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Driver in Interstate Avenue crash cited on two violations

Posted by on June 4th, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Curtis Crothers crash aftermath

The aftermath of last week’s crash on North Interstate
Avenue. Photo by Neighborhood Notes.

The driver of a pickup truck whose illegal right turn led to a bike/truck crash last Wednesday has been cited for two traffic violations typically associated with $695 in fines, Portland police said Tuesday.

The man whose bicycle hit the side of the truck, meanwhile, remains in the hospital but continues to recover from eight broken ribs, a punctured lung and other injuries.

Here’s what police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson wrote in an email, confirming the summary of the commuter on the bike, Curtis Crothers:

The vehicle was southbound on Interstate and made an illegal right turn onto Greeley Avenue. Sign posted “No Right Turn.” Bicycle rider was coming downhill on Interstate in the bike lane and was unable to stop in time and was hit by the car making the illegal right. Rider was injured but not traumatic injuries. Car driver was not impaired. Cited for Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device and Careless Driving.

Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device is a Class B traffic violation, which carries a “presumptive fine” of $260. Careless Driving, when it leads to a crash, is a Class A violation, which carries a presumptive fine of $435. If a judge finds that Careless Driving led to “serious physical injury,” he or she can also assign a driver to complete a traffic safety course or 100 to 200 hours of traffic-safety-related community service. The largest legally allowable penalty for the two violations would be $3,000. Participants in the crash may also be subject to civil liability.

Meanwhile, the crash has reactivated conversations in city government about improving the difficult intersection, which has been modified after other crashes on the same site, and lent urgency to efforts to improve and open the privately owned Cement Road to public traffic.

Swan Island TMA Director Sarah Angell said Tuesday that she’d met that day with the chief of staff to newly named Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and other city officials about transportation issues in the area.

A safe connection over the private road could theoretically connect North Tillamook Street directly to Swan Island, letting more riders bypass the troubled spot and extending the North Portland Greenway trail near the waterfront rather than sending it up the side of Greeley Avenue. The land is owned by Union Pacific Railroad, which operates trains alongside the pathway.

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  • dwainedibbly June 4, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I’m glad the victim is recovering and I’m sure his lawyer is glad to see that there are charges. It will make the civil suit much easier to win.

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    • Todd Hudson June 5, 2013 at 8:24 am

      Also, a civil suit will cost the negligent driver much more than $700. Having to fork out a large sum of cash will turn this person into one who no longer makes illegal right turns.

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  • DamonQuade June 4, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    How did the PPB determine that 8 broken ribs and a punctured lung do not constitute a traumatic injury? I wish the best for Mr. Cruthers.

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    • John Lascurettes June 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm

      By virtue of him being in the hospital (still) – it is a traumatic injury. How else can that be defined? I was confused by that too.

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      • wsbob June 4, 2013 at 7:40 pm

        Perhaps more important than police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson in his email having described the cyclists’ injuries as “not traumatic”, is “… If a judge finds that Careless Driving led to “serious physical injury,” …” maus/bikeportland …according to Oregon statutes. Broken ribs, especially 9 broken ribs, are nothing to laugh off. Same with a punctured lung. I’ll guess, doctors would consider both to be ‘serious’ physical injuries. Maybe not life threatening, but certainly serious.

        Will the judge be able to find that the driver was careless, leading to the cyclist’s injuries? In time, I suppose we’ll see.

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    • Adron Hall June 5, 2013 at 9:10 am

      It definitely seems traumatic. But then of course I had 4 broken ribs and didn’t even get a cast. Matter of fact didn’t go to the hospital until the next day when things “still hurt” and my side was black and blue. 🙁

      Hope the rider heals up good and solid.

      Glad to see a driver actually charged for this type of reckless endangerment finally. Hope he refrains from/has some remorse for his actions. I all to often fear the carelessness of those in cars, being they rarely seem to have a clue their wielding a tool directly responsible for more death in the United States than all the wars we’ve had since 1900!!


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      • longgone June 5, 2013 at 11:39 am

        Food for thought… Auto related deaths ARE declining a bit..
        Suicide for people over 50 however has exceeded those numbers for at least the past 3 years….

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  • TOM June 4, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    >> Crothers, who was riding southeast in Interstate Avenue’s downhill bike lane, collided with the side of the pickup as it turned.

