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One year ago today: Cyclist initiates motorist citation

Posted by on April 6th, 2007 at 10:55 am

Now that I’ve been at this for a while, it’s fun to take a look back at stories from the past. One year ago today I brought you the inspiring story of Mike Reuter.

Mike was struck by a car and spent the night in Intensive Care. However, even though witnesses saw the car run a red light prior to hitting him, due to standard police procedures, the motorist was not cited for any wrongdoing at the scene of the crash.

Luckily, Mike made contact with noted bicycle lawyer Ray Thomas and became the first person to take advantage of a campaign Thomas was behind known as the Citizen Initiation of Violation Proceedings.

Here is an excerpt from that story:

    On September 22, 2005 Mike Reuter was hit and seriously injured by a motorist on Hawthorne and Grand. Mike was taken away by an ambulance and spent the night in the ICU. However, despite several witnesses that saw a Dodge mini-van run a red light and hit him, the motorist was not cited by the responding Police officer.

    Six and a half months later, after Mike wrote a letter to the Mayor and initiated a citizen complaint, the motorist was cited and fined for running a red light.

Mike’s story is a great reminder that we have power, even within the system, to make justice happen.

Read the full article for more information and helpful downloads.

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Jamie Fellrath
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This seems so wrong… why aren’t these people charged with criminal negligence or some such thing?

The longer the law continues to avoid charging motorists who injure cyclists, or charge them with “running a red light,” as in this case, the more people are going to get hurt.

It’s time for the law in all states, not just Oregon or Ohio (where I live), to get serious with people who are causing other people harm due to their negligence in driving safely.

Val A Lindsay II
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Val A Lindsay II

How can running a red light not get a citation, even he had not hit anyone?

Martha
Guest
Martha

Well, it’s better than the alternative for sure, but I have to say that I’m unhappy that THIS is an improvement. >_

andy
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andy

Only cited and fined for running a red light? What about hit-and-run? No offense to Mike, but that isn’t justice, that’s a travesty.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Andy, there was no hit and run.

Val, it’s pretty much standard procedure to not cite under those circumstances. And that example is pretty emblematic of why bikers feel little affection for cops.

Same thing happened to me. Lady ran a red light, witnesses saw it and the cop wouldn’t cite. The cop even got in my face when I was offended by the lack of citation.

The police explanation (I called the precinct later) was that there is too much paper-work involved to cite every accident. You pretty much have to cause life-threatening injuries for a driver to get cited.

For me it was a watershed moment. I realized that as the laws are currently enforced, they are there to use against me but not to protect me, which makes it a one-way social contract. It did NOT exactly give me any incentive to care what the law says anymore.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Andy, there was no hit and run.

Val, it’s pretty much standard procedure to not cite under those circumstances. And that example is pretty emblematic of why bikers feel little affection for cops.

Same thing happened to me. Lady ran a red light, witnesses saw it and the cop wouldn’t cite. The cop even got in my face when I was offended by the lack of citation.

The police explanation (I called the precinct later) was that there is too much paper-work involved to cite every accident. You pretty much have to cause life-threatening injuries for a driver to get cited.

For me it was a watershed moment. I realized that as the laws are currently enforced, they are there to use against me but not to protect me, which makes it a one-way social contract. It did NOT exactly give me any incentive to care what the law says anymore.

Lindsay
Guest
Lindsay

I agree with Andy. This fine for running the red light is like laughing in Mike’s face.
What are the police procedures for when a cyclist is hit and injured?
When I was hit in ’99, the police kept trying to convince me the light was not green and the walk sign not activated. I had three different officers interrogating me as I lie on the stretcher. There were several witnesses to say that I had done nothing wrong. So, is it assumed, then, that the cyclist is always wrong?

Jonathan Maus
Guest

One of the reasons vehicles are not cited at the scene of crashes is because responding officers are not always able to do the thorough investigation needed before they can assign guilt…and issuing a cite would essentially be finding guilt.

