The Classic - Cycle Oregon

DA: No criminal negligence in Jarolimek case

Posted by on January 15th, 2008 at 11:40 am

Deputy DA Chuck Sparks speaking
with a reporter at the
Courthouse this morning.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

This morning, Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks (in photo) released his report on the case of Brett Jarolimek, who died on October 22 after colliding with a garbage truck on Interstate and Greeley.

After an in-depth investigation that included several trips to the scene, video footage from the top of the hill, and multiple interviews with the truck’s passenger and with witnesses who saw the entire collision take place, Sparks’ has determined that the garbage truck driver, Bryan Lowes, did not, “show conduct rising to the level of criminal negligence”.

I sat down with Sparks outside his office this morning and he explained how he arrived at this decision.

Primarily, he said, this case had to do with several unfortunate converging factors; the contours of the road (which presented visibility issues), the blind spot and functioning of the mirrors on Lowes’ truck, and how Jarolimek’s speed and lack of visibility coming into the turn would have prevented him from having time to react to the situation.

According to Sparks’ report, footage from a Kaiser Hospital video camera at the top of the hill confirms that the truck passed Jarolimek near the intersection of Interstate and Fremont (near Overlook Park, about one-quarter mile from the collision).

Lowes maintains (and Sparks believes him) that he did not notice passing Jarolimek at that time.

Using timestamps on the video, the investigating officer, Chris Johnson, estimated Lowes’ speed at the top of the hill to be 31-32 mph (the speed limit is 30) and Jarolimek’s speed at 21mph. After this point, Sparks reports that the road goes slightly left, then straight for 200 yards downhill at a “significant grade” of 7.4%.

The report notes that, “Officer Johnson noted that Mr. Jarolimek apparently gained speed as he entered the downhill grade.”

At the end of the straight downhill section is the right turn onto Greely (where the collision occurred), which Sparks describes as “deceptively abrupt, and a vehicle making this turn is not fully visible from the 200 yard straight section above.”

Following Lowes’ truck (in a Nissan Armada) were Delores and Steven Harris. They say that Jarolimek passed them at the “stop here on red” sign located just north of the collision (at the point where the road begins to veer to the right).

[In the photo below (it was included in Sparks’ report), the “stop here on red” sign is located where the people with yellow jackets stand.]

Looking down the hill on N. Interstate with the Greeley intersection out of view.
(Photo: District Attorney’s office)

According to the report, Mr. and Mrs. Harris saw the entire collision unfold. From the report:

“Mr. Harris said he knew the bike was going to hit the garbage truck when it passed them, and that “the bike passed us not slowing down enough.” Mr. Harris told Officer Johnson that there was nothing the truck driver could have done to avoid the collision.”

The report also confirms that the truck did have its turn signal on and that it slowed “to a near stop” as it approached Greeley. Lowes told an officer on the scene that, “he did not see a bicyclist in the bike lane, but knew about the bike lane and checked the lane via his mirrors before making his turn.”

Here is what the report says about the truck’s mirror:

“Investigators found that the mirrors, as positioned post-collision, did not give a good view of the area behind the truck from a normal driving position. Specifically, while sitting in the driver’s seat with hands on the wheel, Officer Johnson had to move forward up to 8 inches in order to get a proper view.

When asked about this, Mr. Lowes [the driver] said that when his passegner used the door on which the mirror is fastened, the mirror’s position would change and he would then have [his passenger] adjust the mirror back to the proper position…he said that is was in a proper position before the collision.

Officer Johnson noted that the mirror was held in position in part by a bungee cord and a wire…”

During our conversation this morning, Sparks explained that because of the way the road curves, and given the “rather narrow view” of the truck’s main mirror, it is likely that Jarolimek would not have been viewable at the moment Lowes checked before making his turn.

The report also says that Jarolimek’s tire left a 36-foot long skid mark leading up to the point of impact and that his speed was likely 22-28 mph going into the collision (that equates out to 32-42 feet per second). Those facts prompted Sparks to write:

“This rate of travel gave little time for Mr. Jarolimek to react to the situation as it unfolded before him, especially since the roadway curved into the accident scene, interfering with his view from above…”

And then Sparks made a point to emphasize to me what he wrote next:

“While the curve and some visual clutter made it hard for a cyclist to see ahead into the intersection, a driver in the curve would also lose a clear view back up the 200 yard straightaway into the bike lane since the mirror’s view changes with the vehicle’s position as it rounds the curve…making it harder, if not impossible, to see a bicyclist in the upper 200 yards, especially one traveling quickly.”

Unfortunately, in Sparks’ analysis, both the truck and Jarolimek were momentarily partially out of each other’s view and, “neither person had adequate time to perceive and react to this situation.”

From Sparks’ conclusion:

“From above, his truck was not completely visible to Mr. Jarolimek as the latter came down the 200 yard straightaway toward the intersection, nor apparently was Mr. Jarolimek visible to him in his mirrors. Mr. Jarolimek entered the scene of the collision at 22-28 mph and was clearly surprised by the presence of the truck starting to turn. He immediately braked and skidded…but was unable to avoid the truck.”

You can download Sparks’ full report and memo here. (800KB, PDF)

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • tonyt January 15, 2008 at 11:57 am

    The following are real questions, not rhetorical.

    Why does this have to be criminal negligence?

    What are the standards for vehicular manslaughter?

    If you break a traffic law and kill someone, it seems fairly obvious, to me at least, that you\’ve done more than simply violate that traffic law.

    I know from previous cases that if you break the law and a cop is chasing you, and he or she kills someone during the chase, you are held responsible for that death.

    How is it that you are LESS responsible if you are the one who did the actual killing?

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  • foote January 15, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    There is no vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide charge in Oregon.
    Jonathan even brought this up a while ago:

    Criminal Negligence:
    “Criminal negligence” or “criminally negligent,” when used with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, means that a person fails to be aware of 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 the failure to be aware of it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

    This means that the driver\’s actions needed to be a \’gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.\’
    It\’s debatable whether colliding with someone in your blindspot fits this description.

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  • Aaron January 15, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Question regarding the facts: if the garbage truck and the following (witness) vehicle were slowing for a stop at a red light, and the cyclist was unable to stop before entering the intersection (right turn lane), would the cyclist have also been unable to stop for a red light? If he were able to stop for a red light, why is it that he couldn\’t stop (even after a long skid) before striking the truck?

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  • tonyt January 15, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Sounds to me like we need a \”vehicular homicide\” charge then.

    Thanks foote!

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  • Dabby January 15, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Chuck Sparks is obviously a puppet, or more importantly, a marionette, protecting and upholding the right of our judicial system to do absolutely nothing to ensure safe passage of it\’s cycling citizen\’s on our public roads.

    I of course did not expect much more of a result from this, or Tracy\’s investigation.

    Thank you Chuck Sparks, for letting us down again.

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  • woogie January 15, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Based on witness response, the truck did not \”right hook\” the cyclist, the cyclist ran into the side of a truck that was already turning right at the intersection.

    Sounds more like a violation of Basic Rule

    \”The Basic Rule states that a motorist must drive at a speed that is reasonable and prudent at all times by considering other traffic, road, and weather conditions, dangers at intersections and any other conditions that affect safety and speed.\”

    See the link for complete explanation of the basic rule.

