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Lieutenant gives his perspective on stop sign enforcement

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on May 15th, 2006 at 9:01 am

Last week, there was a lot of discussion about a stop sign enforcment mission by the Traffic Division of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). In response to a citizen complaint, they sent several officers out to SE 23rd and Salmon Streets to nab law-breaking cyclists.

Until now, the one group we hadn't heard from was the Traffic Division. I am pleased to have gotten permission from Lieutenant Mark Kruger to publish his thoughts from an email correspondence we had last Friday.

As you read this, please remember that Lt. Kruger has no obligation to offer his perspective on these events. He is doing so because he understands the importance of promoting understanding between the actions of the Traffic Division and the perceptions and opinions of the bike community.

From Lieutenant Mark Kruger of the PPB Traffic Division:

"I reviewed some of the comments on your site this morning and had a conversation with Greg (Raisman, from PDOT) yesterday.

A couple of important points that I would like to make are regarding why we conduct the enforcement that we do.

A great deal of effort goes into suggesting that bikes running stops signs et al is relatively harmless compared to the damage that can be done by a motorist who does the same thing. Additionally, there is the position that the police should be enforcing only the areas with the highest number of collisions.

I think you truly understand that the police in Portland actually conduct enforcement on bicyclists very rarely compared to the massive amount of enforcement directed at motorists. We should probably be directing more enforcement at bicycle violations given the increase in rider ship in recent years.

Our specific focus in the Traffic Div is to 1) arrest DUII drivers, 2) investigate traffic collisions and cite the responsible party, and 3) issue citations for moving violations that most contribute to traffic collisions.

To that end we will occasionally be working locations where bikes are running stop signs/lights because it is a significant safety issue for road users in general. Even if you only look at bike fatalities in Portland, the concern is clear. There have been 24 bicyclists killed in traffic collisions in Portland over the last 11 years. In 58% of those cases the bicyclist was at fault. Of those cases where the bicyclist was at fault, 30% were cases where the bicyclist went through a red light or stop sign without stopping and yielding the right of way. Those cases are at locations that do not have a significant crash history. The remaining cases of bicyclist fault most often show lack of attention and awareness of what traffic is doing around the bicyclist. Interestingly, in only one case where the motorist was at fault for the fatal collision did the motorist fail to stop at a stop sign or red light. DUII drivers have been the greatest lethal threat to bicyclists with 56% of all motorist fault in bicycle involved fatalities caused by DUII drivers. Those collisions are all bicyclists struck from behind on straight sections of roadway.

During the mission on Wed we had a great many of the bicyclists that we stopped tell us that they routinely do not stop for stop signs. So the point I want to make is that regardless of where we issue a traffic citation (to a motorist or a bicyclist) we are addressing behavior that we encounter at a specific location and general behavior or habits that the driver or bicyclist may engage in.

Our intent and desire is to target violations that contribute to traffic collisions and that is why we will continue to regard stop sign/red lights violations as significant and important regardless of where we encounter them. For both motorists and bicyclists."

Please feel free to leave your feedback and comments. However in doing so, I would sincerely appreciate your respect and consideration of Lt. Kruger. I have worked hard to create a space where a Police Lieutenant feels comfortable enough to participate.

Let's show him that we are here to foster understanding between cyclists and the Police and improve the safety of all road users.

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  • Michael May 15, 2006 at 10:03 am

    "the police in Portland actually conduct enforcement on bicyclists very rarely compared to the massive amount of enforcement directed at motorists."

    massive? huh? where?

    I would love to see this so-called "massive amount of enforcement directed at motorists."

    Pardon my cyncism, but it just does not jive with the downtown and SE Portland I spend hours every day walking and biking.

    I have been complaining in particular about the incredible amount of red light running that takes place at SE 39th and Hawthorne. I have written the mayor, the council, the police, and the newspapers to NO observable effect.

    I have seen not ONE enforcement action at that horrible intersection in years.

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  • Joseph May 15, 2006 at 10:08 am

    As a cyclist I applaud the police efforts and appreciate the concern expressed. Cyclists need to obey laws.

    Some states have what I believe is called a "rolling stop" for cyclists that is legal. Is this urban legend or do such laws actually exist? If they do, then the cycling community should work to have those enacted.

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  • Matt G. May 15, 2006 at 10:29 am

    This was a rare and valuable dialog between cyclists and the Traffic Division. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to hear first-hand how traffic enforcement is handled. There is more valuable information in these few short paragraphs than in the volumes of rumor, speculation, and intrigue of blog comments attempting to guess at the Traffic Division's motives. Let's press to see more open discussion in the future. Thank you to Lt. Kruger for agreeing to reach out to the community. Let's do all we can to reach back.

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  • Jessica Roberts May 15, 2006 at 10:38 am

    There has not been a crash at this location in at least the last decade, and PDOT research clearly shows that bicycle boulevards like SE Salmon have the best safety record of any type of road facility.

    I'm all for strategic enforcement of traffic violations for all users when it actually matters, but this situation is not one of those cases.

    I'd like to suggest that the police force consider crash statistics and the excellent advice of PDOT's Traffic Investigations division before they conduct operations like these. At the very least, these well-informed sources should be given at least as much credence as a citizen complaint when deciding on the site for an enforcement action.

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  • dayaram May 15, 2006 at 11:02 am

    During my daily commutes to central city from NE I routinely do not stop at all stop signs. It depends on the particular location. I do stop at all red lights since they generally indicate higher traffic flow and vehicles expecting the way to be clear. I regularly see cyclists blowing through both signs and lights. I recognize that I am responsible for all my actions and that if I get ticketed I can't put it off on to the police. I like it that they enfforce laws and realize they do have tobe 'selective' at times. Treat them nicely and the majority will be courteous in return.
    Dayaram

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  • Mick May 15, 2006 at 11:21 am

    Kruger sounds completely reasonable to me. And if what they way about only ticketing people who fly through at speed is true, the enforcement is completely reasonable.

