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Man issues citizen citation after police decline to investigate red-light collision

Posted by on April 10th, 2015 at 10:29 am

soupbikeIMG_20150331_131536137_HDR

Knoll’s mangled bike.
(Photo: Cedar Knoll)

A man nearly crushed last week by a large box truck whose driver allegedly ran a red light on Martin Luther King Boulevard has issued a rare citizen citation after Portland police declined to investigate.

According to Cedar Knoll, a food courier for the local company SoupCycle, the man drove his truck at high speed through what would have been a well-established red light at the intersection of NE Dekum Street and MLK Boulevard (map). Knoll said the driver only stopped the truck and returned to the scene after a witness drove after him and flagged him down.

A police officer who came to the site told Knoll, accurately, that it would be against Portland Police Bureau policy to investigate the incident or issue an officer-initiated citation because Knoll didn’t need to leave the scene in an ambulance (for more on the PPB’s investigation policy, read our report from 2008).

Here’s Knoll’s account of what happened, written before he issued the citizen citation:

dekumview

Looking eastbound on Dekum at MLK.

I was biking east on Dekum, the semi was travelling south on MLK. I had a green and not a new green, a well established green, the cross-walk counters were counting down but I still had plenty of time. Anyway the semi just came flying (I say flying because it seemed really fast, and one of the witness swears he must of been speeding) through the intersection right in front of me, I hit my brakes but couldn’t stop in time and hit his trailer just in front of his rear tires, I think his rear tire caught my front rack or possibly handle bars. I sort of moved my body backwards as quickly as I could to get out of the way. He just kept on driving, he said later he never felt or heard a thing, although he admitted he did see me and was wondering if I was going to hit him. He also told the officer that he had noticed he may of been going a bit fast, I don’t have that recorded or anything though.

I flagged down a cop, who took an account down from both witnesses and myself. The cop would not fill out a police report, because I was OK and not leaving the scene in an ambulance. My bike is totalled (over $2,000 in damages) but luckily I am pretty much fine. The cop didn’t give the driver any kind of citation or ticket. The driver, did not admit to running the red light, but he also didn’t deny it.

I think it’s interesting that even in a situation where its not my word against the driver, there are witnesses saying the driver is at fault and my bike is obviously broken, the police still wont find the driver at fault or even put it down on the drivers record.

(Note: Knoll said Friday that after seeing the officer’s description of the truck he realized it may have been an unusually large box truck rather than a semi-trailer as described above.)

A call Friday morning to the driver’s employer, Stericycle Inc., hasn’t been returned yet. We’ll update this story if and when we hear back.

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In an interview Friday, I asked Knoll what could have made someone run a solid red light.

“He basically said he doesn’t drive MLK very often,” Knoll said. “It was sort of funny, because he said he was nervous about crosswalks because there’s crosswalks all over MLK, so he was watching for those and didn’t see the light at all.”

“I just called the cop and I was like, look, I feel like this guy was totally at fault, and I would like to issue a citation.”
— Cedar Knoll

“One of the other witnesses said he was going really fast,” Knoll continued. “He even told the officer that he may have been going a little bit fast. … To me, if you’re on a road in a giant truck that you don’t drive very often, maybe you wouldn’t drive faster than the speed limit. But I don’t know.”

Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson confirmed that an officer had responded to the scene.

“Generally though, non-injury, non-criminal crashes are not investigated and we facilitate insurance exchange,” Simpson said in an email. “Crashes are recorded in a person’s DMV record.”

Here’s the PPB’s official guidance on which sorts of collisions an officer should devote scarce resources to investigating, from the bureau’s policy manual:

investigation criteria

Thanks to the Portland Mercury for having this PDF online.

Upset by the police action, Knoll contacted the city auditor’s office to file a complaint. Complaint investigator Eric Nomura, he said, “got back to me within a few hours and told me about the option of enacting ORS 153.058 through Portland Police Bureau directive 860.10.”

The policy lets citizens initiate their own traffic citations. We’ve reported occasionally on the law, and The Oregonian has created a useful comic-strip explanation of how it works.

“I just called the cop and I was like, look, I feel like this guy was totally at fault, and I would like to issue a citation,” Knoll said afterward. “I had to go to the courthouse and sign the citation.”

If the case advances, Knoll will need to appear in court to identify the driver and say what happened.

“I don’t think that people do this very often,” Knoll said.

Knoll’s boss, SoupCycle owner Nate Schlachter, said the PPB policy not to investigate traffic collisions that don’t involve major injury has him worried about Portland’s long-term ability to understand issues like this one. The Portland Bureau of Transportation, for instance, relies heavily on collision data to set priorities for safety projects.

