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Update from bike day in court

Posted by on November 6th, 2006 at 3:29 pm

As I write this, bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg is doing battle in the Multnomah County Courthouse in downtown Portland.

He is fighting the questionable tickets of ten cyclists.

BikePortland.org correspondent Elly Blue was there this morning and said that unfortunately the judge of the day is Gregg Lowe, the same guy who upheld the fixed-gear ticket against Ayla Holland and has proven by his demeanor and judgments to have a less-than clear understanding of bicycles.

Matt Davis from the Portland Mercury was in attendance and just wrote on their blog,

“Ginsberg was visibly disappointed when Judge Lowe emerged from the doorway behind the bench”

The first case of the day went against cyclist Tori Bortman. The judge ruled with the cop, who maintained that Tori rode into the far lane when making a right hand turn, instead of the nearest lane like the statute requires.

Then there was the case involving veteran PDOT employee Jeff Smith. Smith was ticketed for leaving the bike lane to make a left-hand turn while riding west on Main Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues downtown. According to Elly, this case was full of drama.

PDOT Bike Coordinator Roger Geller testified on Smith’s behalf saying that leaving the bike lane in that circumstance was, “completely reasonable.”

The court ruled in favor of Smith, and subsequently dismissed a very similar case brought by another PDOT employee, Dat Nguyen.

Right now, the fixed-gear cases are being tried and bike activist Carl Larson is sitting in as an observer. I hope to have reports from both Carl and more perspectives on the day from Elly Blue soon.

Davis will publish all the verdicts later today.

As expected, donut support was provided. Davis reports on the Mercury Blog that,

“Outside the courthouse, other bikers offered free donuts and coffee to passing cyclists in support of their friends (two bicycle cops passing on the sidewalk turned them down). They gave out fliers saying: “We understand that the Traffic Division has an important role in promoting traffic safety and we think the most important priorities for furthering safety are preventing speeding and drunk drivers.”

I’ll try and update you as best as I can once I get reactions from defendants and from Ginsberg. Stay tuned…

NOTE: At BikePortland, we love your comments. We love them so much that we devote many hours every week to read them and make sure they are productive, inclusive, and supportive. That doesn't mean you can't disagree with someone. It means you must do it with tact and respect. If you see an inconsiderate or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan and Michael

  • Lynne November 6, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    I’m glad the court ruled in favor of the left-turning cyclists.

    Does 814.420 (3) not specifically call out that cyclists may leave the bike lane to make a left turn?

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  • Elly November 6, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    The citation was for merging into the left lane several blocks ahead of a left turn (or “blocks and blocks” according to the DA).

    The judge made it clear that his not guilty verdict was only because of the particular circumstances of this case. He was concerned that a general ruling might dismantle the whole institution of bike lanes. Not such a bad thing…bike lanes would then become the amenity they ought to be rather than the screaming grey area that they are…

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  • adam November 6, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    bike lanes should be bigger, idiots.(not you, bike friends, I am talking about the cops and the judges). ride on, be careful in the dark and rainy portland winter. AVOID CARS at all COSTS.

    and, get some lights.

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  • jeff November 6, 2006 at 6:50 pm

    Many thanks to Elly, Carl, & the other shifties for moral support & donut-type sustenance — not to mention Mr. Ginsberg, without who we would all be at the mercy of the cops’ ticket-writing whims.

    Apologies to the fixie crew, who had to wait around until the afternoon for their cases to come up. Hope it went OK, but it was looking bad for the good guys when i left around 3pm…

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  • adam November 6, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    GREGG LOWE. I want to debate gregg lowe on the merits of why he should be fired immediately.

    Here is my opening presentation.

    1. you are wasteful. bothering cyclist is expensive. every day that GREGG LOWE wastes bothering our community costs our community about 15000. and, we pay that *edited*.

    2. you are *edited*. you made this case yourself but I will cite as many examples as needed at our debate.

    3. you are , well. I have said enough…for now

    GREGG LOWE – I will debate you about any thing at any time. your rules, your venue, your “facts”

    any time, any place, GREGG LOWE. you have just been called out, *edited*. you are clearly unqualified to be a judge in OUR CITY.

