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"Surprising" results from enforcement action

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 16th, 2005 at 10:30 pm

In response to complaints of cyclists running stop signs, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) ran a traffic enforcement action at SE 26th and Clinton streets this morning. An enforcement action is sort of like a sting, except the cops put out cones and flags announcing it in all directions. They also publicized the location way beforehand.

The results were surprising. Here's what traffic division commander Bill Sinnott had to say:

"I thought it went very well. We wrote 29 citations and 33 warnings to bicyclists for running the stop sign. We only stopped those that really went through the stop sign at some speed. We didn't have enough officers to stop everyone so we only stopped the worst violators. We used the same standard for stopping motor vehicles. We wrote 15 citations and 4 warnings to vehicles.

I was suprised so many people still ran the stop signs and I was suprised there were so many more bikes then cars doing so. When we went into this we thought we would be writing more tickets and warnings to cars. One common theme the officers heard from bicyclists is that they saw the enforcement signs but felt they were acting appropriately and safely when they rode through the intersection even though they did not stop (or even come close to slowing down)."

So bikes were three times as likely to break the law! What's up with that? Didn't you see the big, orange flags and cones!? It's never cool or safe to break the law, but if you must, please do it in a less conspicuous place next time...and when the cops stop you, don't say lame stuff like the cyclist in this OPB story, that just makes it worse.

All in all, this whole thing is just bad PR for cyclists. We really must start leading by example out there. Like it or not, the laws apply to us and as long as we act like they don't matter, motorists will continue to act like we don't matter.

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Comments
  • Anonymous November 17, 2005 at 12:51 am

    The biggest bonus of following the law to the letter when I commute is that for all the talking drivers do about how much the don't like bicyclists breaking the law, when I come to a full and complete stop and then look both ways and cross at stop signs, it makes the drivers behind me positivly insane with rage.

    I've been honked at too many times to count, and one guy even tried to bump me though an intersection. So stick it to the man and come to a full stop while taking the full lane.

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  • Fritz November 17, 2005 at 9:52 am

    What's the standard of a stop in Portland for bikes? Does a trackstand count? I've asked my local police traffic department and they've told me they consider a trackstand a full stop.

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  • el timito November 17, 2005 at 9:59 am

    It's interesting that the OPB article lists differents "prices" for a ticket to a bicyclist vs. a ticket to a motorist ($94 bike/ $274 auto). It makes sense, given the weight differential and potential for damage caused, but is it correct?

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  • Jonathan Maus November 17, 2005 at 10:05 am

    Fritz,
    there was a discussion about this on a local email list. Here's the thread.

    el timito,
    yes, it's too bad they printed that because it's not correct. I know of at least one cyclist who got a $274 ticket!

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  • Aaron November 17, 2005 at 12:36 pm

    Great coments here;
    I like the quote "as long as we act like [the laws] don’t matter, motorists will continue to act like we don’t matter."
    I would like to see a price differential btwn cars and bikes for the reasons mentioned. Makes sense. According to one source at ODOT (can't confirm yet) in addition to increased danger and weight, it would take 10,000 bicycles to create the same amount of damage to a roadway as that caused by a single car.
    That said PLEASE STOP AT STOP SIGNS! And if a driver gets pissed, WRITE DOWN THEIR LICENSE, then CALL BTA.

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  • Michael November 17, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    Don't give your motor vehicle driver's license if stopped while riding a bike!

    Or, is this an urban myth?

    I have heard that if you are cited on a bike and your driver's license is used as an ID it will go down in your records just as though you were driving a car. This has the effect of potentially increasing your motor vehicle insurance rates.

    If this is true, what is the alternative acceptable to the police that won't adversely affect you?

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  • [...] After Wednesday’s traffic enforcement action, there was some confusion about ticket amounts and whether or not a trackstand (when a cyclist stops, but keeps their feet in the pedals) qualified as a “complete stop” in the eyes of the fuzz. [...]

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  • Lenny Anderson November 18, 2005 at 8:36 am

    The main reason I "drive" my bike like its a car is so that I don't start driving my car like its a bike!
    So, wait for red lights, do rolling stops at stop signs (hey that's what drivers do), signal your turns, use lights at night,etc.
    Is this a generational thing? When I was under 30, I considered most laws to be optional.

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  • Pete November 18, 2005 at 9:12 am

    ALL laws are "optional", no matter what your age. It is a personal and moral decision. However, if you get caught, be prepared to take the punishment and deal with it.

