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Year-to-date bicycle citation stats

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 29th, 2006 at 4:53 pm

I just received the bicycle citation numbers from the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division (the Traffic Division writes 80% of all tickets in the Portland metro area). I took the numbers and made a few charts.

Some things to consider when looking at these numbers:

  • The number of moving motor vehicle citations do not include photo radar tickets, which average about 3300 per month.
  • Lt. Mark Kruger says many of the bicycle citations in the early part of the year were given out for riding without lights, because they had just started their bike light program.
  • The big spike in May includes 50 tickets written on a single morning in Southeast Portland (now infamous) stop-sign enforcement mission.

Here's the chart showing just bicycle citations:

And this one shows the number of moving violations compared to bicycle citations:

I realize there's is much more to the equation than simple numbers and statistics, but I think it's good to have this information out in the open.

My contact at the Traffic Division will send me their citation stats every month from here on out.

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  • Jason November 29, 2006 at 5:34 pm

    Any way you can normalize these figures per-capita or per vehicle mile? Since there are so many fewer cyclists and cyclist miles in Portland, you would expect the citation rate to be less...but is it _relatively_ less or more?

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  • jon xor November 29, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    jason said: "Any way you can normalize these figures per-capita or per vehicle mile? Since there are so many fewer cyclists and cyclist miles in Portland, you would expect the citation rate to be less… but is it _relatively_ less or more?"

    how about per-driver, rather than per-capita? i am currently trying to find some numbers on number of motorists versus number of cyclists. sure both definitions are kind of up for grabs, but lets look at these numbers a moment.

    *very* roughly, there are about 2500 citations a month for cars and 50 for bikes. that means there are 50 times more auto-citation than bikes. now ask yourself this: do you think there are more than 50 times as many people in cars than on bikes at any given time? if the number is more than a factor of 50, i would say thats pretty unfair to the bicyclist. as a wild guess, i would say there is likely more like 1:200 or 1:300 (or am i being optimistic? 1:1000?) ratio of cyclists to motorists. sounds like a bum rap to me.

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  • ian November 29, 2006 at 7:24 pm

    first you need to look at the graph, it works out to be about 30 per month not 50.
    that 83 times more auto tickets. and I think you are being really optimistic.

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  • ian November 29, 2006 at 8:00 pm

    portland has a Population of 550, and the metro valley has about 2.1 mil and 27% of people in the burbs work in Portland.
    so 2.1-550 is 1,550,000.
    27% of 1,550,000(population of the burbs) is 418,500(number of daily commuters into portland)
    but what about people from the Cuv? cant find number but I think its fair to use the 27% stat from the burbs. Vancouver(metro) has about 250,000, so that is 67, 500 drivers.

    I have no idea the number of people in portland driving dailey, but lets be conservative and say 70%, so take the drivers in ptown and the number of commuters from the burbs and the cuv and you get almost a Million drivers rolling through town and divide that by 83..............and Holly Crap you get about 12,000 bikes, that number that was reported here that in sep 12,000 bikes crossed bridges........aren't stats great.
    so let it rest the cops give about the same amount of time to giving cyclists tickets as they do cars.

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  • firemaplegirl November 29, 2006 at 8:31 pm

    While I agree that seeing these figures normalized would be helpful, I'm not sure there is a way to do so responsibly.

    "how about per-driver, rather than per-capita?"

    I don't think either of these properly capture the ratio of tickets to mode. Common sense would tell you that a driver traveling 20 miles would generally be more likely to receive a ticket than one traveling 2 miles.

    For this reason Jason's suggestion of vehicle mile traveled (VMT) is a more appropriate way to normalize. If I remember correctly, this is a metric used for transportation planning in the region. (Sorry, my reference isn't currently at hand.) However, estimating VMT is tricky and the calculations are often disputed. This is amplified when trying to determine the modal split.

    If someone knows of existing data on VMT by mode for the region, I'd be really interested at looking at it.

