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New York’s high court says city’s unsafe street design makes them liable for injuries and deaths

Posted on January 10th, 2017 at 2:57 pm.

Advocates in New York City are all abuzz about the ruling.

It happens way too often: Someone is seriously injured or killed at a location that’s a known traffic safety hot-spot. As an activist, it’s infuriating. I can only imagine what it’s like for the family and friends of victims.

After years of assuming cities had blanket immunity from liability when it came to street design decisions, a recent decision by New York’s highest court has thrown that into question. The court found that the City of New York can be held partly liable for a man’s death because they knew the road encouraged speeding and unsafe driving but they failed to study and implement measures to mitigate the risk.

The ruling is being hailed as a “landmark” and “game-changing” decision by New York City nonprofit organization Transportation Alternatives. Here’s what they said in a statement last week:

“The New York high court just ruled that the City can be held liable for failing to study and implement traffic calming measures, which the jury determined were a major factor contributing to the crash. In a 2004 incident, the driver was traveling at 54 mph on Gerritsen Avenue, which had a speed limit of 30 mph. Prior to the incident, the City had been advised by local residents, elected officials, and the Department of Transportation that speeding was common on the street, but that no sufficient speed study or traffic calming review was performed. The Court found the City liable for failing to adequately study and mitigate the road conditions that contributed to the speeding, stating that “an unjustifiable delay in implementing a remedial plan constitutes a breach of the municipality’s duty to the public.”

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In SF, Uber’s robot cars follow Oregon law and bike advocates are very afraid

Posted on January 6th, 2017 at 9:51 am.

Graphic from the SF Bicycle Coalition. In Oregon, the opposite is true — the image on the left is “correct” and the right is “wrong.”

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is so afraid of how Uber’s autonomous vehicles take right turns at intersections that they’ve posted a warning for bike riders and have started a petition to force the company to end the practice.

Interestingly, the dangerous maneuver being made by Uber-bots is exactly what Oregon law requires — and what Portland’s chief bike planner prefers.

Here’s the deal:

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Oregon Senate prez wants distracted driving penalties on par with drunk driving

Posted on December 16th, 2016 at 12:02 pm.

Distracted driver being distracted.jpg

Stop it. You’re drunk.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation has been beating a steady drum all year about one very important part of their approach to traffic safety: distracted driving. Now it looks like the Oregon legislature has their back and we could see a major change to the law in the 2017 session.

According to a story in the Salem Statesmen-Journal Wednesday, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) wants to significantly ramp up the legal consequences for people caught driving while texting, talking, or using social media apps. In fact, he’s so concerned about the threat of distractions that he wants to expand Oregon’s existing cell phone law (ORS 811.507) and make the penalties commensurate with driving under the influence.

From the Statesmen-Journal:

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Man charged with death of Mitch York is back in custody facing new manslaughter charge

Posted on November 18th, 2016 at 10:14 am.

Schrantz booking photo.

Schrantz booking photo.

Joel Schrantz, the man with a long driving record who was driving on a suspended license when he failed to control his car and allowed it to slam into and kill Mitch York on the St. Johns Bridge last month, is back in custody.

After being initially arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide, Schrantz posted $2,000 bail (10 percent of total bail amount) and was set free pending trial. We confirmed with residents in his St. Johns neighborhood that he was indeed back at home. We also confirmed with the District Attorney’s office that Schrantz was under court mandate to check-in with law enforcement everyday and was not allowed to drive a car.

This past Tuesday, Schrantz was back in court to face formal charges in the case. According to Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Elisabeth Waner, the Grand Jury returned an indictment for the enhanced charge of manslaughter in the second degree (ORS 163.125). This is significant because manslaughter is a much more serious crime than criminally negligent homicide.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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):

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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.

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

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

lawsuitlead

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):

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