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  • Bjorn January 15, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    I was actually impressed with the level of investigation that was done. From police officers mimicking the skid on bicycles to them tracking down security cameras that showed both the motor vehicles and the cyclist just before the accident. Read the report they certainly spent some time doing a very thorough investigation. I wish we could get some of that kind of police work without having to have someone die.

    The problem here does not lie with Chuck Sparks, it is that we do not have a vehicular homicide law. I believe based on reading the report that was prepared that they would probably have a hard time making the case for criminal negligence. However there is a good chance that if we had the lesser charge of vehicular homicide which required a lack of reasonable care rather than the criminal negligence standard it would be used in this case. It would also probably have been used in several other cases over the last year as well.

    The police are now free to cite the driver for failure to yield to a cyclist in a bike lane, it will be interesting to see if they do so.

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  • myself January 15, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    dabby, if you think you can loud mouth your way through the judicial system and protest this case to the judge, which is what a DA does, then why don\’t you run for DA? there are a lot more rules and laws that are having to be considered…and with evidence NOT entirely backing the other possibility up, it becomes more complicated than your simple negative mind can handle…stop hiding and come out and back up your judgements by actions…you can\’t sit there and assume…as much as i am for bikes, and have witnessed vehicular manslaughter first hand, it is more complicated in \”the system\” – especially when you have to figure what what happened with little evidence and keep the rule book in mind…

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  • toddistic January 15, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Did anyone read the PDF? While the poor maintenance of the truck is disturbing there was video evidence points to the rate of speed Brett and the truck were traveling at. Further, there is a skid mark left by Brett which would determine based upon the video footage that would show how long he had braked (with his back wheel locked) or an estimation thereof.

    Looking at the facts determined by the police, I find it informative, devoid of bias. It may have been just been an acident (and I hate using that word).

    Calling people puppets and marioneettes or whatever only makes you look foolish in light of the facts surrounding the crash.

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  • toddistic January 15, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    woogie, the same can be said for Brett who was travelling an unsafe speed given the conditions and limited visability.

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  • woogie January 15, 2008 at 1:14 pm


    Sorry I was not clear in indicating that
    I was applying the Basic Rule to the cyclist not the driver.

    The driver started the turn before the the cyclist rounded the corner and either was visible to the other.

    The cyclist was breaking the basic rule in that they did not take into consideration the intersection and traffic conditions ahead when choosing a speed at which to travel.

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  • toddistic January 15, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    oh! then we are in agreement.

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  • steve January 15, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    This is the part that reeks of negligence-

    Lowes maintains (and Sparks believes him) that he did not notice passing Jarolimek at that time.\”

    Who cares if you believe him or not? It is the drivers responsibility to be aware of his surroundings. If the driver had been paying attention, this tragedy would not have occurred.

    It really is that simple. The driver should be banned from driving for the remainder of his life. I don\’t see how a person of conscience could ever drive again, knowing that their inability to pay attention while driving resulted in such a horrific tragedy.

    We can spend 100\’s of millions of dollars on bike boxes and the like. But until drivers face some form of consequences for their actions, nothing will improve.

    It really is that simple. Punish bad drivers and scare the sh!t out of all drivers. Until this is done nothing will change. Now matter how much money we piss away.

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  • steve January 15, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    How is travelling 10 miles an hour below the speed limit unsafe?

    The driver was going faster than Brett, is he even more unsafe even though he is not speeding?

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  • Burk January 15, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    I think Bjorn is right on. I do find it disturbing that the trucks mirrors where in such an unsafe state, If I was driving a 17 ton vehicle around I sure as hell wouldn\’t have one of my most important safety devices held in place by a bungee cord and a wire.

    I also find it disturbing that you can kill someone with your vehicle, with that kind of driving record, and get up the next day to do it again. Looking at his past it seems that it was just a matter of time before he was involved in something like this…

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  • nuovorecord January 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    I think the lesson to be learned from all of this is to TAKE THE LANE ON A LONG DOWNHILL!

    Had Brett done this, he\’d still be alive today.

    Which is absolve the driver of guilt…that\’s not my point. I just want to make sure we don\’t have another death at that intersection…or any other.

    I get that there are many people who want someone to pay a price for Brett\’s death. I\’m sure the truck driver would likely do things differently had he had a second chance. Sounds to me like (maybe) he wasn\’t paying close enough attention to traffic around him and that (maybe) his mirror wasn\’t properly adjusted.

    But, it doesn\’t appear that there is sufficient evidence to charge him with a crime with the laws we have at our disposal. Investigations that end with \”Maybes\” aren\’t sufficient.

    Poor Brett…I only met him once or twice, but he was such a nice guy. 🙁

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  • Bicycledave January 15, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Looks like a good investigation to me as well. I don\’t see how you could prosecute someone with the evidence presented.

    The jury-rigged mirror is troublesome. We need laws that require trucks to be safer. No bungied/wired mirrors, more and better mirrors, side guards etc.

    I am generally in favor of bike lanes however, this looks like one of those spots that would be safer without one.

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  • nuovorecord January 15, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Edit to my previous post…I should have said there isn\’t sufficient evidence to charge him with Crim. Neg.

    As another poster stated, he still could be charged with Failure to Yield.

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  • toddistic January 15, 2008 at 1:26 pm


    If you rtfa you would understand that a previous driving record cannot determine fault. It can be used during sentencing when there is an at-fault accident. The evidence points to the driver not being at fault. That being said, do you want to open a can of worms, use some logic and reason.

    Now, if Brett was out in the lane of traffic as a vechiluar cyclist, he would have had more time and visability to stop.

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  • Antonio Gramsci January 15, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    The real problem is that I\’m willing to wager only a MINISCULE number of collision investigations enjoy this level of painstaking attention to detail under similar circumstances but WITHOUT the glare of public attention such as this case raised.


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  • woogie January 15, 2008 at 1:43 pm


    Read the investigation report, the definition of the Basic rule and use an unbiased viewpoint.

    The truck was going less than 5 mph at the time of impact. The truck did not turn into the cyclist the cyclist ran into the truck which was already turning.

    The road to the intersection has limited visibility of the intersection. The cyclist came around the corner only to see the truck already turning. The cyclist attempted to avoid a collision, based on the 36 ft skid mark.

    All this points to a violation of the basic rule. The cyclist was traveling at a speed that was not safe given the the traffic conditions and intersection ahead.

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  • Anonymous January 15, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Amen to #20.

    Unfortunately, considering the number of daily automotive collisions, the resources of the Traffic Division and whoever else in the PPB would be overwhelmed in short order, wouldn\’t they? Realistically, consistent, aggressive enforcement of existing code would go a long way to giving all drivers religion and saving more lives.

    Take the lane, yes!! *Might* have saved Brett (RIP, Brett).


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  • Accidents Happen » VanPortlander January 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    […] a tragedy, a number of factors have combined in an unfortunate way to lead to a bad result. Today, via BikePortland, I read though the DA’s investigative report following the death of cyclist Brett Jarolimek, […]

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  • Dave January 15, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    What about the criminal negligence of the company that hired a driver with TWENTY FIVE MOVING VIOLATIONS? Who is their personnel director–some simian borrowed from the Oregon Zoo?

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  • Todd B January 15, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    The released report is silent on:
    – if the truck driver was fatigued/ negatively effected by his recent shift changes and working longer that day (and company\’s past comments on providing drivers as much overtime as they want)?
    – helping out a co-worker on a new route and familiarity with the short comings of the approach to the intersection/ traffic conditions
    – if the driver was distracted (conversation/ cell phone) or busy on the radio before or during the crash
    – how long did the truck driver engage the turn signal before his turn (did it meet the OR law for distance prior to a turn?)
    – did the truck\’s coachwork modifications for recycling service meet all standards/ allow good view of turn signals/ trafficators when viewed from an oblique if approaching from a rear angle similar to what was?
    – what professional obligation does the truck operator and company have to operate on city streets with mirrors that are \”loose\” and perhaps poorly working (need of continual readjustment when doors are opened, road bumps, etc.)?
    – should there be a more formal review of CDL certification based on driver\’s records?

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  • Chuck D. January 15, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Sigh – Another bloodhunt on BikePortland. Let\’s all agree that:

    A. Oregon law is inadequate for the changing population and mix of road users

    B. Kvetching endlessly about this topic will change the legal landscape? I just see a bunch of bike riders adding, \”Yeah, I\’m pissed too!\” rather than writing or calling those that can create change. I hate to inform folks that BikePortland has very limited influence or reach beyond the two wheeled choir. Use your energies to influence those that can help.

    C. It takes two to tango. The driver should have had better skills, attention, and equipment. Bret should have used more caution. The first rule of driving and riding are the same: Do it DEFENSIVELY! You have to anticipate that drivers can and will do something stupid and be ready for it. That\’s how you stay alive. Just because you can bomb down a bike lane fast doesn\’t mean that you should – especially when you can get right hooked.

    Honestly, some people here are beginning to sound like right-wing nutjobs advocating everything short of a public lynching for drivers involved in accidents with bikes. How about the PPB starts impounding bikes until you pay the $242 for running a stop sign or pending the outcome of the trial should you wish to fight it? Or would that create hardships for those that need their bikes to make a living?

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  • SkidMark January 15, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    \”I didn\’t see him\”

    Now an acceptable legal defense!

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  • SkidMark January 15, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    36 feet is about ten feet longer than the truck itself.

    To me it is still conceivable that the truck came down the hill, passed Brett and turned right in front of him.

    People in cars and trucks play this game all the time: race you to the corner and then turn in front of you, cutting you off. This it resulted in a death.

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  • woogie January 15, 2008 at 2:47 pm


    Read the investigation report, both the truck and another vehicle passed the cyclist and were both at the intersection before the cyclist came around the corner.

    This was not a \”right hook\”.

    It\’s one thing to second guess the situation when there is no information available, it is another to completely ignore a very detailed report that includes evidence from witnesses as well as a video camera.

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  • Werner January 15, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    This is an incredibly detailed accident investigation and reconstruction. Even private insurers with plenty of money to investigation fatalities do not go to the lengths that the city/DA did here. The report is thorough and well reasoned. Clearly the DA rose to the requisite level in this matter.

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  • PdxMark January 15, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    Comment 21: \”The road to the intersection has limited visibility of the intersection. The cyclist came around the corner only to see the truck already turning. The cyclist attempted to avoid a collision, based on the 36 ft skid mark.\”

    This to me is a major aspect of this collision that I hadn\’t appreciated before. With that right turn in a basically blind location, for both the rider and the driver, the road design combination of a fast descent for cyclists and a sharp right turn for the truck requiring a near-stop beforehand created a VERY dangerous situation.

    I\’m not addressing the duty to yield issue, I\’m simply saying that the road design at that location was almost certain to result in this tragedy. Closing that right turn was a very important response and we should all have a heightened awareness of other dangerous road design locations so we can get word back to PDOT or whatever other controlling agency (without an open-ended diatribe about bike lanes).

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  • Aaron January 15, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Skidmark, did you read the report? \”To me it is still conceivable that the truck came down the hill, passed Brett and turned right in front of him.\”

    You\’re directly contradicting the video evidence.

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  • Kevin January 15, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    It\’s a tragedy that so many cyclists had to die this year before some of us finally got it.

    It is safer to ride like traffic. Take the lane when you are travelling at or near the speed of autos. Take the lane when you are to the right of possibly right turning traffic. Take the lane when you are in the door zone. ORS allows it. Smart biking requires it.

    Brett was a smart rider, but if he had been in the lane he likely would have seen the truck sooner, been able to stop or being farther left, been able to maneuver behind the truck as it turned.

    Monday morning quarterbacking, hindsight is 20-20, etc. But after all these tragedies, you won\’t find me in a bike lane in those situations.

    rest in peace to those killed this year, and thank you for the lessons.


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  • Antonio Gramsci January 15, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Had he been directly BEHIND the truck instead of in the bike lane, he would have been compelled to slow down very soon after he saw it because he could have had no expectations of being able to pass it, obviously.

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  • BURR January 15, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    To nuovorecord, kevin and Antonio – congratulations, you three are apparently the only other readers here to appreciate the role that the bike lane played in this tragedy; yet the city\’s response to this tragedy is to reinforce the poorly placed and substandard width bike lane, rather than removing it and replacing it with sharrows or modifying it in some other way that actually improves safety for cyclists.

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  • Daily Commuter January 15, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    This is all too bad. Just finished reading the report, and I think that the correct decision has been made. If a large garbage truck passed me downhill, I would slow and keep my distance, especially after the previous right hook in front of the Crystal Ballroom.

    You have to bike defensively.

    The driver could have been more cautious, but he had his signal on.

    With the evidence in the situation it is tough to put much blame on the driver. Obviously he was not intending to hit the cyclist, and took preventative measures to avoid any collision.

    He may have been able to avoid the collision by double-checking the cyclists position after he passed him at the intersection at the top of the hill…but that may be asking quite a bit, as he still had another quarter-mile before turning.

    You can fault the road design more than the driver. It would be very tough to slap the driver with a felony in this sad situation. Closing that turn after the collision was appropriate, and it should be permanently closed off, as this has proven to be a fatal design error.

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  • SkidMark January 15, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    I read the report.

    \”Mr. Lowes in his truck passed Mr. Jarolimek as they approached the downhill, left-curving section of Interstate…\”

    \”estimate Mr. Lowes speed at 31-32 mph and Mr. Jarolimek speed at 21mph\”

    The truck passes him, going 10 mph faster.

    \”He said he DID NOT SEE A BICYCLIST in the bike lane\”

    Not negligence, in the eyes of the law.

    Investigators found the mirrors, as positioned post-collision, did not give a good view…Officer Johnson noted that the mirror was held in position in part by a BUNGEE CORD and a WIRE, and the lower half of the convex mirror was OBSCURED by the door\”

    Having a vehicle in a state of disrepair is not negligence either. It\’s not even an equipment violation, apparently.

    \”He was looking down at a clipboard before the collision, and heard it but did not see it.\”

    Inattention to the road?

    Thorough investigation, but the conclusion is complete BS.

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  • woogie January 15, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Sorry skidmark

    The truck passed the cyclist at N Fremont and Interstate, well away from the Greeley intersection and \”quickly left him behind\”. The report states Interstate ave runs straight and flat until 1/4 mile before Greeley when it curves to the left. This curve starts at N Fremont. So the pass occurred 1/4 mile before the intersection.

    If is negligence to not remember passing a vehicle, then it must also be negligence not to know that the vehicle that just passed you is ahead of you past the blind curve in the road.