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  • ben November 6, 2006 at 7:25 pm

    theres one part of my commute that i almost always merge left “blocks and blocks” ahead of my turn…..and i like to think its for good reason.

    the rush hour traffic that comes screaming down halsey and weilder (near 102nd) isn’t something i like to toy with. the way i see it is: i have 6 blocks before i have to make my turn….and i choose to merge when its the safest (i.e. – when theres a nice big break in traffic). sometimes i merge over after one block, sometimes after 5.

    i’m sure if the judge/DA/whomever rode along with me and saw/felt what it was like trying to cross over two lanes of traffic with cars doing 30 to 45mph, they would sympathize.

    i don’t think anyone (drivers included) want me to:

    A.) cut them off at the last minute (especially considering i’m going much slower than them).


    B.) having to stop in the bike lane, wait for a break in traffic, and then attempt to push my loaded touring bike from a stand-still across two lanes BEFORE someone else comes barreling down.

    it’s a danger for EVERYONE.

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  • Carl November 6, 2006 at 7:48 pm

    There will be more said about this later, Ben, but the options you describe leave out the one that a PPD officer who testified today thinks “cyclists” should take: Go straight through the intersection, hugging the right side, dismount, wait for the light to change, and walk your bike across the crosswalk…which, in my opinion, makes you a “pedestrian,” having been denied your rights as a “cyclist.” It was a frustrating day.

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  • ben November 6, 2006 at 7:57 pm


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  • ben November 6, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    we all know that the officer himself would never make a habit of such a procedure.

    who gets on their bike only to think, “MAN, i can’t WAIT to start walking this!” ?

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  • Gregg November 6, 2006 at 8:56 pm

    How is it that so many PDOT employees are involved in this? Where is this office nabbing people?

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  • stereo November 6, 2006 at 9:12 pm

    Indymedia has a story about this judges objectivity, or lack thereof…


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  • the foot November 6, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    Jonathan, et al,

    This is a great site and I know you need to make money to keep it going, but the big, ugly reminds-me-of-TV ads are downright offensive. It may sound silly, but those ads make me not want to visit the site.

    How about another set of Google ads in that spot? Or try some Yahoo ads for variety. They are more targeted at your audience (more $$ maybe?), less obtrusive, an not so damn ugly.

    [PS Feel free to delete this.]

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  • ben November 6, 2006 at 10:13 pm

    those ads are pretty bummercloud

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  • BURR November 6, 2006 at 10:27 pm

    I’ve seen forums that are set up so that, if you make a donation of $25, you no longer have to view the ads.

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  • BURR November 6, 2006 at 10:30 pm

    Back on topic, it’s great that those left turn tickets were thrown out, the cop that thinks you should walk your bike in a cross walk to make a left turn should not be in the traffic division. BTW, did anyone see the picture of Marty Rowley, the current Traffic Division Commander, pepper spraying a cyclist in last Tuesday’s Tribune? One picture is worth a thousand words.

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  • Jonathan Maus November 6, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    RE: the ads.

    “the foot” and ben, I agree with you that those ads suck. It’s been bugging me for a while now and I appreciate your feedback.

    I’ve taken them down and I will replace them with something else.

    They were making me some solid daily cash so I hope whatever I choose to put in their place does just as well.

    I will post more about my adventures in online advertising soon, so please keep all your thoughts for that post and try and keep this thread on topic.


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  • Cate November 7, 2006 at 12:19 am

    Jonathan, I don’t notice the ads, but I do notice that you haven’t set your clock back to standard time yet. :-)

    And yes, seriously off-topic…

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  • adam November 6, 2006 at 11:51 pm

    if anyone knows a better way for me to challenge that ignorant judge besides calling him out on this site, I would like to hear it.

    ads or not, I love this site. keep up the great work. on topic.

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  • jeff November 7, 2006 at 7:18 am

    Jonathan, I can’t say i like looking at the ads either, but if they’re needed to keep you & BikePortland up & running then i say no worries, i can look around ’em.

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  • Jo Routens November 7, 2006 at 9:07 am

    I’ve ridden fixed gears on and off since 1971.
    These youngsters will thank that judge when they suddenly find that they’re 50 years old and their knees still work because they stopped trying to use them as brakes! There are reasons of pure personal self-interest to use brakes on a fixie.

