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Sheriff’s office blames deceased victim in early morning collision near Stayton

Posted by on October 13th, 2016 at 10:15 am

The scene on Shaff Road SE near Stayton this morning.(Photo: Marion County Sheriff's Office)

The scene on Shaff Road SE near Stayton this morning.
(Photo: Marion County Sheriff’s Office)

A person was killed this morning while bicycling on a rural road just east of Stayton, a small town about sixty miles south of Portland.

We don’t always cover fatal bicycle collisions so far away from the Portland metro area; but the statement about this one just released by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office deserves a closer look. The language used in the statement shows how far Oregon law enforcement agencies have to go to create a culture around traffic deaths that is in line with Vision Zero principles.

According to the Marion County Sheriff’s office, the collision occurred when someone driving a motor vehicle hit a bicycle rider from behind. Read their official statement (released just two and-a-half hours after the collision) and think about how the language paints the relative culpability of each party:

Around 6:30 a.m., this morning, deputies with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office were called to a vehicle versus bicyclist crash on Shaff Road SE near Rainwater Road SE near Stayton. When deputies arrived they found a single vehicle had struck a bicyclist killing the cyclist instantly.

Early indications show that the cyclist was traveling east on Shaff Road when an eastbound minivan struck the bicycle. The area the crash took place has very little shoulder and no lighting. At the time of the crash it was dark, rainy and the cyclist was wearing dark clothing and no light on the bicycle.

The driver of the vehicle remained on the scene and is cooperating with investigators. Identities of the involved will be released once the appropriate notifications have been made. Shaff Road was closed for 2 hours while investigators processed the scene, Shaff Road has now reopened for regular traffic.

When this information is absorbed by the public via the local media — most of whom simply reprint these statements verbatim without telling the audience they’re doing so — what do you think the takeaways are?

The Sheriff’s Office statement goes out of its way to make excuses for the auto user and creates the perception that the bicycle user was acting irresponsibly. A culture where driving is the dominant paradigm interprets a statement like this as something like, “Well, that bicyclist had it coming. They really ought to stay off those dangerous roads.”

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Let’s be clear: There is no Oregon law against riding in the dark, riding in the rain, riding to the left of the fog line (especially when there’s no shoulder to ride in), or wearing dark clothing. Oregon law also says you don’t need a rear light (only a rear reflector). Despite the fact that the bicycle rider appears to have been operating legally on the roadway, this statement unfairly creates an aura of guilt around one party while creating sympathy for the other.

This orientation of supportive language around the person operating the motor vehicle, combined with the tone of blame used to describe the actions of a potentially innocent bicycle user who can no longer speak for themselves, is all too common.

Meanwhile, the person who was operating their vehicle in such a way that it collided with another road user and caused their death, is portrayed as being a good citizen who, “remained at on the scene and is cooperating” — actions that are not only required by Oregon law but are potentially felony criminal offenses if not obeyed. Furthermore, in this case the person driving the car had much more legal responsibility to begin with because they decided to overtake a vulnerable road user, not to mention the greater moral responsibility that comes with operating a vehicle that’s so easily capable of killing another person.

Given all that, why does the Sheriff’s statement not mention whether or not the auto user was distracted? Or whether or not their windshield wipers were turned on and working effectively? And why no mention of Oregon’s safe passing law that requires people to give bicycle riders plenty of space when overtaking them? Why no language about whether or not the auto user was going a safe speed given that it was dark, rainy, and there was no shoulder for a bicycle rider to use? Was the driver using the car’s headlights?

If Oregon is serious about vision zero, law enforcement agencies need to get a lot more perspective and sensitivity around these issues. Language is powerful and it shapes our culture — the same culture that informs the behaviors of road users and the people who design and patrol them. Police agencies must stop assigning blame in media statements. Stick to the facts known and leave other speculative assumptions out of it — especially when those assumptions are the result of inherent bias in favor of one type of road user and against another.

This is the 379th person to die while using Oregon roads so far this year, a total that’s nearly nine percent higher than the 348 people who had died by this date in 2015.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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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Lester Burnham
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Lester Burnham

Nobody likes to hear these stories, but you sound like you want the cyclist to have no responsibility whatsoever.

Jake Riley
Guest
Jake Riley

No one is forcing you to read. Also “it sounds like” you didn’t even read it, and then gave a shallow $0.02 with zero subtance.

JJJJ
Guest

I always find it interesting that when blame is “assigned”, the folks who created this situation “The area the crash took place has very little shoulder and no lighting” do not share any of it.

Tim
Guest
Tim

So in your world, all roads need shoulders and street lighting, so drivers are not inconvenienced by the possibility of slow moving vehicles in their lane.

Street lighting and shoulders on all rural roads is not realistic or desirable.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

And if we are going to conclude that not all roads need to have these features, yet cyclists are permitted to ride said roads, why is this information relevant when the investigation is still under way?

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

What would shoulder width have to do with anything?

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Same old lame excuse.
Almost like the Sheriff or Gangbanger claiming that someone was in the way and run into the bullet when he fired. Both victims of armed lethal weapon users. Both claiming their rights under the second amendment.

Spiffy
Subscriber

they blew it on the first sentence with “vehicle versus bicyclist”…

why “versus”? why not “on”? were they in a boxing match?

why “vehicle” and not “driver”? why “vehicle” and not “motor vehicle”? are all “vehicles” on the road assumed to be cars?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

The phrase “…vehicle versus bicyclist…” used by the Marion County Sheriff’s office, definitely is a poor choice of words, I think.

Example of a preference of my own for such incidents: ‘collision involving a motor vehicle and a bike’.

bradwagon
Guest
bradwagon

While I agree with you in theory the more I think about it it truly was a vehicle on bicyclist incident. The driver felt hardly any effects of the collision. While I do want to emphasis that the driver was the cause of the accident part of me also wants to highlight that drivers have protection / weapons that cyclists don’t have. That driver and car didn’t just hit another vehicle like a car on car accident, they hit a human being. What will it take for culture to realize that a bike is not just any other road using vehicle, it is an unprotected person.

Partially why I don’t like the saying “treat bikes like cars”… how about “treat bikes like bikes… and know the law well enough to understand when that treatment will be similar to how you would treat a car and when bikes require more cautious treatment than cars”.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

379 deaths. Ugh.

I’m sure KATU will revise the story, so here’s an insta-archive of the text.
http://archive.is/iT0jx

Bart
Guest
Bart

Sounds very much like the headline of an Oregonian article from last week regarding a pedestrian: “Man hit, killed by driver in Gresham was walking outside crosswalk, wearing dark clothes: police”.

There were other contributing factors in that death as well, but the framing and the language released are strikingly similar:

“Police said the pedestrian’s dark clothes and the way he was crossing the road “appear to be major contributing factors” to the crash. Other major contributors are the time of day — the crash happened around 8 p.m. — and rainy weather.”

rick
Guest
rick

Very sad.

Lower speed limits and enforcement is needed.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

That looks to be a straight and flat road. Although east might be slightly uphill, I would expect somebody to be riding at ~15mph with little effort. So, at 55mph (probably too fast for conditions) that would be like seeing a stationary object (or crossing animal) in the road at 40mph. How fast was the minivan going? Did they brake or swerve at all? High beams? Rain repellant on the windshield? Eating a donut?

Maybe there should be more black boulders in the middle of such roads. Things are not often found in the middle of the road, but it’s still the driver’s fault for not expecting them. Looking away for a second while already driving too fast for conditions is like driving with your eyes closed.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

If I put a black boulder in the middle of the road, I believe I would face charges for trying to harm someone.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Unless perhaps you were crossing here at the unmarked crosswalk of Rainwater Road and the boulder was your “including but not limited to” (cane, crutch, or bicycle) thing which you have every right to roll out into the road to signify your intent to cross provided that a vehicle obeying the basic speed law would reasonably have enough time to stop. Clearly, a speed which is safe for the conditions would allow a driver to see and stop for a black boulder in the road. http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.028

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

http://www.oregonlive.com/beaverton/index.ssf/2016/09/driver_in_fatal_beaverton_pede.html

Police will not charge a driver who fatally struck a woman while she was jogging in Beaverton over the weekend, officials announced Tuesday.

Kwang Park, 61, was hit by a car as she crossed an intersection near West Baseline Road and Southwest 166th Avenue around 7 p.m. Saturday, according to Beaverton police. She was not in a crosswalk. She died at the scene of the crash.

The driver, 31-year-old Krishnamurthy Ramakrishnan, remained at the site as police investigated. The driver and pedestrian are from Beaverton, police said.

Officials did not release any more information about the crash.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

http://www.oregonlive.com/washingtoncounty/index.ssf/2011/02/beaverton_police_release_name.html

It’s unknown why Lewis was stopped in the traffic lane. There were no traffic impediments at the time of the crash, and there is a bike lane to the right and along the curb of the traffic lane Lewis was in. Lewis had a working red light on the rear of his bicycle, but was not wearing a helmet.

The driver of the Prius told police he did not see Lewis until it was too late, and that he had tried to swerve to avoid the bicycle. Lewis and his bicycle were struck by the vehicle’s right side.

The driver showed no sings of intoxication, and voluntarily went to the hospital for a blood draw for drugs and alcohol testing.

It was dark and windy and raining heavily at the time of the crash. Beaverton police spokeswoman Pam Yazzolino said the driver was not expected to be cited, but the investigation was continuing.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

That report doesn’t match the stripes on the road (and a comment on the article seems to indicate this was the case at the time as well.) “Lewis was stopped in the westbound curb lane” and “there is a bike lane to the right and along the curb of the traffic lane Lewis was in” doesn’t make sense, as you can see this driver demonstrate in google’s street view of that crash location https://goo.gl/maps/GrrRvC9JVhn (with bonus pedestrian antics if you look to the right) Starting just after Hocken at a bus stop, there’s some kind of lane, eventually with a bike symbol. (Looking farther right in that street view, you’ll see a truck parked in it.) So, was it the “curb lane” or was it the lane to the left of the bike lane?

PNP
Subscriber

The KATU article says that the cyclist “collided with the minivan.” Only later in the article does it become clear that the minivan driver hit the cyclist from behind.

Language is everything.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

I lived in this area for many years and cycled on the roads year ’round in every kind of weather, including storms that made the national news. While it is everyone’s responsibility to respond to anything on the road since there are many things to hit aside from cyclists (some which represent a very direct threat to the driver), we cannot ignore reality.

To ride like that out there is outright suicidal. Anyone who does that WILL get hit and that reality must not be ignored. BTW, even if the cops don’t ticket the driver, the estate of the victim can still go after him. But that’s no consolation for the cyclist.

Absent information to the contrary, I would not assume the driver was doing anything out of the ordinary. I seriously doubt the driver was not operating wipers or lights. On most of the roads out there, there are no street lights whatsoever. There is no ambient lighting aside from the moon and the stars in a lot of areas — which means it is very dark when clouds block all that out and moisture in the air and on objects absorbs what little light there is. Traffic is often light enough that you don’t even see any other cars. Anyone who drives blind will simply go off the road.

A more clinical description from the cops may be in order. No one deserves to be hurt or killed for acting irresponsibly, but that the cyclist was operating irresponsibly shouldn’t be in question. The takeaway for motorists from this tragedy is that they should always drive in a way that allows them to stop because cyclists, kids, debris, holes, disabled vehicles, animals, etc could suddenly be there. The takeaway for cyclists should be that they need to be visible and pay attention to the cars.

I put on tens of thousands of miles in the dark on roads like that and not once did anyone suggest I didn’t belong there. If you ride appropriately for conditions, this won’t be in question. On an aside note, I personally believe riding in the dark is considerably safer than riding in the light when you’re out in the sticks. You are visible from very far away, tracking cars is easy, and they tend to give you more space than they do in the light.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

We will be making progress on road safety and saving the earth from destruction when the police statements are worded something like this.

” A noble citizen who was doing their part to travel sustainably without burning fossil fuels was struck down by a careless climate criminal in a speeding death machine. This tragic act of manslaughter was caused by numerous illegal behaviours on the part of the driver and the readers will be comforted to know this wanton criminal will be locked away for a long time and will never again be able to pollute the skies, and threaten road users for their own selfish purposes.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

Saving the Earth from destruction?

