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Fatalities, responsibility, and safe bikeways

Posted by on June 1st, 2006 at 11:08 am

On Monday afternoon, while at the Coast enjoying some time away, I received a voicemail from Anita at KATU TV. She said two cyclists had been hit out on Highway 47 and she wondered if I could post details about the crash in hopes of finding out their identity.

They’ve since been identified as Darrel and Sheryl McDaniel. They were both killed in the crash when Patricia Suhrbier let her Saab veer into the shoulder, striking them from behind.

Good coverage can be found on the BTA Blog, in the Portland Bike Forums, and in this solid bit of reporting (click the video link) from Brian Barker at KATU. Barker (check out his blog) is a cyclist himself who has actually ridden that same stretch of highway many times.

According to the Sheriff’s department, Suhrbrier hasn’t been charged with anything yet, even though she veered into the shoulder at 50-60mph and killed two innocent people.

I’m sure she had no criminal intention and that she simply made a horrible mistake that she will regret the rest of her life. So should we have any pity for Suhrbrier? Or, should we condemn her for this negligence and demand that she be punished as harshly as possible?

Where exactly does an innocent mistake end and criminal negligence begin?

Some people in the bike community feel that once you get behind the wheel of car, you give up all claims to innocence.

I can remember many years ago – after a long day as a construction crew laborer – I was driving on a rural highway out to a mountain bike ride and was very sleepy behind the wheel. I’ll never forget the moment I veered into the bike lane for a brief second. I could have killed someone myself.

I wonder if it’s just impossible to think we can share these types of roads. Perhaps it’s time to look at roadway design and reconsider what we define as an acceptable bikeway?

A strip of paint and a few feet of shoulder directly alongside fast-moving highway traffic is not my idea of an acceptable bikeway.

Should we demand more bike-specific safety infrastructure on rural roads and highways?

In this case, the Forest Grove Chamber of Commerce website has this section Highway 47 listed as part of a recommended bicycle tour.

I have posted about this in the past and I think we’ll continue to have more tragedy on rural roads and highways in the future if nothing changes.

On most rural roads there’s plenty of shoulder room to create a safer bikeway. That might mean a much wider shoulder or added safety features like big reflector bumps (like the ones that separate MAX tracks), more rumble strips, or even completely separated paths whenever possible.

Perhaps lawyer Ray Thomas’ new watchdog group can find the money for these things in the Bicycle Bill which is supposed to give 1% of highway projects to bike infrastructure (how much did that strip of paint cost?).

In the end, ultimate responsibility falls onto the person behind the wheel (or the handlebars). The solution to safer roadways lies within each of us and can’t be solved with signs and speed bumps. However, changing behavior and turning the tide against our car-centric, speed-loving society are monumental tasks.

In the meantime we need to send a clear message to motorists that a little mistake can have tragic consequences and encourage elected officials and transportation planners to do more to ensure the safety, convenience and comfort of all road users.

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    Dabby June 1, 2006 at 11:17 am

    I can only hope that the reason she has not been charged is because of the ongoing investigation, but, surely it is just because she will not be charged at all.
    There was a incident 2 years ago in vancouver , where a woman was reaching into the back seat, with her dog on her lap and a kid not in a car seat in the car.
    She drove onto the sidewalk, over a babysitter with I think 4 kids. I recall at least two of them died.
    She was never charged, or ticketed, or anything….
    But, a couple of months later her husband was put into prison for a sexual offense of some sort…………
    Birds of a feather…

    I am just saying that killing is killing.
    Accident Smaxiceident.
    Charge the hell out of em.
    Unless you continue to go legally straight in your lane, you are at fault.
    This pisses me off…

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    Kaliana June 1, 2006 at 11:21 am

    How does this not fall under manslaughter? How can someone take two lives and still not be charged? This is completely infuriating.

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    Jonathan Maus June 1, 2006 at 11:25 am


    The driver has not been charged because they do a full investigation before assessing blame in situations like this.

    It’s frustrating to me too, we just have to make sure justice is done. We can be thankful we have the BTA to keep tabs on the process as it moves forward.

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    Kaliana June 1, 2006 at 11:48 am

    Yes, but while the investigation is going on is she behind bars? Or out and about, driving her car around and enjoying the nice weather? Just craziness!

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    dayaram June 1, 2006 at 11:54 am

    probably like most of us would be, she is at home and in shock about how her life has changed forever. Sure she needs to “be held responsible” but we must give some compassion to her as well as to the victims of this tragedy.

