Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Celebration of Life for Jane Higdon

Friends of Jane and Fellow Cyclists,

As many of you already know, Jane Higdon died when she was struck by a vehicle while riding her bike on Territorial Road this past Wednesday, May 31. Those of you who know Jane are undoubtedly experiencing loss and grief. Those of you who didn't know Jane, please find someone who did (it won't be hard) and learn a little bit about a truly unique and wonderful human being.

There is a celebration of Jane's life scheduled for Wednesday, June 7th at 1:00 P.M. at the McDonald Theater, 10th and Willamette in downtown Eugene.

Remembrances in Jane's name can be made to Greenhill Humane Society Animal Shelter and Committed Partners for Youth.

Some of you have not yet heard about the circumstances of the accident and some have requested more information.

The Oregon State Police original news release on May 31, 2006 and the June 1, 2006 Eugene Register Guard newspaper story from the morning after both include a totally erroneous set of statements about the incident. Most of the original news stories, including the AP release were crafted from the totally erroneous initial Oregon State Police news release.

The road was straight as an arrow for maybe two hundred yards before the point of impact. There was a blind left curve in the road about 50 yards past that point. The riders' involvement with the log truck occurred entirely within the timeframe of the truck cab coming along side us and the rear wheels passing us.

Below is how the R-G newspaper accurately recounted our version of events in later editions, with my addition in [ ]. Several other 'official' statements, in the Friday article in particular, are patently inaccurate.

Friday article Eugene R-G 6/2/2006:

One of Higdon's riding companions questioned the official story. Paul Moore of Eugene said the truck came up behind the foursome on a straight stretch of the road and was passing "less than an arm's length away from us."
The cyclists rode in a single-file line, and Higdon was at the rear. Moore was in front of her. The rider in front of him fell. Moore was able to brake, but he said he thinks Higdon may have clipped his rear wheel and fallen to the left, under the trailer's tires, although no one saw what happened. He said there was no way an experienced rider like Higdon steered into the truck as police said. And although he empathized with the driver, he questioned why the trucker decided to pass the group rather than slow down until it was safer.

"There's one thing I want people to be real clear about: This wasn't some unavoidable accident," Moore said. "Rather than making the choice to slow down, he chose to try to go for it and get around us before the curve, and he just totally misjudged it."

Saturday R-G 6/3/2006:

Paul Moore, who was on the ride, has said the truck came upon the group quickly and passed within an arm's length of the cyclists, causing one of them to fall. Moore said he braked to avoid the fallen cyclist, and [he theorizes that] Higdon clipped his rear wheel and fell into the truck's path.

The Oregon State Police have removed from their web site all news releases that state any 'facts' of how the accident happened and the current news release simply states that there was a fatality, that a thorough investigation is underway and that the case will be referred to the District Attorney's office if warranted.

There was a great editorial in today's (June 5th) Register-Guard regarding the accident and sharing the roads. Please read it and if you are inspired as I was, please phone the R-G (541-485-1234) to congratulate them or send a letter to the editor. They deserve support on the stand they have taken. There are a few artifacts of the bad facts from the original news reports, but things are getting somewhat cleaned up.

Register Guard editorial June 5th:

"Jane Higdon's tragic death last Wednesday in a truck-bicycle accident on Territorial Road was all the more heartbreaking because it was entirely avoidable. There is no roadway anywhere - if it is legally open to bicyclists - that cannot be shared safely by safe-riding cyclists and safe-driving motor vehicle operators. No roadway, anywhere."

One thing that came out of a conversation I had today is the realization that I don't want to speak as though it is a bicyclist versus log truck world out there. And I don't want to encourage others in such a stand. Just like we as cyclists don't deserve to be lumped into one group in any conversation, neither do the log truck drivers, dump truck drivers, or horse trailer hauling drivers for that matter. I believe we have to avoid any us vs. them mentality if we are going to see the transformation we are looking for. Just all the safe drivers and riders putting pressure on any unsafe ones.

Enjoy your ride and take Jane along in your heart,

Paul Moore


Blogger weirdwilbur said...

I just finished reading the Higdon story and I know why it happened.
This afternoon (9-24-06) I stopped on the highway at a bicycle crash site and the people involved told me how it happened as they waited for the ambulance.
The cause was the same in both cases.
A year ago I was driving my car across Fern Ridge when a bicycle person fell off her bike into my lane. I steered left into the opposite lane to avoid her and hard right again back into my lane to avoid a head-on with the car coming at me. In my mirror I could see that the bike behind her had a very hard time missing her as well. Again, for the same reason.
And what was the reason? Well, dah! Following too close in all three cases!
As Stan said, "The trouble with trouble, Oli, is it always starts out just like fun".
Drafting is also called tailgating. The former is dangerous (exciting) on an indoor wooden oval and the latter is dangerous (exciting) out on the open highway.

7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please do not expect traffic, approaching from the rear, to slow down to 15 mph, while traveling in a 55 mph zone.

8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" There is no roadway anywhere - if it is legally open to bicyclists - that cannot be shared safely by safe-riding cyclists and safe-driving motor vehicle operators. No roadway, anywhere."
I disagree.

I will not ride on a 55 mph highway, such as Territorial, where there is no room. It's OK to be "right", but I won't be "dead-right".

9:14 AM  

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