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Update on enforcement statistics and perception

Posted by on November 27th, 2006 at 3:37 pm

My Perceptions of enforcement post last week spurred some interesting discussion. Curious about how the perception of my readers differed from the reality of statistics, I asked for people to guess how many tickets were written to bicyclists last month.

Of the 74 comments the average guess was around 60.

As promised, here are the official October stats from the Traffic Division of the Police Bureau:

  • 2211 moving violations to motorists
  • 2366 photo radar speed cites issued
  • 145 DUII arrests
  • 20 cites to pedestrians
  • 18 cites to bicyclists

This tells me the perception among some people in the bike community of the amount of tickets being written to cyclists is unduly high when compared with the actual statistics.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you โ€” Jonathan

  • adam November 27, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    so, my guess of at least 1 wins, right? how many winners did we have?

    new game.

    how much time did the bike community spend fighting these tickets?

    then, add, the amount of money OUR public servants spent prosecuting these crimes.



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  • gabrielamadeus November 27, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    so if my calculations are correct, and it’s likely that they’re not,

    only .37% of the total tickets issued were for bicyclists. The numbers also show that roughly 4.6% of trips made in portland are made by bike.

    What does this tell us?
    a) the police should issue way more bike tickets
    b) bikers are extremely law/traffic abiding citizens


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  • Todd Boulanger November 27, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    Hmm…Adam…do not count your BikePortland gift bags just yet…I think 10 is closer to 18 than 1.

    Jonathan…you can mail my Portland prize to BikeVancouver. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  • adam November 27, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    I have already given my gift bags away.

    and, “at least 1” is a correct answer, among others…10 is not bad, though you underappreciate the amount of work the ppb does to keep our streets “safe”.

    wonder what kruger thinks about that? probably not much.

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  • shilo November 27, 2006 at 4:57 pm

    is there any way to know of those 18 tickets, how many different officers wrote them?

    my guess, no more than 3.

    I know for a fact there was a day last month where 8 cyclists (all couriers to my knowledge) got ticketed within an hour and a half.

    targeting is real.

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  • Chris D. November 27, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    Yeah, break it down.

    Of all bikers out there, what % are being ticketed?

    Same for peds and cars.

    Okay, math whizzes, let’s see the results!


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  • Jonathan Maus November 27, 2006 at 5:22 pm

    The problem is that no one knows how many bikers are “out there”.

    Bikes are much harder to count than cars and no accurate, complete statistics exist.

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  • adam November 27, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    another problem is that the PPB guards their secrets/data like, well, like they have something to hide.

    if you give me the data, I will analyze it, thoroughly.

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  • mckenzie November 27, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Lets not all wipe our collective brows just quite yet. The problem with black and white comparative statistics such as these is obvious. Without “accurate, complete statistics” its very hard to tell or deduce other important factors such as the number of bikes vs. cars on the road, number of police officers citing cars vs. bikes and reasons citations were issued and dollar amounts of each ticket, just to name a few. Unfortunately cyclists still feel too often like second class citizens in this city and many of them feel targeted based on appearance or their job which is a factor that no statistic can ever represent. Portland and its police force still have a long road to ho before they can substantiate the claim that they so commonly tout of being ‘bike friendly’.

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  • Curt November 27, 2006 at 7:04 pm

    Hey, at least we bicyclists can’t be cited by photo radar for speeding. Sweet!

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  • bjorn November 27, 2006 at 7:20 pm

    I’d be curious to have this by tickets per mile rather than ticket per trip since the average trip by bike is probably shorter than the average trip by car. Also where were the tickets issued, are these 18 downtown tickets or are they more evenly spread out.


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  • Joel November 27, 2006 at 7:57 pm

    “Hey, at least we bicyclists canโ€™t be cited by photo radar for speeding. Sweet!”

    If I were to get one, I’d pay it and ask to keep the original to frame. That’s just too good not to have on the wall.

    That said, I really have to be careful in the 20mph zone around the corner – it’s flat with no lights and a tailwind. Dangerous combination.

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  • Macaroni November 27, 2006 at 8:13 pm

    I harbor negative feelings toward police in general, but I think they are easy on us. Targets? I don’t recall any bicyclists being tazed or murdered while driving black. Or killed while walking mentally ill.

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  • Vladislav Davidzon November 27, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    So in October they didn’t do one of their stings, hence why they have such low numbers, probably because of all the outrage the stings caused from the cyclists.