    The witnesses in the car said they had slowed at the intersection for a red light, behind the truck that had its signal light on, but did not stop because the light had changed. As the car, second in line, passed the \”stop here on red\” sign, the cyclist passed them and collided with the turning truck.

    The collision was based on too much speed for the road conditions (blind corner, intersection, traffic lights), a bad law allowing passing on the right, and a poorly laid out bike lane.

    This is not a \”right hook\”, the cyclist ran into the side of the truck, fell underneath and was run over by the rear wheels.

    I ride enough to worry about being hit by a car, but I am not naive enough to think that every incident like this is the fault of the driver.

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  • Daily Commuter January 15, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    woogie – good points, still sketched out on the passing though

    skidmark – Good arguments. The whole wire bungee cord thing is pretty sketch.

    Regardless of fault, I would still have descended slower.

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  • J G January 15, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    You seem intent on putting all the blame on the cyclist. Among other things, you state in posting 21 \”All this points to a violation of the basic rule. The cyclist was traveling at a speed that was not safe given the the traffic conditions and intersection ahead.\”

    The fact that a vehicle which is required by law to yield seems unimportant to you.

    What about this scenario: You are driving eastbound with the green light. I\’m in my truck heading westbound with my turn signal on indicating a left turn. I\’m stopped, but then, I pull out right in front of you. Realizing you\’re coming toward me, I stop abruptly, but you (driving cautiously toward me at less than the speed limit) crash into the front of my truck. Let\’s review: I had my turn signal on before you arrived at the intersection. I was stopped when you hit me. I am obligated to yield to on-coming traffic when making a left turn. Applying your logic from the Jarolimek case, I am not guilty of anything, but you violated the basic speed rule. After all, you couldn\’t stop and crashed into the front of my truck.

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  • John Russell January 15, 2008 at 8:08 pm

    My only question is: why do they let Lowes even drive a garbage truck when they say he has a \”significant and negative traffic record\”?

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  • Scott January 15, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Thanks Woogie for your rational thought on this sad topic.

    The truck was already turning, Brett layed down thirty-six feet of skid mark and he still wasn\’t able to stop in time. Had the truck not been there do we really think that Brett would have stopped at the intersection? He couldn\’t have stopped if he wanted to.

    We want to beleive that the people driving vehicles are always at fault in collisions with cyclists. Many times they are, but many times they\’re not. We can point to all kinds of what-ifs on both Mr. Lowes part and on Brett\’s part, but in the end, Brett was the one that had to pay the price for the laws of physics.

    As cyclists, we have the ultimate responsibilty for our own safety. If we obey the rules, ride predictably and do all we can to be safe, we may still get killed by a bad driver, but at least there won\’t be any doubt who was at fault.

    May God comfort Brett\’s family.


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  • SkidMark January 15, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Why isn\’t it their responsiblity to watch out for us? How come it is okay for car/truck drivers to \”not see\” us?

    \”I didn\’t see him\” is an admission of negligence and should be treated as such. If your license was suspended for \”not seeing\” a bicyclist or a motorcyclist do you think car/truck drivers would be more likely to look for them?

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  • El Seven January 15, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    \”Why isn\’t it their responsibility to watch out for us?\”

    Because the automobile is the most important equal form of transportation available to all and is the primary source of transportation for most people. Although useful to some, bicycles are still the anomaly on the roads.

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  • sad January 15, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    \”Why isn\’t it their responsiblity to watch out for us? How come it is okay for car/truck drivers to \”not see \”us\” ?

    You can turn that around, too. If the truck passed Brett, then didn\’t he also take note of the fact that it was now ahead of him, and that he should respond accordingly by anticipating and riding defensively?

    I understand negligence, but I also understand the possibility that sometimes things are really just accidents.

    Tell me, do you remember the color of every car that you passed today? What was the color of the last car that passed you tonight before you got home? Had you been paying attention, you would remember. If you don\’t know or can\’t remember, then by your own definition, you are guilty of negligence.

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  • Huggy Bear January 15, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    People give it a rest. It is what it is a tragic accident. Brett died , please let him rest in peace.

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  • Ice Ardor January 15, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    Because the garbage truck\’s mirror was broken, and it seems that that was one of the biggest contributing factors to this situation, I would hope that the garbage truck company changes its policy that all truck malfunctions, no matter how minor, need to be repaired. The $100 repair for the mirror is a lot cheaper than the cost of a life. Nonetheless, as it has been presented by Jonathan, it seems like no one is at fault in this situation. It was a poorly engineered intersection. It wouldn\’t be fare to blame the collision on a broken mirror. Though as I said, the broken mirror issue should be taken more seriously, and should be mandated by the courts that the mirror be fixed.

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  • I'm a cyclist too January 15, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    Unfortunately it is clear that the cyclist hit the truck, not the other way around. I think almost all of the fault falls on the shoulders of the cyclist.

    I\’m a cyclist. If I run into a truck and it squashes me, you can say without hesitation that it was my fault – not the truck drivers. Generally I think truck drivers are piss-poor drivers but in this case the driving technique of the cyclist resulted in his death.

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  • antonio gramsci January 15, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    The standard that I personally would like to see applied for triggering criminal charges in a lethal accident is the following: Did the vehicle operator, by omission or commission, fail to take actions as required by law or that a reasonable person could have been expected to take, which failure contributed directly to the fatal accident (meaning that, but for the failure in question, a fatality may not have resulted).

    As evidenced by the death of Tim O\’Donnell, this is a MUCH harsher burden than prosecutors typically impose on motorists in such cases. Very surprisingly, though, it appears to have actually been the standard applied by the DA in this case. And based on what appears to have been a fairly comprehensive forensic examination, certainly far beyond what we routinely hear of in such cases, he decided that this standard wasn\’t met in this case.

    Until someone demonstrates clear substantive and factual errors in the investigation, I\’m inclined to believe it to be accurate.

    I also remain convinced that, were investigations of this caliber routine and were such a strong standard routinely applied for triggering criminal charges, there would be a lot more motorists in a whole world of trouble.

    The lesson that I take home from this is that, despite this horrible tragedy, there IS something to be shown for the outrage and community pressure generated by this case. It also shows us what our next duty is:

    Force the authorities to make this standard of investigation routine! Since it happened in this case, there is no reason it cannot become the rule. But the key to this will be further organizing and unrelenting political pressure.

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  • SrahSrah January 16, 2008 at 7:28 am

    This sucks. Everyone can play the blame game and no matter what, it won\’t undo what was done. We need to be more proactive of our own rights and ride and drive defensively. This driver took a beautiful life. Living with that I am sure is not slept on lightly. Let\’s see how we can change our streets for the future.

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  • woogie January 16, 2008 at 7:50 am


    How is it failure to yield when as the truck started to turn there was no one to yield to in the bike lane?

    Once the truck started the turn across the bike lane, in absence of a visible bike in the bike lane, the truck had the right of way.

    The blind corner, continuation of the bike lane and violation of the basic rule caused the collision.

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  • Qwendolyn January 16, 2008 at 8:20 am

    \”How is it failure to yield when as the truck started to turn there was no one to yield to in the bike lane?\”

    The law does not say anything about vehicles not having to yield when there is a blind corner.

    “811.050 Failure to yield to rider on bicycle lane; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of failure of a motor vehicle operator to yield to a rider on a bicycle lane if the person is operating a motor vehicle and the person does not yield the right of way to a person operating a bicycle, electric assisted bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, moped, motor assisted scooter or motorized wheelchair upon a bicycle lane.”

