“Given the circumstances, it seems like issuing a citation would probably not stand up in court. Any person could go in and say, ‘It’s dark, rainy, there’s this little red light in the road’. I think any judge would toss that citation out’.”
— Det. Sgt. Jim Shumway, Beaverton Police Department
The community is trying to understand what happened in Saturday’s fatal traffic crash that resulted in the death of 47-year old Bret Lewis. In the meantime, Police investigators work on their investigation, advocates have swung into action, and family and friends grieve at the senseless loss of life.
As I mentioned in my initial report, the police statement about the crash seemed (to me at least) to go out of its way to absolve the motor vehicle operator (now identified as 48-year old James Nguyen of Beaverton) of any wrongdoing. Mr. Nguyen didn’t intend to kill anyone Saturday night; but as a vehicle operator, he has an important legal (and moral) responsibility to use enough care and caution so as to not hit another person who is operating their vehicle legally (which it seems like Lewis was doing) on the same road.
To learn more about the crash and about concerns with how it was framed by police, I had a conversation yesterday with Beaverton Police Department Detective Sergeant Jim Shumway. Sgt. Shumway is the Public Information Officer who wrote the press statement about this crash.
The first source of confusion I wanted to clear up was where the collision occurred. The police made it clear from the outset that Lewis was not in the bike lane on Tualatin-Valley Highway, saying he was in the “curb lane.” (The police also say that Lewis was stopped in the middle of the lane for some reason; a lane where traffic travels at upwards of 50 mph) As you can see from the aerial view above, the roadway configuration at this location isn’t typical. There are two westbound lanes on TV Hwy, then a bike lane, then a right turn lane.
This morning, Sgt. Shumway told me that investigators believe the point of impact was in the outer lane (a.k.a. “curb lane), to the left of the bike lane if headed westbound (police refer to the “curb lane” as the standard vehicle lane — not a right turn lane — closest to the curb).
Many of you were also concerned that the police mentioned the weather conditions (heavy winds and rain) as being a “factor in the inability to see the bicyclist stopped in the traffic lane.” The police also stated that, “It is not anticipated that the driver of the vehicle will be cited.”
Oregon’s basic speed rule (page 33 of the Oregon Driver’s Manual) states that “you must drive at a speed that is reasonable and cautious for existing conditions… you need to think about your speed in relation to other traffic, pedestrians, bicycles, the surface and width of the road, hazards at intersections, weather, visibility, and any other conditions that could affect safety.” I asked Sgt. Shumway whether we should expect Nguyen to be cited for a traffic violation.
“There’s no update,” Sgt. Shumway said, “I’m sure it stands just as it did.”
Sgt. Shumway explained that Nguyen didn’t do anything that would fulfill the criteria for careless driving and that, “Given the circumstances, it seems like issuing a citation would probably not stand up in court. Any person could go in and say, ‘It’s dark, rainy, there’s this little red light in the road’. I think any judge would toss that citation out’.”
Sgt. Shumway explained how, given the rain, wind, and darkness on Saturday night, Nguyen’s visibility would have been severely constrained. “Those things can affect how you see at night. A small light on the back of a bike isn’t like what you’d see on a vehicle… It seems to me it would be easy to not necessarily see that until you got close enough… Until it was too late to react.”
[Note: Police have said Lewis had a “functioning” rear light. Oregon law (ORS 815.280) states that a bicycle must have a reflector or light, “visible from all distances up to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlights on a motor vehicle.” We have yet to learn whether or not Lewis’ light met this requirement.]
When asked whether or not the driver might have been distracted, Sgt. Shumway said, “There wasn’t any evidence of that and he was adamant that nothing like that was going on.”
I tried to share with Sgt. Shumway, that whether he intended to or not, the inclusion of certain facts and words in the press statement (that led to numerous stories in the local media that copied it verbatim) seemed to assess blame for the crash on the victim and all but completely absolve the motor vehicle operator.
Sgt. Shumway disagreed, saying that his intention with the press release is to merely answer “head off” questions he expects the media to ask. “I don’t think it does that [blames the victim]. What I’m responsible for is describing the circumstances that led to the crash… The media would ask. ‘Why was he stopped in the road?’… It’s not absolving anybody.”
Sgt. Shumway continued,
“What happened here is that this is just an accident, it’s an unfortunate accident. I think people watching on the news aren’t concerned that someone got away with something they should be punished for… Not that it was the bicyclist fault, or the driver’s fault; but that each had a set of circumstances that led to an unfortunate outcome.”
Sgt. Shumway told me he fully supports bicycling and that he wants to use the media to get the message out that “It’s not just cars on the road.” But this case, he said, “Isn’t one that furthers that cause.”
“I think most of the [media] audience is going to look at the story and say, ‘If i was driving a bike in the pitch dark in the rain, I would not stop on a road where cars are known to go 50 mph in the mid-lane of traffic. If I got a flat tire or my pants got caught in the chain, I would immediately move to the side of the road.”
There are vehicle equipment laws and laws that govern how we use our roads, but Sgt. Shumway urged me to “look at the totality of the cirucumstances” in this case. Even if Lewis had a bright rear light, Sgt. Shumway said, “It probably wasn’t powerful enough or large enough to overcome the circumstances surrounding this situation.”
And he should know. Sgt. Shumway shared that he himself has driving on this road many times at night. “I could totally see how you’d miss a small red light.”
Thanks for the update Jonathan
If you can’t see a road hazard, legal rear light or not, you are driving too fast for conditions. End of story. Why are the police ignorant of this?
Because the speed limit has become a mandatory minimum speed limit, and keeping traffic moving at that speed is more important.
At least, this is how I read our society’s priorities in many/most cases.
Because of the pragmatic factors of being in an automotive majority, where our economic livelihood has been tied to cheap high speed mobility since post WW-II, the mere thought of hindering the behavior of auto drivers in any way brings to mind the very idea of complete economic and societal collapse.
Most Americans cannot imagine life without cars so to suggest that we should limit drivers in any way draws on the direct primal fear of being unable to provide food and shelter for one’s self and family.
The fact that we as a nation do not have sufficient
public transit options to service our tax base only serves to reinforce the notion that we cannot limit autos.
100% correct. This interview is even more infuriating than the press release.
The Sgt. talks of a ‘little red light’. What of pedestrians? Preposterous.
If you can’t see something, how can you be responsible for avoiding it? As we saw with Tracey Sparling case, the courts have decided that if a vehicle operator can prove that they were physically unable to see another vehicle operator, they cannot be responsible for hitting them.
That’s why the excuse “I didn’t see them” doesn’t fly with me. It is your responsibility, as a road user, to see and understand the conditions around you and adjust to them accordingly. Just like ignorance of the law is not an excuse to break it, not seeing another road user is not an excuse when you are at fault for an accident. Furthermore, this story leaves me an unanswered question, namely, is Nguyen telling the truth? How many witnesses saw that Lewis was stopped (?!) in the middle of the road? That may be where he ended up, but that also doesn’t mean it’s where he started.
The ironic thing is, if this was a fatal car accident, none of us would be paying attention to the story, nor would anyone else. Just a little blip on the evening news. We need laws with real teeth to reduce the carnage on our roads. For example, if you are at fault for an accident with injuries, your license is suspended for a year and you must take a driving test to get it back. Like honesty, driving competency needs to be proven, not assumed.
It’s also the responsibility of the road user to be seen by others. Otherwise, why do cars have rear lights?
I disagree, if the rear light was complying then the driver (by code definition) has 600 feet in which to see the bicyclist.
At 50mph that is over 17 seconds of reaction time.
Either the light was working or not, and if not then the driver should be cited.
No one is assigning intent to the driver, but this is definitely a vehicle violation and the police are not doing their job.
I know a lot of people who commute on that road. It’s truly unfortunate that better routes do not exist. Perhaps this would be one of those circumstances where seperate bike facilities might be a good option. I often hear the question “what lights do I need to make my bike legal?” To which I respond “well, there’s the law and then there is the equipment you actually need to stay above ground.” A rear reflector? Really? You need lights… and bright ones.
How dare you say that a better routes does not exist. There are two, Millikan or SW 5th. I use both.
On my trip home from work after 7:00pm from the Beaverton TC out past Aloha.
SW 5th is neither direct, fast nor long enough.
SW Millikan is a wonderful way to bypass the nastiest stretch of TV Hwy … at least on a map.
Millikan is worse in side entering traffic, more stops, slower speeds, discontinuous bike lanes, poor sight lines, poor lighting and my favorite thing: Motor Mile’s test course.
