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O’Donnell’s widow in Salem for Vulnerable User bill passage

Posted by on June 18th, 2007 at 1:23 pm

[Updated 6/19/07, 7:47am]

BTA lobbyist Scott Bricker just gave me a report from Salem. The Vulnerable Roadway User bill (H.B. 3314) got it’s vote on the Senate floor this morning and it passed easily by a margin 25-4.

Mary O’Donnell, wife of the late Timothy O’Donnell who was killed earlier this month while riding his bike in Cornelius, was in the Senate Chambers during the vote. According to Bricker, Senator Ryan Deckert (D-Beaverton) gave a speech in support of the bill and recognized O’Donnell sitting in the gallery. He pointed her out and the entire Senate acknowledged her presence.

Another lawmaker who has become a champion of this bill is Senate Republican minority leader, Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day). Bricker says Ferrioli was hit by a car while walking across a street in Salem earlier in the session, and as a result, has expressed a desire to increase safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

The final remaining step for the bill is to return to the House for a concurrence vote where lawmakers will take one final look at amendments and legalese before sending the bill to the Governor’s desk. Bricker said he doesn’t foresee any snags from here on out.

H.B. 3314 has benefited from momentum in the media recently due in part because of the tragic death of Timothy O’Donnell. The Oregonian and the Eugene Register-Guard (registration req’d) newspapers have weighed in with editorials in support of the bill, and even right-wing radio talk show host Lars Larson has lined up behind it.

If passed into law, the bill would give the courts an additional sentencing option for careless vehicle operators that kill or serious injure a “vulnerable roadway user”.

For more coverage of this bill and other bike legislation, browse my archives.

Here are the four Senators who voted against this bill:

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Matt Picio June 18, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Amen to that. Even if it doesn\’t do everything we want, it\’s an important step.

    And anything is better than what we have now.

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  • Michelle June 18, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Great! Thanks everyone for calling and writing your Senators. That made a huge difference I\’m sure.

    I\’m very appreciative of Mary O\’Donnell\’s visit to the Senate. That must have been very hard for her but she is doing us all a big favor by showing the Senate the human side of careless driving. Thanks Mary.

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  • Brad June 18, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    I am sorry it took this tragedy to push the bill forward but I thank our legislators for doing the right thing.

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  • NoChain June 18, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    If this law passes, you can expect more support for banning cyclists from roads without \”adequate accomodation\” for cyclists. If merely \”careless\” but normal behavior lik crossing a solid yellow stripe while passing cyclists on a narrow two lane highway with good sight lines causes a motorist to be vulnerable to a jail sentence if one of those cyclists swerves unexpectedly into his path, you can expect more and more animosity for cyclists.

    To the extent that the law actually works, drivers will have fewer practical options to pass cyclists, thus making them more frustrated with the cyclists. It is inevitable that many of them will come to believe, stronger than ever, that cyclists simply do not belong on such roads, and should be banned accordingly.

    There are already such calls, this law will only make that view held deeper and be more widespread.

    I urge all cycling advocates to think this through before supporting this law, and strongly consider opposing it.

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  • Carlo June 18, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you to everyone who rallied around the bill ths week! Thank you to the BTA for sponsoring it! We have more work to do, but this is an important step!

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  • N.I.K. June 18, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    Who were the four against?

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  • Martin June 18, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Thank you all for your support, and I want to also thank the people in the legislature who voted for this.
    I was one of the 4 other riders who was with Tim as the time of the accident.
    The passing of this bill means a lot to me as I know it does to all the Portland area cyclists!

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  • N.I.K. June 18, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    To the extent that the law actually works, drivers will have fewer practical options to pass cyclists, thus making them more frustrated with the cyclists.

    In which case I say \”tough titty\”. By the same logic, I could argue that because I find it terribly inconvenient and a huge bother to have to clothe myself for when I leave my house, avoid being falling-down drunk in public, and pay taxes, legislation should be passed to provide me with exemption by raising everyone else\’s taxes, require everybody else to be thoroughly intoxicated at all times, and embrace nudism. Just about everybody would agree that the inconvenience factor is a weak argument in almost *any* case. Even those of us who love to drink, be naked, and hang on to our own cash.

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  • NoChain June 18, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    N.I.K. – perhaps alcohol prohibition is the best example of laws blatantly going too far.

    \”Tough titty\” is a fair response, just be prepared for the likely unintended consequences.

    I think there is more than enough animosity between cyclists and motorists already, and we need to be looking for ways to cool things down, not inflame them. There are many, many more of them than us, and, in the end, we live in a democracy, so working towards peace and cooperation, rather than lines of division, probably makes more sense for our side.

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  • Matt Picio June 18, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    I think regardless of the animosity that could happen, we need to have laws that hold people responsible for irresponsibly wielding a 2,000-6,000 lb. vehicle.

