The Deschutes County district attorney issued a traffic citation to the FedEx driver involved in a fatal collision with a cyclist in Bend late last year.
On Nov. 20, Trenton Derek Sage, of Terrebonne, was driving north on NW Wall Street at about 11:20 a.m. and turned east onto NW Olney Avenue, hitting Jonathan Chase Adams in the intersection, according to police. Adams, 31, died at the scene.
There hadn’t been a cyclist killed by a driver in Bend in six years.
District Attorney John Hummel sent a news release Monday announcing his decision to cite Sage, 51, with the violation of failing to yield to a rider in a bicycle lane. He said he won’t charge Sage with a criminal offense, such as criminally negligent homicide.
Hummel said he’s weighed the decision for the past six months.
“I ultimately determined it didn’t rise to the level of a crime, but he did commit a traffic violation,” Hummel said.
Adams’ death occurred close in time to that of Marika Stone, a Bend dentist who was killed while riding single-file with two other serious riders on a rural stretch of road east of Bend. The driver in Stone’s case is alleged to have had prescription medications in her system and has been charged with first-degree manslaughter.
According to police, Sage cooperated fully with the investigation and was not impaired or on his cellphone at the time of the crash.
He’s scheduled to appear in Deschutes County Circuit Court on Wednesday.
Two Oregon bicycling advocates agreed with Hummel’s decision but said much more should be done to protect cyclists.
Ariel Mendez, a board member of Bend Bikes, said blaming one individual isn’t the right approach to improving safety.
“The real problem is our transportation system is set up to put drivers in unsafe situations,” he said. “The real crime is not acknowledging that the design of our roads played a role in Jonathan Chase Adams’ death.”
Mendez said what’s needed is a network of protected bike lanes physically separated from vehicle travel lanes.
Prosecutors tend to not want to criminalize otherwise law-abiding citizens, according to Mike Colbach, a Portland personal injury lawyer with a focus on bicyclists.
“It isn’t fair but it is the law,” said Colbach, a former Multnomah County prosecutor. “I’ve never seen anybody get charged with a crime for just a negligent act while driving a vehicle; I’m sure it’s happened, but I’ve never seen it. Usually it takes something more reckless. You have to be doing something that everybody else doesn’t do.”
The Legislature in 2015 approved a bill creating the crime of assault on a bicyclist for drivers who injure cyclists. Colbach said this is the most serious recent reform, but its effect has been largely ceremonial.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org