I used to live at the apartments on Millikan just east of 153rd and west of Murray. I’ve witnessed the same dealer tagged car zipping through the S-curved cobblestone section (map @ http://goo.gl/eGfMR) of street several times in one hour at speeds greater than 20MPH over the posted speed limit for the straight sections.
In general when Millikan traffic is westbound at the Murray intersection the autos are moving from a single lane to a wide double lane road laid out just like TV Hwy. As can be expected all the drivers burst forth from the gate and flood out in to the empty expanses of Millikan at speeds higher than on TV Hwy.
You are right about that cobbled “S” section. It is bad. In dark, wet, low visibility situations I would be very careful in this 500 ft. section.
And still people wonder why I have such a large investment on reflective materials and lights for my bikes.
I hear that. Disdain my flashing light, my yellow jacket and reflective vest as anti-fashion all you want – visibility is life.
It should be state law that bicylce riders on public road be requied to wear a florescent vest or jacket. It’s just too easy to miss the sight of a bike until it’s too late.
No thank you! I’d like to be able to hop on my bike and ride the 3 blocks w/out having to wear special clothing.
I enjoy having the choice of whether I wear dayglo reflective clothing or not.
er edit… 3 blocks TO THE STORE…
I’d like to hop in my car at night, not turn on the lights and not use my seatbelt either…..but that would not be responsible, would it?
How about we enforce the existing laws. Such as cracking down, and banning, sales of retail products that are falsely marketed, and sold, as “sufficient” bike lighting.
i often wear black but if you cannot see my 300-800 lumens you should not be on the road.
You have a 300-800 lumen tail light?! How much did that cost and where did you get it?
total lumens — only about 170 lumens in back.
We should also outlaw black as a color choice for cars, ban tinted windows, and require an audible alarm to sound any time a car door handle is activated from inside the car. It’s often too hard to read a driver’s intentions until it’s too late.
It should be a state law that drivers do not proceed forward if they cant see what is in front of them. It’s just to easy to hit things if you can’t see whats in front of you.
Whine about my overpowered head and tail lights all you want.
The only complaints I hear are from cyclists.
From auto drivers I get wide clearance, minus ragin` cagers, and call outs for “Durn! That’s a bright light!”
From patrol officers I have gotten thanks that I am taking responsibility for my own safety riding amongst the somnambulant motoring public.
I fully-agree that at some point, we have to take responsibility for our own safety.
I’ve been cycling in out in the middle of nowhere; near the middle-fork of the John Day river (central/eastern Oregon). Only to have motorists recognize & thank me, at my next mid-day rest stop, for having such a bright tail-light in use.
There’s someone in my neighborhood (Saltzman/Thompson area) who apparently commutes who has the best light setup I’ve ever seen. Amazingly bright front light and an array of bright red blinking red lights on the back. Thompson Road is narrow with no bike lane and no shoulder to speak of, and I don’t like riding it in the daylight. I’d love to know what those lights are!
My philosophy is that you can never be too visible.
Mine is that I should abdicate my personal safety to others and hope for the best.
I was driving from NW Portland to Lake Oswego last evening at 5:30. The roads were loaded with cars, the rain was pouring down and it was dark. It was brutally tough to see anything. As I was creeping along, I saw so many cyclists sharing the roads and the majority of them were clearly under lighted. I wanted to warn them how hard it was to see them, tell them I was a cyclist who lights myself up like the proverbial Christmas tree and that they needed to do the same. It’s not too hard to understand how the driver in this incident might have not seen the poor cyclist until it was way too late.
Many people probably aren’t getting the help and advice they need to adequately light their bikes: what it takes to be seen and be able to see…what’s involved in keeping the lights to maximum illumination…what they’ve got to spend to be able to really be seen.
Those department store low end bike lights aren’t cutting it. Double A batteries that people always have to remember to charge up results in a lot of dim lights being used.
In this respect, times-are-a-changing, but what percent of the general public know that bike lights have recently become available that can be plugged directly into the computer’s USB port to be charged up? Simplicity translates to greater consistency of use.
High power bike lights can be expensive, as in r-e-a-l-l-y expensive, like the Dinottes q`Tzal mentions further down; over a $100, and in some cases, way over. There are bike lights for less than $100 that are far superior to the low end Bell lights Fred’s sell, but how do you get people to invest in them? I’ve tried to get my neighbor to equip his bike with a light that’s more visible than the minimum, but…when people don’t have jobs, their priorities shift elsewhere.
I like the quote near the end of DiNotte’s “why choose us” page:
Big box stores and larger online retailers are often challenged to understand all of the products they sell. We find many customers have more knowledge than those who staff the usual places they shop.
It is difficult to justify the purchase of such an expensive bike light; there has to be some justification. Too often, even in bike only shops, the lights are misunderstood, misrepresented or simply ignored because they area not required for sale.
Professionally trained bike sales people might know their frame geometries and cyclist fitting techniques inside out but lighting goes in the realms of electronics, battery chemistry and optical quandary of illuminance vs. irradiance.
As a practical pragmatic cyclist I want the most bang for the buck. All the lights for sale have actual intensities that have been replaced with notes of power usage “5 WATT LED!!!”. Few list beam spread or side visibility. Fewer still list if the circuitry is incompatible with the lower voltages provided by rechargeable batteries.
It is too easy for the average person to approach the subject with all sincerity and leave in total brain lock from all the potential ways to screw up.
I just buy the expensive lights for those I am close to and care about, they usually end up using them because they don’t want to spend the money on something else and now this nice one is suddenly free and once it’s free being safe is obviously worth engaging in. Just buy your neighbor the damn lights, share a meal and call it even. They won’t be upset, they’ll be grateful and someday you might receive a gift of equal value when they do have a job.
The officer must not be familiar with bright flashing bike lights. Not sure what was used in this case, but a Planet Bike blinkie (the $20 kind) is easily visible in any amount of wind or rain from hundreds of feet away – a mile, in good conditions. The steady rear lights can be tougher to see, because they can appear be be bright lights far in the distance, when they are actually close.
Although I do own a PB Superflash, I only have it as a back-up light and wouldn’t consider using it as a primary in anything but ideal conditions. You’ll never regret owning one of these:
Sorry, I don’t have $119 to spend on a single bike light. I use 2 PB blinkies on the back.
Geez, if someone stole my bike light, I’d be so screwed. Thats a huge investment that can be easily swiped – I’ve probably had 10-12 bike lights stole over the past 5 years.
It’s seriously disappointing that this conversation doesn’t significantly change the tenor of the Beaverton’s PD’s original statements. It’s particularly frustrating for someone to say that they support cycling and yet they don’t think that a motor vehicle operator rear-ending and killing a cyclist is a good case to point out that motor vehicle operators must be responsible for proceeding at a safe speed because they are not the only ones on the road.
What if a pedestrian had been crossing here? It’s a crosswalk (unmarked) because it is an intersection and so a pedestrian would have been perfectly legal to cross the road, as long as the driver was far away enough to stop (and there’s no suggestion that the driver failed to stop because the cyclist appeared there suddenly, only because he didn’t see him in time). The driver is clearly responsible for not hitting the pedestrian, who almost certainly would not have been lit with a bike light-strength light, if he/she was lit at all. Likewise, the driver is responsible for not hitting the cyclist, even if the cyclist is stopped in a regular travel lane for unknown reasons.
If there is no traffic citation for this driver that will hold up in court, our traffic code or its enforcement is fundamentally broken.
You’ve hit the nail on the head so hard here, I think it went out the other side of the board. If it’s too dark to see a cyclist with a light, how could you miss a mother walking her baby across the road in a stroller?
“What if a pedestrian had been crossing here? It’s a crosswalk (unmarked) because it is an intersection and so a pedestrian would have been perfectly legal to cross the road, as long as the driver was far away enough to stop (and there’s no suggestion that the driver failed to stop because the cyclist appeared there suddenly, only because he didn’t see him in time). The driver is clearly responsible for not hitting the pedestrian, who almost certainly would not have been lit with a bike light-strength light, if he/she was lit at all. Likewise, the driver is responsible for not hitting the cyclist, even if the cyclist is stopped in a regular travel lane for unknown reasons.”
Maybe he was being objective, a concept lost on most people visiting an advocacy website.
Objective would entail looking at factual evidence and applying agreed upon set of constructs based on this evidence.
The undisputed factual evidence is that there was a bicyclist who was stationary and in the lane of traffic. This bicyclist was hit due to the motorist being unable to see him in time to take necessary evasive action.
Based on existing traffic law, the motorist was driving too fast for existing conditions and was unable to operate his vehicle safely. Based on this factual objective evidence and existing traffic law, this motorist should be cited. If you disagree with this assessment, then you will have to provide objective criteria (cite traffic law) that points to why the motorist should not be cited.
When we start discussing whether it was smart for the bicyclist to be in the lane of traffic, or whether he should have a had a better light, or if the bicyclist in someway contributed to his own death… these are subjective topics. We either 1. do not have the necessary factual information to make a objective declaration or 2. we have disagreements as to what the criteria are for “safe” or “smart” or a host of other things.
“I could totally see how you’d miss a small red light.”
Wow. How’s this statement not absolving the driver?
Because, quite frankly,
1) Red light is the least visible part of the spectrum to the human eye.
2) Too many bicycle tail lights are poorly aimed
3) Too many bicycle tail lights are so small as to visually be confused or missed versus the visual size (field of view:degrees, minutes, seconds) of other light sources in the field of view
4) Too many bicycle tail lights are underpowered versus the other road users. In optimal conditions at full power my Dinotte tail light puts out 140 lumens of red LED sourced light. This is exceeded by a factor of 10 by one average car tail light. Most affordable (and I dropped some serious $$$ on it) bicycle tail lights are in the 1 to 20 lumen range.
5) Too many bicycle tail lights are ignored in terms of their internal batteries so that despite the rated light intensity the light is operating far lower than the was initially seen. When the cyclist uses the same light daily it is easy to miss a gradual decrease in intensity.
Happy to see a fellow DiNotte user here; we need more of them.
As for poorly-aimed lights – wow, those PlanetBike SuperFlash lights are so bright, and cheap…but so many cyclists dont bother to ensure they’re always pointed rear-ward.
DiNotte has positioned themselves in a very low price bracket for high intensity lights.
Before I discovered DiNotte I had worked out electrical schematics, LED supply sourcing, reflectors, lenses rechargeable batteries and charging circuit.
In attempting to fabricate a durable housing with no welding or metal fabrication skills or equipment found a great deal of overhead cost. I could get good (UV resistant) plastics injection molded in minimum orders of over 10,000. Some people suggested PVC pipe (not UV resistant) or Tupperware! Metal fab companies were not much better price wise.
I made a big ol` spread sheet that I could plug all my prices in to.
I discovered that:
IF I made it entirely myself
AND nothing went wrong
AND I actually knew enough to perform skills perfectly the first time that I had only researched online
AND I didn’t have to pay for large batch orders of custom plastics
THEN my price could be up to 5% less than buying a DiNotte headlight back in 2004.
IF anything went wrong I could see my costs ranging up to 300% over what DiNotte was charging and I might still not have a working light.
If you have the skills and proper tools I say go to it and save money. The only way I know to get their lights cheaper would be to make my own in their factory without telling them.
They aren’t the prettiest lights but letting Function win over Form has won them loyal customers with lights that won’t die.
My daughter was hit by a bicyclist going full speed on a mixed bike path (walkers and bikes). The bicyclist did not take any responsibility for the accident which badly bruised her. She needed xrays, her teeth damaged the inside of her mouth and she was temporarily unconscious. I feel the bicyclist was to blame for poor judgement. Riding too fast close to people. My daughter was 18. What if he hit someone younger.
Kim – what a terrible thing to have happen, I’m glad your daughter’s injuries weren’t more serious. I don’t know the particulars about your specific instance, so I can’t comment on them. It’s certainly disappointing that the cyclist didn’t take their share of responsibility. I’m not sure saying the cyclist “was to blame” is wholly accurate – again, not knowing the particulars, but most multi-use path collisions are shared fault, with both parties acting unsafely and/or unpredictably. Have you tried contacting the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition? The WPC is involved in pedestrian safety and pedestrian rights, and if you have specific concerns, they will be responsive to them. wpcwalks.org is their website.
My cousin was killed by a drunk driver, but I’m not sure it’s relevant to this story, not that I don’t feel badly for your daughter. I’m also not sure what you mean by “full” speed – MUPs typically limit bike speed to 15 MPH, though rarely post it. Personally, I see (daily) pedestrians acting as carelessly as this cyclist was made out to be by ‘stopping in the middle of a lane where cars are know to drive at 50 MPH’, but yeah, if a cyclist hits a pedestrian the public perception leans to it being the cyclist’s fault.
If it was a stalled car in the lane, lights off, and it was hit with enough impact to kill an occupant, the police would document the incident with enough evidence to be accountable to insurance companies. If the evidence showed they were driving too fast (i.e. long skid marks or deep damage) the driver would be cited. The citation would open the door to successful subrogation by the victim’s insurance company, and likely to a successful civil suit by the victim’s family. The incident might make the news, but there would not be a police spokesperson saying “Yeah, I drive on that road and I could see how you might hit a car stopped in the middle of the lane with its lights off.”
Further, the logic that “of course the driver didn’t see the car because it didn’t belong in the lane without moving” might be perceived as irrational.
So, to be legal while riding on the road, I need a light or reflector visible from 600 feet.
If I expect to have the police/prosecutor enforce the law in the event that I do get hit (assuming I’m not a fault), I need to be lit up like a car.
Something is really wrong with this picture, and either the ORS needs to raise the bar bicycle illumination and/or law enforecement needs to see this as more than just an unavoidable accident if the bicyclist had illumination meeting the ORS requirements.
My condolensces to the victim in this case, as well as to the driver that killed him. I can only hope that this leads to more lights on bikes, all vehicles being more aware of the basic speed rule and their responsibility as road users, and some lives saved.
I can’t say anything civil so I guess I’ll take a couple (hours? days?) to calm down. It’s okay to kill someone if they just have a little red light – and by the way, I support bicycling!
Nothing civil is appropriate. Except civil court. BPD dropped the ball, and no amount of rain can cover for this, yet they still plan to have a summer pic-nick in August.
I’m assuming there were witnesses? I might have missed it but how do we know where the collission occured?
I’m still baffled by the idea that the cyclist was just stopped in the middle of the traffic lane. Did the officer say there were other witnesses to corroborate this?
Esther…check out maus’s other story, where you’ll find a link for the PD Media Release. It says there were other witnesses.
bike buffers… I want to stay away from 2ton death machines, that can’t see… such a sad story… how
many must die.. 21st century?
I’ve got a lot of questions about the statements that came from more than one witness. How many people are on record as a witness? What was their distance and velicity (speed & direction) from the point of impact at the time of impact?
There are horrible weather conditions noted in the police report. Given those, how can so many people testify under oath that they saw the bike in the car lane?
If they could say under oath the bike was not moving and in the car lane, then the visibility must have been pretty darn good. In that case, the driver should be cited.
The cops are biased in this press release, and there are major questions about the witness bias here.
Please help keep this in the press until the questions are answered.
“…(police refer to the “curb lane” as the standard vehicle lane — not a right turn lane — closest to the curb). …” maus/bikeportland
The curb lane is not necessarily next to the curb? Now seriously: How many members of the general public, or even the media…are familiar with that PD wonky distinction between a right main travel lane/standard vehicle lane located next to a bike lane…and a standard vehicle lane located directly next to the curb? I think very few do.
So the first thing Detective Sergeant Jim Shumway might have done before sending out the Media Release, is re-read it, and ask himself if what he’s writing will be able to be accurately understood by those who will be reading it, and in some cases, writing news stories based on the information therein.
In this collision exists a situation where, because of the content of DS Shumway’s Media Release seeking to describe basic details about it, many people were inadvertently led to believe the collision occurred in front of the Audi Dealership to the west of Tuallaway Ave, in the lane closest to the curb.
Now, through Maus’s interview with DS Shumway, the story is that the collision actually occurred in the right main travel lane (what the dept apparently refers to as the ‘curb lane’) of TV Hwy.
This changes the circumstances entirely. Now, instead of having stopped in the lane closest to the side of the road, out of the main flow of traffic, it would appear that the cyclist may indeed have been stopped right in the middle of the road where traffic thickest and fastest.
I’m encouraged that DS Shumway consented to an interview with bikeportland’s Jonathan Maus for the purpose of clarifying certain aspects of this collision and the business of writing police media releases. In future though, I hope that DS Shumway could take greater care to make sure what he writes is something that people not with the department are able to understand over several readings.
Thanks, Jonathon. And thanks to Sgt. Shumway and the other first responders, cops and medics, who do a tough job under adverse conditions to the best of their professional ability for a society fraught with contradictions and conflicts ranging from road users to designers to traffic policy enforcement to the court system to legislators. I would personally like to see more responsibility assigned to motor vehicle operators for safer operation of their vehicles under all circumstances.
(BTW, speaking of confusion, there is more than one “Alan” posting here. I’m the one who was posting in the other thread about the road stripes.)
