A bicyclist died in a Portland accident Monday involving a box truck, according to a report published in The Oregonian. The newspaper reports that the accident took place at the intersection of Farragut Street and Interstate Avenue in North Portland.
The truck driver was “making a right-hand turn and killed a cyclist who was riding in the bike lane beside him,” the paper reports, quoting the police. “(Police) said early information indicates the driver wasn’t distracted or impaired.” Though the newspaper reports that the driver of the truck is cooperating with the authorities it also notes that he was neither arrested nor issued a citation at the scene of the accident.
There are several different sections of the Oregon legal code that might come into play as this case unfolds. At the most basic level ORS 811.135, which covers Careless Driving, could leave the 38-year-old truck driver subject to significant penalties and a loss of his license for up to a year. Under ORS 811.050, “Failure to yield to rider on bicycle lane”, the driver could also be subject to a Class B traffic violation and an accompanying fine.
Clearly, however, the facts around the case as we now understand them also leave open the possibility of more substantial penalties in civil court. Specifically, the fact that the accident took place in broad daylight (at approximately 9 am according to The Oregonian) and that the truck driver does not appear to have been impaired makes a strong initial case for a wrongful death action once all of the facts have been examined. Drivers have a responsibility to operate their vehicles in a careful and responsible fashion. That is especially so for people operating large vehicles, such as box trucks, that have the potential to do a great deal of damage to pedestrians, cyclists and other people sharing the road.
The fact that the truck was reportedly making a right turn across the bike lane may prove to be significant. It is easy for drivers to forget about the need to check their mirrors and to glance over their shoulder to ensure that the bike lane is clear. Indeed, the large number of accidents like this one every year speaks to the need for greater education for motorists. Even in a city like Portland where bikes are a near-constant presence on the streets drivers often forget the obligation they have to ensure that the bike lane is clear before they make a right turn. As a Portland attorney who has long worked to help defend our city’s cycling community I am saddened to see another death on our streets, and hope that something good may come out of this in the form of both justice for the victim’s family and a timely reminder to every Portland driver of the need to remain alert and to share the road with cyclists.
Oregon Department of Transportation: Bicycle Page