    >> Bicycle rider was coming downhill on Interstate in the bike lane and was unable to stop in time and was hit by the car making the illegal right.

    >>The man whose bicycle hit the side of the truck

    I’m confused.

    was it a car ? a pickup ? who hit who ?

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
      Michael Andersen (News Editor) June 4, 2013 at 9:15 pm

      Sorry about the confusion, TOM. According to Crothers and apparently the photo above, it was a pickup truck. I checked with Sgt. Simpson on this and he doesn’t know either way, so until I hear otherwise, I’m chalking this up to imprecise communication within PPD.

      As for who hit who, I think Friday’s story is pretty clear: the bike hit the truck after the truck made an illegal right turn across the bike lane.

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  • J_R June 4, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    Thanks to PPB for at least citing the motorist for TWO violations. Really, thanks. It’s not enough penalty for the severity of the infraction, but it’s more than I expected.

    I have hopes that we’ll start seeing an increase citations that might help increase motorist accountablity. Oh, I’m ok with citing cyclists for doing stupid, illegal things, too.

    Now, that PPB has done its job, let’s hope the judge follows through.

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  • R-dat June 4, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    We need a new law. Something that increases the fine/penalty for careless driving that results in bodily harm to a cyclist or pedestrian where the penalty is akin to that of DUII or attempted murder. Drivers need to realize that they are at the helm of a deadly weapon as should our laws!

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    • Bike Commuter June 5, 2013 at 10:17 am

      We do have a law, the Vulnerable User Law which has more penalties. The problem is that police and prosecutors do not seem to know about the law. But then the police and prosecutors seem to know little about bicycle law. If this does not warrant the use of that law then nothing will ever reach that level. Someone in the media need to ask the question of the police why it was not used.

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      • Nate June 5, 2013 at 10:30 am

        Agreed – Michael can you follow up with PPB to see why VU statues weren’t cited?

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        • longgone June 5, 2013 at 11:40 am

          yes, and yes…please do.

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    • chucklehead June 10, 2013 at 8:42 am

      Uh, a car is not a weapon as it was not designed with the sole purpose to cause harm to the body.

      Also, if someone is already being careless, what good is another law going to do?

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      • Bike Commuter June 10, 2013 at 2:31 pm

        A brick is not designed to be a weapon but can be used as a weapon. Cars have been used to murder someone and attempts occur fairly often. It is the intent more than the object itself.

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  • Mindful Cyclist June 4, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I can’t say I am too surprised that the driver was sited for the illegal turn. That seems pretty cut and dry despite the PPB’s lack of wanting to site drivers for collisions with bikes.

    I am happy to hear that the driver also was cited for careless driving. I think with the cost of the ticket, the insurance increase (of course, he could choose not to pay that!), and the gas to run a truck, there is a chance he may be driving a lot less.

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    • 9watts June 5, 2013 at 8:01 am

      I wonder what the driver would have had to do in this instance for the charge to be upgraded to reckless?

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      • are June 10, 2013 at 11:41 am

        he would have to be aware that his behavior was putting someone else at unreasonable risk of serious injury

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  • K'Tesh June 4, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    Broken Ribs? Punctured Lung? I encourage him to exercise his right to perform a Citizen’s Issued Citation for a serious violation of the Vulnerable Users of the Roadway Law ( http://www.stc-law.com/vulnerable.html)

    801.608 “Vulnerable user of a public way.”
    “Vulnerable user of a public way” means a pedestrian, a highway worker, a person riding an animal or a person operating any of the following on a public way, crosswalk or shoulder of the highway:

    (1) A farm tractor or implement of husbandry without an enclosed shell;
    (2) A skateboard;
    (3) Roller skates;
    (4) In-line skates;
    (5) A scooter; or
    (6) A bicycle.

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

    (2) This section does not require a person operating a moped to yield the right of way to a bicycle or a motor assisted scooter if the moped is operated on a bicycle lane in the manner permitted under ORS 811.440.

    (3) The offense described in this section, failure of a motor vehicle operator to yield to a rider on a bicycle lane, is a Class B traffic violation.
    A Class C traffic violation results in a maximum fine of $360.00

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    • LoveDoctor June 5, 2013 at 9:57 am

      This seems like the perfect application of the VRU law. It seems that law enforcement either does not know about the rule, or chooses not to enforce it. To be fair to our dedicated police officers, they can’t be expected to know every single code under the sun, but in supposed bike mecca of Portlandia, one would think their would be better knowledge of such a law.