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  • dayaram November 18, 2005 at 11:42 am

    someone brought up the question of showing your drivers license if you are stopped for a "bike violation".Does anyone know if you can be "ticketed" if you do this?

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  • Mark J. Ginsberg, Esq. November 18, 2005 at 11:54 am

    Friends,

    Answers to two questions raised.

    A stop means no forward progress, so a proper track stand will do.

    As for showing a Drivers License when stopped on your bicycle, a longer answer:

    You do not need a Drivers license to ride a bicycle. If you are stopped by police you need to identify yourself. If you have other ID, you can legally use it, no problem. If you can not prove who you are, the officer can detain you to determine your identity.

    So you could use a state issued, non-drivers ID, or a passport. Personally in addition to my drivers license, I carry my county issued lawyer ID card- photo and all!

    Now if you chose to use a drivers license, it has been my experience representing bicyclists in traffic court that a note is always made on the file, so that even if you are convicted it IS NOT ENTERED AS THOUGH YOU WERE DRIVING A CAR. That is to say, that to the extent your insurance rates and that other stuff might be affected by being a bad driver and getting caught, for bicycle traffic infractions the drivers license was only used for identification purposes, so it doesn't go on your "driving" record. Now that said, being charged and being convicted do exist on your "record" and are easy to look up, but they show not as car driving offenses, but as bike violation offenses.

    Hope this helps.

    Mark J. Ginsberg, Esq.
    markjginsberg@yahoo.com
    http://www.bikesafetylaw.com

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  • [...] Where? “Colonel Summers Park at SE 20th and Belmont, by the tennis courts. We will follow a route that includes the intersection of SE Clinton and 26th where a recent Portland Police traffic enforcement action handed out tickets to motorists and cyclists for rolling through stop signs.” [...]

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  • [...] The Portland Police staged an unannounced stop sign enforcement action this morning in inner southeast Portland. Unlike previous “enforcement actions” that were highly publicized beforehand and with signage in the road, this morning’s operation was more covert and unexpected. [...]

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  • [...] Jonathan Maus over at BikePortland.org posts about a recent police sting envolving stop sign enforcement. The Portland Police staged an unannounced stop sign enforcement action this morning in inner southeast Portland. Unlike previous “enforcement actions” that were highly publicized beforehand and with signage in the road, this morning’s operation was more covert and unexpected. [...]

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  • [...] Here’s what happened the last time they did one at SE 26th and Clinton. [...]

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  • Curious Cyclist February 15, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    Why are bike riders in this town so determined to be treated like a motor vehicle? Bikes are not cars and should not be treated as such! I roll through stopsigns and ride on the sidewalk and take short-cuts and ride under the cover of darkness and generally, have a lot of fun on my bike! I never endanger myself or others while doing these things, and I never want to be treated like a motor vehicle operator by the police or by motorists. I feel safer on dark sidestreets and sidewalks than in the bike lane or worse yet, right in the damn road! Stop acting like a freaking car and realize that you are riding a bicycle! I'm all for commuting and bicycle safety, but the minute that you start to act like a car...you are in serious danger!
    In most other places, most of you would already be dead in the ditch!

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  • Fritz February 15, 2006 at 8:22 pm

    In most other places, most of you would already be dead in the ditch!

    Can you name some of these "other places," Curious? I've ridden my bike in traffic on three continents, a dozen or so U.S. States and several cities large and small. I have yet to be dead in the ditch.

    I haven't been everywhere, so I'm curious where your death city is at so I can check it out for myself.

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  • chesnok February 16, 2006 at 7:05 pm

    i got a ticket on monday for running that stop sign at 21st and clinton. motorcycle cop was hidden behind some bushes. i was moving at a good clip and i barely slowed through the intersection. oops. i usually obey the traffic laws, or so i thought. i've noticed since getting the ticket that there are certain stop signs i always want to run. ladd's circle, anyone? my ticket is for $245. hopefully, the judge will reduce my fine. $245 is half the cost of my bike. imagine if car's got fined at half their value for traffic violations...

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  • [...] The intersection was less crowded than the previous enforcment action at SE 26th and Clinton. Here’s the final tally of citations and warnings given. [...]

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  • [...] raised the awareness  of their plight on the city’s roadways, the police then took to a sting operation targeted at bicyclists. Portland and Toronto bicyclists have seen increased police attention--both positive and [...]

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