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Citizen initiated citation will be filed tomorrow

Posted by on December 11th, 2007 at 6:19 pm

Lawyer Christopher Heaps.
(Photos © Jonathan Maus)

Christopher Heaps, the Portland attorney who’s leading an effort to bring a motor vehicle driver to justice for failing to yield to a bicycle in a bike lane, plans to file the formal citation at the Multnomah County Courthouse tomorrow.

Heaps has completed an Oregon Uniform Citation and Complaint (a.k.a. a traffic ticket, scroll down to see it) that lists Lisa Wheeler as the defendant.

Wheeler was driving south on N. Interstate Avenue on the morning of November 6th when she made a right turn onto Greeley Avenue and collided with Siobhan Doyle. Doyle (who has been in contact with Heaps and supports this effort) was riding her bicycle in the bike lane and the collision sent her into the trauma center at a local hospital with serious injuries.

Wheeler was not issued a citation at the scene of the collision (even though there is an Oregon statute (811.050) which requires motor vehicle operators to yield to bicycles in a bike lane).

Heaps is moving forward with a Citizen Initiation of Violation Proceedings process as laid out in ORS 153.058. The process relies on an Oregon law that gives any citizen the right to file a citation against another citizen.

Rally - We are all traffic-1-2.jpg

Siobhan Doyle

Heaps learned about the process from veteran Portland lawyer Ray Thomas. Thomas introduced the process and published a pamphlet about it nearly two years ago.

From his office in downtown Portland, lawyer Chris Heaps said, “It’s the same form the officer writes up when you break a traffic law…But instead of the officer serving you the ticket and then filing it with the courts, we’re doing the opposite. We’ll file this citation with the courts, who will then serve it to the defendant.”

According to Heaps, once the citation is filed at the courthouse Wheeler will receive it in the mail and will have to make a court appearance. Heaps is already working with witnesses and plans to present the case with hopes that he’ll “establish sufficient evidence to cite her for failure to yield.”

Here is the citation Lisa Wheeler would have never seen if it weren’t for Heaps, Thomas, and a few concerned citizens.


(Click to enlarge)

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44 Comments
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    true December 11, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Good luck.

    Is Doyle a willing participant, or does this proceed with or without her support?

    It\’s impressive to see a citizen take the legal steps in pursuing this, way to go A.O. I can\’t wait to see what happens.

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    Jerrod December 11, 2007 at 7:04 pm

    I was hit by a car on SW 10th and Yamhill, right next to the MAX tracks. The guy ran a red light and I ended up in the ER at OHSU. There was NO CITATION given to the guy AT ALL. The COP told me that since I wasn\’t in critical condition, than she couldn\’t cite him. Are you kidding me? Any thoughts on that?

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    Geoff December 11, 2007 at 7:11 pm

    Jerrod,

    Do you have the plates, or any info about the driver? If not, is it on the police report?

    If not, I doubt there is much you will be able to do. If you do have the info, hire a lawyer!

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    John Russell December 11, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    Best of luck.

    I do have one question, though. Living in Vancouver, does anyone know if there is a comparable law in Washington?

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    rixtir December 11, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    I was hit by a car on SW 10th and Yamhill, right next to the MAX tracks. The guy ran a red light and I ended up in the ER at OHSU. There was NO CITATION given to the guy AT ALL. The COP told me that since I wasn\’t in critical condition, than she couldn\’t cite him. Are you kidding me? Any thoughts on that?

    The cop is wrong. The policy is they are required to investigate accidents when there is a trauma level injury. That doesn\’t mean they *can\’t* investigate accidents or issue citations when there is no trauma-level injury…Something Chris Heaps is out to change.

    Citation considerations aside, you need to talk to an attorney if you were hit and injured by a red-light runner.

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    Brent D December 11, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    I don\’t think the Portland Police have much, if any, interest in issuing traffic citations for anything other then speeding. I was involved in a car accident (no bicycles involved) a few years ago and no citations were issued then. The other persons insurance paid for everything, including medical. My auto insurance rates are now a bit higher since it shows up as a no fault accident on my DMV record.

    I\’m glad to see someone is pushing the issue. It is a real problem but I don\’t think bicycles are being singled out.

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    rixtir December 11, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    I\’m glad to see someone is pushing the issue. It is a real problem but I don\’t think bicycles are being singled out.

    Perhaps, but it\’s an auto-centric policy. The present policy assumes that when you\’re involved in an accident, your insurance company will negotiate with the other person\’s insurance company. That\’s why the PPB policy is to facilitate the exchange of information, but not mandate investigation, for less than trauma-level injuries.

