Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

DA will not file criminal charges in Sparling case

Posted by on January 10th, 2008 at 1:07 pm

I just spoke with Multnomah County District Attorney Chuck Sparks. Sparks has completed his investigation into the collision that took the life of Tracey Sparling at W. Burnside and 14th in downtown Portland on October 11.

Sparks said he will not file any criminal charges in the case.

Here is the conclusion from the full report and memo made public by the DA’s office today:

“Wiles [the driver of the cement truck that hit Sparling] arrived at the intersection before Ms. Sparling and came to a stop, waiting to turn right. Wiles did not see Ms. Sparling as she approached his stopped truck, nor did he see her as he went into his turn. Ms. Sparling stopped in the bike lane near Wiles’ right front wheel, and was, due to her location and diminutive stature, not visible to Wiles; she was, through no fault of her own, in the driver’s blind spot.

Once the light changed, both Mr. Wiles and Ms. Sparling moved forward. Ms. Sparling’s position and movement near the front of the truck put her in front of the truck’s right front wheel as it entered its turn.

Mr. Wiles reports using his mirrors to check the side of the truck while waiting to turn and before starting his turn. It is unclear whether he had his turn signal on before his turn. Mr. Wiles claims he did. It is possible he did not. It is also possible that he did, but activated his hazards when he stopped in response to Biehl’s [a witness] shout, and switched back to the turn signal when he realized what he had done.

The relevant standard is criminal negligence. Criminal negligence is the failure to be aware of “a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or the circumstance exists,” with the risk being “of such nature and degree that the failure to be aware of it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that areasonable person would observe in the situation.”

The evidence must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Wiles acted with criminal negligence for the state to prosecute. After reviewing all witness statements, the scene evidence, and the toxicology reports I conclude that Wiles’ failure to perceive Ms. Sparling prior to his turn was not sufficient to charge him with criminally negligent homicide.”

Now that the criminal investigation is complete, the Portland Police Bureau can decide whether or not to issue a traffic citation to the truck driver for “failure to yield to a bicycle in a bike lane”.

The man who will make that decision is the bureau’s lead fatal investigator, Peter Kurronen.

Sparks told me today that, “They [the PPB] did everything I asked of them, which was to not give any citations until this investigation was complete. Now that decision is entirely in their hands.”

For the entire report and memo from Sparks, download this PDF (520KB).

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  • tonyt January 10, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Given that the cops have maintained, despite almost all legal opinion to the contrary, that citing the driver might jeopardize the process of pursuing criminal charges, I\’m quite sure that we\’ll soon hear that the driver was given a citation for failure to yield right?

    Oh yeah. Right.

    So can someone in a position of power please tell the public why it is that they should obey the law and drive with respect for the lives of others?

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  • a.O January 10, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    You heard it here first: If the PPB does not cite Timothy Wiles for violation of ORS 811.050, we will ask the Court to do so.

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    From the facts stated in the report, it appears the DA made the right call. This incident was a tragedy, but punishing the driver isn\’t warranted. (he did fail to yield, however – an infraction that does not require knowledge regardless of what Lt. Kruger (excuse me, Capt. Kruger) thinks. It would be appropriate for the police to issue the citation in this case, and I hope they do so.

    More importantly, this report underscores the need for additional safety equipment on commercial trucks, and an evaluation of the safety of that particular bike lane. The lane should be relocated or removed (Yes, Paul, I did say that) based on the recommendations of the study, and I sincerely hope that the city calls for and performs such a study.

    Commercial drivers perform a demanding job under difficult circumstances, with substandard equipment. The drivers are trying to earn a paycheck – they\’re not going to push for it. The companies don\’t want to spend the money, and the proper response is for the public to demand local state and federal governments to address the issue through regulatory legislation and enforcement. As Susie Kubota said, this should never have to happen to anyone, and if we make our voices heard loudly enough, maybe it won\’t have to.

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  • BURR January 10, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    There are still involuntary manslaughter options between the choices of criminal homicide and a simple traffic fine. I would hope that the DA explores them.

    It seems the city is open to some liability for poor roadway design as well.

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    Burr, how would involutary manslaughter charges help? They can\’t reunite Tracey with her family, they won\’t make Wiles a better driver (he has no citations, anyway – this is his first infraction), and they wouldn\’t affect the behavior of other drivers (the \”it can\’t happen to me\” syndrome) – all it would do is serve as a form of revenge.

    I\’d rather see all parties involved push for better road design and mandatory safety equipment for trucks – I suspect on this last part you would agree.

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  • Atbman January 10, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    This was a terrible tragedy and it seems to me that there were a number of factors involved.

    The first was Ms. Sparling\’s action in pulling up alongside the truck, something which was \”encouraged\” by th existence of the bike lane. Note, I\’m not blaming her for doing this, the design of the lane markings made it more likely that she would act as she did. However, standard safe cycling practice advises that riders should not undertake large vehicles (trucks, buses, etc.) because of the attnedant visibility problems

    Bike lanes are for this very reason, not the cyclist safety panacea that many believe. Even if the \”merge right into the bike lane\” rule applies in Portland it would not, necessarily, prevent such tragedies occurring, since large vehicles may not be able to do so because of their turning arc.

    The second was the limitations of the position and design of the Truck\’s mirrors. This is something which is being addressed by European standards because of a large number of similar deaths across the continent.

    The third was the absence of sidebars on the truck. These are pretty much standard issue on this side of the Atlantic. Such bars make it less likely that a cyclist can be dragged under a truck\’s rear wheels.

    Properly designed Bike Boxes go a long way to reducing, if not preventing, such collisions. They do, though, have to be of sufficent depth to place riders far enough forward to enable the drivers of high cab vehicles to see them, especially if they are petite, like Ms Sparling.

    Please note that I\’m not apportioning blame to either Ms Parling or the driver, but only trying to analyse what factors may have led to this terrble event. Bike Portland members should be pressing the City/State Highways departments to make use of such analyses (more expert and knowledgeable than this long distance one) and take them into account when designing roads.

    My profound sysmapthies to Ms Sparling\’s family and friends

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  • solid gold January 10, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    wow, so now i only have to stop at red lights if i see them?! so, by the logic of the DA, if you can\’t see it, it\’s not your fault. and i really love the \”may or may not have had turn signals on\”.

    WTF?! car breaking traffic laws and killing someone=ok, as long as they \”don\’t see it\”

    bike breaking traffic laws and harming no one= $242 fine.

    yeah, our legal system really is unbiased! so remember, when cops pull you over, use the \”i didn\’t see it\” line, it should work from now on.

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  • tonyt January 10, 2008 at 2:29 pm


    Let me retool your statement.

    How would murder charges help? They can\’t reunite the victim with her family, they won\’t make the murderer a better person, and they wouldn\’t affect the behavior of other citizens (the \”it can\’t happen to me\” syndrome) – all it would do is serve as a form of revenge.