    A motor vehicle is an extremely large power tool. Like a chainsaw or a hunting rifle, if misused or used carelessly it can kill. We need to educate people so that they become responsible, and we need to find ways to keep those who refuse to be responsible from gaining access to said tools.

    At the very least, we need to open a dialog and educate people about the problem, and I think this legislation serves that purpose nicely.

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  • "Incident", not "Accident" June 18, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Great news!

    Was Tim\’s death an \”Accident\”? or an \”Incident\”? or a \”Crash\”?

    I would argue for the latter two & not the former, as one post here described it.

    An \”accident\” to me is something entirely out of your personal control. Like your brand new brake cable snaps or something. Driving carelessly, passing in a no passing zone, and driving with a suspended license? That\’s not an accident.

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  • Jonathan Maus / BikePortland June 18, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    Note from the Editor:

    Folks, please don\’t use your user name to make your points (re: \”Incident\”, not \”Accident\”). Let\’s keep the comments in the comments. Thanks.

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  • wsbob June 18, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    \”If merely \”careless\” but normal behavior lik crossing a solid yellow stripe while passing cyclists on a narrow two lane highway with good sight lines causes a motorist to be vulnerable to a jail sentence if one of those cyclists swerves unexpectedly into his path, you can expect more and more animosity for cyclists.\”NoChain

    NoChain, I\’m sorry to be blunt, but just cut it out with that hysterical inflammatory crap. Nobody in any of the comments I\’ve read on these threads is suggesting a motorist be threathened with jail if a cyclist swerves unexpectedly into their path, resulting in a crash or injuries.

    Over on the other thread, you alluded to having read somewhere that Timothy O\’Donnell, the fatally injured cyclist, may have done such a thing. If you\’re going to load the conversation with those kinds of loose and fast implications, please be so kind as to back it up with whatever source you have for them.

    Let\’s face it: There are going to be more, not fewer cyclists on the roads in the future, in no small part due to ever increasing costs of gasoline. Nobody is going to be banning cyclists from roadways. A certain percentage of the people that are now driving will be moving transitioning to cycling, walking, or mass transit. If motorists want to indulge in a snit-fit over that, that\’s their choice, but they\’re going to have to learn to conduct themselves behind the wheel according the laws of the road, as cyclists also are coming to understand they must do on their bikes.

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  • Ken June 18, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    NoChain, I\’m curious…I read earlier on a different article that Oregon was one of only a handful of states that doesn\’t have legislation like this on the books. Do you know if there has been a big push to get bikes off of roads in the states that do have similar laws? Has there been an increase in animosity towards cyclists in states that have similar laws?

    It is just my opinion but I don\’t see the passing of this bill having any negative impact towards cyclists. The vast majority of drivers watch out for cyclists, have never hit a cyclist, and give plenty of room for cyclists. I know I did, even before I got back into cycling and I know my friends and family all do the same. The bill isn\’t going to affect rational people, or their view of cyclists.

    What I do see it doing is helping in (at least) two situations. One is the recent situation where Tim is killed by a careless, illegal driver who is only given a slap on the wrist. At least people will feel that some justice was rendered if the penalty is stiffer. The other situation is the tiny minority of truly belligerent drivers out there who somehow think that \”buzzing\” cyclists very closely, or worse yet, forcing them off the road with the threat of being clipped is \”fun\” or at a minimum \”acceptable because bikes shouldn\’t be on the road.\” These people are (again my guess) probably unreachable trying to use reason, so at least this may make them think twice about their actions.

    Education is the key but I also think putting all vehicles on the road on equal ground in the eyes of the law is also important. I would guess that if this lady killed Tim while he was making a turn on a motorcycle and she was passing him illegally that there would be a stiffer penalty than a thousand dollars in tickets. In my opinion that isn\’t right. This bill helps rectify that situation.

    If someone has facts to contradict or confirm my opinions and suspicions please post up. I\’m the first to say I don\’t know the answers to the questions I bring up and I have been as honest as I can be in pointing out guesses and conjecture on my part.

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  • N.I.K. June 18, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    I think regardless of the animosity that could happen, we need to have laws that hold people responsible for irresponsibly wielding a 2,000-6,000 lb. vehicle.

    Agreed, Matt. Anyone freaking out about having to give ample room to pass another street-legal vehicle is getting their drawers in a bunch for no good reason. What motorist passes another car at between 15 and 65mph while leaving a scant two feet between? Even taking this whole height-of-the-rider business into account, you\’d still need less overall room to pass a bike than another car (save for perhaps the occasional tall bike or penny farthing…and just speaking from the experience of having done a century through rural Illinois with a buddy who was on a tall bike, this drew more gawks and cheers than road rage and insults). Anyone who has a problem with this had best invent their teleport-my-car-into-the-next-open-space-past-the-slowpoke device or simply bite the bullet and play nice with everyone else on the road, like they\’re supposed to have been doing for a damned long time now.