“As an employer who has up to 6 people on the road three days a week I am concerned about how the city is tracking these types of incidents for use in analysis and hopefully planning and policy,” Schlachter said in an email.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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PeeJay
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PeeJay

America’s Former Bike Capital!

gutterbunnybikes
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gutterbunnybikes

Funny that someone gets tazed in Hillsboro where there is no incident or damages. Or the authorities want to investigate a dead mallard but….

Here in Portland a $2000 bike get totalled when a heavy transport vehicle is speeding through a red light gets no attention from the police.

Yeah there is no enforcement problems here.

Jeff TB
Guest
Jeff TB

Platinum!

THE 5 E’S
Engineering: Creating safe and convenient places to ride and park
Education: Giving people of all ages and abilities the skills and confidence to ride
Encouragement: Creating a strong bike culture that welcomes and celebrates bicycling
Enforcement: Ensuring safe roads for all users
Evaluation & Planning: Planning for bicycling as a safe and viable transportation option

Charley Gee
Guest

Yesterday I read a Portland Police Bureau report where a driver ran a red light and struck a bicyclist, there was an independent witness to the collision who told the police that the driver ran a red light, the driver admitted to having run the red light, and the response of the police officer was to advise the driver that she needed to pay better attention while driving downtown.

I also spoke to a guy who had a police officer chase him down with a cruiser and cite him for riding on the sidewalk downtown.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

OK, wait—
The “Investigation Criteria” state that a crash will be investigated

“i. When a citation is issued to a driver involved in a crash for a violation other than a vehicle licensing, operator licensing, or financial responsibility statute.”

So the victim’s level of injury does NOT appear to be the sole determiner of whether a crash will be investigated. Had the officer believed and acted on witness reports to issue a citation to the red-light-running driver, then an investigation would have been triggered, according to my reading of the policy. We have a frequent commenter on this blog (9watts) who was recently given a citation for a dubious “infraction” based solely on the say-so of a driver, yet in this case, police wouldn’t issue a citation (for a much more serious offense, resulting in serious damage and potential serious injury) based on the say-so of a cycling victim and at least one other witness? Is the failure to issue a citation based on some motivation to avoid an investigation, since the policy appears to clearly state that if a citation is issued, an investigation is warranted?

This sounds ridiculous and extremely biased, but maybe that’s just me…

PeeJay
Guest
PeeJay

Seriously though, this is why we should disabuse ourselves of the notion that Enforcement can ever be a primary part of the solution to our tragic safety problems. With existing laws as they are, there isn’t enough that any police department can do to change the culture that thinks it’s OK to take chances with other peoples’ lives.

Enforcement will only have any effect when we have a strict liability law, which will never happen because of deep-seated politics. It sucks, but that’s how it is.

Alan Love
Guest
Alan Love

The link to the comic strip (Isn’t that a great description for The Oregonian in general?) is broken.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

It seems insane that a person has to be bundled into an ambulance before PPB will investigate. That is Totally F****D UP!

Andrew Lynch
Guest
Andrew Lynch

So if I get hit by a truck, am OK, but the driver that hit me isn’t cited….my best recourse is to fake an injury severe enough to need an ambulance? Policy failure.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

You might not be faking it… I was left behind by an ambulance in my 10/12/07 collision because I was able to walk (somewhat) on my broken leg. >:(

Do not let ambulance crews leave you behind if you are hurt! They don’t have F****N XRay Eyes.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
Admin

Also maybe worth mentioning. You’ll note that in the 2008 story I link to the head of the PPB Traffic Division was Larry O’Dea… Who just so happens to be the new Chief of Police.

O’Dea was in charge when the Transportation Community Policing Agreement was adopted by the PPB, City Council, and various non-profit orgs in October of 2009.

In recent chats with O’Dea lately (mostly about Bike Theft Task Force stuff), he has mentioned that he feels it’s time to update that agreement.

Given this story, some personal experiences of my own, things I’ve been hearing, and the tone of these comments so far… makes me think he’s absolutely right.

Whether that agreement had a huge cultural impact at the PPB or even citywide is debatable… But it can’t hurt to create a new one — especially given the O’Dea connection.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Seems some drivers just get away with what ever they do towards humans outside the box 🙁 riding down broadway yesterday and cars zipping past, honking, yelling, texting,talking on cells, one dude drove up the curb, lucky I took the sidewalk he thought it was funny… smh driving habits really changing in Portland lately. OH MASSIVE RED LIGHT running 🙁

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

The full sized version of the comic is better seen with this link:

http://blog.oregonlive.com/commuting/2012/06/every_oregon_driver_is_a_traff.html

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

A question, should not the responding officer still investigate this crash due to subsection “e” relating to a hit and run? Did the officer check if all the trucks paperwork was current and the truck not stolen?

