and a shady location). The cyclist could have assumed truck drivers can’t see cyclists approaching on the right. Either of these actions could have prevented this death.

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      • rainbike February 26, 2014 at 9:37 am

        re: “failure to keep a proper lookout for her own safety”

        I have been guilty of this in the past. Always have to remind myself that as a vulnerable road user, if I’m in a car vs bike collision, the car will win – no matter which vehicle had the legal right of way.

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        • spare_wheel February 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

          at lower speeds (in non-hook situations) motor vehicles often do not win.

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      • q`Tzal February 26, 2014 at 10:25 am

        As hypocritical as it sounds – on my bike I make it my responsibility to know where everyone is going and I assume everyone else is in a mental fog BUT it is not required by law and we cannot make legal determinations based on my and others’ hypervigilance.

        Unless we go full Monderman.

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    • John Lascurettes February 26, 2014 at 10:19 am

      They also stated that she failed to yield to the truck which is exactly contrary to the law: the truck must yield to traffic int he adjacent (bicycle) lane.

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      • wsbob February 26, 2014 at 11:38 am

        “…: the truck must yield to traffic int he adjacent (bicycle) lane. …” John Lascurettes

        Depends upon where the truck was in relation to the bike lane.

        A right turn was the direction of travel the person driving had in mind. If a driver has started a right turn and the vehicle has already approached, touched on or begun to cross over the bike lane, leaving insufficient time for someone on a bike to safely pass the truck on its right side…the person on the bike, consistent with due car, would have to yield to the turning vehicle.

        It sounds like, to find the reasons for it occurring, some research of the collision was done by both parties, but still, neither really knows why this collision happened. So attempting to lay the blame to the other having failed, they seek to settle out of court.

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      • wsbob February 26, 2014 at 12:31 pm

        The person driving the truck had a helper sitting in the cab of the truck with him.

        What the procedure for truck crews maybe should be, is for the person driving to put on the truck’s flashers and stop the vehicle before commencing to turn.

        Second, the helper hops out, goes over to check out possible traffic in the bike lane, stopping or blocking any that’s there or is coming.

        Third, the helper stays there until the truck fully completes the turn and passes beyond the bike lane. Finally, the truck then stops and the helper runs over and hops back into the truck.

        I’ve seen truck crew helpers hop out aid the person driving in backing up or getting around various obstacles and hazardous situations. Why this wasn’t done in this particular situation is a question I wish the trucking company would offer an answer to.

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    • JRB February 26, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      The statement of the defense team means that they are are a) trying to avoid liability for their client, and b) trying to minimize the monetary damages in the event their client is found liable, which is exactly which most people who find themselves being sued would expect their lawyer to do. It says zero about what they actually think about bicycles being on the road.

      The fact that they achieved a settlement just after the trial concluded means that after all the evidence was in and all the arguments had been made both sides were reluctant to let this go to the jury. Each side obviously felt there was a substantial risk that the other would prevail and decided to cut a deal instead.

      As a lawyer, albeit not one who practices personal injury, I would never venture an opinion as to what the correct outcome is without hearing all the evidence and studying the applicable law. I can only hope the settlement brings some measure of comfort to Kathryn Rickson’s family and prompts the trucking industry to consider what it can do to prevent such tragedies in the future.

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  • esther c February 26, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Takes a lot of nerve to argue ” failure to yield the right-of-way to the vehicle driven by Dawayne Eacret.” when the cyclist had the right of way.

    Excellent point about unsafe speeds, qTzal. If she was going faster than the posted speed, he must have really been hauling ass, and in a much larger vehicle.

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    • Paul Cone February 26, 2014 at 9:39 am

      I wasn’t there, but I know that Golden State Foods is usually the name on the huge semi trucks that are used to deliver goods to McDonald’s.

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    • q`Tzal February 26, 2014 at 10:20 am

      Since I’ve been driving 53′ trailers for the last 2 years I thankfully have not had the opportunity to drive through downtown Portland. In Los Angeles the account I’m on makes frequent stops: big box hardware stores that are layed out for big trucks and redistribution centers. Just stopped at one yesterday: truck load of furniture off loads from a truck too big for tiny little streets on to U-Haul van sized trucks.

