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Opinion: We failed Tamar Monhait

Posted by on November 17th, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Memorial for Tamar at Water and Taylor.
(Photos: Patrick Rafferty)

I can’t stop thinking that we’ve failed Tamar Monhait.

Monhait is the woman who was killed while bicycling northbound on SE Water Avenue back in August. On that fateful night, a professional driver named Paul Thompson was operating a commercial garbage truck in the opposite direction. As Monhait crossed Taylor Street, Thompson made a sudden left turn in front of her. She died from the impact and took her last breath in the middle of that intersection.

The intersection isn’t as well-lit as it should be and Monhait did not appear to have a legally required front light. Thompson claimed he never saw her. The police say Monhait’s impairment from alcohol was a factor in the collision; but there’s no evidence she could have done anything differently to avoid the truck — especially since Thompson, according to the police, admitted he was trying to outrun an approaching train and gave no warning before making his turn.

As they always do with cases like this, the Portland Police Bureau did their initial investigation and then passed it along to the Multnomah County District Attorney. After taking a closer look at what might have happened, the DA decided they didn’t have enough evidence to convince a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Thompson acted with criminal negligence. In Oregon, for driving behavior to rise to the level of criminal negligence, a person has to intend to hurt someone and/or must realize their behavior is risky, but still choose to do it anyway. If a person isn’t way above the limit in either speed or intoxicants, the chance of winning in a criminal case in court is even more remote.

In the end, the “only” things Paul Thompson did — at least in the eyes of the DA and police — is make a dangerous left turn and fail to his signal before doing so.

While Thompson’s actions weren’t deemed criminal by the DA, they still led directly to the death of another person. For that he received two traffic citations with nominal fines. He can write out a check and mail it in.

That’s not right.


This case is the textbook example of why advocates changed Oregon’s careless driving statute in 2007. That addition to the law made it a heightened offense if your careless driving — defined as driving, “in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property” — contributed to the serious physical injury or death of a vulnerable road user (VRU).

Thompson was driving a large commercial truck in an urban area. He made a dangerous left turn without signaling. His actions led to Monhait’s death. He should be issued a citation for careless driving and be held accountable for the added consequences that come with the death of a vulnerable road user (the law requires the offender to appear in court, take a traffic safety class, and do up to 200 hours of community service or face steep fines and a one-year license suspension).

Portland lawyer Ray Thomas was one of the primary authors of the VRU law. He told me he was “appalled” when he learned it wouldn’t be applied in this case. In an email he wrote to Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office this week, Thomas wrote, “I am disappointed to see that this law has not been used in this case to further the Vision Zero goals the city has embraced. It is only by dedicating further future resources to reducing traffic injury and death that we will be able to make a difference. That opportunity presented itself in this case and was not taken.”

There’s still time to make this right. The police have six months from the date of the collision to issue citations.

Portland has adopted Vision Zero as its highest transportation priority. If we want that proclamation to have any meaning, we must apply every tool we have in seeking justice for victims of traffic violence.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and 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. Thank you — Jonathan

154 Comments
  • John November 17, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Fact: We failed Tamar Monhait

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    • Trek 3900 November 18, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      John,

      Yes, you are 100% correct and so is Jonathan, the writers of BP, and most of the commenters of BP, did in fact fail her. They did that by refusing to step up like adults and point out the obvious: it is imperative that cyclists make themselves visible to motor vehicle drivers. Not only have the writers of BP not pointed this out repeatedly as they should have, but they continuously blame all others except cyclists for crashes that any reasonable person can see is the cyclists fault, as in this case. If she was a regular reader of BP, and if she believed the articles and the majority of the comments she may have learned that it is only the motor vehicle drivers responsibility to see her; that cyclists have no responsibility to ride with lights, helmet, or reflective gear. What’s that saying about doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results? Seriously folks, wake up.

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      • 9watts November 18, 2017 at 6:35 pm

        Ah, Trek is back, with his favorite horse to kick – high viz is all we need to know.
        https://bikeportland.org/2014/09/26/driver-hit-kerry-kunsman-issued-citation-careless-driving-111488#comment-5556844

        “that cyclists have no responsibility”

        No one is saying this.

        Not sure why this is so easy to misread in the comments here.

        What many of us here have been criticizing for years are public service announcements (Trimet, PBOT, ODOT, Bike Gallery, etc.) that are *always and predictably* biased towards responsibilizing those not in cars to watch out, wear high viz, assume those in cars aren’t looking, go above and beyond the rules of the road, etc., all the while taking no note of the facts, that
        + we live in a culture that treats driving oh so casually,
        + we do not enforce the laws that are on the books w/r/t speeding, distraction, licensing, etc.
        + the chances of serious injury or death on our roads without a car present are vanishingly small, which in a society not so consumed with the inherent rightness of driving anywhere, anytime, at any speed would lead one to think the chief responsibility for avoiding crashes-with-consequences would lie with the pilot of the auto.

        None of which is to say that everyone shouldn’t take responsibility, but when it comes to public pronouncements, with or without tax dollars, a bit of perspicacity wouldn’t hurt.

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      • Spiffy November 19, 2017 at 11:36 am

        Yes, you are 100% correct and so is Jonathan, the writers of BP, and most of the commenters of BP, did in fact fail her. They did that by refusing to step up like adults and point out the obvious: it is imperative that cyclists make themselves visible to motor vehicle drivers. Not only have the writers of BP not pointed this out repeatedly as they should have, but they continuously blame all others except cyclists for crashes that any reasonable person can see is the cyclists fault, as in this case. If she was a regular reader of BP, and if she believed the articles and the majority of the comments she may have learned that it is only the motor vehicle drivers responsibility to see her; that cyclists have no responsibility to ride with lights, helmet, or reflective gear. What’s that saying about doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results? Seriously folks, wake up.”

        you make a lot of assumptions here…

        there’s no proof that the cyclist had no front light… there’s no video showing cyclist approaching from the front… just because they didn’t find a light doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist… I’ve seen lights the size of a nickel, and they probably don’t hold up well when hit with a garbage truck, nor leave a lot of identifiable debris…

        motor vehicle drivers are required to ensure the space they’re driving into is clear of obstacles… this includes unlit obstacles… talk to your insurance company and they’ll tell you many times over how it’s your fault if you hit some dark object in the road that you failed to see… would you be using this same argument if a fast-walking pedestrian was the victim here? would you be blaming their black clothing? darkness isn’t fatal…

        so you can’t use the lack of light excuse, and you can’t use the excuse that you’re free to run over whatever doesn’t light itself up…

        what else have you got?

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      • Rob November 21, 2017 at 3:30 pm

        I have to agree that the issue of the apparent lack of a front light has been glossed over in the reporting on this tragic crash. My very real concern is that readers will think that it’s okay to not use a head light – that it’s others’ responsibility to see us regardless of light use. I’m getting really pissed off at riding the esplanade and springwater at night and being startled by riders with either no lights, or a dismal excuse for a light. I feel that it’s our collective responsibility as the riding community to not just address motorists’ dangerous actions, but to also make it clear that riders need to have good lights. I for one, will continue to call out those I see without them (I don’t want to end up in the ER due to a head on with another cyclist).

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        • Dan A November 21, 2017 at 4:05 pm

          “My very real concern is that readers will think that it’s okay to not use a head light”

          It’s not, legally or otherwise. But sometimes it happens, as a result of a broken/stolen/dead light, or lack of foresight, or some other reason.

          “…that it’s others’ responsibility to see us regardless of light use.”

          It is. It is the responsibility of people using the roads to watch out for other people/bikes/cars also using the roads, whether they are using lights or not.

          These two ideas are not diametrically opposed.

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        • 9watts November 21, 2017 at 6:34 pm

          “My very real concern is that readers will think that it’s okay to not use a head light”

          that was your takeaway from this discussion?!

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          • Rob November 22, 2017 at 12:18 pm

            It’s not my only takeaway, but it is certainly one of them. The last thing I want to see is another fatality on the road, and making sure all cyclists have adequate lighting is part of the solution. I think part of the cycling community’s discussion regarding this incident should involve adequate lighting, and I just don’t see that discussion occurring on this site. If it is occurring, I seem to have missed it. I’m wondering what is keeping folks from having good lights. Is it the cost?

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            • q November 22, 2017 at 12:43 pm

              I think you’re confusing things people are saying. When they’re making criticisms involving lights, they’re not being critical or dismissive of lights themselves, they’re criticizing other things, such as police reports that mention lack of lights on bikes but not similar problems with vehicles.

