▶️ Bend’s 1st roundabout with protected bike lane now open

What is being touted as Bend’s first bicycle-protected roundabout opened Thursday evening. And the completion of the project is likely to be a relief to businesses in the construction zone.

The roundabout at SE Wilson Avenue and SE 9th Street opened just before 6:00 p.m.

The city says this roundabout operates like other single-lane roundabouts in the city. But it is the first with a protected bike lane. That lane is located between the sidewalk and the vehicle lane.

The city says the protected lane is designed to make cyclists slow down before crossing into vehicular traffic. Bicyclists can use either the protected lane or the vehicle lane.

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While most of the rules of using this roundabout remain the same as other roundabouts, there are a couple of new things to know.

Drivers

  • Yield to vehicles in the roundabout and stay in the center of the lane when exiting.
  • Yield to emergency vehicles and safely pull off to the side.
  • Move counter-clockwise and signal your path.
  • Yield to pedestrians and bikes in crosswalks.

Bicyclists

When using the vehicle lane:

  • Merge with traffic.
  • Yield to vehicles in the roundabout and stay in the center of the lane until exiting.
  • Yield to emergency vehicles and safely pull off to the side.
  • Move counter-clockwise and signal your path.
  • Yield to pedestrians and bikes in crosswalks.

When using the bike lane:

  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.
  • Slow down before crossing traffic
  • Make eye contact with both cyclists and drivers before crossing

Pedestrians

  • Pedestrians have the right-of-way
  • Make eye contact with both cyclists and drivers before crossing

“We are excited to open this one-of-a-kind, bike-protected roundabout as a pilot project,” said Engineering and Infrastructure Planning Director Ryan Oster in a statement. “This highlights the progress we are making at delivering a safer multi-modal transportation system. We look forward to analyzing how well it works to make similar bike-protected improvements for future transportation projects.” 

Construction has been frustrating for businesses in the area. Several told Central Oregon Daily News earlier this month that they’ve seen declines in foot traffic and some loss of revenue. 

Landscaping work on the roundabout will continue into early July.

Drivers can expect another big roundabout project in the area in the coming months. One is being built six blocks to the east at SE 15th Street and Wilson Ave.

Watch our report from September 2021 below about why Bend always considers roundabouts

Fatal shooting near Alfalfa under investigation

Police are investigating a fatal shooting near Alfalfa that happened Thursday afternoon. 

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to a reported shooting on Bureau of Land Management land near Milepost 4 on Alfalfa Market Road.

Deputies and Bend Fire and Rescue arrived to find a man’s body, the sheriff’s office said.

DCSO said it has no information that there is an active public safety threat. But, residents should remain aware of their surroundings and report anything suspicious.

Anyone who was in the are around 2:00 p.m. is being asked to call the non-emergency dispatch number at 541-693-6911 and ask to speak with a detective.

Sheriff’s detectives are leading the investigation. Bend Police, Oregon State Police and the Oregon State Crime Lab are assisting.

▶️ Author Rick Steber accuses High Desert Museum of ‘banning’ him

One calls it a “book ban.” The other calls it a financial decision.

The High Desert Museum is no longer selling books by Central Oregon’s Rick Steber. The author said he believes he’s being censored and that the museum is trying to follow a more “progressive” agenda.

“They said they were moving in a different direction. They were looking at such things as climate change and more contemporary exhibits, whether that was gay cowboys or whatever,” said Steber.

The museum says there is no agenda. It’s just business.

“Over the past decade, Mr. Steber’s books have just simply not performed even close to a level that would warrant us to continue selling them in our museum store, plain and simple,” said Dana Whitelaw, Executive Director at High Desert Museum. 

Steber writes about historical events in Central Oregon, many of which involve Native American stories.

Jodi Hayward, a local craft maker that contributes to Steber’s store and a Native American herself, says the books keep certain Native stories alive. 

“Over time people have just stopped talking about it so now people are ignorant as to the way things were. Well that what’s going to happen to our culture and our history and everything of Central Oregon if the museums won’t even talk about it,” said Hayward.

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The museum says they have no intention of ignoring or avoiding Native American history. They even have a permanent exhibit on local tribes.