      The only real problem with this is that drivers of these smaller trucks are not required by law to have any training or advanced skill. Your teenaged kid who’s only ever driven an amped up Honda Civic can be behind the wheel driving one one these in hours. But they do fit better in tight urban spaces and have better visual angles for safe driving.

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    • davemess February 26, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      I might be misremembering this, but they cyclist overtook the truck (from what I remember). I long truck like this would have to come to an almost stop before making that turn. I don’t think it was a case of him passing her right before or as she tried to go through the intersection. If so, my biggest question was, did he have a turn signal on? If so I can’t imagine why a cyclist wouldn’t yield at that point (as the truck is probably about stopped or just starting to make the turn.
      (someone please correct me if I’m wrong)

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      • davemess February 26, 2014 at 12:40 pm

        According to PPB he did have a signal on.

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  • paikikala February 26, 2014 at 9:31 am

    State law (811.100) basically says the safe speed is the speed that is safe for the existing conditions. Night, shaded, central city, truck traffic, or, night, shaded, central city, portland and bikes.

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    • John Lascurettes February 26, 2014 at 10:21 am

      That goes for the truck too. Had he slowed down and taken the time to check the lanes … So that argument should be a wash. What happened here is the truck failed to yield to the traffic in the adjacent lane.

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      • davemess February 26, 2014 at 12:35 pm

        “Kristin Tufte was walking south on 3rd and came upon the collision right as it happened. She told me via phone a minutes ago that the truck was a large delivery truck and that it was, “half-way through its turn” when the collision occurred.”
        -From the original article.
        Looked like the truck had slowed down and was already making the turn. (supposedly had a signal on too). So it’s not an issue of the truck speeding

        My rough guess is the cyclist saw the truck swing left (like most do to make a tight 90 degree turn), and didn’t see the signal to know the truck was turning right. I think this intersection was clearly poorly designed, which lead to this instance, but I think there was some fault with the cyclist.

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    • Nathan February 26, 2014 at 10:26 am

      The problem with invoking this law in a wrongful lawsuit is that one can argue that any speed is above the safe speed given an accident occurred.

      So the argument goes, “The cyclist was above the safe speed since if she was going slower (and not have been there), the non-yielding truck would not have struck and killed her.”

      This complete ignores the responsibilities of the person turning through the bike lane – that it must yield to a bicycle in the bicycle lane. (ORS 811.050)

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      • davemess February 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm

        See above, it sounds like she struck the truck.

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  • Alain February 26, 2014 at 9:31 am

    It should go without saying that if a motor vehicle driver does not “see” someone on a bicycle, then they are operating a vehicle in a negligent and unsafe manner. When did it become excusable to operate large vehicles (or any motor vehicle for that matter) and not pay attention enough to see others on the road.

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    • Spiffy February 26, 2014 at 9:53 am

      to me somebody saying “I didn’t see them” is an automatic admission of negligence…

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      • Chris I February 26, 2014 at 10:15 am

        But to some people (people that may get placed on a jury), “I didn’t see them” as it pertains to pedestrians and cyclists means “they were darting into traffic like a crazy person”. It’s interesting how perspective changes our perception of situations.

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  • Bike Commuter February 26, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Simple physics or engineering says that the driver of the truck had plenty of time to notice the bicyclist but failed to do so. It is the drivers responsibility to notice bicyclists and only proceed when the lane if free. However getting drivers to pay attention to such things is difficult and most drivers feel they have the right-of-way no matter what the circumstances.

    Maybe if trucks can’t see bicyclists they should not be allowed to turn where there are bicycle lanes. Problem solved! There are tools that can be put on trucks that do help such as extra mirrors. But nothing can help when you have inattentive drivers who feel they can do anything they want.

    Finally, there needs to be a special place in hell for lawyers and companies that want to blame the bicyclist for the failure of a driver. Maybe someplace where they are run over daily by trucks as they try and bicycle.

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    • Pete February 26, 2014 at 11:00 am

      For those who haven’t driven large trucks, please note that the mirrors don’t quite make up for the blind spots. When turning right in a semi it’s necessary to swing left, which means you have to have situational awareness on both sides at the same time. This is easier said than done.