    ~K

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  • Bill L November 29, 2006 at 8:46 pm

    Give the dead horse a break! be responsible for yourself and ride VERY defensively and lawfully. Be a part of change, but do it in a positive way such as the BTA.
    If you ride your bike responsibly why should you have to worry about being ticketed? gross injustices aside that is... I dont believe most of the tickets are gross injustices though. I DO believe the fixed gear issue is a prejudice, but I think if you are persistent and respectable, youll get somewhere even if it takes longer than it should. most social injustices werent easily fought. It sounds like one officer is responsible for his prejudice on this matter and I think he will be sqashed on the issue one day.
    Cyclists do need to be ticketed in my opinion, such as drivers. there are too many cyclists out there breaking the law and it makes us look bad and endangers us as well. If it takes getting a ticket to learn, then so be it. Obviously its the best educational tool for reaching the masses.
    So many of you say you knowingly break the law on your bike and youd accept the ticket (for not stopping at a stop sign, for instance), but then when stats such as this come out, youre the first ones to scream that vehicles arent getting ticketed enough as compared to cyclists. Be responsible for yourself and support positive, effective change! We can make a difference, but not with all the people screaming on this website being the same ones that blow traffic laws whenever they get on a bike, furthermore complaining when they get ticketed. Its been said on this site soooooo many times, but I guess it cant be said enough: If you want to be considered traffic and have all the benefits that come along with it, you must follow the rules of the road and quit thinking, "once car drivers follow the law, so will I".
    stop trying to figure out how these numbers break down into something that looks favorable for your demographic and start talking to your congressman if you have a constructive issue!

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  • firemaplegirl November 29, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    Bill,
    I agree that if you're a law abiding citizen that you shouldn't have to worry about being ticked or arrested. However the history of our country shows this is simply not the case. While a traffic ticket is hardly at the level of many of these atrocities, that doesn't mean we should ignore it.

    Understanding the patterns behind tickets help us understand how the law is being applied and the laws being violated. If they are just laws we should seek to educate, making the roads safer for all. If they are unjust laws we should seek to change them.

    This does not mean we can shirk personal responsibility. Cyclist, motorist or pedestrian, if you break the law you must be willing to face the consequence. This is true whether it's thoughtful civil disobedience or sheer disregard.

    Respectful, persistent action is the best way to accomplish objectives. But to suggests that analyzing the current situation has no merit is a mistake.

    ~Kristin

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  • Dabby November 29, 2006 at 11:20 pm

    Bill L.
    You do realize that your above rant was in itself, whacking the dead horse in the head with a ball-pein hammer.

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  • adam November 30, 2006 at 8:23 am

    I still do not have any tickets? can you call barnum and see when he is working?

    I can borrow a fixie from a friend, if that helps.

    write me tickets, cowards.

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  • adam November 30, 2006 at 8:27 am

    and, this is my favorite line:
    "Lt. Mark Kruger says many of the bicycle citations in the early part of the year were given out for riding without lights, because they had just started their bike light program."

    data, mark. no one trusts you nor do they trust your "conclusions".

    why the spikes? did barnum work overtime those months?

    I was interviewed to work for the ppb as an "analyst". apparently, by court order, the cops have to be better statisticians when reporting on killing innocent people and writing bike tickets. not sure who they hired but, it seems as if kruger would not know a standard deviation if I put it up his long tail, you know what I mean, Lt.

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  • adam November 30, 2006 at 8:35 am

    hahaha, Bill.

    great work by the BTA. you guys are soooo good at getting legislation done. next time I want to change the world, I will come to your meetings...nah.

    my congressman? my governor? sam adams, mayor potter, rosie, et al have done nothing to help me that I can tell.

    of course, I can take care of myself. which is why no punk cop is gonna tell me anything.

    I rode the last CM, again, with no lights. and, I told the cops who had no lights that THEY were BREAKING the law. They told me to shut up. I said, make me.

    they did not.

    go BTA!

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  • Val A Lindsay II November 30, 2006 at 9:57 am

    Bill L; Gotta agree with you, for the most part. Share the road, share the responsibility. I wonder how cyclists would feel about license plates? The money could strictly go to safer bike lanes, etc.

    FireMaplegirl; I agree with you too. No, not every transgression as you so aptly put deserved a Boston Tea Party. If a ticket was given in the wrong, it should be fought.

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  • Cecil November 30, 2006 at 10:15 am

    "I wonder how cyclists would feel about license plates?"

    My home town had an ordinance requiring bicycles to be licensed and requiring riders to pass a skills and knowledge test before the license was issued. I loved it.

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  • Tom November 30, 2006 at 11:47 am

    its great having hecklers like Adam and Dabby around. however, thats about as serious as I ever take them given their average content. humorous at best.....

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  • Andy November 30, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    How about some ancillary data?

    Month,Rainfall(in),Clear Days
    Jan,10.9,0
    Feb,2.15,5
    Mar,2.96,0
    Apr,2.46,3
    May,3.0,8
    Jun,0.93,9
    Jul,0.47,14
    Aug,0.1,14
    Sep,0.86,18
    Oct,1.4,8

    In csv :)
    No apparent relationship though.