“The museum, for the past 40 years, has brought history and art and science to our community and we will continue to do that,” said Whitelaw.

The museum says they are not trying to ban or censor Steber.

▶️ New interactive Oregon wildfire risk map launches

Oregon has launched a new statewide, interactive map to determine the risk level for wildfires. And you can even narrow it down to your neighborhood.

The Oregon Explorer Wildfire Risk Map is a project of the Oregon Department of Forestry and Oregon State University. 

The Oregon Fire Chiefs Association says the tool can identify regions at highest risk for wildfire. That will allow prevention, preparedness and response efforts to be better concentrated where they need to be.

Areas in red are considered extreme risk. Orange is high risk and yellow is moderate risk. Light green and dark green are low risk and no risk, respectively.

Oregon wildfire risk map

“It’s incredibly exciting to see Oregon taking major steps in the right direction in preventing catastrophic wildfire,” Bend Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief of Operations Bill Boos said in a statement.” “After the past two fire seasons, the need to modernize the way we prepare for, and fight wildfire was tragically evident.”

In addition to an overall look at wildfire risk areas in the state, the map has a feature that allows the user to input a specific address or latitude and longitude.

A big question to be answered for home and property owners is will insurance companies increase rates due to this?

“They’ve already been doing risk mapping. Now it’s out in the public,” Boos said. “Now the public can see oh these are the areas of concern. And so it’s actually a win for everybody and it’s working together.”

The map was created after passage of Senate Bill 762 in 2021.

RELATED: Deschutes County issues public use restrictions to reduce fire risk

Defensible space regulations

The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office says the map may also be used to identify homes and properties that could be subject to future defensible space regulations.

The development of the Oregon Defensible Space Code, which was part of SB 762, is still underway and is expected to be completed by December.

The fire marshal’s office says the code “may apply to properties that meet two requirements. First, the home or property must be in the wildland-urban interface and at high or extreme risk on the Oregon Wildfire Risk Map.”

Approximately 5% of properties in Oregon may fall under the new code, the fire marshal’s office said.

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▶️ Some medical debt is being removed from US credit reports

Help is coming for many people struggling with medical debt on credit reports.

Starting Friday, the three major U.S. credit reporting companies will stop counting paid medical debt on their reports, which banks and others use to judge creditworthiness.

The companies also will start giving patients a year to resolve delinquent medical debt that has been sent to collections before reporting it. That’s up from six months.

Next year, the companies also will stop counting unpaid medical debt under $500. 

Patient advocates cheer these moves, but they want more. They question whether medical debt should remain on credit reports at all.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau put out the following information in April on how to protect yourself when it comes to medical billing and debt.

Check your bills for accuracy

When it comes to medical bills, you may find yourself caught between your medical providers and your insurance company in a confusing and unclear space. It can feel like full-time detective work to understand the costs for different procedures and what is and is not covered by insurance. The problem can be compounded if you received medical care from multiple providers.

Still, there are some things you can do to try to make sure that your bill is accurate, and if debt collectors contact you, that they’re not attempting to collect incorrect bills or violating your rights.

  • Look at your medical bills closely to make sure the items on it are accurate and you received the treatments listed
  • Make sure the bill is yours and shows your correct name, insurance information, and billing address
  • Ask your provider for a plain language explanation for items on medical bills that are unclear to you
  • Ask debt collectors to verify the debt and provide you with information about the collector and the bill that’s being collected

Protections under the No Surprises Act

For treatments you received starting January 1, 2022, you may have protections through the No Surprises Act. For example, you should not receive unexpected bills for emergency services received from a health care provider or facility that you didn’t know was out-of-network until you were billed.

If you don’t have health insurance or if you pay for care without using your health insurance, your provider must give you a “good faith” estimate of how much your care will cost, before you get care. Afterward, if the billed amount is $400 or more above the estimate, you may be able to dispute the charges through the patient-provider dispute resolution process .

Financial assistance options

If you’re not able to afford the bill, talk to the medical care provider. Nonprofit hospitals are required by law to offer financial assistance programs, and many other providers are willing to work out payment arrangements. Contact your state or local social services to see if more help is available.

