We’ve Lost a Good One

28-year-old Dustin Finney described himself as a “firebrand atheist.” He was a student at Portland Community College, active in local skeptics/atheist groups, and an occasional commenter on this site, too. He was on the board of the Columbia Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Dustin died in a hit-and-run accident in Portland on Friday morning while riding his bicycle. The driver was intoxicated. Dustin wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Some of you may know him well and you’re welcome to send along additional details if I missed them. If you have any memories of him, please leave those in the comments as well.

Dustin is in the red shirt

I was looking at Dustin’s Facebook wall and, in a weird coincidence, he made this post just over a week ago:

The article in question also describes the victim as a young man who was struck by a vehicle while in the bike lane.

For his sake, I hope they prosecute the driver in Dustin’s case to the fullest extent of the law, too.

I know you’ve heard this before, but please don’t drive while intoxicated. And I don’t know if it would’ve saved Dustin, but if you’re riding a bike, wear a helmet.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Guest

    That is so awful. My best thoughts and wishes go out to his family during this time of grief.

  • http://www.facebook.com/beautifulenigma Angie Lacy

    I lost a friend four years ago to a drunk driver. He was from British Columbia and the kid who hit him got a slap on the wrist.  Hopefully the driver who hit  Dustin Finney doesn’t get the same treatment.

    My condolences to his friends and family.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jadelackey Jade Lackey

    so horrible, but in the hearts of those he help his memory continues. 

  • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

    Shit. I’ve seen his comments online. I specifically remember him giving his opinion at the blog of a lady advocating for wives submitting to husbands. Sometimes it sucks to be reminded that all you people on the other end of the internet are real.

    Condolences to his friends and family, and best wishes.

  • Drew M.

    :(

    My deepest sympathies for his family and friends.

  • http://strollinggamely.wordpress.com/ Fiyenyaa

    If you’re in a bicycle-car collision, wearing a helmet won’t make a bit of difference I’m afraid. The injuries are almost always internal and not just to the head.

    Deepest sympathies to the family.

    • Anonymous

      Not true. I know too many ER doctors to fall for this.

      • Anonymous

        I work in a level 1 trauma hospital in a town where there are a lot of cyclists and I can tell you, helmets can save your brain and your life.  The difference in injury and recovery in helmeted vs. unhelmeted accidents is significant.  You do NOT want a traumatic brain injury to go along with your multi-trauma, believe me.

  • Anonymous

    This is very sad to hear. As a cycling advocate, I should pass along this link about bike safety and helmets. http://bicyclesafe.com/helmets.html Wearing a helmet is better than not, but  equating cycling safety with helmet use is actually a harmful trend. 

  • Annie

    My condolences to Justin’s family and friends.  It’s always terribly sad when someone so young dies, but even more so when it was by such a senseless cause. 

  • Anonymous

    This is so incredibly sad.  My thoughts are with his family and those who knew him.  It is never easy to lose a loved one, especially in a horrible accident. 

    My thoughts are also with the person who hit him, who, while intoxicated, may not realize the extent of the damage they’ve done but who will surely be tortured by it for the rest of their life (hopefully, in prison for a good chunk of it).

  • http://profiles.google.com/bcdurden Brian Durden

    My girlfriend, Julie, and I visited Portland back in May this year.  It was the weekend of the whole ‘End of the World’ thing and we looked up for ‘Rapture Parties’.  We found CFI’s advertisement for a party at one of the local downtown Portland bars.

    There is where we met Dustin and several others.  We had maybe an hour or two long conversation on Atheism, Feminism, the Damon Fowler event in Louisiana and the local Portland faith-healing crazies with him.  We liked him very much and he seemed like a wonderful person and a great activist.

    Julie found this listing just now and referred it to me.  We are sitting here in our separate offices completely stunned.  He was one of the few people we met on our trip and here we are seeing this.

    We mourn for his lost and offer our condolences to all his friends and family.  If anyone has any information for donations or charities setup in his honor, please let us know.

  • Jim Henline

    Thanks Hemant, he was a member of my families regular meetup. We will miss him, I do not think many know yet as I have just found out and I am constantly online.
    He will be missed and remembered. 

  • Rich Wilson

    Here I go again self appointed language cop.

    “Dustin died in a hit-and-run accident in Portland on Friday morning while riding his bicycle. The driver was intoxicated.”

    ‘Accident’ implies two things, both intent and predictability.  This was almost certainly unintentional but also sadly too predictable.  But then, all car collisions save demolition derbies and insurance fraud are unintentional.  I much prefer collision when alcohol is involved, as it moves the blame from God to the person who got drunk and started up their car.

  • Wisnavymom

    One of our local riders was killed recently. Not a hit and run, but rather a young mother who’d turned around to talk to her kids in the back seat. (NOT a good idea while driving!) She turned back around just in time to see the bike but not avoid it. A helmet didn’t save David….

    Condolences to Dustin’s family and friends.