    Now that makes no sense does it?

    Someone is dead, someone did it. I don\’t think the driver is a bad person, but I do think that the cold hand of justice can send a loud and clear message. \”It doesn\’t matter if you\’re a good person. Kill someone and there will be consequences.\”

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    That is definitely a retooling. To prove homicide, you need means, motive and opportunity – there\’s no motive or intent here. To prove negligent homicide, you need to prove negligence. There wasn\’t any on the part of the driver – he did exactly what he was supposed to do according to law.

    He is guilty of failure to yield, because that does not require any knowledge of someone being there.

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    solid gold (#7) – \”may or may not have had turn signals on\”

    Yep, that\’s exactly correct. Some witnesses say yes, some say no. No cop witnessed it, so it can\’t be proven one way or another in a court of law. The proper way to say that legally is \”may or may not\”. The report states only the facts, not speculation.

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  • SH January 10, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    (From the point of view of a fellow cyclist) Despite the tragedy, the DA\’s thorough report seems to show that Wiles could not have foreseen nor prevented the incident short of demanding that his cement truck hood be made shorter, among other safety equipment. It sounds like involving him any further won\’t do any good.

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  • a.O January 10, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Matt, re the turn signal: No witness said that the turn signal was on according to Mr Sparks\’ memo.

    re criminal charges: They help because they have a deterrent effect. However, I believe Mr Sparks reached the correct conclusion here, assuming the material facts are as he reported.

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  • BURR January 10, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    By the DA\’s logic, if he didn\’t see her, he wouldn\’t be guilty of failure to yield either, because he wasn\’t aware there was anyone he needed to yield to.

    There is deterent value to a manslaughter charge, to make other motorists more aware of their surroundings in the future.

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    tonyt (#8) – using your logic, if I\’m riding the sidewalk on the bridge at 12th Avenue and I-84, and I swerve to avoid a pedestrian and end up falling over the guard rail, land on a car, and I survive the fall but the driver dies from the impact, then I should go to jail because I killed him – even though I did nothing that violates the law?

    The driver did nothing criminal. Yes, this is a tragedy. The trucking company is irresponsible for not having safety equipment, but they aren\’t criminal either. That\’s why we need to madate safety equipment – then violations *DO* become potentially criminal.

    You can\’t just prosecute people because something bad happened to someone else and that person was involved – they have to have been directly responsible, and a law has to have been broken. This case doesn\’t meet the criteria set by the law.

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    a.O (#11) – respectfully, you are incorrect. Mr. Wiles is a witness. The fact that he is also the suspect does not change that.

    The memo states one witness not knowing, one witness seeing the hazard lights, and one witness saying the turn signals were one. Inconclusive.

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    BURR (#13) – it\’s debateable whether perception is a requirement to yield. I don\’t believe it is. Ultimately a judge would have to make that decision. Personally, I say issue the ticket and let the judge decide.

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  • Jason January 10, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    First of all, let me emphasize that Ms. Sparling\’s death is a terrible tragedy.

    That being said, pulling into the right-cross zone of a large truck was a contributory factor in the collision.

    Shortly after this happened, I had an incident where I realized that I habitually stay out of the right-cross zone. I think the fact that she was a young and inexperienced rider was a significant part of the tragedy.

    Although I would like government to regard private passenger vehicles with something between hostility and animosity, I don\’t think that this particular incident is a good example for us to rally around.

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  • a.O January 10, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Matt, re the signal: Mr Wiles is properly characterized as a witness, but I think you know I was referring to everyone who witnessed the incident and who doesn\’t have a motivation to lie about the turn signal, i.e., others. The semantics of the matter doesn\’t change the fact that, according to Sparks, no one else recalled the turn signal being on.

    re yielding: You are simply incorrect in your assertion that perception is a requirement to yield. Think about it: Can you avoid a ticket for running a stop sign if you say you didn\’t see it and the judge belives you? No. A judge may so exercise his or her discretion, but it is not legally material.

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  • a.O January 10, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Matt, I don\’t think I made my point completely above, re the signal:

    From the memo: \”None of the eyewitnesses to the collision could say certainly whether the truck\’s right turn signal was activated during the turn.\”

    Sparks uses the term the same way I did above because he (nor would any good investigator) equally wate the statement of Wiles and the statements of the eyewitnesses.

    In #15, you seem to imply that there were three different opinions and that that alone would lead to the inability to draw a conclusion. I don\’t think that\’s correct.

    I also don\’t think it\’s correct to say that one witness said the hazards were on. You seemed to imply in #15 that this was during the incident. In fact Pool \”did not see the collision\” but stated that the hazards were on after Wiles stopped.

    Does anyone else wonder whether the situation was accurately reconstructed?

    The memo states that Officer Kurronen \”had another person use a tape measure to hold his hand 5 feet 3 inches off the ground (Ms. Sparling\’s height) and move it along the truck.\” The investigators were doing so to determine whether she was visible to Wiles.

    But isn\’t the accurate measurement the actual height of a person who is 5\’3\” and astride a bicycle?

    Is it plausible or likely that Sparling having her foot down at the intersection or actually riding would be taller than 5\’3\”?

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  • a.O January 10, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    \”equally wate\” = \”did not equally weight\”

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    a.O (#18) – you have it backwards – I am saying unequivocably that perception is NOT a requirement, regardless of Kruger\’s opinion (check all my posts in this thread). Wiles should be ticketed – he obviously broke that law. (my post in #16 was acknowledging BURR\’s point, not advocating the opposite position)

    (#19) Wiles has motivation to lie, but that doesn\’t discount his testimony. I acknowledge that your interpretation of witness and the DAs differs from the way I used the term. My point is that there isn\’t a clear preponderance of evidence that his turn signal wasn\’t on. If it was not on, he is clearly guilty of failure to signal, but that still does not rise (IMO, and granted IANAL) to the level of criminal culpability.

    Regarding your other points in post 19 – valid, noted, and I stand corrected.

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  • JDL January 10, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    As SH (#11) notes, The DA\’s report suggests that it was impossible for Wiles to have seen Ms. Sparling because she was in the truck\’s blind spot. The truck\’s owner should have equipped the truck with the mirrors necessary to eliminate the blind spot. By sending Wiles onto the streets of Portland in truck that they knew, or should have known, had a dangerous blind spot, they were setting Wiles up to kill any \”person of shorter stature\” who was unlucky enough to be in the blind spot when the truck turned right.

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  • tonyt January 10, 2008 at 3:25 pm


    I\’m not suggesting that we charge someone for something that isn\’t at all appropriate for what happened. I\’m not shooting for murder here.

    I actually do agree with the DA on this one. There doesn\’t seem to be anything there that warrants \”criminally negligent homicide.\” But I\’m not convinced that there isn\’t a charge that would be appropriate.