I was under the impression that solid state lights are better for judging distance than blinking ones, which is one of the reasons blinking lights are illegal in many European countries.
There are also some studies which appear to indicate that strobing taillights cause a hypnotic effect that encourages drivers to steer towards them. This is in part why Randoneering events prohibit the use of strobing lights.
This seems to be devolving in to another car vs. bicycle discussion. I wish everyone could “walk a mile in the other’s moccasins” as it were.
There are very significant issues relating to being a car driver that isn’t necessarily intuitive to the bicyclists. Primarily, the driver has generally poor visibility and poor sense of sound than the bicyclist and has a poorer appreciation of the speed in which they travel.
On the other hand, the bicyclist generally can see and hear better, but is a far more vulnerable on the road and must exert far more physical energy in starting and starting the bike.
The Beaverton PD seems to quickly rationalize the driver’s behavior because he himself is a driver, but has no comprehension what it is like to be a bicyclist.
For me, every time I step into a car, it’s a bit of a revelation in that I can better appreciate how the “other half lives.” I wish all drivers and bicyclists could spend more time experiences the world outside of their respective mode of transport.
I’m not trying to absolve anyone in this, but there always seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of both sides in the car/bike debate.
You make a good point about more fully appreciating others’ perspectives, but I’m not sure how the driver’s difficulty comprehending his speed is relevant here. Or why I as a cyclist should take note of this. This seems like something for those who design cars to take account of, Undo some of those wonderful creature comforts that have isolated car drivers so incredibly from their surroundings. Put those spikes into the steering wheels rather than airbags. I don’t think the outcome in this case would have been the same if the Prius had been so equipped.
I agree with you that cars and our infrastructure in general has done a poor job in protecting and accounting for other road users outside of the automobile.
On the other hand, I don’t think I as a bicyclist fully appreciated how important it is to have bright clothing, lights and reflectors until I was an automobile driver trying to discern bicyclists in the pouring rain. I am not at all implying that the bicyclist in this instance didn’t take these precautions (I don’t know) but I am making a general point here.
One other point worth making: The bicyclist appears to be legally in the right, but dead. Whereas the automobile driver is legally in the wrong, but unhurt and apparently will avoid any sort of prosecution. There is a fundamental asymmetry with regards to how bicycles and automobiles interact and what the penalties are when one of them makes a mistake. There needs to be far stiffer penalties for automobile drivers, period. This is especially true with regards to conflicts between cars and bicycles/pedestrians. There needs to be more symmetry of consequences between active transport and cars if we want to make our roads safer and increase ridership.
That’s a valid point, but most cyclists also drive, even if only on occasion. Far fewer regular drivers also cycle in that same environment. I think you argument holds much more weight (pun not intended) when discussing large/commercial trucks, since very few cyclists have operated any vehicle over 10,000 pounds.
The basic points identified upthread are valid, though, and not car-specific: If a vehicle operator can’t see a solid object in their path, even if that object is unlit and dark-colored, then they’re driving too fast for conditions – period. Either they need to wait until it’s raining less, or they need new wipers, or brighter headlights (or CLEAN their headlights), or drive slower. We have a society where we do not take that restriction (or responsibility) seriously, and these are the results. It could be a truck and a car, a car and a bike, or a bike and a pedestrian – doesn’t matter, the basic speed law applies to all modes, and our collective failure to obey it boils down to convenience – we want to get from point A to point B as fast as possible, and we don’t want to be the slightest bit inconvenienced doing so.
“I could totally see how you’d miss a small red light.”
why are the police speculating when they could easily test a similar light? a test might have shown that the light was visible but not noticed due to the drivers cognitive bias.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
i think its time to legally require brighter tail lights. annoyingly bright 1 watt led tail lights (that put a pb superflash to shame) are now available for $26.
Except that just leads to more “the light wasn’t bright enough, so it’s his fault” rulings in court.
Thanks, Jonathan, for following up with the police. I find his statements to be quite disappointing overall, however. The gist of his argument seems to me to be–even if he doesn’t quite say so outright–that this road is built for cars and those in cars traveling at the speeds we know they do (50mph was mentioned–is this the limit? how fast was the driver of the Prius driving? I’m sure his car has a black box that will reveal when he braked, how fast he was driving, etc.) can’t be held responsible for watching out for or taking account of the possibility of a cyclist. To me the fact that the cyclist was stopped is irrelevant. Under the circumstances if I had been the cyclist I know I would not have been traveling at a high rate of speed, and the car driver clearly was. So to make so much of the fact that the cyclist wasn’t moving (again do we have any corroboration of this by anyone not in the car?) seems an effort to place blame or add another layer of blame to the cyclist rather than a statement of fact or relevant to the situation. Poorly lit, stopped where he shouldn’t have been, and by implication, riding at a time and place where it was generally considered unwise to do so.
WHO GETS TO DECIDE ALL OF THESE THINGS? MAKE THESE JUDGMENTS?
We have so far to go. This incident (I’m not sure why the police officer felt it was necessary to emphasize that this wasn’t just an accident but an unfortunate one–are there fortunate ones?) reveals so much of what is wrong with official (police, driver, media) conceptions of what is right and proper on our public roads, whose opinions to validate, how much scrutiny to apply to the specifics of a situation, etc.
Keep up the good work, Jonathan!
“…To me the fact that the cyclist was stopped is irrelevant. …” 9watts
It shouldn’t be irrelevant to you. Are you familiar with the type of traffic that exists on this section of TV Highway? There’s a lot of it, and it tends to travel very intensely and fast, relative to the road’s location to town.
If Maus’s latest determination…with the help of DS Shumway is correct…of where the collision occurred is correct, the cyclist was stopped right out in the middle of one the main lanes of travel. On this road, this is an extremely dangerous thing to do.
Cyclists have tail lights…Bret Lewis was reported to have had one…but they don’t have brake lights. So to an approaching driver, a cyclist with a working tail light, stopped in the middle of a main travel lane could, on a dark, rainy night, perhaps easily be mistaken for a moving cyclist.
My point was that whether the cyclist is going 0mph or 4mph, the differential between the speeds of the cyclist and the driver (35mph? 50mph?) is going to be about the same. I don’t see that under the circumstances the evasive maneuver of the driver will have been so much more successful if the cyclist had been going 4mph instead of 0mph. I understand that it is possible that in hindsight this is exactly the difference that would have saved Bret’s life, but the larger point is the gross differential in speeds and the quick fixation on his being stopped as opposed to traveling much much slower than Mr. Nguyen.
9watts, I hear what you’re saying, but bear in mind that the traffic this road carries is large volume and very intense. It’s not a road upon which to be avoidably stopped or traveling abnormally slow.
I expect you just grabbed the 4mph figure out of the air as an example (and traffic sometimes does travel at that speed and slower when it gets backed up…but not on the night of this collision, if I understand the reports correctly.) which is o.k., but I would say that a vehicle in a main travel lane of this road should be traveling at no less than 15mph in the absence of other immediate traffic such a vehicle to a slower speed.
wsbob – 4mph is the speed I could imagine I as a cyclist might be traveling at under the prevailing conditions. I thought I said that.
“If I got a flat tire or my pants got caught in the chain, I would immediately move to the side of the road.”
How do we know Bret Lewis had time to do this? Why does James Shumway get to decide how long it is reasonable for anyone to be stopped? What if Shumway’s wife’s car stalled at an intersection on TV Highway at night in the wind and rain? What if Bret Lewis wore glasses and couldn’t see because the driver who’d just passed him too close splashed him with muck from a puddle created by folks driving that stretch of road in cars with studded tires, causing him to veer into the travel lane and be forced to stop to wipe off his glasses?
It must be nice to pass judgment on traffic minorities, not to mention dead members of traffic minorities.
“wsbob – 4mph is the speed I could imagine I as a cyclist might be traveling at under the prevailing conditions. I thought I said that.” 9watts
9watts…It’s no big deal, but re-read your comment. I don’t think you did say that.
Regarding your next comment, questioning how long the cyclist was stopped on the road, go to maus’s other story and click on the link for the police Media Release. It mentions that witnesses saw the cyclist stopped on the road, but no actual duration of time over which the cyclist was stopped there seems to yet have been reported; So how long was he observed having stopped there? 5 seconds? 15 seconds? 30 seconds? A minute?
So the woman who wears long johns and a trench coat won’t be found guilty of inviting assault walking down the street at night alone?
Pragmatic yes. But what solace does this offer to Reese Wilson, mowed down in broad daylight on Multnomah Blvd recently by the driver fussing with her dog in the backseat? I don’t think she will be convicted of all-but-killing the man ‘intentionally.’
The reflectors and lights are a very good idea, but the conclusion about culpability don’t work for me.
