Legal Section Archives

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Bike law expert says PBOT’s crossbike markings create confusion

Posted on October 12th, 2016 at 3:39 pm.

A crossbike at Tillamook and NE 15th. (Photo: Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton)

A crossbike at Tillamook and NE 15th.
(Photo: Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton)

This post is part of our Get Legal series made possible by Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.

When we first reported on crossbikes in August, concerns about them began almost immediately. While some people were happy to see the increased visibility for bicycling traffic at crossings via the big green stripes, others said the treatment creates confusion.

Now Ray Thomas, the Portland lawyer who literally wrote the book on Oregon bike law, is adding his voice to the chorus of concerns.

Before we get into his critique, let’s review what crossbikes are and what problem they aim to solve.


Local environmental group targets “rolling coal” offenders

Posted on August 30th, 2016 at 2:46 pm.

Image from notice of intent to sue filed by Northwest Environmental Defense Center.

Image from notice of intent to sue filed by Northwest Environmental Defense Center.

“Rolling coal” is a vile act and one of the many deviant behaviors commonly displayed by people who operate motor vehicles.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, let us explain how it works.

Imagine you’re out enjoying a nice bike ride on a beautiful road. Then the driver of a large diesel truck comes up next to you and purposely slams on the gas pedal to emit a huge plume of toxic black exhaust right in your face.

We told you it was vile. But unfortunately it happens more than you might think.


Is Biketown bike share for all? Or only the able-bodied?

Posted on June 2nd, 2016 at 1:49 pm.

Handcycle ride wth Ian Jaquiss
Hand-cycle riders like Ian Jaquiss won’t be able to use Portland’s bike share system.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Portland is launching a bike share program with 1,000 bikes. But what about people with who need to ride a hand-cycle or a recumbent or a trike due to a physical disability? Will they be able to use this new system?

That’s a question raised by city council candidate Chloe Eudaly just six weeks before Portland’s Nike-sponsored Biketown system is set to launch.


Linn County DA won’t prosecute driver who admitted checking his phone before deadly hit-and-run crash

Posted on March 17th, 2016 at 11:20 am.

“The evidence shows that (the driver) diverted his attention away from the road in the moments immediately preceding the crash… he noticed something on his phone, which was on the seat next to him. He then looked down, and it was in this moment that the crash occurred.”
— Alex Olenick, Linn County Deputy DA

A case from Corvallis should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who uses our roads.

As reported today by the Gazette Times, the Linn County District Attorney’s Office has decided to not file charges against the driver who hit and killed 34-year-old Shiloh Sundstrom while he was walking on the side of a road east of Corvallis on the night of November 22nd. The auto user admitted to drinking and looking down at his phone prior to the crash. Despite these facts, the Deputy DA Alex Olenick said the evidence wasn’t enough to prove the driver acted with criminal negligence.

We’ve covered this legal situation numerous times and are aware of the existing limitations in Oregon law around traffic crashes. The threshold to prove intentional and reckless behavior by the driver of a car in situations like this is very high and often — even when it’s clear that a person’s behavior was dangerous and led to the crash — DA’s feel they must decline to prosecute.

What makes this case stand out however, is the statement Olenick made in his report. Here’s the relevant excerpt from Olenick’s memo (taken from Gazette Times with my emphasis):


New Oregon law expands insurance coverage in traffic crashes: What you need to know

Posted on January 6th, 2016 at 2:35 pm.

New signal at Cook and Vancouver-3.jpg
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

This guest article was written by Cynthia Newton as part of our ongoing paid partnership with Portland law firm Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.

Senate Bill 411, passed by Oregon’s legislature in 2015, will help Oregonians injured in vehicular collisions by expanding benefits under two sections of their automobile policies: Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2016, and applies to policies issued or renewed on or after that date. In this article I’ll share more information about those two types of insurance, how the new law impacts them, and why this is important for people who drive, walk or bike.


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: