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Citizen citation yields success; driver pleads “no contest”

Posted by on February 27th, 2008 at 11:16 am

Lawyer Chris Heaps was not
satisfied with the Police response
to a bike/car crash, so he
pursued justice himself…and got it.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Christopher Heaps, the Portland lawyer who mounted a “citizen initiated” campaign last December to bring the driver who hit Siobhan Doyle to justice, says we can “chalk one up for the good guys.”

Heaps learned this morning that the driver, Lisa Wheeler, has plead “no contest” and will have to pay a $182 fine for violation of ORS 811.050, or “failure to yield to a bicycle in a bike lane”.

Back in November, Doyle was riding her bike down N. Interstate Ave. when Wheeler, who was also traveling on Interstate turned right onto Greeley, hitting Doyle in the process. The collision put Doyle in the hospital with serious injuries, but due to Police policies that (used to) only require investigations when “Trauma-level” injuries were sustained, no investigation was performed at the scene, and therefore, no citation was issued.

Heaps felt it was unjust that Wheeler would not be held accountable for a clear violation of a Oregon traffic law — so he decided to pursue justice on his own.

“This is a victory for everyone who wants to have safer streets in Portland and who expects there to be consequences for those who injure and kill others.”
–Chris Heaps

Using a little-known Oregon statute that allows any citizen to initiate a “violation proceeding” against another citizen, Heaps followed all the required steps, even persisting through red tape at the courthouse, to serve Wheeler with a citation.

Wheeler was arraigned on the charges at the Justice Center in downtown Portland this morning where she entered her guilty plea and agreed to pay a fine. Heaps says KGW-TV was there and they plan to broadcast the story, along with an interview with Heaps, today at noon.

Heaps is understandably pleased with the outcome. “I’m pretty psyched about it,” he said, “it shows that the citizen initiated violation process can really work.”

In a comment below, Heaps added that, “This is a victory for everyone who wants to have safer streets in Portland and who expects there to be consequences for those who injure and kill others. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of some big changes in the way people use our roadways.”

Heaps, along with help from other community members including author Joe “Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie, will now turn their attention to a citizen citation effort in the case of Brett Jarolimek, who was killed in a similar crash just weeks before Doyle at the same intersection.


For more information on the citizen initiation of violation proceedings process, read the article I published in January 2006, New campaign to bring motorists to justice.

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J G
Guest
J G

Great work, Chris. Thanks!
How about an update on other citizen-initiated citations?

Toby
Guest
Toby

Thank you Heaps for following through with this! Not to take anything away from the success, I think it\’s a shame that someone nearly lost their life due to poor driving skills and outright negligence, and she only has to pony up a few dollars. Not much more than an annoyance for her and unlikely she took anything lasting away from it.

steve
Guest
steve

Awesome work a.O.

brettoo
Guest
brettoo

The perp may only have to pay a \”few dollars\” in criminal fines but isn\’t she likely to get zapped by some sort of civil action for damages filed by the victim? Anything happening on that score?

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Fabtastic!

Maybe the city will pay you a stipend for doing the job of their police force…

mike_khad1
Guest
mike_khad1

Good Job AO.

Carl
Guest
Carl

Rock on, a.O. Thanks for your time and dedication.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Good job, a.O.!

Antonio Gramsci
Guest
Antonio Gramsci

Outstanding!

You are to be commended for persevering through a tedious, timeconsuming, and sometimes Kafkaesque process, but producing a tangible and really positive result.

Matt Picio
Guest

Thanks, a.O – great work and perseverance!

To those who complain about being a slap on the wrist – small steps. Any step is better than NO step. We work with what we have, and always strive for more.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

I think this is bigger than the citation itself. The driver has declined to defend herself against the citation, and has been convicted. Besides the fine– no, make that \”more importantly than the fine\”– the driver\’s insurance company will not be able to claim that she was not negligent when she right-hooked Siobhan. It means less frivolous delay from the insurance company, and a more realistic settlement offer for the cyclist. This is a big deal for the injured cyclist.

Toby
Guest
Toby

Not complaining, I think it\’s huge that a \”citizen\” can make a difference where the \”system\” falls short. I just have doubts that the drivers future actions will be greatly effected. I hope I\’m wrong.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Toby, this driver now has a conviction on her driving record. That will probably result in an increase in her insurance premiums, which means more money out of her pocket. While there\’s no guarantee that she\’ll be more careful in the future, her self-interest in lowering her insurance premiums (coupled with whatever lesson she might have learned after injuring a cyclist and being cited for it) makes it more likely that she will be more careful in the future.

a.O
Guest
a.O

Thank you everybody for your kind words. It\’s really an honor to be able to serve my community this way. This is a victory for everyone who wants to have safer streets in Portland and who expects there to be consequences for those who injure and kill others. Hopefully, this is just the beginning of some big changes in the way people use our roadways.

Grimm
Guest

Fantastic conviction on behalf of cyclists throughout the city. Thanks a.O.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

good precedent…good work.
law takes baby steps, just like most other professions..

jeff
Guest

Great job.
I\’m in Wisconsin and we don\’t have the same kind of citizen complaint process but I\’ve been pursuing citations against cars who break the law by going through local police agencies with varying degrees of success. It\’s nice to see that when you can\’t get any help from the police you can take care of matters on your own, legally.

Kevin Hedahl
Guest

Great job Chris!

Jack Jenkins
Guest

Thank You, Christopher Heaps!

A small victory, but a big one too. The fine is too small, but at least it\’s something.

I\’m tired of being a target and bikers acting as victims. Yes, sometime roadies can be jerks, running red lights, hogging the road in packs, etc…. and while some of us need to clean up our own acts, at least we aren\’t blithely maiming and killing and the then saying (in essence), \”Oh, well.\”

Donald
Guest
Donald

A great service to the community, Chris. Way to go!

That we got to laugh along with you as you made the trek was terrific bonus.

_DA

Opus the Poet
Guest

Excuse me for a minute, but as I read this report the fine for running over a cyclist minding his or her own business in a bike lane was $182, but the fine for rolling a stop sign at 1 MPH when nobody is coming is in excess of $240? Can someone please explain the logic behind this one?

Opus

gus
Guest
gus

Opus, it is an excellent illustration of the difference between \”law\” and \”justice\”. Law is not a logical entity, unfortunately neither is justice. In this case, while the needs of law have been met, hopefully those of justice will be forthcoming.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Great work, thanks

I was in an accident a couple years ago where a car that (almost) passed me on the road made a hard right, hit me with the side of his car and drove off, the way it ended up playing out was that the cop didn\’t give him a ticket and his insurance company declined to pay anything. So, word to the wise, make sure a ticket is issued otherwise you may be out with little or no recourse after the fact.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

To whom do I complain when I see a bike run a red light?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

You did well, a.O..

Now that the driver has been brought to justice, it might be worth knowing more about the personal situation of the offending driver, and just how this turn of events will impact their life and others in turn.

Stripes
Guest
Stripes

Awesome work – thankyou!!

a.O. – have you considered typing up some basic notes on the (many!) steps you had to take to issue this citizen-based citation?

It would be great to have the process you undertook documented step by step, so that more cyclists (or indeed, anybody) could use it in future, if necessary.

Where did you go to get the form? Which department gave you the form? What is the form called? How do you correctly fill it in? Who do you turn the form in to? What happens next? Those sorts of things…

Again – thankyou!

slayer
Guest
slayer

what a bunch of crap, way to piss people off. ride defensively and accept the fact that cars are deadly and YOU need to be prepared to act accordingly, ride like everybody is out to kill you. hope that lady didnt have to skip any meals or miss any medication because you abused the system.

Crash N. Burns
Guest
Crash N. Burns

a.O. – I like to say it AAyyyyyy-OOhhhhhh!!

Especially when you\’re doing such good work. I\’ve often read your posts with much agreement. It\’s nice to put a person to the name. Thanks for all you efforts.

Anonymous #24: Please complain to the same person and or persons you would complain to when you see a car run a red light – or a bus, or a UPS truck , or a skateboarder, or a tractor, or a cop…

true
Guest
true

That\’s amazing. Good work, folks.

Metal Cowboy
Guest

Slayer… are you kidding us or baiting us? Abuse the system? Doyle , Brett, Tracy S, Tim in wash county were all following the law. Doyle was put on the hood of a car while riding a bike defensively and well. I was going to write more but I suggest you go back and read all the posts connected to this subject. We are working too hard to help the police change the way they investigate these incidents and through enforcement change the climate out there where some drivers feel like they can drive recklessly around cyclists b/c nothing will happen if they hit one. we\’re doing this so that all vulnerable users are safer – including you if you ride a bicycle.

Metal Cowboy
Guest

Enforcement also helps drivers without malice be more attentive while making their commutes and trips around portland. Most of those trips will be driving from one gas station to another as pricings keep going up.

Patti
Guest

a.O!
Just OUTSTANDING. Quite frankly, this is what I needed to wake up to this morning in my jaded things-will-always-be-the-way-the-are world….! You a.O, \”fought City Hall\”. This is huge! Congratulations.

a.O
Guest
a.O

I once got accused of having a \”fan club\” on bikeportland. I\’m officially making this guy the President:

http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/rnr/589428038.html

I don\’t know whether to be more hurt that he got the facts wrong or that he called me fat. I\’m very sensitive about my weight.

jeff
Guest
jeff

Craigslist Rants and Raves, giving voice to the intellectually challenged since 1995.

Ena
Guest
Ena

While, I applaud your efforts, Chris and thank you for taking the time to stand up for Siobhan, I feel sad that Lisa feels no remorse. Siobhan just wants an apology and it bums me out. I know how she feels as Michael Lammers at Marylhurst was not remorseful either.

If Siobhan can not get an apology, she needs to get money for her bills, a new bike, and any other compensation. How does she do this? Chris, can you advise her on what further steps she can take to have her physical needs met?

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

\”I\’m tired of being a target and bikers acting as victims. Yes, sometime roadies can be jerks, running red lights, hogging the road in packs, etc…. and while some of us need to clean up our own acts, at least we aren\’t blithely maiming and killing and the then saying (in essence), \”Oh, well.\”\”

hey Jack..watch the broad brush..there are many cycling teams (\”roadies\”, as you so call us) that obey each and every traffic signal…I see more hybrid commuters each day blow stop signs and ride into opposite traffic than any other group, by far.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

A.O…
you\’re a popular guy on the rants and rave Craigslist….

I would suggest bikeportland folks respond in kind…

pat h
Guest

Great Work!

Any info on how to do the process ourselves would be great.

hickeymad
Guest
hickeymad

Way to go a.o.!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

So does it work the other way too – can I site bicyclists that disobey and put me in danger?

Not to belittle the deaths and injuries of bikers – but the guy going the wrong way down a sidewalk yesterday, at a high rate of speed when I was pulling out yesterday afternoon – what was he thinking – I almost hit him – and if I killed him – I would have to live with that for the rest of my life – even though it would have been entirely his fault – where is my justice?

How about the bikers that blow the intersection near my house EVERY SINGLE DAY or the ones that ride at night on the narrow roads on my way home from work – WITHOUT LIGHTS – I should be able to call a cop and have them ticketed on the spot.

My life is shortened everytime I have a close call with a bike – and just so you know – I look out for bikes – and they are always the ones at fault? Perhaps we should require a licence to ride a bike and take it away just like a drivers licence when you get to many tickets – oh wait – bikers don\’t get any tickets for their bad behavior – guess that won\’t work.

Glad you guys got a win – glad something went good for the injured – just remember – BOTH PARTIES SUFFER – there are really no winners until the laws are obeyed CONSISTANTLY by both sides not just when it is convenient or easy.

Robert Dobbs
Guest
Robert Dobbs

@40

\”BOTH PARTIES SUFFER\”

One word: Meh.

One party is typically dead or broken from a bike-vehicle collision. Hint: It\’s not the guy in the vehicle.

Sympathy for the devil, indeed.

erin g.
Guest
erin g.

Thank you for your hard work and dedication toward attaining justice in this important case, Chris. We are very fortunate to have you in our community.

Many cheers to you,

Erin G.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

Hey Anonymous..
some of us, get this, actually have a drivers license too…a real one…its valid and everything. we also own cars and drive them regularly.

yes, agreed, a lot of cyclists are stupid assholes with little regard for traffic signals…making the majority of us look pretty bad. if a 1/4 panel meet their path when they do something wrong…then so be it..there is no legal recourse for them and most likely, now with PPD\’s new policy of crash investigations, that rider will be cited. your dignity be saved.
this law is for you also…please realize that…if you ever choose to saddle up and go for a ride, and a driver slights you, you have recourse.
this is not Us vs. Them…its a movement to make EVERYONE safer and more accountable.
I agree, PPD should do more to counter the stupid actions of cyclists…honestly, I do…as i believe many riders are part of the perceived problem and should be schooled as to their place on the road…

however running someone over with impunity (as Siobhan D. was on N. Greely)contains issues the law was not addressing…until now.

it should tell you something that the driver in this instance pleaded \”no contest\” and paid her fine…tells me she realized her mistake and is willing to be adult about the repercussion…are you?

true
Guest
true

Anonymous #40 –

It\’s legal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalks of Portland except for downtown. It\’s your responsibility to watch for all people using the sidewalk when you back out.