    That might not seem fair to you. But the law is the law.

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  • woogie January 16, 2008 at 9:19 am


    Once again common sense is being thrown out the window.

    The truck had the right of way when it started to cross the bike lane when there weren\’t any bikes in the lane to yield to. What exactly would you suggest the driver do once the cyclist appeared around the blind corner? They are already in the bike lane.

    Here are the options.

    1. Continue forward and clear the bike lane as safely and quickly as possible.

    That\’s it, there\’s nothing else that can be done.

    Feel free to offer up any alternatives.

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  • Qwendolyn January 16, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Ahh, but there was a bike in the bike lane. Tremendously sad as it is to say.

    Just because the truck driver couldn\’t see the cyclist in his bungee-corded mirror, doesn\’t mean the cyclist was not there.

    The truck driver did not have the right of way, and should never have tried to make that turn.

    What you are calling \’common sense,\’ I would call \’ignoring the law that requires motorists to yield to bicyclists in the bike lane.\’

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  • J G January 16, 2008 at 10:32 am


    There was someone in the bike lane and the trucker killed him. The law doesn\’t say \”yield if you happen to see someone or yield if it is convenient for you to do so.\”

    And the characterization of this being a \”blind corner\” is absolute BS.
    One of the deficiencies I see in the DA\’s report is the lack of actual measurements telling what the sight distance really is and the characterization of this curve.

    If you can\’t make an actual site visit, check Google Maps \”street view\” to see what it actually looks like.


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  • woogie January 16, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Qwendolyn and JG

    Read the report people, page 5 paragraph 2.

    Neither the cyclist or the driver could see each other as the cyclist entered the final curve, which is when the driver started the turn.

    A motor vehicle does not have to yield an empty bike lane, and the visible portion of the bike lane was empty when the turn was initiated.

    And even if the driver had remembered passing the cyclist at N Fremont, there are plenty of places along the quarter mile from there to the Greeley intersection at which the cyclist may have turned off.

    How long does the driver have to wait, yielding to an empty bike lane, before they are allowed to turn.

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  • vespa January 16, 2008 at 10:54 am

    Haven\’t read all the response, so sorry if someone brought this up, but I find it hard to believe that Brett temporarily lost visual contact with the truck due to visual clutter. Based on my experience as a rider, I think Brett knew damn well that a truck was there and expected it to yield if it was turning right. Whether that expectation was wise is another matter. I know I\’ve expected certain actions from automobile drivers that didn\’t happen . . .

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  • toddistic January 16, 2008 at 11:51 am

    vespa, do yourself a favor and read the report.

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  • SkidMark January 16, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Woogie, do the math. If Brett started skidding 36 feet from the intersection, when he saw the truck begin it\’s turn and he was travelling at 36 feet per second the truck would have had to wait one second for him to be at the intersection and one more second to clear the intersection. So if he could have delayed his day by TWO SECONDS, Brett would be alive. Is that too inconvenient for you car/truck driving folks out there? Two seconds? When I drive, I don\’t mind waiting.

    And 21 mph in a 30 mph zone is not unsafe or dangerous.

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  • Jason January 16, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    I know I\’m preaching to the choir here, but…

    If the truck had crossed a lane of traffic (which it *did*) and killed a motorist, would no criminal charges have been filed?

    If the truck had entered a crosswalk (which it *did*) and killed a pedestrian, would no criminal charges have been filed?

    This isn\’t entirely rhetorical. It sounds like bicyclists are being given the message that it\’s open season if you\’re a motorist.

    🙁 🙁

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  • basic rule January 16, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    A good investigation, and a just decision by Sparks, IMO. I agree that taking the lane would have been the safest thing to do. Everybody needs to drive and ride defensively. Maybe a yellow flashing light 100 ft before that intersection would help.

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  • Lisa January 16, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    SkidMark: looks like you\’re assuming the truck was not already crossing the bike lane when Brett saw it and started braking. The truck driver would not just have had to wait one second, he would have had to back his truck out of the bike line (or clear it) in one second. 21 mph in this 30 mph zone *was* obviously unsafe and dangerous. If your stopping distance exceeds your line of sight that\’s too fast no matter what the speed limit is and no matter what your mode of transportation is.

    Jason: if the motorist or pedestrian in your hypothetical scenarios were not visible when the truck began to turn and were traveling so fast that they were unable to stop when they saw the truck, I doubt any criminal charges would have been filed.

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  • Kristen January 16, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    SkidMark #37:

    The driver was not looking down at the clipboard when the incident occurred.

    The passenger in the garbage truck was looking down at the clipboard.

    See the last paragraph on page 3.

    Inattention the road? No. How about \”inattention to what you are reading\” instead?

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  • Kristen January 16, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    I also find the paragraphs at the end of page 4 and beginning of page 5 to be relevant to this discussion.

    The gist of these paragraphs is that while the driver had the responsibility to watch for cyclists in the bike lane, there was considerable distance between the truck and the bike when the truck began its turn.

    Seems to me that if a reasonable standard is applied (not often seen on this site by the commentors), the truck DID in fact yield the right of way… to his best knowledge.

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  • SkidMark January 16, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    If a truck ever right hooks you Lisa, I hope you have enough time to stop. That goes for the rest of you, too.

    I never thought I would be defending a cyclist to a bunch of cyclists…

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  • Kristen January 16, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Steve #13:

    Would you please reference where in the report it says \”Lowes maintains (and Sparks believes him) that he did not notice passing Jarolimek at that time.\”

    I read it through carefully twice and didn\’t see this statement. I saw where it says \”This pass happened as they both navigated a busy intersection, so Mr Lowes\’ statement that he did not notice Mr Jarolimek traveling in the same direction is plausible\”

    But that\’s different from what you quoted.

    Just want to make sure I\’m understanding this thing fully.

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  • woogie January 16, 2008 at 2:52 pm


    There\’s no way we are going to convince you of anything here. You continue to ignore the written report as just another conspiracy against cyclists.

    In your eyes all cyclists can do no wrong and all cagers are out to get rid of cyclists.

    This is the attitude that makes it so hard for both groups to come together and resolve these issues.

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  • Moo January 16, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    I ride that same route every day, and carefully monitor the light from the first point that I can see it at the top of the hill. It usually will turn red and stay red for aprox. 25 seconds, and will turn and stay green for about half that time. So it doesn\’t matter if I pass any cars at the light or not because I usually pick the momentum up again with the hilly part after the light. What\’s the hurry?

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  • J G January 16, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    You\’re the one not reading the report. It says the passing occurred at 0.27 miles from the collision.

    There are not, as you state, \”plenty of opportunities\” to turn off between the time the truck passed Brett and the collision. Doing the math, it seems the truck passed Brett about one minute prior to the collision.

    Having actually been to the site, I\’m not convinced that the driver and Brett were out of sight of each other when the truck began his turn. As I said before, I think the DA\’s report is lacking with its imprecise characterization of the curve (calling it a blind corner) and the absence of actual sight distance measurements.

    As to your question, a motorist need not yield to an empty lane, but he is required to yield to a bicyclist.