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  • Seth Alford June 5, 2013 at 4:19 am

    We know Mr. Crothers’ name from the previous article. If the police release the driver’s name and li

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    • Seth Alford June 5, 2013 at 4:28 am

      (Tapped “post” on the smartphone too soon, sorry)

      ….license plate, please post it here. Why? So others who have had a close call with this driver can come forward and testify in the eventual civil suit. And maybe even convince PPB to inccrease the charges.

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  • hroðberacht June 5, 2013 at 7:48 am

    A traumatic injury is defined as “a wound or a condition of the body caused by external force, including injuries inflicted by bullets, explosives, sharp instruments, blunt objects or other physical blows […] but excluding stress and strain.” Curtis v. DOJ, 2009 U.S. App. LEXIS 17200 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 4, 2009)

    A more accurate version of Sgt. Simpson’s email would read:
    Automobile driver was heading southbound on Interstate and made an illegal right turn onto Greeley Avenue. Sign posted “No Right Turn.” Bicycle rider was coming downhill on Interstate in the bike lane and was unable to stop in time and collided with the automobile making the illegal right. Rider was hospitalized with traumatic injuries. Driver was not impaired. Cited for Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device and Careless Driving.

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  • David June 5, 2013 at 8:29 am

    I don’t usually ride over this way, so I checked out Google street view so I could better picture the intersection. This is pretty chilling (though I’m not sure if it’s still there):


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  • ScottB June 5, 2013 at 9:48 am

    The turn closure was installed after another cyclist was killed in a right hook (garbarge truck?).

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    • lyle w. June 5, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Technically, after not only that killing, but a near killing in the EXACT same scenario (right-hook) happened in the exact same location about year after that.

      Too lazy to look up a link to the story, but just for the record.

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      • tonyt
        tonyt June 6, 2013 at 10:45 am

        No, it was a week later if I recall.

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  • Slow Joe Crow June 5, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Forget about traffic citations, what about “assault with a deadly weapon”? If running a stop sign or making an illegal turn and hurting somebody is a felony, the cage drivers might start paying more attention.

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    • longgone June 5, 2013 at 11:45 am

      I certainly am not a lawyer, but I am at least intelligent enough to realize that “assault” would be defined by (some type of proof of) intent to cause harm….
      Don’t ya think?

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      • chucklehead June 10, 2013 at 8:47 am

        And only if the car was used as a weapon with that purpose in mind.

        Heck, to a pedestrian a bike is a weapon, no?

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  • Brian June 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    As a taxpayer, I find it extremely frustrating that they would talk first about a costly redesign of this intersection before considering some tough enforcement.

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    • Mindful Cyclist June 5, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      In the long run, though, unless a camera is installed, it is going to be cheaper to slap down some extra concrete and barriers than having extra patrol officers there.

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      • dr2chase June 7, 2013 at 6:59 am

        Yeah, Jersey barriers are always on the job, are unbiased, and won’t capriciously fail to act. There’s a lot to be said for concrete enforcement.

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  • 100th Monkey June 5, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    As the driver WAS cited for Careless driving under ORS 811.135, when the VRU law was passed in 2007 the penalty was also amended WHEN a vulnerable user was involved! Per 811.135 Section (3)
    ” In addition to any other penalty imposed for an offense committed under this section, if the court determines that the commission of the offense described in this section contributed to the serious physical injury or death of a vulnerable user of a public way, the court shall:

    (a) Impose a sentence that requires the person to:

    (A) Complete a traffic safety course; and

    (B) Perform between 100 and 200 hours of community service, notwithstanding ORS 137.129 (Length of community service sentence). The community service must include activities related to driver improvement and providing public education on traffic safety;

    (b) Order, but suspend on the condition that the person complete the requirements of paragraph (a) of this subsection:

    (A) A fine of up to $12,500, notwithstanding ORS 153.018 (Maximum fines); and

    (B) A suspension of driving privileges for one year as provided in ORS 809.280 (Department procedures following court order of suspension or revocation); and

    (c) Set a hearing date up to one year from the date of sentencing.”

    SO… it MAY be that this time the citing officer WAS aware of VRU and how including the charge of “Careless driving” possible would play out in court/penalties to the driver.