    The problem is, if you\’re a cyclist, and don\’t own a car, you have no auto insurance. In that situation, you\’re the one negotiating with the other party\’s insurance company, and that insurance company is claiming that their insured is not at fault, because no citation was issued. They might even claim that YOU are at fault, based on what their insured reports.

    Another indication that it\’s an auto-centric policy is the level of injury expected. If every single fender-bender sent both drivers to the hospital, the citizenry wouldn\’t tolerate a policy in which the police refuse to investigate or issue citations. The fact is most fender benders do not result in injury, a fact which helps perpetuate this policy.

    And the fact also is that in most car-on-bike crashes, the cyclist is injured, a fact which indicates that this auto-centric policy does not work for car-on-bike crashes.

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    dan December 11, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    Like rix said, anytime there\’s an injury where someone goes to the hospital the police are supposed to write a \”traffic crash exchange report\”.

    I hit a pedestrian on a highway on ramp and the officer went to the hospital to get the information (name, etc) of the injured party so he could write that report. He then relayed the info to me.

    Interestingly, when the officer gave me the info, he said that the pedestrian was clearly at fault and this was reflected by his position as the first \’unit\’ listed on the \’traffic crash exchange report\’ In no way does the report suggest that the first \’unit\’ is the one at fault, though, and the pedestrian tried to recover from my insurance company. (they denied his claim)

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    pat h December 11, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    This is great! Hopefully it is the first of many. I hope this relatively minor case will pave the way towards going after the drivers in the fatal collisions.

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    mike_khad1 December 11, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Great Job AO!!

    I hope Siobhan Doyle is involved in this too. I saw her speak at the We are all traffic rally and she was a very engaging speaker and her story should be told.

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  • Stephen Upchurch
    Stephen Upchurch December 11, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    YES!!

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    wsbob December 11, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    That\’s some initiative. It will be interesting to hear how this develops out. The results of this effort may perk some ears up. Movement towards street design that ensures safer travel of motor vehicles together may be sped up as efforts like this come about.

    As far as I\’m concerned, there\’s no question at all that motor vehicles luxuriate in an overwhelming abundance of auto-centric policy related to use of streets and roads. Bikes on streets and roads, even while their use as viable commuting transportation expands daily, seem still to be widely regarded as novelty and annoyance by much of the motor vehicle driving public.

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    Brent D December 11, 2007 at 10:00 pm

    rixtr,

    Those are some good points. Interestingly enough, my insurance company was not involved in my situation. I dealt with the other person\’s insurance directly for the medical. The auto body shop dealt with the insurance for that portion.

    This does expose some areas that need to be looked into. I think I\’ll call my insurance company and see if there is any coverage while I\’m on a bicycle, technically a motor vehicle in Oregon.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 11, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    RE: Siobhan Doyle\’s involvement.

    Yes, she is aware of this effort and she has been in contact with Heaps. She supports what they are doing.

    I have added that to the post.

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    tonyt December 11, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Jerrod,

    Join the club. Sad but true. This is why we have to resort to these legal gymnastics.

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    Todd B December 11, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    Perhaps it is time for a local insurance company to consider providing a bicyclist vehicle coverage (theft and injury for riders and pedestrians). (I always reply back to those personalized mailers offering vehicle insurance quotes…I ask for insurance for my Gazelle but they never reply back…hmmm.)

    This might be a good grant demonstration by the state or city … assuming the same level of support exists for it like the vehicle insurance via mileage effort of late. (It cannot but help Portland\’s Platinum effort…especially as portions of the City move to having 10% mode share.) (Hi Sam…any Mayorial thoughts on this?)

    Another option might be to include it under a monthly or annual surcharge for carsharing members (Hi Zipcar). (Thinking out loud…Perhaps it is time to include this under Zipcar\’s revised MOU for the on street parking space in Portland? Once they take over Flexcar next month.)

    I would like this option of coverage…being 18 years without car insurance coverage,

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    Todd B December 11, 2007 at 11:08 pm

    And to add to Rixtr\’s comments:

    The existing PPB (\’autocentric\’) policy works well for a typical traffic perp…aka \’the driver\’… is often the only vocal witness to the traffic crash, as the bicyclist (vulnerable road user) is often dead, dying, under transport to a hospital or incoherent…and thus unable to offer testimony for the initial PPB report.

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    Pat F December 12, 2007 at 12:07 am

    In this autocentric part of the world we live in, somehow the legal requirement to have insurance has been transmuted into having the insurance companies \”just take care of it\”, as if that should somehow automatically resolve things to everyone\’s satisfaction.