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    Eddie June 1, 2006 at 11:56 am

    The driver is probably completely innocent and it probably was purely an accident but I’d be interested to know the following:

    1) In what country or state did the driver learn to drive? Did she have driver education training? How long has she had a license in the US? If she learned to drive in a different country did she have to take a driving test to obtain a US license? [Rarely have I observed good driving skills from people who learned to drive in other countries. Good skills aren’t common enough in drivers who learned to drive in the US either.]

    2) How wide was the shoulder in the location they were riding when hit? (looks like only one or two feet in the photo) Where were the cyclists – on the white line, far to the right shoulder, etc?

    3) How long of a straight stretch was there prior to the point where the driver hit the cyclists? (If it was fairly long, then what kind of poor driving behavior would have enabled the driver to not see the cyclists for such a long distance?)

    4) Since no charges have been filed, is the driver related to or friends of any police or politicians?

    5) What time of day was it when it occurred and was the sun in the drivers eyes or was it illuminating the cyclists brightly?

    6) What color clothing were the cyclists wearing?

    7) How far apart on the road were the cyclists? If a long way, why were both hit?

    8) How far did the vehicle travel before coming to a stop after hitting the two cyclists?

    9) What part of the front of the vehicle contacted the cyclists? The extreme right bumper, or closer to the midddle, or just the right fender? (From the photo it looks like a foot or so in from the right, maybe?)

    10) Was a drug/alcohol test given? If no drug/alcohol test was given, why not? See number 4 above. What does Oregon law say about mandatory drug/alcohol tests after a fatal accident?

    11) Was the driver taking medication – either prescription or over-the-counter? If so, what kinds?

    12) Did the driver have insurance?

    13) Will this driver be allowed back on the road with no training/testing requirements?

    14) Will Saab be sued for knowingly making a dangerous product that resulted in the deaths of humans the same way some gun manufacturers have been?

    15) Would it be possible for a class action lawsuit against the city/county/state for failure to provide safe recreation areas for walkers/joggers/cyclists? Could a judgement be issued that would condemn a metro-wide grid of streets and roads to be used solely by human powered users?

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    Kaliana June 1, 2006 at 12:13 pm

    Ridiculous. After reading the KATU article, it says:
    However, that does not mean she will not face charges. It is a traffic violation to drive on the shoulder, but it has to be proved that the driver was doing something negligent in order to press criminal charges like manslaughter.

    The determining factor will be whether the driver was doing something criminally negligent. If it is determined she was not, then she may only have to pay a $242 ticket for failure to maintain a lane.

    It’s not negligent to ride in the shoulder and mow two cyclists over? By this logic, anyone is free to drive their vehicles over bicyclists in the shoulder and merely face a 242 dollar penalty for it. Absolutely stupid.

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    Bill June 1, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    A car approaching anything be it a cyclist, a corner or another car needs to heed caution. It simply must be said that if youre in a car driving, its not ok to be lazy, to be pre-occupied with anything other than driving, to be speeding, to be sleepy, talking on a cell phone, etc, etc, etc. Driving is a privilege and it needs to be considered that no matter how long and how freely we’ve been given this privilege. motorized vehicles are very much weapons in the wrong circumstances and I think people forget this. If youre tired, dont drive. if you need to talk to someone on the phone, pull over. if you have business to take care of in the car, pull over. There is no excuse big enough to make me feel good about someone killing someone driving their car. It may not have been intentional, but its not completely innocent, it negligence at best and there really needs to be some kind of punishment. I think losing her license to drive for a period of time needs to be the very beginning.

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    Dabby June 1, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    How can you possibly say that a person is probably innocent when they fully left their lane and ran over people.
    Once again, leaving your lane is not legal, unless you signal, look, look again, then change lanes.
    And driving in the shoulder is not legal unless you are: broken down. Or once again, legally leaving the roadway…
    Clue rent one.
    The Proof Is In The Pudding

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    jami June 1, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    how do you accidentally veer onto the shoulder without seeing the two bikes over there?

    was she on a cell phone? drunk? sleepy? reaching for the radio? eating mcdonald’s? of course i’m sure she’s horrified at what she did, but she should get the same treatment she’d get if she’d killed two people in a car by crossing into their lane.

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    Michael June 1, 2006 at 12:31 pm

    16) Was a cell phone in use?

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    Kaliana June 1, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    I’m always flabbergasted the way everyone tries to come up with trite excuses when a motorist kills or severely injures a pedestrian or cyclist. I think it’s because when the average Joe hears the story, they immediately put themselves in the position of the driver since they are drivers themselves, and ultimately sympathize. It’s completely frustrating. Someone can get locked up for smoking a joint yet only get a 200 dollar fine for killing two people? …. I could scream.

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    Tomas June 1, 2006 at 12:58 pm

    Doesn’t anyone feel her pain? What about all the damage done to her Saab by hitting these two bicycles with people attached? She’s got to have a dent, cracked windshield or at least a scratch in the paint.

