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Judge: FedEx driver not guilty of violation in fatal Bend crash


(Update: More from court, ruling)

At the close of an unusual day-long trial Tuesday involving a FedEx truck driver contesting a traffic citation, a Deschutes County judge ruled the driver was not guilty of a traffic violation when a cyclist collided with his truck as it made a right turn at a downtown Bend intersection last year.

Trenton Derek Sage, 52, of Terrebonne, was driving a tractor-trailer north on Wall Street last Nov. 20 and was turning east (right) onto Northwest Olney Avenue. Cyclist Jonathan Chase Adams, 31, of Bend, was also traveling north on Wall Street in a marked bike lane when he ran into the side of the turning truck, just outside the bike lane. Adams died at the scene.

Circuit Judge Michael Adler said at day’s end that he agreed with Sage’s Portland defense attorney, David McDonald, that if there are no markings, there is no bike lane. And the judge said the impact did not occur in the bike lane.

He also said both vehicles and bicycles are require to operate carefully at hazardous intersections.

Last May, District Attorney John Hummel announced that he wasn’t charging Sage with a crime, but instead issued a traffic citation to Sage for failure to yield to a rider in a bike lane. Bend police earlier had declined to cite Sage, saying they didn’t think he had failed to yield to the cyclist in the bike lane.

Sage contested the citation, leading to Tuesday’s non-criminal trial before Adler and the judge’s not-guilty ruling in the late afternoon.

Adler said he found that Adams should have been able to stop and that he hit Sage, not that Sage hit Adams.

The prosecutor at the one-day trial, Nathan Steele, a personal injury lawyer, argued that the cyclist was not at fault, as the bike lane is part of the road. He also noted that Adams was riding at a faster pace than the truck driver, and went under the turning truck and was run over.

Steele said just because painted white lines are not in the middle of the intersection does not mean a bike lane doesn’t continue through the intersection. He said bike lanes needed to be treated as any other vehicle lane.

He noted the truck driver did stop right after the incident, but said Adams had the right of way and that Sage could have looked in his rear-view mirror and seen the bike.

Steele also said passing on the right is legal, even if it’s not wise to do so.

Sage’s defense attorney, David McDonald of Portland, argued it was the cyclist who did not “exercise due care,” part of the statute for anyone classified as a vehicle on the road.

McDonald noted Sage had been a truck driver for 14 years, with no violations or accidents on his record, proof he exercised due care on a daily basis. The defense said the truck was six cars back from the light that morning and turned on his signal to turn right, and that Adams should have seen the truck committing to the turn.

The defense attorney said the driver was going about 5 mph and the cyclist at least three times faster.

One witness called to the stand, Bend Police Department Traffic Officer John Beck, said he believed the cyclist did not exercise due care. He said there were no bike skid marks to indicate the cyclist tried to come to a stop and avoid the truck.

A witness to the crash said the bicyclist ran into the truck and that it was obvious to him that the truck was turning.

“It was my impression from what I was watching, the bicyclist ran into the truck because it (the bike) was going faster and not paying attention to the truck turning,” he said. “The truck continued to go through the intersection at a slow speed of 5 mph.”

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