      Were you there? If not, your assertion sounds more like speculation than ‘simple physics.’ Not assigning guilt or innocence to either party here, just pointing out that there are more factors involved than we can comment on from our armchairs.

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      • Spiffy February 26, 2014 at 12:22 pm

        if a vehicle has a blind spot then they should not be turning there because they’re blind and can’t see… to state that somebody was in your blind spot says that you don’t look where you’re going and is an admission of negligence…

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        • Pete February 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm

          Easy to say, but in practice blind spots – and things in them – move. I agree with Joe’s suggestion below that limiting large trucks in areas where movement is hindered (cities) is a better suggestion. You can only do so much to improve vehicles, infrastructure, and even human attentiveness.

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  • Joe February 26, 2014 at 9:35 am

    City should limit large trucks entering downtown. so sad this happend :(
    fact I know when a huge semi passes me and turns right in front of me they were beating to an intersection or driveway.

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  • Spiffy February 26, 2014 at 9:51 am

    wow, the company’s negligence claims are so far out there I’m not sure where they’re train of thought derailed… but somehow they think they have a case otherwise they would have settled…

    1) failure to keep a proper lookout for her own safety

    she was in her own lane proceeding straight in the lane with no obstructions… there were no potential legal obstacles such as pedestrians waiting to cross the road…

    2) operating her bicycle at an excessive rate of speed given the location, circumstances, and presence of other vehicles

    nobody knows how fast she was going… they would have to prove that she was going over 20 mph (basic speed rule in a business district)…

    3) failure to keep her vehicle under proper control

    her vehicle was completely under control until she was struck… maybe they think she had time to stop but didn’t?

    4) failure to yield the right-of-way to the vehicle driven by Dawayne Eacret.

    she had the right of way, not the driver… it’s impossible to legally yield your right of way…

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  • mabsf February 26, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Ok:
    So SUVs have cameras to help them park, see their back etc… Isn’t it kind of lame that trucks don’t have those camera as required equipment?

    And…if trucks really have such big blind spot that makes it impossible for them to see areas of the street — what are they doing on streets anyway and why does the DMV approve them?

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    • dan February 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      This x 1,000. If it’s impossible for a truck driver to see all the ways their vehicle could kill someone, why is it legal for them to be on the road? “I couldn’t see that person/dog/tree with this cab/mirror configuration” is not a valid excuse.

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  • rainbike February 26, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I ride this route every work day and think that the most simple way to improve safety on SW Madison between SW 4th and 1st, is to remove the bike lane. Take the entire lane. It goes downhill. You can keep up with auto traffic. Right hook problem removed.

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    • GlowBoy February 26, 2014 at 11:52 am

      Right hook only sort-of removed, and new problems created: the other two lanes back up EVERY EVENING with Hawthorne Bridge traffic. What I don’t want as a cyclist is to be stuck in car traffic! When it happens, it leads many cyclists to try to squeeze by on the right anyway, or hop up onto the sidewalk. Creating new hazards.

      Although the bike lane has the ROW here and I vehemently dispute the claims of cyclists traveling at “excessive speed”, there’s no substitute for vigilance on everyone’s part.

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      • El Biciclero February 26, 2014 at 2:33 pm

        Well, and to this point, I’d just as soon see mandatory bike lanes converted into optional bike passing lanes or bike refuge lanes–to be used when it suited those on bikes, not those in cars. I too like having a reserved lane for passing backed-up motor traffic–carefully, of course–but would love to have a legal choice to take the lane for any reason whatsoever.

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    • El Biciclero February 26, 2014 at 12:10 pm

      Arrgh. Exactly. This is what happens when “infrastructure” (even a simple bike lane) is installed without thinking about it–or when the only thought is that “we have to keep those bikes out of the way!”

      I’ve become such a scofflaw when it comes to bike lane usage that I usually do exactly as you describe in similar situations (and other situations as well), but there are those who feel a responsibility to follow the letter of the law no matter what–or feel that the law must be there to (and actually will) protect them, else why would it be a law(?)–who more frequently end up in the same kind of situation in which Ms. Rickson found herself on that terrible day in May.