    Seriously…couldn’t she be charged with involuntary manslaughter?

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    Greg Wilkes June 1, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    I am wondering what type of options have been purposed to further insure the saftey of us bicyclists…could you let me know. I ride from the zoo to se 136th when I work and for all my other outings, so I like to stay informmed on the bicycle rights/responsibilities.

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    Brad June 1, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    If it makes you feel any better, the driver’s life is effectively ruined by this whether she sees the inside of a prison cell or not. Aside from the psychological trauma caused by killing two people, she will no doubt be caused great financial pain. She likely already has a defense attorney on the clock in anticipation of charges (at several hundreds of dollars per billable hour). There is going to be civil action filed against her by surviving family members for wrongful death (again, more legal costs no matter the outcome). She may also have a damned near impossible time finding any affordable auto insurance after this. Toss in long term counseling, the emotional costs to her family, the dirty looks and murmurs around the neighborhood, church, etc. and her life is pretty screwed up from here on.

    Trust me that this will be more costly than a $242 traffic citation.

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    brian June 1, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    The driver will likely lose her license. The DMV automatically suspends the license of a driver when they’re involved in a motor vehicle accident involving a fatality.

    The Washington County Sheriff’s Department is investigatning. Their accident reconstruction team is still piecing the incident together. That could take as long as two weeks. After that, they will forward the case to the Washington County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.

    It is likely that the driver will face some kind of criminal charge, likely manslaughter or vehicular homicide.

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    Kaliana June 1, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    Just looking at the picture of her car gives me chills, you can see just how much of an impact it had on the cyclists. You can see a photo of it at the katu article (

    While I do realize there will be civil suits, that does not make it easier for me to fathom why police are seemingly so lax with this. It basically sends a warning to all cyclists who have ever biked along the side of a road: Your life is worth 242 dollars. Seriously, there needs to be some accountability here. A slap on the wrist won’t satisfy anyone.

    Though, and this is just a sign of how bad things have become, I must say I am happy the driver actually stopped. There have been far too many cases where a cyclist or pedestrian is hit and the driver just speeds off, knowing they hit someone. At least this woman didn’t try to do that. I agree with the other people here, she is likely very torn up inside and completely regretting what happened. But the question posed: Does that buy someone a get out of jail free card? I mean that literally, too.

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    Bry June 1, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    Based on what I have read, I fully agree that the driver should face charges (and most likely she will), but I think we should reserve judgement on potential aborgations of justice until the facts surrounding the accident are revealed and charges are either brought forth or not. Some facts are indisputable: she REALLY did veer off the road and kill two people, but we don’t know much more than that yet, and until all the facts are known any potential rage against yet another driver getting a slap on the wrist is misplaced and premature.

    Most of what I’ve seen here is a want of information and action. That’s good for our community. Let’s realize that there are people right now attempting to give us both – so let’s give them the time to pull everything together.

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    Evan Manvel June 1, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Sadly, yesterday Oregon cyclists lost another: Jane Higdon of Eugene.

    Dealing with crashes like these is the hardest part of my job.

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    Russell June 1, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    I posted about this a couple days ago on the boards.

    Bike Portland forums

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    Scout June 1, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    Yes, accidents happen, and I understand that she probably didn’t intend to kill anyone. Still, most people get behind the wheel of their cars every day without killing people.

    I ride my bike most places in good weather, but I am also a driver, and I know the potential harm my car can cause. Even before I was an avid cyclist, I watched out for motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians, slowing when they crossed my path, and giving them a wider berth. This is common sense. I don’t think the driver in this instance should be crucified for an accident, but she should certainly be held accountable, and I hope that at the conclusion of the police investigation, she is.

    And have I watched too much CSI, or can she be charged with negligent homicide?

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    organic brian June 1, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    It is so easy to post to a forum with speculation, much easier than taking five minutes to follow up and get the real info.

    I called the number for Washington County Sheriff Rob Gordon just now (503-846-2506). Didn’t get the Sheriff, but did get an officer who was very sympathetic and helpful. I explained that the KATU news article said the driver had driven onto the shoulder, but “it has to be proved that the driver was doing something negligent in order to press criminal charges like manslaughter.” I complained that driving on the shoulder to me IS “something negligent.” The officer explained that the evidence gathered will go to a grand jury which will decide whether a criminal charge should be brought against the driver. The reason this procedure often doesn’t result in a criminal chage, is that the grand jury will invariably be made up mostly of motorists, most of or all of whom will realize that they have made similar mistakes like veering onto the shoulder. It is due to the system, which I think is broken, and not due to the decision of any officer that this woman will likely not be charged if it is not shown that she was for example busy dialing a cell phone or reaching into the back seat for something. Would Oregonians ever pass a law making it a criminal act to cause a death while committing ANY traffic infraction? I doubt it, because most Oregonians are motorists and know that they are not perfect drivers, but it is something we could strive for rather than complaining among ourselves on a blog.