    Until we cease this willful absolution regarding traffic deaths, we will not get people to drive with more care. We want people to drive more carefully, but when they don\’t, often with tragic results, we do no more than utter a collective \”Whoops! Hope you do better next time!

    I venture to guess that if we put a couple of soccer moms in jail, for even just a few months, even when they were stone sober, it might go a long way toward mitigating this \”it was an accident\” mentality that we seem to be mired in.

    You said, \”and a law has to have been broken.\” Well news flash, a law WAS broken. A traffic law. And while people might scoff at the notion of traffic laws being important (Hi Captain Kruger!), might I remind people that 43,000 people die each year, most I might venture to guess, because those silly traffic laws were broken.

    My point in retooling your quote was to point out, that while there may be ways to make your argument, \”They can\’t reunite Tracey with her family\” et al, fails miserably. If that is a reason to NOT charge someone, it follows to reason that we would never charge anyone with anything because charging people brings no one back, ever.

    Your position on an issue might be valid, but bad arguments are bad arguments.

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  • leftcoaster January 10, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    tonty #1

    I personally drive carefully (when I drive, which is rare) so as to avoid accidents, hurting another person or animal, or damaging property. Those are the reasons everyone should drive carefully and obey the traffic laws- not to avoid a ticket.

    If that\’s not how you drive, well then… you\’re doing it wrong.

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  • a.O January 10, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Matt, sorry, I guess I misunderstood. We are in agreement on everything you note in #21, with one exception:

    I think the fact that Wiles was driving should discount the weight of his testimony. I also think that any reasonable judge, juror, or investigator would do so, either implicitly or explicitly. I nevertheless agree re weight of the evidence necessary to cite for failure to signal and re criminal culpability. However, I make this point because I think the overall evidence re the signal has some value for demonstrating negligence, which is the most important thing now.

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Point taken on the argument, tonyt. The punish the driver argument was a bad one.

    Yes, a traffic law WAS broken – news flash, I have said in every one of these too many posts today that the driver should be charged for failure to yield. It\’s not my fault that that violation is only a $242 fine. We can only charge him for what he\’s guilty for.

    Trucks need safety equipment. Driver penalties need to be increased. There needs to be more training for both drivers and cyclists. I\’m not disputing that at all. If we want to put soccer moms in jail to stop cyclist deaths, we need to push the legislature until they increase the penalties.

    What I\’m saying as that in this case, the driver may have made one mistake – failing to signal. In everything else, he was obeying the law. In all points, Tracey Sparling was obeying the law. We have no evidence that the driver was inattentive – the intersection was clear when he pulled up, and he couldn\’t see anyone in his mirrors. Well, shouldn\’t we then look AT THE MIRRORS? The equipment is substandard – is technically meets the letter of the law, but is wholly inadequate to protect others. What if Tracey Sparling hadn\’t been there? What if it had been a 4\’11\” woman standing in the crosswalk? She\’d still be invisible to the driver, because the vehicle has blind spots. Let\’s eliminate the blind spots. Let\’s eliminate the bad intersection design. Let\’s fix the problems rather than trying to destroy a second life, who doesn\’t deserve the ire or condemnation of the cycling community. If this case clearly indicated the driver was at fault, I\’d be right there with you saying that he should be in jail, we need to send a message to drivers, etc.

    We DO need to send a message to drivers, but not with Mr. Wiles. We need to send it with the truck drver who took out Brett (who had a list of driving violations longer than my arm) and the impatient woman who tried to take out Siobhan. There are too many drivers willfully breaking the law who are criminally negligent. Mr. Wiles is not one of them – failure to signal is not the only contributing factor to the crash.

    Would you feel this strongly if a cyclist failed to signal and failed to yield, and killed a pedestrian?

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  • tonyt January 10, 2008 at 3:55 pm


    I drive carefully for the same reasons as you cited. And yes, I agree they are the reasons why everyone SHOULD drive carefully.

    SHOULD. What a wonderful world THAT would be.

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  • tonyt January 10, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    \”Would you feel this strongly if a cyclist failed to signal and failed to yield, and killed a pedestrian?\”


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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    a.O (#25)

    Ok, I\’ll accept that point. There is evidence to indicate he did not use a turn signal. That might be enough to prove him negligent, but is it enough to prove him criminally negligent? I think it would be really hard to prove, and the DA obviously thought so. It sounds like you agree from your previous post.

    I absolutely believe he should be charged for any civil infractions he committed. I merely ask what the point is in determining negligence in this particular case? Note: I\’m not saying it\’s necessarily wrong to do so, I\’m just asking why do we want to do it? What are our goals, and does additional prosecution further those goals, and at what cost?

    All I\’m asking is that if you believe Wiles merits further punishment, ask yourself why, ask yourself what the cost is, and ask yourself what the downstream effects could be.

    If you\’ve considered those questions and answered them to your own satisfaction, then – good. We should give the same care to filing legal actions that road users should give to their driving. In both cases, one small mistake can destroy a life and change a community.

    Thanks for reading this, and for putting up with my excessive posting today.

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    tonyt (#28) – I thought as much. That question was meant for the readership at large, and not so much you personally.


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  • Cøyøte January 10, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    tonyt has a point. As a society we have a long history of administering justice unfairly to make a point about something. For example laws about open containers, statutory rape, sucide, drug use and posession, prostitution, interacial marriage, being photographed eating feces, etc, have all been promulgated and enforced to make people think before they act. It would be entirely consistent to charge Mr. Wiles with a crime to make a point about trucks being dangerous.

    That being said, I just wish they fix the damn trucks. How hi-tech is an effing mirror?

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  • Jeff January 10, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    In the interest of opposing opinions, I do not feel that the cold hand of justice should arbitrarily mete out punishment by jailing people when someone dies, even though no direct causal action of their own.

    This is exactly what tonyt is stating in #8 above, regardless of context. I\’m also not commenting on this specific case. I prefer there to be some ability of our system to use the judgement and reasonableness of a public forum to determine appropriate punishments.

