Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Bicyclist dies after hitting telephone pole

Posted by on October 17th, 2007 at 4:27 pm

*[Updated: 10/18, 11:00am – added victim’s name. 4:48pm – added link to Oregonian audio]

A bicyclist died after he struck a telephone pole while riding on the sidewalk near Belmont and 34th in southeast Portland.

The incident occurred on October 1st and according to the Multnomah County Medical Examiner’s Office, the victim (who was homeless) succumbed to head injuries on October 8th. He was not wearing a helmet.

*Since his family has not been found, his identity remains unknown. The Oregonian reports that the victim was 45 year-old Curtis Lee Web.

According to sources, the bicyclist had a blood alcohol level of .383, over four times the legal limit. At the time of the incident, a witness called 911 and the dispatcher sent out the fire department.

This is the fifth bicycle fatality in Portland this year and three of the last nine fatalities have involved a homeless person.

Daniel Hunt died on August 21 of this year from a skull fracture that occurred after he and another bicyclist collided near the intersection of SE 11th and Stark on August 12th. Back in 2005, a homeless man was killed in a hit-and-run when he was struck by a motorist on a freeway on ramp in North Portland.

*Oregonian reporter Lynne Terry featured this story and an interview with me in her Today in Oregon Podcast. I’ve snipped out this part only from her show today:


NOTE: I have updated the post with the identity of the victim. Unfortunately, the person at the Medical Examiner’s office didn’t feel I deserved to know the name because they did not share it with me when I called yesterday. I think next time I’ll just say I’m from the Oregonian.

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  • a.O October 17, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    How very sad.

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  • K October 17, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Incredibly sad. Bad combination.

    Last month I watched a teenager on a bike ram into a telephone pole\’s diagonal support cable at the end of my block. He wedged himself between the cable and a truck. I was shocked his injuries weren\’t worse. It\’s not so much the hitting the telephone pole or cable as hitting the concrete with your bare head, and he thankfully avoided that.

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  • Agent Bunny G October 17, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    Out of curiosity, has anyone ever done any outreach to give out free helmets to the homeless? It seems like it could be really valuable.

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  • Tim October 17, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    I know this may not be the nicest comment, but I don\’t know if the homeless place high value on helmets. It seems that finding a means of transportation is hard enough in itself, let alone finding and using safety equipment. It\’s extremely unfortunate that someone died as a result of not wearing a helmet, but I think this may be one community where safety doesn\’t exist as a priority value. Besides, the homeless do not have the luxury of access to safety information and planning safe bike routes like all of us with our laptops and PCs at home and on the go.

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  • Dan Kaufman October 17, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    Good question, BunnyG. several hunderd helmets were given away by Legacy Health at this year\’s project homeless connect.


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  • Tim October 17, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    Well, seems I am an ignorant fool (what\’s new). Thanks for the link Dan, it\’s great that you are helping to bridge the gap and make safety accessible to the homeless community.

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  • Seth October 17, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    There\’s a great add Ive seen on buses with a picture of a brain juxtaposed with a bike helmet and it says:
    \”If you\’ve got one of these(brain), use one of these(helmet)\” I can see why the homeless dont usually have the means to get\’em though but those teens who know better and think its cool
    to ride without \’em-what about some personal responsility folks?

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  • todd October 17, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    i have a wee problem with calling this a \”bicycle fatality\” and citing helmet use, well. the poor man was drunk enough to have fallen over and banged his head on a curb. on foot. would that mean it was a \”pedestrian fatality\” that might have been prevented if he had a properly fitted pedestrian helmet? i mean, does this get added to the \”bicycle danger index\” that\’s allegedly keeping people off bikes? untreated mental illness kills. substance abuse kills. poverty sure doesn\’t help. cars kill every which way. why not call this a \”pole fatality\”?

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  • Vanessa Renwick October 17, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    so sad.
    I went out today wearing my cycling hat, thinking I had my helmet on on top of that, but didn\’t.
    When I got to where I was going there was a shiney silver sticker on the bike staple rack that said:
    \”wear your fucking helmet\”

    whoever made those stickers
    they are right on
    I lost my memory for 2 1/2 years from a skull fracture…no helmet

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  • Qwendolyn October 17, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    It\’s kind of sad that no one even knows his name.

    Most of us (myself included) ignore/avoid the homeless whenever we can. In life and in death, it seems, as we didn\’t even hear about this until a week after he died.
    He was riding drunk, and probably didn\’t have a lifetime of potential ahead of him.

    But still, he was a human being.

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  • Tom October 17, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    todd, if this were a man driving a motor vehicle drunk who died he would be labeled a \”drunk driver\”. As such, it is only fair to label this person a \”drunk cyclist\”.