The Earth will be here a long time. Humans are only harming their own long-term survivability chances.

bill
Guest
bill

Johanathan, why do you are assume the driver of the car saw the bicycle rider at all? What if the driver had no time to make a decision?

Kristen LaChapelle
Guest
Kristen LaChapelle

Hello. I am a runner, and I know you mean well by your article by saying that most collisions are mostly said to have been the fault of the bicyclist rather than the driver, but you are missing a lot of information and filling in a lot of literal facts with assumptions.
I live on Shaff and take the 55 mph road every single morning between 5:30 and 6:30 to the Stayton pool. This particular cyclist leaves about the same time every morning and wears black clothing. Stayton is quite often a bed for a blanket of fog around that time of the morning. I drove past the accident this morning and saw a mangled bike and a figure clothed in black lying on the pavement. That is heartwrenching to see. There is no other way to describe it. Whether it was the “fault” of the cyclist or the motorist, anyone working out during that time of day needs to take necessary measures to be seen.
This article seems to be written to make the motorist feel even worse.

bradwagon
Guest
bradwagon

I’m fine with making drivers feel as bad as it takes to get them to stop killing people. Feeling bad > dead.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

anyone driving during that time of day needs to take necessary measures to see

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

or “reasonable” measures.

Do we need 1 million candlepower headlamps – that might be necessary, but not a reasonable requirement.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

People in my neighborhood jog on the roads in the dark in dark clothing and without lights. I see them because I drive at an appropriate speed and I look for objects that might be in the road. Brighter headlamps might help too, but I don’t find them necessary.

SE Rider
Guest
SE Rider

Do you live in a city neighborhood with street lights?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

My neighborhood has very few street lights. Maybe one at the end of each ‘block’.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

For what it’s worth, I have an easier time seeing people outside of the range of those overhead street lights. The lights create some unwanted glare and I have to slow way down as I pass under them.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

You only see the ones you see. You can’t really account for the ones you didn’t see, can you?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

This is what you call being objective I suppose.

If there were people in my path that I didn’t see, then I must have run them over and not noticed.

q
Guest
q

If there was fog, that’s another reason to drive more slowly.

I’d guess the driver WOULD feel worse if he read this article. I’m certain he would have felt worse if the police hadn’t written their report the way they did. It’s as if they wrote it to protect the driver from having to face the reality that the death could have been avoided if the driver had been more cautious.

But what about the victim’s family? Could the police possibly have written a report that would make them feel WORSE? The police threw in just about every possible reason to blame the victim, but none to blame the driver. Look at all the examples people have written here of how the report might have been written that would have been just as factual, but would have placed the blame on the driver.

The important thing to me isn’t who feels bad–the driver or the victim’s survivors. It’s what results from this. By writing the report as they did, the police did nothing to encourage drivers to be more careful, or to feel like if they kill someone themselves in the future, that it’s a tragic accident that drivers are helpless to prevent.

If the police insist on listing all the reasons the cyclist may have contributed to his death, they should also list all the reasons the driver did, too.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

kristen…I’ve been thinking about this statement you wrote: “…This particular cyclist leaves about the same time every morning and wears black clothing. That’s very interesting.

Many people are creatures of habit. Self conscious too. Wear the same thing everyday. Don’t want to wear anything they think somebody might consider makes them look dorky…hi-vis safety vests for example. Black and other dark clothing is the perennial hip color of choice. All these things I think, can have some people susceptible to a very unfortunate aversion to wearing hi-vis gear, or equipping their bikes with it.

SD
Subscriber

Thanks for writing an article focusing on bias in police reports. I have gotten used to adding many grains of salt to every police report I read, but the real solution would be to remove bias and make them more objective.

A recent example of a likely misleading or inaccurate report can be found here: http://bikeportland.org/2016/08/05/fatal-bicycle-collision-at-se-112th-and-mt-scott-188979#comment-6696437

It would be interesting to know how the police view these reports, i.e. do they believe there is a standard for accuracy and are the reports ever retrospectively examined to see what percentage hold up after an investigation.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

PSU students…another research opportunity…It would be an interesting research project for rural attitudes [vs suburban vs urban] per VZ…if a sample of residents were interviewed to comment on several scenarios (just swap out the victim’s mode but keep all other aspects the same):
– bicyclist;
– farmer on a tractor (no rear lamp…only rear triangle);
– motorcyclist/ moped rider;
– pedestrian (walking towards traffic); and
– motor vehicle operator.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

What I’d like to know is how are they so certain the cyclist didn’t have a rear light (or even the legally required reflector). If you are hit from behind in a high-speed crash, these things will be among the first things to fly off the bike from the impact. How much searching in the roadside weeds do you think the Marion County Sheriff’s Department did to try and find them?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Yes…this has often crossed my mind too…

Pat Lowell
Guest
Pat Lowell

Just because you’re not legally required to make yourself visible at night doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. There also aren’t laws against drinking Drano, or spending the night outside in your underwear in the winter, or waving a golf club around during a lightning storm, but that doesn’t mean those are safe, healthy things to do.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Please don’t pick on me just because I play lightning golf in my underwear in the winter while nursing a Draino cocktail.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

I had you figured for a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster type.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Missing the point. The driver has a responsibility to do safe, healthy things as well, which they clearly did not do.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

We just had a similar sheriff’s statement near Eugene. A couple days ago a woman drove off the road outside of town, killing her daughter. Her family insists the fault lies not in her speeding but in the fact that there isn’t a guard rail where she left the roadway, as if we can afford to put guard rails on every curve. Of course, the sheriff said that speed, alcohol and cell phone use (no reception there) were not factors, as if cars just leave the road for no reason whatsoever.

In a world where motorists were expected to obey the law, including the basic speed law, this woman would be charged with manslaughter and child endangerment. Upon release, she would not be allowed to drive with minors and would have to have a gps monitor that causes her to return to prison if she speeds again. We’re not in that world so the deaths will keep piling up.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

The concept of fault/blame is really not useful in situations like this except for purposes of determining who pays what damages and/or incurs which penalties.

You only get one body and one life. The only real question is how to move forward. Raising awareness in motorists helps. Safety systems in cars that detect cyclists can help. Advocating for more infrastructure helps. But changes in the cycling environment occur very slowly and are helpful on a population basis.

For individual cyclists, the best thing to do is ride in a way that doesn’t depend on any particular environmental factors. Being visible is super important on rural highways at night. To that I’d add it’s a good idea to know what’s going on behind you. Why so few cyclists want to know what’s coming up and how when they’re the slowest thing on the road is beyond me.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

This is the equivalent of the “get tough on crime” initiatives. In the war on drugs, tough laws didn’t really do that much — all it really did was put a bunch of petty drug offenders in prison.

As Ted keeps pointing out with his fallen tree example, it’s pretty clear where the blame lays, and the consequences for hitting one of those can be pretty bad — much worse than some jail time. Yet that doesn’t solve the problem.

They can’t (and shouldn’t attempt to) legislate common sense. You have a right to walk in any section of town with thousands of dollars in your hands at any time of night. Who here wants to exercise that right? I would say riding at night dressed in black and improperly lit is the cycling equivalent, except for it’s worse because the odds of getting seriously injured or killed are much higher.

BTW, while all the cyclists here are feeling so victimized and self righteous in this tragedy, I wear lights when walking around Portland at night — and that has much more to do with me worrying about being hit by cyclists than cars. Cars are hardly the only ones on the roads not paying adequate attention.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

We already have a (non-enforced) law to cover this. Does it not concern you that this law is not being applied here, or even mentioned in the story?

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Actions speak louder than words, so I clearly agree with much of what you wrote since I light myself up like a UFO at night (and much of my riding is done at night) and wear abundant reflective material. However, it still bothers me that part of my overkill of lights is solely to take away any excuses and to do so in such a blatant way that otherwise careless motorists think twice about creating a close encounter.

I also worry that as evermore cyclists evermore lumens, we’re opening the door to open season on anyone whose lights aren’t of supernova caliber. Next to me, someone with a simple dynohub set-up isn’t lit up at all, yet that should be more than sufficient for other road users to deal with.

We’ve already seen this sort of thing with helmets. Once upon a time, none of us wore them. Then we started wearing them on recreational rides outside of town. Nowadays, any cyclists who is struck by a motorist and wasn’t wearing a magic hat is considered to have been at fault for their own demise, even though the helmets were not designed to withstand the forces of a collision with a motor vehicle.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

Part of the problem is when a specific group of people has been conditioned to think they are being persecuted and everything is against them, they will start to see everything in that manner even if it is untrue.

And I don’t mean just Trump supporters.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

True enough, but by the same token, if a specific group of people have been conditioned to being catered to and everything is optimized for their benefit, they will start to believe they are always blameless, even if it isn’t true.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

It does indeed go both ways and that is why things should be viewed objectively.

dan
Guest
dan

Truly, I can never understand why motorists think they can play the victim card.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

Because loss aversion is strong.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

If we turned the tables a bit, I wonder how most drivers would react to these statements:

Around 6:30 a.m., this morning, deputies with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office were called to a motor vehicle operator versus cyclist crash on Shaff Road SE near Rainwater Road SE near Stayton. When deputies arrived they found that a vehicle operator had struck a cyclist, resulting in fatal injuries.

Early indications show that the cyclist was traveling east on Shaff Road when an eastbound minivan struck the bicycle. The area the crash took place has very little shoulder and no lighting. At the time of the crash it was dark and rainy. The officers noted that the vehicle in question was an older model, with poorly maintained headlights and a windshield that had not been cleaned recently. Additionally, the van was not equipped with a collision avoidance or automated stopping safety system. It is not know whether or not the operator was devoting their full attention to the roadway in front of them, given the adverse weather conditions. Police suspect that the vehicle operator was driving too fast for conditions.

The cyclist was equipped with a rear reflector, as is required by Oregon law. Identities of those involved will be released once the appropriate notifications have been made. Shaff Road was closed for 2 hours while investigators processed the scene, Shaff Road has now reopened for regular traffic.

SD
Guest
SD

Perfect. I would also like to see “Because there were no witnesses other than the driver, there is no reliable first-hand account of the event. An investigation regarding tampering with the deceased or the bicycle at the scene has not been completed.”

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

I want to like this comment a thousand times.

Instead I’ll just suggest to Jonathan Maus that this be considered for comment of the week. It makes no assumptions, assigns no blame, and sticks strictly to the facts, yet somehow tells a completely different story than did the police version.

Adam
Guest
Adam

The lack of a (presumably) rear light is a fair point – it’s not exactly smart to bike in the dark with bo lights. Although it has always baffled me that Oregon Law doesn’t require a rear light, only rear reflector. Anyone know why? So technically, the bike rider may not have been breaking the law.

The section of the statement that irked the living s**t out of me is the section saying the bicyclist essentially had the audacity to be on a road with no shoulder. How is THAT the bicyclust’s fault? Typically in rural areas, your onky choice is on roads with no shoulders. Unless you expect us to teleport. This makes me livid.

bradwagon
Guest
bradwagon

Agreed, why can’t it read “The cyclist was using the lane made available for bikes on the road”. The fact that this is also the vehicle lane is no fault of the rider.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“The lack of a (presumably) rear light is a fair point – it’s not exactly smart to bike in the dark with bo lights. Although it has always baffled me that Oregon Law doesn’t require a rear light, only rear reflector. Anyone know why? …” adam

Don’t know exactly, but do know some of the arguments contributing to Oregon not having decided to require bikes to be equipped with a rear tail light. Two of the stronger of arguments I remember offered: expense of tail lights to riders of bikes, and potential for unfair citing of various minority groups and poor people.

Last full Oregon legislative session, reported in a couple bikeportland stories and subject to much criticism in comments, there was a bill in the house, presented by a younger rep, to require bikes be equipped with tail lights. I don’t think there was a lot of public input, for or against the bill, but it seems those against the equipment requirement, won out. Check this sites’ archives for a read-up on that most recent effort.