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  • Pete June 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    What also makes me happy here is that the police sergeant writes that Crothers “was hit by the car,” despite the technicality that the bicycle actually hit the car (truck, whatever). Too often authorities (and reporters) fail to recognize that an ‘accident’ was a driver’s fault for putting a bicyclist in the predicament of not being to avoid an impact. This may be from the (default) mindset of a rear-ending driver always being at fault in a pile-up due to the assumption they were not leaving enough time to stop.

    It also makes me glad this wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but I hope the rider recovers fully and quickly.

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  • Greeley Rider June 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I wish Crothers a rapid and complete recover, plus compensation for pain, suffering, medical expenses, lost workdays, and diminished (hopefully of short duration) quality of life.

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  • TOM June 5, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    gives me little faith in police reports ….can you imagine the precision for the car/truck (looks like SUV) to hit a bike crossing it’s path (90 degrees) at 35 MPH ?

    wonder if the veh. hitting bike VS. bike hitting the veh. would be a big point in a lawsuit ?

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  • Jim Kysela June 5, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    “injured but not traumatic” is nonsense:

    A day in the ICU, still in the hospital a week later. A colleague that visited him last night in the hospital states that Curtis can’t go home until his internal lung bleeding gets below a certain level per day, and he’s not there yet – probably a couple more days it was stated. Still in pain but can walk around.

    My Dad just had quadruple-bypass surgery and was out in less than half this time.

    Get well Curtis! All us bikers and non-bikers here at DTNA are pulling for you.

    It is interesting that in the pic the ‘No Right Turn’ sign looks visible in the LH side right behind the officers – right before the collision point of this accident. This intersection has killed and maimed both before and after the no right turn was put in place, obviously something more needs to happen. Too many of us use that bike lane for it not to keep happening.

    Mode share will never increase much higher than now if places like this aren’t addressed – too bad there are so many of them. Ride safe everyone!

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    • El Biciclero June 10, 2013 at 11:22 am

      “Too many of us use that bike lane for it not to keep happening.”

      It needs to be legal to leave the bike lane for any and all reasons, then fewer people need to use the bike lane going downhill. Staying in the bike lane is part of what makes intersections like this so dangerous. The only reason to use a bike lane going downhill is to skate past backed-up traffic–but that needs to be done with extreeeeeeme caution, because as we see, drivers cannot be relied on to follow the law, or even pay attention to what is happening around them.

      I don’t completely understand (I kind of do, but it seems overblown) the discussion around how to decide what kind of treatment to give a particular area. “Should we use sharrows?” “Should we use a bike lane?” “Should we use nothing?” “Should we separate entirely?” To me, the only question is the last one. All other treatments are isomorphic except for our inane mandatory use laws. Just use a bike lane, and make it clear that it is a legally protected refuge for cyclists when they feel like using it, not a legally mandated absolute road position to be maintained at all times. It feels to me that we are trying to literally paint loopholes to ORS 814.420 rather than just repeal a bad law.

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      • are June 10, 2013 at 11:48 am

        one weird artifact of the mandatory sidepath here is that the motorist drew a charge of failing to yield to the bike in the bike lane.

        but the fact that we repeatedly, repeatedly see scenarios in which vulnerable user should be charged and is not means the police urgently need education. BTA pushed the VRU into law, and pushed to have it amended so the ticketing officer does not have to use much discretion in checking the box. now it is time for BTA to get some face time in officer training.

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    • Monica June 10, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      Is anyone organizing help for Curtis when he arrives home? I got the sense that he lives alone when I spoke with him briefly after the accident. I’ve been thinking about him ever since, wondering if he needs someone to bring him meals or otherwise help with his long-term recovery.

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  • esther c June 9, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Not only was the turn illegal but he right hooked the cyclist after driving past him. He had to be aware that the cyclist was there. What did he think was going to happen to the bike while he made his right turn, legal or not?

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    • are June 10, 2013 at 11:38 am

      that is not the way it was reported here previously. indication was the bike was overtaking the truck. on the right.

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  • Monica June 10, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    I was at this scene (was biking north on Interstate right after the crash so crossed to see if I could help). My worse “near miss”ever was at this same intersection with another driver doing the same illegal hairpin right turn. When I asked the driver (incredulously) why he turned there, he said that he knew there was no right turn allowed there, but that he was “in a hurry to get back to [his] mother.” I could only shake my head in disgust and sit with Curtis until the paramedics arrived.

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