    They also tend to cite lack of seat belt use even in drunk driving accidents, so this really doesn\’t seem like a writer out to get cyclists.

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  • brodie October 17, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    todd, there was a person riding a bicycle, and as a result of riding that bicycle they died. if we hadn\’t called that person a \”bicyclist\” it would have been because he was drunk and homeless.
    obviously, being homeless isn\’t a good enough reason to say someone isn\’t a bicyclist. and unfortunately, if you look at the cyclist fatalities in the last twenty years, a good deal (i think thirty percent) have involved alcohol consumption by the rider.
    i think its true that mental illness, substance abuse, and poverty all kill. but this is a blog about riding bicycles, and bicycles can kill too. sometimes it is in conjunction with other things.
    why are you so hesitant to call it a bicycling fatality? obviously it had more to do with the bike than the pole.

    and while i\’m on the topic, a question for jonathan: is there a reason Tracey Sparling was referred to as a \”cyclist\” while this man was called a \”bicyclist.\” i have a sneaking suspicion that we don\’t want to call homeless peopple the same things we call ourselves, even if they spend more time in the saddle than we do.

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  • Schrauf October 17, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    With all due respect to the deceased, this just goes to show why statistics are usually flawed and virtually meaningless.

    Two of the last nine bicycle fatalities have no relationship whatsoever to the risk faced by cyclists under normal conditions – using the broadest meaning possible of the term \”normal\”.

    I am referring to the freeway ramp incident and the practically lethal blood alchohol level telephone pole incident. These are people accidents, or idiot accidents, not bike accidents – at least for purposes of meaningful and useful biking statistics.

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  • rixtir October 17, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    It\’s kind of sad that no one even knows his name.

    Most of us (myself included) ignore/avoid the homeless whenever we can. In life and in death, it seems, as we didn\’t even hear about this until a week after he died.
    He was riding drunk, and probably didn\’t have a lifetime of potential ahead of him.

    But still, he was a human being.

    Thanks Qwendolyn.

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  • Brian October 17, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    I\’d have to say the reason Tracey Sparling was referred to as a cyclist and the dead homeless man as a bicyclist has much to do with how we identify ourselves as a biking community and culture. There seems to be a difference between both the affluence, the cycles and the method of riding between \”cyclists\” — who tend to take the bike lanes, be of middle class, wear \”biking\” equipment, etc. — and those seen riding Magnas on the sidewalk, these, ahem, users of bicycles. Now, while I am generalizing quite a bit here, and being a bit of a classist, there is a difference and I see it all the time while I\’m riding the streets. Doesn\’t necessarily mean any one of us is safer — considering, what?, that half of the fatalities have probably been people who are cyclists and the others are bicyclists.

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  • brodie October 17, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    Schrauf, I think that statistic about the amount of deaths should be very useful. It is to me. It lets me know that even with all of the commuting that goes on in our city, on crowded streets in narrow areas, it is still far more dangerous to be riding your bicycle drunk. There\’s way less of that going on, and a lot more deaths. Might be a no brainer, but a lot of people ride drunk because they assume since there aren\’t many cars on the road it cant be that dangerous. i am one of the guilty in that category.

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  • wsbob October 17, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    Seems like a bicycle accident to me. Guy was riding a bike, hits a telephone pole while riding the bike. How can the bike not have been a factor in this accident?

    Also, why not just ask some homeless people what kind of value they put on wearing a bicycle helmet for protection? I\’ll bet a lot of people would be wearing one if they could afford it and if they could keep track of it.

    The following website:


    seems to me like a great resource for anyone trying to decide whether or not wearing a helmet can do them any good.

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  • Ji€m F. October 17, 2007 at 10:18 pm

    Darwin strikes.

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  • SKiDmark October 17, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    Teens are required by law to wear helmets. Wearing a helmet is cooler than being hassled by the man.

    There are a lot of thrift stores with very cheap helmets, unfortunately most are children sized.

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  • PoPo October 17, 2007 at 11:29 pm

    I know the man who was killed. He was one of the many residents of inner southeast Portland who live outside, and had done so for many years.

    I spoke with some homeless folks at Colonel Summers park today about helmet use. All had their bicycles with them. One guy had a helmet already, another said he would use one at night, if he had one. Another wasn\’t sure if he would wear one or not but definitely seemed to be considering it. Another gentleman said he wouldn\’t wear one.