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  • myself January 10, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    after my own personal hardships sort of similar to this one…being next to my partner when hit/killed…it is all thoroughly done with what evidence and witness accounts…tragedy – entirely…but, now the further you can go is PPB and a civil suit against the trucking company for lack of safety mirrors…if that is the case…i don\’t know what the legalities for big trucks are, perhaps if it was under protocal, then they should revamp standards…but, either way, civil suit where justly deserved is technically the next step after citation or no citation…just offering some 2 cents to the matter…

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  • myself January 10, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    one more thing…chuck sparks is an amazing DA who himself is a a cyclist as well as his family…so, no biased opinions there…he is always thorough…but yeah, no onward to the PPB

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  • Keith January 10, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    I personally feel that this is an issue that needs to be worked out by both bicyclists and motorists. I can tell you that not all bicyclists follow all the laws all the time (I sit at the bus stop and watch them blow the four way stop). I see bicyclists, riding on the wrong side of the street (such as on E Burnside St, along the light rail.) They regularly blow stop signs in low traffic areas and sometimes even blow through red lights (against the law even if no cars are around). I see bicyclists riding on streets (NE Sandy Blvd in the Hollywood District) and MLK Jr and Grand Ave. Where there are high volumes of traffic. Some even \”take the whole lane\” going half the speed limit. I have seen bicyclists riding two abreast up the on ramp to the broadway bridge, and one even flipped me off when I beeped (politely) my horn at him. Then motioned for me to go around him, putting me in a position where i had to change lanes in heavy traffic, then change lanes again if I wanted to turn right. They ride on streets and roads with no shoulder, or not adequate room for them to ride safely on the right. As for blind spots, well in a truck those never go away! STAY OUT OF BLIND SPOTS!!! A blind spot does not constitute negligence, if the driver is not aware there is someone there. Most bicycle riders I have seen are unpredictable and unwilling to stop in most cases if they do not have to because they want to keep momentum. I have had to make myself practice what I am preaching so I know there are others out there who need to change the way they think. Bicycle Friendly City is not a license to do whatever you please. I am glad to see that bicyclists are getting citations and I hope the city grows rich on them and if a police officer sees me doing something against the law then I will gladly pay the fine!!! Having said that, I have seen some pretty stupid drivers out there, and I have been one, the motor vehicle far too easily can become an extensions of ones negative emotions, and I am guilty of that. Drivers need to slow down and take the law seriously as well. Unfortunately these environmental superhero, cannot do anything wrong, I belong on this street and you can\’t do anything about it, bicyclists are here to stay. I ride a bicycle daily and sometimes even walk to work, but I will never! never! associate myself with the generation of bicyclists I see on the streets today, I despise them! Cannot stand the way they dress, and wish to God they would get a head on their shoulders, and figure out how to truly share the road in a common sense way with motor vehicles.

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  • Jerry January 10, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    As a former truck driver I know that a blind spot is not an excuse to drive over whatever or whoever is in that space. A blind spot is assumed to be occupied and not driven into unless you have a spotter. The truck driver should not have assumed that the blind spot was empty. That is careless driving on the trucker\’s part. Since he did drive blindly, not opting to choose a different route or use a spotter or better mirrors, all very reasonable options, he should be held responsible for what he did.

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  • Dabby January 10, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    I call bullshit….

    The simple explanation in Spark\’s statement alone shows negligence.

    In no manner should the \”I did not see them\” defense be viable.

    Not looking, then running someone over is negligence, and a full criminal act.

    It is our responsibility, as citizens, to look before doing anything. Especially while driving a car or truck, and especially when driving one for a living, and even more when it is of such large weight and size.

    Since it is obvious that the city or state is going to do nothing at all about this tragedy, I hope, even beyond my own personal beliefs on this subject, that Tracy\’s family sues the hell out of the drivers employer.

    Maybe that is the only way that the drivers of personal, and especially commercial vehicles, will learn to shape up, and not rely on insufficient mirrors and safety equipment.

    This is idiotic, and , as has been stated before, goes to show that cyclists in the City of Portland are seen and treated as not only lower class citizens, but also as expendable, and not worthy of the full protection we are allowed through our judicial system.

    This is another sad, sad day in Portland folks…

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  • Vance January 10, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    811.050 811.060 If these are not going to be enforced, ever, then why are they on the books, at taxpayer expense? Why are you all here, instead of on Fancy Sam\’s site, complaining about being removed from the public right of way? When are you going to realize that you are not wanted out there? When are you going to wake up, and stop Geller, Adams, and Bricker from patting you on the head, and sending you on your way?

    Since there is no more criminal investigation, it is okay to issue citations for the statutes that were inherently violated, right? Wait, that would give Sparling\’s family a leg to stand on in civil court wouldn\’t it? I wonder how large the campaign donation was from the Freight, \’Stakeholders\’, the last time we elected a D.A.? Meanwhile, this city council just gave full police authority to a bunch of private citizens. The PBA now owns us all, lock, stock, and barrel.

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  • Matt Picio January 10, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Keith (#35) – cyclists have every right to ride on a road with no shoulder, and in many areas such roads may be the only road available. If there isn\’t adequate room for them to ride safely on the right, then it is their right to take the lane, and it is your responsibility to yield to them until you can safely pass.

    You may not like it, but that is their right, and that is the law.

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  • BURR January 10, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    I see bicyclists riding on streets (NE Sandy Blvd in the Hollywood District) and MLK Jr and Grand Ave. Where there are high volumes of traffic. Some even \”take the whole lane\” going half the speed limit. I have seen bicyclists riding two abreast up the on ramp to the broadway bridge, and one even flipped me off when I beeped (politely) my horn at him. Then motioned for me to go around him, putting me in a position where i had to change lanes in heavy traffic, then change lanes again if I wanted to turn right. They ride on streets and roads with no shoulder, or not adequate room for them to ride safely on the right.

    there is so much wrong with this statement that I don\’t even know where to start….

    A bicyclist in front of you has the right of way and the right to the entire lane, as necessary, as determined by the cyclist. With the exception of limited access highways, all roads are open to cyclists. Any motorist overtaking a cyclist by law must slow down and waits until it is safe to pass. Do not honk your horn at cyclists and expect a favorable reaction.

    I believe Keith is the poster child for motorist reeducation, the element of the three Es that the city barely gets a C- on.

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  • Puleeze January 10, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    While she didn\’t deserve to die for lack of foresight, she should have stopped behind the truck if it had its turn signal on, as the police report said.

    I do that routinely on my 8-mile daily commute through bike hell, er Washington County, and it\’s saved my bacon dozens of times.

    You can be right, dead right, or you can get to live if you assume that everyone on the road is trying to kill you.

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  • Steven J. January 11, 2008 at 5:23 am

    Why in the hell commercial vehicles that size are allowed to even turn right there is a mystery to me. Existing fixtures, traffic backups, make it hard for a truck that size to even miss the curb.
    Adams Wants my vote, he better do something more than blow smoke & test crosswalks with that lame ducki mayor.

    Sho Dozono at least knows how to knock a few heads together to get it done.

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  • Jeff January 11, 2008 at 6:16 am

    After reading the District Attorney\’s memo and most of the comments about the story, I\’m still left with one question.

    It is the same question I had when an ambulance driver (not on an emergency run) here in Milwaukee, WI drove around a barricade and killed a bike racer and the D.A. here said almost the same thing when refusing to prosecute the driver.
    If you can\’t prove criminally negligent homicide, why not charge the crime you can prove? The District Attorney would seem to have many choices.

    163.195 Recklessly endangering another person. (1) A person commits the crime of recklessly endangering another person if the person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person.

    811.140 Reckless driving; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of reckless driving if the person recklessly drives a vehicle upon a highway or other premises described in this section in a manner that endangers the safety of persons or property.