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  • Dr. Mark Ross May 15, 2006 at 11:25 am

    Wow, 58% of bicyclists were at fault in traffic collision deaths -- that sure puts things in a whole new perspective for me.

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  • Ethan May 15, 2006 at 11:27 am

    Jessica,

    Using statistics as the sole basis of where to focus enforcement efforts in not a very good idea. When traffic patterns change or become a problem, it may often be complaints that are the first signal that something ought to be done. Are you suggesting that we wait until someone gets killed or injured?

    Along similar lines . . . I have seen local government NOT install needed traffic signals until horrible crashes occur, when everyone in the closest neighborhood had alerted them and complained about close calls months and years before. A community policing model compells the police to try and be very responsive to citizens, who are their eyes and ears on the ground throughout the city.

    Mark's comments paint a picture of a police dept making a real effort to make balanced decisions on how to field limited resources. The actual statistics (from Mark and previous posts) reinforce this impression. Lets not let the blinders of one transport mode lead us into being just another self-interested special interest group with little regard for the larger picture.

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  • crankers May 15, 2006 at 11:34 am

    I agree with Jessica about methodology. There are plenty of far more dangerous intersections cyclists plow through all the time that would be a better target for bicycle enforcement if the traffic division wants to ticket bikes running signs. I’ve had a couple good wrecks and countless close calls since I started commuting and none of them were at 23rd and Salmon. Enforcing 23rd and Salmon is a short-term issue that gets people riled up but doesn’t solve the problem for that particular spot however. The real issue in regards to this intersection is that a four way stop has no place or reason there if the city is serious about promoting Salmon as an alternative bike route. It needs to go. If they are concerned about cycle speeds and safety coming down the hill, then they can have speed enforcements after the signs go and we can do this cry session all over again for those speeding tickets.

    I ride Salmon daily and I have plenty of experience with minor to major close calls on what is mostly a very relaxing, fast, and safe route. The latest was I almost slammed into a cyclist who was blowing the sign to turn left (he was looking right for crossing traffic as he ran the sign) from SE Salmon onto 7th south (I was riding 7th north) a couple days ago. As I was yelling “Oh shit!” and slamming on my brakes, he turned to look at me as he finished passing and gave me a big smile and a cheery "hello there!" I'll have to give him that the drivers who've tried/made me bleed in the last 10 years have never been so swell to me while doing so. I think he even waved! It’s having plenty of those experiences that make me not so sympathetic to ticket complaints from cyclists. Hitting him wouldn’t have hurt me much less than if I’d broad sided him while he was running the sign with a car.

    In fact, as far as close calls go on that route, I'd say I have one bicycle close call for every two with cars. The most common are both bicycles and cars running/rolling stop signs at crossing streets. The most usual response by bicyclists who almost run me over? - Some sort of "hello" while they just continue on past me as if the sign they are running didn't exist. The most usual for drivers? - A hard break just past the sign they were rolling and an apology out the window. The second most common response drivers give me after nearly hitting me is the lame “I see bicycles break the law all the time and nobody does anything about that” excuse. All I can ever say to them is “well, I wasn’t breaking the law and I’m the one you just almost hit.”

    Let’s work to get rid of this particular 4-way and then we can argue all we like about whether it’s justified or not to refuse to obey the other ones around town after that.

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  • renato May 15, 2006 at 11:44 am

    for me, ethan's comment brings up some essential questions. why are there so many cyclists going through the stop sign instead of stopping or at least slowing down? aren't these cyclists trying to tell us that something isn't working at 23 and salmon? how can the safety of this intersection be improved beyond citations and enforcement?

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  • Andy May 15, 2006 at 11:50 am

    Joseph,

    Check out the posting from last week on Idaho's traffic laws, which are more flexible for cyclists than those of Oregon.

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  • Garlynn May 15, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks to Officer Kruger for his perspective.

    I still say that infrastructure is the best solution. Traffic circles all along SE Salmon, so that bicyclists aren't required to stop, along with clear signage that say "Yield to Pedestrians in Crosswalk" and big stripey crosswalks. Salmon is a major bike route, bicyclists like to ride a long ways without having to stop at each intersection, and the city should encourage this in a safe manner by providing the infrastructure that allows them to do so.

    Anybody disagree?

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  • elljay May 15, 2006 at 1:58 pm

    Thank you Lt. Kruger!

    I agree w/Ethan re: relying on accident statistics. Stats are only as good as the reporting. Partly because the damage threshold requiring reporting is so high, and the general pain-in-the-butt factor, I know of probably 8-10 bike vs. car or bike vs. bike accidents within my family and circle of friends that were never reported. And the near-misses don't get reported either. In the discussion of 23rd and Salmon, a writer mentioned that his wife had been hit on her bike there...but they probably didn't report it.

    Anecdotal evidence from neigbors and users, plus field studies by transportation professionals or police can help identify problem locations and solutions before someone gets munched.

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  • Argentius May 15, 2006 at 2:57 pm

    I think this is another situation of black and white beating up the grey.

    I wasn't at SE Salmon the day of the sting, and generally try to follow traffic laws, but I can't claim to follow their exact letter, every time.

    Lt. Kruger said, "We only stopped those who went through at speed, and there was no shortage of them.”

    If this is accurate, then it seems like reasonable enforcement. A bicycle on the raod should be treated like a vehicle by cars, and needs to act like traffic as reasonably as possible.

    However, I've heard some complaints (the specific accuracy of which I cannot speak to) of cyclists receiving tickets, for the same $242, for ALMOST stopping at a stopsign, or even for "trackstanding" and stopping without putting a foot down!

    If THAT were the case, then it would be excessive. It'd be the equivalent of setting up a speed trap for cars in a 50mph zone, but ticketing at 52mph.

    In conclusion, I feel police need to be predictable and reasonable in their enforcement of laws. Many cyclists are motorists, too, and I feel the $242 ticket, plus the increase in mandatory insurance premiums, is excessive for a genuine small mistake.