Know the limits on debt collectors contacting you

Debt collectors can contact you only about valid debts that you owe. They can’t contact you about debt that isn’t yours or that you don’t owe. You have the right to ask a debt collector to verify that you owe the debt and that it is yours.

If the medical bill is yours, it is accurate, and you owe the money, then debt collectors can contact you to try to collect it. They may sue you to recover the money—and if they win the lawsuit, they could garnish your wages or place a lien on your home. However, they must comply with the laws that apply to debt collection, like avoiding harassing or abusive calls, and following requirements when they report the debt to consumer reporting companies. They can’t call you around the clock, and you have the right to tell them to stop contacting you.

If you are concerned that a debt collector’s practices violate your rights, you can take action to enforce your rights.

See more about your debt collection rights and protections

Push back against coercive credit reporting

Debt collectors are not permitted to report a medical bill to the credit reporting companies without trying to collect the debt from you first. Debt collectors may be hoping that you will simply pay the bill without disputing it. Instead, you have the right to dispute the information.

See how to dispute an error on your credit report

Avoid scammers

Don’t pay a person or a service who promises to keep medical bills off your credit report or to protect you from unexpected out-of-network medical costs. Steer clear of people who want to charge you an upfront fee for resolving your debt and credit situation. Reputable credit counselors are clear about their services and fees and avoid pressuring you.

Submit a complaint

If you have a question about the No Surprises Act or believe the law isn’t being followed, you can contact the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services No Surprises Help Desk at (800) 985-3059 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, seven days a week, to submit a question or a complaint. You can also submit a complaint online to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services .

For issues with a consumer financial product or service, including medical debt collections and credit reporting, you can submit a complaint to the CFPB.

What we are doing about medical debt

We have made the issues surrounding medical billing and collections a focus of our work, dating back to our research report in 2014 . Our research and the report showed that medical bills on credit reports are less predictive of future repayment of credit than traditional credit obligations. Medical bills placed on credit reports can result in reduced access to credit, increased risk of bankruptcy, avoidance of medical care, and difficulty securing employment, even when the bill itself is inaccurate or mistaken.

Addressing concerns about medical billing and collections is a particular focus of ours as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In January, we released a bulletin reminding debt collectors and credit reporting companies of their legal obligations  under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act for bills that are subject to the No Surprises Act, which protects consumers from certain unexpected medical bills.

In March, we published a report on medical debt in the United States that found consumer credit records contain a total of $88 billion in reported medical bills (as of June 2021). Medical bills are the most common collections item on people’s credit reports and show up on 43 million credit reports. About one in five households reports that they have unpaid medical bills. What’s more, medical billing, collections, and credit reporting are complex, confusing, and commonly have errors. Patients and their families often struggle to correct these errors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

4th of July BUII patrols on Oregon waters this weekend

Don’t even think about boating under the influence. That’s the message from Oregon officials for people enjoying the Fourth of July weekend.

“Our message is simple. If you boat impaired, you are endangering your life and the lives of others on the water,” Brian Paulsen, Boating Safety Program Manager with the Oregon State Marine Board, said in a statement. “There’s a huge risk with no reward, and often innocent people become the victims.” 

The Marine Board, U.S. Coast Guard and marine law enforcement will be partnering to enforce Oregon’s BUII (Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants) laws.

Penalties can include jail time, $6,250 in fines, loss of boating privileges and a suspension of up to three years of the boater education card.

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Officers will be looking for impaired boat operators. The Marine Board warns these officers have completed special training to recognize if someone is impaired whether it be from alcohol, marijuana, inhalants, prescription drugs and other substances.

The Marine Board warns that the effects of drugs and alcohol are amplified on the water due to sun glare, wind, waves and other environmental factors.

Alcohol can also dehydrate people, so the Marine Board warns that the risk of drowning increases in cold water.

Paulsen also urges people to wear life jackets.

“If boaters changed two things; wear life jackets and abstain from impairing substances, boating fatalities would be reduced by more than half,” Paulsen said. “Oregon’s waters can be challenging enough to navigate for a sober boater.”

Anyone who sees a boater they suspect is impaired or is otherwise acting as a danger to others is asked to call 911.