              When people are NOT mentioning lights, same thing. They’re not dismissing lights, they’re just discussing other things.

              Discussions about lights happen all the time here (such as right now). One reason there’s not even more may be that it’s already common knowledge that lights are legally required and have value. And, lights are just not centrally relevant to many topics here.

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              • 9watts November 22, 2017 at 6:06 pm

                Thank you, q!

                This precise kind of misreading is happening here quite a bit lately.
                It is lazy (at best) to conflate (a) personal attitudes toward or use of lights, helmets, high viz, etc., and (b) how we may feel about how persons in authority frame issues around lights, helmets, high viz, etc. They are simply not the same thing.

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            • Dan A November 22, 2017 at 2:09 pm

              I use two lights on the front and two lights in the back, and I encourage others to do the same. Redundancy helps avoid the problem of having one light fail on you, and I think it’s easier for drivers to judge how far away you are if you have multiple lights. I would use more lights if there was an easy way to do it, but it’s already a fair bit of work dealing with the 4 lights I have. I’d definitely see the value in adding some spoke lights for side visibility, on top of the reflective sidewalls on my tires and reflective tape on my frame.

              Want to have a post that’s just about lights? If you’ve got advice for others, it could make for a good guest post.

              But I still think the ninjas out there provide a valuable service to other vulnerable users, by encouraging drivers to slow down and actively look for people.

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              • Pete November 22, 2017 at 6:14 pm

                https://www.bikelightdatabase.com has a good page on positioning rear lights for best visibility from a distance. Not just multiple lights, but different kinds helps too.

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  • Dan A November 17, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    Ray Thomas is a hero. Too bad we have so few others who have his skill not just at reading & interpreting the laws, but in finding ways to improve upon them.

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    • Steve Scarich November 18, 2017 at 7:57 am

      Why did Ray (who once served as my attorney) write to Wheeler about enforcement of this law? It was the DA who made the charging decision? I’m not lawyer, so just curious about that decision.

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      • Dan A November 18, 2017 at 2:41 pm

        My guess is because Wheeler oversees the PPB, who chose not to cite for careless driving.

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        • Steve Scarich November 20, 2017 at 6:35 pm

          So, we want Wheeler to decide what to charge people with? He’s a politician; let’s leave it in the hands of the cops and the DA.

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          • Dan A November 20, 2017 at 6:56 pm

            Yeah, how’s that working out for us?

            The city has adopted Vision Zero, and yet the city’s police, in a well-publicized case, are apparently choosing to not write a ticket to a driver who is deserving of said ticket.

            If I was the mayor of a Vision Zero city, and you were the chief of police, I would remind you, as your boss, of your duty to make sure your officers are trained in the application of laws that protect people’s lives. And if you failed in that duty, I would have you replaced.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty November 20, 2017 at 7:49 pm

              I’m going to have to disagree. Politics should not enter into decisions about whether to charge someone or not. I understand it often does, but, as a rule, it should not.

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              • Dan A November 21, 2017 at 7:13 am

                I’m not suggesting that in this specific instance Mayor Wheeler should force the police to write a ticket. But I do think, in general, if the police are failing to enforce certain laws, the mayor and the chief of police have the power and responsibility to send proper instruction from the top down. So it absolutely makes sense to me that Ray Thomas would write the mayor to encourage him to start getting his police force on board with application of this law.

                Are they unaware of this law, unwilling to enforce it due to windshield bias, or have the mayor and PPB decided that it’s one of those laws that Portland is going to purposely ignore (like parking on the corners)? I’d sure like to know.

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              • soren November 21, 2017 at 7:07 pm

                in a pluralistic democracy the law is inherently political.

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            • Steve Scarich November 21, 2017 at 7:08 am

              I see your point, but I recall Wheeler saying he did not have legal authority to intervene in charging decisions and tactics. I am thinking that the DA has final authority here, but I’m no lawyer.

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              • El Biciclero November 21, 2017 at 12:11 pm

                We need to remember that an application of the VRU provision of the careless driving statute does not involve charges. Killing a VRU while driving carelessly is not a crime, it is a class A traffic infraction. Citing for infractions is a police activity that does not involve DAs. If the Honorable Mayor is the head of the police, he should exert whatever influence he can if he sees laws are not being enforced properly by police.

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              • El Biciclero November 21, 2017 at 12:17 pm

                After more carefully reading the statute, it appears the responsibility of the police is merely to “…note on the citation if the cited offense appears to have contributed to the serious physical injury or death of a vulnerable user of a public way.” Then, “…if the court determines that the commission of the offense described in this section contributed to the serious physical injury or death of a vulnerable user of a public way” (emph. mine), more serious consequences can be levied. Now, whether it is a police or court decision to assess whether the offense in question constitutes “careless driving”, I don’t know.

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          • soren November 21, 2017 at 7:04 pm

            “cops” do not create the law — they are public servants overseen by OUR elected representatives. hopefully, several new elected officials will soon bring about badly needed “transformative reforms” at the PPB.

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  • Mike Quigley November 17, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Let’s see…. Garbage truck drivers. Just one bottom-of-the-barrel rung above livestock haulers.

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    • John Lascurettes November 17, 2017 at 2:39 pm

      It’s no more correct to disparage all garbage truck drivers any more than it is all cyclists when a driver sees a few cyclists behaving badly. C’mon.

      I don’t know about you, but I respect most of them for doing a job most of us wouldn’t consider doing. It’s tough, mostly thankless work. I’d also like to avoid implicating the hauling companies themselves for the amount of work they put on the drivers with the work they have and the schedules they need to keep.

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      • Buzz November 17, 2017 at 2:44 pm

        Um, if the hauling companies are overworking and/or undertraining their drivers, they SHOULD be implicated.

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        • John Lascurettes November 17, 2017 at 3:25 pm

          Gah! Sorry, I meant to write “I’d like to avoid not implicating the hauling companies” regarding their culpability.

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      • B. Carfree November 17, 2017 at 7:42 pm

        In the trucking industry, certain sorts of folks just sort of gravitate to certain sorts of hauling. Unfortunately, that also goes for the way they are managed. To note that garbage and chip truck drivers are more than a bit lax in terms of safety just happens to reflect a reality.

        We can debate endlessly as to whether the reason such drivers are so dangerous is because of their nature or the way they are nurtured, but it’s beyond doubt that safety isn’t very high on most trash haulers’ (drivers and managers) priory lists.

        This is an area of law that really, really needs to be reworked. The near-complete lack of safety oversight for trucking firms in Oregon definitely needs to change, at least if we want to be able to claim with any honesty that we value lives.

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        • encephalopath November 18, 2017 at 12:09 pm

          Idle speculation here, but I think one of the problems with garbage truck safety is that they aren’t getting paid an hourly wage. My guess (again with no actual evidence) is that they are being paid a flat rate to complete the route.

          If they start at 4 am and finish at 7 am they get the same pay than if they took 5 hours to complete the route. This creates and incentive to do everything quickly and, let’s say, cut corners.

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          • Steve Scarich November 20, 2017 at 6:36 pm

            Are you saying that this guy was not an employee? subject to normally hour and wage laws? How do you know this?

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    • Pete November 17, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      Hybrid and hydrogen-powered garbage trucks making scheduled rounds with well-defined rules and single-stream recycling beats the hell out of individuals hauling (and illegally dumping) our own trash on an ad hoc basis.

      In one Oregon city that I lived in for 12 years, I chatted with my driver on nearly a weekly basis. I repeatedly advocated for the city’s contracted owner to modernize the fleet – they could certainly afford to do so and would save money in the long run from workman’s comp claims alone. A few months ago I was back in town (I still own a home there) and stood behind my old driver at the bank – didn’t recognize him. He had not aged well, and could not stand straight after years off dragging and lifting peoples’ garbage barrels – frankly he looked like hell.

      Tim turned and smiled and said, “Hey Pete, it’s been a while, how have you been?”, just as cheery as ever, and we had a great time catching up.

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  • John Liu November 17, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Has the driver even been fired or had any action taken on his CDL?

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  • John Lascurettes November 17, 2017 at 2:36 pm

    So you’re saying there’s a chance that the VRU law could still be applied, that there’s still time? Who needs pressure applied more, the DA or PPD?

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 17, 2017 at 4:36 pm

      Yes. There’s definitely still time. statute of limitations is 6 months from time of incident. Ray and I have already started applying some pressure. We’ll see how that goes and then stay tuned if more is needed I will be writing about it here.

