words matter

A critique of a police statement that blames victim of serious collision

Avatar by on December 2nd, 2020 at 2:25 pm

Scene of the collision on NE 78th and 13th in Vancouver.
(Photo: Clark County Sheriff’s Office)

A man is in the hospital with serious injuries following a collision Tuesday night in Clark County. It happened while he was bicycling on a major street in Vancouver about six miles north of Portland.

Only 12 hours after it happened the Clark County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that is very troubling. Laced with unnecessary details and biased language based on premature analysis not rooted in law or relevant facts, the statement lays all the blame on the bicycle rider and exonerates the car driver. It’s not clear what exactly happened because the bicycle rider is likely still unable to act as a witness on his own behalf, but that didn’t stop the Sheriff’s Office from spreading a version of events that will set the public and media narrative in stone.

Before I offer my critiques of the statement, keep in mind I don’t care who was to blame for this collision. That’s not my concern. What troubles me is when police communications staff introduce a driver-centric bias that poisons public dialogue and further marginalizes vulnerable road users.

The statement and my critiques are below:[Read more…]

Opinion: ‘Non-Highway’ spending category needs a new name

Avatar by on December 1st, 2020 at 4:40 pm

Three of ODOT’s four main funding categories. (The other one is Safety.)
(Source: ODOT)

[Read more…]

Portland radio show hosts: ‘Jerk bikers’ deserve ‘clothesline wire’ for riding through parking lot

Avatar by on September 10th, 2019 at 1:22 pm

A host from 1080 The Fan makes the throat-slitting gesture as he suggests using clothesline wire to hurt bicycle riders.

A trio of local sports radio show hosts has posted a video where they talk about how they’d like to seriously injure “jerk bikers.” The two men in the video are Isaac Ropp and Jason “Big Suke” Scukanec, hosts of Primetime with Isaac & Suke, which the station bills as, “Portland’s most popular sports talk show.”

Employees of 1080 The Fan, a radio station owned by Entercom Communications Corp, posted the video in
a tweet last Thursday (September 5th). Apparently they are frustrated because people who ride on the Willamette Greenway path cut through the parking lot outside their building to connect to surface streets in the South Waterfront District.

Here’s the tweet:
[Read more…]

At hearing on speed limit bills, lawmaker bristles at mention of ‘traffic violence’

Avatar by on March 19th, 2019 at 11:32 am

The Street Trust Advocacy Director Richa Poudyal (L) and Oregon House Rep. Caddy McKeown.

Earlier this month a pair of bills that would give cities across Oregon more authority to set speed limits on local streets got their first hearing in front of lawmakers at the state capitol in Salem.

There was no vote taken on either Senate Bill 558 or House Bill 2702 at the Joint Transportation Commitee on March 6th; but the conversation between advocates, lobbyists, agency staff, and lawmakers was notable. Especially an exchange about “traffic violence”. [Read more…]

Opinion: Why words matter in police statements about traffic crashes

Avatar by on February 4th, 2019 at 2:47 pm

Scottie Graser died after a collision with a truck driver while he was riding on Highway 30 on January 13th.

Most people think it was his fault.

The truth is, we don’t yet know exactly what happened. So why do most people blame Graser? Because the Oregon State Police said so.

The official crash statement released by the OSP a mere six hours after the collision read, “Preliminary investigation reveals… Graser… entered the eastbound right lane and a collision occurred.”
[Read more…]

Thoughts on car culture, truck side guards, and the “cyclist community”

Avatar by on April 6th, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Just over two months ago 53-year-old Alan Marsan was killed while bicycling on North Interstate Avenue. He was going north and a large commercial truck turned right across his path.

Based on observations from the scene it was a classic right hook. The truck was stopped a few dozen feet from the intersection and Marsan and his bike were lodged just in front of the rear wheels.

That collision was just the latest in a long line of right hooks that have left bicycle riders dead in Portland over the years. As I stood at the scene of Marsan’s death, the names of other people who’ve died in fatal right hook collisions with trucks flashed through my head: Tracey Sparling, Brett Jarolimek, Kathryn Rickson, Kirke Johnson, Lydia Johnson (no relation).