If your stop sign is getting run, call the traffic division – complaints are what get traffic stings set up. That\’s what the Ladd\’s Addition folks do.

\”Bicyclists don\’t get tickets for their bad behavior.\” – Cyclists get fined $242 for running a stop sign. Lisa Wheeler is being fined $182 for almost killing Siobahn Doyle. Funny math.

Inform your rant a little and then the sensible part about all road users needing to follow the rules will make sense and be heard.

Get on a bike and join us, it\’s all the rage. Cheers.

Chris
Guest
Chris

The key issue that has been ignored is the fact that the presence of a mandatory bike lane (on a 6% downhill grade approaching a major intersection, no less!) is what sets up the conflict in the first place. The problem is not one of \”failure to yield\”, but is instead \”Why are cyclists and motorists pre-programmed to have these conflicts when mandatory bike lanes place bicyclists to the right of right-turning traffic?\”

Getting rid of the bike lanes and educating (and allowing) bicyclists to use the full lane in such situations to prevent these kinds of crashes in the first place is the best solution to this problem.

Mr. Jenkie
Guest
Mr. Jenkie

Yup, it only makes bikers happy when they have free run of the streets, to blow through red lights, to not signal, to not properly use lanes, etc etc etc. Would cyclists be willing to pay their share of the roads by licensing their bikes? Probably not considering the lawless freeloading mentality of cyclists in this city.

Nana
Guest
Nana

a.O
You\’re my new hero.

Ena
Guest
Ena

Look,

I understand #40 being frustrated, because I see folks without lights all the time. I would never forgive myself if I hit someone. But, like others have said, it\’s the bicyclist who really suffers. Mr. 40, I don\’t think you\’ll understand what we\’re talking about here until you get hit and the other person gets away with it.

When you get injured on a bike, your life stops and is over for a while. You lose everything you love, your credit goes hits the toilet, you are in huge debt, you lose your job, and that doesn\’t even count your physical injuries. My accident was nowhere near as bad as Siobhan and it took me over a year to heal and parts of my body are permanently damaged.

I know that it\’s scary out there driving around Portland and I don\’t condone cyclists running lights and intersections, but give me a break, it\’s nowhere even close. Bikes are not killing machines, cars are!

BURR
Guest
BURR

@ #45: You have hit the nail squarely on the head. Unfortunately, the BTA and the \’bike safety experts\’ at PDOT are apparently clueless when it comes to designing safe facilities for cyclists. They are catering to the lowest common denominator – a novice who hasn\’t ridden a bicycle in years and has a great fear of riding in traffic, and they are designing facilities that give these folks a modicum of complacency but are actually extremely unsafe to use. Installing narrow bike lanes on downhill grades and to the right of right turning traffic is just plain wrong and cyclists will continue to be injured and killed in these bike lanes until the city reevaluates and changes their engineering designs. The new \’bike boxes\’ also fall squarely into the category of \’seemed like a good idea at the time, too bad it\’s not really safe\’. Unfortunately, the city probably won\’t change the way they do business until they are hit with a huge lawsuit regarding the safety of the bike lanes they are building, maybe a.O. wants to take this issue on next?

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

Mr. Jenkie–
what in hell makes you believe that most of us don\’t own cars and \”pay our way\” for road use?
I, in fact, own TWO cars…drive them quite often…they\’re licensed and everything..simply because I don\’t choose to use them to drive the 3 miles to my job, doesn\’t mean your mind should be so obtusely closed to what constitutes reality.

\”lawless freeloading mentality\”…I would be willing to bet I pay more taxes than you do….now who\’s freeloading? is my house not being taxed annual? I buy a tank of gas every week…pay state income tax for which a portion goes to ODOT and the city.

you own your car, NOT the road. get over yourself and whatever preconceived notions you have…