This incident in Stayton, is an opportunity to reflect on whether, had the tail light for bikes bill become law, that might have had the guy riding, decide to go ahead and put a light on his bike, with the result possibly being, that little additional visibility aid may have been just enough to keep this collision from having happened.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

Presumably you are talking about the “cyclists must wear reflective clothing and have a rear tail light” proposal, which got a lot of flak, but certainly not for exactly how you characterized it.

Since at this point, we’re all speculating…on the info available at this time, it’s entirely possible this collision would not have happened had the driver followed the basic speed law…adding perhaps 15 seconds to their drive.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I’m happy to consider a correction you’re willing offer to the summary of past discussions on the bill for visibility gear presented to Oregon legislature last session…but go ahead and say what’s on your mind…don’t expect me or anyone else reading here, to sort through an old story to try divine the point you’re trying to make.

Since instead of using your own, you seem to like borrowing the words and phrases I choose to use in comments I write…yes, it is entirely possible the collision would not have happened had the person driving been following the basic speed law…and it’s also, entirely possible that they were driving at a speed consistent with the basic speed law, and that at whatever mph speed this was, the person riding the bike may effectively have been invisible to a reasonably capable person driving responsibly according to the basic speed law.

Why, based on the facts available to date, offered in the initial sheriff’s dept statement, might the person biking have been effectively invisible to the person driving? Because the person biking had no light on the bike, and was wearing dark clothes. That’s the facts known to date about the person biking. People can speculate that the person driving was doing this or that that may have contributed to the collision…but there’s no facts from the sheriff’s dept at present, to support such speculation.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

There’s nothing in this story, or in any of these terrible stories that I can recall reading, to indicate that the police are even aware of the basic speed law.

Generally speaking (unless someone jumps right in front of you) if you hit somebody in front of you, you are probably going too fast for the conditions. If you can’t see people or other obstacles because the weather is crappy, you are going too fast for the conditions. If you go around a corner and drive off the road, you are definitely going too fast for the conditions.

Can anyone recall a time when a driver was cited for failing to obey the basic speed law?

Adam
Guest
Adam

Bizarre. So, should poor people and or minorities bd allowed to purchase cars and trucks with no lights?

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

wsbob asks: ” Although it has always baffled me that Oregon Law doesn’t require a rear light, only rear reflector. Anyone know why? …” it a product of history the last time that most state vehicle codes were updated it (due to a tsunami of cyclist injures during the 70s bike boom) was based on the best technology – rear battery or generator lights were low powered and prone to failure – vs. a large dimeter round red reflector…much larger than those typical now.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

todd…it was adam asking that question…not me, and I thank him for asking that pertinent question.

I think it may be partly right though, that feeble lighting technology of years ago, could have played a role in lawmakers not seeking to have tail lights be required equipment for bikes. Reasonably bright lighting for bikes today is so simple and lightweight, compared to what it was a couple decades and more ago. No big, heavy batteries, or dim tungsten bulbs. At under 50 bucks, or even 30, the relatively higher level of visibility, compared to no light, that bike lights of today can provide, is kind of amazing.

I realize that for many people, forking out 30 dollars for a bike tail light can be a huge burden…which is one of the reservations I have about any possible change to law that would require tail lights as standard equipment for bikes. Some things might be done though, to ease that burden for people having difficulty coming up with the money for lights, if tail lights do eventually become required equipment for bikes.

Alex Reedin
Guest
Alex Reedin

I think it would be great to require lights on all bikes AT POINT OF SALE (exceptions for narrowly defined racing-only bikes, like in the Netherlands I believe). To require individual customers to add the lights themselves is just not a feasible way to get to near 100% compliance.

Adam
Guest
Adam

Agreed. Bikes shoukd come with lights permenantly attached at point of sale. You know, like cars.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

No thanks. I have some bikes I only ride in the daytime.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

“fallen tree” is the gong I keep banging. It’s interesting how things change- most trees fail to have a blinky light, and it’s pretty clear where the blame lies if you are driving too fast for conditions.

q
Guest
q

After “The area the crash took place has very little shoulder and no lighting. At the time of the crash it was dark (and) rainy” the statement could have continued:

“But despite all that, there is no indication that the driver slowed down far enough below the posted speed limit to achieve a safe speed that would allow him time to react to avoid hitting the cyclist, or any number of other things–pedestrian, animal, object–that a driver should reasonably expect to encounter in a roadway.”

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

It might have been a reasonable speed for the reasonable expectation that there would not be anyone dressed in dark clothing in a roadway at night.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Unfortunately, the definition of “reasonable” is very subjective. People hit deer all of the time and fault the deer. I’m sure the deer would feel differently about the situation. If a motorist hits a downed tree in a wind/rain storm while driving at a “reasonable” speed, who is at fault?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

If you hit a deer that’s on the side of the roadway and running directly away from you in a straight line at 15mph, then you are going too fast for conditions.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

That’s why the term is used…because no situation is an absolute.

DP
Guest
DP

The minimal legal requirements for lighting determine what other people are expected to see. Where is the wiggle room?

q
Guest
q

It’s possible. But the point of the article remains valid. The sheriff’s report mentions the victim’s not wearing more visible clothing as a factor in the crash, although wearing dark clothing isn’t illegal. But it doesn’t take the same approach with the driver–it doesn’t mention things the driver failed to do that were not legally required, but that could have prevented hitting the victim.

I think it’s also questionable to say that it’s a reasonable expectation that there will be nothing dark in the road ahead of you (cyclist, pedestrian, object) especially on a road with no shoulder.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Agreed, I would say it’s irrational to expect that you’re never going to encounter a person on the road.

Mike Healey
Guest

I don’t have “reasonable expectations” when driving, except that I should be prepared for other road users to be there. I also know that my car headlights are sufficiently bright to show up pedestrians or cyclists dressed in dark clothing. That is why, like MOR guy’s earlier post, I see “cyclists without lights”
I always find it astonishing that, in any discussion on this subject, pretty much every driver complains about them and when you ask how they know about “cyclists without lights”, they say, “I see them all the time”.
I’m not arguing against having lights, since I commuted lit up like a Christmas tree with flashing and steady lights. Still had to take evasive action on very rare occasions to avoid the usual witless SMIDSY driver.
I agree with JM’s criticism of the police’s unsupported assumptions about the rider being the one at fault.

Spiffy
Subscriber

drivers should assume that at any time there could be something dark in the roadway… that’s why you never drive faster than you can see and react…

highrider
Guest
highrider

Picture the victim driving a car there at 15 mph with no lights on (presumably). The driver still might have plowed right into the victim’s car, potentially causing death.

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

In that situation the driver did nothing illegal, did they? They are not going to get cited for hitting a log.

q
Guest
q

That response proves the point. Driving safely and not being illegal aren’t the same thing. It’s hard to argue that you were driving safely if you hit a stationary object in front of you. And actually, you COULD be cited for driving too fast for the conditions if you hit a log.

And the whole point of the article was that the sheriff’s report mentions things the cyclist did or didn’t do, that weren’t illegal but may have contributed to the crash, but didn’t do the same in regard to the driver.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

An interesting thought exercise. What if a manufacturer came out with a small rear rack mounted rocket launcher with a sophisticated radar/computer that could determine with high accuracy if a cyclist was about to be hit by a motorist. The rocket would be fired in milliseconds, blasting the threatening auto in to a fine powder which would no longer threaten the cyclist. The question is: would incidents of errant motorists being neutralized by defensively armed cyclists be handled as causualy by the authorities as is now the case with cyclists being run down by motorists?

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

Can you imagine if they allowed such a thing on the roads? I mean, a vehicle that has the ability to harm others so easily? What if the rocket-equipped-cyclist wasn’t paying attention and hit someone by accident?

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

But obviously, if they did accidently blast an innocent motorist it would be the deceased drivers fault for not equiping their car with the proper protective gear, or for driving on a road that was too narrow so it was likely to bring them in the proximity of rocket equiped cyclists!

meh
Guest
meh

“a vehicle that has the ability to harm others so easily”

That’s the problem it’s not the vehicle, the vehicle can’t do a thing on its own, it is an inanimate object. To do harm requires a human being.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

That’s weird, because I keep seeing reports (like the one above) about vehicles hitting and killing people. Where are the people?!

Middle of the Road guy
Guest
Middle of the Road guy

sounds like a viable kickstarter idea. Have at it!

Better Alive than Right
Guest
Better Alive than Right

Having read most the comments, there are three main threads:
1. the driver was driving irresponsibly: driving in a way that resulted in the bicyclist being hit is the drivers fault.
2. the bicyclist was riding irresponsibly: how can you ride in the dark, in the rain, on a remote rural road, and not at least have a rear light?
3. the initial police report was completely biased against the bicyclist

In my opinion the first two are not mutually exclusive.

I can somewhat agree with JM that the driver is at fault. Drive for the conditions – it could’ve been anything in that road, including Middle of the Road guy in a ninja outfit, and just because you’re in a car and its on the road doesn’t give you the right to kill it. Agreed.

But I also wholeheartedly agree that as a biker, I want to stay alive and I want all my fellow cyclists to stay alive. I’d be happy to have a beer at Velo Cult and discuss how messed up it is that bicyclists are unjustly blamed for accidents. But when I leave the bar on a rainy night, I’m going to put on my helmet, my bright yellow rain jacket with reflective striping, my 800W headlight, and my PDW Danger Zone taillight because I don’t want to be the next victim. Am I caving to the system? Maybe. Am I adjusting to reality – yep.

If the deadly car vs human bicyclist is a chicken and egg scenario, I’ll change my defensive behavior after the cars change their deadly behavior. I’d rather be alive than overly principled.

As far as the biased police report – I completely agree but only after reading JM’s critique. That is definitely something we need to improve. But you’re not doing yourself any favors on that front by saying that the bicyclist shares no culpability. And the police also have a responsibility to improve the safety of the public – they don’t want any more dead cyclists either. But they could couch it better: gear up guys, because there are crazies on the road who might kill you.

Until they stop all the crazies, I’m gearing up.

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

When we take our bicycles on the road we each may choose how much risk to assume. The minimum amount of lighting isn’t enough for many of us; we’ll generally have rear lights (even when not required, and often more than one) and front lights that exceed the legal requirement. Many of us additionally wear bright clothing, or accessories that have reflective material, or otherwise ride so that we’re easily seen.

Those are all choices we’re free to make.

However, once someone has met the legal minimum none of us has any right to blame that person in the event that they’re hit by a driver who is otherwise at fault. Drivers are responsible to see and avoid anyone they can reasonably see, and “reasonably” is defined as obeying the law.

They are responsible to see and avoid cyclists who have nothing in the rear but a reflector.

They are responsible to see and avoid pedestrians who are wearing dark clothing and no reflective gear on foggy nights.

They are responsible to see and avoid people when the sun is in front of them and when it’s behind them. Also in overcast, rainy, snowy, icy, foggy, or any other weather condition. All of this is embedded in the basic speed rule: don’t drive faster than conditions allow.

Sure. Gear up. I will too. Also, that guy — the guy who was legally up to scratch but didn’t have quite as much don’t-kill-me-yellow clothing on, or quite as many blinky taillights, or whose front light wasn’t an 800-lumen retina roaster, or who in some other way didn’t exceed the requirements as much as I do — that guy is not at fault for having a higher tolerance for risk, or for having a slimmer wallet, if the damage came from someone endangering him by breaking the law.

meh
Guest
meh

Hypocrisy at it’s finest. Quote the statutes chapter and verse when it suits you, but woes is me if I get nabbed in an enforcement action for rolling a stop sign. Because it’s always “it’s just common sense that an Idaho stop is better for cyclists”. Well it’s common sense to put a light on your rear end when riding at night in the rain.

So if you assume the risk of not being as visible then that implies you know that what you are doing is not the best possible thing you can do in the situation but you consider the risks acceptable. So you are willing to assume fault (not blame) if something occurs.

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

You’re accusing me of quite a lot. I don’t think we’ve ever met, nor do I recall making posts lauding the behaviors you’re ascribing to me.