    It\’s a lame handoff of responsibility, and it doesn\’t produce equitable or socially positive results in lots of situations. Insurance companies are not interested in fairness, just compensation, or civil society. They aren\’t even interested in the facts most of the time. They are interested only in resolving the situation cheaply and quickly. Sometimes this is in line with the best interests of the parties involved, but often it\’s not.

    This is especially true when one party has been injured and doesn\’t have insurance. Creating a Catch-22 of \”No citation, no liability\” compounds the problem further.

    I hope the Citizen Initiated Citation process becomes commonplace enough that governments realize there is a real problem. Allowing, and then further perpetrating injustice leads to disgust with government and breakdowns in civil society. Fobbing off the responsibility to mete out justice to faceless, socially irresponsible insurance companies is a very bad idea.

    Sure, there are lots of horrible things happening out there, and our police are unfortunately busy with big things, but the right to travel safely in your city is an important and fundamental right. Traveling on our streets is about the biggest and most common way we interact with each other as a society.

    While I hope the Citizen Initiated Citation process is well utilized, what I really hope for is government that sees to it that justice is done. When someone has been injured or killed, they or their survivors should not have to be responsible for goading the creaky wheels of government into action.

    The wheels of justice should turn automatically, and every time. We don\’t have that now, and the tears in our social fabric will not heal until we make it so.

    Empowerment is a good start. Let\’s make this work.

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    Metal Cowboy December 12, 2007 at 1:17 am

    It\’s so good to see our time and effort on this hasn\’t gone down a black hole but is actually moving forward. I can tell you after spending literally hours either on hold and/or getting recordings and being shuffled from one department to another to obtain these reports, th eprocess should and will go smoother and more streamlined for future citation violation proceedings. Chris Heaps and Ray Thomas deserve a lot of praise. Chris is really in this for the long haul and I respect the hell out of that level of committment. As for anyone who needs help with a situation where they feel a citation should have been issued but wasn\’t please contact meand/or Chris Heap. You can get me @ mtcowboy@teleport.com or metalcowboy@metalcowboy.com
    We want to keep working on these until something changes on the law enforcement side/ how DA approach these situations involving injry that is \”term\” not critical enough to get an immediate citation and speaking for myself, improving laws that are on the books and adding new ones that better protect vulnerable road users.
    I saw someone riding with a santa hat over their helmet today! Brought a smile to my face. Happy Holidays,

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    Mark Allyn December 12, 2007 at 5:39 am

    Would \’bicycle insurance\’ be an opportunity for an euntpraneur? Any in the venture capital field out there? Whould this be a viable business to provide venture capital to get rolling?

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    Stripes December 12, 2007 at 7:44 am

    Re: Brent D – I agree that the Police really lack the resources to deal with violations for any mode. But I think bike riders are singled out in particular, because of the stipulation that the police are not required to make a report unless

    a) the victim was admitted to a trauma unit
    b) the property damage was over $1500

    Well, how many cars do you know that cost over $1500? Lots.

    How many bikes do you know that cost over $1500? Some, but not lots.

    When my friend was hit recently, she was told by the police she couldn\’t file a report, basically to to paraphrase because her bicycle (that was ruined) was not expensive enough. It seems the monetary threshold for filing a report should be lower for bicyclists.

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    blurt December 12, 2007 at 8:49 am

    I\’m sure automobile insurance was started by an entrepreneur, and look what a legally required scam that has become.

    Be careful what you wish for.

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    Brent D December 12, 2007 at 8:50 am

    Stripes

    Yeah, $1500 is not in favor of bicycles.

    I do remember there being a box to check if the damage was over a certain amount (it might have been $1500) on the accident report form. I think the auto shop bill ended up around $2000. I was under the impression that the amount determined the severity of the citation (if one was to be issued) and not wether or not a report should be filed.

    I would double check what the officer said. I\’m pretty sure you can file a report regardless of the amount of damage. I know I have in other states.

    What bothers me most about this insurance centric policy is that bad drivers are not racking up points towards getting their licenses revoked.

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    Schrauf December 12, 2007 at 8:52 am

    \”Would \’bicycle insurance\’ be an opportunity for an euntpraneur? Any in the venture capital field out there? Whould this be a viable business to provide venture capital to get rolling?\”

    Seems like this would be difficult for a start-up not also offering other types of insurance. Demand would be light (most cyclists DO own cars or at least have a renter/homeowner policy that is of some benefit).

    Worse, cost of claims would be difficult to estimate since this particular insurance is rare or nonexistant in the US – therefore it would be easier for an existing insurance company to take it on, with their existing experts, and absorb the potential short term losses with their more profitable insurance policies.