    I think traffic officers should recognize they have a range of enforcement options available. A rider who blatantly ignores the sign and proceeds through at 25 mph might get the full ticket. If another who slows to a crawl, but does not stop, and is polite and reasonable to the officer, and is simply given an official, written warning, I'm pretty confident that cyclist will take what's happened to heart without having quite such a nasty sting in the pocketbook.

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  • Michael May 15, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    Semi-related folklore that I can't confirm...

    Cyclists do not need a motor vehicle license and should not offer one when stopped for an alleged violation on a bike.

    The reason is the violation will have the same consequences on your motor vehicle records and then your insurance rates as it would if you were driving a motor vehicle.

    If an ID is demanded, then provide something other than a driving license. Politely, of course.

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  • Greg May 15, 2006 at 4:58 pm

    If 30% of the 58% of the bike-fault bike-deaths occurred at four-way intersections, it's because the bikes did not YIELD to cars. No one is asking for bikes to be granted supreme right of way over everyone else; rather, some of us are asking that we be required to yield at stop signs rather than always stop. Rather than requiring cyclists to do something unnecessary and potentially dangerous (see Dabby's comment on 5/12), why are we not asking cyclists to do what those dead cyclists did not do--YIELD? Lt. Kruger even stated that the problem was that they did not "yield the right of way". Yes, we need to yield the right of way to be safe. No, we do not need to come to a complete stop if there is no oncoming traffic to be safe.

    I yield at every stop sign and car drivers love me for it. I wave them through if they're ahead of me and I don't come to a complete stop if I'm far ahead of them. Maybe if the law required us to take the reasonable action that most cyclists are going to take anyway (yield), more of us would pay attention to the law. The police may say that they are just enforcing the law selectively for egregious violations, but the law still needs to be changed to reflect what behavior is truly dangerous, because our safe behavior is still illegal.

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  • Ethan May 15, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    I guess I should add that I am all for an Idaho-style rolling stop law AND reconfiguring traffic signals/signs to smooth the way for cyclists, especially on routes that are supposedly dedicated bike boulevards . . . I just do not think we are seeing some kind of draconian police response here.

    Change the law, change the sign, both great ideas. Neither makes it currently legal (or smart) to blast through stop signs as if they are not there.

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  • Randy May 15, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    It would still be nice to have an answer to Michael's questions in the first post:

    Where is the massive traffic enforcement against the motorists running red lights throughout the city, the speeders on SE Hawthorne, SE Division, other arterial streets, and perhaps most importantly, in our neighborhoods?

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  • Donna May 15, 2006 at 7:03 pm

    Don't like the law? Me neither. Want to try to get it changed at the next legislative session? Go for it! Depending on the wording, I'll probably be in support of an Idaho-style law. I'd also be in support of getting the fines reduced somewhat for traffic tickets issued to cyclists.

    What I will not support is whining and blaming the terrible traffic police because some cyclists feel they have some sort of "right" to go fast on their bikes, chose to break the law as it currently exists, and now they have to take responsibility for their actions. I've seen bank robbers on meth express more accountability for their actions. Amazing.

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  • Dan May 15, 2006 at 8:30 pm

    Thanks to Lt. Kruger for his comments and for willing to share them with us. I know at times, things can get a little adversarial. While I too have been known to not completely and utterly stop for every stop sign, I have seen far too many of my co-commuters blow through signs and lights without so much as a sideways glance. While doing so may not cause direct damage to an automobile, it may cause someone to get rear-ended panic stopping to avoid them. Not to mention the loss of goodwill between road users that many of us work hard to foster.
    I have not read any details on how the sting was performed, but I would like to think that if you can't notice officers watching how you ride, you're going too fast to see oncoming traffic in time to yield.
    And on the subject of complaints and stings, I have several locations that need some help before someone gets seriously crunched... Any ideas to whom these should go?

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  • Kathleen May 15, 2006 at 9:14 pm

    My husband was caught in the sting. He did see the officers, slowed down and proceeded through the intersection. In retrospect it seems stupid. But knowing what happened in our neighborhood about 2 months ago puts it a little more into perspective. On SE 21st and Taylor at 5:30 in the morning we were awakened by about 3 big explosions. I found out later that day the cops had a house surrounded and had thrown "flash-bangs" into the house to get it cleared out (a drug bust). The first thought my husband had last week on his bike was to get out of the way and get past the police! He thought a drug bust was taking place. So in response to the previous comment about cyclists riding too fast to notice the officers, at least one person noticed the officers, thought something really serious was happening, and tried to get out of the way. This is not an excuse, just what happened. Now we know that not coming to a complete stop on a bicycle at a stop sign is something really serious.

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  • Still Scared May 16, 2006 at 1:47 am

    I know this has nothing to do with cycling, but I just wanted to say that I never expected to see the day when Lt. Mark Kruger was thanked and praised for his perspective.

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  • brock May 16, 2006 at 6:01 am

    Just this morning I watched a bike officer blow right through a stop sign crossing Broadway at 15+ mph...

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  • jeff May 16, 2006 at 7:40 am

    I see TriMet buses blow red lights EVERY SINGLE DAY.

    Setting up a sting to catch cyclists rolling through stop signs is a complete waste of my tax payer dollars - IMO.

    Someone said they were only ticketing cyclists that went through 'at speed' - that is completely untrue.

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  • Jessica Roberts May 16, 2006 at 8:56 am

    I want to correct my statement that no crash had happened within the last decade -- I was wrong; there was one crash, car-on-car, and no serious injuries resulted.

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  • Scott Bricker May 16, 2006 at 9:43 am

    Two years ago the BTA helped the City publish an analysis of the most dangerous behaviors of bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians. For cyclists, the behaviors included riding the wrong way, riding without lights, and riding fast through red stop-lights; it did not include riding through 4-way stops on residential roads.

    We believe that the police should enforce against the most dangerous of behaviors and not problems that are operational issues. We are talking with the City to try and change this. Evan Manvel is the primary contact on this issue.