Do try to be more polite in the future. Also more accurate.

meh
Guest
meh

“However, once someone has met the legal minimum”

“that guy is not at fault for having a higher tolerance for risk”

You brought up legal minimum and risk tolerance.

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

Yes, I did, and I feel I’m quite consistent in that stance. Your post appears to try to contrast that with a complete disregard for other laws and safety standards, and accuses me of hypocrisy for supporting both my own statements and the ones you made up and assigned to me.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

meh

canuck
Guest
canuck

Well said, because the only laws that apply are the laws of physics, two tons of car win against 20 pounds of bike every time. I’d rather be alive than right.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

This isn’t a discussion about physics and “staying alive”, it’s a discussion about how the police and media report incidents. If you get hit by a car this will affect you, even with your safety gear. You are dead, and the motorist lies. The responding officer doesn’t question them (unless they are drunk) and issues a statement to the media stating the you were difficult to see, or “darted in front of the car”. This is what your family and friends get to read. It happens all of the time.

Joe F
Guest
Joe F

What would be right? Dead is dead.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

I’d rather not be in a world where the attitude is it’s everyone’s responsibility/fault to stay out of the way of dangerous drivers.

I’d rather be in a world where drivers acknowledged, through behavior, that there is significant responsibility that comes with operating a large object, especially in situations with decreased visual awareness.

Joe F
Guest
Joe F

What about the responsibility of the little bicyclist operating on a roadway for trucks, cars and farm vehicles that are under mechanical power?

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

When did we decide who roadways are ‘for’?

Spiffy
Subscriber

you mean those roadways that were built for people? the ones that have been taken over by corporations for the sole use of explosion-powered weapons in the last 100 years? those roads?

ok, so what responsibilities are you talking about?

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

This “remote rural road” was less than a mile from town.

What if there was a tail light which was smashed/lost in the crash? Seems likely that somebody writing the car-centric report could easily miss that evidence. The dead person cannot defend themselves, so we should all really make more of an effort to ask for evidence and question assumptions.

What about this “forgive and forget” attitude toward drivers who “didn’t see”. This driver probably had about a 10mph better chance of missing an illegally un-reflectored bike than a legally dressed-in-black pedestrian. Seems like that’s worth remembering.

Joe F
Guest
Joe F

Eric, yes this collision happened about a mile from town but that says nothing to the fact it is pitch black, and that a simplke flashing light may have saved Charlie’s life. Everything was looked for at the scene which is why they reported ‘no lights on the bike’. Police can be correct once in a while.

Joe F
Guest
Joe F

Jonathon Maus, you are obviously a bit narrow on your bike enthusiasm, meaning you seem to believe bicyclists are always in the right and vehicle drivers are always in the wrong, and you come off as very prejudiced against drivers, as well.

The area that the bicyclist was hit is dark –always– but is worse when raining. You don’t know the area we live in and are incapable of an honest, knowledgeable, informed opinion on this tragic accident. This is rural Oregon, not downtown Portland.

Bicyclists should always have reflectors front, back and sides (at a ridiculous minimum), and even better, have lights on their bikes and reflective clothing when riding in the dark. The amount of rain coming down at that time was unsafe for someone, anyone, on a bicycle. These awful incidents happen from time to time and it must be understood that not one or the other is always at fault. Every person on the road must do their due diligence for their own safety first and foremost.

You also are spending far too much time analyzing every word being said or written like there is a hidden meaning to every word said. This is no conspiracy. It is an accident. Give it a rest.

I really think you need to re-examine your stance and your opinions, and don’t take the side that everyone is against cyclists or the like. I used to enjoy bicycling when I was younger and even into middle age. But when you get on your bike, you must do your part, too, and not just hope someone will see you in any condition. Now, lay off and let us deal with our tragedy, as now we need to deal with it.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Hmm, no mention in your post whether you think someone ought to be driving in those conditions at the speed that they were driving.

Suppose you’re out there driving, and you have a breakdown that requires you to walk the rest of the way. Do you think other drivers on the road ought to be watchful for you on the side of the road, or should they just drive at the posted limit regardless of the conditions, and hit whatever happens to get in their way?

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

The dark and rain isn’t remotely as dangerous as somebody driving too fast through it. If I’m solely obligated to take responsibility for my own safety, the best thing is probably to erect a barrier or otherwise render the road impassible to cars after crossing each intersection.

I take it your response to “minivan crashes into gaping sinkhole” is “The amount of rain coming down at that time was unsafe for someone, anyone, in a minivan. These awful incidents happen from time to time and it must be understood that not one or the other is always at fault. Every person on the road must do their due diligence for their own safety first and foremost.”

Or were you trying to say that “due diligence” means driving a car?

Spiffy
Subscriber

no Joe F, you really need to examine your privilege… the only reason that so many people have to take any precautions at all on our streets is due to the mass carnage delivered by poorly driven motor vehicles…

bicycles should not need any lights at all… there’s nothing unsafe about riding a black bicycle in dark clothes at night in the rain…

the only thing unsafe about our roads are the motor vehicles… quit trying to defend something that kills 30,000 of us every year… they are the problem… it’s that simple… you just don’t want to look… you just don’t want it to be you… too bad…

the drivers are the ones with the weapons… the drivers are the ones making things unsafe… the drivers are the ones solely responsible for the safety of those around them on the road…

you don’t create a dangerous situation and then blame everybody else for it…

roads are not for cars…

roads are for the people…

roads are not supposed to be slaughterhouses…

roads are not for killing…

***Portions of this comment were edited to make it less insulting and mean. Please be nice everyone. Thanks. — Jonathan. ***

Mark smith
Guest
Mark smith

If I hit a car with my car…and the other car had no lights, was black…and it was raining…would the release read the same way?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I don’t know, are cars legally required to have tail lights?

Joe F
Guest
Joe F

Yes. Headlights, too, when driving after dark.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Exactly. The comparison is invalid.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

If the car was stopped, the owner could be held criminally negligent. Even if moving, they would be held responsible.

This is not a cyclist vs motorist thing.

The messaging from the police can be improved. I think constantly bringing up helmets when someone has been pulped by a vehicle going 60mph because wearing a beer cooler on your head isn’t going to help much.

But this is the wrong thing to get our knickers in a twist about. Even if it’s legal, is disingenuous to suggest that riding in the dark dressed in black and unlit isn’t setting up an accident.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Again no mention of basic speed law.

Spiffy
Subscriber

that happened to my father in law… he slid partway off the road in his black truck due to snow… he was standing next to it and a driver came around the corner and hit his truck… that driver was cited for driving too fast for conditions because he hit an inanimate object in the road that he should have been able to avoid…

in a world where everybody takes the needed level of care we don’t need tail lights because nobody drives where they can’t see…

Kristi Finney Dunn
Guest

The following excerpt was printed in O-Live the morning my son was killed. Seems to pretty explicitly imply that Dustin died because he wasn’t wearing a helmet and the other rider survived because he was. Dustin was hit full on from the rear in the bike lane and the other rider was “clipped and just knocked down” (his words). Also, Dustin’s “severe head trauma” was from being hit so hard his head broke off his neck, not his head smashed. A helmet would have made no difference.

“Portland police Traffic Division Lt. Eric Schober said Finney was not wearing a helmet and suffered severe head trauma. Phomma, who was wearing a helmet, was taken to the hospital for an evaluation. He said Friday afternoon he felt better but has been having general headaches and soreness in his side.”

Every time I see this type of statement I’m angry all over again.

kittens
Guest
kittens

God that is awful and tragic. I think it just further highlights the lunacy of low level law enforcement officials putting out media statements. They are just not equipped or informed on how to talk about fresh accidents.

Versus
Guest
Versus

I am sorry for your loss

kittens
Guest
kittens

It is possible that both the bike rider and driver were at fault here. Insurance companies assign this all the time. The cyclist for being negligent and driver for failing to stop in time. I would say 10/90% spit with the majority of the blame landing on diver.

Versus
Guest
Versus

Is it just me or is the usage of the word “versus” very atypical for this type of statement or am I wrong on that? Also, while a rear light is not required by Oregon Law, isn’t a front light required in low light conditions, even though it may not be the most relevant in this situation.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…Also, while a rear light is not required by Oregon Law, isn’t a front light required in low light conditions, even though it may not be the most relevant in this situation.” versus

Important point to be raising, and a good question to be asking. Light on front is relevant to this situation, because time of day the person was riding, was early in morning, low light, if not dark at 6:30.

On oregonlaws.org, check out required equipment for bikes:

http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/815.280

Notice the law uses “limited visibility conditions”, rather than ‘low light’ as some of us may tend to do from time. The same basic principle is implied by both phrases, I think.

I also think it’s very important for anyone riding, to tune up their awareness of what lighting conditions may have their visibility to other road users be very poor to not at all, through no fault of other road users. For example…during the day or near to it, fog, dark rainy daytime, or sometimes, even on sunny days, deep shadows from tall trees or towering rock faces can create low visibility conditions in which use of lighting on bikes can be very advantageous.

pdxpaul
Guest
pdxpaul

Versus is standard nomenclature.

q
Guest
q

At least they’re not calling them “driver-involved accidents” yet.

Scott Moad
Guest
Scott Moad

Bottom line is if you hear a car coming, move as far away as possible if you want to live.

Kyle Banerjee
Guest

Better yet, just keep track of it and adjust accordingly if it’s not going to clear you.

On two lane highways, riding too far right is dangerous. Much better to ride pretty far left so you can be seen and so you can tell if the driver sees you. If the driver doesn’t indicate via movement and/or adjustment of speed that s/he sees you and won’t clear, you can move over as far as you need — including off the road if necessary.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Or better yet, just sell your bike for scrap metal and buy a big SUV. Or just stay at home. Can’t be too safe out there.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

And be careful which house you choose to live in. I don’t recommend this one: http://abc7news.com/news/man-refuses-to-move-after-cars-strike-san-jose-home-19-times/1384863/

SD
Guest
SD

Specific to this event. To evaluate the driving best practice, “was the driver maximizing their visibility by using their high beams?” This question is as relevant to the fatality as is the question of a rear bicycle light.

More broadly, “Why aren’t there more rigorous requirements for headlights?”
See IIHS article below for variability among vehicles.
http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/51/3/1

Bankerman
Guest
Bankerman

I really don’t see any particular bias in the sheriffs department statement, but after reading the comments I can see where BP is coming from.

However, a reader needs to consider another side to the sheriff’s statement. I have two friends who are law enforcement officers, and while perhaps not representative of every such person, I do note that in conversations with them over the years that they are disheartened about any traffic fatality. These are people who on a regular basis see the death and the pain caused by auto crashes, whether it involves other vehicles, bikes, or pedestrians. They are particularly distressed when the death comes about when, in their opinion, it is due in part to the lack of responsible actions on the part of an involved person. It may be driving under the influence, speeding, careless driving, or even the wearing of dark clothes at night. In the statement referenced here, what I “read between the lines” is a sheriff thinking here is another fatality that perhaps could have been prevented if the bicycle rider had taken some common-sense precautions.

When I was a teenager back in the 1960s, I delivered the Oregonian on my bike. Even back then, at the age of 12 or 13, I felt the need to mount front and rear lights as I made those early-morning rounds. I spent a lot of time and money trying to find the brightest and most effective lighting available; and it was pretty tough back then to find reliable bike products. But I always remembered what my mother told me: yes you may be right, dead right.

Pete
Guest
Pete

The point many make here is the difference between legal and responsible. The duty of the responding officer is to determine legal compliance and record *all* facts surrounding an incident – relevant to the law, as well as to potential for cause. These facts will then be interpreted by lawyers and judges who determine levels of negligence (as a corollary of responsibility) – that’s not the officer’s call.

The color of a bicyclist’s clothing has absolutely no place in a police report. My most reflective clothing is black, while my yellow and orange jerseys can’t be seen in the dark. 3M makes a high-reflective material that is black. The “white” jacket you see pictured here is actually black: https://ca-store.sugoi.com/collections/zap-collection

The officer noted a lack of rear lighting while neglecting to note the presence (or lack) of a legally-required reflector on the bike. The officer neglected to note whether the driver had their lights on, which is required within a half hour of sunrise. That these latter (and important) facts are omitted while irrelevant “facts” noted indicates potential bias, as it influences the interpretation of liability by the court.