      Right now I just want to hear back from the PPB lead investigator about why he didn’t choose to cite for Careless/VRU. Hopefully he simply forget (which would be problematic in its own right) and will still do it after hearing us out. we’ll see.

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      • John Lascurettes November 17, 2017 at 5:56 pm

        Thank you, Jonathan!

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      • Todd Boulanger November 17, 2017 at 7:02 pm

        I doubt they will tell you directly…it might take a council member or the Mayor asking to find out…

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty November 18, 2017 at 12:29 pm

        I definitely subscribe to the belief that commercial drivers need to be held to a higher (and high) standard.

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      • mikeybikey November 18, 2017 at 10:17 pm

        This might be a dumb question but could a VRU citation be issued via the citizen’s citation process in this situation?

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  • Todd Boulanger November 17, 2017 at 3:33 pm

    Does anyone know if there has been a comprehensive [internal] effort to education PPB-Traffic / DA staff about Oregon’s careless driving statute / VRU and how to enforce/ issue citations and structure legal findings/ cases?

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    • 9watts November 17, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      It is amazing, isn’t it. Our public servants frequently don’t know the laws we’ve hired them to enforce… what a system we have! The cop who cited me for passing on the right didn’t know the law either.

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    • Bjorn November 20, 2017 at 1:22 pm

      I know that Ray has spent time trying to educate police groups about the VRU, not sure how successful his efforts have been.

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  • Matthew in Portsmouth November 17, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    My perception, and it may be wrong, is that in many of these cases, particularly when the VRU is an otherwise healthy adult, is that the prosecutors empathize with the driver more than the dead or injured VRU, because they could see themselves in the same position. That’s not right.

    While I don’t doubt that Paul Thompson had no criminal intent, the information that he was trying to outrun a freight train reminds me of the Singapore Airlines pilot that ended up crashing in Taiwan some years ago – the vehicle operator gets so focused on a particular short term goal, they lose their peripheral vision – they get tunnel vision. Whether it’s killing a single VRU or a 747-400 full of passengers, it is still a deadly mistake.

    Our law enforcement policies don’t really give any teeth to the road code. Most motor vehicle operators can rest assured that they won’t be held criminally liable for many of their actions, whether its speeding, running red lights, DUI or negligent driving. Given that the minimum amount of liability insurance in Oregon is $25,000 there’s a pretty good chance that motor vehicle operators will also escape civil liability.

    Pretty appalling really.

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  • pabstslut November 17, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    I am so tired of reading and hearing about ‘Vision Zero’. It’s nothing more than lip service. I would settle for ‘Vision 50’ or even ‘Vision 500’.

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    • 9watts November 17, 2017 at 9:08 pm

      That is so productive. Many countries and municipalities have run with Vision Zero and accomplished great things. Why piss in someone’s cornflakes?

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  • JeffS November 17, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Agreed. If you could have gotten her to use the legally required bike light she would likely be alive.

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    • X November 17, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      There is no way you can know that. People overlook bikes, bike lights, and police motorcycle traffic officers (!) all the time. I’ve had a motor vehicle operator say to me that I didn’t have a bike light when it was shining on his face. Ask your friend who rides a motorcycle about this and then let us know how you feel about your comment.

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    • Stephan Lindner November 17, 2017 at 9:20 pm

      John Lascurettes
      It’s no more correct to disparage all garbage truck drivers any more than it is all cyclists when a driver sees a few cyclists behaving badly. C’mon.
      I don’t know about you, but I respect most of them for doing a job most of us wouldn’t consider doing. It’s tough, mostly thankless work. I’d also like to avoid implicating the hauling companies themselves for the amount of work they put on the drivers with the work they have and the schedules they need to keep.
      Recommended 25

      But that is not the point of the statute! The driver endangered a vulnerable road user with his action, which is independent of what Tamar did. The question is not whether this death would have been avoided if she had a light or not; the question is whether he drove in a careless manner that endangered a vulnerable road user. And the answer is clearly yes.

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    • Spiffy November 19, 2017 at 11:40 am

      there’s no proof that she wasn’t using the legally required light…

      there’s just also no proof that she WAS using it…

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      • Trek 3900 November 21, 2017 at 12:07 pm

        Agree there is no proof. But the police report is pretty good evidence.

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    • Dan A November 19, 2017 at 8:22 pm

      Mark Angeles was riding at noon on a clear day when he was left-hooked by a commercial driver.

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    • q November 19, 2017 at 11:12 pm

      The time I came closest to getting hit, a woman heading towards me turned left directly into my path as I was heading down a long hill in the lane. She looked at me before turning. I caught up to her at a gas station and asked her what she was thinking. She said she saw me, but since I was on a bike she had the right of way. Never mind it was lucky I didn’t end up in her windshield.

      We read all the time about pedestrians getting hit in crosswalks, bikes getting hit in daylight, one car being hit by another because drivers are distracted, even buildings getting hit…so I’d accept “more likely” she’d be alive, but I can’t agree with “likely”.

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      • Spiffy November 20, 2017 at 8:12 am

        society always puts cars first so it’s reasonable for drivers to do the same… we’re told to accept that 30,000 people a year are ok dying so that cars can remain king…

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  • J_R November 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Portland has adopted Vision Zero as its highest transportation priority. HAHAHA!

    Vision Zero is simply a catch phrase that the city can point to and claim they are doing something. All we’ve seen is a task force, a new logo, and the promise of an annual report summarizing the “progress” on some rather non-specific, feel-good goals.

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    • dan November 17, 2017 at 5:10 pm

      Yeah, if reaching Vision Zero is the carrot, we need a stick. How about this? Every year we fail Vision Zero, bicycle infrastructure receives an additional 1% of all road funding. Otherwise, well, empty words are empty.

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      • Bikeninja November 17, 2017 at 5:47 pm

        I like it, plus 1% of the roads are permenently converted to bike only parkways.

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        • B. Carfree November 17, 2017 at 7:50 pm

          How about any at-fault injury crash involving a motor vehicle causes that road to be closed to motor vehicles for two years? In no time flat, we’ll have a car-free state since the little darlings don’t seem capable of not crashing. At the very least, there will be a lot of peer pressure to shame people out of their dangerously deadly habits. As an added bonus, the agency responsible for the road might just take a good hard look at what aspects of the road are contributing to the crashes and fix it while it’s closed to motorists.

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          • David Burns November 21, 2017 at 4:56 pm

            “Two years” seems arbitrary. How about “until the problem is fixed?”

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  • Mike Gilliland
    Mike Gilliland November 17, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Thanks Jonathan and Ray. We have to stay on top of this one.

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  • Dave November 18, 2017 at 7:12 am

    We fail all cyclists if those of us who know better are too timid about emphasizing the need for lights and visibility gear at night–no, this is NOT victim-blaming, it is a refusal to excuse stupidity on a cyclist’s part.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 18, 2017 at 8:28 am

      Hi Dave,

      I feel like it’s extremely insensitive of you to use the word “stupidity” here- given that someone is dead.

      That being said, I for one have never ignored the need for people to use lights. I also know it is a fact in this case that we do not know exactly what happened and why each person acted like they did. So it seems to me like the person with the greater potential to do harm should be held to a higher standard.

      Tamar Monhait did not deserve to die.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty November 18, 2017 at 1:07 pm

        Monhait did not “deserve” any particular outcome. She took a risk that many of us have taken, and which we might well take again. It is true that the truck driver should have signaled and slowed before making his turn, and that failure to do these created a dangerous situation. It is also true that the driver might not have reasonably seen a fast-moving dark object at night, and that it was likely the combination of both the driving errors and failure to use a light that led to the tragedy.

        From a legal standpoint, it seems to me that the driver is at fault; he is a professional, made a maneuver he knew (or should have known) to be unsafe and illegal, and should be penalized for the consequences. Had he followed the rules, things would likely have unfolded differently. At the very least, he should lose his CDL.

        From a road safety/VZ standpoint, this is an example of why the system needs redundancy. In this case (or at least my understanding of it), two systems had to fail for events to unfold as they did. By riding without a light, Monhait reduced that to one, and was depending on other road users to not make mistakes or take shortcuts when crossing her path. That gamble usually works out, but, unfortunately, in this case, it did not.

        Very little happens on the roads that deserve a penalty of death.

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        • q November 20, 2017 at 4:19 pm

          That’s a big point. It’s a problem when small mistakes can result in deaths. Most other activities have much less lethal consequences for making mistakes.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty November 20, 2017 at 4:25 pm

            This is it precisely. Small mistakes have huge consequences. And since it’s inherent in our nature to make small mistakes when doing something that is both complex and routine, we need redundancy to ensure that a small mistake alone will not kill someone.

