Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on May 11th, 2006 at 7:57 am
Yesterday morning the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division set up a sting at SE 23rd and Salmon streets. Several cyclists were given $242 dollar fines (the same amount for motor vehicles) for rolling through the four-way stop.
This enforcement “mission” was motivated by a phone call to 823-SAFE (the City’s traffic safety hotline) several weeks ago by a woman who lives near that intersection. According to Traffic Division Lieutenant Mark Kruger, she complained that bicyclists were running the stop sign at speed without even slowing down and when she tried to confront them about it they became “caustic” (argumentative and sarcastic). Here’s more from Lieutenant Kruger:
“We didn’t get around to looking at the site for some time and when we sent an officer out there last week to see what was really going on the officer found a stream of cyclists running the stop sign just as the complainant stated. What was most remarkable was that the cyclists didn’t slow or even look left or right as they blew through the intersection.
So, based on that complaint and what we saw last week, we went out to work the site as our weekly Wednesday morning mission. We only stopped those who went through at speed, and there was no shortage of them.”
Some members of the cycling community feel this is a blatant over-reaction and misuse of public funds. They feel that the Police responded to this complaint differently because it involved bicycles. One cyclist in particular is concerned that this reaction is an ominous sign indicative of the attitude of the newly appointed Traffic Division Commander Marty Rowley.
Others feel like it’s just a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Lawyer Mark Ginsberg is urging cyclists to pick up phone and complain about motorists. Ginsberg has already filed a complaint at 823-SAFE because he is concerned about speeding cars near his home on Mt. Tabor.
At this time, there aren’t enough facts to support an accusation of discrimination by the Traffic Division. Saying that this was a “vendetta against cyclists” is hard to justify. Last year they wrote around 500 total tickets to cyclists, and half of those were for riding in the bus mall (see stats here). Are we seeing a crackdown on law-breaking cyclists? Perhaps, but I think we need more evidence of unfair enforcement before getting too upset.
The bottom line is that far too many cyclists and motorists disobey traffic signals and stop signs. The problem isn’t with the Police, they just enforce the law. We need to solve this problem through a combination of community awareness, neighborhood activisim and traffic engineering.
The City of Portland’s Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership encourages neighborhoods to organize bicycle safety groups. One has been formed within Southeast Uplift and they have already done some great work. If you’re interested in this, please contact Sharon White at (503) 823-7100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.