Interesting point. The fact that bicycles are not required to implement brake lights seems counter-productive to cyclists’ safety. For that matter a true licensing system could include a cycle inspection to ensure required lighting components are in place and up to the minimum standards (which should be raised). Of those here who are justifiably upset over an outcome such as this one, very few seem to want to shoulder such costs and responsibilities that might make a significant impact to the overall level of safety enjoyed by cyclists.
Jonathan, you specifically try to read the driver’s mind concerning his intentions (“Mr. Nguyen didn’t intend to kill anyone Saturday night”), and to expound at length on his “legal and moral responsibilities”, but you seem uninterested in trying to do the same with the *bicyclist’s* mind. Why?
And, why did you immediately assume the Beaverton Police Bureau was committing fraud by “going out of its way to absolve the motor vehicle operator of any wrongdoing”? I’d be more convinced that you were actually interested in fairness and compassion if you practiced it when reporting on someone’s death.
Do we know how the circumstances of this particular fatal accident might have been handled in states or countries with different laws? How about those places where it is the driver’s legal responsibility to take precautions to avoid collisions with non-motorized participants in traffic?
Shumway’s glib and sweeping dismissal of the possibility that the driver could be held responsible here really irks me.
Steetsblog had a piece about that subject just last Friday. The circumstances are a bit different but it makes clear the different social views of road between USA and Netherlands.
BTW, I notice that both Jonathon in the above article as well as some commenters are still referring to a “turn lane” next to the curb. There are no signs, stripes or other road markings indicating that it is a turn lane until 2/3 block west of the collision site. The distinction may be moot in this case but as there’s plenty of criticism of BPD’s words, it’s best to use them accurately ourselves. That part of the road is (poorly) marked as a shoulder.
Imagine this. Instead of Bret being stopped in the lane, let’s pretend for a minute that it was a downed tree branch (which has no reflectors or lights). Now let’s imagine that it was Ngueyn that died after losing control after colliding with the tree branch. I would put money down that the quote that Sgt. Shumway would say in an interview would be along lines of, “people need to slow down when visibility is impaired.”
Yes, I’m assuming a lot, but he’s just so flipping cavalier about Ngueyn failing to adhere to a basic speed principle.
I’m in agreement here. The fact that it doesn’t seem to enter the Sgt’s mind that slowing down is an options shocks me.
I forget: are the signs on the side of the road a speed MAXIMUM or MINIMUM?
I drove by this accident scene immediately following the tragedy. There were multiple witnesses stopped, as well as a Tri-Met bus (not sure of its role in everything). The follow ups note that there were numerous witnesses, and the the driver cooperated, so this seems to be validated. Police were investigating, and the evidence markings were set out within the right traffic lane (rather than the right turn lane).
As far as the weather, I can assure you that the wind did make the visibility that much worse, as it was blowing the rain into the windshield. Traffic was generally moving far below the stated speed limit on the highway prior to approaching the accident site due to the weather (although that in no way means the driver was also operating at a proper speed). It was about as poor as visibility can be; we were commenting during the drive how dangerous it was. In those weather conditions it would have been difficult to see a small bike tail light at even 20 mph if the bicycle was stopped.
This is truly a tragedy, but I do not think that assigning blame is in any way productive here. I am not a biker, yet I highly value sharing the road and take every precaution possible to ensure their safety (and I am disgusted when others do not). However, I can confidently say that given the conditions I experienced, it would be unreasonable to expect any driver to notice a small light on a stopped bicycle.
There are some many other cases where drivers are truly to blame – lets save our finger pointing for those instances. In this case, I think a more productive activity would be to evaluate ways to prevent another tragedy. As a responsible motorist, I came to this forum looking for ways I could be safer in this very same situation. I’d like to think that the only positive outcome here is to spread the word to other motorists in hopes that we can prevent a recurrence.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.
I don’t agree. If the road conditions are that bad, you pull off the road and wait until the rain eases up. We as a society refuse to do that because it’s inconvenient. This collision didn’t have to happen. Not to put it all on the driver – do we know which way the bike was facing when it was stopped? The tail light might not even have been visible to the driver. It’s obvious that the cyclist bears some measure of responsibility in regards to the causes of the crash. As in most collisions, any one factor being changed could have prevented it. But it’s been stated many times, and not just by me – If this were a boulder, or a tree branch, or a downed power pole, and the Prius hit that instead, whose fault would that be? The power pole, for being there? The weather? The power company? Certainly they are contributing factors, but the real fault lies with the vehicle operator, whether he drives a Prius, a Harley, a 17-ton Tri-Met bus or a bicycle. Operating a 2,000 lb vehicle should be a sobering responsibility. 5 pounds of pressure on a gas pedal can kill a human being with even a moment’s inattention, just as 5 pounds of pressure on a trigger can fire a gun. We need to stop viewing the unintentional weapons so less seriously than the intentional ones. They both kill.
Matt, I can agree with your conclusion, but I have to add that the same goes for a cyclist. If the visibility is so bad that cars can not be operated safely at 20 mph then it is a very bad decision to be on a bicycle (or on foot) in the roadway.
If we honestly expect motorists to park their cars because of low visibility then we also need to admit that a cyclists should also wait for the visibility to improve.
In fact, this might be a case were the only realistic safe option for a cyclist is to proceed cautiously on the sidewalk and stop at every cross street.
I think we often lose sight of the vast differences between bicycles and motor vehicles. If I am driving blind in a 2500-lb. vehicle, I can seriously injure or kill other people on the road, or in the vicinity of the road. If I am on a bike, weighing 200-250 lbs.–1/10 of the weight of a car–traveling at 15mph–1/2 to 1/3 the speed of a typical car–I 1. Probably have better visibility than any driver, due to the lack of a sparkly, glare-marred, distorted view through a rain-covered windshield, and 2. Definitely have next to zero destructive capacity when compared to any driver of a car.
Your statement kind of makes no sense, because if we expect motorists to refrain from driving under dangerous conditions–and they do so–then the real danger is removed from the road and there is no reason for anyone else to avoid the street. Rain and wind aren’t dangerous; driving under conditions where one can’t see is. To say, “well, if I’m not allowed to drive, then you’re not allowed to ride your bike, either!” is just immature. It implies that riding a bike creates the same amount of danger for everyone else as driving a car while blind, which is not true. If you put me on a bike on TV Hwy at night, removed all the cars, and continually dumped buckets of water over my head while bumping my shoulder intermittently, I gar-ron-tee you I would not kill anyone, even if the street were crowded with other non-car-users. In reality, removing either mode from the street makes conditions “safer” for the remaining road users. I would argue that removing cars would make things orders of magnitude safer all around than removing bikes, but that isn’t convenient for the majority. Most people would argue for their “right” to a clear path so they can drive blindly and too fast for conditions.
I find too many arguments against cycling rely on grade-school notions of “fairness” rather than on rational evaluation of the gravity and cost of being privileged to operate a large piece of complicated, dangerous machinery in the presence of other people.
Paul – if the weather is that bad, I agree completely. Take a look at my other comments in this and other threads (look for the pirate hat!) and you’ll see my arguments are for all modes, not just cars. The reason why I put an emphasis on motor vehicles at times is because a 2,500lb car (including occupants) is far more damaging than a 250lb bike (including rider) – they cause 10x the impact damage.
If it’s raining THAT hard, everyone should be off the road until it stops. Good luck getting people to actually do it, though.
Actually your ratio is way off because of the speed differential. The destructive power of a vehicle varies linearly by weight, but by the SQUARE of the difference in speed. IOW the bike +rider weighs in @250# and is traveling @15MPH, the SOV motor vehicle weighs 2500# and is traveling 50MPH. The motor vehicle does not 10X, but 10X for weight and 11.111111111X for speed for a total of 111 times more damage. Which when you come down to it is an even greater argument for banning motor vehicle travel in bad weather but not HP travel.
So why didn’t the bicyclist pull off the road and wait until the rain eased up?
(My point is that jabs can be thrown either direction, and are usually counter-productive)
maybe he was trying to do exactly that when he was killed
I don’t know – it’s a pity we can’t ask the cyclist. I will say, that without the view restrictions and the windshield, cyclists can typically see and perceive their environment much better than motorists. Also, on TV highway, 12 mph could be a perfectly safe speed when 40 mph would not. There are a lot of factors that could make it safe for a bike and not for a car – and if this were a bike striking and injuring/killing a pedestrian, I’d make the same argument, that the cyclist should have slowed down, and if they couldn’t see they should have gotten off the road.
The basic speed law applies to everyone.
I want to thank Sgt. James for giving the bike community the respect of talking with Jonathan. Cops have extremely difficult jobs.