    But you never know – as demand increases and their is potential profit, someone will step up.

    Not to say there should not be some type of government provided insurance (for a fee) in the meantime if there is a need for it…

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    a.O December 12, 2007 at 9:14 am

    Why wait for someone to do it for profit? Let\’s start a Portland bicyclists\’ insurance co-op so we can get the lowest rates and highest coverage.

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    tonyt December 12, 2007 at 9:40 am

    Brent said, \”What bothers me most about this insurance centric policy is that bad drivers are not racking up points towards getting their licenses revoked.\”

    Amen. We have 43,000 dead people a year who prove that point. Not to mention, \”fight it out in the private sector\” encourages a survival of the fittest situation where people who may not speak English fluently, or simply may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, get raked over the coals. We cease to be a society of laws at that point.

    Re; the $1,500 cut-off point on forms. As has been said before, you can scratch a car with your handlebar and cause $2,000 worth of damage.

    A car can completely total most bikes (not to mention what happens to the rider) and not come close to that amount.

    Speaking of insurance bias, after I was hit by a car and was settling with her company, the insurance guy was demanding my damaged bike parts in exchange for payment. I asked him if this was the policy with cars, knowing full well what the answer would be. Try as he might, none of their reasons stood up to scrutiny since they weren\’t also being applied to cars.

    I told him that I was not a second class citizen and would be treated no differently than if I had been driving a car and that our \”relationship\” was governed by Oregon law which made no such demand.

    He had \”to talk to his manager\” and then called me back. They caved.

    Thank you Mark Ginsberg for your advice on that one.

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    Caroline December 12, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Here\’s the plan I just thought up (having been hit myself but suffering no more than emotional injury after verbal abuse by the driver):

    When a driver has clearly deviated from the law or otherwise completely failed your expectations of a reasonable driver and has struck you on your bicycle, you:

    1) Take note of situational details such as car make, license plate number, if possible. Do not admit guilt or give complex statements.

    2) Take a moment to reflect on the state of your body and mind. Sometimes the shock of an incident means we walk away before realizing we are really actually hurt. Just take that extra time in the moment to soul-search: Are you hurt? Yes! You are!

    3) Turn on that latent thespian inside, and:

    4) ACT HURT! If there are no obvious physical deformities, feign internal injuries, acting:

    5) FAINT, NAUSEATED, DIZZY, CONFUSED, EXQUISITELY PAINFUL IN THE ABDOMINAL REGION, OR – ATTEST TO VISION CHANGES, PALPITATIONS, and/or DIFFICULTY BREATHING.

    Only do this if you are certain the driver is in the wrong. You will likely see a doctor who may or may not find anything wrong, but, it will mean a citation will probably be issued. You may even get to be in the news!

    I\’m serious, anyway. This comment is in alignment with cycling, cyclists, cyclist rights, and cycling culture. (At least the self-protecting if not somewhat slightly devious side of them.) I\’m pro-bike, and it bothers me seeing motorists \”get away\” with striking cyclists. Make it public by making a show of it. Make consequences and make motorists reflect. Have fun, be safe.

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    a.O December 12, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Caroline, that\’s fraud and it\’s illegal. Responsible cyclists want no part of feigning injuries. We\’re going to change the system the honest way, thanks. Otherwise, good advice.

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    John December 12, 2007 at 10:40 am

    Speaking about insurance, I have a policy offered by Bank of America to their customers that insures me against being injured by a car. It\’s a supplemental insurance that seemed like a good idea when they sold it to me. It covers injuries sustained as a passenger in a car or as a pedestrian. It didn\’t state bicycling or anything else but I called the insurance company and asked them if I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle was I covered. And they said yes. So coverage is available for us. (I don\’t remember the name of the insurance company but the cost is $11.95 a month and can pay out $400 per day for over a month)

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    Metal Cowboy December 12, 2007 at 11:18 am

    I wanted to point out that we have not forgotten about the citation violation proceedings in the cases of Tracy S and Brett but the DA is still investigating those and we have been told by DEputy DA that those investigations should be complete by the end of the year. Depending on what they decide we may file citatrions in those cases. The only way we will get the enforcement steppped up is to keep the light shining on this bit of injustice and weakness in the enforcement and follow thru side of things. So anyone who needs our help in filing should not hesitate to contact us.

    And the very best thing is to ride defensively but don\’t let the fear of right hooks keep you off the bike.

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    Spanky December 12, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It strikes me as odd that Doyle is not directly involved, rather than just \”aware\” of what is going on with the process.