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    Kaliana June 1, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Exactly. Motorists will relate to the motorist, not the dead cyclist. Ignorance? Oh yeah, there’s lots of that stuff too. This is just disgusting to read. I can’t imagine how the victims’ families must feel. If my parents were killed like this and the very real possibility that the neglegent party was facing a mere 242 dollar fine, I’d lose my mind at that very moment. I’m talking vigilante style. Being in a situation where loved ones are treated with such brazen indifference is absolutely disgusting. Someones parents are killed and other motorists who sympathize will likely suggest 242 dollars is a proper punishment only because they know they’ve come close to dozing off or veering off the road themselves….. lovely.

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    John June 1, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    I’m frozen with fear and shock inregards to Jane in Eugene.

    I rode that same route only a couple days before the accident, and yes it can be pretty unsafe.

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    dayaram June 1, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    most grand jury hearings are most influenced by the attitude of the D.A. who presents the evidence to the panel. If he/she feels there is reason for a charge then that is usually what the jury will decide.

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    nuovorecord June 1, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    The earlier comments about the driver’s life being pretty well screwed up, regardless of what punishment the law will ultimately dish out are right on, I’d say.

    BUT, the public isn’t going to see that. What they will see is…and should see in this case…is jail time, loss of license, fines, etc.

    Driving your car on the shoulder is, by my definition if not the ORS’s, a negligent thing to do. If you kill people whist doing so, even if you didn’t mean to and are terribly sorry, you have committed a criminal act and should pay a damn heavy price. That is the only way to get other drivers to take notice and do a better job of driving.

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    Caroline June 1, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    As I recall it is illegal to swerve on highways. A family member went to court after being ticketed for swerving and lost his case. Also, the act of killing someone, no matter how accidental, is called manslaughter, and I believe people usually serve time for that.

    Driving is a huge responsibility. Own up.

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    Anonymous June 1, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    I’m an avid cyclist and drive my car pretty sparingly. Unfortunately I hit kid on a bike once. Fortunately it was in a parking lot at low speed, no one was injured. We both had some responsibility in the accident.

    You can’t assume just because I was in a car I was 100% at fault. I still feel horrible and embarrassed about it to this day. I tell this story because accidents unfortunately do happen, be careful not get on your soap box.

    I took the incentive to take responsibility. The kid was afraid he was going to get into trouble. I got on the phone with his dad right then and there to make things right, exchanged information etc.

    In the end I bought the kid a new wheel for his bike. (The only damage). The kid was not wearing a helmet so I bought him a helmet as well. Hopefully, the kid will learn that some people do try to do the right thing.

    I was so upset about it, I can’t even imagine if I killed a cyclist…….

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    Dr. Mark Ross June 1, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    swerving illegal? I don’t think so . . . one can swerve to avoid accidents and to avoid causing an accident. there is more to your family member’s tale I think.

    if the bike killer is cited, but not criminally charged, there is recourse in civil court.

    A lengthly jail term might not be wise (cost to society), BUT the judge can impose a hefty fine to cripple the rest of the of the killer’s life — that money can be used to dedicate police time to catch motorists driving in bike lanes.

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    Medic Pilot June 1, 2006 at 9:29 pm

    I, too, hit a bicyclist several years ago. He wasn’t killed, but he did sustain serious injury. In this case he was at fault – he was riding his bike in the crosswalk, against a red light at night, when he popped out in front of my car.

    Regardless, it wasn’t a pleasant experience for me. Even though this guy was in the wrong, it was a sickening feeling that I had actually hit him. I am grateful that he wasn’t more seriously injured.

    The facts of this current case have to be borne out, but we have to remember that accidents do happen. That’s why they call them accidents.

    What I want to learn from this as a cyclist, is what can I do to help prevent it. Am I wearing brightly colored outerwear? Do I have a good helmet on? Is the route I am on relatively safe (i.e. traffic speed, shoulder distance). Am I paying attention to what the traffic is doing?

    I think it is tragic what happened, and there are more than just two vicitims. This will happen again, and again, and again.

