How Stiff Should Penalty Be In Cyclist's Death?

How Stiff Should Penalty Be In Cyclist's Death?
- By Anita Kissee
and KATU.com Web Staff

BEAVERTON, Ore. - How much is one life worth? That is what some people are asking after a recent accident in Beaverton that left a well-known cyclist dead and the driver with a $242 ticket.

Mike Wilberding, an Intel engineer, died August 1 at Southwest Fifth Street in Beaverton while riding his bike home from work.

The driver of the car that hit him, Aaron Hessel, said he did not see the cyclist in the bike lane when he turned left because he was blinded by the sun.

"I don't really find that a believable excuse," said cycling advocate Susan Otcenas. "Even if you believe him, if you believe that was what actually happened and the sun was truly in his eyes, then your next logical conclusion is that he was being negligent in piloting his vehicle someplace where he couldn't see where he was going."

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Otcenas is working with other cyclists to convince the Washington County District Attorney to charge the driver with homicide and stiffen punishments for any driver who kills a cyclist or pedestrian.

"A human life is worth more than a $242 traffic ticket," said Otcenas.

Hessel's $242 ticket has been thrown out and the District Attorney will be reviewing the case and deciding whether to charge Hessel with Negligent Homicide.

Wilberding's son, Dayn, agrees life is worth more than a $242 ticket, especially his father's. However, he also feels like Hessel is already being punished and will be for the rest of his life.

"We as a family understand that there is a real need to be more conscious about what is going on in the road and it is real dangerous for cyclists out there," he said. "But we don't hold Mr. Hessel in any way responsible. We think it's an unfortunate accident that happened."

Wilberding had just launched his new invention when the crash happened. The product is called the 'Cycle-Pak,' which is a shipping box for bikes. His family hopes to continue the work on that project.

As for cycling advocates, they are planning community outreach events to try to educate both drivers and cyclists to be more aware of their surroundings.