    What were the counts during the months when they did the stings? Probably around 200 or so tickets altogether? Which would in fact, be disproportional enforcement.

    It is definitely nice to see that they are enforcing bikes less. But really — also what about during the summer, when there are more cyclists?

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  • gabrielamadeus November 27, 2006 at 10:28 pm

    yeah, actually I was wondering too, do we have data for other months?

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  • Jonathan Maus November 27, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    I’ll ask Kruger for the data for every month in 2006. I’m sure he’ll be happy to share it.

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  • Sam November 28, 2006 at 7:10 am

    Thank you Jonathan! I’ve been a bike commuter for six years and have never, once felt targeted. I wish we of the bike community could spend less time complaining about and making enemies in the PPB and focus on more important issues, like building good will toward bicyles, building ridership, working WITH the city and other organizations to keep streets and bike lanes clear of debris. I’ve seen enough fellow cyclists that deserve tickets, and make cyclists look bad, to feel that 18 is at all out of line. We have to follow traffic laws too if we want to be respected and taken seriously…
    I think we should all be thanking PPB for catching so many speeding, and begging them to keep it up. I don’t know about you, but to me, cars at 35 are far more bike friendly than cars at 55.

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  • jeff November 28, 2006 at 7:26 am

    “I think we should all be thanking PPB for catching so many speeding, and begging them to keep it up.”

    They should step it up, and lower the speed limits on most surface streets. I can name so many places where you could ticket 18 cars in a half hour for going 10+ over the speed limit.

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  • John Boyd November 28, 2006 at 8:23 am

    from Shilo’s post no. 5 above:

    “I know for a fact there was a day last month where 8 cyclists (all couriers to my knowledge) got ticketed within an hour and a half.”

    Huh. I received three citations from Balzer in one stop myself on 24 Oct. (5 Dec is my court date.)

    Anyone else reading that received any of the other seven?
    Perhaps the targeting is not of cyclists, but those associated with bikeportland.org!


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  • adam November 28, 2006 at 9:03 am

    Sam – I wish you would stop complaining and clean up the leaves on my street.

    “wish we of the bike community could spend less time complaining about and making enemies in the PPB and focus on more important issues, like building good will toward bicyles, building ridership, working WITH the city and other organizations to keep streets and bike lanes clear of debris.”

    wishing ain’t *edited. You have to DO something. I know it is scary and involves, you know, DOING something. you worry about debris in the streets, I am worried about other things.

    we don’t “make” enemies in the ppb – we HAVE them. it is time for them to feel the pain of collective dissatisfaction.

    thoughts? I did not think so.

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  • dayaram November 28, 2006 at 9:16 am

    As a fellow commuter of more than 12 years , I agree with Sam above. I have frustrations with BOTH cars and cyclists who can effect my safety by their poor and sometimes dangerous road behavior. I try to ride and be completly responsible for my our actions. That means that if I run a stop sign (which I do have)or ignore other traffic laws I can’t get indignant if I’m ticketed.
    I started cycling to reduce stress and be healthy. If you spend so much time being angry,and stressed out about the other road users maybe you need to look at youself not others

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  • Brad November 28, 2006 at 9:18 am

    18 cites?!

    This proves what I thought all along – cyclists are the most oppressed underclass in our society.

    I just have to laugh when I hear black people griping about how the cops suspect them of all crimes within the city limits. Or those whiny Latinos who are assumed to all be illegals. Don’t even get me started on the trivial misperceptions that Muslims with head scarves have to deal with or the so-called fears of being tasered or beaten to death the mentally ill have imagined. Equal rights and pay for women? Not until we get bike boulevards and buried freeways!

    I cried the other night when the dude that played Kramer on “Seinfeld” lit up those hecklers and screamed, “Shut up cyclists! Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up rich and you’ll still be f**king cyclists!” Sad to think that still happens in the 21st century. Why did we fight the Civil War? Why did Dr. King lead Critical Mass into Birmingham?

    No, riding a bike is suffering and pain. It’s just like apartheid in South Africa or being a Shiite in Baghdad – only much, much worse. It sickens me that our society can be so intolerant to those who blow red lights and then flip-off the first driver that honks in objection. I cannot comprehend the outrageousness of jack booted thugs in blue uniforms looking for brakes, lights, and reflective material on bikes each dark, cold and wet night of the winter. I shudder that people would get so upset when thousands of riders organize and pour onto city streets during a Friday night rush hour at 5 MPH and shout things like, “F**K you and your SUV!!!” in a smug and self-righteous manner. We didn’t ask for our ancestors and their bakfiets to be forcibly taken from the Netherlands and brought to this place. We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock. Plymouth Rock landed on us then tweaked our rims and broke some spokes!!!

