Did you know ODOT revises the driver’s manual every two years?

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Detail of Oregon Driver’s Manual.

We didn’t either.

Neither did Ray Thomas, the man who literally wrote the book on Oregon bike law (and has personally written and/or lobbied for many of them). Neither did Rob Sadowsky, the executive director of the largest bicycle advocacy organization in the state, or Noel Mickelberry, the leader of Oregon Walks.

“It caught us totally off guard,” Sadowsky shared with me this morning, “And it points to a lack of collaboration.”

This is a big deal because the 84-page Oregon Driver’s Manual impacts how people learn to behave on the road. It’s probably the one source of traffic law nearly every driver has consulted at least once and it’s used in court to justify behaviors both right and wrong. Making sure the driver’s manual presents information accurately and from a variety of perspectives — especially the most vulnerable road users — is a key component of the gradual march toward Vision Zero.

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Man wins in court three years after police, insurance company blamed him for collision

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Still from KGW-TV video taken at the scene in 2012.

A Portland man who was blamed for a collision on a notorious section of North Broadway three years ago has been absolved in court.

Three years ago 33-year old Karl Zickrick was riding down North Broadway on his way to work. As he approached Wheeler he noticed a large SUV encroaching into the bike lane in front of him as it prepared to turn right. To avoid being right-hooked, Zickrick moved to the left out of the bike lane to go around the SUV. However, just as he made that move the driver of the SUV, 62-year-old Michael McLerren, slammed on his brakes and Zickrick flew into the back window. The impact shattered the window and left Zickrick with severe facial injuries and a broken jaw. (Two months after this collision, former Mayor Sam Adams decided to prohibit all right turns onto Wheeler.)

Adding insult to injury, the Portland Police Bureau blamed Zickrick for the collision. The day the crash occurred the PPB said this in an official statement (emphases mine):

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Noted lawyer Ray Thomas opposes bill that would mandate rear bike lights

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Ray Thomas.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

When Oregon House Representative John Davis proposed making reflective clothing mandatory while bicycling, many people understandably scoffed at the idea. Thankfully, he too apparently realized the absurdity of government intervention into apparel choices and quickly gutted his bill and stuffed it with something else.

Davis’ clothing idea quickly morphed into a bill (HB 3255) that would mandate rear lights on all bicycles (current law calls for only a rear reflector). That seemed like a good idea to me at first glance; but after hearing Portland-based lawyer and bike law expert Ray Thomas‘ opposition to it, I’ve changed my mind.

Thomas called me yesterday to say he was actively working to stop the bill. He has several significant concerns about how the new equipment requirement would impact bicycle riders in Oregon.

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TriMet tragedy, like Sparling case, shows gap in Oregon law

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“This is precisely why the BTA, WPC [Willamette Pedestrian Coalition] and I are calling for a vehicular homicide law. There ought to be some higher level of consequence when you use a deadly weapon to kill someone, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.
— Ray Thomas, lawyer

Yesterday, Multnomah County Senior Deputy District Attorney Chuck Sparks released a report (PDF here) on the fatal TriMet bus crash that killed two people and injured three others while they walked across a street in downtown Portland on April 24th.

According to the report, the lead police investigator found that “the driver was entirely at fault in causing this crash,” but, after looking at all the evidence and hearing from 33 witnesses, the Grand Jury opted to not bring criminal charges against bus operator Sandy Day.

On the surface, this seems outrageous: Ms. Day drove her vehicle through a crosswalk without being able to see whether or not someone was in it (due to a blind spot). While Ms. Day clearly did not have criminal intentions, she violated a traffic law and her negligence to clear her blind spots resulted in the death of two people.

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Getting schooled by lawyer Ray Thomas

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Ray Thomas
(File photo from a news conference in 2008 © J. Maus)

“We have a mutant status on the roadway.” That’s one way lawyer Ray Thomas tried to describe the often confusing and misunderstood legal standing of people who walk and bike on the streets of Oregon.

His comment came during a special edition of the monthly legal clinic hosted at Thomas’ Swanson, Thomas and Coon law firm. This month’s clinic (put together by Thomas along with the BTA and the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition (WPC)) was intended to educate local journalists about biking and walking laws so we can do a better job on our stories.

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Update on disappearing bike lane case: Judge, victim, lawyer respond

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No paint, no (legal) protection?
(Photo © J. Maus)

When bike lane striping disappears through an intersection, does the legal standing of a person operating a bicycle in that lane also vanish?

Last month, Multnomah County traffic court judge Michael Zusman ruled that it does and the decision has left many people confused and concerned. We checked in with Zusman, the woman who was hit (City of Portland employee Carmen Piekarski), and a bike law expert to get an update.

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