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    Aaron June 1, 2006 at 11:32 pm

    Okay there’s a lot of comments, so I’ll keep this as brief as I can. Organic Brian put it very well. We need to be proactive and make it clear that we don’t tolerate a slap on the wrist.
    Anonymous and medic: granted I’m biased because I’ve never obtained a license, however realize one VERY IMPORTANT FACT. A bike weighs about 20lbs, a car weighs 3-5000 lbs. The energy to cause harm is expressed E = Mass x velocity squared. That’s a lot of energy. If you get into a car, you should be aware that you COULD cause serious damage and/or death. You must be willing to accept that. I believe that a driver who has hurt/killed will simply justify that the biker shouldn’t have been there/or was illegal. And they have plenty of friends to support them.
    I have also seen bikes/pedestrians do incredibly dumb things in front of me. But because of my mass and speed, they are NEVER in danger. That is the difference.

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    Randy June 1, 2006 at 11:52 pm

    Pilot – Brightly colored clothing and a helmet will not prevent this type of crash, nor the associated injuries. The cyclists had mirrors on their bikes, that would have been the best defense, but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way in this case. This is a social problem related to the totemization of motor vehicles in our society, plain and simple.

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    Eddie June 2, 2006 at 12:07 am

    This “accident” is a scary thing. I ride on West Union or Skyline fairly often and there is no paved shoulder at all. Every motorized vehicle that passes is a potential ticket to meet Jesus, or in my case Satan. It really makes you nervous when you hear a loud dump truck or monster truck approaching from behind. All you can do is hope they are paying attention and ride as far to the right as possible.

    If I had an accident while driving my car and I killed someone I’d hate to think that on top of being miserable over it that I’d be ruined financially for life: if in fact it was purely accidental.

    The other day I hit a bird while driving. It was partly my fault because I was going too fast and I saw two birds in the road ahead of me and assumed they’d fly away like they normally do. One of them was too slow and I hit it. I saw it flopping on the ground in the rear view mirror. I felt really bad about it suffering and then dying and thinking that they were probably just doing the wild thing in the street. That was two weeks ago and I still feel sad about it. I did think at the time that I’d better watch out because next time it might be a kid. Accidents happen. I cannot imagine what I’d feel like after accidently killing two people.

    Post number 11 asked a good question: Was a cell phone in use? Another question might be: Was the driver required to wear glasses and if so, was she?

    Posts 5, 15, and 26 talked about the drivers life being screwed up. If it was an accident I imagine the driver is miserable. Laura Bush killed a person while driving when she was young and she appears to be doing OK, but I think it probably has an effect on her.

    Post 21 says he understands that she probably didn’t INTEND to kill anyone. We certainly HOPE she didn’t intend any such thing, but if the fine for
    killing someone by running them over is $242 then it might encourage such
    behavior to start happening! Just remember to say: “It was an accident.”

    I think condemning 3 or 4 streets going east/west and 3 or 4 going north/south in the metro area would be good for human powered vehicles. We pay our taxes and we deserve transportation systems at least as safe as motorized vehicles. It would not hurt traffic flow to have these 6 or 8 streets limited only to human powered vehicles. Cars would be able to drive for 1 block or less on these streets only for the purpose of parking at their homes. Crossings of these streets would be controlled. How to do that? Traffic circles maybe? Stop signs for cars – not for human powered vehicles? Can you imagine the rise in property values of homes along these streets? Can you imagine the quiet of not hearing monster trucks and assholes driving cars with the loud exhausts on your street? I’d pay quite a bit extra to live on one of those streets. I’ll bet most people would FIGHT to get their street condemned to only human powered vehicles. The people would want ALL the streets to be vehicle free. For now that can’t happen, but I think a grid of 3 or 4 in both directions, crossing the entire 3 county area could be done. Choose the streets that have low traffic volume anyway. Who will take the lead on this one? Ballot initiative?

    While were at it, I noticed in the Oregonian today (Thursday June 1, 2006 page B1 of the “Metro” section) that Washington County is going to start planning development of 800 acres near North Bethany (just north of Hwy 26). Can some of you bike activists go down and get some bike paths on the drawing boards? Might help us get off the streets when we go past that area.

    Anyone ever look into building bike lanes next to the MAX tracks?

    What about bike lanes next to some of the rural roads like Hwy 47 where this accident occurred?

    What about those thousands of acres of rural land West and North of Beaverton/Hillsboro – could some 40 or 50 mile bike paths be put on those?

    Anyone ever ride the Loveland bike trail near Cincinnati, Ohio? It runs along a river for many miles and is a great place to ride. We have a river or two here in the area – let’s use them. Howsabout it? Ballot initiative? Or do you have a bulldozer? If so, go for it.

    Ever ride the Burke Gillman trail in Seattle? Goes around Lake Washington. It’s nice to be on a trail instead of a car infested street or highway.

    We need to get the bikes away from the cars to prevent cyclists from being hit.

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    Dr. Mark Ross June 2, 2006 at 12:20 am

    just a quick note . . . I don’t want to hog the thread . . . there is no such thing as an “accident”. These things happen as a result of a deliberate decision (or non-decision) by one or more human beings. Only an act of God can be a true “accident”. A car doesn’t go in the bike lane by itself.