Or was this not a hit and run due to the driver “not knowing he was involved in a collision” or that its “OK” with the PPB for a driver to drive away and return only when a witness makes you do so?

If the truck operator gets off the hook due to the latter situation then we need to tighten up the law for commercial vehicles, CDLs and vehicles over 10,000 GVW. Otherwise then truck drivers will potentially get a “platinum get out of jail free pass” in Portland…as trucks will become “too big to fail” when ignoring basic traffic laws and causing crashes.

Brendan
Guest
Brendan

The fact that you are required to identify the face of the driver to press charges is just another important reason driver side window tinting should be illegal (and enforced).

J_R
Guest
J_R

Unless it is something really minor, I’m going to insist on being taken to the hospital by ambulance when I am eventually hit by a motor vehicle. With adrenaline coursing through your system you may not recognize the extent of your injuries.

The ambulance ride and police report are the only things that will help get you the deserved treatment from the motorist’s insurance company. And with the horror stories I’ve heard from a good friend and my sister-in-law, the insurance company will try to cheat you on every element of your claim (e.g. your bike was 5 years old, so it’s worth only 10 percent of what you paid for it, etc.).

My prescription: lie in the street to wait for help, get witness statements, wait for the first responders, ambulance, and get an attorney. Keep detailed extemporaneous records of all your aches and pains, medications, etc.

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

I walk across that intersection all the time and compliance with the signal is very low. It’s exceptional when the light changes and no one goes through late and fully red.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Just frustrating. Are there PPB officers who ever ride bikes? Why are they not speaking out about this? If I was a cop and I read this, I would not be happy. Just sad that we get new police leadership who likes to claim to be all pro bike, yada yada, and then stuff like this still happens.

Driver broke the law. Driver caused property damage (and was VERY lucky not to cause physical harm). There were 3rd party witnesses. Driver should be punished. End of story.

Tom
Guest
Tom

This excuse I have not heard before. Okay so now drivers can not be responsible because they haven’t driven a particular road in a while? So he thought he would just go really fast so as to get to a more familiar road more quickly?

Joe
Guest
Joe

so I had a PP officer chase me down in his car saying i ran a red light, pulled into the main fountain near water front, started going off on me about how much its going to cost me, but throws in that he also rides bike… LOLZ right dude.

Bella Bici
Guest

I was hit by a driver on Williams who totally failed to notice me riding in the right of way.

I called the non-emergency police number to report the incident and they refused to make any report. My car-bike collision is on no record or statistical sheet.

My friend just got struck by a car crossing 3rd St while she had the right-of-way traveling west on Broadway. She was injured but was not transported via ambulance.

Again, the police refused to document her car-bike collision.

Just earlier today I told her that she should initiate a citizen citation for the driver. How fortuitous that this article be published today reaffirming our right to do such a thing. Do take responsibility while law enforcement shuns theirs.

I swear, it is like Portland drivers get a mulligan when they strike/injure a cyclist. “Oh, you can limp away, therefore I am absolved of any fault in my negligent driving.” As if nothing happened to them.

Well, not much really happened to them. But, I really felt my injuries the next day/week, and the same is happening to my friend.

Open season on bikes. Thanks, PPD, and those lawmakers!!

oliver
Guest
oliver

So in other words, unless you have the $3 to $6K laying around to take a medi-cab ride to the emergency room to drop another several grand.

We’re not going to help you.

Steve B
Guest
Steve B

I’ve seen this policy in action before. Witnessed someone doored on Williams, driver threw open the door without looking and clobbered this person. Cops show up, turns out driver doesn’t have insurance and admits to throwing open door during an argument, cyclist didn’t go away in an ambulance, so no one was cited. Turns out later on the driver came to the cyclists house demanding they pay for the door! Classic.

dan
Guest
dan

I fired this gun at you and hit you, but you were only slightly wounded and were able to make it to the ER under your own power, so no crime was committed, right?

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

It actually took three or four cycles at MLK and Dekum for me to catch a red light run on video because traffic is light.

Might try this again in the evening.

https://youtu.be/Rae9Fb3RE1I

brian
Guest
brian

I was hit by a car last year and PPB failed to come out to the scene. It was more difficult because there was no police report but I managed to get a hefty settlement from the drivers insurance co.

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

Stericycle transports medical waste. (I know because I work in a medical profession at a hospital.) Think about that: a large truck hauling who-knows-what sort of infectious and nasty stuff speeding through town.

If the Police won’t investigate accidents where someone very well could have been killed, where a large dangerous vehicle was driven recklessly and carelessly, where a vulnerable road user was the victim, then they need to change their policy to make exceptions for cases like this.

