Oregonians enjoy lush greenery, numerous hiking trails, walkable neighborhoods, and miles of bike paths. These livability standards extend to the state’s “share the road” philosophy. This ethos helps ensure that pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicle drivers can at least cooperate on the road, if not necessarily live in perfect harmony. As part of this philosophy, Oregon is also one of 14 U.S. states that bans handheld devices while driving.
Of course, drivers get distracted, pedestrians can be oblivious, and cyclists become angry. That can lead to altercations where someone ends up in the emergency room.
A recent story by The Oregonian highlights a scenario where Oregon’s progressive ethos collides with human nature… and then things gets worse. Much worse. During a busy lunch hour in downtown Portland, a cyclist alleges he was nearly struck by a driver who was busily texting. He angrily yelled at her, the driver allegedly honked her horn, and then flipped him off. The situation escalated until the cyclist alleges the driver intentionally hit him with her vehicle. The cyclist’s injuries were not life threatening, but they included road rash and three fractures on his face.
In Oregon, personal injury law extends to accidents involving motor vehicles. Owners of motor vehicles are required to carry minimum liability insurance coverage of $25,000, per person. The law further states that $50,000, per incident, for bodily injury to others is to be covered. Medical, hospital, dental, surgical, ambulance, and prosthetic services are also covered, up to $15,000.
The case noted above is unique, though. The intentionality of the crash brought assault detectives to the scene, rather than the usual traffic investigators. The plot thickens further, because the driver was arrested and then later released. As reported on the blog BikePortland.org, The District Attorney’s office stated they did not have enough evidence to hold her, and an investigation would continue. The DA’s office noted that it would contact the cyclist to see if he planned to press criminal charges. There’s been no mention, to date, of civil charges being filed.
So what’s the takeaway for people supposed to peaceably share the road? Keep your eyes open whether you’re a driver, cyclist, or pedestrian. If you do have a conflict, it’s important for cooler heads to prevail when our collective ideals conflict with the practicality of our commutes. And, finally, know your legal rights.