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    tonyt June 2, 2006 at 6:38 am

    Couldn’t agree more with the good doctor here. Where does this notion of an “accident” come from? Surely it was unintentional, but using the term accident absolves the driver/whomever of their responsibility.

    “Accidents” are caused by inattention, negligence, ignorance, or criminal conduct.

    When one gets behind the wheel of a 3,000 pound vehicle, the power to do harm should scare you. I sometimes work with dangerous tools (lathes, mills, things like that) and I always pause and take a deep breath when I start, cause those things can rip a hand off. Cars are even worse. The words of my grandfather regarding cars ring true. “This thing is a weapon. Treat it with respect.”

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    nuovorecord June 2, 2006 at 6:53 am

    True, there are a precious few “accidents.” The proper term used by the traffic safety experts is “crash.”

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    Kaliana June 2, 2006 at 8:57 am

    Eddie, I completely agree about streets that prohibit non-motorized vehicles. Think of the peace of mind parents would have letting their kids play in the front yard without worrying someone will come racing their car through and accidentally hit a child?

    It would also cut down on these people who think its cool to drive around with a car stereo that sounds like a friggin concert hall. Yeah, that’s just what I need when I’m trying to sleep on a weekend night. Neighborhoods should be peaceful sanctuaries, our homes. I’d definitely pay extra to live on a street where cars only had a 1 block distance permittance to get onto the next road over where vehicles are allowed.

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    noelle June 2, 2006 at 9:00 am

    It is one thing to be surprised by a cyclist jumping out in front of your car at night, but it is something else entirely when, in the middle of the day on a highway, you swerve into the shoulder, hitting and killing 2 bicyclists.

    Some posters here are defending this woman, and you don’t know anything about her other than she drives, and she killed two people. How is that defensible?! Don’t project yourself onto this person simply you once had a close call and you think you can relate. You can’t.

    Why do people rush to blame the victims or absolve the person responsible? Would it really be so awful if some tragic accident happened and the person who caused it was actually punished? Maybe if it were their parents or friends or children who were killed by this woman, they would feel different.

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    Russell June 2, 2006 at 10:55 am

    Since we seem to be playing “this one time at band camp” let me add what will probably be a long one:

    A few years ago I was riding my motorcycle home from work on Powell. The street was wet and I was exhausted. I don’t know how fast I was going, but it didn’t feel fast (as I was prone to measure my speed at the time). As I approached a crosswalk, I saw a frail elderly woman enter it far too late for me to stop. I slammed on my brakes anyway and then realized I was going to lose the bike out from under me on the wet street and take her out. I swerved away and heard her wrist snap against my bike. I’ll never forget the sound it made. She was hard of hearing and didn’t hear/see me coming as she was looking for cars and not a motorcycle. She had the right of way anyway so that doesn’t matter.

    I ran over to her and helped her to the school she where she was on her way to volunteer for Head Start (oh, yes it gets worse), and got lectured by the Principle about what a horrible person I was until the woman I hit realized I’d turned completely ghost white, I was shaking, and looked like I was going to pass out. Even with her shattered wrist she showed concern for me and made sure they got me water and sat me down. If I didn’t deserve jail (and I came awfully close to taking her out either at the knees if I’d kept braking and laid the bike down or full on if I’d not swerved enough) there is decidedly a special place in hell for me. I don’t have an excuse; it was an “accident” that could have been avoided if I’d made different choices.

    So what happened? After 2 hours the police never showed up since the school secretary drove the woman to the hospital. I left my info with the school and went home. I never paid a dime and I didn’t even lose my insurance although I refused to defend myself in anyway against the claim, which peeved my agent. What I did was criminal at least morally if not apparently legally, and while I sold my bike and it changed how I drive I can’t believe I wasn’t prosecuted. I was shocked that I wasn’t at the time. No one I talked to during the fact-finding process acted like it was a very big deal except my insurance agent who only got upset that I wouldn’t help the company muddy the water of fault. I wasn’t even interviewed by the police in person.

    In my experience and opinion, the law is too forgiving to the driver/assailant when it comes to assessing causal factors that determine negligence. The political reasons for this are obvious. That opinion was aroused by the initial report from channel 8 about the highway 47 crash that the driver wouldn’t face any charges. “Feeling” terrible didn’t change the fact of what I did. It’ll never change what this woman did. The law is no place to account for/if someone is sorry for what they did until the judge sentences the person. If how bad you feel about what you did should mean anything legally, then it should be across the board.

