Remember the disappearing bike lane case? I’m happy to report that it reached a positive conclusion — at least in the civil case of Carmen Piekarski.
First, let’s go back to December 2009…
Piekarski was riding her bike eastbound on SE Hawthorne approaching SE 10th Ave. While in the intersection, the operator of a Toyota Prius, Ellen Metz, turned right and hit Piekarski. The right-hook collision resulted in several injuries for Piekarski and she spent months in physical therapy.
Metz admitted to the last-minute turn and the cops on the scene issued her a citation for violation of ORS 811.050.
Seems open and shut right?
Not to Multnomah Country Circuit Court Judge Pro Tem Michael Zusman. He ruled that because the bike lane wasn’t painted all the way through the intersection, it was technically not a bike lane — so he dismissed the citation.
Zusman’s decision was immediately called into question by Piekarski, legal experts and it even failed to pass muster with policies laid out in the Oregon Department of Transporation’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.
Hoping to find justice, Piekarski hired local lawyer Mark Ginsberg. Ginsberg told me today that Metz’s insurance company has settled the case. Ginsberg says, the insurance carrier, “Recognized they were civilly responsible” for the collision.
“The moral of the story is,” Ginsberg added, “maybe it [the judge’s ruling] was just a one-off event… When faced with the facts of the case, the insurance company did right thing and got resolution.”
While this conclusion worked out well for Piekarski, this is just one civil case.
Unfortunately, the precedent Judge Zusman set with his surprising decision still stands. While Judge Zusman’s decision doesn’t set a precedent, the law itself could use a bit of clarification so this doesn’t happen again.