      Laws and bicyclist manual language need to be changed to allow and advise the safest course of action in any given situation, not merely parrot the preferences of the driving majority.

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      • El Biciclero February 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm

        …in fact, why has the State of Oregon not been sued before over this kind of thing? I would consider that ORS 814.420 is at least partially responsible for this situation as well.

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    • spare_wheel February 26, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      i don’t even try to keep up. instead i typically blow by slower car traffic as i filter between lanes and swoop into the bike box from the right. imo, positioning an unsignalled bike facility to the right of a motor-vehicle turn lane is a major public safety failure. my preference is always to pass right-turning vehicles on their left.

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    • davemess February 26, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      Why not just get rid of right turns here?

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  • Joe February 26, 2014 at 10:39 am

    why not just paint the whole lane green? you get pinched in that session by fast moving autos all the time, until the bridge or that little merge section to cross onto bridge needs a blinking light for cars to stop and look for bikes/peds

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  • Babygorilla February 26, 2014 at 10:48 am

    This is a civil lawsuit being defended by the trucking company’s insurance carrier (I doubt they are self-insured) where the defendant was not criminally cited. As Jonathan detailed in the linked prior report on the DA declining to issue criminal charges, it is not an open and shut case and the defendant company (and its lawyers) are not monsters who deserve to be in hell.

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    • Jane February 26, 2014 at 10:56 am

      But the operator of the truck should be in jail for manslaughter. It’s time we start throwing the book at vehicle operators involved in deaths of other people. If the driver goes to jail and the company is put out of business, others might not be so inattentive to their vehicles in the future. Time to stop treating the ongoing slaughter of Americans on our roadways as a necessary evil.

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      • pixelgate February 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm

        You assume such negative intent. Tragedies happen. In a perfect world we could design our cities to minimize these tragedies, but this area of downtown was built long before bicyclsts were so prominent.

        To me this is one of those cases where it was a perfect storm that led to her death. Not every fatality has some clear cut evil villain who needs to be thrown in a cell to rot, and if you read the accounts around this incident you would realize that.

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        • Jane February 26, 2014 at 3:34 pm

          I don’t care what the intent was, the fact that it happened is enough. Negligence isn’t specific negative intent but it often has negative outcomes, outcomes which should have dire consequences for the perpetrator.

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          • davemess February 26, 2014 at 4:31 pm

            But the driver wasn’t found at fault in this “collision”, right?

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  • Granpa February 26, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Phyrrhic victory if the case is won

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    • John Lascurettes February 26, 2014 at 11:22 am

      A Pyrrhic victory is a victory with such a devastating cost that it is tantamount to defeat. Someone who wins a Pyrrhic victory has been victorious in some way; however, the heavy toll negates any sense of achievement or profit (another term for this would be “hollow victory”, or “a ruinous situation”).

      How so, Granpa?

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      • Granpa February 26, 2014 at 12:18 pm

        A person died. I would say that is a devastating cost and clearly a loss.

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        • q`Tzal February 26, 2014 at 12:39 pm

          Has the intersection been changed in any way? That would be the only positive outcome from this situation I can imagine. $700,000 doesn’t solve the problem or get to the root cause.

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          • spare_wheel February 26, 2014 at 1:56 pm

            i think that about the time the blood stain was beginning to fade pbot painted a sign urging cyclists to slow down (and wear longer skirts).

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  • q`Tzal February 26, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    This is partly the fault of Oregon’s Mandatory Side Path Law and our experimentation in bicycle specific infrastructure.

    Ignoring for a second the people riding bicycles that are too timid for even bike lanes our unique law makes leaving the bike lane legally shaky even when we should.
    Compunding the problem is that most drivers of large articulated trucks are from out if state. We have a fairly unique state law regarding the legally proscribed behavior of bicycle riders at intersections; it really isn’t surprising that drivers from out of state would be thrown for a loop by all of our special ways of doing things.
    Further compounding the problem is that California is right next door and a lot of those trucks are coming north. In California the legal behavior of bikes and automobiles at intersections, in particular right hook situations, is entirely different than what we do here. Our laws in Oregon regarding bikes are different enough to cause confusion. Add in more bicycles than most out of state people have ever seen out of a movie on Vietnam and Portland’s short walkable block length and this crash will happen agaim and again.