    “I ‘feel’ so badly that my boyfriend fell on that knife I was holding. It was a horrific accident. I’ll carry this inner psychic wound with me for the rest of my life. My God, it’s just tearing me up inside. Can I go now?”

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    Anonymous June 2, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    Anonymous again here,

    Correct me if I’m wrong but in a legal sense there is a difference between who is Responsible and who is at Fault.

    2 people involved in a “crash”, accident what ever you want to call it both have some responsibility by virtue of being there, being involved.

    Fault is the term to determine: negligence, monetary compensation, and if the act was deliberate or not.

    In my case, sure I understand a car can do damage. (The physics lesson is so condensending it is ridiculous). I wasn’t trying to blame the kid I hit.

    I’m pretty sure if I were bombing down a hill and “crashed” into an elderly lady on my bike that I could inflict enough damage to kill her.

    This driver, cyclist debate gets old. I’m a Person who made a mistake. There are a number of professions where if you make mistakes people die, not just in cars.

    I’m not clear if some of the posts are suggesting that as a person using a car for transportation 1 afternoon, that I malicously hit this kid, and wanted to then blame him and not accept the responsibility of driving a car. That is the farthest thing from what I’m trying to say.

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    Russell June 2, 2006 at 2:14 pm


    What I’m saying, and I assume some others are also saying is that when a car maims a person there should be an investigation and if the investigation shows negligence the case should be pursued vigorously and criminal charges should be filed. Going though the process myself, I found it to be a joke. Just because you are in a car when you “accidentally” (read: negligently in this case) harm someone, it shouldn’t be a get out of jail free card. No one is saying you should be at fault or responsible if you were legally operating your vehicle and you hit someone.

    The punishment should fit the crime if you are at fault though. It’s just silly that you can roll a stop sign at 4 mph and get a $242 fine or you can run a red light at 30 mph, put someone in the hospital and get a $242 fine.

    Exhibit Y for me is what happened to Mike Reuter

    Kudos to Mike for sure following up on his assault, but I’m horrified that he had to do it. The outcome Mr. Reuter was able to get was far from the criminal charge many people would assume one would face when running a red light and causing the kind of damage they did in this case. Illegally operating a several thousand pound machine that can easily kill someone isn’t ‘as illegal’ as one might think when killing or maiming someone can cost you $242 regardless of what the suggested civil and emotional penalties might be.

    What gives me some hope is that people like the BTA and Ray Thomas and all the other bicycle activists in town are plugged into the system and are making things better for a good portion of us who ride on the roads. I’ve seen great strides in bike facilities in the last ten years. I’d like to see (and help facilitate in what small ways I can) more strides in protection and enforcement.

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    Brad June 2, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    I’ll offer some food for thought. If cyclists want the equality and parity with drivers they seek, then we must also bear full responsibility for our acts of negligence as well.

    For example, a cyclist runs a stop sign, hits a pedestrian and kills them (This happened in my Ohio hometown 20 years ago) then that cyclist will face the same manslaughter charges many of you want drivers to face. After all, death is death no matter what kinetic math you wish to apply.

    Or, a cyclist on a normal roadway (no bike lane) rides to the inside (passenger side) of a stopped car and rolls through the light and then broadsides an auto making a legal right on red at that intersection? The resulting collision cause a large dent to the car. Since the cyclist disobeyed a traffic signal and caused damage to the car, he is held liable for the body repair damage and a moving violation as any other vehicle/driver would be. Fair? I think so.

    I know this is a bit off topic but while reading this forum I notice the bike vs. car arguments always seem to veer towards the notion that all cars and drivers are bad, all SUV drivers maim cyclists for sport, cyclists are an oppressed class, cyclists are universally harrassed by the cops, cyclists are morally superior, and cyclists are above the law. I have seen cyclists (runners and walkers too) do some incredibly dumb stuff in traffic and yet act as though the resulting accident was solely the driver’s fault. I have also witnessed cyclists and runners going freakin’ nuts with cursing, gesturing, and threatening drivers who honked at them for blowing red lights or pulling into their path without a hand signal or right-of-way.

    Drivers need to be accountable for the harm they cause but the behavior of some of our ambassadors just convinces drivers that we are the problem and that we expect a free pass and special treatment. How can we expect to educate and gain the respect of drivers when the young anarchists that jump into Critical Mass to cause havoc, Randy Albright, and the aforementioned “Tourette’s-on-Two Wheels” riders are our most public face? We ALL must share the road and be responsible for our actions on it.

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    Eddie June 2, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    Here’s a question: Say the driver is found negligent – say she was talking on her cell phone or putting on make-up when she hit the cyclists: What would be appropriate punishment for killing two people because you did something stupid even though it was not intentional?

    I have no idea. I do know that a $242 fine is not the correct answer.