    (2) The use of the term “recklessly” in this section is as defined in ORS 161.085.

    (9) “Recklessly,” when used with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, means that a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

    While many here have observed, charging the driver will not bring Tracey Sparling back, but that is not the reason for charging someone with a crime. This driver did not exercise the care that the law required him to, and that resulted in a death. I\’m not even saying the driver should go to prison, but he desrves more than the slap on the wrist that a traffic ticket would be.

    By the way, in the incident here in Milwaukee, the driver got a ticket, that if memory serves me, cost him $50.

    My condolences to Ms. Sparlings family and friends.

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  • Moo January 11, 2008 at 8:41 am

    In a way, I\’m surprised there aren\’t more bike-truck collisions that result in fatalities. Big freakin\’ semis, dump trucks and garbage rigs dot our residential landscapes way too much.

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  • Kevin January 11, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Here\’s some food for thought:
    A woman is sentenced to prison for 30 months because she runs a red light while distracted and kills another driver in a collision. Guilty of vehicular homicide(http://blog.oregonlive.com/breakingnews/2008/01/vancouver_woman_sentenced_to_p.html)

    But it appears that if you are driving a truck and collide with a bike killing the cyclist those rules don\’t apply.

    Shame on the system.

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  • Vance January 11, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Again, I think the wrong questions are being posed here. Homicide, man-slaughter, these are tough, expensive cases to win. There were two violations inherently committed as evidenced by Ms. Sparling\’s death. Violation of ORS 811.050 is a traffic infraction with a small fine. Violation of ORS 811.060 is a traffic crime and provides latitude in sentencing that is significant.

    You all are talking about punishing this driver. That is not why we have laws. This is why you won\’t look at the situation right in front of you. It is perfectly conceivable that there aren\’t grounds to prosecute a negligence case. Who cares? The real issue is why are there no citations being issued for violating the statutes I spoke of earlier? It\’s one thing to let Wiles out of prison time, it is entirely another thing to not write him so much as a ticket. Ask yourself why, for Pete\’s sake.

    Look, Ms. Sparling\’s family undoubtedly are going to seek compensation through the civil courts. Their argument: \”You killed our daughter.\” The defense: \”This wasn\’t our driver\’s fault.\” Negligent homicide, or a traffic ticket, it doesn\’t matter. If Wiles is issued so much as a ticket, the civil suit is an open and shut case. I think they call it a slam-dunk. Don\’t you see? The city is going to try to draw as much attention to their decision not to prosecute a big case; while hoping you all don\’t notice that there isn\’t going to be any criminal charge made at all.

    Therefore it is the D.A.\’s position that enforcing Oregon law isn\’t as important as preventing a certain concrete company from being sued out of existence. Homicide? Too ambitious. What about simply writing a couple of traffic tickets?

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  • Mick January 11, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Keith #35: This is a tired old argument that has no bearing on the case at hand. Sparling was not doing any of the things that you describe.

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  • Another Doug January 11, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Jeff #41:

    You have identified the crux of the problem with charging drivers with anything more than a traffic violation. It is in the definition of recklessly that the DAs and everybody else have to live with.

    \”(9) “Recklessly,” when used with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, means that a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.\”

    As a society, we have come to accept an enormous amount of mayhem on our roads. Just look at the number of deaths that occur daily. It makes Iraq look like a picnic.

    The people on juries regard themselves as reasonable people. When determining whether the conduct of a defendant represents a gross deviation they will think about how they drive.

    The definition of \”recklessly\” needs to be changed if we are going to start holding people accountable for the deaths and injuries they cause when driving.

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  • Nelson Muntz January 11, 2008 at 11:09 am

    This is a horrible tragedy and an a horrible ACCIDENT. I doubt Mr. Wiles woke up that fateful morning looking to kill someone with his cement truck. I\’d venture the guy probably has nightmares and will be dealing with this for the rest of his life. Killing another human being is a horrible burden to bear especially under these circumstances. Mr. Wiles and his employer will very likely be punished monetarily in the civil courts but I realize this won\’t be enough for some of you.

    I doubt that a $242 citation is going to do much good and it may likely polarize opinions in the tired bike vs. cars debate. Perhaps we should all strive to be more like Ms. Sparling\’s aunt, Susan Kubota. She is putting a human and very effective face on this tragedy. She is creating more energy and opportunities for the bike community to gain much needed change than those of you brandishing a mentality of punishment for the sake of punishment.

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  • mcark January 11, 2008 at 11:19 am

    I\’m 24 hours away from Portland ( I know, what the hell am I doing here). I\’ve watched several youtube videos about the bike lanes and I would be exceedingly nervous to drive in Portland traffic with the bikes. I\’m waiting for a new discussion on separate bike lanes without \” Bikes are traffic, too\” being mentioned.

    Jonathan: I know this site is meant for Portland bikers but this blog is such an inspiration for the rest of the country (like my state of Missouri) We, bikers, feel like we were born on a distant planet and adopted by our earth parents.

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  • suburbanite January 11, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Things could have tuned out differently. I just came across this bike/car episode in China:


    I am not, however, advocating this behavior here.

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  • John January 11, 2008 at 11:32 am

    As an all around cyclist (commuter most days, road, and MTB) and a former Truck driver, I can easily see how this happened.
    Jerry in post 36 stated that you assume your blind spots are occupied and as a driver you do your best to watch for objects in your blind spot. However as a cyclist I realize that the blind spots exist and either hang back where I can see the driver in the mirrors or pull forward (if space allows) so I am visable over the hood of the vehicle.

    I drove for Werner and any accident is assumed to be the drivers fault (even if a car hits you). The driver was assumed to be at fault unless/until the company\’s safety dept determined otherwise.
    As a driver you are supposed to be psychic and know what all the 4-wheeled idiots etc. are supposed to do in advance and allow space for them to do stupid things.
    That being said I also hope the driver did his best to live up to those expectations. For all we know the driver lost his job (or was suspended) due to that collision. If he was working for one the large national companies he would be worrying about having a job.
    I think it was partly the drivers fault for not knowing someone was in his blind spot, but it was also the cyclist\’s fault for not respecting the difficult task it is to operate a large vehicle (especially in a city) and not helping the driver to do his job by staying out of his blind spot.
    Just as drivers should be educated about cyclists and cyclist rights, cyclists need to be educated about the difficulties in operating a large vehicle.
    Should criminal charges be brought against the driver? No. This was just a tragic accident. There was no intent to harm anyone. Should something be done? Yes. But I don\’t know what. Hopefully the accident and death appear on his driving record which hopefully will affect his ability to get a driving job and get affordable insurance.

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  • wsbob January 11, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    It\’s a tough call. Of course, everyone wants and needs some explanation for why and how this death happened, and an appropriate penalty for whatever lack of responsibility their was on the part of the driver.

