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Video leads to two citations in case of dangerous pass caught on camera

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Still from video by Tony Tapay

Chalk up another win for video camera justice.

Tony Tapay caught a dangerous pass on camera last month and — even though there were no police or other witnesses around to see it — he doggedly pursued his case in hopes that the man who nearly hit him and his son would be brought to justice.

Five weeks after the incident occurred the Portland Police have now officially cited Andrew Reid for Careless Driving and Unsafe Passing of a Person Operating a Bicycle.

On July 7th, Tapay, 47, was riding on SE 34th with his 5 and-a-half year old son on the back of his Xtracycle. With his handlebar-mounted camera running, a Kia Soul driven by Reid came whizzing just inches past him and nearly ran head-on into another rider coming in the opposite direction. Tapay’s camera recorded everything, including the car’s license plate number and the driver’s face (after Tapay caught up to him at a traffic signal).

After the incident, Tapay sought help from lawyers Ray Thomas and Charley Gee at Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton and began the citizen initiated citation process, a little-known Oregon law that allows anyone to build a case and engage the police retroactively. Tapay began by calling the phone number listed on the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division’s website; but that was a dead end. “It’s not even for the Traffic Division,” Tapay said, “the person who answered had no clue what I was talking about.”

Tapay shared in an interview today that it was, “Incredibly frustrating to navigate the system.” Despite many phone conversations that led nowhere, he didn’t give up.

Tapay then emailed the officer in charge of his local Neighborhood Response Team. Here’s an excerpt from that email:

“I am writing to you as the SE Neighborhood Response Team Officer. I hope you can help me with a situation with a dangerous driver.

On Tuesday, July 7th, I was riding my bike with my five-year-old son (on the seat behind me), heading south on SE 34th Ave approaching SE Grant. Suddenly I could hear a car approaching from behind me at a very high rate of speed. Despite the fact that we were approaching a speed bump and that there was another person on a bike coming the other way, the car veered around me, completely into the other lane, barely missing the other rider and continued at high speed. It was a VERY dangerous situation on a bike route with a posted speed limit of 25mph. Please note that I was riding along at a pretty good speed. That his pass seemed so fast relative to my speed makes it all the more frightening.

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I continued to Division St. where the car was now stopped at a red light. Considering the danger of the pass, and the fact that he was now caught at the red light, I couldn’t help but roll up to the driver’s side and ask, “Was that really worth it?” To which he responded flippantly, “Yup!” He then accelerated quickly and headed to SE Clinton and took a left.

As our neighborhood officer, would you be willing to cite the driver? If you are not able to can you provide me with a contact of a Portland Police Bureau officer who would be able to?”

“Unfortunately,” that officer wrote in an email on July 17th, “sworn law enforcement officers cannot cite for violations they did not personally observe. They are required to be present at the time of the violation in order to testify to it in court.” While it wasn’t the response he hoped for, that officer encouraged Tapay to call the city’s traffic safety and livability hotline, 823-SAFE.

After leaving a message at 823-SAFE Tapay got a call back from Officer Bill Balzer, a Traffic Division veteran. “He was understandably neutral about it at first. His tone wasn’t particularly encouraging,” Tapay recalled. But then he sent Balzer the video and everything changed.

“After seeing the video he [Officer Balzer] was suddenly very motivated. He said what the guy did was totally dangerous and clearly careless driving.”

Three days later, on August 20th, Officer Balzer called Tapay with the good news. They were able to locate Reid and issued him two traffic citations. According to Tapay, Reid claimed that he had pulled out suddenly in front of his car. Luckily Tapay had a longer video of the incident (watch it here) that clearly disputes that claim. (For what it’s worth, some people on Twitter are calling for the police to cite Tapay for rolling through a stop sign prior to the dangerous pass.)

Reid is scheduled to appear in court on the citations in mid-September.

Tapay told me today that he never thought his $300 Shimano ECM 1000 camera would be used to give someone a citation. “I got it,” he said, “in the event I was ever in a collision there’d be no dispute about what actually happened.” Several years ago Tapay was hit by a woman who ran a red light and she offered a blatantly false story about what transpired.

Tapay hopes his experience makes people think twice about driving dangerously. Back in May, he rolled up on the scene of a tragedy that changed his perspective forever. He saw Mark Angeles’ body lying in the street just moments after the collision.

“It had a profound effect on me. While I hope no one is ever killed again, I think if people had that opportunity to stand there and see that person dead, in the road, they’d understand how real this is. It’s not a game. Driving is not a game.”

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