There have been tons of comments and stories about this in the past…and we have met with the police about this issue in the past. It is not all up to the officer on the ground…there are insurance companies and procedures that throw wrenches into the system.

If anyone has questions, let me know.

Lindsay
Guest
Lindsay

Thanks for clarifying Jonathan. It’s so confusing and frustrating, all the bureaucracy and such. I’ve been riding for ten years, and there is still so much to be learned. Thanks again!

Curt Dewees
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Curt Dewees

Simple logic:

Some people are assholes.
All police officers are people.
Therefore, some police officers are assholes.

I think it’s safe to say that some [not all] police officers just have it out for bicyclists. They will do everything in their power as sworn officers of the law to defend the status quo. To their eyes, the status quo is this: Automobiles and car drivers are the dominant mode of transportation, and all other modalities must defer to the dominant mode. In any conflict between the dominant mode and other “alternative” modes of transportation, these few police officers will generally assume that the dominant mode always has the right of way (regardless of what the written statutes may say.

Sometimes these officers seem to be ignorant of what the actual written statutes say and appear to be more interested in enforcing what they mistakely believe the statutes say (or think they should say).

That may help explain why some (not all) cops seem to go out of their way to clear motorists of any wrongdoing and implicate bicyclists as being the sole cause of any motorist/bicyclist crash that they happen to be called to investigate.

Unfortunately, the same simple logic also means there is a corollary:

Some people are assholes.
All bicyclists are people.
Therefore, … [I’ll let you do the logic on this one …]

–CD

Attornatus_Oregonensis
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Attornatus_Oregonensis

“Sometimes these officers seem to be ignorant of what the actual written statutes say and appear to be more interested in enforcing what they mistakely believe the statutes say (or think they should say).”

And, to fold-in a previous discussion, the enforcement discretion given to police officers (admittedly great according to our own Mr. Pickett) not only allows officers, but practically invites them, to use their own personal feelings and ideas about what “should” happen to decide how to sort out the situation and who to cite or not to cite. This is only one example of how (some) police officers abuse their discretion in order to advance an anti-bike agenda. Several events here in Portland have shown that such officers amply populate the PPB.

SKIDmark
Guest
SKIDmark

It goes further than cars simply being the dominant mode of transportation. If you don’t own a car you don’t have a car loan, so you are not supporting the banking system. You aren’t buying gasoline so you are not supporting the oil companies. You are not buying car insurance. You are not paying fees to the state through the DEQ and the DMV. Really by riding a bike you are going against the very fabric of society in some peoples eyes.

peejay
Guest
peejay

SKIDmark:

Of course, the reality is that those who don’t own cars spend the money they saved in a more diverse way, much of it saying closer in the community than to a large multistate bank. Automobiles are so complicated that an enormous international economy is required to keep the whole operation afloat. If you buy into it, you are funding globalization of capital, which is the greatest threat to democracy in this century. If you don’t, well then you are not playing the game according to the rules. I can see why the cops don’t like us!

Lev
Guest
Lev

This is so infuriating to hear about. Especially in the wake of all the resources being spent on “sting” operations busting bicyclists for track stands at stop signs, the city/police can’t even pony up the funds to prosecute a driver for running a red light and sending someone to the ICU? Such a sad state of affairs, and Portland is one of the most progressive cities out there!

Amy
Guest
Amy

So cops don’t have time to fill out paperwork on accidents. And according to the Oregonian this week, they don’t have time to investigate property crimes and won’t even bother to investigate if a car is stolen. So what do they have time to do?

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

Amy, I don’t think that’s quite fair. We hear so much about budgets for public services being cut, and that always includes police. Maybe there are too few officers to do what needs doing, so some things fall through the cracks.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s right; if I’m riding my bike and get hit by a vehicle, I’m going to want an investigation, especially if I get hurt. I just think it’s a pretty cheap shot to blame the police when it might not be all their fault.

SKiDmark
Guest
SKiDmark

Wow, did someone actually agree with me?