Cyclist sues TriMet

[Photo from TriMet bus video]

Long time bike advocate and current city employee Randy Albright (seen here at a June Critical Mass ride) has filed a lawsuit against TriMet seeking damages of over $48,000. The suit, which was filed last Friday, details an incident which occured on the Hawthorne Bridge back in January 2004.

I recently met with Randy to get his side of the story:

On the morning of January 22, 2004 he had just entered the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge heading into downtown when he noticed the bike lane was full of gravel debris. The roads had just thawed from an ice storm and despite several attempts to get maintenance crews to clean out the bike lane, it remained unusable. Because of this dangerous situation, Randy was forced to ride just to the right of the main traffic lane.

[Randy and John Doe, pre-punch]

A few minutes later a TriMet bus came up from behind and buzzed him “less than a foot” from his handlebars. This was much too close for comfort in Randy’s mind. A few minutes later Randy caught up to the bus near a stop (still on the bridge) and proceeded to walk his bike directly in front of the driver’s window, yelling and screaming at the driver (for anyone that knows Randy, this is not hard to imagine). Before long, the other traffic continued on, but Randy remained in front of the bus, causing a delay.

[*Note, the bus was standing-room-only full at this time.]

This delay apparently upset the driver and one passenger in particular because suddenly the bus door opened and a man stormed out. He approached Randy and instantly began hitting him. The first punch broke Randy’s lip open (later needing stitches) and eventually this “John Doe” wrestled Randy over to the sidewalk (see photos).

[This is the man who
assaulted Randy]

After the incident, John Doe walked right back on the bus, the door closed, and the bus continued on into town. According to timestamps on the images made from TriMet video, the entire incident took less than one minute .

Randy and his lawyer feel TriMet is responsible because the driver:

Randy has met with TriMet and reviewed video of the incident (that’s where these photos came from). Despite being cooperative with Randy’s requests for information, TriMet claims that John Doe is responsible for the incident and they have not assumed any responsibility so far.

In the background of all this is the fact that many cyclists have had run-ins with TriMet busses. Just glancing at my close call submissions, I found five of them involved a TriMet bus (here they are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

That being said, I’m not so sure Randy handled this right. Did he really have to make a big scene and get all irate with the driver? Would he have had more luck by just taking down the bus number and going through the proper channels? My heart says I can’t blame him for getting upset, but I wonder what would have happened if cooler heads prevailed…and so does Randy. At one point in our meeting, he said sheepishly, “I don’t hate TriMet or anything…after all, I take the MAX to Zoobomb!”.

But regardless of Randy’s outburst, there’s simply no justification for a TriMet driver allowing a passenger to beat someone up and then leave them without any more respect than roadkill. And what’s up with this psycho passenger? That guy needs to relax and stop assaulting people he doesn’t even know. Too bad no one knows who he is because I’d love to hear his side of the story.

Perhaps the judge will make TriMet begin a new cyclist safety training program. If something like that comes out of this we all win, because regardless of how it turns out I think there’s a real need for cyclists and TriMet to work together to share the road. They’re the heaviest road user and we’re the lightest, it’s a recipe for disaster.

What have been your experiences riding around TriMet busses? Do you think Randy’s lawsuit is justified?

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