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      • Dave November 20, 2017 at 7:48 am

        Okay, I’ll cop to the insensitivity but 40+ years of night cycling tell me that lights that will both let you see and be seen are a stone necessity for it. The bike business is much too timid about it–I’d like to see as much of a hard-sell on lights as on carbon fiber, for instance! I’m very proud to say that when I was a Bike Gallery employee I was reprimanded by Jay Graves multiple times for (in the pre-LED days) speaking to customers in terms of there being “real lights” and “cycling flashlights.” And on another subject entirely, I agree with everyone commenting who believes that trucking is grossly under-regulated. Rates and pay need to be set and the whole trade aggressively regulated by government to keep the lethal flakes off the road.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 20, 2017 at 8:37 am

          Thanks Dave,

          And I really wish people would stop insinuating that I have ever said I think it’s OK to bike without lights. I am a huge believer and proponent of using lights. I have never ever written one word on this site that excuses someone for not using them.

          That being said… I don’t believe that justice was done in this specific case. I think many people on this thread are missing the forest for the trees (which means I probably messed up in the way I wrote the post). The larger point I want to make isn’t that Monhait is innocent or that the Thompson is the guilty party. My point is — given the specifics of this case (I don’t care to hear about comparisons or hypotheticals) — I do not feel like justice was done. It also sickens me that many people’s takeaway is that Monhait deserved to die.

          None of us were there that night.

          I’m sticking with facts. And given the facts I think our system — that “we” are all a part of — failed Tamar.

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          • Steve Scarich November 20, 2017 at 6:41 pm

            So, what would justice be? six months in jail? a year? Five years? I’m curious what all those with their hanging ropes out actually want from this guy. and, remember, it could be you, or a family member, driving on a dark road, the next time this happens.

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            • Dan A November 20, 2017 at 7:08 pm

              https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.135

              Nobody is calling for capital punishment. There are already well-written laws that provide guidance. Read the statute linked here and you’ll be caught up.

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              • Steve Scarich November 20, 2017 at 7:37 pm

                and your answer to my question is ???? It is easy to refer to some code; not so easy to say ‘I want to put this guy in jail for a year to his face’.

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              • q November 20, 2017 at 9:05 pm

                It would not be easy for me to say to in front of friends and family members of the victim, “I’m letting him off with a $370 fine”.

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              • Dan A November 21, 2017 at 7:18 am

                Did the link not work for you?

                A person commits the offense of careless driving if the person drives any vehicle upon a highway or other premises described in this section in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.

                The offense described in this section, careless driving, applies on any premises open to the public and is a Class B traffic violation unless commission of the offense contributes to an accident. If commission of the offense contributes to an accident, the offense is a Class A traffic violation.

                In addition to any other penalty imposed for an offense committed under this section, if the court determines that the commission of the offense described in this section contributed to the serious physical injury or death of a vulnerable user of a public way, the court shall:

                Impose a sentence that requires the person to complete a traffic safety course and perform between 100 and 200 hours of community service…[including] activities related to driver improvement and providing public education on traffic safety.

                or

                Fine of up to $12,500 & suspension of license for one year, should he choose not to do the above.

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            • Dan A November 20, 2017 at 7:08 pm

              And, remember, it could be you, or a family member, riding on a dark road, the next time this happens.

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              • billyjo November 21, 2017 at 8:42 am

                it could be. But I would have a light and not be drunk.

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              • Dan A November 21, 2017 at 10:02 am

                Maybe your light is dead, or fell off, or was stolen from your bike while working your shift at the bar. Maybe you’re breaking the mandatory sidepath law. Maybe you’re looking at a text that popped up while you were legally using the crosswalk. Maybe the sun is out, or isn’t out. Maybe you ‘came out of nowhere’. Rest assured, the police will find every possible way to minimize the penalties to the driver.

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              • Dan A November 21, 2017 at 12:45 pm

                Incidentally, my son rode to school yesterday with a bike computer. But then he rode home without it, because some kid stole it from his handlebar during the day. Thankfully whoever took it put it back on his bike this morning after he parked it (my wife saw it back on the bike when she was over at the school helping out).

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            • 9watts November 20, 2017 at 7:15 pm

              Why the micro-focus here?

              The way I see this, our so-called justice system is not delivering the goods. I took this conversation here to be about how our system works/doesn’t work, what kinds of outputs it generates, whom it punishes, etc. I don’t see folks here ‘with their hanging ropes’ but rather calling for accountability on the part of our officials whose job it is to mete out justice on our behalf; wrestle with the big questions; figure it out. But instead we just get what amount to a shrug. This is not good enough.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 20, 2017 at 7:46 pm

                On the macro level, our justice system does deliver the goods — compare it to most around the world, and nearly all throughout history, and we’re doing pretty well.

                There are others who do a better job than we do, and there is certainly room for improvement (and improve we must), but overall, it could be a lot worse. Justice is a very hard problem.

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              • 9watts November 20, 2017 at 8:51 pm

                “compare it to most around the world, and nearly all throughout history, and we’re doing pretty well.”

                You and I have had this conversation several times here already. I’ve cited chapter and verse suggesting that we’re actually doing terribly in an international comparison, though I readily concede that our self-image is very much inline with your statement. I remain curious to see your comparative sources that suggest a different view.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty November 20, 2017 at 9:34 pm

                I readily agree that parts of Europe are doing things better than we are, and I do not mean to say that we should be satisfied and not seek to improve. But there are large swaths of the world where I could be imprisoned for my political views; where I could bribe my way out of justice (or be imprisoned for not doing so); where prisons are far worse than ours (though ours can pretty bad); where torture is common; where the police are, as a rule, corrupt. You can find examples of all of these here as well, but they are not the general rule.

                Again… we can and must do better. But don’t let our problems blind you to how bad other people have it.

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              • 9watts November 20, 2017 at 9:53 pm

                “But don’t let our problems blind you to how bad other people have it.”

                not to worry.

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            • q November 20, 2017 at 8:06 pm

              Let’s put things into a reasonable context. This type of things doesn’t just “happen” to people who happen to drive on “dark roads”. First, it was a downtown street with streetlights and no traffic. Every day, tens of thousands of people drive here in more challenging conditions, and they’re not even professional drivers. None of us will find ourselves in his place unless we decide to try to beat a train by turning early and not bothering to signal.

              If I or a family member did what he did under those circumstances, and killed someone, I’d expect a significant legal consequence.

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            • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 20, 2017 at 9:04 pm

              As I clearly stated in the post: he should be charged with Careless Driving w death to a vulnerable road user.

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              • Dan A November 21, 2017 at 7:21 am

                And yet people read this as ‘jailtime’ and ‘hanging’. Weird.

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              • wsbob November 21, 2017 at 12:36 pm

                Except that, given the apparent traffic conditions at the time of the collision, Thomas wasn’t driving carelessly. This is what the DA has to look at. Because she didn’t have the required visibility equipment on her bike, the DA likely is obliged to consider that Thomas did not have a reasonable opportunity to see Monhait on her bike. People will listen to explanation about the collision and how each person was using the road.

                Most people listening are going to likely feel that Thomas just didn’t signal for the turn. Not that he was trying to cut someone off, or endanger the life he may not have noticed on the road until the last few seconds…after he’d already progressed half way into his turn, at which shortly thereafter, Monhait apparently crashed into his truck.

                I don’t think reasonable people will accept the idea that Thompson was driving carelessly, unless something comes out in investigation, that there was reason to believe he has some tendency to be a careless driver. What does Thompson’s driving record show that may indicate he’s a careless driver? Or not?

                It’s going to be very difficult to persuade reasonable people to believe someone is a careless driver or cyclist, simply because they failed to signal for a turn, or cut a corner short, in the type of traffic situation in which this collision occurred.

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              • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) November 21, 2017 at 1:27 pm

                wsbob,

                You appear to be getting this mixed up. The DA and the Police have very different roles and responsibilities here. I’m not talking about the DA case here in this post. I’m talking about the Police. They don’t have to persuade anyone about anything… They simply have to make a judgment about what happened and apply the proper statutes. Given that Mr. Thompson made a dangerous turn without signaling while operating a large truck in an urban area known for a high number of bicycle riders — I feel his actions absolutely “endangered” other road users and therefore he deserves the Careless VRU citation.