    YES! The driver should have been more aware, more cautious and definitely slower. My policy for these turns confounds the old time truckers: if I can’t avoid turning somewhere dangerous I’ll swap 1 right for 3 left turns (slower but I can what’s coming or I’ll creep through at ½ mph with my hazard lights on. Partly as warning for others and partly to let everyone have a nice long look at how ridiculous it is to have trucks that big in cities that tightly packed.

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    • wsbob February 26, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      “This is partly the fault of Oregon’s Mandatory Side Path Law and our experimentation in bicycle specific infrastructure.

      Ignoring for a second the people riding bicycles that are too timid for even bike lanes our unique law makes leaving the bike lane legally shaky even when we should. …” q`Tzal

      There is no “Oregon’s Mandatory Side Path Law”. If you think otherwise, you can search the ORS yourself, for one. This collision is not in any way, the fault of Oregon’s bike lane use laws, or its bike lanes. The collision occurred due to poor road user judgment.

      If people even knew of Oregon’s bike lane use laws, which most likely don’t, they would well know that those laws, specifically 814.420, articulate their rights when riding a bicycle, to leave the bike lane as needed…’needed’, distinguished from, ‘because I want to’, or ‘because I feel like it’.

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      • q`Tzal February 26, 2014 at 2:46 pm

        Are you calling Jonathan Maus In rare move, City of Roseburg looks to strengthen Oregon’s ‘mandatory sidepath’ law and Ray Thomas Bicycling Laws for Beginning Riders liers for believing in the law as it exists? Perhaps the precise phrase “Mandatory Side Path Law” isn’t in the legal code but its effect is the same.
        Would you like to deny the existence of science next?

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        • wsbob February 26, 2014 at 6:21 pm

          “…Perhaps the precise phrase “Mandatory Side Path Law” isn’t in the legal code but its effect is the same. …” q`Tzal

          You’re not very clear about what you’re referring to, or what you’re trying to express.

          To whatever Oregon Revised Statute or aggregate of them you’re referring to, there is no law by any title that makes riding in a bike lane, ‘mandatory’.

          The Roseburg city council consideration of a proposal to clarify a section of ORS 814.420, didn’t confirm your incorrect assumption that Oregon has a mandatory bike lane law. Roseburg simply decided it wasn’t wise summarily presume that all streets within the city’s jurisdiction met criteria in (2) of the law.

          No, I would not call Maus a liar: he seems to be a hard working guy, but he could do a better job of reporting if he was less inclined to get fired up in support of hysterical misconceptions some people have about Oregon’s bike lane use laws.

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          • Alan 1.0 February 26, 2014 at 9:59 pm

            If there is no rule, there can be no exception to the rule. I’m pretty sure that wsbob insists there are exceptions to Oregon’s “Failure to use bicycle lane or path” law. Ergo…

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            • wsbob February 27, 2014 at 1:01 am

              Alan 1.0
              If there is no rule, there can be no exception to the rule. I’m pretty sure that wsbob insists there are exceptions to Oregon’s “Failure to use bicycle lane or path” law. Ergo…
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              It’s not so hard to read and understand the law. Just read it:

              http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.420

              ORS 814.420 includes exceptions in it’s text, to what some people seeking to repeal the law, apparently would like the law’s title alone to exclusively stand as its intent.

              In other words, it seems some people participating in this bikeportland discussion section, would like to twist and distort a meaning out of the law’s title, to convince others it implies the law’s intent is to make riding in the bike lane mandatory, period…which of course the law as a whole does not do. These people apparently would like to fire up other people to join with them on a wild goose chase to try repeal the law.

              All one need do, is read the text of the law and give it some thought so as to understand that the law’s title is only part of a whole that requires the elements listed under the title, to convey the intent and effect of the law.

              It gives people traveling the road by bike, great latitude in determining circumstances and conditions justify leaving the bike lane to ride in the main lanes of the road.

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              • q`Tzal February 27, 2014 at 10:38 am

                wsbob

                Alan 1.0
                If there is no rule, there can be no exception to the rule. I’m pretty sure that wsbob insists there are exceptions to Oregon’s “Failure to use bicycle lane or path” law. Ergo…
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                It’s not so hard to read and understand the law. Just read it:

                If that was the least bit true we would have no lawyers.