    Vance in #44 mentions homicide and manslaughter as tough cases to win. Also, those are serious charges. On this forum and elsewhere I imagine, thoughts of applying those charges to deaths and injuries of vulnerable road users by motor vehicle drivers are discussed with some regularity with the idea that they will be possibly be implemented into Oregon law. Whether that would be a good thing, or whether it will ever happen remains to be seen.

    I interpret the meaning behind the absence of such charges in Oregon law to date, to be that on the road, whether on a bike or in a semi, you\’re largely on your own to look out for yourself. That\’s because current street infrastructure has inherent limitations affecting the ability of operators of disparate kinds of vehicles to be fully aware of each other, no matter how hard they try to be aware of what\’s around them.

    Wiles, the truck driver might have been reckless, but was he really? It sounds as though at that intersection from the vantage point of the truck he was driving, someone on a bike would not be seen and might be run over even if they weren\’t reckless and exercised all due caution.

    Future street design that brings greater numbers of bikes together with motor vehicles has got to somehow do a better job of enabling all road users to be aware of each other. As long as this kind of awareness is not provided for, over-zealous efforts to find fault where obvious indication of fault is absent, risks the possibility of unfair punishment of people for things they haven\’t done, and failure to prevent similar deaths of vulnerable road users in future.

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  • Mike V. January 11, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    For the most part, I agree that while this is a tragedy, there doesn\’t seem to be overwhelming evidence that the driver should be held accountable for more than the Failure to Yield.

    All of this is a great build up to the accident that happened two weeks after this on Interstate Ave. From what I heard and understand, that accident was very much the fault of the driver. The driver had multiple previous violations and it was clear that he saw the victim before he turned into that lane. The real test for the DA will be how that accident is handled. I\’m all for outrage when its called for and the outcome of that investigation may indeed call for it!

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  • myself January 11, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    you all talk about what is and what isn\’t happening with the DA…
    He has prosecuted cases involving cyclists being killed and those people went to jail based on the evidence at hand and some witness accounts…the fact that they even considered using witness accounts in this case was amazing because they always say that the witness is trivial and can be biased – emotionally, physically, whatever…they barely used my testimony and i was right next to my partner when he was struck and killed and sparks did one hell of a job getting that guy to jail…
    the evidence is what is it is and unfortunately the laws are such…citations are citations…it is a tragedy…but, we should focus more on beefing up the traffic laws, secured mirrors on trucks, blah blah blah…
    either way, this sucks, but either can start changing come things are keep griping without action…what are you gonna do?

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  • Lenny Anderson January 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    I bet on the worksite a blindspot is assumed to be occupied. That is just SOP as pointed out above. Doesn\’t seem to apply out on the street where there is no risk of workers\’ comp; indeed no consequence at all to the operator.
    The lesson is all this is that bicyclists are better off to ride illegally in some cases. Had Sparling successfullly run the red across Burnside or even gone out in front of the truck in order to run the red, she would have made it out of there alive.
    Until riding legally is made safe, I will do what I have to do to survive.

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  • wsbob January 11, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    It\’s pretty much crazy to run red lights on Burnside given the traffic volume. Pedestrians jaywalk, and that\’s risky at best. Periodically, they get run over on Burnside because they jaywalk.

    Assuming the blind spot is occupied might be SOP, but at some point, after a driver has checked and rechecked for approaching vehicles as a means of accounting for the blind spot, and see no one there, they\’re going to presume it\’s safe to move the vehicle. If the blind spot is big enough to hide a cyclist once they\’ve moved into it, a driver might never have seen the cyclist at all, since an alert driver could be checking traffic in other directions just at the moment when a cyclist moves into the blind spot.

    This scenario might be especially bad at the 14th and Burnside intersection because of the abruptly rising hill behind the point where the truck and cyclist waited for the light to change. The hill might have meant that visibility of the cyclist in the trucks mirrors as the cyclist approaches the intersection would have been out of the mirrors range of coverage.

    These are reasons why much closer attention is going to have to be directed towards better street and motor vehicle design so as to eliminate any possibility that vulnerable road users aren\’t seen by motor vehicle drivers.

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  • Jerry January 11, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Wsbob, you say it\’s a tough call, but I don\’t think it is at all.

    Did the driver see Tracey? Apparently no.

    Did a blind spot exist? Apparently yes.

    Did the driver know that the blind spot existed? Yes, that is a drivers\’ responsibility.

    Could the driver have done something to see what was in his blind spot? Yes, he could have either had proper mirrors or he could have had a spotter with him if he intended to drive the truck where he could not see.

    Did the driver do anything to see what was in the blind spot he was driving into? No.

    Should the driver proceed proceed through a turn even though he cannot see what is in his path? No.

    Here is a more common example of the same behavior for those who have never driven a truck:
    If you are in your car and you look in your mirror and you don\’t see anyone in the lane next to you, and then hit the car next to you when you change lanes because he was in your blind spot, that is your fault. That is essentially what this truck driver did.

    There must be a lawsuit to correct what the DA failed to do. The DA found that the driver did not have proper visibility to make that turn. If that is the case I think the correct answer is that the driver cannot make that turn, since he cannot do so in a safe manner. The alternative, which the DA apparently supports, is that if you cannot make the turn safely, then go ahead and make the turn unsafely.

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  • Jerry January 11, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    A maneuver that the driver could have done, upon finding that he could not make a left turn at that corner safely, is instead proceed ahead and make three safe right turns at which point he could have ended up in the same place without ever making an unsafe left turn.

    The only reason he made an unsafe blind turn is because it may have been the shortest distance and he was in a hurry. I think either that is the case or he wasn\’t really aware that he had a blind spot which he should have been aware of.

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  • Jerry January 11, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Correction: three lefts rather than the unsafe right.

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  • Driveabus January 11, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    Given the way some of you people talk I\’m surprised that you don\’t give the government all decision making powers over your life and safety. Then you\’d have someone to put all blame on when things go wrong. Safety begins at home folks. If you are not mature enough to look out for yourself then you should not be on the road unassisted. A bicyclist will always lose to a large vehicle and there will always be blind spots on vehicles.

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  • wsbob January 11, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Well Jerry, I\’m basically split on the issue of the driver\’s role in this fatal collision. I agree with your feeling that the driver was wrong, but since what I know is limited to what I\’ve read about the collision, so there\’s no way someone like myself can really exclude the possibility that the driver did exercise caution in making the turn that nevertheless killed Tracy Sparling. That\’s why I say that old infrastructure and old vehicle design plays a significant role in these kinds of collisions and should be corrected ASAP.

    The driver should have had better mirrors, a spotter, video cameras, guide bars or something…anything to keep a truck from rolling over a cyclist or other vulnerable road user, but the fact seems to be that much of what we have today in terms of collision avoidance equipment for motor vehicles is old technology that is not working for today\’s traffic conditions.

    Why are companies allowed to license or send out on the road, vehicles that have blind spots? Why in the first place, are manufacturers allowed to produce and sell vehicles having blind spots that aren\’t countered with appropriate equipment? Many, many vehicles have blind spots.