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  • Antonio Gramsci January 16, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Skidmark: \”I never thought I would be defending a cyclist to a bunch of cyclists…\”

    And just how does counselling people to put themselves in the \”suicide slot\” between a motorist and their right turn constitute \”defending cyclists\”? Wouldn\’t it be better to simply acknowledge that even experienced cyclists like Brett sometimes make mistakes, and that we should try to learn from those mistakes when they result in tragedy, to try and prevent future tragedies?

    Anyone who reads any comment I\’ve ever made on this blog knows that I\’m the last one to ever \”go easy\” on careless or reckless motorists — but this particular case just isn\’t in that category.

    Not that I\’d especially MIND if this guy were charged and had to defend himself. He\’d probably win in court, but the terror it would strike in the hearts of drivers might well be salutary for the cause of public safety.

    However, that has to be balanced against the fact that pursuing legal cases is costly and timeconsuming, and the resources would be better spent on the many many much more clearcut cases (like that of Jennifer Knight in the death of Tim O\’Donnell) where the motorist is presently allowed to walk with almost total impunity.

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  • woogie January 16, 2008 at 4:53 pm


    Passing the cyclist .27 miles prior to the intersection and taking a 20mph average for the cyclist means that the pass occurred 48.6 seconds prior to the cyclist arriving at the intersection.

    The cyclist could have stopped at Freemont and crossed interstate to the Kaiser Complex. There are a number of business on the right past Freemont. The cyclist could also have continued on Interstate. Plenty of options that preclude the truck driver to expect a bike that he did not see.

    But regardless, the report states there is a period of time when the line of sight between the truck and cyclist was blocked at the time of the collision. I would hazard a guess that some of those issues have been resolved by removing brush as well as the seasonal falling of the leaves making the line of site much better at this time of year.

    So where am I missing anything from the report.

    The pass was well behind the incident and is of no consequence to the incident. The truck and car slowed but did not stop at the stop light as it had just turned green. The truck turned when the bike lane that was VISIBLE was clear of bikes. The truck had the right of way at that time. The cyclist struck the truck.

    Twist is any way you want but the driver was not at fault.

    Looking at the intersection there is a need for a sign warning of a stop light ahead, a reduced speed limit, and possibly the removal of the bike lane.

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  • Paul in Vancouver January 16, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Thanks to all for a healthy and vigorous discussion.

    One point I don\’t think anyone has emphasized: Car – Car collisions occur on the roads everyday. No one, regardless of vehicle type, can assume other operators will always drive safely. A moment of inattention that might cause a \”fender bender\” between cars is a fatality for a cyclist. As it has been mentioned here – defensive cycling is MANDATORY. People driving cars and trucks are going to make mistakes (and usually they won\’t go to jail) – and not always because they have it in for cyclists. Being RIGHT does not compensate for being ALIVE.

    I have been riding on the streets for 35 years. I have been in 5 car bike collisions, including a \’right hook\’ when I was 10 yrs old. In 2 of them, I was totally innocent and the driver was totally at fault. I have not been in a collision with a car since 1985 – I got smarter. I have been cycling in Portland and Vancouver for 10 years. We\’ve got it better here than just about anywhere else in the States. Lets keep trying to make it better.

    Ride Safe, Ride Smart

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  • J G January 16, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    We\’ll disagree forever.

    The report does not state how much of the bike lane was visible to the trucker at the time he began his turn. The report also does not assess how far behind the truck the cyclist was at any point.

    Have you actually been to Interstate? Did you know that Fremont is the entrance to Kaiser? As for all of those businesses he could have turned into. Never mind.

    Twist it any way you like, the trucker was clearly at fault for not yielding as required by law.

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  • Matt Picio January 16, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    woogie (#71) – the driver was clearly at fault – that\’s not the question, the question is whether he was criminally negligent.

    Frankly, I\’m disgusted by this entire incident – more so now, since the driver failed to notice when he passed the cyclist (at 10mph rate of closure, he should have seen the cyclist), and because he failed to maintain his vehicle\’s safety equipment. (he admits the mirrors won\’t stay fixed on the passenger side, and didn\’t address that fact)

    This is not like the Sparling death except on a superficial level – both deaths were due to a right-hooking truck and a poorly-designed bike lane.

    Frankly, there shouldn\’t be a bike lane on that road, there should be sharrows and a sign that says \”bicycles on roadway\” – any road where a cyclist can coast at traffic speeds shouldn\’t have a bike lane – or we should modify (or preferably repeal) ORS 814.420 so that cyclists can legally leave the bike lane to remain safe.

    When the law encourages death, it\’s time to change the law. When the design encourages death, it\’s time to change the design.

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  • Matt Picio January 16, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Paul (#72) said \”Being RIGHT does not compensate for being ALIVE.\”

    Absolutely – but here\’s the problem. We as cyclists are expecting motorists to obey the rules of the road. If we\’re smart, we know that they may not, and we ride according to what we think they will do when they break the law. We can ride expecting them to be legal AND expecting them not to be, and still get killed.

    I think situational awareness is the most valuable trait any cyclist (or motorist – anyone really) can possess. We should cultivate that trait. It can\’t save us from everything, though, and I think the \”better to be ALIVE rather than RIGHT\” argument masks the fact that drivers who break the law are killing people.

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  • Werner January 16, 2008 at 5:25 pm


    Perhaps you are correct that the driver is at fault. That, however does not rise to the level of criminally negligent. It seems to me that perhaps we are discussing two separate issues in one breath…The driver may very well have been at fault for the collision, but that does not make him criminally negligent…that is a heighened burden that the DA\’s report clearly shows was not met.

    But, for what good it will do, fault for the collision can still be found on the driver and maybe a citation for failure to yield?

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  • Anonymous January 16, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Total dumb \”I don\’t cycle so I don\’t understand some details\” question… But…

    If everything was the same and Brett had taken the lane as some have suggested above, wouldn\’t he have rear-ended the truck with some pretty heavy force?

    Or was the suggestion that he would have taken the lane prior to having been passed by the truck?

    Just trying to understand…

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  • sad January 16, 2008 at 7:32 pm

    After a lot of thought, I really think that we need to look at bike lanes and how they function. If a bike lane is indeed another lane of traffic, as is stated by law, then why do we not observe the same obligations when behind another vehicle? If you are in a car, following another car, and you ram into the back of them because you didn\’t compensate for your speed or theirs, you are at fault. It is the responsibility of the trailing car to allow sufficient space between the car in front and themselves. Passing is done only when it is safe and prudent to do so, and when conditions allow. Why then, once a car overpasses a bicycle, does the onus stay with the car? Its not logical to assume that you have to suddenly assume responsibility for someone behind you. I live in constant fear when I (or my wife, or anybody else that I love and care about for that matter) turn right in a car, that a cyclist has unexpectedly come up from behind and assumes that they have been seen, or worse, think that the law will protect them. Seeing a quick moving, small silhouette flash in and out of your mirrors around larger cars is a lot easier said than done. I really wish that people would use some common sense and not assume that the world is always aware of your presence.

    Bike lanes are just poorly designed. TAKE THE LANE! Also, I really wish we could all start taking some responsibility for our own actions instead of always looking to blame somebody else. Sometimes an accident is just an accident.

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  • Freaked out Motorist January 16, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    to 78 –

    I have alot of the same fears you\’ve mentioned. A huge problem for me as a motorist, with bike lanes, is the visibility. I always ALWAYS check my mirrors, but you can only see so far back in a bike lane. It is especially crippling at night, because you have a bunch of very bright car lights behind you, and if the bike lane is between a row of driving cars, and a row of parked cars, often the glare of the lights of the moving cars reflects off the parked cars – and the small bike lights (I did however see one the other day that was incredibly visible and it was fantastic) but anyway, the small bike lights completely get lost in all the glare and reflection.