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  • BLDZR November 7, 2006 at 9:44 am

    a side comment about appearing in court. I’ve noticed from the pictures of Ayla and Nerf, that they don’t seem to think it’s necessary to respect the court by dressing appropriately. Is Ginsberg not advising them of the fact that judges are petty and superficial? They honestly want to see you treat them as superiors, and appear neat and clean, in respectable clothes when coming before them.

    Some may think this is a petty issue, but it makes a LOT of difference. Any time that I have had to appear in court, I have dressed respectfully (not in a suit, like a criminal, but in a collared shirt, maybe a tie or sweater depending on weather) and always addressed the court as “your honor.” dotting all your i’s and crossing your t’s is a good way to get the judge to look at you as a responsible citizen. showing up in a t-shirt or tank top is a good way to get the judge to look down on you as a scofflaw.

    In order to get respect, you have to give it.

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  • noelle November 7, 2006 at 9:44 am

    Regarding the ads:

    Just download greasemonkey here:


    then travel to userscripts.org and install the “ad blocker” userscript, and any other ad-removing userscript you want. It will change your life, not to mention the way you view the internet.

    If someone hadn’t mentioned it, I wouldn’t have known there were ads here.

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  • SKiDmark November 7, 2006 at 10:07 am

    Respect should come from actions not attire.

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  • jeff November 7, 2006 at 10:39 am

    “Respect should come from actions not attire.”

    Should, but doesn’t.

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  • Carl November 7, 2006 at 10:47 am

    It is interesting to note that the two defendants who got off (both on the same charge), were dress shirt-wearing city employees. It’s not that simple, I know, but there was definitely a fashion divide, there.

    With regards to the ads: discuss them in Jonathan’s notices and feedback forum, not here.

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  • Russell November 7, 2006 at 11:06 am

    Reading about Judge Lowe makes me less proud to be a Portlander. While I understand the link to the OHSU case was one sided, what I read was pretty disturbing. It’s always a bit depressing to watch representatives of the city waste my money.

    I agree Greasemonkey and Firefox are the cure to the ads without cutting off a revenue source for the site.

    Sorry Carl if you don’t approve of some off topic observations/pointers in a thread, but if it bothered Jonathan being that this is his site, I have no doubt he could act as the thread police all on his own. If it bothers you, perhaps you could post about it in the notices and feedback forum, not here?

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  • adam November 7, 2006 at 11:27 am

    if you want a brake on YOUR fixie, please put one on. if I do not want another brake on my fixie, don’t hassle and ticket me. If I get killed because I could not stop, then, my bad.

    I could not help but to notice that GREGG LOWE appears to be the victim of both obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. No wonder that the judges hates those beautiful messenger legs and bottoms. he is jealous and resentful.

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  • SKIDmark November 7, 2006 at 11:56 am

    Again with the knee fallacy. Some of these messenger “youngsters” are approaching 40. If you ride a decently low gear, like low enough to facilitate stopping without the assistance of a caliper brake, you don’t have knee pain. I don’t have knee pain. Maybe your seat height was never right.

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  • the foot November 8, 2006 at 1:52 am

    People like BLDZR have got it all wrong. Though some of what s/he’s saying may be “true” in some sense, it’s completely and utterly “wrong”.

    “In order to get respect, you have to give it.”

    Maybe or maybe not[1], but I know *for sure* that wearing a certain type of clothes does not equal respect in any way, shape, or form. It is equal to one thing: conformity. For example, when I dressed up for a recent wedding, I didn’t feel respectful, I felt bullied. I spent money I didn’t really have for things I don’t need for exactly zero benefit to anyone (except, I guess, the egos of those that insist so strongly).

    Not only does people’s choice of attire not indicate respect, it might actually indicate a lack of respect, in a general sense. People don’t respect each other enough to “live and let live”, even when there’s “no harm done”.

    And there’s an interesting parallel here between this and all these bikers being harassed. Do you see it? Should they all just conform? Even though they’re not harming anyone and are actually creating a net benefit in the community. Should they conform because certain parties just don’t “get it” and can’t be bothered to show a little *respect* (just enough to show a little consideration for people making different but completely valid choices).