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              • q November 21, 2017 at 2:20 pm

                I think reasonable people can easily believe that turning without signaling is careless, especially when it’s combined with turning too soon. What suddenly happened that made it impossible for him to signal?

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              • q November 21, 2017 at 2:49 pm

                And wsbob–in regard to his driving record…his past record isn’t relevant, it’s what he did in this situation. What he did was first decide to turn ahead of the intersection, which is dangerous because others don’t expect it, it hampers your view of others in the intersection, and it makes it hard for others approaching the intersection to see you, plus it means you’re driving forward going the wrong direction in the oncoming traffic lane.

                Then, he decided to do that without signaling.

                Then, he killed someone that he didn’t notice was approaching.

                That’s what’s in his driving record that’s relevant to this case, and that may indicate he’s a careless driver.

                Plus you mention “in this type of traffic situation”, as if the circumstances justified cutting the turn and not signaling. I can see times when either may be justified–say in heavy, confusing traffic when you have to turn suddenly to avoid hitting someone who’s done something unexpected themselves. But in “this situation” he had no traffic, and no compelling reason to cut the corner or to skip signaling, other than possibly that he didn’t want to wait for a train. If anything, those circumstances made his behavior MORE careless.

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              • Dan A November 21, 2017 at 4:08 pm

                I hope wsbob is not a driver.

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              • wsbob November 21, 2017 at 7:25 pm

                Maus…I’m sorry if it sounds like I’ve gotten something mixed up. I’m not thinking or speaking only of the police and their role in investigating and proceeding with any charges for wrongdoings made by the road users involved in this collision.

                I’m thinking and speaking of the whole system, which includes the police initially arriving at and investigating the collision, as well as additional investigative police personnel that were brought in as it became readily apparent that the collision resulted in the death of a road user.

                And the DA, or any judges that might have to review and decide on the right or wrong if the case, if were to be brought before them. Or a jury of peers.

                And of course, there’s also, the public reading about and trying to understand the why’s and the how’s of this collision; essentially, what things came together that factored together to result in this collision occurring.

                The police are just the first of many links in the justice system change. It’s not going to do anybody any good, if just on emotion or bias, they write up a bunch of citations absent of fact that have no chance of corresponding to the criteria of the law when studied by higher officials

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    • dwk November 18, 2017 at 8:48 am

      An of course you or the others here who blame the victim have never once rode without a light?
      Riding a bike home from a bar is the smart thing to do, I wish a lot more did…..

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      • Jeff November 20, 2017 at 3:49 pm

        Riding a bike home from a bar, while perhaps less dangerous to others, is still dangerous and not advisible. I’ve done it, probably shouldn’t have – but at least I still had the ability to run on my lights.

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    • John Lascurettes November 18, 2017 at 11:40 am

      God forbid you’ve ever had an equipment failure like a dead battery or stolen or lost light. We don’t know for 100% that she didn’t have a light at all.

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      • mh November 18, 2017 at 1:30 pm

        Generator lights. No battery issues, haven’t had one stolen yet. They still won’t see you unless they’re consciously watching for VRU, but victim blaming becomes that much more difficult.

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        • John Lascurettes November 18, 2017 at 1:38 pm

          Ditto. I will never buy a commuter without generator lights again. That said, a majority of people don’t ride with a dynohub and it does drive up the price and weight of the bike.

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    • Spiffy November 19, 2017 at 11:48 am

      you sound like you have evidence that the cyclist in this case had no front light… nobody else has stated that such evidence exists… but I’d sure like to see yours…

      lights do not keep you from getting hit by a driver… the only time I was hit I had a ton of lights and the driver admitted that they had no idea how they couldn’t have seen me…

      people keep focusing on the from light in this case only because it was mentioned… just like how people blame dead cyclists for not wearing a helmet when it’s mentioned that one wasn’t found… this is why words matter… they say they didn’t find a light and everybody jumps in to blame the victim as if we were just told that they found evidence of a lack of front light…

      compare these sentences which have completely different meanings:
      * We found no evidence of a front light at the crash scene.
      * We found evidence showing a lack of a front light during the crash.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty November 19, 2017 at 12:15 pm

        >>> lights do not keep you from getting hit by a driver <<<

        I believe they in fact do. The fact that being visible is not 100% protective does not mean it's not hugely beneficial.

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        • Spiffy November 20, 2017 at 8:14 am

          yes, beneficial… not a cure…

          lights aren’t magic… but they help sometimes… they don’t protect you…

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  • Mike November 18, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Can you completely brush off the fact that there was no front light and alcohol was involved? I just don’t understand the lack of shared responsibility on this one. Could this have this been prevented at all? Front light minus the alcohol? Not even the “experts” here can know for sure.

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    • Pete November 18, 2017 at 10:35 am

      No, you can’t completely brush that off. But look at the skid marks – they begin well into the intersection (maybe some delay due to BAC, sure), and from where the impact occurred it demonstrates the truck cut the corner short (hence the infraction). It is also clearly a locked-up panic brake, with no chance to modulate or change course (again, maybe some BAC factor, agreed).

      The driver has said they did not see the cyclist, and that they were trying to beat the train. We know they didn’t signal the turn, and they were not necessarily driving slowly or decelerating. Besides my opinion that the trajectory and behavior of the driver should have been enough to trigger VRU, I tend to believe (pretend I’m on the jury) that the driver was so focused on the train they likely wouldn’t have noticed a small bike light (we have no standards for how bright or aim, unlike cars do), and that the driver’s intent was acceleration and carrying speed across the shortest distance possible with a singular focus and goal.

      So, do you believe the improved reaction time of a sober bicycle-driver could have created a situation where they modulated the rear wheel and stopped in time for something so unexpected?

      Do you believe the presence of a bike light (which could have been dim or bright – investigators likely wouldn’t have known the difference for reporting purposes) would have caused that driver in that circumstance to come to a complete stop and cede right-of-way to the cyclist?

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      • John Lascurettes November 18, 2017 at 11:45 am

        … likely wouldn’t have noticed a small bike light (we have no standards for how bright or aim, unlike cars do) …

        Actually we do. It must be bright enough to be visible from 500 feet away. But I agree with everything else you said 100%. Well stated.

        ORS 815.28(2)(B):

        The lighting equipment must show a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the bicycle.

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        • Pete November 18, 2017 at 12:49 pm

          Thanks for the clarification, John.

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        • John Lascurettes November 18, 2017 at 2:18 pm

          Sorry, messed up that link above: https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/815.280

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        • SD November 20, 2017 at 8:28 am

          The criteria in this law is actually pretty vague.

          A similar law should be: to be a licensed driver, one must be able to see a small white light that from a distance of 500ft.

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      • Tim November 19, 2017 at 10:40 am

        I wholeheartedly agree “She did not deserve to die!”….. A question tho, how do we know the skid marks were hers?

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    • Spiffy November 19, 2017 at 11:57 am

      “Can you completely brush off the fact that there was no front light and alcohol was involved?”

      yes, I can TV-lawyer myself a reasonable argument…

      we don’t know for sure that they had no front light… we have a character witness stating she never rode without a light… just because they didn’t find one at the scene doesn’t mean she didn’t have one… we have no video showing the front of the cyclist approaching, only a side angle…

      the presence of alcohol doesn’t seem to matter here… we care about alcohol because motor vehicles can easily kill people… it’s just legislative laziness that the law applies to cyclists… the cyclist had the right of way… a truck turned quickly in front of them… a sober cyclist would likely have issues with that, as it’s happened many times… people aren’t automatically at fault when they’re drunk…

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      • Jeff November 20, 2017 at 3:56 pm

        What do your propose happened to the front light? Admittedly I have not scene pictures from the scene, but short of the bike being obliterated, what became of this light if it did not exist at the scene? You’re openly putting out conjecture, which certainly wouldn’t qualify as beyond a doubt to use in any criminal proceeding.

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        • Dan A November 20, 2017 at 7:11 pm

          Which is why there are no criminal charges filed.

          This has to do with the careless driving citation, which has nothing to do with the light.

          “A person commits the offense of careless driving if the person drives any vehicle upon a highway or other premises described in this section in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.”

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  • 9watts November 18, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Tamar also as far as I know had the right of way. Should count for something.

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    • Arlington Ed November 21, 2017 at 4:14 am

      There’s no evidence available indicating the deceased Ms. Monhait was riding with the legally-required front light, in addition to having been under the influence of alcohol. Accordingly, by violating the law at the time of her collision, Ms. Monheit voided whatever right-of-way she would have otherwise had. And the same goes for the truck driver that hit her, so what’s left at that point is the equal responsibiity for both parties to see, be seen and avoid each other.