    Furthermore, I remain convinced that it makes zero sense for a lane to turn across a through lane of traffic. We wouldn\’t do that to cars, so why in the world would we do that to a much more vulnerable part of the traffic population?

    I know that cyclists are frustrated with the position that the traffic engineering puts them into. As a motorist, I\’m frustrated with the position that I am put into.

    In addition, I am really looking to find some way to convince the city that they need to enforce traffic laws. For motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. I\’m tired of cars speeding, running red lights, and not signaling. I\’m tired of cyclists not obeying the traffic signals or stop signs, and not signaling. I\’m tired of pedestrians crossing against the lights. And I am sick and tired of seeing both motorists and cyclists talking on the phone (though I admit more motorists!) during such an important action as operating a vehicle, whether it\’s 2 wheeled or 4.

    I\’m tired of people in any mode of transportation assuming that I know what they are going to do when they don\’t TELL me what they\’re going to do.

    All it would really take to make this work is to have everybody follow the rules, and refuse to put up with the city putting us in a position where the rules don\’t make sense.

    How is that so hard when lives are at stake?

    I have written countless letters to our elected officials. If I am lucky to receive response, it always some lame answer – and to be honest, Sam Adam\’s responses are always the worst.

    To be honest, I feel like when I try to reach out to the cycling community, and try to make things better as a driver, I am met with alot of harshness. I\’m almost always trying to improve things, such as \”This happens to me in this situation, how can I make it better for everyone?\”

    I am sure that there are alot of great cyclists out there. But alot of the people who comment on this blog make me feel like they will only be happy with something positive for cyclists if it impacts drivers negatively.

    How can we get anywhere that way? How can we be a community?

    Anyway, I didn\’t mean to go off on this total tanget/rant, but I just wanted to throw it all out there.

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  • Toby January 16, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    1) The driver should not have been behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. That finger points at both him, and the company for hiring him and further more, keeping him.

    2) The driver didn\’t notice passing the cyclist? Puhleez! That\’s either a BS prefabbed answer, or negligence.

    3) Unless I missed it, I don\’t know WHEN the driver put his indicator on. On a road like that, it should have been turned on at least half way down the hill. That\’s not a legal action, just common sense (as well as courteous). You have to give everyone behind you plenty of advanced warning.

    4) Bret should of been more aware of the driver and his actions (driver was in front, after all). A case of going too fast for the conditions.

    But my biggest beef is the intersection itself. There is NO reason for a right hand turn onto Greely. I\’m glad it was shut down quickly afterwards, I just hope they curb it off permanently.

    Anonymous #77 Taking the lane in this case would be done when you get up to speed limit of 30mph (easy as pie on this stretch of road) then merging into traffic. That way when the vehicle in front of you slows down, you do as well. Just as you would if you were in a car (likewise following at a safe distance). In this case it would have put Brett behind the witness car that was behind the truck.

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  • Lisa January 16, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    78, 79: Yes, yes, yes!

    As for taking the lane, in *this* case it would have been safer only because the cyclist would have had to slow down and not count on passing on the right. And of course, that could also have been done in the bike lane.

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  • Toby January 16, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    FOM #79, No need to apologize, you valid concerns about road users of all sorts. I\’m not the one to be able to offer all kinds of fancy quick fixes and end all solutions. I an only echo that one of the biggest dangers on the road is peoples sense of self entitlement. Everyone figures that no matter what they do, it\’s up to someone else to compensate. I am referring to ALL road users, btw. Naturally, things tend to get ugly when both parties have the same assumptions (what is it they say about assumptions??). I see joggers pushing their SUV strollers, wearing earbuds, crossing the street withOUT slowing down, withOUT looking both ways, until they\’re in the middle of the intersection, if at all. Don\’t even get me started on the joggers along N Willamette rounding the overlook.

    OK, now I\’m the one apologizing for straying off target;-)

    Carry on, carry on…


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  • antonio gramsci January 16, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Well, before our society started deploying multiton heavy machinery to replace horses as the most common form of personal conveyance, the cost to pedestrians of being careless was much less drastic.

    Now although it\’s been a little over a hundred years since the beginning of this trend, there are still those of us who don\’t agree with turning every street and alley into a runway for heavy machinery requiring special training from parents starting from earliest toddler years to teach people to cope and survive amidst this machinery.

    Yet despite the precautions of parents and educators and an elaborate road engineering establishment, we\’re still not doing so hot at this after a hundred years. We continue to kill 40000 people a year year after year in this mechanized jungle of a country.

    At this point, surely only the blindest partisans of motorism will argue that the fault lies in a few people randomly being careless. So why don\’t we finally just admit that ubiquitous heavy machinery zooming through dense human habitats simply doesn\’t work well and was never a good idea in the first place?

    Naturally, we will have to fight for a rather radical overhaul of our legal and law enforcement approach towards motor vehicles. See for more details

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  • J January 16, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    I knew this would be the outcome. There was speculation that Brett was riding faster than the estimated speed. Even without that, he still hit the truck and not the other way around. I\’ve heard people calling the driver a murderer and corrected them for it, hopefully this stops.

    As for AGG allowing all the overtime drivers want (comment 25) that is not true. Even if it was, there is no regulation on how many hours a driver can work around home. Other companies allow long hours too, and I have spoken to trimet drivers who have driven 18 hours in a day, some who work long days for 3 weeks straight.

    To answer comment 41, most of the driver\’s poor record is farther in the past, though the way the Oregonian reported it made it hard to notice that and gave the impression that he hasn\’t at least worked on cleaning up his driving habits.

    To Qwendolyn, for failure to yield there would have to be someone in the way to yield to. At the time he began to turn there was no one since Brett was well behind the truck.

    From what I understand the intersection will be redone to totally disallow any right turns there. Hopefully any other problems for this intersection are going to be taken care of also. The drivers have a lot to go through also, hopefully those still angry about it remember that. Incidents like this can be very traumatic.

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  • woogie January 17, 2008 at 7:20 am


    Had he taken the lane he would not have run into the truck, he would have run into the car that was behind the truck, and contained the tow witnesses to the collision, who observed as he passed them that the speed at which he was riding was not going to allow him to stop in time, which was verified by the police investigation.

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  • a.O January 17, 2008 at 11:28 am

    We need legal reform now and we need to get organized so that we can lobby for it. Anyone who\’s interested in helping should please get in touch. Thanks.

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  • Anonymous January 17, 2008 at 12:33 pm


    Thanks for your reply to my question Woogie.

    The reason I asked is because many comments (16,22,33) alluded to \”Lesson learned, take the lane!\” and I wasn\’t sure how that would have helped in this situation.

    Granted, running into the back of a car would have likely done less damage to brett than being run over by a garbage truck, but it\’s reasonable to assume that he either would have been very seriously hurt or still killed.

    So, taking the lane doesn\’t seem like a great solution for here and other similiar locations – that\’s all I was wondering about.


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  • Slick January 17, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Then there\’s the reality that bikes go slower than cars. Brett was a serious racer and was still 10 MPH or so under the speed limit. In the crash, part of the problem was the curves in the road. There wasn\’t visibility around the curve. So, if you\’re slow and someone who is speeding in their car comes from behind in the curve… there seems to be a good reason that riding as far to the right as practical makes sense.