The rider had a responsibility for the bicycle to be seen from 600′ behind, and the current state of Oregon law determines that a bicycle reflector should satisfy this condition. See this article by a bicycle lawyer here: http://www.stc-law.com/bikelighting.html

This (potential bias) also occurs regularly when it’s noted that an adult bicyclist was not wearing a helmet. Yes, many of us agree that helmets are a great idea (they’ve saved my head twice), but they are not legally required, and they are irrelevant to the cause of a crash. I would expect an officer to note if a driver was not wearing a seatbelt in a crash, though, because that’s a citable offense – though again, irrelevant to cause.

Hope this helps.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…The color of a bicyclist’s clothing has absolutely no place in a police report. …” pete

In the initial report posted two and half hours after this collision, there is no mention of the color of clothing the person riding the bike was wearing, The report instead says the person biking “…was wearing dark clothing…”, which speaks to tone, i.e. light compared to dark, and accordingly, the relative visibility of lighter toned clothes compared to darker toned clothes. It certainly does seem to me that it would very much be a duty of an officer reporting on collisions having occurred under the visibility conditions this one did, to note in their collision report about the relative visibility of the clothing worn by the person riding the bike.

While reflective impregnated dark fabric clothing does exist, it’s by no means common. I’ve got a selection of visibility gear…gloves, jerseys…but none of the kind of thing you’re referring to…though I’ve seen it on store racks. It’s not common, and its expensive…whereas though they’ve got a lot to be desired for stylishness, a standard construction issue safety vest in green or orange with a lot of 2″ wide retroreflective tape on it, costs maybe ten to fifteen dollars.

Out on what in the picture top of this story appears to be a very beautiful, but very dark on a rainy morning area of fields in the countryside…wearing such a vest likely would have immensely aided visibility of the person riding, to other road users.

Presuming, because the Marion County Sheriff’s Dept in their initial collision report of just two and half hours, is somehow guilty of bias because it does not cover every aspect of the collision in a manner, certain people interested in biking would like to hear…does no good towards progress in improvements to road use safety for people biking. The, so to speak, elephant in the room, is the person riding the bike, involved in and killed in this collision, went out on the road on their bike without gear that may have enabled them to be visibile to other road users in what apparently was very poor visibility conditions.

Pete
Guest
Pete

I don’t disagree, but here’s the thing: in night riding tests that we’ve done, the black impregnated clothing is visible MUCH further away than the cheaper, lighter reflective clothing. And in the bright sunlight that I tend to ride in, black stands out much better against the older, whitewashed pavement that’s also common here in Cali. The white, orange, and yellow jerseys that I have are barely more visible than the dark clothing in dim light, and just as black in the dark. I also have a Gore jacket that’s hi-viz and fluorescent yellow with black accents that’s quite visible, but it retails for $200 and is often far too warm to ride in. So the bottom line is it’s not the color of the clothing that makes the biggest difference in visibility, it’s the quality and area of the reflective material, and the good stuff is just not practical to expect a majority of cyclists to always ride in.

I have to wonder if the officer would have noted if the bicyclist was wearing a bright orange jersey, or even an expensive reflective one like my Gore.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…in night riding tests that we’ve done, the black impregnated clothing is visible MUCH further away than the cheaper, lighter reflective clothing. And in the bright sunlight that I tend to ride in, black stands out much better against the older, whitewashed pavement that’s also common here in Cali. The white, orange, and yellow jerseys that I have are barely more visible than the dark clothing in dim light, and just as black in the dark. …” pete

Those observations all sound fair and good to me. Contrast of the gear to the surroundings is an important consideration that savvy vulnerable road users are wise to be aware of, I think, and put together a selection of things that will be most effective to the conditions they expect to be riding in. I don’t mean to imply putting together some extensive and expensive, complicated wardrobe, but instead, just a few things that will be particularly effective for a range of conditions.

Myself…on sunny days, I prefer white jerseys to the colors more commonly associated with ‘hi-vs’, such as the orange and green. Some people have told me that white is one of the more visible tones or shades, so true or not, I want to believe that. Hope it’s true. I save the hi-vis colors for overcast days, particularly the dark, gloomy days; more effective on such days, and less fade than from the sun.

Thinking about this today…what might be a reliable rule of thumb for what level of visibility anyone biking in low visibility conditions should try to have their bike gear provide: Use the white lines painted on the road for comparison. The paint used for the lines, is designed to pick up light from headlights. I guess some of the paint actually does have reflective material in it.

Keeping in mind that this story says the collision report was filed just two and a half hours after the collision, and did not reflect the full results of the collision investigation mentioned as being ongoing at the time the statement was released.

q
Guest
q

You could be right about the sheriff’s own state of mind and motivations, wanting to work some well-intended advice into the report. But he didn’t include any advice for drivers, and Pete’s response is perfect.

Additionally, most humans naturally want to avoid making someone feel worse than they already do in these situations. Offering comfort–“There’s nothing you could have done to prevent this”–is what people naturally do. But while well-intentioned, that response creates problems, in that it quashes important conversation that need to happen about things that (in this case) the driver might have done differently.

It would be great if every fatal crash was investigated similarly to the way (I believe) the FAA investigates plane crashes–with an impartial investigation and report by professionals who can suspend any need to be sympathetic or compassionate. The “there’s nothing you could have done” view needs to be eliminated, and it’s perhaps it’s unreasonable that we ask local law enforcement officers to suspend normal human responses that get in the way of objective reporting of crashes.

That brings things right back to Pete’s statement that it could be best for police reports to stick strictly to facts that are legally relevant. But then follow up with objective analysis afterwards, so people can learn from each crash.

Spiffy
Subscriber

“In the statement referenced here, what I “read between the lines” is a sheriff thinking here is another fatality that perhaps could have been prevented if the bicycle rider had taken some common-sense precautions.”

and that’s exactly the problem!

the driver was the one with the responsibility to avoid road hazards and yet the cop will reinforce to themselves that the cyclist should have done more…

instead the cop should be rue the fact that drivers often drive faster than they can see and relate that fact in their stories to their friends…

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…the driver was the one with the responsibility to avoid road hazards and yet the cop will reinforce to themselves that the cyclist should have done more…” spiffy

People that bike, also have responsibilities to avoid road hazards…such as having a motor be driven into them…in part because the person riding the bike hasn’t taken measures relative to weather and lighting conditions, to enhance their visibility to other road users.

Should the entire responsibility for seeing vulnerable road users, be placed upon the people driving? Should people that bike on the road not be obliged to do anything to aid visibility of themselves to other road users?

Is it reasonable for a vulnerable road user, to unthinkingly use gear that actually can defeat the ability of other road users seeing them?

q
Guest
q

The sheriff’s statement is bad from a cyclist’s perspective. But ironically, while pro-driver on the surface–because it excuses the driver by listing all the failures of the cyclist, and all the problems with conditions such as darkness, no shoulder, etc–deeper down the statement is equally bad from a driver’s perspective.

No driver wants to be involved in a collision, especially one that kills somebody, even if it’s not their fault, and they don’t get hurt themselves. But by placing all the blame for the collision on the cyclist and on conditions, it tells drivers that they are powerless to avoid such collisions. After all, others’ actions and conditions are beyond drivers’ control.

If instead, the report had listed things the driver might have done differently–slowed down, been watchful for other users, avoided distractions in the car, etc.–it would have shown drivers they can reduce the chances of having to live with the fact that they killed somebody with their vehicle.

That’s much better than giving drivers the impression that being the driver in a fatal crash is just fate or luck of the draw.

Bankerman
Guest
Bankerman

Due to the lack of information in the sheriff’s statement, we don’t really know the extent of the conversation they had with the driver. Perhaps the officer on the scene interviewed the driver and found that he was not, in fact, exceeding the speed limit, may have been closely watching the road, and there were no distractions in the car. At the legal limit of 55mph, the vehicle would be traveling about 81 feet per second and if the driver came around a curve and spotted the bicyclist, he would have had a split second to avoid the collision. And perhaps he did swerve or otherwise attempt to avoid the crash, but the sheriff’s statement left that information out because they felt the driver was driving in a completely legal manner and had no liability in the crash. Because, whether you wish to admit it or not, there are “accidents” with bicyclists where the driver is not at fault.

After reading the BP website for the last couple of years, I understand that the typical poster never, ever, finds a bike rider at fault. Not when a bicyclists suddenly and unexpectedly decides to turn from a right-side bike lane against traffic and is hit by a car in the far left lane, or even when a bike rider hits and injuries a pedestrian (as has been documented at least two times that I am aware of), the bicyclist is never at fault.

Continue on your merry way, stubborn in your belief that a bicyclist can do no wrong, and continue to wonder why the general public is incensed by your air of superiority and lack of responsibility.

Spiffy
Subscriber

if they were going 55 mph then they need a ticket for speeding…

at that speed on a clear night they should have been able to stop in time…

it was dark so they should have been going slower…

and it was raining so they should have been going even slower…

and they couldn’t see things in the road in time to stop so they should have been going even slower still…

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

They should have been going at least 15mph slower than the speed at which they would be able to safely avoid hitting something moving away from them at 15mph.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

There’s a huge difference between “a bicyclist can do no wrong” and pointing out bias in the reporting.

q
Guest
q

All you say about the sheriff knowing the driver was driving appropriately, so that he didn’t mention anything in his report about the driver’s actions, could be true. There’s still the fact that he did hit him. Even in bad weather in the dark, with a dark object or person in front, it’s hard NOT to see them unless you’ve got other headlights in your eyes, which wasn’t mentioned to be the case. So I’m not convinced the driver wasn’t going too fast for the conditions.

More importantly, I don’t see any evidence here to support your idea that the typical poster never finds cyclists at fault. There may be a few. But being critical of the report, or criticizing the driver, or saying dark clothing isn’t illegal, is not at all the same as saying the cyclist was not at fault or partially at fault, legally or otherwise.

Bankerman
Guest
Bankerman

I would have to completely disagree with you when you state “Even in bad weather in the dark, with a dark object or person in front, it’s hard NOT to see them”. A week ago I was driving back to my office in downtown Portland at dusk and slowed to make a right-hand turn. As I did so, I caught the movement of a pedestrian in dark clothing against a backdrop of dark buildings and trees just about to step into the crossing. This action caught me completely off-guard as I did not see the person at all until he/she stepped out into the street. As I was traveling maybe 5mph, I was able to quickly stop, but to say it is NOT hard to see someone under those circumstances is just not valid in my opinion.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Operating heavy machinery is a difficult job if done correctly.

SD
Subscriber

The point of this article is that no one other than the driver knows who was at fault. Maybe, the driver doesn’t even have a full appreciation of what happened. But, despite this, the report highlights the fault of the person on the bicycle. After reading many of these reports and seeing the manner in which they are reported in media, it is evident that this is common practice.

As far as interviewing the driver, what do you expect a sheriff to be able to do when there are no witnesses?

Do you expect anything more than-

Sheriff: “You may have just killed someone with your car. Were you driving carefully?”
Driver: “Yes, I was driving very carefully. I wasn’t speeding. The cyclist appeared out of no where. I didn’t see them.”
Sheriff: “OK.”

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“After reading the BP website for the last couple of years, I understand that the typical poster never, ever, finds a bike rider at fault. Not when a bicyclists suddenly and unexpectedly decides to turn from a right-side bike lane against traffic and is hit by a car in the far left lane, or even when a bike rider hits and injuries a pedestrian (as has been documented at least two times that I am aware of), the bicyclist is never at fault.”