  • http://www.sosnomore.com Kirby Clendenon

    I hate to see good young men cut short like this.  My best wishes to his  family and friends.  I would assign 100% blame to the drunk driver with one addendum.  Why has our whole society accepted and “planned in” to our cities the dumbass concept of letting motorized vehicles mix with bicycles.  The focus of some drivers when isn’t the best under legal circumstances.  I am against bike lanes on roads used for motorized vehicles unless they are separated by a curb or a rise in elevation.  When bicycling on roads or highways they would be safer without a bike lane, because at least then they would know nobody was looking out for them.  And seriously, who decided pedestrians and bikes should move the same direction as traffic.  How stupid can you get.  I always disobey the law and walk and bicycle against traffic so I can see what is coming at me. I hate to get on a soapbox at such a solemn time, but I must.

    • M Brandt

      Pedestrians should move against traffic, as seeing the cars coming allows you to step to the side.  However, a bicycle is far less maneuverable and can’t get out of the way very quickly.  Cycling with traffic is far safer, as it reduces the relative speeds, allowing both parties time to react, and also tends to make drivers treat cyclists more like a “real vehicle”.  If you need to see behind you constantly, or don’t like to turn your head, a mirror is a cheap way to gain visibility.

    • Rich Wilson

      You’re on the wrong soapbox.  Very wrong.  Please, please, PLEASE, DO NOT ride facing traffic.  It’s not just relative speeds.

      Reason 1:  Drivers look left at intersections, they don’t expect a bike to be coming from the right.  If you’re riding against traffic, you’re in the wrong place, and people won’t expect you there, and you’ll get hit.

      Reason 2: You set up a ‘chicken’ situation with other cyclists who are riding legally.

      Reason 3: as M. Brandt says, it won’t do you any good anyway.

      There are 4 things you can do to significantly reduce your risk of getting hurt on a bicycle.

      1: Ride the same direction as other traffic
      2: Stay off the sidewalk (unless you’re riding a pedestrian speed)
      3: Use lights and reflective gear near or after dark
      4: Stay sober

      That’s it.  There are a lot of other things, but those biggies cover the vast majority of cyclist fault collisions.

      And lest you think it’s just me, NO cycling advocates or instructors or organizations advocate riding against the flow of traffic.  None.  Zip.  Nada.

      Again, please, if you don’t believe me, do some research.  EVERY study out there shows that cycling against the flow of traffic is exceedingly dangerous.

      http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/better/index.php

      • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

        On #2, staying off the sidewalk, why why why? Every time I’m driving and see a bike on the road, it seems like the risk of killing someone just went up. They can’t possibly keep up with the 30 mph traffic (every other vehicle is supposed to go with the flow of traffic when determining speed), and if I want/need to get around them, I’m at risk of ending up in the lane for oncoming traffic. A bicycle is not a vehicle! So why is it treated like one?

        • Rich Wilson

          (I’m going to write with a USA assumption, but it applies to most countries)

          You may not like it, but legally speaking a bicycle is a vehicle.  In most cases not as fast as motorized traffic, but a vehicle, and traffic just the same.  Same rights and responsibilities etc etc, with a few exceptions.
          “every other vehicle is supposed to go with the flow of traffic when determining speed”

          I think you mean everyone is required to ‘keep up’, but that’s not true either.  There is no minimum speed limit.  There are laws regarding impeding traffic, but that’s different.  If a cyclist is riding in the middle of the lane, with five or more cars behind them, then they can probably be ticketed for impeding traffic.  Or for not riding as far to the right as practicable.

          “see a bike on the road, it seems like the risk of killing someone just went up”

          No, not really.  I mean, there’s always risk when you get on the road.  But if you pay attention to your lane position, there’s plenty of room for everyone.  The type of collision that seems to have occurred here (hit from behind while overtaking)  is actually exceedingly rare, but being rare and tragic, makes the news.  And it’s usually driver inattention.  There’s really no excuse for a car to hit a cyclist while the cyclist is in the bike lane.  Cyclists (unless they’re drunk) don’t leave their lanes very often.  It’s just a lot easier, and important, to stay in your lane on a bike.

          “I’m at risk of ending up in the lane for oncoming traffic”

          If there really isn’t room to pass, then wait.  That is your legal responsibility.

          As for sidewalks, although riding on them increases your risk of collision, the legality depends on your jurisdictions.  Some counties/cities etc regulate it, many do not.  I will grant that the kind of collision you get into when on the sidewalk won’t hurt you as much as one you get into when on the road.  But the road ones are much more rare, especially if you’re a competent cyclist.

          And before it starts, none of this excuses anything cyclists do.  Car and bicycles don’t do dumb shit, people operating cars and bicycles do dumb shit.

          • Eskomo

            When I was in a biking class in college, the instructor claimed cyclists have equal rights to the road as a car would. One day I was biking and stopped in the lane to make left turn. I heard wheels screeching  behind me as a car stopped inches from me. I will NEVER ride a bike in lane intended for a car again. EVER.

          • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

            “You may not like it, but legally speaking a bicycle is a vehicle.”

            Why?

            • Rich Wilson

              Sorry I got this far.  Habit.  This blog is about atheism, not about cycling.  People riding against traffic was a threat level 4 for me.  Defending my rights as a cyclist would be a 4 in some places, but not here.