    Over the years, drivers have grown accustomed to learning and using ways to correct for those blind spots even though at some point in relation to their vehicle, they may not be able to see another vehicle close to them when it happens to be in the blind spot. Where it\’s been a car or other motor vehicle in the blind spot, the consequences have been less likely to be so extreme, by virtue of the motor vehicle\’s sturdy exterior, than when a cyclist\’s bike is in the blind spot. It\’s the rising numbers of bikes in the traffic mix that is awakening more and more people everyday to this modern reality.

    Many of us that frequent this weblog have argued and discussed this over and over. I can\’t decide for sure whether the driver completely flaked out and absentmindedly rolled over Tracy Sparling or whether the act happened in spite of caution on exercised on the part of the driver. For sure though, at least for now, there are ever more bicycles every day alongside all manner of motor vehicles on very busy streets. Something has to be done to make sure they can see better or otherwise be aware of each other at critical moments.

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  • Toby January 11, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Jerry #59, That intersection is not on a standard grid, http://tinyurl.com/23oeow click on the link in the second paragraph. I would also disagree with your example in #58. What happened to Sparling is, IMO, more akin to the following; Someone is walking to their compact car (parked between two Tonka trucks, not that uncommon) in the parking lot of a grocery store. They get in, start her up, check all three mirrors, look over both shoulders, determines it\’s safe, then proceeds to back up all the while monitoring over both shoulders. Meanwhile, a parent is walking back to their car with a small child. The child runs on ahead and *BAM* you hit the kid! Is the driver at fault? No, he/she did everything within his/her power to pilot the vehicle safely. The kid shouldn\’t of ran up ahead and the parent should of taken steps to prevent it.
    The point is, everyone has to look out for themselves. While it would be important to know if the driver signaled properly or not, we don\’t know and never will. Sparling should not of put herself in that position. Period. The mirrors and spotters are good points, but I\’m sure those are the responsibility of the employer, not the driver.
    Like I said, IMO

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  • Opus the Poet January 12, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Having read numerous lawsuits about aircraft accidents, including one suit for failure to install safety harnesses that weren\’t even invented when the aircraft was built, I have to say you guys are talking about suing the wrong party. The trucking company and the truck manufacturer are the places you should be looking to sue. The Truck manufacturer, and the trucking company both allowed the vehicle to be used when ther were known defects in the safety devices installed, to wit blind spots in the mirror coverage. These blind spots could have been corrected with less than $100 in mirrors and mounts but were allowed to remain uncorrected until Tracy Sparling was crushed by a driver that couldn\’t see her, had no chance of seeing her, and would not have injured her could he have seen her. Don\’t file suit against the driver, get the driver to join you in suing the trucking company and the truck manufacturer. He was an injured party, too…


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  • Gerod January 13, 2008 at 12:25 am

    May God bless her family!

    It is a hard call. There seems to be a lot of questions not answered. Blinkers? (1) Was he checking his mirriors? (2). I have ridden close to big rigs and the like and I am extra careful. After reading the report, my conclusion is he didn\’t have on the blinker and was not ckecking his mirrors; a seasoned cyclist would not have moved if the blinker was on.

    Our culture of driving needs to be changed. Start with the driving training, extra emphasis on cyclist needs to be add to all state driving test. Laws need to be enforced and changed ensuring that the HPV is covered; punishment for hitting a law abiding cyclist is the same as 2 motor vehicles. Once vehicle drivers know they will be procecuted for these type of negligent action, they will be more aware of all HPV and motorcycles. We maybe smaller, make less footprint, eco friendly, it doesn\’t deminish our right to share the roads, and be protected while using the roads. According to the report the it could have been hybrid/electric subcompact car in the same area and he would not have seen that one either. This is my opinion.


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  • Dabby January 13, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Blind spot + bike lane + Portland = Assume someone is there. Lean forward in your seat and get a better angle through the mirror. Take your time before turning.

    Save lives, not time….

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  • Jerry January 13, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Toby #63
    I was giving the truck driver credit to have enough smarts to know that he could proceed straight through the intersection and then make three lefts and end up at the same intersection going the direction he wanted to. You may be right though, maybe he isn\’t bright enough to know how to make that work. perhaps, as you seem to be suggesting, the truck driver wasn\’t able to know that he may have to drive around several blacks rather than just the next block to make his three lefts. I doubt he was that dumb, but I am sure there are some people out there who may not be able to solve that problem.

    wsbob, for safeties sake, don\’t get behind the wheel of anything larger than a bicycle or skateboard. Your faith in driving blind in situations like this suggests that you would very likely kill kill someone.

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  • wsbob January 13, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Gee thanks Jerry, for so carefully thinking through the situation I attempted to lay out explaining what many drivers experience everyday in vehicles that commonly have inherent design flaws that increase the likelihood that such a collision as the one that killed Tracy Sparling will eventually happen.

    My \”…faith in driving blind in situations…\”? Try again. This is a discussion about traffic and driving, not religion, and just so you\’re clear on the issue, I have no such faith as you mention.

    On the other hand, about traffic and driving, I\’m a realist. I know that vehicles have blindspots. I know that drivers adopt ways to look to either side of that blindspot or use mirrors that help to circumvent the barrier that the blindspot presents. Neither of those methods are perfectly reliable.

    For even the most attentive driver, whatever degree of unreliability exists in those methods leads to a higher likelihood that a collision will eventually occur, than if their weren\’t a blindspot at all. That\’s what I\’m trying to get at Jerry. I imagine you\’re probably sufficiently intelligent enough to understand this. The objective should be to eliminate the blind spots…in vehicle design, in traffic infrastructure.

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  • tonyt January 14, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Jeff #32,

    You said,

    \”I do not feel that the cold hand of justice should arbitrarily mete out punishment by jailing people when someone dies, even though no direct causal action of their own.

    This is exactly what tonyt is stating in #8 above, regardless of context.\”

    I said no such thing. Not even close. Where am I saying anything about arbitrarily handing out punishment?

    Where do I say someone should go to jail for no \”direct causal action\” on their part?

    I\’m sorry, but that\’s ridiculous to the extreme.

    Let me recap in the simplest possible terms.

    If you break a traffic law and kill someone, you shouldn\’t be punished as if you\’ve simply broke the traffic law. You\’ve killed someone. That\’s manslaughter. Specifically it\’s vehicular manslaughter.

    Why does someone have to be drunk or be breaking the law in an especially egregious manner before there are legal consequences? Why do we act as if the driver\’s guilt is punishment enough? We are only reinforcing the notion that it was some magical accident that \”just happened.\”

    If some soccer mom turns left in front of a cyclist and kills them – bingo, vehicular manslaughter, go directly to jail.

    There is nothing arbitrary about that at all.