                We are all biased by our upbringing. I grew up with electronics engineers and programmers instead of kids my age. Consequently when I help someone with something technical I can always understand the instructions and documentation even if everyone else thinks that it’s written in Sanskrit. It is obvious that I have an unusual skill and telling people “just read it!” automatically comes across as elitist and insulting.

                Don’t assume we understand legal code as well as you believe you do.

                Also: judicial decisions and police action over Oregon history support the existence of a defacto mandatory sidepath law even if it isn’t titled as such. I can even point an August 2012 article on this site where you seemed to argue from the position that such a law existed. What changed your mind?

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                • wsbob February 27, 2014 at 11:54 am

                  As legal writing goes, ORS 814.420 is not so difficult to read or complicated to understand. It’s basically written in language someone without a college education could understand, perhaps with some help. People should be at least willing to make an effort to read the short text of this law, rather than accept hysterical, uninformed, incorrect word of mouth assumptions about it

                  “…judicial decisions and police action over Oregon history support the existence of a defacto mandatory sidepath law even if it isn’t titled as such. …” q`Tzal

                  Absurd and ridiculous. Indications from news reporting indicate that over the life of the statute…which I think is about 30 years…citations issued for ORS 814.420 have been rare, isolated. This law has a few technical problems that apparently make it difficult for a citation based on it, to stand in court. This law does though, do a fair job of outlining from the perspective of people traveling by bike, a vast, general range of circumstances in which they rightfully are entitled to use of main lanes of the road.

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              • El Biciclero February 27, 2014 at 12:51 pm

                wsbob, you’re right. The word “Mandatory” does not appear in the statute you reference. In fact, there is no “mandatory” stopping law for red lights. There are no “mandatory” right-of-way laws. There aren’t even laws that make it “mandatory” to refrain from murdering people–”thou shalt not murder” is only in the Bible, not the ORS. Laws tend to be phrased in ways that tell you not what you should do, but rather what constitutes an “offense”.

                Let’s look at another example from the ORS. First, think about whether you would consider driving on the right side of a two-way street “mandatory”; I think most people do. Now look at ORS 811.295. Nowhere in the text of that law does it state that driving on the right is “mandatory”, it only describes the offense of failing to drive on the right. There are in fact exceptions to the offense of “Failure to drive on right”, yet most folks would consider Oregon to have a “Mandatory Drive on the Right” law. I can’t drive down the left lane of a two-way street just because I think the right lane is full of broken glass or potholes. If I know that there are a lot of pedestrians that walk along the edge of the road, I can’t just decide to drive on the left so I won’t hit them. If I want to make a left turn 3 blocks ahead, I can’t just drive in the left lane for three blocks to get around stopped traffic. If there are intermittent double-parked cars completely blocking my lane, I still can’t just drive on the left, I must carefully check for oncoming traffic before slowly proceeding around each one. Driving on the right is mandatory, even though there are exceptions for very specific and immediate reasons.

                The fact that riding outside a bike lane constitutes an offense, as in, “a person commits the offense of failure to use a bike lane or path”–even though there are exceptions–is why most people consider Oregon law to make bike lane use mandatory.

                Truly, there is nothing “mandatory” in life–there is only that for which you are not willing to suffer the consequences.

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                • wsbob March 1, 2014 at 11:27 am

                  “…The fact that riding outside a bike lane constitutes an offense…” El Biciclero

                  Only if conditions acknowledged by exceptions in the law are not present or met. You and some others here are beating yourself to death, trying to hold on fast to the idea that this law makes it mandatory to ride in bike lanes…which it does not.

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    • Paul February 26, 2014 at 2:54 pm

      In both CA and WA the truck driver would have “occupied” the bike lane prior to turning right, not only preventing passing by a bicyclist, but also providing advance warning that he was about to turn right. Oregon’s treating bike lanes as through traffic lanes contributes to right hook accidents.
      Having driven tractor-trailers for 35 years, I completely agree that it is far safer to take three lefts than one tight right.

