Legal Section Archives

Click on headline for the full story.

Woman sues for over $670,000 after collision caused serious injuries

Posted on July 24th, 2015 at 12:50 pm.


via The Oregonian

Cindy Lewellen, a 45-year old Portland resident who’s well-known in the local riding scene, filed a lawsuit this week against two people that she believes are liable for a collision that caused her serious injuries back in November.

It happened on NW St. Helens Road near that notorious intersection of Kittridge and Yeon (where the new Forest Park entrance is slated to go).

According to the lawsuit Lewellen was riding south in the bike lane. As she approached a driveway that led to United Rentals, a person driving in the adjacent lane had stopped for someone who wanted to turn left into the driveway. Here’s what happened next (according to the lawsuit, emphasis mine):


Man wins in court three years after police, insurance company blamed him for collision

Posted on June 25th, 2015 at 12:03 pm.

Still from KGW-TV video taken at the scene in 2012.

A Portland man who was blamed for a collision on a notorious section of North Broadway three years ago has been absolved in court.

Three years ago 33-year old Karl Zickrick was riding down North Broadway on his way to work. As he approached Wheeler he noticed a large SUV encroaching into the bike lane in front of him as it prepared to turn right. To avoid being right-hooked, Zickrick moved to the left out of the bike lane to go around the SUV. However, just as he made that move the driver of the SUV, 62-year-old Michael McLerren, slammed on his brakes and Zickrick flew into the back window. The impact shattered the window and left Zickrick with severe facial injuries and a broken jaw. (Two months after this collision, former Mayor Sam Adams decided to prohibit all right turns onto Wheeler.)

Adding insult to injury, the Portland Police Bureau blamed Zickrick for the collision. The day the crash occurred the PPB said this in an official statement (emphases mine):


DIY prosecution of dangerous vehicle operators: A guide from Ray Thomas

Posted on June 9th, 2015 at 11:44 am.

Fighting for fixed gears in court
Take ’em to court.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been over nine years now since we first shared the concept of “citizen initiated citations” here on BikePortland. At that time it was a little-known statute. Today, people are a bit more aware of it; but it’s still not a process that many people have gone through.

Unfortunately however, it’s still needed. As the number of people who operate vehicles illegally shows no signs of letting up and enforcement resources remain abysmal, it’s often the only option for justice. With an unusually high number of collisions and other incidents reported lately, we’ve decided to publish this article from Ray Thomas, the Portland-based lawyer and expert on bicycling issues who’s been at the forefront of citizen prosecution for nearly a decade.

(Note: Thomas uses “drivers” in his article, but his advice can be used by any road user regardless of how they get around.) — Jonathan Maus

Citizen Prosecution of Dangerous Drivers: How You Can Do It for Yourself


Noted lawyer Ray Thomas opposes bill that would mandate rear bike lights

Posted on May 6th, 2015 at 1:18 pm.

Ray Thomas.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

When Oregon House Representative John Davis proposed making reflective clothing mandatory while bicycling, many people understandably scoffed at the idea. Thankfully, he too apparently realized the absurdity of government intervention into apparel choices and quickly gutted his bill and stuffed it with something else.

Davis’ clothing idea quickly morphed into a bill (HB 3255) that would mandate rear lights on all bicycles (current law calls for only a rear reflector). That seemed like a good idea to me at first glance; but after hearing Portland-based lawyer and bike law expert Ray Thomas‘ opposition to it, I’ve changed my mind.

Thomas called me yesterday to say he was actively working to stop the bill. He has several significant concerns about how the new equipment requirement would impact bicycle riders in Oregon.


Lawsuit stemming from crash during mountain bike race is withdrawn

Posted on January 27th, 2015 at 1:56 pm.

“With this decision, the future of mountain bike racing in state of Oregon has a somewhat brighter outlook.”
— Park Chambers, owner of Fat Tire Farm

A lawsuit many feared would have an ominous ripple-effect on mountain bike race promotion in the state of Oregon has been withdrawn.