    I will see if I can get some helmets from the Trauma Nurses. If anyone else has some ideas for sources of helmets, let me know. Our precinct officers, or outreach workers from JOIN, could easily distribute them to people who need and would use them.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 18, 2007 at 12:02 am

    brodie (comment #12) said,

    \”is there a reason Tracey Sparling was referred to as a \”cyclist\” while this man was called a \”bicyclist.\”


    I appreciate your attention to he power of language and labels. I did not use different references for any specific reason. I don\’t have any editors to catch stuff like that… so perhaps it was something in my subconscious, but other than that, it was not a calculated decision.

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  • Schrauf October 18, 2007 at 7:02 am

    Brodie – I agree this incident and related statistics are very useful for showing the dangers of combining alcohol and biking. And it should be reported on this website just for that reason.

    I just meant for the average person thinking about starting to bike commute, or ride in general, looking at a statistic such as \”total bike fatalities\” can be very flawed. Pull out alchohol-related incidents, crazy people trying to cross freeways, kids flying down hills into traffic, etc., and then you have more useful information for \”typical\” cyclists.

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  • janis October 18, 2007 at 7:44 am

    It is always sad when a death occurs.

    I didn\’t see it mentioned yet so thought I would…The Community Cycling Center has the Create A Commuter Class.
    \”The first program of its kind in the nation, Create a Commuter (CAC) provides low-income adults with a fully-outfitted commuter bike complete with lights, a lock, a helmet, a rack, tools and all the other accessories needed for successful year-round bike commuting. The program also provides participants with five hours of safe commuting and bike maintenance training. The groundbreaking CAC program offers participants a flexible solution to meet their transportation needs, reducing barriers to work while promoting healthy activity. \”

    I know that they attended the Homeless Connect event that happened in September. You can check out their website:

    Be safe out there. And have fun! Janis

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  • beth h October 18, 2007 at 9:35 am

    It breaks my heart to read the words, \”the cyclist was not wearing a helmet.\”
    Saddest news.

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  • Donald October 18, 2007 at 10:07 am


    Great to have you on our side, man.

    You\’re one of the good ones.


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  • jimmy October 18, 2007 at 10:13 am

    I\’m not so sure a helmet would make much lasting difference for somebody who is rolling around town with a blood alcohol level of .38. A helmet can\’t stop psorosis of the liver, which brings us to the long standing quest of the long held puritanical belief that we can save everybody from harm, if they would just do as we say.

    Maybe if we can get everybody to wrap themselves in bubble tape we could cut down on potential injuries. Better yet, let\’s start an initiative to have all telephone poles wrapped in foam. Of course, we could also hand out those sumo wrestling puffy suits to people on bikes so they just kind of bounce when they go down…eventually we\’ll figure out a way to live risk-free lives. I can\’t wait.

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  • max adders October 18, 2007 at 10:15 am

    There are tons of adult helmets at the SE Goodwill superstore for well under $10. But $5 or $7 means a lot more to someone living on the street, obviously. Food, clothing, booze and drugs are definitely higher on the list of things to buy if you\’ve managed to scrape a meager amount of money together.

    But really: four times the legal limit for operating a vehicle– that\’s the most important factor in this story. I doubt I\’ve ever been that drunk. In fact, peopel have died of alcohol poisoning with less booze in their systems. It\’s baffling how one could stand up at .383, much less ride a bicycle.

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  • DK October 18, 2007 at 11:03 am

    It\’s hard to imagine how far this person could have ridden, when his b.a.l. was almost a 4. I think most people would have died where they lie or sit at that point. And, how much street time on the bike did he endure before the sidewalk got in the way? Not to be insincere or petty, but would have the headline read, and the readers\’ thoughts have been if he involved another person- let alone a cyclist in this accident? Scary stuff!!!

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  • Matthew October 18, 2007 at 11:04 am

    .38??? That would be most of a case of beer. It is very sad that people drink that much.

    While I don\’t exactly consider this a typical bicycling death, if you take out all the car accidents that happen when people are drunk/talking on their cell phone/breaking the law[speeding]/etc, cars are pretty dang safe (both for their occupants, and the people around them,) too…

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  • a.O October 18, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    It raises the question for me as to whether the DUI law is applicable to cycling.

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  • Donald October 18, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    A long time a ago, after a slow-speed collision with a PPB horse-cop\’s mount as I was pedaling home from a bar, I was informed that DUI laws can be applied to cyclists.

    I got a rather loud and colorful verbal warning and a really good bruise where the horse nibbled me.

    (Of course, my online opinions are mine alone. For real legal help, I always consult an actual attorney.)

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) October 18, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    Oregonian reporter Lynne Terry featured this story and an interview with me in her Today in Oregon Podcast. I\’ve snipped out this part only from her show today and you can listen to it in the post above.