In the meantime, there should be some sort of get-together where interested people who bike can learn the details of filing citizen citations.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

I can’t be the first person to make this observation but…

… Being an average non-automotive road user in the United States means being in a continuous state of PTSD…. only without the Post. We’re stuck in this abuse codependent relationship with no obvious way out.

We are afraid all the time or hyper-vigilant.
We can expect injury or death with no warning.
No matter what happens it is somehow our fault.
Authority figures trust the abuser implicitly.
If we try to stand up for our basic right to live uninjured we are treated as crazy, violent, militant or all of the above.
And all the time we are left doubting our own actions as if we were to blame: maybe if I was a little more deferential to cars, maybe if I wore different clothes, maybe if I gave cars a wide berth and only used streets that don’t go where cars go.

All the while we keep getting injured and killed and it seems to matter only as a statistic.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

This whole discussion reminds me why I ordered a Rideye bike camera on Kickstarter…and its finally on its way after being shipped out today. Its too bad I have to defend my self in this way…

In this case the rider is still alive and well to testify and fight for their rights vs. the more common scenario of being too injured or forever silent to testify.

[It if get hit someday and cannot testify please look for my camera(s) before some car later drives over it one the crash scene is reopened.]

SW
Guest
SW

I REALLY hope this citizens citation goes somewhere and doesn’t get ignored.

soren
Guest
soren

It’s great that so many are outraged by the lack of enforcement but, IMO, police bureau attitudes will not change until we elect council members who are passionate about reform. This is why I’m voting for Nick Caleb in 2016.

drew
Guest
drew

100 years of influence by the automotive and petroleum industries allow malevolent or careless and/or unskilled drivers to turn our public roads into deathtraps. Everyone knows there is little legal consequence for slamming into a bike or ped with your car. The police say you are on your own and their hands are “tied”. Good luck.

I was once knocked off my bike by a pickup passenger leaning out of the vehicle to strike me, while roaring by me in Port Hueneme, Ca. Witnesses got the license number of the truck. A witness took me to her house to bandage my wounds. The cops said nothing could be done unless I could identify the assailant! Nothing has changed since that happened 40 years ago. Domestic terrorism with motor vehicles remains legal in this country.

Houston Bolles
Guest
Houston Bolles

Wondering what happens if, in order to require the officer to investigate, a cyclist asks for an ambulance, then stays at the scene instead of being transported away. Can an ambulance company charge for a non-transport? What if it’s a city fire paramedic crew?

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

Years ago I was at 27 & Division and a kid in his mom’s Volvo almost clipped me while coming around the corner, but I was able to stop in time. However I stopped so hard that all my forward momentum went into my front wheel, which tacoed. The kid didn’t stop but someone in another car did, and agreed the kid was totally at fault. I walked to K & F (known cop hangout so I knew I could find them there) and told the officers there what happened, but they said since no actual contact was made between us there was nothing they could do. Then I wished I’d just run into the car.

TonyT
Guest
Tony T

“the PPB policy not to investigate traffic collisions that don’t involve major injury has him worried about Portland’s long-term ability to understand issues like this one. The Portland Bureau of Transportation, for instance, relies heavily on collision data to set priorities for safety projects.”

This is a HUGE part of the problem.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

It seems there is a distinction here between “investigate” and “cite”. It sounds from the content of this very article that there is a pretty clear understanding of what happened: speeding truck runs a red and snags the front of a bicycle whose rider was crossing the truck’s path—with the right-of-way conferred by having a green signal. Bike damage is obvious, witnesses confirm the truck driver ran the red, the truck driver admits he “may have been going a little fast”. If I were a cop, that would be about all the investigation I might need to determine what happened.

The part that irks me is that when witness statements and evidence at the scene point to—or even prove—the fact that a driver broke the law in the course of causing damage and coming within a hair’s-breadth of seriously injuring or killing someone (on a bike), all the officer seems to want to do is tell the driver to “be more careful, ‘k?” While in a similar situation, if any tiny shred of evidence or even dubious and contradictory witness accounts even hint at the possibility that a bicyclist may have caused a crash, that bicyclist may expect one of the first visitors in his hospital room to be the cop, with a citation in hand. Get well soon!

Esther2
Guest
Esther2

The ambulance ride being the threshold of investigation is really silly. it in no way indicates the seriousness of the accident or injury.

X
Guest
X

What was the outcome of this citizen citation?

q
Guest
q

Since there was no police report, and the victim is writing the citation, will it be his duty to warn himself to always wear a helmet, use front and rear lights, and wear high-visibility clothing, so that he can Be Seen and Be Safe?