I was thinking of calling, but I don’t want to add any more work for the police. I do feel that the press release by Sgt. James was written in haste, and without intention, blames the cyclist and exonerates the driver. I still feel something needs to be done. The press release could have been done better, so I plan to write Sgt. James a letter to show that changing a few words could remove his accidental bias.
These are disturbing comments. Do none of you drive a motor vehicle at night? Have none of you ever seen the cyclist dressed in black with a little red light (which you don’t see until it’s WAY too late) riding in the worst weather ever, showing you her/his middle finger because you honked to let him/her know that s/he was in danger of interfacing with the body of your motor vehicle due to his/her negligence???
What I really read here is that “Someone has died and someone has to pay, and it can’t be the cyclist because they’re smaller. Therefore they can’t be at fault.” Somehow the phrase, “Get a rope!” jumps out at me repeatedly.
“What if a pedestrian had been crossing here? It’s a crosswalk (unmarked) because it is an intersection and so a pedestrian would have been perfectly legal to cross the road…” Uh, REALLY??? This is unworthy of printing, let alone response.
“the police statement about the crash seemed (to me at least) to go out of its way to absolve the motor vehicle operator”—perhaps many of us see the exact opposite–cycle Nazis going out of their way to blame a motorist. It must be time for a mass ride to insult motorists, run into a few pedestrians, and ding up a few Beemers. Then you can perhaps develop your own personal ‘cyclist law’ and start whining until you can impose it on all of the motorists. Maybe we could just abolish all traffic laws for anyone on less than four wheels.
I used to be so proud of Portland and it’s progressive attitudes, but it seems that cycling and its attendant issues have been co-opted by a few fascists. Do you really think motorists are out there waiting for a chance to hit a cyclist??? Obviously not (I hope). So what gives you the right to endanger the sanity and peace of mind of a motorist just because you demand the right to act stupidly? Perhaps motorists should sue the families of victims.
Have you ever considered that it’s just not safe to ride a bicycle under certain circumstances…and that insisting that it IS safe and blaming others for the results is childish at best and criminally negligent at worst?????
Ugh. I don’t even know where to start with your comments. Let me just start with this:
Have you ever considered that it’s just not safe to <i<drive a car under certain circumstances…and that insisting that it IS safe and blaming others for the results is childish at best and criminally negligent at worst?????
The peace of mind of a motorist should always be on edge – they are driving a machine capable of causing significant property damage or great injury or death if it isn’t operated properly. Excusing people with bad driving habits is not acceptable. This means understanding there are conditions in which it may be unsafe to drive as well – at least for people other than the driver. Calling other people Nazis and fascists is certainly not going to produce constructive dialogue, and it makes your whole argument very, very weak.
“The peace of mind of a motorist should always be on the edge…”
Consindering how the modern automobile is designed to insulate the driver from all outside noise, climate and other distractions, I’m not sure how the motorist’s mind can be on edge at all. Half the problem is that the modern automobile wraps the operator in a cocoon so that they become more relaxed, not less. It’s a polar opposite from the experience of being fully exposed while riding a bicycle. What an irony, especially when so much of modern bicycle marketing is about how fun and relaxing it is to ride a bicycle…
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Wow. So, if someone hits you while you’re walking your baby across the street in a stroller, and then says “I couldn’t see the stroller” then they’re automatically absolved of wrongdoing? What if it’s raining, should you spend the night on the side of the road waiting for the weather to clear up?
I’ve driven at night, in the rain etc. You are right. Visibility is extremely impaired. A reasonable person might come to the conclusion that continuing to drive in those conditions, even at 30 mph, will eventually end badly.
“A small light on the back of a bike isn’t like what you’d see on a vehicle…” … If all you’re concerned about while driving is not running into other CARS.
Mr. Lewis was operating a legal vehicle. Not a car, but another legal vehicle. As an auto driver, you are obligated to watch out for more than just the things that can do YOU harm. In fact, you are more obligated to be on the lookout for the other road users that you are most likely to endanger.
Looks like Officer Shumway is resigned to that not happening.
I, for one, am not.
Perhaps bicycles should be required to carry lighting that is on par with what motorcycles are equipped with. A bicycle, being even hard to see would seem to create a need for perhaps even greater lighting. The problem here might very well be what qualifies as a “legal vehicle”.
Except that rocks, downed power poles, etc don’t have any lighting – and motorists still have a responsibility to avoid them. Pedestrians aren’t required to have lights – neither are wheelchairs. If you can’t see the cyclist, then you probably can’t see the guard rail on the turn ahead either, or the washout in the road.(flash flooding is common in this type of weather)
When you decide to operate a vehicle which is stronger than 100 humans, and can overcome them with a few pounds of pressure on a foot pedal – you take on a greater responsibility of care. Stop treating it like a toy, or GET OFF THE ROAD.
But rocks, downed power poles, etc. don’t have any brains and are incapable of applying logic. So many cyclists want their bikes to be considered as serious transportation and point out rules governing others using the roads. But when it comes to potential rules governing cyclists, even when it would potentially benefit them from a safety standpoint, it seems to be a non-discussion. You can’t have it both ways.
And why is it so unsafe (I think we agree on this)? Does it have anything to do with cars? The speeds at which they feel entitled to travel? The exculpation they can count on from the policy if something goes badly awry?
This video on the AROW website shows how differently people in other countries treat bicycle safety and collisions:
Thanks for sharing that video… but it’s not similar to this case at all.
Hmm, I’m not sure it is that much different. Perhaps the news media was more sympathetic. However, given the level of recklessness reported by witnesses, it seems the driver pretty much got off without much of a penalty. I think that he would have received a reckless or careless driving citation in Oregon, so the difference on the legal side is not readily apparent.
I was mostly amazed at the public and press reaction.
the driver was required to spend 800 euros on a retraining course before his impounded vehicle was returned to him. the media and public opinion were all over him. frankly i find this quite relevant to the present discussion. incidentally, do we know nguyen’s driving history?
that’s the saddest thing I’ve heard from the police in a long time…
if there had been a Model A Ford stopped at that intersection with their tiny hard to see tail lights, and a pedestrian was walking across, and somebody plowed into that car with weak taillights and pushed it into the pedestrian, then we would be seeing a completely different response from the police… I don’t see how this is different…
nice analogy. This group of folks responding here includes some really smart and insightful people.
“…if there had been a Model A Ford stopped at that intersection with their tiny hard to see tail lights, …” Spiffy
Also agree that this isn’t a bad analogy. How many people today are even familiar with how bright and visible a Model A tail light is? Actually, my recollection on this isn’t exactly clear.
Definitely not as bright, or as large as tail lights on most modern motor vehicles. Brighter and bigger than probably the majority of tail lights cyclists use to light their bikes. Another important detail I can’t remember for sure: Model A tail light’s may include a brighter brake light filament, which bike lights don’t have.
The most important thing about Spiff’s analogy though, is that a Model A is a motor vehicle…a car. On that stormy night, if the driver had plowed into the back of a Model A with it’s wimpy rear lighting, stopped in the middle of a main travel lane, instead of a bike with tail light, would the police and public’s response to the collision have been different than it was to the cyclist being hit there? Would the police have cited the driver for rear ending a motor vehicle?
Not that it really matters, but we don’t sell any 2,000 lb cars in this country anymore (not sure about the SMART). A Prius weighs very close to 4,000 lbs, FWIW.
My 2006 Smart Car tips the scale at just under 2,000lbs.
It’s not that we don’t sell them, it’s that people aren’t buying them en-masse (although Portland is better than many places in the USA)
(not that it matters too much – 2000lbs can be quite deadly as well)
Approximate 2010 curb weights:
Smart Fortwo: 1850lbs
Lotus Elise: 1980lbs
Lotus Exige: 2070lbs
Mazda 2: 2300lbs
Toyota Yaris: 2310lbs
Hyundai Accent: 2360lbs
Mazda MX5: 2460lbs
Honda Fit: 2470lbs
Hyundai Accent Hatch: 2470lbs
Nissan Versa: 2540lbs
Chevy Aveo / Suzuki Swift: 2550lbs
Kia Rio: 2570lbs
Mini Cooper: 2570lbs
Honda Civic: 2600lbs
Although I bet most cars are in the 4000 to 5000 pound range.
My Impreza weighs in at 2300 lbs, but does not have anti-lock breaks, electronic stability control or hid lights.
Which is safer for a vulnerabler road users a newer 4000lb car with tons of safety features or an older, lighter car that does not have those features?
If you can make anti-lock and stability control systems weigh nothing, then you could be rich.
The citation of “Too Fast for Conditions” would apply here.