▶️ Pilot Butte fireworks: What to know about closures and no pets allowed

With the Pilot Butte Fourth of July fireworks show set for Monday, people hoping to enjoy the butte should expect some closures over the next few days as crews set up and take down the display.

Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD) says the road to the summit will close to vehicles starting at 10:00 p.m. Friday and will reopen at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday.

Here is the full closure schedule.

  • July 1 – Summit road closed to motorized vehicles at 10:00 pm.
  • July 2 and 3 – Summit closed to all visitors for fireworks display set-up. Summit road and all trails open to pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles with the exception of the summit.
  • July 4 – All roads, trails and the summit closed to the public. The show is set for 10:00 p.m. Monday. 
  • July 5 – Summit closed to all visitors for display clean-up. Summit road and trails open to pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles with the exception of the summit.
  • July 6 – Summit road open to motorized vehicles at 10:00 am. Normal operations resume.

RELATED: Redmond firework stands struggling

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The East side parking lot will be open as usual except on the fourth. On that day, the closure time of 9:00 p.m. will be extended until all vehicles have left following the show.

Parking in that lot is expected to be limited, so people wanting to watch from there are advised to arrive early. Park staff will be there to help direct traffic. 

BPRD also reminds people that pets are not allowed at Pilot Butte during the display because the fireworks may frighten them and cause them to run away. People who bring their pets will be asked to leave.

“Being so close to the display is intense, and your pet may react unexpectedly to the explosions, flashes of light and crowd noise,” Park Manager Joe Wanamaker said in a statement. “Many pets have escaped their owners and run away in panic.”

USC, UCLA leaving Pac-12, joining Big Ten

The Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers will have two fewer Pac-12 opponents to face in the next couple of years.

The Big Ten voted unanimously to add Southern California and UCLA as conference members beginning in 2024.

The expansion to 16 teams will happen after the Pac-12’s current media rights contracts with Fox and ESPN expire and make the Big Ten the first conference to stretch from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The announced came almost a year after Oklahoma and Texas formally accepted invitations to join the Southeastern Conference in July 2025.

RELATED: Pac-12 scraps football divisions; 2 best records will play for title

Geographically, it’s an enormous shakeup in college sports.

The Pac-12 would lose its footprint in Southern California and the second-largest television market in the nation. Meanwhile, two Los Angeles schools would join a conference that mainly centered in the midwest.

There is already speculation in the sports world that the loss of the two schools may be the start of the end of the Pac-12.

College sports insiders are suggesting that Oregon and Washington may have no choice but to also bolt. Others say the it may survive with the Bay Area schools — Stanford and California — anchoring the conference.

The reports of the potential departure come weeks after the Pac-12 announced it will no longer consider division champions in determining who plays in the Pac-12 football championship. It now will be based on win-loss percentage.

Who could replace USC and UCLA in the Pac-12?

It’s too early in the reporting to know if the Pac-12 is already pursuing other schools to join the conference. But here are some hypothetical scenarios.

If the Pac-12 puts importance on staying in Southern California, the likely programs to pursue would be Fresno State and San Diego State. Both have seen levels of success in the Mountain West Conference.

If the criteria is more about pedigree, then Boise State would be a likely target. While the program has not been as proficient as it was when it was a Top 5 team under Chris Petersen, it’s still among the strongest Mountain West programs. It would also make a natural rival to Washington State and Utah.

Fans might consider BYU as another potential Pac-12 school, but the program is already set to join the Big 12 starting in 2023. That conference is losing Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC.

And if the Pac-12 is looking more toward natural, geographical rivals, then its possible to consider Colorado State (matching it with Colorado) or Utah State (to go against Utah).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Eugene woman attacked with acid for third time since March

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Police say a Eugene, Oregon, woman who had acid thrown on her while walking her dog in March has been the target of two additional acid attacks at her home, believed to be committed by the same person.

The Register-Guard reports the Eugene Police Department is also investigating it as a bias crime after the suspect made comments about the woman being Native American.

Police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin says the latest incident happened early Tuesday when she opened her door to the outside and someone threw acid on her.  She was taken to a hospital for chemical burns.

McLaughlin says the incidents are under investigation. The attacker was described as a young white man.

RELATED: Woman walking dog in Eugene splashed with acid

 

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