    Scott Bricker
    Policy Director
    Bicycle Transportation Alliance

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  • Jason May 16, 2006 at 9:49 am

    Lt Kruger is not a nice human being.

    Everything he says and does must be kept in the context of his history.

    http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/Content?oid=31818&category=22101

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  • Scout May 16, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    Jason, I agree 100 percent. Is this really the guy we want on our side? No thanks.

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  • Garlynn May 16, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    Perhaps some of the "more than $1 million in liability lawsuits" that Kruger has exposed the city to as the result of his irresponsible behavior as a police officer, could have instead been used to install traffic circles on bicycle routes, that would allow for the safe removal of stop signs for bicyclists.

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  • Jonathan Maus May 16, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    Jason,

    Thanks for sharing that link. Kruger's past is well-known by many people in the bike community, including myself.

    At this point, I've decided to base my opinion of him on his current attitude toward me and the cycling community in general.

    I am yet to ask him about his past in person...perhaps I should. I don't know.

    My feelings are that I should give priority to my direct knowledge and experience of him. In the past few months I have spoken, emailed, and met with him many times. He has been nothing but open and respectful of me and my concerns.

    He has always responded to my requests very quickly and candidly.

    So for now, I will continue to work with him.

    Scout, I think the question is not, "do we want him on our side?" ...it's more like, "do we want him against us?".

    As long as Kruger is 2nd in command at the Traffic Division I will attempt to work with him to address the concerns of the bike community.

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  • Jessica Roberts May 16, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    For many years, there was a complete lack of communication between the cycling community and the Portland Police force. Over the last few years, it seems like things are changing.

    It's taking effort on both sides (not that I want to continue to perpetuate the idea that cyclists and police are somehow on opposide sides), but I truly believe that open communication and stronger relationships are being put in place -- which, in the long run, will only help improve conditions for bicycling.

    I still think there's a long way to go, but we (at the BTA) will keep putting a lot of energy into this effort, and my experience with Lt. Kruger is the same as Jonathan's. I feel more optimistic about police relations than I ever have.

    Keep in mind that bicycle ridership in Portland increased threefold over the last decade, and 15% last year alone. If you perceive an increase in police issues around bicycling, I would suggest that doesn't mean that things are getting worse. Instead, I believe we're seeing true paradigm shift, and we're all (drivers & bikers alike) having to learn how a city works that truly has significant numbers of folks on the streets on bikes. This is what it looks like when bikes are everywhere, all the time ... and a perception that some of the behaviors some of these many, many thousands of cyclists make are dangerous and thus need enforcement seems to me to be another part of our evolution towards a truly bike-friendly city.

    I don't think that most cyclists believe that bikes should be given carte blanche to break any law they want when it results in serious danger to themselves and others. For example, this morning I saw two cyclists riding wrong-way on the MAX tracks, and I think most cyclists would agree that that might be one of those times when a ticket or warning would be appropriate. (Note: we're not talking about four-way stops on residential streets...that's one of those areas where we need more communication.)

    Additionally, there's a renewed committment at PDOT (Portland Office of Transportation) and on the part of Commissioner Adams to transportation safety, so yes, we're slowly restoring some of the enforcement resources that had been cut in the past. People on Bikeportland don't hear about the increased enforcement of cars that is happening at the same time (though I think maybe we should hear about those to get a sense of what proportion of enforcement resources is going to various modes).

    Again, none of those things (more police dialogue, more people on bikes, more public conversations about bicycling, more resources for traffic safety) are bad for bikes, as long as we're actively participating in the conversation that informs how we move forward.

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  • Randy May 16, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    When I started on the BAC in the early 90's, there was a PPD officer on the committee who listened and responded to the bicycle community's concerns. I knew if I had a close call I could contact that officer with information about the incident and there would be a police follow-up - usually a phone call to the vehicle owner and a warning - but in at least one instance I am aware of the information I provided on an aggressive driver became part of the motorist's driving record and helped result in a 5-year conviction for a subsequent DUI.

    Today, there is no PPD representation on the BAC, despite repeated requests from PDOT to the Police Bureau to assign an officer, nor is there an identified individual at PPD that a bicyclist can report a close call to, and be confident that there will be a police response.

    Instead, we are in a new era of traffic stings directed at bicyclists, instead of at motorists that endanger bicyclists. I will believe that the police are on our side when they demonstrate it with their actions, instead of their stated 'good intentions', until then, I remain skeptical.

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  • Dabby May 16, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    Having known a full 50 percent or more of the people killed on bikes in this town in the timeframe mentioned, I cannot beleive the fact that 58 percent were at fault.
    I fully believe that this percentage is due to the fact that either drivers were cleared due to:
    Statements by witnesses who have no knowledge of bike laws, yet claim fully in the statemente that the cycylist was at fault.
    The cyclist is dead, and cannot speak for him self in clearing his name.
    The officer's downtown really, and I have been told this by police, consider bicyclists to be at fault in general, and go from there during investigations.

    I have a outstanding $242 dollar ticket I recieved, for a red light, while working.
    My first and only ticket in 20 years of being a messenger.
    I recieved this ticket while following a driver who had pulled over three lanes to turn left, directly into me.
    The officer ignored the driver, and pulled me over.
    Even though I was pushed off the road into the curb by this driver, I recieved a ticket while trying to avoid him.
    Of course I had to work to survive during my court date, so now my ticket is in limbo, and they are surely looking for my money......
    I have dealt with this officer, and I have ridden away while he was trying to give me a ticket.
    He had no grounds for it, he was wrong, I told him so, and I left.
    Obviously I was right, because he did not follow me.
    I was being harrased. We are being harrased.
    I would love the opportunity to take my ticket back into court, and change the ordinance for everybody, once and for all.
    Who is with me?

    It takes a nation of millions to hold us back!

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  • Dr. Mark Ross May 16, 2006 at 7:48 pm

    "Statements by witnesses who have no knowledge of bike laws, yet claim fully in the statemente that the cycylist was at fault."

    C'mon, give the justice system more credit than this. People aren't gonna make decisions based on someone's ignorant say-so.