Speaking for myself only (I don’t know whether I am a “typical” commenter here), the issue is not that a cyclist involved in a collision could “never” have done anything wrong. The issue, in my mind, is this:

The only time a driver is considered by most of society (but particularly, by Law Enforcement) to have done anything “wrong” is when it can be proved (via video, post-crash forensics, medical evidence, etc.) that the driver was either drunk/impaired, or committed an egregious violation of the actual law, such as gross speeding (> 20 over the limit) or running a red light at speed, etc. Whereas, to read most police/news reports, a bicyclist is considered to be “in the wrong” for the teeny-tiniest of faux infractions such as wearing the wrong color clothes, not wearing a helmet, not having a rear light, or riding “too fast”, even though they were going less than the speed limit—none of which are illegal. This problem is illustrated somewhat in your quote:

“…but the sheriff’s statement left that information out because they felt the driver was driving in a completely legal manner and had no liability in the crash.”

In case you’re scratching your head wondering how this quote illustrates the point, here is how: The police also didn’t mention a single thing that would indicate the bicyclist was riding illegally, yet they felt it necessary to comment on things that weren’t illegal (wearing dark clothes, not having a rear light) about the bicyclist’s riding. The problem is that most people assume a driver was doing “everything right” (were they really?), and if that assumption is made, and the driver still runs over someone, then we must search for ways that the bicyclist or pedestrian victim must have been doing something “wrong”, even if they were operating completely legally.

As soon as we stop expecting pedestrians and bicyclists to go above and beyond the law to avoid being blamed for crashes, and start expecting drivers to comply with the bare minimum legal requirements for safe driving (which we don’t do—we don’t expect drivers to check blind spots, slow down [EVER!!!], signal turns, not drive blindly into sun glare, clean their windshields, etc.), then articles like this one won’t be necessary. Until then, we are not necessarily seeking to absolve bicyclists of all responsibility for crashes, but merely to point out the tendency of the public at large to focus so intently and singly on what the bicyclist must have done “wrong”, while ignoring things the driver also could have done to avoid tragedy. We can’t treat drivers like wild animals who just can’t help overdriving headlights and speeding around, taking chances with other people’s lives. Safety for pedestrians and bicyclists cannot be approached like teaching hikers how to thwart a bear attack or surfers to avoid sharks. Drivers need to take some responsibility for going above and beyond the law sometimes as well, and be held responsible for not doing so to the same extent bicyclists usually are.

Bankerman
Guest
Bankerman

I find it interesting that you so off-handedly ignore our legal system by stating that drivers are not typically found guilty unless there is proof. Considering that the act of killing a bicyclist with an auto is a felony, yes, I would expect there to be verifiable proof.

For you to say that when we start expecting drivers to follow the bare minimum of responsibility (checking blind spots, etc.), I disagreed with your conclusion. I believe that we DO expect drivers to be responsible. And I think the vast majority of drivers do follow the law. Of the thousands of interactions between bikes and autos every day, the fact that there relatively few collisions seems to me an indication of general responsibility.

And lastly, I find it interesting that you continue to focus on factors (such as the lack of lights) that contributed to the crash but are not required by law. Again I will repeat what my mother said “yes, you can be right, dead right!”

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

The reality is that drivers in KSI cases are given the best treatment possible- it’s incredibly rare that they are charged unless there’s a DUI or other factor. Valid excuses are “I didn’t see him” (even though you violated the right of way), “medical incident”, etc.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Am I one of the few, or the only person reading here, struggling to figure out what a “… KSI…” case is?

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

Sorry, “killed or seriously injured”.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

ted…thanks for explaining the abbreviation. I’d not heard that one before.

By the way…after this long discussion, and nearly a week having passed since the collision, is there any further word from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, about the collision, or findings from the collision investigation that was apparently not yet completed at the time the initial statement was released to the public?

While it is important to hold people accountable to their responsibilities and actions as road users, it’s also important not to jump to conclusions, until what facts can be discerned are in, showing if so, or not, that responsibilities on the part of road users involved in a collision, were not met.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Anyone using the road for travel has certain related responsibilities accompanying that activity. Whether a person drives, rides a bike, walks or skateboards, their defensible right to use of the road is I think, most often conditional upon their taking various measures to help themselves be visible to other road users.

It’s very hard to defend someone’s right to use the road, if they’ve not taken even the most basic measures to help themselves be visible to other road users…that being, in the case of someone riding a bike…front light, rear reflector and/or rear light, and perhaps, other simple gear that has retro-reflective material.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Fixed that for you:

Anyone using the road for travel has certain related responsibilities accompanying that activity. Whether a person drives, rides a bike, walks or skateboards, their defensible right to use of the road is I think, most often conditional upon their taking various measures to see other road users.

It’s very hard to defend someone’s right to use the road, if they’ve not taken even the most basic measures to help themselves see other road users.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Dan A…You didn’t ‘fix’ anything, in your hijacking of my words, presumably to make some point of your own. If not attempting to simply be a smart alec, the point your were trying to make was that people that drive should take various measures to help them see vulnerable road users…even those vulnerable road users that for some reason, have not taken even the most basic measures to help other road users to see them, especially in low visibility conditions…then you should say exactly that, and give an example or two to make your point clear.

In the absence of an update in the form of a more recent report on the collision from the sheriffs’ dept, what can likely be fairly reliably said about the person driving that was involved in this collision…is that barring some mechanical function with their vehicle, they most likely had taken measures to see other road users in the bad condition present on the day of the collision: headlights…windshield wipers.

Most motor vehicles have headlights and tail lights as standard equipment. Most people reflexively turn them on, when visibility conditions become poor. Did the person driving, involved in this collision, have their lights turned on at the time of the collision? Fair question. Likely inconceivable that they woudn’t have them on. This time of the year, 6:30 am, in heavy rain, even with the white lines on the road, probably couldn’t even see the road unless the headlights were on.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

tl; dr — again no mention of speed

q
Guest
q

wsbob–you wrote, “Did the person driving, involved in this collision, have their lights turned on at the time of the collision? Fair question. Likely inconceivable that they woudn’t have them on. This time of the year, 6:30 am, in heavy rain, even with the white lines on the road, probably couldn’t even see the road unless the headlights were on.

I hope you see the irony of that argument. Sure, the driver must have had his lights on. But the report states that the cyclist didn’t have a headlight, and nobody’s thinking that HE couldn’t see the road in those same conditions. Probably partially because he didn’t have a wet windshield in front of him, but mainly because he wasn’t driving his bike nearly as fast as the car’s driver was driving his car.

So if the cyclist could see clearly with NO headlight, it’s almost inconceivable that the driver wouldn’t have been able to see the cyclist if he’d been driving his car slower.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Dan A…please don’t try the ‘fixed that for you’ trick, because it’s cheating, by using someone’s thoughts and writing besides your own, and more importantly, it’s not effective. If you have something you want to say, do all of us reading here, the honor of putting your own thoughts down in your own words.

It seems the point your were trying to make was that people that drive should take various measures to help them see vulnerable road users…even those vulnerable road users that for some reason, have not taken even the most basic measures to help other road users to see them, especially in low visibility conditions.

Even in the absence of an update in the form of a more recent report on the collision from the sheriffs’ dept, what can likely be fairly reliably said about the person driving that was involved in this collision…is that barring some mechanical function with their vehicle, they most likely had taken measures to see other road users in the bad condition present on the day of the collision, in the form of: headlights…windshield wipers.

Most motor vehicles have headlights and tail lights as standard equipment. Most people reflexively turn them on, when visibility conditions become poor. Did the person driving, involved in this collision, have their lights turned on at the time of the collision? Fair question. Likely inconceivable that they woudn’t have them on. This time of the year, 6:30 am, in heavy rain, even with the white lines on the road, probably cou

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

tl; dr — again no mention of speed

q
Guest
q

wsbob–you wrote to someone else, “It seems the point your were trying to make was that people that drive should take various measures to help them see vulnerable road users…even those vulnerable road users that for some reason, have not taken even the most basic measures to help other road users to see them, especially in low visibility conditions”.

First of all, the “most basic measures” would be only what’s legally required, and the only legally required thing a bike needs to be seen from the rear is a reflector, and the report doesn’t say it didn’t have one.

More importantly, the fact that some vulnerable users act against their own best interests by not doing MORE than is legally required to protect themselves (or for that matter not even doing the legal minimum) may be a REASON they get hit, but it’s not an automatic EXCUSE for hitting them.

That fact that not everybody does all they can to protect themselves is EXACTLY why we have traffic laws such as the basic speed law, and EXACTLY why people need to do MORE than the legal minimum to protect other road users.

Laws such as the basic speed law aren’t just to protect the able-bodied, conscientious pedestrian or cyclist from getting run over, they’re also to protect the child darting out into the street, the drunk stumbling off the curb, the careless, and anyone else who for whatever reason cannot or does not do everything possible to protect themselves.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…First of all, the “most basic measures” would be only what’s legally required, and the only legally required thing a bike needs to be seen from the rear is a reflector, …” q

q…Maybe how I put it wasn’t sufficiently clear, but what I wrote, was of the importance of the most basic measures, not simply for the purpose of having the legally required equipment, but for the purpose of being visible to other road users in low visibility conditions:

“…the most basic measures to help other road users to see them, especially in low visibility conditions”. …” wsbob

People can and do make departures from what is the legally required minimum equipment for biking, so that the likelihood they may be seen by other road users is increased, especially in low visibility conditions. Especially when setting out in, or anticipating the likelihood of low visibility conditions, the reason many people use tail lights instead of or in addition to the legally required rear reflector, is because they have concerns that the reflector can not do an adequate job for the conditions.

q
Guest
q

wsbob–of course I and everyone here understands that cyclists often go beyond the minimum legal measures to improve their safety. But that’s just it–they’re going beyond the minimum. That means they’re going beyond “the most basic measures”. Reflectors are a “most basic measure”. Tail lights are more than that.

That could be quibbling in another context, but not in respect to this article, which reports how the sheriff’s report holds the cyclist to a higher standard than the driver.

You’re doing the same thing as the report. For you, the “most basic measure” for cyclists’ visibility from the rear is a tail light, even though a reflector is the legal requirement. But for the driver, here’s what you say:

“What can likely be fairly reliably said about the person driving that was involved in this collision…is that barring some mechanical function with their vehicle, they most likely had taken measures to see other road users in the bad condition present on the day of the collision, in the form of: headlights…windshield wipers.

So your opinion is that the “most basic measures” for cyclists to be visible go beyond the legal minimum, while all drivers have to do to see the cyclists is to meet only part of the legal minimum requirement. As others have said, you don’t even ask that they slow down to a basic safe speed, which is also a legal requirement.

So you’re defending the sheriff’s report by doing exactly what the article criticizes the report for doing.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“I find it interesting that you so off-handedly ignore our legal system by stating that drivers are not typically found guilty unless there is proof.”

I don’t believe I said anything about being “found guilty” in court. This article is about reports that are issued to the public. I was talking about such reports, which facts tend to be included/excluded by Law Enforcement, and what the General Public tend to think about who was “wrong”, not who courts eventually may find legally “guilty”. Facts about the driver in such cases tend to be more carefully guarded, while speculation about the bicyclist is fair game.

“Considering that the act of killing a bicyclist with an auto is a felony, yes, I would expect there to be verifiable proof.”

That’s just wrong. Killing a bicyclist with one’s car isn’t even a traffic infraction a lot of times. Why? Because it just can’t be proven that the bicyclist went far enough above and beyond the law to protect themselves, and they aren’t around to testify in their own defense.

“For you to say that when we start expecting drivers to follow the bare minimum of responsibility (checking blind spots, etc.), I disagreed with your conclusion. I believe that we DO expect drivers to be responsible.”

Well, then we would need statements like “yes, you can be right, dead right”. If we truly expected motorists to be responsible, then we could all just follow the law and be OK.

And I think the vast majority of drivers do follow the law.

I would bet my entire bank account that over 50% of the time, over 50% of drivers are breaking some law. Speeding, making turns without signaling for the required 100 feet prior, not coming to a complete stop at STOP signs, squeaking through that left turn after the signal has gone red, making right turns on red without coming to a complete stop first, using bike lanes to pass other drivers in order to make those right turns on red, failing to stop before entering the crosswalk, blocking intersections, failing to stop prior to entering the sidewalk when exiting a driveway, failure to yield to pedestrians, illegal U-turns. I, myself broke the law for most of my drive home today: speeding on the freeway.