Reckless or careless driving almost certainly takes in to account the state of mind of the driver.
“Too Fast for Conditions” does not. The posted speed for here (http://goo.gl/XdcZs) is 45MPH as determined by ODOT based on open road standards. Estimated speed of impact would show evidence that would support the ticket.
The factors that lower the safety of the posted speed limit are as follows:
> Rain – heavy enough to, in combination with dozens of on coming headlights, obscure all road markings while making all of the road surface slick due to hydroplaning, not just low areas.
> Development – by many current design standards 45MPH is too high for an area with the side pullouts and known pedestrian crossings. ODOT also striped in a bike lane here: where are the drivers supposed to slow down? Drivers leave the travel lane and enter the bike lane at full speed and then begin slowing while in the bike lane of after.
So what I’m saying is the road is too fast for itself
It seems as if the conclusion to be reached from the officer in regards to cycling is that we need bigger and brighter lights for night time conditions. The kind of lights that may interfere with others’ ability to see but at the same time make not-seeing-us impossible are what is needed. This seems in contradiction to other users’ concerns with bike lights becoming “too bright” or “distracting” but consistent with the officer’s comments.
The rider was in the traffic lane at night, maybe stopped in the lane. I’m sorry but I’m not seeing that much quilt to throw at the driver of the car. If the police at the scene didn’t find him at fault, I think they made a good call. I surely can not defend a bike rider who puts himself in that position. There may be better ways to commit suicide.
This is a terrible tragedy. Although insufficient lighting is very chronic in inner SE Portland (where I live at the corner of two busy bike blvds), so I imagine poor lighting is equally terrible elsewhere.
Its risks and situations like this that are exactly why I own and use a DiNotte tail-light, with nothing less than a properly positioned Planet SuperFlash as a backup. For as long as visibility is good enough to see regular vehicle lights ahead, there’s absolutely zero chance that anyone will ever be able to deny seeing me…even at noon on a blistering hot clear summer day.
DiNotte’s $200 tail-light is a heck of a lot cheaper than an ambulance ride, a neurologist vist, or yes…even a casket.
“DiNotte’s $200 tail-light is a heck of a lot cheaper than an ambulance ride, a neurologist vist, or yes…even a casket.”
Well, sure — if you make enough money to buy one. There are folks out on my regular route home riding $50 Magnas without any lights at all. For them — and for a lot of other riders –$200 is pretty darned steep for ANY bicycle accessory.
If bicycles came fully equipped with lights and fenders, the way some do in Europe, perhaps more people would begin to see them as vehicles instead of sporting equipment or toys. And perhaps — a loooong time from now, maybe — that change in perception would begin to make a difference in safe the roads are for cyclists.
A typical bike hardly costs $50/year…even the el-cheapo WalMart junk will need tubes, tires, a pump, often a different seat, a bag or pannier & its associated rack, rain proofish clothing, a helmet, etc… I grew up dirt-poor, and even today am certainly not “rich” by any stretch of the imagination…if people like me can find the resources to use sufficient lighting, then what is the true underlying issue? Its priorities; what do you value, and how far are you going to diligently protect that?
If you’re going to ride at night, then sufficient nighttime lighting is critical, if you value your health, if you value your safety…and if your own life is important to you. In that scope, a $200 tail-light that ensures you’re well-seen during all weather conditions, is nothing more than basic due-diligence.
The people riding the 50 dollar magnas didn’t “grow up dirt poor”, they’re that way right now. Even though you are not rich, you certainly are no longer dirt poor, or you would not be using a $200 tail light.
If the consumer can’t afford a $200 bicycle, what makes you think they can afford a $200 accessory?
You should try working at a bike shop for a short period of time. Voluteer at the CCC, I guarantee it will be an eye opening experience.
Ok, so some folks are caught up on how a $200 light is worth more than taking responsibility for one’s own life…I guess it all depends on priorities, and how each person budgets for & works towards those priorities.
How about this: ensuring the one of the really bright and well made $20-$30 LED based lights (i.e. http://www.ridepdw.com) are not only mounted securely on the bike, but also ensuring that it has good batteries. Above-all, that the vehicle operators diligently and consistently ensure that their safety equipment is mounted/pointed in its most effective direction.
Based on my extensive area observation, a properly mounted $20-$30 light is still far too much to ask. At what point will the majority be willing to put forward the money, time, and effort, to start taking responsibility for their own safety?
Last night I took my evening bike ride on the exercise bike at the workout room at work – it was fairly safe – only a drunken psychopath could have driven thru the brick wall and hit me.
After that, I got in my gas guzzling Civic and drove home. By this time it was nearing 11pm. I saw a cyclist cross the street at an intersection about 100 yards in front of me and noticed that he wasn’t very visible. He turned and continued on the sidewalk in the same direction I was going. He had dark clothing, a dark helmet, no rear light. I knew that he was there and was looking for him just to see how visible he was since I had read about the fatality on this website. I was looking for him, knew he was there, but HE WAS ALMOST INVISIBLE!!!!! It is easy to understand how an automobile driver could have hit THAT person – at least he was smart enough to stay on the sidewalk. He did have a front light but it wasn’t very bright.
We will never know what really happened in the fatal accident, unless the driver told the truth. He could have distracted by 1000 different things, but of course he might not admit it – would you? If the cyclists rear light had decent batteries, was on, was pointed correctly and wasn’t blocked by panniers, clothing etc then the driver should have seen it. BUT all of those things have to be correct or the light will be of little use. Above 40 mph with wet pavement you are overdriving your headlights – but the law REQUIRES that you drive up to 65 mph (on freeways) with low beams if there is oncoming traffic. Are we really concerned about safety? Not that much.
There is no law, anywhere, that requires you to drive at minimum 65 MPH. Anywhere. Show me otherwise.
The only minimum speeds I could find that are actually defined are 40 and 45mph in some states and some circumstances.
However California law specifies that it is against the law to drive in such a way that impedes or restricts the reasonable flow of traffic.
So I imagine that if the speed limit were 75mph and traffic was moving at 80mph you could theoretically get a ticket for driving as fast as “only” 65.
It probably wouldn’t happen though, and probably wouldn’t stand up in court, and is completely irrelevant for this tragedy.
Valkraider, correct on all counts. Also to note in California, the basic speed law overrules the minimum or impeding traffic laws when there is a conflict because of conditions.
I’d like to point out that, as invisible as that guy was, you didn’t run into him. You were aware of your surroundings and avoided a crash. Mr Nguyen can’t say that.
The discussion of more powerful taillights is great, but it is not clear to me that under the circumstances it would have made a whit of difference. Bret Lewis had a working taillight, which I think Mr. Nguyen admits to seeing. So I think his rate of speed is more of an issue here than the presence of a more powerful light. I can just see the police report of a future accident like this where the driver says the cyclist’s taillight was so bright he assumed it was a motorcycle and that it was traveling at a much higher rate of speed than turned out to be the case.
Another cyclist dead; driver not at fault.
Why don’t we speculate what would have happened if Mr. Nguyen had come upon a stationary taillight that turned out to be an accident–one involving another car. How–or would–the police absolve him of all responsibility? Would others (including folks here) be equally quick to suggest it was the driver of the stopped car’s responsibility to pick up and move his car out of the travel lane, and quickly please or else you’ve got it coming? This is all so ridiculous. I think Mr. Shumway should spend more time commuting on a bike and see how glib the reports he might write would be then.
Your point is excellent, and very valid; we do not know how his lighting was setup.
Without knowing, I have to fall back on the bulk of my own experience. From not only as a motorist, but also as a bike commuter that has found myself on Portland roads during all seasons, and under all typical area weather. I also fall back upon my experience as a randonneur that has survived pouring rainstorms, not only within city limits, but also on narrow twisting back-country roads, in the middle of nowhere, at 3am.
As a motorist, a cyclist, and a pedestrian, it is far too often a common experience to be startled by an invisible cyclist while crossing over Portland’s local bike blvds. The causes are consistently due to a combination of dark clothing, and the cyclist’s failure of due-diligence towards sufficient lighting.
Being rear-ended is always a concern, although I doubt there’s a judge out there whom would agree that a couple of properly-aligned bright red blinking lights could be anything other than either a construction sign, emergency or tow vehicle, or a vulnerable road user. In all of those cases, it seems reasonable for a driver be considered negligent in failing to slow and/or stop. It remains to be seen if this tragic accident could have been avoided through the effective use of sufficient lighting…for the sake of us all, I hope we eventually learn those details.
“Given the circumstances, it seems like issuing a citation would probably not stand up in court. Any person could go in and say, ‘It’s dark, rainy, there’s this little red light in the road’. I think any judge would toss that citation out’.”
