A dead cyclist's family who filed a lawsuit against the city of Portland and the state over the lack of a bike lane on the stretch of road where the cyclist was killed settled their case for $23,000 this week.
That's far less than the $3.6 million that relatives of Martin Lee Greenough sought, but they're pleased because they believe the lawsuit prompted the state to finally fast-track construction of a bike lane along the stretch after years of delay, their lawyer said.
Greenough, 38, was struck in December 2015 by a driver high on marijuana while speeding along Northeast Lombard Street. The bike lane suddenly disappears at a "pinch point" as Lombard travels under the 42nd Avenue overpass.
The settlement comes as a judge dismissed the city as a defendant and the state was scheduled to seek dismissal, too. Given that the city had already prevailed, the family decided to reached a settlement, according to court papers filed by the Greenough family attorney, Erik Graeff.
A 6-foot-wide, 450-foot-long bike lane will be built by the end of this spring -- allowing cyclists to ride off the road and behind a barrier as they pass the pinch point where Greenough was killed.
"They took a lot of satisfaction in that," Graeff told The Oregonian/OregonLive on Friday. "From the get-go, the family wasn't after the money."
Excavation for the bike lane has started, said Don Hamilton, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Greenough's death pushed the project up on the priority list, he said.
"It was a factor in this," Hamilton said. "We had not had any other bike fatals at that location in our records. That doesn't diminish the importance of this."
The bike lane will be only on the eastbound side of the road because the state doesn't have right-of-way on the westbound side next to the railroad tracks, Hamilton said.
Greenough was traveling east when he was hit.
Hamilton was not immediately able to say how much the bike lane will cost.
Hamilton said the state has a long list of other "troublesome pinch points" for cyclists on roads "that were designed before we had as much bike traffic as we have today."
According to settlement documents filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court this week, the city will pay $3,000 of the $23,000 settlement. Although the city already was dismissed from the lawsuit, it agreed to pay a relatively small amount to avoid ongoing litigation, said senior deputy city attorney Jim Rice.
Greenough's family had filed a motion to bring the city back into the lawsuit under a new claim that Greenough had relied heavily on a city published bicycle map that didn't warn of the disappearing bike lane or the danger that posed. Greenough was carrying the map when he was killed.
The state will pay $20,000 of the settlement.
But the lawsuit isn't over.
Greenough's family is still suing Kenneth Britt Smith, the driver who struck Greenough. Smith was sentenced to more than six years in prison last fall.
Smith pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, driving under the influence of intoxicants and hit-and-run driving.
Greenough was riding home from work at 8:38 p.m. Dec. 12, 2015. He had a rear red flashing bike light and was wearing a helmet. He died at the scene.
Smith, then 26, drove off and was caught eight minutes later, about three miles away. Police said he smelled of burnt marijuana, moved slowly and had bloodshot eyes and droopy eyelids. He told investigators he had a medical marijuana card and had smoked pot about 6 1/2 hours earlier.
The crash happened less than six months after recreational marijuana became legal in Oregon and officials ramped up public safety campaigns against driving while high.
-- Aimee Green
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