    You might think I’m getting carried away, but as a society we really need to move forward from this way of thinking. It permeates everything, and so much of our interaction and goals are superficial and petty. So much wasted energy and effort, time and money for so-called respect and surrogates for real happiness.

    Don’t get me wrong, though, I think respect is great, essential even, but I prefer mine “straight up”, not twisted and hidden behind a facade.

    [1] I wonder, who will go first in this way of thinking? You can’t get respect until you give it, but you can’t give it until someone gives it to you first because otherwise, assuming the other person has to follow the same rule, s/he’d have it without giving it, but s/he can’t give it to you because then you’d have it without giving it.

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  • BLDZR November 8, 2006 at 7:05 am

    “Don’t get me wrong, though, I think respect is great, essential even, but I prefer mine “straight up”, not twisted and hidden behind a facade.”

    And you are not a judge. I’m not even saying that attire equals respect, but that Judges are petty and self important. If you go into their courtroom (and despite any BS about how the court belongs to the people, when you are in a courtroom, you are in the JUDGE’S domain, not your own.) looking like a sweathog, and expecting the judge to appreciate your understanding and uniqueness, you’ll be sorely disappointed. This isn’t about who you are or what you stand for…

    ..It’s about having some damned MANNERS.

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  • Wyatt November 8, 2006 at 8:13 am

    Manners…is that like chivalry?

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  • pdxcommuter November 8, 2006 at 9:15 am

    In answer to Adam’s question about challenging Judge Lowe: if the judge is elected, then recall him. If he is appointed, then he is appointed by someone who is elected. Recall him/her/them.

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  • […] A few minutes ago I passed a pretty neat milestone. I received the 10,000th comment since my very first post on BikePortland.org back on July 29, 2005. […]

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  • SKIDmark November 8, 2006 at 10:59 am

    We’re supposed to have manners, and meanwhile the Police can hand-pick the judge they want to hear the case. WTF?

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  • Jonathan Maus November 8, 2006 at 11:02 am

    Just FYI, the process of choosing the judge for the day was completely legal and normal. The cops did not technically “hand-pick” the judge. I don’t understand the process completely myself yet, but I do know that there was no foul play involved.

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  • […] Like any emerging issue, bicycling occupies an uncertain and even an unknown territory. In the courtroom yesterday it was clear that the judge, the DA, and most of the police officers present have not been on a bicycle in their adult lives. In fact, everything about the day’s proceedings can be read in light of participants’ understanding, or lack thereof, of the mechanics and practicalities of bicycling. […]

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  • adam November 8, 2006 at 2:11 pm

    ok, well, if someone wants to recall the judge, I will support your efforts. for me, I do not have time right now to deal with the system to deal with the system.

    I just want to debate him, publically. if I get that, I will stop calling him overweight, mentally slow, etc.

    I assume he has a J.D, he should not be afraid of me. or, should he?

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  • the foot November 8, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    “…and despite any BS about how the court belongs to the people, when you are in a courtroom, you are in the JUDGE’S domain, not your own.”

    No, this is our domain, our system–it belongs to all of us, and we all have some responsibility for what it is and influence over what it can be. Instead of taking the “easy way”, how about let’s “take the power back.” We can start with some simple things, like not being afraid to wear the clothes we choose (you know, choice–as in “freedom”). Then we can move on…

    “…looking like a sweathog, and expecting the judge to appreciate your understanding and uniqueness, you’ll be sorely disappointed.”

    Everyone understands this, so need to act we’re all naive or something. On the other hand, you’re making assumptions and projecting stereotypes. That’s not particularly productive either.

    “This isn’t about who you are or what you stand for…”

    Bullshit. It most definitely is. On many levels. And if it isn’t, then tell me, what exactly were some (all?) of those people doing in that courtroom if not standing up for their rights (and ours too)?

    “…It’s about having some damned MANNERS.”

    You’re point is confusing. Attire isn’t respect but attire is MANNERS. Aren’t MANNERS and the type of “respect” you’re advocating essentially the same thing?