    Lets not get sidetracked with non-bicycling disussion regarding Lt. Kruger. Lets stay focused on how we can improve bicycle safety yet find ways to improve bicycle riding effiency with the information he has provided.

    ps: to the cyclist in the yellow shirt who blew through the red light on Boones Ferry Rd as I was trying to make a left turn in my car, thanks for nothing!

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  • Randy May 16, 2006 at 9:40 pm

    I've reviewed four years of bicycle - motor vehicle crash data for Portland (1998 through 2001), based on reported crashes for which a report was filed, that I obtained from PDOT. That data, which consists of a much large data base than fatalities alone, shows that motorists were at fault in 58% of bicycle - motor vehicle crashes, and cyclists were at fault in 42% of such crashes. Furthermore, the likelihood of injury in these crashes, regardless of fault, is something like 400 to 500 times greater for cyclists than it is for motorists. I've previously shared that data with Jonathan, perhaps he would be kind enough to post it here.

    There is also an interesting report available on the web, titled "The Only Good Cyclist" in which authors Charles Komanoff and Michael J. Smith of Right of Way performed a detailed review of police reports on 71 bicyclist fatalities in NYC between 1995-98, and concluded that the police are highly biased towards motorists when assigning fault in these crashes. NYPD claimed that 'cyclist error' was the 'primary contributing factor' in 75% of the 71 fatal crashes reviewed; the authors' reevaluation showed that motorist misconduct was the principal cause in 57% of the fatalities and a contributing factor in 78%. Unsafe or aggressive passing, turning into the cyclists path, speeding and running red lights or stop signs were the four major driver errors in the NYC fatalities.

    http://www.cars-suck.org/research/cyclists.pdf
    http://www.rightofway.org/

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  • Eddie May 16, 2006 at 10:51 pm

    From the Lieutenant:

    "There have been 24 bicyclists killed in traffic collisions in Portland over the last 11 years. In 58% of those cases the bicyclist was at fault. Of those cases where the bicyclist was at fault, 30% were cases where the bicyclist went through a red light or stop sign without stopping and yielding the right of way. Those cases are at locations that do not have a significant crash history. The remaining cases of bicyclist fault most often show lack of attention and awareness of what traffic is doing around the bicyclist. Interestingly, in only one case where the motorist was at fault for the fatal collision did the motorist fail to stop at a stop sign or red light. DUII drivers have been the greatest lethal threat to bicyclists with 56% of all motorist fault in bicycle involved fatalities caused by DUII drivers. Those collisions are all bicyclists struck from behind on straight sections of roadway."

    So, I'm wondering: how can 58% of the fatalities be the fault of the cyclist and 56% are the fault of DUII drivers?? Hmmm.

    24 deaths is not good. BUT in 11 years I'd expect there to be about that many or more deaths caused by cyclists just having a crash with NO car involvement. In fact, did that 24 include some of those types of crashes involving only the cyclist?

    As awful as 24 deaths is, that is really quite low for an 11 year period in a city the size of Portland.

    Per the Lieutenants statistics, only 30% of the fatalities were from running signs/lights. He makes a good point that running signs/lights is a fairly safe thing to do! That's less than 1 death per year from running lights/signs even while we have the mass hysteria (as seen on this website) about the hoards of evil lawbreakers on bicycles running every light/sign in Portland! Now, about that 30% statistic: 30% of (58% of 24 deaths) is 4.2 deaths. Who was that two-tenths of a person who got killed?

    Dabby (#33 above) got it right again. We should challenge the ordinance. But we live in fear of the police in a nation of sheep and idiots and so it is rare when anyone challenges authority here. With the current political regime that is in power today (due to those sheep and idiots) we are even more fearful than usual. Makes ya kind of thankful for bear spray and the second amendment doesn't it?

    I vote to fight for a law similar to the one in Idaho, preferrably with both signs and lights to be yields for bicycles. It will always be safer for cyclists to go when it is safe than to wait for a green light and have to compete with a herd of idiots in powerful machines when the green appears. Sometimes when the traffic is busy you will still have to wait for the green and mix it up with the cars, trucks, buses, SUV's and monster trucks.

    At the same time that we fight for traffic law changes, we need to educate the mayor and law enforcement on how to ride a bicycle safely so they do not waste our tax dollars and their time giving tickets to people on bicycles.

    The Lieutenant may mean well, but he is obviously not a cyclist and does not understand what it takes to safely ride a bicycle on busy urban streets.

    Bicycles are dangerous. I have heard they are the most dangerous consumer product sold. Don't know if that's still true or not............but stay out of the way of cars ALL the time.

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  • Dr. Mark Ross May 17, 2006 at 2:52 am

    Eddie sez: " He makes a good point that running signs/lights is a fairly safe thing to do!"

    Safe? No. What you mean is that running red lights/signs is less deadly than some other behavior.

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  • C3PNo May 17, 2006 at 11:14 am

    "Stopping" at stop signs and the desired effect needs to be more clearly defined. I never stop rolling. Never. Old messenger instinct, I guess. But the desired result, safely interacting with traffic, is nevertheless achieved. It's really a simple question of the fact that a cyclists can successfully "hover" (turn 360) in the space of an average car's "footprint", or slow down in the same amount of space without actually completely stopping.

    What we are having here is a linguistic breakdown in legal definitions and the inability to create a new legal vocabulary for our form of transportation. So let's do it!

    Here goes:

    Stopping: reducing speed to a level instantly reducable to zero considering braking conditions.

    Your turn,
    C3PNo

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  • Jonathan Maus May 17, 2006 at 11:48 am

    Randy (comment 35),

    I'll try and find those crash stats you mentioned. If you have them, send them over again please.

    And I too think that we must be careful with any "official" stats. Many bike incidents don't get reported and of those that do, I think it's safe to say that a general bias (or ignorance perhaps) against bicycles exists with most drivers, police officers, insurance companies and judges.