As we shared earlier this month, Lisa Belair-Sullivan filed a lawsuit against a race promoter and sponsor after she crashed and injured herself on a log that had fallen across a trail. Belair-Sullivan was warming up for the Dog River Super D mountain bike race in May. Her lawsuit contended that event promoter Petr Kakes of Hurricane Racing and Park Chambers of Fat Tire Farm (a shop who was the title sponsor of the event) created a safety hazard that she was unable to avoid.

On January 9th, we confirmed with Belair-Sullivan that she withdrew the case. While she has yet to make an official public statement, Park Chambers issued one on January 23rd. We’ve pasted the statement below in its entirety:


Get Legal with Ray Thomas: What you need to know about hit and run

Posted on January 6th, 2015 at 12:10 pm.

Gresham-Fairview Trail gap at Burnside
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Hit and runs are far too common in Oregon. Unfortunately, so is the feeling of helplessness about what to do about them. In the spirit that knowledge equals power, I’ve put together a primer on the laws surrounding hit and runs and what do to if you are ever involved in one.

Here’s the sad but true fact: If a vehicle operator* can escape a collision scene then the chances are they will get away without having to pay for the damage they caused and they can also avoid things like: arrest on an outstanding warrant; a DUI charge for driving/riding while impaired; a possible police search of the vehicle for drugs or contraband on board; a car with no insurance, or not having a drivers’ license.

If the perpetrator is ever caught (and they usually are), here’s what the law says about their crime.


Two local lawsuits put focus on riding conditions, responsibility – UPDATED

Posted on January 5th, 2015 at 12:56 pm.


Two lawsuits filed in the past two weeks put a focus on the question of who’s responsible for safe riding.

According to The Oregonian, a woman was badly injured last May during a mountain bike race in Hood River when she attempted to ride over a log that had fallen on the trail. She now seeks $273,000 from race organizer Hurricane Racing (Portland based bike shop Fat Tire Farm, the event’s main sponsor, is also named in the lawsuit).

Here’s more from The Oregonian:


Get Legal: Being “nice” is dangerous and could make you at fault in a collision

Posted on September 17th, 2014 at 2:54 pm.

Rosa Parks Way -3
Being nice isn’t so nice when it creates confusion.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Written by lawyer Ray Thomas of Swanson, Thomas Coon & Newton.

Some road users go out of their way (and beyond the law) to be “nice.” Being nice isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it involves giving somebody a break, or allowing a successful traffic merge; but other times — such as when a driver waves another driver through stopped traffic — there can be disastrous consequences.

When road users go out of their way to accommodate others when there is no legal authority for doing so, it creates real trouble later if someone gets hurt as a result of their “nice” gesture. In this column, I’ll go over some common scenarios where being what you think is good can actually be very bad.


Get Legal with Ray Thomas: Oregon’s ‘Safe Passing’ law explained

Posted on January 6th, 2014 at 3:53 pm.

This is the final installment of our three-part series on Oregon’s passing laws written by our legal correspondent Ray Thomas. Read previous parts here and here.

The 2007 Oregon Legislature added an innovative law to the nation’s passing laws when Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) reformed Oregon’s bicycle passing laws with a new collection of legal concepts. The new passing law was intended to remedy several factors believed responsible for the tragic death of triathlete Jane Higdon on Territorial Road in Eugene when she and a group of riders were passed by a truck hauling logs.

Here’s the text of the law:


In Roseburg, popularity of bicycling thwarts punitive police power grab

Posted on August 22nd, 2012 at 9:56 am.

Gravel, leaves in bike lane-4
“Public hearing” or not; not all
bike lanes are “safe and reasonable” to ride on.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Earlier this month, police officers in the City of Roseburg tried to strengthen their authority to ticket people who do not ride in bike lanes. They thought they could sneak an agenda item through City Council and be on their way. It turns out, they were wrong.

Officers wanted to close a loophole in ORS 814.420, the law that mandates people on bicycles must use a bike lane if/when one is available (there are myriad exceptions to the rule). Specifically, the police wanted to close the loophole that says a person is not required to follow the law, “unless the state or local authority… finds, after public hearing, that the bicycle lane or bicycle path is suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed.”