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A new directive at the Police Bureau?

Posted by on January 11th, 2008 at 1:43 pm

According to an experience this morning by a reader, a potentially significant and positive change has been made at the Portland Police Bureau: a new directive that says all bike-related collisions will be investigated.

I share his story below (more analysis follows):
___

A little after 8:00 am this morning, Jasun Wurster was riding his bike westbound on SE Madison Avenue, approaching the intersection with Grand before pedaling over the Hawthorne Bridge.

Jasun was riding in the bike lane when a Subaru Legacy cut in front of him, causing him to run into the rear bumper and get knocked to the ground. Luckily Jasun was not hurt, but it’s what happened next that’s important.

Wurster’s traffic crash report:
a sign of change at the Police Bureau?

There just so happened to be a Portland Police officer parked in the bus lane just a few feet from the collision. After both Jasun and the driver of the Subaru had stopped to check in with each other, the officer approached.

“First, he wanted to make sure I was OK,” Jasun said, “and then he told me that a new directive had come down that all bicycle collisions are to be investigated.”

Sure enough, the officer phoned for backup from the Traffic Division. When the Traffic Division officer showed up, he immediately conducted a rudimentary investigation and found the Subaru driver was at fault and in violation of ORS 811.050, failure to yield to a bicycle in a bike lane.

The driver, who Wurster says was initially very kind and sympathic, began to object and complain once the citation was issued. Wurster was shocked at what happened next, “The cop was very stern with him and said, ‘would you still be complaining if you had killed him?’.”

Wurster told me that the driver was “taken aback” after hearing that from the cop and he added, “I was very proud of the PPB this morning.”
____

If Wurster’s story is true, and assuming the officer was not misinformed, this would be a big departure from the previous policy that said traffic crashes are only investigated if they met certain criteria. One of those criteria — which unfortunately comes into play with many bike/car collisions — is that one of the victims must have sustained “Level 1 Trauma” injuries (essentially very serious or life-threatening) before an investigation is automatically triggered.

Investigations are key because they allow the responding officer to find fault and issue citations immediately (this has ramifications for the public dialogue around traffic safety and for any ensuing insurance claims).

The Police Bureau’s crash investigation policy as it pertains to bike-related collisions has been a point of contention for many years. The policy was thrown into the spotlight in early November of last year when Siobhan Doyle was hit by a car that turned into the bike lane she occupied. Doyle sustained very serious injuries, but because she was not deemed to have reached the “Level 1 Trauma” threshold by the EMTs on the scene, no investigation was made and the driver was not cited (this is the case that spurred a local group of activists to file a citizen-initiated citation).

[It’s important to note that I’m sure the current policy of not issuing a citation at fatal collisions would remain. (This is something the DA tells the Bureau to do, as to not interfere with their investigations).]

If indeed this new directive has been issued (and I’m still trying to confirm it), it would mark a significant, and very positive step forward in the Bureau’s effort to improve the safety of vulnerable road users.

Let’s hope that it is true and that it’s just the first of many more steps forward.


UPDATE, 3:21pm: It looks like the new directive isn’t quite as amazing as first thought…but it’s still great news. Read this update.

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

19 Comments
  • joe adamski January 11, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Halleluah!

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  • bahueh January 11, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    I cannot believe it…no way…I\’m almost floored…

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  • a.O January 11, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Whaa…..?

    Holy Cow! If true, this would be a HUGE step forward for our fair City.

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  • pinkie January 11, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    One big f*in\’ YEAH!!!!!

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  • zac January 11, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    glorious!

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  • Fritz January 11, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    It\’s about freakin\’ time!

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  • wsbob January 11, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Give that officer a cigar! Lucky for Wurster that the cop happened to be right there at that moment. I wonder if the officer happened to actually see the collision take place with his own eyes. That might help to make believers out of them. This new directive is a nice departure present for Officer Kruger.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 11, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Well folks, from what I just heard from the PPB, there will be a new directive, but it won\’t quite go as far as \”every bike-involved collision.\”

    Read this just-posted update for the latest.

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  • Sherry January 11, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    oh so that\’s what was going on this morning. I approached the intersection on my bicycle just as PPB backup was arriving…

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  • true January 11, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Nice.

    I\’m even happier that there were no injuries. Win-Win.

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  • Jasun Wurster January 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Yea, I am glad that I am OK and the PPB totally surprised me with their actions on this one.

    Though upon further inspection of my bike the front fender got smashed and is cracked to the point of being broke in half (better it than me).

    When looking over the bike with the traffic officer I was mainly focusing on if the wheel was still true. The crash report is really helpful because I was kinda in shock and would not have trusted myself to get the insurance info. Though the officer did initially write my address down wrong.

    A question I have is how do I make a claim against the drivers insurance to get a new fender… plus instillation? Do I just call them up or do I go through my auto insurance?

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  • Natty January 11, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    Jasun,

    For just a fender, I\’m quite certain the driver would cover out of pocket rather than through his insurance.

    Here you bicycle would be covered under your household or tenant\’s insurance not your automotive.

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  • Stripes January 11, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Super awesome! I wonder what the sudden impetus for this was? Perhaps possibly –

    * The departure of Lt Mark Kruger this week
    * Tracey Sparling\’s aunt\’s powerful speech in front of PPB Police Chief Rosie Sizer at the Safe Sound and Green streets hearing this week
    * One of PPB\’s own motorcycle officers being run down and taken to hospital by a car this week at NE 28th & Sandy

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  • Donna January 11, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    I\’m glad that you\’re ok, Jasun. It sure is nice to experience feelings of hope for a better future on a Friday.

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  • beefa January 11, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Jason.

    You should indeed bring your bike in to a shop and let them give it a thorough inspection. There could be a hair line fracture. Who knows. If there is, you need to fill out a accident report within 24 hours of the collision, regardless whether or not the officer filed one himself. This is key because the drivers insurance company will do everthing in their power to get out of paying for your bike. Cross all the T\’s and dot all the I\’s. Do not wait.

    Good luck. It seems you have some.

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  • Siobhan January 11, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Jason,

    If you need any input on the process just let me know.

    You should go get checked out by a doctor, and you should let your (auto) insurance company know so they can file a claim, and fill out an accident report with the DMV.

    Glad to hear that you are all in one piece!

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  • KTesh January 11, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Jason,

    Glad to hear you\’re unhurt! Loved the quote from the cop…

    God Bless!

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  • Opus the Poet January 12, 2008 at 11:58 am

    I still think I\’m dreaming.

    Opus

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  • tonyt January 14, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Well, since I certainly give the PPB grief when they do wrong, I have to give them praise when they do right.

    Amen! This is great! Really, this could go a long way to legitimize the presence of peds and cyclists in public space.

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