Bicycles, large trucks and right hooks is one of Portland’s most vexing traffic safety problems. It’s maddening that we haven’t made more progress on it in the past decade.
[Read more…]

People driving out of control: Daycare damaged, schools delayed, bike rider burned by downed power pole

Avatar by on November 23rd, 2016 at 9:30 am

What happened this morning. Be thankful you weren't in that car, in that daycare or under that power pole. (Images: Portland Police, Tigard Police)

What happened this morning. Be thankful you weren’t in that car, in that daycare or under that power pole.
(Images: Portland Police, Tigard Police)

The amount of daily destruction and disruption in our region caused by peoples’ inability to control their cars and trucks is staggering.

Between 2:00 am and 6:00 am this morning there were two incidents that illustrate what has become an all too common occurrence on our roads.

Around 2:00 am on Hall Boulevard in Tigard (adjacent to the skatepark and Burnham Street) a man who had been drinking while driving failed to maintain control of his van and he struck a large power pole. According to the Tigard Police Department, the power pole fell over and a woman riding a bicycle became entangled in the wires. She sustained life-threatening injuries and burns and was taken via ambulance to the hospital.
[Read more…]

Oregon State Police blames vulnerable victims while driving deaths spin out of control

Avatar by on November 4th, 2016 at 4:44 pm

Don't pay attention to this, but please make sure you wear hi-viz clothing next time you take the dog for walk.(Photos: Oregon State Police)

Just some of the Oregon driving carnage of the past two weeks.
(Photos: Oregon State Police)

This is an editorial.

The Oregon State Police issued a relatively rare safety message to the media today. In light of three collisions in the past nine days that resulted in the death of someone trying to walk or roll across a state highway, they included the following message in a press statement (emphasis theirs):

***This is the third fatal crash involving pedestrians that OSP has investigated in the past week***
[Read more…]

Crashes are still accidents at the Oregon DMV

Avatar by on May 10th, 2016 at 1:40 pm

I was looking for the crash report form.(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

I was looking for the crash report form.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

As advocates and even the Associated Press move away from calling all traffic incidents “accidents” there’s one important state agency that shows no signs of ridding itself of the controversial word. And unfortunately it just so happens to be the one agency that every single licensed driver has contact with: the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles.

A few weeks ago I paid a visit to the DMV office in downtown Portland. As I walked in I noticed a wall rack full of forms and one of them stared back at me: “Accident Report” it read. It made my language and activism hairs stand on end. As many of you already know, there are a lot of reasons why the word “accident” should never be used in the context of vehicle interactions on streets. For starters, calling something an “accident” makes a huge assumption that the crash was unavoidable and unintentional. And if that isn’t reason enough, the term dismisses the pain of crash victims.

When I got home from the DMV I pulled up the DMV website and there was that word again, splashed all over the page. From local to regional to statewide government, I haven’t seen any transportation-related agency use the term “accident” so much. I had to ask the DMV about it.
[Read more…]

A look inside one newspaper’s thinking on crashes, accidents and collisions

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on March 31st, 2016 at 9:39 am

fatal accident angle

OregonLive.com coverage of a fatal collision this month.

“Accident”? “Crash”? “Collision”?

The Oregonian’s director of news says the newspaper’s unofficial practice has been, for years, to avoid “accident” in the absence of information because that word suggests that a traffic incident was unpreventable.

But the copy desk chief says the opposite: his preference is to go with “accident” in the absence of information because he feels “crash” and “collision” are favored by “activists” and the newspaper needs to remain neutral.

Reporters, meanwhile, don’t seem to be sure what to do. Last week, a business reporter was taking her turn on a weekend cops shift when an allegedly drunk driver killed a 17-year-old; her report described this as a “bike accident.” After a local lawyer emailed her to suggest different phrasing, she first described the word choice as “fine” based on the advice of one editor, then later apologized based on the advice of a different editor.

[Read more…]