Zajim Smajlovic, a Bosnian truck driver, was riding his bicycle home on SE Holgate one afternoon last October, returning from picking up some photos from Walgreens on SE 82nd. As usual, once he reached SE 78th, he turned left, using the crosswalk to get to the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street—an easier route to his home on SE 74th.
"I always ride along the sidewalk from there," says Smajlovic. "It's too dangerous to turn left onto 74th into the oncoming traffic."
A block later, as Smajlovic was in the crosswalk at SE 75th, on the south side of Holgate, he says the driver of a Toyota Sienna passenger van turned right from SE 75th to Holgate—looking left the entire time, and failing to stop—and ran into Smajlovic. Smajlovic broke his left femur and right ankle, and his bike ended up on the other side of Holgate. He was taken by ambulance to OHSU where he was X-rayed and went into surgery to repair the breaks.
When Smajlovic returned home from the hospital, he found a police citation for dangerous operation of a bicycle on the sidewalk in a plastic bag of his personal possessions. The police, however, never cited the driver of the van or investigated the incident thoroughly, according to Smajlovic's attorney, Mark Ginsberg.
Smajlovic was in court for the citation last Wednesday, April 16, but the two officers who issued the citation failed to appear and a judge dismissed the case. Ginsberg says he thinks the officers cited Smajlovic and not the van driver, "because it was the easier thing to do." Riding on the sidewalk outside of downtown Portland is legal, Ginsberg points out.
Plus, "the law is clear in Oregon that a driver should not leave a stop sign until it is safe to do so," he says. "We also have a right to expect others to obey the law."
Smajlovic has taken six months off work following the accident and his left leg is now half an inch shorter than his right one, thanks to the surgery. Before the accident he liked to play football and go running; now, he has to walk with a cane.
"I'm disappointed with the police," he says. "I've been made to feel like a criminal throughout this process when I didn't do anything wrong."
"The officers conducted their investigation, talked to witnesses, and drew the conclusions they drew," says Brian Schmautz, the police bureau's public information officer. "Mr. Ginsberg's job is to defend his client and I'm sure he can do that admirably.
"Our conversation with this gentleman lasted less than 15 minutes and from what I understand he doesn't even remember it," Schmautz continues. "So I guess I am at a loss to explain why he feels like a criminal."