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February 13th, 2008 Jeremy Gillick | News Stories
 

Signs of the Times

A bill allowing roadside memorials for bicyclists is coasting through the Legislature.

     
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Brett Jarolimek, a cyclist and Bike Gallery employee, was killed in Portland back in October in a collision with a garbage truck on North Interstate Avenue.

The state could erect roadside signs memorializing bicyclists killed by motor vehicles—if their families pay a fee, under a bill that unanimously passed the Oregon House on Monday.

“I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t pass,” says Rep. Jerry Krummel (R-Wilsonville), who began pushing for the bill when his close friend Eric Kautzky died three years ago in a bicycling accident on Southwest Tualatin-Sherwood Road.

The House voted 57-0 on Feb. 11 to send the measure, House Bill 3623, to the Senate. There, Krummel expects HB 3623 to pass easily even during this special monthlong legislative session devoted ostensibly to the most critical issues facing Oregon. It’s a measure that bike-friendly Oregonians want to help remember cyclists killed on the roadways.

“We’re supportive,” says Karl Rohde, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s director of government relations and public affairs. “We were supportive of it in the last session, too. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it out of committee.”

Although the bill died in the 2007 session, Krummel spokeswoman Dawn Phillips attributes this bill’s success in this short session to the unfortunate fact that bicycle casualties continue to rise.

Fourteen bicyclists died in Oregon in collisions with motor vehicles in 2006, the last available year for those statewide statistics. The numbers were 11 in 2005 and nine in 2004. (On Monday, a cyclist was killed in a collision in Beaverton with a TriMet bus.)

HB 3623 requires victims’ families to pay the cost of the signs— estimated between $300 and $500 apiece, but leaves it to up to the Oregon Department of Transportation to determine the shape and size of the signs, as well as whether the roadside site is safe for a sign (The signs cannot be on freeways.). Patrick Cooney, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation, says roadside signs have long been illegal precisely because they pose safety concerns, as motorists will try to read the extra signage while driving.

But Cooney says ODOT will work to make the memorials safe if HB 3623 passes.


FACT: Although there are no final numbers for 2007, ODOT believes the number of cyclist deaths is about the same as in 2006.
 
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