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      • wsbob February 26, 2014 at 6:37 pm

        “…Oregon’s treating bike lanes as through traffic lanes contributes to right hook accidents. …” Paul

        An important thing for people to remember, is that using the bike lane with a bike for through travel at and through intersections, past driveways, or any other kind of ” hazardous conditions”, as specified in (3)(c) of ORS 814.420

        http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.420

        …is an option. The law articulates the rights of people traveling in the bike lane to leave the bike lane to avoid right hooks, or whatever. Of course, they’ve got to do so properly, looking ahead and to whatever directions are called for, in advance of the change, as well as sufficiently signaling.

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        • El Biciclero February 27, 2014 at 1:07 pm

          “The law articulates the rights of people traveling in the bike lane to leave the bike lane to avoid right hooks, or whatever.”

          No it doesn’t. The only times a cyclist is legally allowed to leave a bike lane at an intersection is if they are “preparing to make a left turn”, or if the bike lane is striped to the right of a lane from which auto traffic MUST turn right. There is no exception for driveways or intersections where auto traffic merely MAY turn right.

          You are describing good and safe practice that is also technically illegal. I think your interpretation of the exceptions to ORS 814.420 hinges on your perception of what constitutes a hazard or “hazardous condition”. I think your perception differs from that of law enforcement and the legislators who passed the law. As an example, you and I probably both see riding alongside parked cars while approaching a side street or driveway to the right with a driver waiting to enter the road as an extremely hazardous situation in which it would behoove any cyclist to ride further left, likely outside of where any bike lane would be painted. Law enforcement, however (unless the particular officer were an experienced cyclist), would likely call bunk as long as there were no actual open car doors or the waiting driver hadn’t actually started to drive into you. ORS 814.420 doesn’t prohibit a cyclist from reacting to immediate hazards, it just forbids proactively avoiding them in most cases.

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          • wsbob March 1, 2014 at 11:18 am

            El Biciclero…here’s the link to the text of the law:

            http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.420

            Read it again and again, until you’ve got a better grasp than you do now of what it provides for.

            This law articulates the right of people traveling by bike, to leave the bike lane and travel main lanes of the road, to avoid ‘any’ hazardous conditions.

            This law does not specify which hazardous conditions people traveling by bike can leave the bike lane for, and which hazardous conditions they have to ride over and into: it just says ‘hazardous conditions’, leaving the primary consideration of what constitutes a hazardous condition, entirely up to the road user.

            While one of the jobs police officers have is to make on the scene judgments about whether people have violated provisions of the law, they aren’t the final word as to whether a violation actually has occurred. Police are basically just people that on an individual basis, may not be well acquainted with what the law provides.

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      • Chris I February 27, 2014 at 8:21 am

        Are you sure about that? Large trucks with articulating trailers generally do not hug the curb when they make a turn. Quite the opposite, actually. They usually swing out and make a jug-handle maneuver so they can execute the turn without mounting the curb as the trailer cuts the corner. The fact is, these trucks are a hazard in urban environments, regardless of the state law regarding bike lanes. Cyclists need to exercise extreme caution in these situations.

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    • wsbob March 2, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      “…The driver should have been more aware, more cautious and definitely slower…” q`Tzal

      In approaching, preparing for and making a right hand turn, what mph speed do you believe the driver should have been traveling? What mph speed do you believe he was traveling?

      I don’t recall from news reports, the mph speed the driver was traveling, though I do recall someone in a comment to either this or the slightly later bikeportland story about the settlement, having said a witness to the incident was reported as having said Ms Rickson on her bike, was ‘moving along quickly’, or some such thing.

      Should people traveling through intersections by bike, be passing on the right, bike lane or not, trucks that are, or may be preparing to make right turns? If so, under what conditions?

      Traffic situations such as that at 3rd and Madison, which for many cities, isn’t atypical, ought to make it readily apparent that travel by bike, where motor vehicles are actively present, is really not a good riding situation for novices…(not to say that Kathryn Rickson was a novice in-traffic rider, because I believe reports are, that she had quite a bit of that kind of riding experience.).

      Even people with good ‘seat of the pants’ experience riding, may be making in-traffic riding mistakes, in part because no standard, bike specific mandatory preparation and testing for ability to safely ride a bike in traffic, is required for people choosing to travel by bike.