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      • Dan A November 21, 2017 at 7:27 am

        “Ms. Monheit voided whatever right-of-way she would have otherwise had”

        Prove it? Not trying to be snarky — I’m honestly curious why you think this would be the case, because the DA’s statement indicates otherwise.

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      • q November 21, 2017 at 11:20 am

        You made this same statement in another article–that breaking a law voids your right-of-way. I and several other people asked you to give us some evidence that that law exists, because we hadn’t heard of it, we’d never seen it referenced in any police report, and nobody else backed you up in the comments. Also, it would lead to crazy situations–and we gave examples–where multiple road users would converge in a situation where none had any right-of-way.

        And you never responded. Yet here you are again popping up with the same comment. I think everyone here will agree you’re right if you can provide a citation for that law.

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        • Pete November 22, 2017 at 6:21 pm

          I think Ed is confusing the concept of civil negligence with the vehicle code.

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      • El Biciclero November 21, 2017 at 11:59 am

        So, if I am speeding through a green light—only 5 mph over the limit, but speeding nonetheless—and somebody runs their red and slams into me, am I at fault because I gave up my ROW by speeding? If I’m missing one of my license plates, or I haven’t applied my new reg stickers over my expired ones, must I then wait forever at a 4-way stop because I’ve lost all ROW? What if I have a headlight out, or my brake lights don’t work, or I forgot to dim my high beams—is it open season on me because I’ve violated equipment requirements? Or does that principle only apply if one is riding a bicycle instead of driving a car?

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      • Pete November 22, 2017 at 6:20 pm

        “Ms. Monheit voided whatever right-of-way she would have otherwise had.”

        Huh? How does one legally change the laws of the roadway in real time? If I was the driver and had actually seen Ms. Monheit, how would I have known that she was drunk and therefore I suddenly had a legal right to take a left turn in front of her while she’s proceeding straight?

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  • Charley November 18, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    I’m sad about Ms. Monhait’s death: it was needless and undeserved. There should be serious penalties for killing a cyclist, while breaking traffic laws; probably penalties more serious than a few hundred dollars in fines.

    But after reading this article, I think this situation is a little too complex to neatly sum up. It has me entertaining a thought experiment:

    Driver Roberto is inebriated, and rides in the dark without headlights on. He’s going straight down the street.
    Cyclist Jenny is sober, and has working front lights, but forgets to use her hand to signal when pulling sharply onto a cross street, in the process failing to yield the right of way to Driver Roberto, whom she does not see (his car is a dark color, and has no lights on, remember).
    While failing to yield to Driver Roberto’s oncoming car, Cyclist Jenny slams into the front of the vehicle, injuring herself severely. She dies at the scene.

    This situation is similar to Monhait’s crash, in that the sober person fails to signal, and fails to yield right of way to the inebriated person, who is not using appropriate front illumination, and is of course operating a vehicle drunk. However, I’ve reversed roles of Driver and Cyclist, to illuminate what I fear is a double standard.

    Clearly, Cyclist Jenny is primarily at fault for the collision, mostly for failing to yield the right of way. But, how many BikePortland readers would come to the defense of the Drunk Driver Roberto driving without headlights? Would we feel comfortable that his driving was blameless? Wouldn’t we all be rehashing our anger that drunk drivers are often serial offenders, driving without licenses, or that drivers should have running lights to make them more visible? Doesn’t this thought experiment illustrate an example of TWO law-breaking vehicle operators tangling it up? I’m pretty sure that the inebriated state of Driver Roberto, would, if reported in Bike Portland, elicit condemnation and calls for serious legal repercussions. Would we feel comfortable if Drunk Driver Roberto sued Cyclist Jenny’s estate for the damage to the front of his vehicle?

    Another quick thought: remember how the driver of the bald-tired truck on the St John’s Bridge killed that cyclist, and our anger at him for not having an appropriately tired vehicle (among his other faults)? What if a bald-tired cyclist killed another cyclist because he lost control in a turn? Doesn’t operating an inappropriately working or inappropriately maintained bicycle expose the operator to legal consequence? If it’s true about tires, what about front lights? I’ve ridden home with failing or completely dead lights before. What if I’d hit some other rider and injured them because of that mechanical failure? Am I not responsible?

    I don’t mean to excuse the garbage hauler’s failure to either yield or signal (he clearly takes the lion’s share of the blame), but don’t the victim’s inebriation and failure to ride with a front light count as mitigating factors? I’m sure people will say I’m victim-blaming, but, as I understand it, when it comes to traffic laws, Oregon law allows for shared responsibility for collisions. If both parties fail to follow traffic laws, aren’t both, to some degree, responsible? Aren’t both Monhait and Thompson *both* victims *and* perpetrators?

    The fact that one person (the cyclist) is clearly more vulnerable than the other (the driver) is an important distinction to make, and since the consequences of drunk driving are potentially greater than that of drunk cycling, the penalties may be concomitantly greater. That said, shouldn’t inebriation count for anything? Shouldn’t operating an appropriately lit vehicle count for anything? I want cycling to be accessible and I want more people to ride. I don’t think we need to be above the law to ride, though. I don’t think we need to be above all consequence. (And, as a reminder of my earlier statement, Ms. Monhait’s death was needless and undeserved; the driver’s penalties should be greater).

    I can’t say I disagree with Maus’ basic assertion that Thompson’s penalties are paltry, compared the damage of his poor driving that night. I’m just tired of reading comments that we’re actually not responsible for having well-lit bikes or riding soberly. Alright, pile on.

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    • B. Carfree November 18, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      A few thoughts on your thoughts:
      1. Cars hydroplane. Bikes don’t. That’s why there are legally mandated tread depths for cars but not for bikes. Bike tires can and do lose traction, but in general tread isn’t making much difference when that happens; rubber compound, tire volume and inflation and rider skill and experience certainly are factors, but are difficult to mandate.
      2. Your unlit drunk driver analogy fails in several ways. The drunk is likely traveling a lot faster than the 12 mph a drunk cyclist rolls at. There was no evidence that Tamir’s BAC played any roll; she maintained her lane and had no time to react, drunk or sober. Also, the video of Tamir shows that she did have a light. In fact, there was a lot of discussion as to whether it was a front or rear light. She was far from dark. Have you ever witnessed a rider approach you who has only a rear blinkie? They are certainly visible from the flashing red reflections all around them.
      3. Cyclists are not required to submit to any training at all in order to legally operate a bike on public roads. Commercial truck drivers have extensive, though inadequate imo, training requirements over and above our fog-a-mirror class C license standards. Part of that training is supposed to focus on the safe operation of such heavy vehicles. Racing trains to crossings is a monumentally egregious violation of the sort of standard training that I received oh-so-many years ago. People make mistakes, but what happened in this instance isn’t a one-off mistake like taking a freeway off-ramp too fast and rolling over. This one displays a complete and utter disregard for safety while prioritizing speed.

      My views on bike lights are different than yours. I have a million miles in the cab of big rigs and 600k miles in the saddle as well as a few miles in cars, so I have experience from all perspectives. In a typical urban environment, unlit cyclists are no more difficult to see than unlit pedestrians, and they don’t move much faster than a typical jogger. It’s nice when they’re lit, but not necessary in order to see them and react accordingly. In more rural settings unlit cyclists can be more difficult to see and peds and cyclists alike are rarer while speeds are higher, so lights are much more necessary. My personal approach is to be overlit and over-reflectorized, but I am aware that the more people do this the less safe it is for anyone who chooses otherwise.

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      • 9watts November 18, 2017 at 7:50 pm

        nicely put.

        600K on a bike?! or is that on a horse?