So……. the the police, rather than the judiciary, make the final decision of of guilt or innocence, and choose not to ticket a motorist, who was in violation of one or more ORS , because they think the judge/jury would rule in favor of the driver? Therefore they also take away the surviving relatives opportunity to file suit in civil court? And we call this an “impartial justice system”?
This was my thought too. Police have no business bringing charges or not based on what they think a judge will decide. That isn’t their job.
How do they know the cyclist was stopped in the road and not just pedaling in the travel lane because of hazardous conditions in the bike lane?
According to the Beav PD Media Release, witnesses observed the cyclist stopped in the travel lane of the road.
The cops are on record, they say more than one person testified their vision allowed them to see a lot of detail. A) bike was not moving b) bike was a 3 feet away from the bike lane
It also seems that the bike was hit in the intersection where the bike lane stripes don’t exist.
None of this matches up. If the visibility was terrible, how can we have so many witnesses with so much detail.
I think the reason this works is (a) the cop affirmed the perspective of the driver that conditions and the cyclist’s location were to blame, or at least he the driver wasn’t, and
(b) speed differentials. (were the witnesses in cars? I’ve been assuming they were standing on the sidewalk or otherwise unencumbered by being inside a car) If this is so, the witnesses would, like the cyclist, not have been moving (fast) and so could have perceived him better than someone speeding down a highway under poor visibility conditions.
If the police report was available to be read by the public, it may offer some perspective on the situation.
I can’t remember without going over to the location to check, but there may be a bus stop near the intersection of Tuallaway Ave and TV Highway (I believe there’s a motel/restaurant in the block east of Tuallaway); some of the witnesses may have been standing there.
This collision got a lot tougher to understand, once clarification from maus’s interview with DS Shumway revealed the cyclist was said to be stopped in a main travel lane rather than at the side of the road. People are right that vehicle road users are responsible for not rear ending someone in front of them.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that in this particular situation, the expectation of avoiding the type of vehicle hit…a bike, may be a bit different from that of hitting a motor vehicle, because a bikes lighting equipment isn’t required by law to meet the same standard as those for motor vehicles, maybe in no other way except that motor vehicles have to have a brake light, and bikes don’t have to have one.
The question of whether a motor vehicle operator is at fault when colliding with a cyclist who is stopped on the main lane of the road, but is legally equipped with a bike tail light…does seem like a very good question to get a professional answer to.
It’s the written law that’s saying bikes are granted full access, rights and responsibilities to almost all public roads without a brake light. So does the written law extend to bikes not required to have brake lights, the same protection from other road users that motor vehicles are granted, in the event they’re struck from behind by a motor vehicle operator claiming they could not see the bike?
Amazing. People seem to accept witness viewpoints when it supports a bias, and discount them when it is contrary to something they want to believe.
Bottom line for cyclists: If you do not want this to happen to you, then put A LOT of reflective tape on your bike, and use at least 2 flashing lights on the rear making sure they are pointing correctly, have good batteries, and they are not blocked by panniers, clothing, etc. Use one of those reflective triangles that is attached to a belt – put it around your waist, on the outside of your clothing and let it hang on your butt. They are not expensive.
If you don’t want this to happen to other people you care about, then help them to do the same to their bicycle.
How many lights/reflectors do I want on my bike? Enough so that if I am hit, it is obvious that the driver did it intentionally.
Why don’t we let the investigation play out before coming to judgement? The published reports thus far are nowhere near conclusive enough to make one. A few questions that come to mind for me:
Witnesses – were they stationary or moving? Indoors or out? That makes a big difference in what sort of visbility they had.
Toxicology reports (if done) on both driver AND victim.
Weather – quoting the Basic Rule is all fine and dandy but real world weather conditions can change in a heartbeat. I agree that all drivers should be more cautious but, you can see 200 yards or more up the road one moment and then be virtually blinded in a squall the next. A moving cyclist can be easily pushed into traffic by a strong gust of wind. Who are you going to blame for that?
No one has explained why the victim was in the traffic lane and not the bike lane. On the bike? Off the bike? Lots of unanswered questions here.
Take a deep breath and wait for answers. I, like others that ride, am deeply concerned about the overall safety situation on our roads but tired of how the readers of BikePortland always seem to adopt a knee jerk “Car is 100% to blame!” mentality. I am especially troubled when such reaction is prompted by a dispassionate standard police press release and taken as “proof” of a grand conspiracy against bicycles and their riders.
Brad, I don’t think anyone here has said the car is 100% to blame yet. What most of us are taking issue with is that the officer is effectively saying the motorist has no blame when that clearly is not true at all.
“If there is no traffic citation for this driver that will hold up in court, our traffic code or its enforcement is fundamentally broken.”
There will likely be no citation. The law was written for motor vehicles, the roads were designed for them, and the system serves them. Dress up like a Christmass tree, use the brightest lights you can afford, and ride defensively, but as long as bicyclists and car drivers must share the same roads — instead of each getting its own separated travelways — then we will see more cyclist fatalities for which motorists will not be cited.
The present system is not “broken”, it’s just heavily skewed towards motor vehicles. In the face of so much pro-car bias in our society, I’m not sure what can be done to actually solve this problem effectively enough to actually reduce cyclist fatalities, and to hold car drivers responsible when a bike-car collision actually turns out to be the motorist’s fault.
“The present system is not “broken”, it’s just heavily skewed towards motor vehicles.”
Would the term “systemic bias” apply here?
No it would not. The system is bias towards cyclists actually.
Yes it would – the system is biased against anything with fewer than 4 wheels and anything non-motorized. The hierarchy appears to be: Cars, commercial trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, skateboarders. The gradiations are not equal – there’s a huge jump between motorcycle and bicycle, for example.
The laws we have for cyclist protection are weakened by addendums, un- or under-enforced, frequently unprosecuted, and when prosecuted, frequently thrown out, or have a reduced sentence applied. And in Oregon the maximum penalty is still pretty light.
Like the ability for Toyota to extinguish public concern regarding sticking gas pedals, by doing nothing more than using the car’s computer as a “black box”…a bike equipped with a few cameras, would probably enlighten more than a few lawmakers.
Hot Rod well put, I have been thinking about this alot lately.
One thing I want to know is this: Did the police take the car drivers phone/blackberry/ipod or whatever communication device was in his car, and review the “calls received”, “calls sent”, etc? My phone has the option to view that data – I assume all of them do. I’d suspect that you can find out when the last text message was sent. If the police did not do look at that data then I think they are not doing their jobs. Perhaps the information can be provided by the car drivers cell phone company.
As I drive to work in my car I am flabberghasted at the number of people staring at the texting device in their laps. It’s a huge percentage of drivers. Just one more reason to be lit like a neon sign if you are biking – sad, but true.
We should have a national law that allows a) the police to collect the devices of all occupants involved in an injury accident. b) the police to demand an activity report about calls and messages from the devices in the car(s) c) service providers to design a standard and easy to read report for law enforcement
The brother of my brother’s wife was just murdered in the Seattle area. They nailed the murderer of Seth thanks to cell phone records.
“How do they know the cyclist was stopped in the road and not just pedaling in the travel lane because of hazardous conditions in the bike lane?”
Or we have a similar situation to Barbur, where someone was crossing the street while walking their bicycle? That seems like a completely possible scenario, given what we’ve been told here.
Burr, I don’t think they can know, unless there were other witnesses.
Hot Rod is on target again.. nice posts, key points
I agree. I see at least 8 people who point out the conflicts in the “numerous witness accounts”. How many of these witnesses were in the car that ran the guy down?
It sure is easy to question people who were there when one was not.
I have just re-read the police report. Evening hours, bad weather, dark clothing, single rear bike light, stopped in a traffic lane, no helmet, car in his lane, tried to avoid him, driver was not drunk, and driver fully cooperated.
The interview above validates most, if not all, of this.
I hate to say it, but tragedies do happen. All we can do is look at the situation and learn from it. Is the blame on one person, or are there things both parties could have done better? Of course. So lets do that.
I have to disagree, JF. Bret is dead and his bike was equipped with a working taillight. I am not aware that he did anything illegal. We’ve already run through a whole bunch of possible extenuating circumstances that (a) might have caused him to be where he was, or (b) that suggest if instead of a bike something else was in his place the police report would have read very differently. Culpability does not appear to be as evenly distributed as you suggest.
9Watts, I am sorry, i did not mean my post to blame anyone specifically. It is a tradgedy and we need to learn by it. Are there things that we can learn by what infomration about the event has been presented to us? Yes. Both as a cyclist and a driver. That was my intention.