Of the thousands of interactions between bikes and autos every day, the fact that there relatively few collisions seems to me an indication of general responsibility.

Lack of crashes does not imply legal compliance. Would you say the same thing about bicyclists? If they don’t get run over, they must have been following the law? Or are we constantly breaking the law and just getting lucky? Might that same principle apply to drivers?

“And lastly, I find it interesting that you continue to focus on factors (such as the lack of lights) that contributed to the crash but are not required by law.”

Well, isn’t that what the deputy who wrote up this report was focused on? Slowing down in low visibility conditions IS required by law, but it just wasn’t a big enough deal to mention?

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“…wouldn’t need statements like…”

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

This comment sums up the problem pretty well.

At the legal limit of 55mph, the vehicle would be traveling about 81 feet per second and if the driver came around a curve and spotted the bicyclist, he would have had a split second to avoid the collision.

There is NO ‘legal limit’ that allows people to drive on a road in a way that makes it impossible for them to avoid running over another road user who is using the road in a predictable manner. There IS a basic speed law, as mentioned in other comments, which should guide the speed that people drive at. Had this driver obeyed the basic speed law, he would have been more able to avoid hitting the cyclist.

q
Guest
q

Exactly. The irony is that most drivers know (although many don’t drive like they do) that if you rear-end a car, it’s going to be ruled your fault barring something extraordinary. The idea is that your hitting the car ahead of you is proof you were following too closely or going too fast. So if this driver had hit say, a tractor going 15 mph, nobody would dispute the driver’s fault. If he’d said he didn’t expect a slow-moving vehicle in front of him, that excuse would be dismissed.

Bankerman
Guest
Bankerman

I would suspect most drivers apply the basic rule on the road conditions they expect on a particular road at a particular time. As one commenter posted above, in this rural area, one very rarely comes upon bike riders and especially at that time of day. On my next trip to Seattle on I-5, am I expected to drive slow enough to avoid an unlighted bike at night on the freeway? As to farm tractors, they are required by law to show lights to the rear on a public road, and if it was rear-ended without the required equipment, I doubt the car driver would be considered 100% at fault.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)
Editor

I would suspect they don’t apply the basic speed rule.

On your next trip to Seattle on I-5, you should be expected to drive slow enough to avoid whatever might be in your path.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

How did you make the leap from a rural road (used by pedestrians/cyclists/tractors) to I-5?

Also, rarely encountering something is not an excuse to drive like you’ll never encounter it. If that’s how you drive, I fear for the other road users near you.

Bankerman
Guest
Bankerman

I agree that both drivers and cyclists should move about with the understanding they may encounter something totally unexpected. And therefore be prepared by utilizing judgment and equipment appropriate for any possible encounter, whether required by law or not.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Full disclosure, I typically ride with 2 front & 2 rear lights, have reflective material on my bike & clothes, and am very selective about my routes and the times I ride. And I encourage others to do the same. But I draw the line at absolving drivers of the requirement to see ALL road users, regardless of what they are wearing. We are never going to be able to light up every obstacle in the road, and drivers still have a legal responsibility to drive at a safe speed and avoid hitting things in the road, regardless of their clothing/gear. That’s still a legal requirement that is regularly ignored by law enforcement.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“..absolving drivers of the requirement to see ALL road users, regardless of what they are wearing. …” dad a

Where, in law books and in the annals of common sense, is there any requirement that people driving must see all other road users even if those road users aren’t, depending upon attendant visibility conditions, reasonably visible to the human eye?

It seems what you’re attempting to imply, is that you draw the line at relieving people that drive…of a requirement to see vulnerable road users that have not taken increasingly common measures such as the use of clothing in day-glow orange or green with retro-reflective tape attached to it, or incorporated into the fabric; or more simply, at least wearing lighter tone or shade colors such as white…rather than dark blues, blacks, browns etc. …to help have themselves be more visible to people driving.

Such a requirement can not be a realistic expectation of people that drive. It does nobody any good to relieve people that bike and walk, from their obligation to make efforts to use the road safely, by taking measures to have themselves be more visible to other road users…and this includes people that bike, as well as those that drive motor vehicles.

OrganicBrian
Guest
OrganicBrian

I don’t see in this article whether the cyclist was using a rear reflector. If they were not, they are at fault. If they were, the motorists was at fault. So, the police report may be fair or not depending on this which I didn’t see mentioned so far. To suggest that the cyclist cannot be faulted without knowing this reinforces the opinion held by many that cyclists are irrational and entitled.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

“The cyclist cannot be faulted without knowing whether he had a rear reflector.” Is that what you mean? Yeah, *that* should have been in the report.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Is it your opinion that cyclists are irrational and entitled?

Bankerman
Guest
Bankerman

Yes, there are some drivers and there are some cyclists that are irrational and entitled.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

He didn’t say “some”.

OrganicBrian
Guest
OrganicBrian

Dan, maybe work on your reading comprehension? My comment was clear enough. I was talking about the common conception many non-cyclists have about cyclists, and yes their opinions can affect all of us since it can impact whether funding is approved for transportation improvements or laws changed to protect cyclists.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I didn’t state anything, I asked you a question. Reading comprehension indeed.

q
Guest
q

It’s not that simple. If the cyclist had no rear reflector, but the driver was going 85 mph, or texting, or even simply didn’t have his own headlights on, it wouldn’t have mattered if the cyclist had a reflector or not. None of those would have been apparent to the sheriff.

More relevant to this article, why did the report note that the cyclist didn’t have a rear light, which is legally irrelevant, but didn’t note whether he had a rear reflector, which is? Writing “the cyclist had a legally compliant rear reflector” would have cast a whole different spin.

Saying there was no light–i.e. holding the cyclist to a higher standard than legally required–is no different than saying, “The car lacked anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, traction control, and automatic high beams, any of which could have prevented the crash”.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…More relevant to this article, why did the report note that the cyclist didn’t have a rear light, which is legally irrelevant, but didn’t note whether he had a rear reflector, which is? …” q

Probably, the fact that this collision resulted in the death of the person riding a bike that didn’t have a light…is why lack of a light was mentioned. Meant as a message of safety, an appeal to people riding to equip their bikes to help others road users see them, is what I’d expect the intent was.

For a routine safety inspection, mention of whether the bike had all its legally required equipment, would have been in order. It’s not like the officer responding to the collision was there to inspect the bike to determine whether the person that was riding it, now deceased…should get a citation for not having a light on the bike.

Reflectors can be good in certain conditions, but in very rainy weather, I’m not so sure they’d be equal to or better than the visibility provided by good lights designed for use on bikes.

This was an initial collision report not reflecting results of the related investigation that apparently wasn’t completed at the time of its writing.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

Why didn’t the report mention the lack of an automatic rear rocket defense system? Surely that could have made a difference.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“Why didn’t the report mention the lack of an automatic rear rocket defense system? …” leifsdad

You tell us why you think the collision report about a collision involving a motor vehicle and someone riding a bicycle at a dark, heavily raining day at 6:30 in the morning, didn’t mention automatic rear rocket defense system.

Eric Leifsdad
Guest
Eric Leifsdad

“a message of safety, an appeal to people riding to equip their bikes to help others road users see them”

Wouldn’t a rear rocket defense system help other road users see bikes? For safety.

q
Guest
q

Again, the report mentions that the cyclist didn’t have equipment that exceeds what’s legally required, but didn’t take the same approach for the driver. So yes, a rear light may have made the difference, but so could any of a number of things the car could have had, or the driver could have done, that weren’t legally required.

And that’s the whole point of the article.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“Again, the report mentions that the cyclist didn’t have equipment that exceeds what’s legally required, but didn’t take the same approach for the driver. …” q

q…as to equipment for visibility: big difference between bikes and motor vehicles, is that the latter, mandated by law, come from the factory, equipped with lights front and rear, lots of them, and very bright.

Because lights on motor vehicles are standard, government mandated equipment, unless the motor vehicle has a non-working light, odds are a police report, especially an initial police report like this one was, is not going to mention that the motor vehicle had lights.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

The scope of “legally required equipment” is not limited to lighting/visibility equipment. If the report wanted to call out missing supra-legal (intended to mean “more than is legally required”) equipment, then they should have called out things like collision-avoidance systems, adaptive lighting, anti-lock brakes, hydrophobic windshield treatments (e.g. “rain-x”), specific tire tread formulas—there are all kinds of things the motorized vehicle could have had, or its driver could have done that were above and beyond the legal requirement, that might have caused a different outcome. Yes, visibility for bicyclists is important, but visibility, per se, is completely beside the point of this article about reporting of incidents. The issue is mentioning vs. not mentioning specific details about each vehicle and/or operator, with the intentional or unintentional effect of blaming the bicyclist victim and exonerating the driver. A fair report would make statements more along the lines of “Both vehicle operators were complying with legal road use requirements at the time of the collision”. Alternatively, such reports would only mention things that were known to be illegal about either operator or vehicle, e.g., “The bicyclist had no rear light or reflector, and the driver was in violation of the basic speed rule at the time of the collision. The van also had tires that were below the legal minimum tread depth. A combination of these factors likely contributed to the collision.”

There would be no mention of rain, or shoulder width, unless the implication is that driver speed should have been slower; nor of clothing color or lack of a rear light alone (unless also mentioning lack of a rear reflector). Can you see the difference between these example statements and those in the report under discussion?

SD
Guest
SD

I am curious to what extent a police are allowed to interrogate cell phones for activity at the time of the crash. If you hit someone with your car, it seems that would be probable cause for a search. This is something that is partially prohibited, and that is obvious for a crash where a driver claims to not see something in their path.

Pete
Guest
Pete

From what I understand it’s a difficult process. When my neighbor Stan Wicka was killed by Melanie Souza while she was texting – which the driver behind her who followed her because she’d left the scene testified – another of my neighbors was involved in the investigation and kept me somewhat informed. Police can look at the phone’s log – provided it isn’t locked – and subpoena records from providers, but texts often don’t have timestamps, and extremely difficult to prove that a text was even looked at when it came in. For a phone conversation, it’s difficult to prove a driver wasn’t using a legal headset, and in many states there’s still an “in the line of duty” clause rendering the illegality of talking on the phone while driving a gray area.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

At least before looking somewhat into the lives of the persons involved and why they were doing what they were on the fateful day, using this collision, in which someone lost their life… to make a case of bias against road users biking, and in favor of road users driving, on the part of the Marion County Sheriff’s Dept, based on the dept’s very brief, initial police statement about this collision, is not an honorable show of respect for either the person that died in this collision…whose name, by the way, was Charles Michael Phillips, his family and friends…or the staff of the sheriff’s dept.

This is partly why I bothered to try and find, from the Journal reporter, more information about the people involved in the collision. Are sheriff’s dept personnel biased against people biking on the roads out in Marion county? If they are, I’d certainly like to know it…and if they are, I want to know on stronger grounds than various people’s assumption of bias, based on a brief initial police collision report. i.e. interviews with staff or credible citizens having experience with sheriff’s dept staff.

Regardless of how the person driving did or didn’t contribute to this collision having occurred, if it’s fact that the person biking did not have lights, and possibly not a reflector, that most likely did contribute to the collision having occurred.

It’s not a great economic hardship, even for fairly poor persons, to budget for a bike light, or a some reflectors for their bike. This is another reason I tried to get some info from the Journal reporter. I wonder what was the situation of the person riding, that they would not have had this gear.

Not sure I posted it before, so here’s the link to the SJ story:

http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/crime/2016/10/13/cyclist-killed-deputies-investigate-crash-near-stayton/91994826/

SD
Guest
SD

Discussing systemic bias, which is what this is about, is not derision of an individual officer.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Let’s look at a different example that is fictitious, merely to illustrate the point about selective reporting of facts.

Let’s call this the “incident”:

A couple is standing at the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean. They get into a fight, and one of them shoves the other over the cliff into the ocean to their death.