      So if society wants to reduce traffic collisions such as this one, by strengthening training for people that drive, and penalties for when they make mistakes, resulting in injury, death and damage…fine; let’s not though, do so by neglecting the need to strengthen the ability of persons that are vulnerable road users on the road, to help avoid further collisions such as this one.

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  • pixelgate February 26, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    KGW is currently reporting this was settled this morning for 700k

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  • john February 26, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    another case where the bicyclist probably had the right of way but is now dead…I’d rather be alive than right…bicyclists should be taught to assume that they will be right hooked if they are passing on the right in an intersection….better to leave the bike lane and merge into traffic…passing on the right approaching an intersection or in an intersection is dangerous regardless of who has the right of way….

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    • Paul February 26, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Agree 100%!

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    • GlowBoy February 26, 2014 at 8:37 pm

      “… better to leave the bike lane and merge into traffic …”

      Wrong. What’s better is to enter the intersection cautiously, watch the vehicles next to you carefully, slow down a bit if you sense the possibility, and try to time your entrance to reduce the likelihood of a surprise attack.

      I ride through this intersection daily and agree that it’s at high risk for right hooks, but I’ve never had a right hook or even a close call there because my radar is cranked way up and I’m riding defensively through it.

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      • El Biciclero February 27, 2014 at 1:18 pm

        “Wrong. What’s better is to enter the intersection cautiously, watch the vehicles next to you carefully, slow down a bit if you sense the possibility, and try to time your entrance to reduce the likelihood of a surprise attack.”

        Why “wrong”? Depending on the situation and speed of traffic, one strategy might be better than the other on a case-by-case. If traffic is backed up and I feel like passing it, or traffic is flying by way faster than I’m moving, I’ll do what you describe. If traffic is moving along at pretty much my same speed, I’ll prefer to merge in, since it is easier and usually safer to pass to the left around a driver who suddenly decides to make an unsignaled right turn than it is to emergency stop or cut right (possibly into pedestrians or parked cars) to follow a right-hooking driver. In one case, a sudden right-turner is guaranteed to be crossing your path. In the other, they are merely moving out of your way.

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    • wsbob February 27, 2014 at 1:24 am

      “…bicyclists should be taught to assume that they will be right hooked if they are passing on the right in an intersection….better to leave the bike lane and merge into traffic. …” john

      Also effective, is ‘positioning’. People riding in the bike lane can prepare for intersection transits, by falling back of or moving slightly ahead of a car directly opposite of them before the intersection.

      In most cases, people operating motor vehicles in the main lane will keep about a car length or more of space between themselves and the car ahead. That space can serve as somewhat of a safety zone for people traveling by bike.

      This could be, maybe should be, part of standard education for riding safely in traffic with a bike, offered in some more effective means than simply, ‘seat of the pants’.

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    • El Biciclero February 27, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      This is unfortunately true, but let’s not assume that everyone has the level of experience to understand this quirk of Oregon law. The law states that cyclists must remain in the bike lane in situations like this one, but it also states (as a concession, I imagine) that drivers must yield to “riders upon a bicycle lane”. There are those who assume that this legal arrangement assures safe passage to all in intersections with bike lanes. It is not necessarily stubborn assertion of right-of-way that brings about tragic results, it can be due to mere miscalculation or blissful, yet misplaced faith in the law.

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      • wsbob March 1, 2014 at 11:33 am

        “…The law states that cyclists must remain in the bike lane in situations like this one, …” El Biciclero

        Situations like which one? What exactly is the situation you’re suggesting. Here’s a link to the text of the law. Read it.

        http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.420

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  • TOM February 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Updated today at 1:39 PM

    PORTLAND – The family of a cyclist hit and killed by a semi-truck in downtown Portland in 2012 settled for $700,000 with the trucking company Wednesday morning after a jury heard closing arguments in a wrongful-death claim.

    http://www.kgw.com/news/Trucking-company-family-settle-in-suit-Kathryn-Rickson-cyclist-killed-247301051.html?ref=next

    settled AFTER closing arguments …sounds like they knew there was no chance of winning. We all knew it. Family should have let it go to jury.

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