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  • Martha S. June 18, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Sure, there may be animosity from drivers… but we need this bill. I\’m sick of people reasoning that I\’m putting myself in a dangerous possition by riding my bike, and thus if I get hurt it\’s my own darn fault. I want respect on the road, but if the only way that pick-up that loves to zip past about a foot away is going to give me the space I deserve is an understanding that if they aren\’t more careful there will be serious repercussions then so be it. I\’d rather be resented than dead.

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  • VR June 18, 2007 at 9:49 pm

    I am not sure this bill will actually accomplish anything – anyone who is willing to kill another person because they are lazy is simply not going t o care about a couple more possible punishments…

    But that aside, I am in support of this bill.

    And remember, it is not just for bicyclists. Pedestrians are covered as well. So if there is a \”backlash\” it will be against anyone not in a car…

    But I think the better approach would be to require more frequent testing for drivers licenses, and when licenses are suspended cars should be impounded for the duration.

    Just my opinion – when I voiced my opinion about the fixed gear thing people jumped all over me. 🙂 I fully expect it here too.

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  • bicycledave June 18, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    I have to say I haven\’t seen a whole lot of animosity from drivers. Sure, there was the shirtless guy hanging out the window of his white firebird yelling \”hey, I know you, I know you.\” Then with both hands out the window middle finger extended \”Fuck you! (dramatic pause) Fuck you!\” Never saw him before in my life.

    Then there was the lady who blasted her horn at me with my 1 1/2 year old in the child seat as we were crossing Scholls Ferry at Allen in the cross walk.

    There have been just a handful of incidents like that over several years as a daily commuter.

    For the most part drivers go out of their way to let me go in front of them at a 4 way stop or even stop so I can turn left in front of them.

    I think drivers with true animosity toward us are rare. There are a lot that see us as taking unnecessary risks just by being on the road and who don\’t see us as legitimate road users, but I think those are reachable.

    This bill is a good start to help educate drivers that we have as much right to use the roads as they.

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  • JeremyE June 18, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    Actually, VR, while I support the bill, I agree with you on the need to have more frequent testing and would further say the tests need to be more difficult. You should not simply need to have a pulse to get a license and the fact that a driver\’s license is a privilege need to be backed up with a choice – Lose your license: you either sell your car or we impound it until you earn your license back.

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  • Steve Brown June 19, 2007 at 7:38 am

    Passing HB 3314 is an important step forward in protecting cyclists. There are a few nut jobs out there who will always feel that automobiles rule the road. But it is important to note there did not appear to be any organized opposition to this bill. It is hard to get the legislature to agree on anyting and a 25-4 vote is as close as you can get to total approval.
    What we need to know is who voted against the bill.
    Let them know you ride a bike and vote.

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  • Jonathan Maus / BikePortland June 19, 2007 at 7:48 am

    I have just updated the post with the names of the four Senators who opposed this bill.

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  • Virginia99 June 19, 2007 at 8:54 am

    A quick note: I support keeping people with suspended licenses from driving, but you can\’t impound their car. Take my family, I am a bike commuter, so we only have one car. My wife drives my son to school each day on her way to work. If I got my license suspended for whatever reason, they can\’t impound \”my\” car because I could easily say only my wife will drive it.

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  • N.I.K. June 19, 2007 at 9:25 am

    Thanks for the update, Jonathan. It\’s important to keep abreast of who\’s not on our side, and keep close watch on their dealings with other cycling-related legislation…maybe even cause enough clamor to make anyone fanatically anti-bike think twice about being on any committees dealing with transport-related issues.

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  • Paul June 19, 2007 at 9:55 am

    I have not followed this bill. In laymans terms, what does it do?

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  • Jonathan Maus / BikePortland June 19, 2007 at 10:11 am


    for more on this bill, See this post.

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  • Disco D June 19, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    *** I would guess that if this lady killed Tim while he was making a turn on a motorcycle and she was passing him illegally that there would be a stiffer penalty than a thousand dollars in tickets. ***

    Actually probably not. In my experience motorcycle riders are considered just as expendable as cyclists when it comes to the justice system 🙁

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  • VR June 19, 2007 at 1:31 pm


    I disagree. I think that whatever vehicle the person is driving when they commit the infraction which gets the license suspended gets impounded. Regardless.

    We are a single car family as well, and well – by darned if that shouldn\’t be more incentive to not commit infractions that suspend licenses…

    And if you get caught driving with a suspended license, whichever car that is should be impounded. Make people think twice about who they loan their cars too.

    Seriously, I fully understand the hardship that it could cause. Which is half the point…

    If you want to operate a car you have to do it responsibly…

    Thats my theory anyway.