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      • Charley November 18, 2017 at 11:53 pm

        1. Ok. My “bald tired” cyclist was a technically poor example. Let’s replace “bald” with “underinflated”. And I don’t mean a fat tire at 15 PSI, but a 35mm 700c tire that should be running at 50-80PSI, but is down in the twenties and super squirrelly.
        2.
        A.
        I did not specify a driving speed in my thought experiment; what Roberto is clocking is irrelevant: Jenny dies either way. At any rate, I’ve already stated that I think the dangers of drunk driving should reflect the greater danger to other road users as compared to drunk *riding*, and it’s likely that you actually agree with me that the penalties should be larger for drunk drivers, for that reason.
        B.
        I stand by my assertion that drunkenness matters. It certainly did for the District Attorney. Here’s what I read in BP’s other article: “Monhait, on the other hand, had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .128 — well above the legal limit. The lead PPB officer on this case determined that Monhait’s alcohol intake was a factor in the collision because, as noted in the memo, “alcohol is a depressant and can delay normal brain functions such as concentration, hand-eye coordination and reaction time.” ”
        C.
        Also, the previous article confirms my assertion that investigators believed her lack of a “front light” was a factor. I don’t know what you’re talking about a video showing her to actually have a front light. You should probably forward that to Jonathan Maus and the police, because they don’t seem to believe that to be the case. I use rear blinkies all the time and you’re right, they do project a kind of corona of flashing light around the cyclist; all the same, front blinkies are both advisable and legally required. Does it matter that the law doesn’t take that corona of red light into account? Not to the law! I’m fine if you think it’s safe to ride without lights, though it sounds like you actually do ride with lights. I’ll continue to ride with lights, and continue to advocate that cyclists should have lights, and advocate that we are responsible for riding with lights, even if the consequences for failing to do so mainly fall on us cyclists.

        I don’t believe Ms. Monhait should be absolved of *all* responsibility for riding lit (drunk) and unlit (in front).
        Does she bear most of the responsibility for this collision? Hell no!
        Some of the responsibility? Yes.

        To put it another way, if you were riding, and a drunk, unlit cyclist hit you accidentally, you’d probably be ticked off. That’s because, whatever other specific traffic rules they may have broken while running into you, you’d probably view drunk and unlit riding as conferring upon the rider some greater degree of guilt, than simply having broken whatever other rule caused them to run into you. In other words, it’s one thing to run into someone, and another thing entirely to run into someone while drunk and operating an illegally outfitted vehicle. To me, that sense of assumption of guilt applies even when another party is far guiltier, in total.

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        • BradWagon November 20, 2017 at 9:53 am

          A 35mm tire in the mid 20’s is completely appropriate for cyclocross racing and they don’t seem to be all over the place when riding on pavement sections of the courses… care to try again?

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          • Charley November 20, 2017 at 7:28 pm

            Not really. Substitute whatever number makes you feel satisfied.

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    • Dan A November 19, 2017 at 8:25 am

      One of the main points of JM’s post, which you’ve neglected to address, is that this commercial driver was not cited for a careless driving citation. Why not? None of this hinges on Tamar, BTW. Whipping through a turn in the dark without signaling is careless driving, and it could have easily resulted in the death of a sober pedestrian using the same crossing.

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      • Charley November 19, 2017 at 9:49 am

        I “neglected to address” the main point of Maus’ editorial because:

        A. I don’t disagree with it. (Maybe you missed it where I wrote, “I can’t say I disagree with Maus’ basic assertion that Thompson’s penalties are paltry, compared the damage of his poor driving that night.”)

        B. I’m more interested in debating the double standard that I have observed among commenters in Bike Portland, which is that drunk driving and ill-equipped automobiles are bad, but drunk riding and ill-equipped bicycles are apparently not bad enough to warrant consequences.

        That’s not “neglect”. My post was long enough already, without hashing through a bunch of other obvious stuff that I think most of us agree on anyway.

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        • 9watts November 19, 2017 at 9:57 am

          I appreciate your raising this matter of what you perceive to be a double standard. In my comments here I’ve tried to explain—to the extent you would consider me among those guilty of this double standard—why I think there’s more to it, why one standard for such disparate modes doesn’t actually make much sense.
          Human fallibility is not limited by mode, which is why we have laws and certification requirements and a legal system sprinkled throughout our system of transportation. However when you combine human falliblity with shoes, bikes, skateboards, roller skates, fatalities and serious injuries are rare indeed, and even more rare are deaths or serious injuries visited upon others by those getting about under their own power. But as soon as you add horseless carriages into the mix this changes dramatically.

          MADD makes all kinds of sense. MADB perhaps not so much, if you get my drift?

          “drunk driving and ill-equipped automobiles are bad, but drunk riding and ill-equipped bicycles are apparently not bad enough to warrant consequences”

          I recognize the urge to insist on some sort of parity but I think this urge misses the mark. What is most interesting here, most consequential, is the asymmetry.

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          • Charley November 19, 2017 at 2:08 pm

            Can you please re-read my comment and show me where I suggest parity or “one standard” for different modes? I never have! I’m merely suggesting an assumption of legal responsibility for riding sober and legally equipped. Please stop with the straw men!

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            • 9watts November 19, 2017 at 2:24 pm

              You are decrying a double standard. If I have mis-characterized the implications of that, please clarify. To me someone who laments a double standard is—unless he specifically says he’s not—suggesting that parity would be preferable, appropriate.

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              • Charley November 19, 2017 at 4:55 pm

                Please don’t ascribe beliefs or positions to me, especially if you don’t take the time to read what I’ve written. To wit, this is what I wrote in my *very first* comment:

                “The fact that one person (the cyclist) is clearly more vulnerable than the other (the driver) is an important distinction to make, and since the consequences of drunk driving are potentially greater than that of drunk cycling, the penalties may be concomitantly greater.”

                I am literally arguing against legal parity here. Do we not agree on this??? Did I not argue that the penalties to the driver are probably insufficient?

                Read my very second sentence and please tell me how I’m wrong: “There should be serious penalties for killing a cyclist, while breaking traffic laws; probably penalties more serious than a few hundred dollars in fines.”

                You might be confusing a legal argument here (and the above quote should explain my position very clearly), with my argument about the social, or emotional double standard that I’m talking about.

                The double standard is that Bike Portland commenters, are quick to denounce drunk driving, but so many are willing to give a drunk *rider* the benefit of the doubt. Would you say, of a drunk driver, killed when another, sober driver cut him off, “well, the video shows that there’s nothing he could have done to prevent the accident,” or, “he was drunk but that’s irrelevant”?

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              • 9watts November 19, 2017 at 5:56 pm

                “I am literally arguing against legal parity here”
                which is why your erstwhile focus on the irksome double standard is so confusing.

                I’m glad we agree on so much.

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              • 9watts November 19, 2017 at 5:58 pm

                “You might be confusing a legal argument here […]with my argument about the social, or emotional double standard that I’m talking about.”

                I was. I’m still struggling with how you can get so worked up about the emotional double standard when you so passionately endorse a legal double standard.

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              • Charley November 19, 2017 at 11:28 pm

                I’m worked up about it because the more cyclists ride drunk, the greater their risk of injury or death due to collision due to intoxication. Driving drunk isn’t safe, even for the driver. Why should it be safe for bike riders either?

                As we’ve seen, even if one happens to believe that her impairment was irrelevant, the police certainly didn’t think so: had Tamar lived, how much harder for her to win favorable settlement for her injuries, given that the police report lists her as riding intoxicated? Is being injured *and* unable to sue for damages worth the drinks?

                Part of the given reason for not charging Paul Thompson was that the DA felt that a jury would not convict him, based in part on Monhait’s highly illegal blood alcohol content. Right or wrong, why would I want to stack the deck in a bad driver’s favor by showing up on the streets drunk?

                Here’s a bunch of people saying on an important, respected website for local riders that it’s irrelevant that she was impaired, it wouldn’t have made a difference, it’s not like she was driving, and so on. The next time some rider at a party, and they’re thinking, “people ride drunk all the time, it’s probably fine, I’ll go on and have a couple of beers.” I don’t think that there should be legal or social or emotional or moral equivocation on this point: it’s not safe to drink and ride. I don’t want people coming across this site and seeing so much justification for unsafe behavior.

                I don’t think we should justify or support this dangerous riding habit. Is that so hard to understand?

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              • 9watts November 20, 2017 at 12:18 am

                Thanks for your elaborations, Charley.

                “it’s not safe to drink and ride”

                I guess I would agree that it certainly isn’t smart, but the question of safety *in this instance* seems debatable. I’ve never gotten drunk so am not going to defend drunk biking. But what do you think of this as a thought experiment to try to test your hypothesis?

                Something like 10,000/yr or ~1/3 of people killed on our roads were alcohol related (I think this statistic refers to the driver’s blood alcohol content). Assuming the proportion of folks who drive drunk and bike drunk is similar (no idea, perhaps a bad assumption but I figured we could start there), can we imagine comparing whether the share of people biking who are killed while under the influence is >, < or = to the share of those killed in cars due to drunk drivers? We'd probably need to tweak this a bit, but perhaps it is a start.

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              • Charley November 20, 2017 at 11:35 pm

                I’m sorry, I still think you don’t understand.