Now let’s call this the “report”:

“A person fell to their death at Scenic Cliffs early this morning. The deceased had been standing with his/her friend prior to the fall. It was just after sunset, so there was minimal light, and there was no fence near the edge of the cliff. The victim was not wearing a life jacket.”

Can you see how a report like this—which is 100% factual (it just doesn’t contain 100% of the facts)—leaves out important details about what actually happened? Does a report like this make it sound like the “victim” should have been doing things differently, such as not standing on un-fenced cliffs in minimal light, or perhaps wearing a life jacket? Does this kind of report make it sound like the survivor must have stood innocently and helplessly by as their beloved accidentally and tragically lost their footing and fell to their doom?

Now, before you inform me, I know the incident in question is nothing like my hypothetical. However, the report is similar in its selective inclusion of details. The example is meant merely to illustrate how a completely factual report can still show bias via which facts are included or excluded. Further, I am not accusing the Marion County Sheriff’s department of some kind of intentional, malicious campaign of systemic bias against vulnerable road users. I don’t think Jonathan is, either. This story, and many of the extensive comments, are aimed at analyzing how incidents like this are reported, unintentionally as it may be, and how the reports produced can—and usually tend to—point the finger of blame at victims.

And please don’t tell me about honorable shows of respect for those involved after engaging in the same discussion, and expressing your own opinion about how it wouldn’t have been an economic hardship for Mr. Phillips to have purchased a light, or wondering what he was doing out there in the first place. I am only criticizing the wording and construction of the report, not any of the parties involved; I’m sure those affected by this incident that are still with us have enough to worry about. But wouldn’t it be great if discussions like this one led to more balanced reporting of similar incidents, so that families of victims—or surviving victims themselves—didn’t have to read all about how it was automatically their own fault they got run over?

q
Guest
q

wsbob–since you’re blaming the victim for POSSIBLY not having a rear reflector (although here’s nothing in the report to lead anyone to believe he did not) why not think of something that the driver might POSSIBLY not have had, or not have done, and blame THAT for contributing to the cyclist’s death?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Determining fault for the collision may not be as simple as learning whether the person riding, had a reflector on his bike. In fact, most likely isn’t that simple.

Whether a person goes out on the road, prepared to do what they can to safely travel the road in the conditions they may encounter there, seems to me to be a far more relevant question, than simply wondering about required vehicle equipment.

By the way…since this discussion has been forward today…I’ll mention that about a week after the story was posted here, I wrote a note to the reporter covering the story of the collision for the Statesman Journal, asking her whether any additional information about the collision and the persons involved had been available to her from the sheriff’s dept. She wrote back, said at the time, her contact with the dept was out, so had no additional info. I may send another email to her soon.

I suggested to her, a few questions I thought many people might like to know…such as ‘Who was this person riding, and why were they out on the road in the dark and rain, without a light on their bike….or perhaps a reflector as well?’. And…’Who was the person driving, and was their vehicle in good condition for low visibility conditions?’.

Everybody heading out on the road should, as a first priority, be having on their minds, the question of whether they can be at least reasonably visible to other road users in the visibility conditions they may encounter.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Who was this driver, and why were they driving so fast in such poor conditions?

Pete
Guest
Pete

What if the bike didn’t have a rear reflector but the driver’s lights were off? Would that mean they share “fault”, because a reflector is useless without light reflecting off of it… 1/r^2 and all that?

Jane Pullman
Guest
Jane Pullman

Jonathan, I agree with you that it the article was lacking in context or explanation. All kinds of information about the driver’s driving behavior was not provided. On the other hand, the fact that the article noted no rear light on the bike, I thought was very important. Regardless of the law, would you ride on a dark (the sun is not up until 7:00), rainy morning with dark clothes and no rear light? I wouldn’t. The Sheriff noting that there was no shoulder and no light on the road, I thought, was more a statement of how bad the roads are for cyclists out there, DOT’s fault. Any thinking person will have questions about this incident that the Sheriff’s statement did not address. I think you have over-reacted, just a bit here.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…DOT’s fault. …” pullman

Jane…by DOT, do you mean ‘department of transportation’? If so, how do you feel the DOT whose jurisdiction this road was, may have been responsible for this collision?

This road outside Stayton, going by what I see in the picture, top of this story, is a simple, very basic two lane country road. I’m not really sure what a DOT could realistically be expected to do to improve the safety of this road for use by people biking.

On the face of it, it may seem like a simple thing to expand the road shoulders to 5-6 feet for dual duty as a bike lane, but I expect that would be a major expense…millions of dollars…and who is going to be expected to come up with the money? Taxpayers…people living in county and state.

Lacking that happening in any near future…the sensible thing for anyone riding a bike, or walking out on roads like this one, is to at least make the effort of equipping themselves with lights and retro-reflective material.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Here’s another way to think about this story:

Among readers of the report being analyzed here, some will be mainly or exclusively drivers, some will be mainly or exclusively bicyclists, and some will be both. Among those three broad categories, who is most likely going to “think twice” about their actions on the road after reading this report?

Does this report tell drivers, “Hey, there could be cyclists out there with no rear lights, so you’d better watch out for them and maybe slow down—especially if it’s dark and/or rainy”, or does it tell bicyclists, “If you don’t have a rear light, you can expect to get run over when it’s dark and/or rainy, because drivers aren’t going to watch out or slow down for you.”?

I think there are a lot of people with “implicit bias” (to use a currently popular phrase) in favor of motorists, because that’s all they think about as being normal. Such implicit bias tells us things like, “Of course drivers don’t expect to encounter bicyclists in the rainy darkness” (why not?). It also tells us that between these two road users, the driver “belonged” there, and was using the road properly (was he? How do we know?), and the bicyclist was out of place and was “doing it wrong” (What might make us think that?).

Now, we don’t know whether the bicyclist had a rear reflector, but if he had, then we would be dealing with a situation in which two otherwise legally operating road users found themselves in deadly conflict. If both people were operating legally, then why is it only the bicyclist who should have done more? Why are the “lessons” we learn from this incident all for bicyclists?

I don’t think it’s an “overreaction” to ask ourselves these questions.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…Now, we don’t know whether the bicyclist had a rear reflector, but if he had, then we would be dealing with a situation in which two otherwise legally operating road users found themselves in deadly conflict. If both people were operating legally, then why is it only the bicyclist who should have done more? Why are the “lessons” we learn from this incident all for bicyclists? …” bic

What source do you have in mind, that would have put the two road users involved in this collision, in “deadly conflict”, assuming the person riding the bike, had a rear reflector on the bike? There’s no indication in the in the initial sheriff’s dept collision report, that these two road users were involved in any conflict with each other. No suggestion of road rage, if that’s what you’re thinking.

Indication, is that the person riding the bike, had no lights…no headlight, no tail light, no helmet light, nothing. Possibly no rear reflector either. This lack, for whatever reason, of visibility equipment, most certainly heightened the potential for a collision. I think most people would recognize failure to have such equipment, given the reportedly low visibility conditions, to be a lesson in road use, whatever their mode of travel on the road may happen to be.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“deadly conflict”

I’m not talking Mortal Kombat, here, merely that the paths of the vehicles were in conflict, i.e., “intersecting”, which is the case for all collisions, and that the outcome was indeed deadly.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

One very likely reason the paths of the two vehicles…the motor vehicle and the bike…intersected, is that as the initial police statement (and so
far, the only sheriff’s dept statement on this collision that’s been reported on this weblog to date) reported, the bike did not have lights, and the rider was wearing clothes that apparently were not of a type that headlights of a motor vehicle would be able to set apart from the background, allowing the person driving to see at a reasonable distance away, perhaps 100′, the person riding the bike.

That the person riding the bike had no light front or back, and possibly not a reflector either, and had no other gear that would help themselves be visible to other road users, should have been the subject of a story on this weblog about this collision.

How did this person come to be out on the road on their bike without a light or other gear that would help them to be visible to other road users on a dark, rainy morning before the sun had come up? Did this person’s family and friends know that he was out riding so ill equipped for the conditions on the road? It’s remiss of advocates of biking and biking enthusiasts in general, not to be genuinely concerned about people biking that haven’t prepared ahead for low visibility conditions they’re likely to encounter when they’re out on the road.

It’s vague and irresponsible to say of the Marion County Sheriff’s office, as this story’s headline does, that, “Sheriff’s office blames deceased victim in early morning collision near Stayton”

This weblog, bikeportland is saying, sheriff’s office blames the deceased victim, for what? The collision having occurred? For not having lights and wearing dark clothes? If not the person themselves, riding the bike, who else was supposed to have been there when he set out in the morning to ride his bike…to remind him to put on his lights and reflector, and whatever else he should have had to help him be seen by other road users on a dark rainy morning?

Marion County Sheriff’s haven’t blamed the person riding the bike for anything. They didn’t need to, nobody needs to cast blame. Having had it reported that the person riding, lacked even the most basic measures that would have aided other road user’s ability to see this person on the road…we all, though, those of us that care about the safety of people riding their bikes out on the road, should be asking everyone we know that rides a bike, whether they’ve got themselves and their bikes equipped for any low visibility conditions they may encounter on their ride.

Robert Burchett
Guest
Robert Burchett

What will make people on bikes safer is, more people on bikes. I have been Not Seen in all sorts of conditions, including daylight on dry pavement whilst riding a conspicuous bike with a yellow jacket and running a headlight. MV drivers overlook persons on bicycles because They. Are. Not. Looking. For. Them. People driving on a rural two-lane road tend to feel it’s all their road. I have done this thing, OK? And look there’s a 6 point buck in your lap.

I personally like to give my fellow operators a little help when I can, especially when conditions are bad. But: there is no “safe”. Not until everybody on the road allows the possibility that next 70 yards of pavement may include deer, cattle, or yes a human wearing black on an unlit bike. Great power, great responsibility.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Succinctly put! (Mine was a doe, though).

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

You are performing your own analysis of the incident—as most people who are concerned about safety would tend to do—but this story is not about what happened (i.e., the incident, per se), it is about the report of the incident. That report, in mentioning specific details about the conditions, the state of the roadway, and the bicyclist and his vehicle—while leaving out any mention of a single detail (other than “eastbound”) about the driver or his vehicle, implies that there was nothing the driver could have done to avoid this collision. By specifically mentioning things about dark clothing and no lights, the report is suggesting that there IS something the bicyclist could/should have done. Putting those two things together:
* Driver could not have done any more
* Cyclist could have worn reflective clothes and used a light
Equates to “blame” in most people’s minds. Not “guilt”, mind you, because nothing mentioned in the report about the bicyclist was illegal, but “blame” nonetheless.

I think most all of us here would agree that increasing one’s visibility to the practical maximum is not a bad idea. This incident may well have turned out differently if the bicyclist had done so. HOWEVER, this incident also may well have turned out differently if the driver had been paying better attention on a dark and rainy road. It might have turned out differently if he had been using his high beams and better wipers. It likely would have turned out differently if he had been driving more slowly, had a collision avoidance system, had clean headlight lenses, was driving further left, had been driving something smaller than a minivan, etc. The problem is that this report, and most actual people, assume the driver was doing everything right merely because he was driving a car, the “normal” thing to do on a road. Conversely, even if this bicyclist had used a rear light, most people would assume he must have done something wrong merely because he was riding a bike, which is considered to be inherently “wrong” by lots of people.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

If this argument doesn’t work, there’s no hope.

q
Guest
q

wsbob–how can you expect anyone to agree with you when you don’t even agree with yourself? You keep going back and forth even just on the simple reflector issue. One minute you say it’s a possibility he didn’t have one, the next (in this comment and another one) you say he didn’t have a reflector, even though reflectors weren’t mentioned one way or another in the report.

q
Guest
q

Actually, you’re going into let’s-criticize-the-cyclist territory that even the sheriff’s report stopped short of entering.

The report states, “The cyclist was wearing dark clothing and no light on the bicycle”. It didn’t say “No helmet light” and it certainly didn’t say “nothing” in regard to other safety features. Of course it’s possible he had no rear reflector, but it’s every bit as likely from the report that he did. There’s also nothing in the report that says he didn’t have reflective shoes, reflectors on his pedals, and reflective clothing. You often can’t tell