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  • Dabby May 17, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    Dr. Ross,
    It would appear you have way too much faith in the system.
    I have had only two car related incidents on my bike, which is amazing to me. I have had one car accident, which was not my fault.
    In all three incidences, it was the witnesses accounts of what happened that did not add up.
    It was the witnesses who tried to make a big deal out of things, which there never was in the first place.
    In all incidences, the witness accounts, and their assesment of blame, were based on violations that either did not occur, were not even valid, or , worst of all, the statements included comments such as why was he riding in the road, and why was he turning right there, he should let the cars go first.
    This is the basis, and fully verified basis of my statement towardsfalse witness testimony, and people not understanding laws.
    How many times does someone yell at you for doing something 100 percent legal on your bike?
    Oh, yes, that answer is a lot.

    Also,as I have fully pointed out, as a very experienced city rider, that it can be much safer, if done properly to carry momentum through a stop sign or stop light.
    I yield properly, while still ilegally , downtown all day. It keeps me alive.
    It is one of the ways I make it through my work day.
    I would not expect you to either believe, nor understand this until you have been put into the position.
    Yet, I must say, in truth, the statementof running stop signs and lights is idiotic.
    While yielding is , once again, the smartest thing that can be done right now for cycling in Portland...

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  • Chakra Lu May 18, 2006 at 7:01 am

    stopping, slowing down, focus on bikes and not the cars...
    forget that. i have missed being hit so many times in downtown going to work because a car, sometimes police cars no less, have not stopped at a red light when they wanted to turn right on red. i have made eye contact with these cars, and they just insist on being jerks. what if that was a pedestrian in the crosswalk? oh, yeah, almost gotten hit being a pedestrian. point is, cops focus more on ticketing the bikes, or pulling them over more than cars, eventhough cars would do more human body damage than a bike could a car or person. so, if you want to change ordinance, can we start by giving tickets to the cops? or something. i'm sick and tired of these stats also...more cyclists killed by drunk drivers...that's it...cars kill...that's it...cars equal privelaged mentality...which equals spoiled brats...which then equal them hating someone for riding a bike, obeying bike survival techniques, just trying to get by. not all car owners are bad, don't get me wrong, and this be true when they would rather bike than drive. not a highly intelligent piece for me to add, just a rant, and sick of seeing stats saying it was the cyclists fault...unless the cyclists put their bike in front of the car and said kill me, i doubt it was the cyclist's fault.

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  • Greg Raisman May 18, 2006 at 11:25 am

    I'd like to add a couple of comments about statistics:

    1) It's true that bicycle and pedestrian crashes are underreported. However, it's also true that as crashes become more severe, the likelihood that they'll be reported goes up. For example, we hear of about 5 "property damage only" crashes each year, we know there are a lot more than that. On the other hand, 100% of bicycle fatalities are reported. Here's how reported bike crashes broke down in the 90's in terms of severity.

    Fatal 14
    Incapacitating Injury 227
    Nonincapaitating Injury 611
    Pain 659
    No Injury 40
    Grand Total 1551

    2) In terms of "fault", if you look at all reported bicycle crashes in the City of Portland between 1985 and 2002:

    -- For all reported bicycle crashes, the cyclist was at fault 53% of the time and the motorist 47% of the time
    -- When you look at kid involved crashes (under 18), 73% of kids are at fault
    -- When you look at just adult involved crashes, the numbers reverse and 47% of the time the cyclist was at fault at 53% of the time the motorist was at fault

    I have a few observations. We're all people. Regardless of how we choose to get around the city, it doesn't change the character of who we are as a person. As people, we have fallabilities: we can't see around corners to tell if something is coming that we will collide with, we can't change our nervous system to speed our reaction time. The most important statistic is the number of people getting hurt and dieing in our streets. The biggest single thing that can reduce that number is to have safer, slower, more courteous roadway users.

    It doesn't cease to amaze me that when I talk with self-identified "motorists", it's always the "cyclists" fault. Vice versa is true when I
    talk with "cyclists". To me, the reality is that we're all people. We all hold responsibility and the power to reduce the number of tragedies.

    Here's a little tidbit: The most recent Urban Transportation Monitor reports that 2005 had more traffic fatalities than any year since 1990 (43,200 people died in 2005). They estimate that the political inertia that is
    slowing the ability to enact traffic safety measures (engineering, education, and enforcement) resulted in 20,000 people dieing last year.

    The good news is that we're on the right track in Portland. This is the State of Traffic Safety presentation that was given at the 2005
    Transportation Safety Summit last October that outlines good trends and areas of concern.

    http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=99329

    3) Kids are at fault more often because of where they are in life. As adults, we have the greatest ability to reduce the number of kids who get hit. Fortunately, in our city, between 1991 and 2002, we saw a 300% reduction in the number of kids who were hit. Even more telling is that of the kid crashes we did have, we saw a 300% reduction in the proportion of those that were serious injuries. Below is a table that demonstrates this trend:

    Kid Crash by Year.pdf

    The type of development issues that create special challenges for kids, usually playing out as a dart out situation, include:

    -- Kids (up to about 4th grade) periphreal vision is about 30% smaller than ours
    -- Kids can't tell the speed of an object in a constant form. So, if a dog is running at them and it's ears are flopping and body is changing shape they do a good job telling how fast it's coming. A car keeps the same shape as it moves (seniors also have this issue as their cornea starts to flatten)
    -- Kids have sound perception issues where a sound will come from the left and they look right
    -- Kids (up to about 1st grade) will look at the front of a car and see two big eyes (lights) and a big smiley face (grill). They look at the front of a car and think they're making eye contact

    4) Below is the report that Lt. Kruger referenced in his comments above.

    Bike Fatals Police Report.pdf

    Thank you for making our city a better place by riding your bike. Please
    ride safely.

    Thanks.

    Greg Raisman
    Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership
    Portland Office of Transportation
    (503) 823-1052

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  • Randy May 18, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    Greg - I think that most cyclists are well aware of the risks of cycling in the urban environment, and behave accordingly both when they ride and when they get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, so you're preaching to the choir here.