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  • rixtir October 18, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    a.O., yes, the DUI is applicable to cycling.

    PoPo, I have a used helmet that I would be willing to donate. Let me know how to get it to you.

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  • rixtir October 18, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    er, make that \”the DUI law is applicable to cycling.\”

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  • Bjorn October 18, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    In oregon the law can be applied but it seldom is in cases where the cyclist is not involved in an accident. It is basically an offshoot of the way in which we permit bicycles to be on the roads by classifying them as a vehicle. Oregon doesn\’t really split motor vehicles vs non motor vehicles. Washington does and thanks to a court case a few years ago where it was found that the DUI law was intended to be applied to motor vehicles they updated their law to clarify. In washington if you are deemed by an officer to be too drunk to ride he may offer you a ride home, or if he thinks you are actually a danger to yourself I think you may also win a trip to the drunk tank, however you will not be charged with DUI.

    My feeling is that although biking while drunk may not be the safest thing for the cyclist it is orders of magnitude safer for everyone else than if that person were driving a car. I\’d like to see oregon legalize or at least decriminalize (ie make it a ticket not an arrestable offense) bicycling while intoxicated. Anything we can do to get intoxicated travelers out of their cars makes the rest of us safer. For the same reason I think we should have more transit later at night.


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  • rixtir October 18, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    I\’d like to see oregon legalize or at least decriminalize (ie make it a ticket not an arrestable offense) bicycling while intoxicated.

    That\’s what they do in California. It\’s a separate offense from DUI, with a $250 fine.

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  • Wendy October 19, 2007 at 12:16 am

    \”I\’d like to see oregon legalize or at least decriminalize (ie make it a ticket not an arrestable offense) bicycling while intoxicated. Anything we can do to get intoxicated travelers out of their cars makes the rest of us safer.\”

    Although a nice thought, I really doubt that decriminalizing drunk cycling will encourage intoxicated people to ride their bikes rather than drive their cars.

    \”For the same reason I think we should have more transit later at night.\”

    This seems like a *much* better idea.

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  • L. Armstrong October 19, 2007 at 9:51 am

    Bicycling DUII\’s _are_ being handed out by the Portland Police. I have one, and even came across another person with one while I was in court. They suck, and have every ramification of a motoring DUII.

    It is a misdemeanor crime if you are cited, that means you need to hire a lawyer, and you could end up with a criminal record. Your car driving license can be suspended too.

    Prepare to spend thousands of dollars, spend some time in jail,and give away at least 20 hours of your free time in courtrooms and treatment.

    Best advice: don\’t believe anything a cop tells you, say as little as possible to them, and never submit to a breath test if bicycling.

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  • Dave J. October 19, 2007 at 10:34 am

    \”Best advice: don\’t believe anything a cop tells you, say as little as possible to them, and never submit to a breath test if bicycling.\”

    Better advice: don\’t drink and bike.

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  • B. JOhnson October 19, 2007 at 11:06 am

    So Dave J, or should I say \”Officer J\”? It sounds like you believe that Oregons bicycle DUII laws are just.

    Let me ask you this, is a cyclist with too many beers in his belly as dangerous to the public as a drunken fratboy in a 3 ton SUV? Should the punishment be the same?

    If I recall correctly, DUII laws were reformed as a result of people losing loved ones to drunken drivers. Now those same reforms are being used against cyclists who can do little or no physical harm against others.

    Was MADD mad at cyclists?

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  • wsbob October 20, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Just by nature of the balance required to ride a bicycle, it seems logical that fewer people that are drunk would be inclined to ride than they would drive a car. I\’d agree that because the moving mass of a bike and rider doesn\’t represent the same certainty of a car to inflict damage, DUI cyclists perhaps shouldn\’t be subject to quite the same penalties associated with driving a car under the influence.

    The fact is though, drunk cyclists have the potential to inflict a lot of damage to more than themselves. They can run into pedestrians, and they can be a factor in collisions involving multiple motor vehicles on public streets.

    DUI while bicycling should carry significantly deterrent penalties.

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  • rixtir October 21, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Now those same reforms are being used against cyclists who can do little or no physical harm against others.

    Your argument is false. Cyclists have killed pedestrians, other cyclists, and motorists.

    That said, I don\’t think it makes sense to have the same DUI penalties that apply to motorists apply to cyclists. Other states have much more sensible approaches to BUI.

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  • a.O October 21, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    \”Cyclists have killed … motorists.\”

    Please tell us about that incident, rixter.