            • benjdm

              Because it shares more characteristics with other vehicles than it does with pedestrians. Bicycles as vehicles is safer than bicycles as pedestrians.

              • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

                I remain severely unconvinced that “Bicycles as vehicles is safer than bicycles as pedestrians.”

                What evidence do we have for that?

        • benjdm

          A bicycle is a vehicle. It was a vehicle when horse drawn carriages were the other vehicles and it is a vehicle when cars are the other vehicles.

          If you can’t safely pass a slow-moving vehicle like a bicycle, street sweeper, postal truck, etc., you probably shouldn’t have a license.

          • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

            There’s a huge difference between horse drawn carriages and cars. Simply saying that a bicycle is a vehicle doesn’t answer ‘why is it considered a vehicle?’

            And I can do the passing when I need to, if the road is wide enough (it’s not always), if the bicycle is over far enough (which doesn’t happen often enough), but that doesn’ t mean I feel safe.

            • benjdm

              “Simply saying that a bicycle is a vehicle doesn’t answer ‘why is it considered a vehicle?’”

              It shares many more of the characteristics of vehicles than pedestrians. Wheeled, capable of speeds much higher than running, it’s steered and has brakes, etc. The precedent of other, motorized and non-motorized slow-moving vehicles being considered vehicles also counts.As horse drawn carriage use waned and automobile use rose, there was no point at which re-defining bicycles as pedestrians made sense. Nor is there now. Would farm tractors and other slow-moving vehicles be considered pedestrians too?

              • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

                Unlike farm tractors, bicycles have the advantage of actually being able to use sidewalks and other paths. It seems unreasonable to simply say “all vehicles must use the road” if there are other valid options (a little like creating a false dichotomy). I would personally prefer a third category for things like bicycles and segways. 

                I’m looking over the link you provided, but it may take a while. The safety concern really is my biggest issue.

                • Rich Wilson

                  Please keep in mind that if safety were the only consideration, we’d all be walking.  It’s a cost/benefit analysis.

                  Riding on the sidewalk would at least triple my trip time, if not more.  That alone doesn’t mean I should be allowed to ride on the street.  But it means my rights to use a facility I’ve paid for need to be taken into consideration.  Just because I can use a lower quality facility doesn’t necessarily mean I should have to.  Cars aren’t required to stay off the freeways and leave them for the trucks.

                  I think the third category is bike lanes (or simply wider lanes).

                • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

                  “Please keep in mind that if safety were the only consideration, we’d all be walking.  It’s a cost/benefit analysis” — Good point.

                  “Riding on the sidewalk would at least triple my trip time, if not more.”  — why’s that? 

                  “That alone doesn’t mean I should be allowed to ride on the street” –agreed

                  “But it means my rights to use a facility I’ve paid for need to be taken into consideration. ” –true, but you’ve also paid for sidewalks.

                  “Just because I can use a lower quality facility doesn’t necessarily mean I should have to.” — agreed

                  “I think the third category is bike lanes (or simply wider lanes).” — I was more referring to vehicle vs pedestrian, rather than road vs sidewalk. 

        • Rich Wilson

          (moving out here to avoid the squish)

          >”Riding on the sidewalk would at least triple my trip >time, if not more.”  — why’s that? 

          That is a rough guess, since I don’t ride on the sidewalk.  Maybe the best way I can explain it is it’s a bit like driving on side streets vs. driving on the freeway.  You have many more potential points of conflict.  On the sidewalk I’d have to slow/stop and check  driveway, slow for pedestrians, just about stop near dogs and kids.

          Put it this way, the road is a flow pattern.  Everyone is going the same direction, and there’s a protocol for changing direction or changing your lane (or virtual lane if you’re sharing).  Not everyone follows them all the time, but the rules are there.  Sidewalks are chaos.  Which is fine for pedestrians.  They’re going both directions on the same side.  They’re stopping.  They’re suddenly changing directions.  They may bump and say “Excuse me”.

          I think our main points of contention are

          is  a sidewalk is an equivalent facility from the point of view of a cyclist.  I, and most cyclists, and the law, think it is not.  Only in a few very exceptional cases are cyclists required to choose the sidewalk over the road (see: Blackhawk CO)

          and whether use of either one (road or sidewalk)  presents an unreasonable risk so as to outweigh the individual’s right to use that public facility.  I think cycling on the road is reasonably safe, and cycling on the sidewalk is not.  The law agrees with me on the road, and sometimes on the sidewalk.

          I’m tempted to edit a lot of this out, but I think  “why bikes should be on the road, not the sidewalk” comes down to “bikes and cars flow, pedestrians chaos”.

  • M Brandt

    My thoughts go out to his family.  He seems like someone I would have loved to meet in real life, we share at least two interests, cycling and skepticism.

  • http://nathandst.blogspot.com NathanDST

    The evidence presented by Rich Wilson and benjdm has put me in the position of having to change my mind. Apparently it really is statistically safer for bicyclists to use the road properly, as opposed to the sidewalk. I didn’t notice much in the way of why it works out that way, but the stats are clear. Thank you.


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