    Motorists kill many more of themselves/each other every year than they do cyclists, and dead cyclists can't testify on their own behalf.

    So my question to you is: what are PDOT and PPD doing to educate and enforce against those motorists who don't bicycle, and who create the risks that prevent more people from bicycling in the urban environment?

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  • Eddie May 19, 2006 at 11:27 am

    Mark, in 37 above said: [[Eddie sez: ” He makes a good point that running signs/lights is a fairly safe thing to do!”

    Safe? No. What you mean is that running red lights/signs is less deadly than some other behavior.]]

    There is no "safe" behavior. Stay in bed under the covers and you'll die of bedsores and cardiovascular disease. 4.2 deaths(24x 0.58 x 30%) in 11 years from hundreds of thousands of cases of cyclists running signs/lights is reasonably safe.

    As stated by the Lieutenant 1 biker was killed when a motorist ran a red light, but he did not say how many bikers were killed at lights/signs when both car and bike were acting legally. For example, when the car driver hit the biker because they didn't see them. That is an important statistic - not only for fatal accidents, but also for nonfatal ones and we need that data. If it is a fairly high number of accidents then behavior at light/signs needs to be modified. You cannot modify car driver behavior but you can modify biker behavior by allowing them to go when it is clear and not have to stop and wait.

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  • Matt P. May 22, 2006 at 11:30 am

    Quick comment on the first post, regarding "massive" enforcement against motorists:

    This is an accurate comment from the police perspective. Remember, we're talking about the traffic division - the whole city. From a numbers standpoint, in tickets issued, officers assigned, money spent: the division performs far more enforcement against cars than bicycles - I don't know the numbers, but it's probably 90% or more. Think about the number of bike stings in the last 6 months - there were what? Maybe a dozen stings? That's 12 days (probably about 6 hours each, which actually is 3 days) out of 180, which is less than 10%. From the perspective of "city-wide, 24/7", the enforcement spent on cars *is* "massive".

    Michael says that he hasn't seen an enforcement action at that intersection, ever. Michael - how much of a given 24 hour day do you spend at that intersection? I can prove that the City of Portland doesn't clean the streets because I've never seen a street sweeper in the last 18 months. Does that mean that sweepers don't exist? Just a point to consider.

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  • Michael May 22, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    Matt, are you trying to bait me?

    Of course I have not viewed the horrible intersection of SE 39th and Hawthorne 24 hours/day. I do have a good viewing of it about 30 minutes/day 3 or 4 times/week and have for several years. The violations that occur there are rampant at that time in mid-afternoon. It can be counted on that one or more red light running violations will occur with most cycles of the lights.

    I have lived in Portland for nearly 30 years. When I arrived here, from California, I was delighted in how friendly, safe, courteous, and law-abiding the drivers were. Unlike California, where the term "California stop" was derived for fudging at stop signs, almost everyone stopped fully at stop signs and red lights. It was rare to see accelleration at a yellow, let alone a red light, as is too common today. Most residential intersections did not have, or even require stop signs. Folks drove slower and yielded politely at the many uncontrolled intersections.

    Civility on the streets has declined precipitously in the past few years. Aggressive driving, speeding, running lights and signs, etc have become the norm, not the exception. Why has this happened? I expect there are many reasons, one is many of the awful California drivers now make this their home, but there is more to it than that.

    The flaunting of simple rules of the road that make road use safe and civil for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians has become endemic. Public education may help. Every means of delivering the message might be fully engaged - TV, radio, billboards, schools, and especially law enforcement.

    There is more to this than just safety - it is a quality of life issue. I hate having to use the busier Portland streets with either a car or a bike. It is so stressful as to be a major pain in the ass. Because of this, even after decades of near total bike commuting, I have all but abandoned my car and bike for my feet and a bus. Even on foot is getting bad with aggressive drivers deliberatly threatening me or carelessly not looking, as well as the common light and sign running.

    I am all for a HUGE city wide campaign to teach and enforce the largely reasonable rules of the road - for bikes and motorist alike.

    If I can engage old-codger mode, when I grew up in the 50's, in Denver, people simply did not speed or run lights/signs. Even 5 mph over was too much. Why? You would and did get a ticket. It was a fact of life. If there was ever an error and you did run one, you were looking in the mirror for blocks for the flashing lights of the police. As a result of this, the rules were largely obeyed, and a safer and saner driving experience was the rule, not the exception. Another huge benefit of this was the law was seen as reasonable, and it was the belief that if you broke the law, you would get caught. This idea became internalized and had a broader impact on people. I think that enforcing the "small" laws has a significant impact on the way people obey the "big" laws. I recall that New York City did some research on this a few years ago and the impact was clearly positive.

    Enough of my blathering on...

    Matt, my guess is you are a cop. When I see you stopping a traffic violator I cheer you on. I just wish you would stop about 1000% more of these idiots. However, if you ticket me on my bike for doing a trackstand stop claiming I did not stop, I will see you in court about it. If it was you who ticketed my son for turning left without signaling in a dead quiet neighborhood in the middle of the night, shame on you.

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  • Greg Raisman May 22, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    Randy: Thanks for the question. Here is a high-level summary of the services provided related to motorist traffic enforcement. As you know, we are very committed to reducing the number of people who die and get hurt in our streets. Traffic safety initiatives include engineering, education, and enforcement solutions. As we move forward, we will continue to focus our energy on reducing crashes for people who are motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

    Portland Police Bureau issued citations in the following categories during 2005:

    DUII Arrests: 2,194
    Speed Citations: 43,062
    Moving Violations: 27,859
    Total Moving Violations: 73,115

    Pedestrian Citations: 4,000 (2,720 from TriMet Police)
    Driving while Suspended: 9,801
    PUC Cite (e.g., freight related): 439
    Non-Moving (e.g. equiptment violations): 20,396
    No Insurance: 8,763
    Seat Belts: 4,832
    Total Non-Moving Violations: 48,231