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  • a.O January 14, 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Why does someone have to be drunk or be breaking the law in an especially egregious manner before there are legal consequences?

    There is a gap in the Oregon traffic law. It\’s a failure to account for reckless and negligent behavior while wielding a deadly weapon. It\’s due largely to politics and the perceived need to protect the economic interests behind the automobile.

    That can change with an intense advocacy effort. And it needs to if we are ever going to make cycling a mainstream transportation option that is perceived as safe. The Vulnerable Roadway Users law is only a start.

    There was nothing for the DA to do criminally in this case. So, we\’re left with a citation for 811.050 under the \’07 law. Remember, the PPB won\’t even make this simple effort to slap the wrist of someone who killed someone else. We, the citizens, will have to do it ourselves.

    Why do we act as if the driver\’s guilt is punishment enough?

    Because the average Joe knows, based on the way he drives and the number of cyclists on the road in PDX, that it could have been him. And although he knows he could be more careful, he doesn\’t want the responsibility.

    There is a powerful urge to explain it by blaming the victim. There must be some reason, other than simply not watching for a second, that someone had to die. Otherwise, that means we could all go at any time, and to think that you\’d have to confront your own morality.

    And, by the way, I\’d like to point out that Wiles stated there was no one in the bike lane when he pulled up at the intersection. But he essentially acknowledged that someone, Tracey Sparling, was there when he left the intersection. That means that Tracey Sparling was visible in his side view mirror for somewhere between 1 and 20 seconds while she approached his vehicle from behind.

    Even if Wiles was looking straight ahead, that mirror was in his periphery during that time. He could have, and should have, noticed her. His failure to see her as she approached his vehicle and disappeared into his \”blind\” spot is the CAUSE of her death. She was killed by his inattention.

    And that\’s how dangerous motor vehicles are. They kill 43,000 people a year. Compare that to 9/11. Compare that to the US military deaths in Iraq. Compare that to deaths by gunshot. Cancer.

    It\’s time to end the carnage. We need LEGAL REFORM NOW.

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  • wsbob January 14, 2008 at 10:12 pm

    \”Because the average Joe knows, based on the way he drives and the number of cyclists on the road in PDX, that it could have been him. And although he knows he could be more careful, he doesn\’t want the responsibility.\” a.O.

    The average joe also likely recognizes that our present manner of bringing bikes and motor vehicles together is a formula that makes death and injury of vulnerable road users an inevitability. Should we start charging people with vehicular homicide before this defective formula is corrected?

    What level of care in avoiding vulnerable road users can be expected from average motor vehicle drivers, and how do you quantify that? Sure, everyone could be more careful in everything they do, not just driving a motor vehicle, but what level of expectation is reasonable and realistic?

    a.O., would you mind mentioning where you happened to pick up that \’1 and 20 seconds figure\’? I\’m not saying whether Wiles was negligent or not, but it would be interesting to know if only negligence on the part of the driver could have led to the collision and resulting death of Tracy Sparling.

    Has anyone heard whether and what kind of investigation of this collision was ever conducted? I\’d like to know whether a mock-up of the collision was constructed using Wiles truck to determine sight angles and blind spot areas.

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  • a.O January 15, 2008 at 11:31 am

    wsbob, I don\’t buy the \”death on the roadways is inevitable\” argument. Although it certainly seems that way now, it doesn\’t have to be that way. The level of care we can and should expect from roadway users should be commensurate with the level of risk to health and safety they create. Because the risk of harm to others with motor vehicles is so high, the standard of care should be higher than \”ordinary care.\”

    If we treated actions with guns or other dangerous objects the way we do with motor vehicles, there would probably be 43,000 deaths annually from those sources of risk as well. It\’s time to raise our expectations, the way we did with drunk driving.

    And on the time estimate, I pulled it out of my a$$. There was certainly some amount of time that Sparling was visible to Wiles in his mirror. How long depends on how quickly she approached the intersection and the amount of visibility behind the vehicle based on the slope of the road.

    Regardless of how long she was actually visible, it was long enough for someone who was aware that he was to the left of a bike lane and who should have been monitoring his mirrors, i.e., somebody who was exercising ordinary care, to notice her. He should have seen her, but didn\’t. IMHO, that\’s negligence.

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  • tonyt
    tonyt January 15, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Yes, deaths on the road are inevitable. Some are. Heck deaths in bathtubs are inevitable. But I refuse to believe that 43,000 per year is even remotely close to the best we can do.

    I\’ve said before and I\’ll say it again, most people treat power tools with more deference than automobiles. Friends have easily said, \”I\’m not doing that work on my kitchen, I\’ll cut my hand off\” or whatever. Yet that same person will get in a 3,000 vehicle without a second thought.

    I\’ve worked in a few machine shops and let me tell you, even the rudest and crudest guys I worked with were dead freakin\’ serious when it came to the shop.

    If I had hurt anyone else with my inattention/carelessness/impatience, there would have been NO acceptance of \”it\’s inevitable.\” None. If I had hurt someone and said that, I do think I would have had my butt kicked.

    We need a codified system of justice that realizes that people don\’t just get drunk and drive. They get angry and drive. They get impatient and drive. And they don\’t pay a damn bit of attention and drive. It\’s about time that we said as a society that none of that was okay.

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  • wsbob January 15, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Tonyt, I would bet that although your co-workers may have decided to resolve that no injury or death in the workplace was inevitable, they nonetheless recognized that in order to accomplish that objective, various workplace practices, procedures and shop layout were necessary needed to be devised and implemented.

    The safety ethic of your machine shop and its co-workers makes a useful but limited comparison to that of the average person using public streets and roads. I don\’t believe that anywhere close to the majority of people behind the wheels of motor vehicles and handlebars of bikes are people that are callously unconcerned about the death of another person through negligence in operating their vehicles.

    While the machine shop you worked in may have had an impeccable safety ethic, it would probably be assuming far more than appropriate credit to consider that this ethic was uniquely and entirely borne of the initiative of the shop owners and co-workers. The high safety ethic of many modern industrial workplaces, including machine shops, is the result of those workplaces long history of unsafe working conditions, injury and death.

    After many injuries and deaths, people finally got sick and tired enough of it all, and resolved to figure out how to overcome the problems that led to those injuries and deaths. This is something that doesn\’t simply happen at the snap of a finger, the wringing of hands, or casually casting blame where certainty for that blame can not be clearly established. It evolves over a period of time and involves some transformation in terms of how people view themselves in relation to the problem once it finally is recognized that there is a problem.

    This is the situation I see affecting public streets and roads. They\’re dangerous, but the majority of road users, deal with that danger as best they can to avoid injury or death happening to another person. The extreme examples of indifference and negligence do not characterize the majority of road users.

    Roads and streets will gradually get safer as new designs are developed and put into place. Same with vehicle design. The awareness of road users to ones more vulnerable than they are will evolve to something better than exists today, along with these improvements.

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