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  • Antonio Gramsci January 17, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    There\’s also the reality that proper road planning should take into account curves and set the speed limits appropriately. Obviously as we now know with hindsight, this road had multiple design flaws.

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  • Antonio Gramsci January 17, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    You raise a good point though. Often, where there are blind curves and hills, one has to make a judgment call as to whether to take the lane or not. This involves experience and local knowledge.

    The factors that enter into this are such things as: what are the posted speed limits? Are they reasonably safe for the curves there? Can you keep up with them? Do motorists in the area usually respect them? How clean is the road shoulder? And how much of a hurry are you in?

    You might say that the safest, most conservative approach is always to hug the road shoulder and slow down if necessary. Actually, however, you would be wrong about that.

    One factor which few people except very experienced riders realize, because they don\’t ride enough to encounter it, is that speed sometimes = safety.

    Consider hilly terrain, for example. Usually, in places where there are steep donwhills, there are also steep uphills behind or ahead of them. When you develop into an experienced bike tourist, you will often find that the ability to go great distances safely depends on being able to cover enough miles with the benefit of daylight.

    On long tours, you will sometimes find that, despite your best efforts at planning, you are running short on time and lack a suitable turnoff for the night. Downhills are your friend in such a case and you want to take full advantage of them, to the extent that it is prudent to do so, because that will get you to your destination faster and safely off the roads before dark.

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  • Opus the Poet January 17, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    Matt (#74) if you read the entire statute there is a clause that allows a cyclist to leave the bike lane for safety reasons. The fact that PPB will ticket you for this is immaterial, just cite the entire statute and emphasise the safety escape clause. Of course this also assumes the judge actually knows the laws, I don\’t know about Oregon, but in TX we have elected judges that sometimes have failed to remember their civics lessons about separation of powers and think they\’re in the executive branch punishing lawbreakers, or the legeslative making up new laws as they go along.

    And I can\’t type for love nor money tonight, so I\’ll quit while I haven\’t made too many mistakes.

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  • wsbob January 18, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Comment #89, it all gets back to the simple fact that for decades, roads have reflexively been built for none other than motor vehicles. That\’s old-days mentality. Why would you want to bike when you could cheaply, speedily, zip around in your own private vehicle?

    Having roads designed and built to be safely used by growing numbers of cyclists of all kinds is the r-evolution that is at hand. Doing so should make collisions between bikes and motor vehicles less likely to happen than they are today.

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  • naess January 18, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    \”As for AGG allowing all the overtime drivers want (comment 25) that is not true. Even if it was, there is no regulation on how many hours a driver can work around home. Other companies allow long hours too, and I have spoken to trimet drivers who have driven 18 hours in a day, some who work long days for 3 weeks straight.\”

    that\’s news to me. odot changed their reg\’s in 2005 to conform to the federal interstate \”hours of service\” reg\’s. ie:

    \”Interstate property-carrying commercial vehicle drivers are limited to a maximum of 11 hours behind the wheel in a 14-hour work day after 10 consecutive hours off duty. They\’re prohibited from driving after being on duty 60 hours in a seven-day period or 70 hours in an eight-day period. They have a 34-hour “restart” provision, which allows them to refresh their weekly work periods by taking 34 consecutive hours off duty.\”

    with the following provisions for \”short-haul\” drivers:

    \”Drivers of property-carrying commercial motor vehicles that do not require a CDL for operation and operate within a 150 air-mile radius of their normal work reporting location:

    May drive a maximum of 11 hours after coming on duty following 10 or more consecutive hours off duty.
    Are not required to keep records-of-duty status.
    May not drive after the 14th hour after coming on duty 5 days a week or after the 16th hour after coming on duty 2 days a week.

    Employer must maintain and retain accurate time records for a period of 6 months showing the time the duty period began, ended, and total hours on duty each day in place of records-of-duty status. Drivers who use this short-haul provision are not eligible to use 100 air-mile provision 395.1(e) or the current 16-hour exception in 395.1 (o).\”

    this is all laid out pretty well in OAR 740-100.

    if you have friends that routinely break the HOS reg\’s you might want to warn them that if their company is audited then both they and the company will face some hefty fines.


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  • nuovorecord January 18, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    #87 Anon.

    Taking the lane, on this particular stretch of street, is usually safer than riding in the bike lane. I think it\’s quite reasonable to believe that Brett would have avoided the crash altogether if he had been in the same lane as the other vehicles. Assuming he was behind the truck and the car, it would have changed all the dynamics of the situation. He would have been further behind the other vehicles and traveling at or below their speed, not passing them. And, he would have had room to pass the truck on the left as it was turning, if it came to that.

    If he were in the lane in front of the vehicles, we\’re not having this discussion.

    The problem with bike lanes (and I\’m generally in favor of them in most instances) is that you don\’t have much room to maneuver laterally. As your speed on a bike increases, this becomes even more of a problem. On this downhill stretch, 30 mph is easily attainable on a road bike. It\’s better to be in the main flow of traffic, then sequestered in a narrow lane with the curb to your right and being passed by traffic on the left.

    Maybe others will disagree. But I\’ve been riding around this city for 30 years with that tactic and I\’m still alive.

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  • DJ Hurricane January 18, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Re ## 87 & 94:

    It would arguably (very likely, IMHO) have been illegal for Brett to \”take the lane\” in this location because it contains a bike lane.

    See ORS 814.420, listing situations in which a bike rider on a street with a bike lane is allowed to take the lane.

    Taking the lane without one of the conditions listed in 814.420 being present can lead to a citation under that provision, or under ORS 811.130 (impeding traffic) or ORS 811.425 (failure to yield).

    The Oregon Traffic Code, as presently written, forces cyclists into the right-hook situation. This is why we need legal reform.

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  • nuovorecord January 18, 2008 at 5:20 pm

    DJ, you\’re correct. It is illegal to take the lane. I should have pointed that out – thanks for mentioning it.

    The laws definitely need to be rethought. You shouldn\’t have to risk a citation in order to ride safely.

    But until the law\’s changed, I\’ll take the chance of getting a ticket over the chance of getting killed.

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  • a.O January 19, 2008 at 9:38 am

    But until the law\’s changed, I\’ll take the chance of getting a ticket over the chance of getting killed.

    I will do. But we will not last long as a group of legitimate roadway users if we have to routinely operate on the road illegally. That\’s why legal reform is so urgent.

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  • gary February 15, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    interesting article

    The tort of negligence represents, by far the most significant tort. Although, legally speaking, a late developer, negligence has in a space of about seventy years almost developed a stranglehold on the law of civil obligations….



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  • N.T. April 3, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    The following are real questions, not rhetorical.
    Why does this have to be criminal negligence?
    What are the standards for vehicular manslaughter?
    If you break a traffic law and kill someone, it seems fairly obvious, to me at least, that you\’ve done more than simply violate that traffic law.
    I know from previous cases that if you break the law and a cop is chasing you, and he or she kills someone during the chase, you are held responsible for that death.
    How is it that you are LESS responsible if you are the one who did the actual killing?
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    I happen to know this DA personally and have for over 25 years. If there was a law broken he would prosecute. Sometimes there are such things as truly sorrowful “accidents”

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