    Total Citations: 121,346
    Parking Tags: 16,676
    Warnings: 20,524

    The Portland Office of Transportation provides a myriad of services to increase motorist compliance with their responsibilities. These include, but are not limited to:

    -- Providing pedestrian crosswalk safety presentation to over 3000 people during the past year
    -- Deploying traffic calming measures citywide
    -- Attending an average of 2 neighborhood meetings each week to discuss traffic safety
    -- Coordinating Crosswalk Enforcement Actions and Intersection Safety Enforcement Actions with the Portland Police
    -- Funding training for Police related to bicycle and motorist enforcement issues
    -- Leading the "I Share the Road" campaign
    -- Coordinating the DUII Task Force that is directing work PSU is conducting to write a multi-agency DUII Implementation Strategy
    -- Coordinating with PSU the development of a Strategic and Focussed Enforcement Implementation Strategy
    -- Providing research and programatic advice related to Red Light Cameras and Photo Enforcement
    -- Facilitating the Portland Transportation Safety Summit attended by more than 200 people
    -- Deploying speed reader boards throughout the city (program to begin within 2 months)
    -- Coordinating with ODOT to provide public messaging around safe driving

    Thanks.

    Greg Raisman
    Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership
    Portland Office of Transportation
    (503) 823-1052

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  • Randy May 27, 2006 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks, Greg, but I'm looking for specific examples of education and enforcement efforts aimed at motorists regarding their driving behavior in the vicinity of cyclists, which you still haven't provided.

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  • Eddie June 24, 2006 at 1:41 pm

    Dr.Ross in post #34 above said: "Lets not get sidetracked with non-bicycling disussion regarding Lt. Kruger. Lets stay focused on how we can improve bicycle safety yet find ways to improve bicycle riding effiency with the information he has provided."

    Excellent idea and one that will not be helped one iota by the cops giving tickets to cyclists running signs and lights. If the people of Idaho can understand this I think Oregonians should be able to comprehend it as well.

    Every cyclist should do what he/she feels is safest even if it is "illegal" according to motor vehicle law. Bicycles are not motor vehicles and motor vehicle laws do not work for bicycles. Yesterday I accidently rode my bike the wrong way on a one way street. It was safe - there were no cars - I was in congested traffic getting nervous - and I saw that street with no cars so I took it without thinking then I noticed it was one way and I was immediately scared I'd get a ticket. For what? For doing the SAFE (but illegal) thing on a bicycle - by staying out of the way of cars. Fortunately no cops saw me and I got back on track at the next intersection and started mixing it up with the cars, buses, trucks, and MAX trains so I'd be "legal". Pretty stupid, eh? The only time a cyclist should be cited for traffic violations is when someone is hurt by a negligent cyclist - motor vehicle rules work for motor vehicles but are more likely to hurt cyclists than to help them.

    The Lieutenant said: "A great deal of effort goes into suggesting that bikes running stops signs et al is relatively harmless compared to the damage that can be done by a motorist who does the same thing."

    The people of Idaho agree that bikes running stop signs is relatively harmless. The Lieutenants own statistics prove conclusively that it is relatively harmless: 30% of 58% of 24 fatalaties due to the cyclist running a stop sign in 11 years - that's 0.38 deaths per year from this activity that happens thousands of times per day. I suspect there are more deaths per year than that due to cyclists following the law and stopping at signs/lights because then they are surrounded by cars that generally are not looking for bikes. Let's get the law changed. There is no legitimate argument for not doing so.

    The Lieutenant said: "A couple of important points that I would like to make are regarding why we conduct the enforcement that we do." The Lieutenant failed to make his case. He gave no sound reasons for harassing cyclists. The PPD is harming their relationship with the community by continuing to harass cyclists.

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  • Steve June 24, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Eddie, in #49 above, got it right. Let's change the law.

    Does anyone know if work is being done to get it changed?

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  • Steve June 24, 2006 at 11:51 pm

    Jessica in #31 above said: "I don’t think that most cyclists believe that bikes should be given carte blanche to break any law they want when it results in serious danger to themselves and others. For example, this morning I saw two cyclists riding wrong-way on the MAX tracks, and I think most cyclists would agree that that might be one of those times when a ticket or warning would be appropriate."

    I disagree in two ways. First, bicycles need the freedom to do whatever is safest for them. If they harm someone else then give them tickets just like car drivers. Running red lights will generally only harm the cyclist and not others if they do not look first to see if it is safe. Second, riding the wrong way on the MAX tracks is very safe. You can see and hear a MAX train coming for a very long way so cyclists should be encouraged to ride on the MAX tracks when there are no trains nearby. They would be like bike trails: no cars. You would have to be careful to prevent getting your tires stuck in the rail slot and falling, but as far as traffic safety goes, the MAX track would be excellent for bikes. Ditto for riding the wrong way on streets - if there are no cars on that street it should be encouraged- if a car comes, the bike can move to the other side of the street or get on the sidewalk if necessary.

    As Eddie said in post 49 above, "... motor vehicle rules work for motor vehicles but are more likely to hurt cyclists than to help them."

    This discussion should stick to cyclist safety, not "following the rules." If something is safe for bikes and does no harm, but is illegal for cars, bikes should be allowed to do it.

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  • Jonathan Maus June 26, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    Steve said:

    "Does anyone know if work is being done to get it changed?"

    At this point the only official word I've heard is that the BTA is "looking into pursuing this for the 2007 legislative session".

    I'm not sure what the process is to start a grassroots effort but it seems to me that there's enough support to do so.

    I can tell you that both Mark Lansing (the guy who got this law passed in Grants Pass Oregon) and I both advocate for this law in our upcoming columns in Oregon Cycling and The Bicycle Paper magazines.

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  • John January 11, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I wish that the few people who need to ride their bicycle on Portland streets could take the long view regarding traffic. You are exposing drivers and yourselves to accidents where 10 years or so ago the problem didn't exist. The bicyclists are mostly young males who seem to feel a need to show the world their machismo. I think it's wierd and dangerous.

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