    I have a dream. I have a dream that one day we will be judged not by the color of our powdercoat finishes but by the content of our gruppos.

    Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive!

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  • Doug November 28, 2006 at 10:22 am


    I’m very much interested in the month-by-month citation stats (broken down as October’s were), please post them when you get a chance.

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  • Sam November 28, 2006 at 11:48 am

    Fellow cyclists:

    I love that there are so many of you. I love that it’s not that uncommon anymore to find myself in a line of bikes on my way home from work. It distresses me to see other cyclists running stop signs and red lights (especially without even slowing down), riding down the double yellow line, riding at night without so much as a reflector, etc., etc…
    It’s difficult for me to believe that at least some of these 18 aren’t well deserved. I think that it undermines our credibility to complain about speeding motorists (something I consider a tremendous problem), but then complain when we’re ticketed for not following traffic laws ourselves. Please, stop for the red lights, and channel your energy into writing to ODOT, PDOT and the PPB, asking them to work towards keeping traffic within the posted speed limits (it’s a start!).

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  • adam November 28, 2006 at 11:53 am

    but, I want tickets. that is why I run redlights – well, that and for the reason that it is safest to get the heck away from cars….

    I have written all those agencies, many times. have you? what has been your experience, Sam, with their work?

    remember, some of the tickets that were talked about lately were to PDOT employees. of course, the tickets were dismissed because some people can choose wear a shirt and tie.

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  • steve November 28, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    The number of tickets to cyclists IS unduly high when you consider that 99% are given to cyclists who are endangering noone.

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  • Brad November 28, 2006 at 1:30 pm

    The city has an ordinance prohibiting the discharge of firearms within city limits.

    I am in Portland and I fire a gun on private property. I take great care to insure the weapon is not pointed in the direction of any living creature and the bullet impacts a energy absorbing target that captures the round whole. No one in endangered since I have followed all appropriate safety procedures.

    Have I committed a violation of the law? A simple “yes” or “no” answer will suffice.

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  • adam November 28, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    no, and, get a good lawyer.

    no more shooting from your bike, either.


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  • Carl November 28, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    The answer to your question is “yes.”

    Here’s another question:
    Given limited police resources, should you concentrate your enforcement efforts on people who are shooting their guns at targets in their back yards, or people who are shooting at others on the street?

    These are dumb questions and dumb numbers. They don’t acknowledge or address the complexity of this situation.

    Am I outraged that cops handed out 18 citations to cyclists this month? No. They probably should’ve given out more.

    Am I outraged by the fact that out of such a small number of tickets, some are for questionable lane violations and fixed gear BS? Absolutely.

    No reason to paint us all as extremists, here, Brad. I really enjoyed your facetious post. It put some folks in their place, but can’t we also aknowledge that the traffic division needs some training/priorities when it comes to bicyclists? Does that belief make me a
    selfish, delusional, crusader?

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  • shilo November 28, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    john boyd:
    sorry, I meant “in the last month” not “last month”.

    I was referring to November not October.

    damn inadequate articulation skills.

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  • Jason November 28, 2006 at 10:01 pm

    You say these are the numbers for the Traffic Division, which is quite a small division of the Portland Police Department as a whole. I wonder how their numbers compare with Central/SE/NE/North/East Precincts. Maybe you can get some numbers from them?

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  • Jonathan Maus November 28, 2006 at 10:04 pm


    The Traffic Division writes 80% of the tickets in Portland (that’s why I cover them so much…they are key part of the picture).

    I doubt the precincts write many bike tickets at all…but I’ll ask.

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  • bjorn November 29, 2006 at 2:29 am

    I am bothered most by the number of DUI’s vs the number of cyclist tickets. In the last year how many DUI drivers have killed cyclists, and how many cyclists have killed DUI drivers. I have been pulled over 1 time since I moved here in may, by a cop who wanted to warn me that I should be careful riding my bike home because there were a lot of drunks out driving around that night… (It was prom night and the cop had just come very close to hitting me as he drove by me despite my bright clothing and lights) Traffic stops should be safety based, and I’d be hard pressed to really hurt someone let alone kill someone with my bike.


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