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  • rixtir October 21, 2007 at 6:35 pm
  • SKiDmark October 21, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    This is about the only way it will happen:
    Milwaukee bicyclist shoots motorist after near-collision, police say

    MILWAUKEE — A bicyclist shot a motorist after the man\’s car nearly hit the bike on Friday night, police said.
    The 28-year-old driver of the car stopped to check on the bicyclist, who had fallen to the pavement around 10:45 p.m., police said.

    The bicyclist got up, fired three shots and hit the driver once in the shoulder, police said.


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  • Matthew October 22, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    rixtir & SKiDMark: A pedestrian could have hurt motorist in the same way as a bicycle did in those situations and yet we haven\’t outlawed drunk walking because of it…

    Although, I do think drunk bicycling should be a crime. Just not on par with drunk driving. I think the issue is speed, at 3 mph, drunk pedestrians aren\’t always predictable, but it is easy for other people [peds, bikes, cars] to dodge/stop for/etc them. Drunk bicyclist can do 20 mph, so they are harder to avoid…

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  • rixtir October 22, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    You\’re missing the point, Matthew. B.Johnson claimed that cyclists can do little or no physical harm against others. That claim is demonstrably false.

    Now, if you want to argue that \”drunk walking\” hasn\’t been outlawed, you are mistaken. Have you ever heard of \”public drunkenness\”?

    I agree, however, with everything you said in your second paragraph.

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  • anti June 5, 2008 at 10:05 am

    I am reading up on BUI in Portland since I am moving there soon from the east coast. The above post is the first I\’ve seen of someone actually getting a BUI. Considering the introduction I received to the Portland Police when I was last out there(RANDOMLY pulled over, ID-ed, interrogated, and released), I wouldn\’t tell them anything or take a breath test either. Cops are all the same everywhere you go I guess.

    To those that say biking under the influence should be a crime, I would say you need to go live in Britain where everything is over regulated and no one can do anything without the approval of the gov. The nanny state WILL protect you! But we shouldn\’t have to here. The fact that your legislature even had the time to DEBATE this law let alone pass it just shows how little else you have to worry about. Come look at Baltimore where the drug use, general crime, and yes MURDER rates are 10x yours. You suppose they even think about BUI here? Yea right.

    As bike friendly as Portland is I can\’t believe that some of you would make the claim that given the choice more people wouldn\’t bike under the influence than drive under the influence. I know if it was me and the penalties are the same then I\’m taking the car every time… Would you rather have drunks on bikes or in cars? BUI in and of itself should not be a crime. They should aggressively enforce the rules of the road however. Ticket unsafe operators for their actions or otherwise hold them liable. If the cyclist causes an accident or injury then BY ALL MEANS charge them with disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, hell even vehicular manslaughter if they kill someone. By enacting a BUI law you give no incentive for a drunk to do the right thing, which is obviously not drive.

    What about BUI while legally carrying concealed (a gun)
    \\Will be swerving down Albermarle with a glock on my StumpJumper soon enough.
    \\Cant change my mind hippy.

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  • wsbob June 5, 2008 at 11:17 am

    \”I know if it was me and the penalties are the same then I\’m taking the car every time… \” anti

    I\’m curious whether you\’ve thought even just a little about what such a statement reveals about the kind of person you are. If you have some intelligence, which despite your apparent ability to read and write….seems to be of dubious quality, and have a sense of responsibility that leads you to not do things that will needlessly injure innocent people, you should not even need a deterrent to not drink and drive, drink and bike, or be irresponsibly drunk in public.

    It seems some people do need a deterrent; losing their license to drive, jail, prison, and so forth. The bike has been a fall-back option for some drunks, but if they also can\’t use that means of transportation to get around without hurting someone, a deterrent is required.

    Some measure, a deterrent such as DUI and BUI laws have to be in place to get people to understand that they have to avoid doing things that will allow their personal indulgences to needlessly injure other people. Either that, or they have to be secured away from the general public where they can\’t hurt anyone.

    Anti, comment #48, anyone with your particular viewpoint and inclination towards getting around while drunk or whatever, would be doing everyone a big favor by taking a serious reality check.

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  • marsha August 14, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Curtis was my brother that i haven’t seen in years. i only recently found out about his death. we were abandoned by our parents when I was 4 and Curtis was 3. we lived with very abusive relatives. One of Curtis’s punishments was a freezing cold shower while my aunt watched laughing. Because of his repeated trauma as a child he became an alcoholic and a career criminal. I could no longer hang out with him because of his behaviors. I am thankful that you have paid tribute to my brother. I loved him. Although, it is not a reality to base any public safety policies using his death as an example. If you gave my brother a helmet he would have found someone he could trade with for booze. Everyone has a story; my brothers was very traumatic and lonely. At least with that much alcohol he didn’t feel a thing

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