                My hypothesis is that, if Cyclist Jenny died on the front of Drunk Driver Roberto’s car, because she failed to yield (just has Thompson failed to yield to Monhait), we would be attacking Drunk Roberto, not making excuses for him. We would not be making excuses like “his intoxication was not a factor,” or, “he had his rear lights on, at least,” or “she shouldn’t have been swerving to turn left in front of him, so it doesn’t matter that alcohol dulled her reflexes.”

                My hypothesis has little to do with the statistics of drunken cycling. Though the alarming rate of alcohol impairment among those killed while riding is the reason for my interest in this subject, the hypothesis itself has more to do with Bike Portland commenters holding a double standard in which we give a pass to riders for behavior we would never condone in drivers.

                Right now, I’m feeling that my hypothesis is proven, because none of the people responding seem to be even aware of their own bias in favor of riders. Not a single commenter has argued that I’m actually wrong: that Bike Portland readers would give Drunk Roberto the benefit of the doubt, and condemn Cyclist Jenny for her dangerous riding. They’re quibbling with the correct PSI for wobbly tires, reminding me that cars are more dangerous than bikes (something I stated as a given, initially), asking why I didn’t focus on the lack of prosecution based on a certain law, and so on. None of that is why I wrote the thought experiment!

                I’d like to feel like, in Portland, of all places, we riders could have a thoughtful discussion, with nuance. Instead, in this forum at least, if I say anything negative about a cyclist (Monhait’s drunkenness opens her up to *some* liability for injuries received while riding), commenters *must* disagree and provide rationalizations as to why she should remain above the law. It’s a very common thing these days- look at the justification and rationalizations going on down in the Alabama Senate race. It’s like we aren’t allowed to have an opinion that might, if logically applied in all cases, might negatively effect one of my “tribe.”

                Tribe before logic? No thanks! Especially when the behavior these commenters enforce (drunken, ill-equipped riding) is clearly, objectively less safe for riders. Are we sacrificing lives in favor of a pro-bike ideology? Are we risking injury in favor of a “we can do no wrong” attitude?

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              • Charley November 20, 2017 at 11:37 pm

                I need to edit that last paragraph. It should read:

                Tribe before logic? No thanks! Especially when the behavior these commenters continue to excuse (drunken, ill-equipped riding) is clearly, objectively less safe for riders. Are we sacrificing lives in favor of a pro-bike ideology? Are we risking injury in favor of a “we can do no wrong” attitude?

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              • Dan A November 21, 2017 at 7:23 am

                Speaking of lack of nuance….

                I think we all (or mostly agree) that some fault lies with Tamar. Which does not excuse the driver from a careless driving citation. Neither party is 100% to blame.

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        • Dan A November 19, 2017 at 1:26 pm

          Do address an actual double standard, I think you’d have to put Tamar Monhait behind the wheel of the truck and Paul Thompson on the bike, and leave everything else the same. Would we treat her differently than Paul?

          There is nothing equal about an unlicensed human on a bike and a CDL driver of a 50,000lb truck working in the employ of a city-contracted company.

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          • Charley November 20, 2017 at 7:33 pm

            You mean, if Tamar was drunk driving, instead? I wrote the thought experiment to illustrate a double standard about our response to drunk driving and cycling. It wouldn’t work to reverse the sober with the drunk.

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          • Charley November 20, 2017 at 7:37 pm

            I’ve never assumed that the modes are equal, and you’ll find quotes to that effect if you’re in doubt.

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    • Spiffy November 19, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      your analogy assumes that Tamar had no front light, which we don’t know for sure, but many people are assuming…

      you assume that all modes are equal by simply swapping the position of two completely different types of vehicles…

      if we had a similar video the requirement of lighting on a motor vehicle would make it obvious if the driver had a light in your analogy…

      does it matter that the driver is drunk? probably, because that might be why they have no lights…

      now, if we didn’t have video of your example crash then the driver would be at fault for being drunk and society frowns on the possible consequences of such a mix of booze and motor vehicles…

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      • Charley November 20, 2017 at 11:14 pm

        You wrote: “does it matter that the driver is drunk? probably, because that might be why they have no lights…” That’s my point. It matters when a person in a collision is drunk. That person might be driving, might be cycling. That person might hold the lion’s share of blame for the collision, or only a small share. Drunkenness matters. Thanks!

        Your point about the possibility of video record of the theoretical collision also proves my point:

        When we here at BikePortland read that a driver involved in a collision was, in fact, driving drunk, that driver loses all credibility. We wail and gnash our teeth, and rightly so.

        When, however, we hear that a cyclist involved in a collision was, in fact, riding drunk, some of us are quick to give them the benefit of the doubt. In Monhait’s case, many of us quickly pointed to their interpretation of the video, and claim that the video proves inebriation was not a factor in the accident.

        I don’t understand or agree with that double standard. How is it that we can all agree that drunkenness impairs driving, but not agree that drunkenness impairs riding? How can we agree that drunken drivers, even if one is to only injure himself, must be held responsible for their drunkenness, while some of us apparently believe that drunken riding does not confer upon the rider any additional liability or responsibility?

        As to the question of whether or not Ms. Monhait had a front light, I can only go by what I’ve read in the coverage by Bike Portland, and the police statements. So, of course my thought experiment included that point.

        As to this. . . objection (?), “you assume that all modes are equal by simply swapping the position of two completely different types of vehicles…” I don’t believe stating that modes were equal in any way. For one thing, the two modes are not equivalent because Cyclist Jenny dies, while Drunk Driver Roberto’s only impact is a little damage to the front of his car. In fact, I wrote the following: “The fact that one person (the cyclist) is clearly more vulnerable than the other (the driver) is an important distinction to make, and since the consequences of drunk driving are potentially greater than that of drunk cycling, the penalties may be concomitantly greater.”

        So, what was it you were trying to say?

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  • bendite November 19, 2017 at 12:04 am

    If she was wearing a lit up Christmas vest and had a 1500 lumen headlight and 0 BAC, the end result would’ve been the same. “I didn’t see her” always wins out.

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    • Chris I November 19, 2017 at 5:50 am

      Unless, you know, the truck driver sees the front light. Which would be significantly easier to see than a rear blinker facing away from you…

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      • Spiffy November 19, 2017 at 12:21 pm

        unless, you know, the truck driver assumes they can still beat the cyclist through the intersection even though the cyclist is going faster then they thought because the driver is focused on beating a train…

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    • 9watts November 19, 2017 at 7:18 am

      Unfortunately I think bendite is right. And for me this is the crux.

      Hard to parse perhaps, but this insight definitely colors my sense of how this all fits together, again and again and again. We invariably see (essentially) the same outcome: our legal system fails those not in cars, regardless of the particulars.

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  • bendite November 19, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Chris I
    Unless, you know, the truck driver sees the front light. Which would be significantly easier to see than a rear blinker facing away from you…
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    I mean even if the truck driver hit her even if she had a headlight on her bike, the end result would be the same. There are no legal consequences for not looking, so essentially, it’s not illegal to not look across the path you’re driving you vehicle.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty November 19, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      I find it’s generally more relaxing to drive with my eyes closed. No tickets yet!

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      • bendite November 19, 2017 at 7:14 pm

        Don’t worry, you’ll never get one. Remember, just say “I didn’t see her”.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty November 19, 2017 at 9:26 pm

          Sorry… It’s hard to focus on this conversation while I’m driving.

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  • Arlington Ed November 21, 2017 at 4:34 am

    Lessee: as a bicyclist trying to stay alive in Portland my takeaways from this story regarding things I can control are 1) when riding at two o’clock at night, use a headlight at a minimum, 2) don’t ride while drunk and 3) don’t assume that other drivers see you and obey traffic laws. Got it, though I already knew, and almost always do, these two things.

    Moving on.

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    • Arlington Ed November 21, 2017 at 4:41 am

      Err, I meant ” … these three things.”

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      • q November 21, 2017 at 1:06 pm

        Good thing you didn’t make that kind of mistake while driving or you would have lost your right of way.

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  • Charley November 21, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    Dan A
    Speaking of lack of nuance….
    I think we all (or mostly agree) that some fault lies with Tamar. Which does not excuse the driver from a careless driving citation. Neither party is 100% to blame.
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    Great, then at least you and I agree! What do you say to all the people excusing inebriation or ill equipped bicycles?

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    • Dan A November 21, 2017 at 12:35 pm

      Show me a direct quote and I’ll respond to it.

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