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    tonyt December 12, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    Spanky, I don\’t think it\’s any more odd than if the police were pursuing the citation and Siobhan was \”aware\” of it.

    This process is not an easy one and it makes sense for people with some level of expertise to step up and help.

    Thank you Christopher!

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    SH December 12, 2007 at 1:52 pm

    In spite of the police not enforcing the law, it\’s comforting to know that we as citizens can and are enforcing it ourselves

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    Metal Cowboy December 12, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    For the record, Doyle is more than aware of this, has given her blessing and wants to see this thing go through. What it means to have folks like Chris Heap and myself working on it is that she doesn\’t have to spend hours of her work days filing complaints and getting stonewalled by the system on phones, and dealing with stuff that it would take a lawyer to understand. Spanky , there is no pressure by outside forces to get Doyle on board or anything like that.

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    a.O December 12, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    I\’ve received several messages thanking me for my efforts in addition to those in the comments above. In response, I want to say that it is my honor to do my small part to (hopefully) make Portland a better place to bike, something that makes Portland a better place for everybody. I love this town and its thoughtful, civic-minded citizens.

    After spending two hours (really) at the Multnomah County Courthouse this afternoon trying to get the citation filed, I finally feel as though I\’ve done something worthy of thanks!

    I\’m hopeful that justice will be served in this case, and I want to make clear that I did not do this alone. Thanks to everyone who helped me, especially Ray and Joe and Ena.

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    Siobhan December 12, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    As has been mentioned above, I am aware that Chris, Joe and others are going through this process.

    It is their right as citizens of Portland and I support them just like I would support any good Samaritan who wanted to volunteer their time to help keep people safer(legally, of course).

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    Spanky December 13, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Never meant to imply anything untoward. Apologies if my post read that way. And I agree, it is no more odd than the police issuing a citation, as the police are not involved in incidents they issue citations on.

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    Todd Waddell December 13, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Is the DA\’s investigation into this crash closed?

    Has the DA ever issued a statement about whether the driver will or will not be cited for this crash?

    If I missed it, can someone post a link.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 13, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    \”Is the DA’s investigation into this crash closed?

    Has the DA ever issued a statement about whether the driver will or will not be cited for this crash?\”

    Todd,

    This crash is not being investigated by the DA because the responding police officer did not decide to do a full investigation and Doyle\’s injuries were not deemed to be serious enough to make such an investigation mandatory.

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    Todd Waddell December 14, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Oh, that\’s right, an investigation is only launched if the cyclist \”receives trauma level injuries.\”

    Thanks for reminding me.

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    a.O December 14, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    And sometimes an investigation isn\’t made even if the cyclist does receive trauma-level injuries, as was the situation in Siobhan\’s case.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) December 14, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    RE: investigations.

    Again, remember, any officer, at any time, at any crash, can choose to do an investigation.

    Each one of them has the discretionary ability to do an investigation (and remember \”an investigation\” can mean either a quickie or a full-blown crash analysis…they are different).

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    james February 28, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Good story 🙂

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    CameraOnBoard April 12, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    I have the solution to all the evidence problems you all seem to be having with the discourteous drivers of the Northwest.
    I purchased a camera (digital, Oregon Scientific $99.00) that mounts on my handlebars. The camera uses an SD card and two aa batteries and will function for roughly an hour depending on the actual size of the chip. I have accumulated tons of footage of the worst drivers in three counties so far.
    Some might see this as going a little overboard but I am a courteous driver and have always slowed for pedestrians and bicycles and see no reason for anyone to cause the aforementioned citizens any delay or concerns for their safety. It is just bad driving which seems to be a growing habit in this region. We all know that the State of Oregon and a few of it’s neighbors issue licenses at an amazing rate and rarely actually determine whether the driver is qualified to be on the roads or not. It truly is in their interest in Salem to have more drivers on the road qualified or not to pay the exorbitant insurance rates, since most of the big money there in Salem is Insurance Industry money. The more Drivers on the road bad or not the more money that industry makes.
    Now if one of those BAD drivers hits you or runs you off the road you have the evidence and ammunition to make the bad driver pay and as well his/her Insurance Co. The Insurance Co. will fight you to the end unless you present the video footage which is a deal breaker in any courtroom. You can’t deny what has been captured on a camera. I bought mine at REI but I’m sure Oregon Scientific would have many vendors in this area. I would urge you to spend the paltry sum of $99.00 and have the insurance you need at the cost of about one premium payment.
    Lets all get cameras and put the nasty bike haters and bad drivers in their place on the bus. I better stop there or I would be compelled to talk about all of the Footage I have of Try-Met buses cutting me off and being generally dangerous.

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