Portland-based advocacy group BikeLoud PDX has amended their lawsuit against the City of Portland and the revised complaint was filed at the Multnomah County Courthouse Friday.
The lawsuit alleges that the City of Portland has “systematically failed to comply” with the 1971 Oregon law known as the “Bicycle Bill” (ORS 366.514) which requires cities to build cycling and pedestrian infrastructure whenever a road is reconstructed.
Circuit Court Judge Christopher Ramras dismissed the case after its first hearing back in May, but he told BikeLoud’s legal team that they could amend their complaint and refile. Specifically, Judge Ramras agreed with attorneys for the City of Portland that having BikeLoud as the sole plaintiff was problematic because the nonprofit organization, on its own, doesn’t have adequate “standing” — that is, a right to sue. Their argument was that an advocacy group is, “a pretty general and abstract [legal] interest,” and that, “There’s no special injury [legal term for harm] affecting BikeLoud’s members differently than other citizens.”
So the BikeLoud legal team — which consists of Scott Kocher of Forum Law Group and three lawyers from Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost (both firms are BikePortland advertisers) — has added 15 Portlanders to the lawsuit.
The list of plaintiffs now includes: Kathryn Gavula, Petra Whitacre, Edward Gorman, Douglas Eichelberger, Allan Rudwick, Taizz Medalia, Robert Burchett, Ted Whitney, Steven Acker, Lynda Bishop, Shambra Jennings, Daniel Fuller, Mark Ontiveros, Max Woodbury, and Karen Frost.
Each one of them, BikeLoud argues in court filings, “have been adversely affected by defendant’s failure to comply with ORS 366.514 in a way that the great majority of Portland residents who do not regularly ride bicycles for transportation are not.”
Plaintiff Kathryn Gavula commutes by bike several days a week from the Mt. Tabor area to her job in Northwest Portland and bikes her three children to school in east Portland. Her route, the lawsuit says, “or routes that she would ride on a regular basis if bicycle facilities allowing safe passage existed,” include the Hoyt Yards area of the Pearl District, SE Hawthorne, and SE 82nd Ave.
The owner of West End Bikes in downtown Portland, Mark Ontiveros, is another one of the plaintiffs. “Mr. Ontiveros has compelling interests in having adequate bicycle facilities throughout Portland,” the suit alleges. “If people in Portland do not have safe and attractive places to ride bicycles, he will not have customers coming into the bicycle shop where he works.”
Max Woodbury, a 51-year-old who uses a handcycle after he became a quadriplegic following a work accident in 1996. “Among the many Portland streets upon which Mr. Woodbury depends for his mobility, he regularly uses SE Hawthorne Boulevard and SE Division Street from SE 10th to SE Cesar Chavez Blvd for restaurants and grocery and other shopping,” the suit states. “He is adversely affected by the lack of bicycle facilities at those locations.”
Another notable plaintiff is Karen Frost, the first executive director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (now The Street Trust), the bike advocacy group that filed the original Bicycle Bill lawsuit in 1994. “Ms. Frost has not owned a car in 23 years and uses two bikes with trailers for all errands including grocery shopping, trips to the hardware store, and transporting large product purchases,” reads the amended lawsuit. “She has regular need to use Hawthorne Boulevard and the Hoyt Yards area, among other locations subject to the present lawsuit.”
“We’re hopeful that adding these individuals will make it clear there are real people behind these concerns and it’s not just an abstract, generalized need for safer infrastructure,” Kocher shared with BikePortland today.
Kocher says it could take a few months for Judge Ramras to review the amended complaint. If the judge agrees with BikeLoud, the case will move forward into the next phase of discovery and both sides will get to make their arguments. If the judge isn’t persuaded, the case would get kicked down to the Oregon Court of Appeals where it would take about two years before getting heard.
That might sound like a defeat, but BikeLoud would still have hope. After losing at district court, the BTA eventually won their case two years later at the Court of Appeals and the City of Portland was forced to recognize the Bicycle Bill and stripe bike lanes in front of Moda Center.
If BikeLoud’s case sees a similar fate, the City would be on the hook for much more than one block of bike lanes: The suit includes 21 specific locations that encompass hundreds of city blocks.
Read the amended complaint here.