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  • VR June 19, 2007 at 1:36 pm


    Doug Whitsett from Klamath Falls looks really grumpy…

    And Jeff Kruse from Roseburg looks like his picture was scanned in from a 1959 high school yearbook.

    I am not sure if it will help since I live in none of those districts, but an email is on it\’s way…

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  • Brad June 19, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Another route we could take is to ban anyone with a suspended driver\’s license from owning, purchasing, financing, leasing, insuring, or renting a motor vehicle until their privileges are reinstated. The state should be able to force sale or title transfer of any vehicle in the offender\’s name. It shouldn\’t be hard to create a national database with Social Security and driver license numbers.

    Use fake ID to perform the above? That would be a felony with mandatory prison time. How Ms. Knight with multiple accidents and violations still managed to purchase a new car is beyond me. She seems like the sort of individual that should be banned from any sort of vehicle ownership or operation.

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  • Virginia99 June 19, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    I agree with you on the second count. If I am driving on a suspended license, whatever car I am in gets impounded for the duration. But the first offense, IF I can prove that I respect the ruling and refuse to drive a car, I think I should be afforded that opportunity. But once I prove I can\’t handle it by driving anyway, I agree, impound the car.
    On a side note, did the lady that hit Tim last week get to drive away? She had a suspended license, that\’s like giving someone a DUI (unfit to drive) and than letting them drive away. Its insane.

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  • NoChain June 19, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Ken and wsbob, you\’re right. Upon further reflection, this law will probably have little to no effect on anyone, and, so there will very little animosity growth because of it, if any.

    Never-the-less, I hate to see all this time and energy go to an issue that will probably not make cyclists any safer, and brings attention to the dangers of cycling, probably making it seem more dangerous than it really is.

    The focus in the cycling community needs to be towards getting cyclists to obey the rules and pay frickin\’ attention to what\’s going on around them, and stop blaming drivers for driving and occasionally not paying attention or whatever. They\’re human. They can\’t pay 100% attention to everything all the time. They\’re going to get distracted. They\’re going to be careless from time to time. And it\’s not because they want to be. But the key is, it can be safe out there anyway, if we take due care, which we must, just as motorcyclists must.

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  • wsbob June 19, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    Look NoChain, I don\’t believe I ever said the vulnerable user bill isn\’t going to help cyclists, or that it will have a bearing on animosity held by car drivers towards cylists. The law may very well help more than we can presently imagine.

    If nothing else, it will help elevate visibility of the bicycles legitimate right to the road. And with that, accompanied by the penalties that go along with disregarding the law, will come a new-found indirect respect for bicycles on the road. Those drivers that currently laugh off any difficulty they idulge in subjecting a bicyclist to now, may still dislike cyclists on the road after the law is passed, but they won\’t be quite as nonchalant about goofing with cyclists if it means their license goes down the tubes for acting like a moron behind the wheel.

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  • NoChain June 20, 2007 at 11:44 am

    wsbob – do you really think this kind of law is going to change a motorist\’s behavior? If a driver realizes his behavior is careless, much less actually puts a pedestrian or cyclist in danger, then he\’s unlikely to engage in it. Do you really think the driver in the O\’Donnell case realized passing in that situation was careless and dangerous, and did it anyway? Do you really think she considered the relatively low penality she was putting herself at risk for having to pay if something went wrong when she decided to cross that solid stripe? Do you really think if she knew the penalty would be higher that she would have been less likely to pass in that situation? Do you have any idea what the penalties are for various infractions, besides knowing that speeding is relatively minor and drunk driving is serious, while driving? Do you think other drivers know, or care? How can changing the penalty for engaging in a behavior affect that behavior if hardly anyone knows what the penalties are before or after the change? It might feel good to know that someone who takes a life or causes serious injury during the course of violating some traffic law will be more seriously penalized than if he violates the law and no one gets hurt as a result, but will it really change the behavior of anyone? I don\’t see how.

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  • thedude June 20, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    \”Ferrioli was hit by a car while walking across a street in Salem earlier in the session, and as a result, has expressed a desire to increase safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.\” Typical R. Doesn\’t understand an issue unless it happens to them directly.

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  • wsbob June 20, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    I think the law will change the behavior of some people, but not all. I definitely believe quite a number of people, despite realizing their driving habits are dangerous to other people, don\’t care or find a certain thrill in terrorizing somebody. Hard to say at this point what was up with jennifer Knight.

    People want and need to drive. For some, when their behavior behind the wheel is the deciding factor regarding whether they enjoy the priveledge of driving or not driving, yes, they will put their driving behavior in order.

    I\’ve been meaning to research driving regulations in Japan, and maybe Tokyo specifically. Years back, I\’d heard restrictions for drivers there were really tight. You can lose your license easily if you screw up a few times.

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