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    Peter W June 3, 2006 at 12:11 am

    I hope that the driver is charged with some kind of crime.

    The reason isn’t that I wan’t to cause more suffering (I agree with the people who suggest the driver’s life is probably pretty messed up now).

    The reason drivers who kill bikers need to be punished is that hopefully if everyone else (society at large) recognizes that “not paying attention” or “going too fast” aren’t valid excuses anymore, they’ll start slowing down and paying attention. The driving majority of society needs to recognize that *they themselves* will pay the penalty if they aren’t being careful while driving.

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    Randy June 3, 2006 at 10:50 am

    Brad – pretty marginal logic all the way around. Among other things:

    1. Motorists in the US are responsible for 40000 +/- deaths a year, bicyclists are responsible for how many? Bicyclists are 500 times more likely to injured in a bicycle – motor vehicle crash than a motorist.

    2. Right turn on red is a motorist-biased law. Placing a bike lane to the right of a lane it is legal to make a right turn from is very poor engineering design, and should be discontinued.

    3. I watch motorists do stupid and illegal things on the road all day long, every day; bicyclists have no monopoly on bad behavior and there shouldn’t be a double-standard for compliance.

    4. If cyclists don’t stand up for their rights, they will never be acknowledged as legitimate road users. I agree that we all need to share the road, but sharing the road does not mean ‘bicyclists get out of the way’ – as I believe many motorists interpret it. Meekly accepting a second class user status will never gain anything for bicyclists.

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    jami June 4, 2006 at 7:00 pm

    this isn’t bike-specific. if children had been walking there, they’d be dead. if cows were standing there, they’d be dead. it’s not time for a cow safety campaign.

    for reasons the cops don’t seem willing to share, the driver did not see what was on the road in front of her. she should have her license revoked forevermore. you just can’t teach some people to be careful enough. it would be poetic justice if she had to bike that highway to get where she was going from now on.

    and if she was using a cell phone (i’d bet money she was), this should be the case that makes driving and talking on a cell phone illegal.

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    Dixie June 14, 2006 at 10:11 am

    Today is 6-15-06. I have not heard any updated news about the McDaniel deaths and wonder what has been decided by the Washington County DA.

    I worked with Sheryl McDaniel for ten years and know she was a terrific person, just the most athletic woman I ever met. She was a great inspiration. And, if ever there was a cautious and careful person, she was it. I could hardly believe it was her who was hit and killed.

    I agree with most of you and hope that the driver is charged with vehicular homicide/manslaughter. I also agree that safer bike lanes need to be created for riders, especially around lakes and scenic routes, rumble lines are very effective. It would be good to see drivers training add a segment of motorist/bicycle safety and how important it is to stay centered in your lane. Too many drivers drive on or over the white solid shoulder line as a matter of driving technique, it would appear. Is that a problem with eye-sight or training or fear of traffic on their left?

    My daughter lives in San Jose, California and she says most people there do follow along the white line with their right tires. Yesterday, I witnessed three bicyclists riding the white line, end to end on Hwy 212 in Clackamas, and there was four+ feet of designated bike lane to the right of them. I wonder why they chose the line over the safer right side of the bike lane.

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    Michael June 23, 2006 at 11:54 pm

    Failure to maintain lane control is exactly that. It’s the cause of the driver and not excusable. Of course, the average driver doesn’t intend to run over anyone, and yet the cyclists are dead nonetheless. Unless the cyclists contributed due to wild, uncontrolled swings out of the lane or gross failure to be seen (ie, clothing), it is a clear situation of vehicular manslaughter and a crime to not charge the driver.

    Q: What is it about Portland that makes it so awful for cyclists?

    Q: What can our law enforcement do to improve the situation?

    Q: What can our city planners & roadway engineers do to improve the situation?

    In the past year, I have watched two cyclists get run over by vehicles on normal city streets, due to nothing more than driver impatience and stupidity, running with blinders as though the cyclists didn’t exist. I’ve watched countless situations where drivers ignored the bike lane and treated it as an extension of the roadway; and countless cyclists who road side-by-side to allow for discussion with a companion, ignoring the fact that this cut the distance from vehicles to nothing. I have also watched innumerable instances of cyclists completely ignoring the roadway laws in situations where it is inconvenient to follow them.

    Until such time as the roadways are separated as physically as possible via rumble strips/bumps or better, there is no margin for error to accept anything less than full compliance with existing laws for lane control, full responsibility over one’s control of a vehicle/bike, and full responsibility over one’s committing manslaughter.

    It’s simply unconscionable that a car-on-car situation results in the blind driver paying fully for the crash he/she caused, yet a car-on-bike situation is treated as a simple exercise in speed bump dynamics … and ignored.

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