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  • Dabby November 9, 2006 at 12:51 am

    Bldozer has it exactly right.
    I just got through posting a comment under Elly’s article, with my thoughts echoing Bill’s on the matter of dressing for court.
    In traffic court , your first impression is the only one you get. The judge is wearing a robe. Your lawyer is wearing a suit. The ladies are dressed respectfully.
    The only people that aren’t are the guy’s they just pulled out of the jail cells. Heck, most of the time they let them wear suits!
    Bldzer is 100 percent right.
    No question.

    More about this

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  • Dabby November 9, 2006 at 1:07 am

    It seems to me that “The Foot” here needs to be inserted in ” The Mouth”……

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  • SKiDmark November 9, 2006 at 10:06 am

    So can a lawyer pick their judge? Can I pick my judge? Jonathan, legal or not, you have to admit that it gives them the upper hand, as usual.

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  • emily November 9, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    I agree with Bill that dressing respectably in court is important, maybe especially for bike messengers, who many seem to regard as engaging in criminal behavior most of the time. I appeared in court Monday wearing brown corduroy slacks in good repair and a light blue oxford shirt, the only shirt with long sleeves I have that fits over the cast on my broken arm. My hair was clean and brushed. I took a bath the night before and applied deoderant (lavendar-scented) in the morning. I still lost my case.

    As for the process of affidaviting judges, it’s not so much a question of the DA or police officers engaging in sneaky behavior that defense attorneys don’t have access to, it’s them objecting specifically to a judge who rides a bicycle and objecting to him for that reason. So we end up with judges who don’t seem to know much about cycling. And that’s a huge problem.

    A side note on Tori Bortman’s case and my severely broken wrist: I crashed my bike crossing wet streetcar tracks, turning onto Stark from the center lane of SW 10th. I never ride in the track lane and always try to cross perpendicular, or as close to that as possible. My rear wheel just slid out and I crashed terribly. It all happened in a split second. My orthopedist alone has seen 4 other patients in the last week or two who have all crashed their bikes on wet streetcar tracks. It is wise to avoid them (as well as manhole covers, or whatever they’re called now) even when conditions are dry–it gets you in the habit.

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  • Dabby November 9, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    Sadly, it does not matter where the tracks are, if you turn from one wrong lane into another wrong lane, it is against the law.
    I do this alot, and I would accept and pay for the ticket I would receive for doing so.
    It is one thing to fight a ticket due to a badly worded ordinance.
    It is a whole other thing to be in the wrong, and use someone elses time and resources to fight it.
    Suck it up and pay the ticket.
    I am sorry about your wrist in the track incident Emily. This has been of course a problem forever in this town.
    I beleive it was the great John Tomac who, during a crit in old town, went down on what I still call the “Tomac Track”, the lego looking, plasticy covers used in many spots in our town.
    I recall he swore he would never race here again, due to the damage he recieved from this wreck.
    Tracks are a fact of life here, and sadly, you either learn to ride them, or you take another street.
    You do not make them your personal soapbox.
    Nor do you waste the finances of our already stretched judical system fighting a losing battle.

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  • NeRf November 10, 2006 at 12:19 am

    bill i don’t own anything nice enough, i dressed in the cleanest clothes i had… i can’t believe i’m tryin to defend my fucking clothing choice…i ean i live in portland its not like we’re paid enough to look clean

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  • SKiDmark November 10, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    C’mon Nerf, you know you should have bought a nice Brooks Brothers suit for the trial instead of spending all that money on your Land Shark. You could totally mess(enger) with a Huffy.

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  • […] In addition to the well-publicized and unresolved fixed-gear bicycle issue, allegations of selective enforcement are still being made, especially by downtown messengers who feel they’re being unfairly targeted for both fixed-gears and other “ticky-tack” violations. Bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg recently spent an entire day (and then some) in Multnomah County Court trying a slew of bike tickets. Did it really have to come to that? […]

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  • Dan Porter November 22, 2006 at 9:43 am

    I received the latest issue of “Dirtrag” in the mail yesterday. I flipped it open and it fell right to a page talking about ‘Portlands fixed gear issues” submitted by none other than Mr. Maus himself.

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