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  • beth November 30, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    Cecil wrote:
    My home town had an ordinance requiring bicycles to be licensed and requiring riders to pass a skills and knowledge test before the license was issued. I loved it.

    Great idea, Cecil. Unfortunately, most cities and towns in the US have long since shut down their bike licensing operations because of budget and staffing cuts over the last two decades. Even the BTA's attempt at a bike registry was too much for them to handle (though I still have my BTA registry sticker on my bike, mostly out of nostalgia).

    As far as licensing and making cyclists pass safety tests, what good would that do? We already require these things of car drivers and yet there are still accidents.

    Years ago, after a disastrous accident which totalled my bike, my hand and my musical career, I got over the false notion that my safety ought to be absolutely guaranteed whenever I get on my bike. It's not guaranteed when I ride in someone's car or when I walk on the sidewalk.

    It's a crowded world out there. People make mistakes and do stupid things and I can't prevent them from doing that.

    The best I can do is to choose paths of lesser resistance -- to ride through more residential zones and be willing to take a little longer to get somewhere, and to ride responsibly and predictably EVERY time -- so that my chances of getting hurt are reduced. I know they will never be eliminated, and that's just life. I choose to get over it, get on my bike, and get moving.

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  • Macaroni December 1, 2006 at 10:37 pm

    Drivers are not getting ticketed enough. The stats are a drop in the bucket of what it should be.

    Here are two things I experienced on my way home tonight:
    1. At the steel bridge and entrance/exit to the esplanade there is that bright square lighted sign up by the traffi signal that says NO RIGHT TURN or something, with a slash through a right angled arrow, I believe. Two cars turned right at it just before I entered the intersection. Drivers are ALWAYS trying to turn before that light comes on or just ignoring it if they think (novel idea) there isn't a biker around. Morons.

    2. Downtown on SW Madison in the block that the Bus 14 stop is on before it goes over the Hawthorne bridge, a dipsh** starts to drive into the bike lane without signaling as I begin to pass him.

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  • Macaroni December 1, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    And license plates? Oh, brother...look, we're making the extra effort and taking the trouble to do something good in the world and some of you want us to be rewarded with the shackles of car ownership?

    Idiotic! I just can't believe it. Don't do the rest of us any favors, okay?

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  • Dabby December 1, 2006 at 10:56 pm

    Of course, most should know that bike registration, or rider registration was attempted.
    They made the silly decision (besides the basic silly choice to license bikes and riders) to require all messengers to be registered, but no other cyclists.
    Of course , the number of bikers in this town at the time was minimal really, back in the good ole days.
    Even with an attack on just a limited cycling group, the registration program failed, thankfully.
    Now, a program would affect such a larger group of riders that it would never even be attempted here again, being a logistical nightmare just in the planning stages, and near to impossible to enforce.
    Imagine standing with your four year old, in line, waiting to get registered with that tricycle.
    "It's ok honey, I am sure the city will let you ride your bike soon."
    I say this, for it is either register none, or register all, of all ages, which will not happen.

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  • SKiDmark December 4, 2006 at 7:24 pm

    I am not a messenger so take this with a grain of salt. I really think you messengers should stop delivering anything for the city, for the courts, for the Police (if that ever happens). Maybe (I kinda doubt it myself) it would send a message, that they need s to stop targeting you.

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  • Cecil December 5, 2006 at 11:04 am

    I am not saying that every bike and rider should be licensed, I am saying it is something to consider. There are ways to do it - one way might be to do it through the schools, and fund it through the licensing fees. Start at about age 8 or whenever kid gets "real" bike - to get first license must pass riding skills test, demonstrate knowledge of signals, etc. - relicense new bikes by showing evidence of passing test, somewhat lower fee for new licenses than first license. Every few years (4,6,8,10, whatever) take written rules of the road test . . just a thought. Perhaps the licensing concept will help non-cyclists grasp the fact that bikes aren't toys (at least not all of them) and that they should be taken as seriously as a primary (or only) form of transportation as a motorist's car.

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  • steve December 5, 2006 at 11:59 am

    Bill in # 6 is correct: the cops do not have the mental horespower to know that running stop signs on bicycles or failing to signal a turn or lane change are not real problems so they will continue to cite cyclists for such minor infractions. The cop bosses in the PPD or in city hall are only concerned about their pension and making sure they don't get caught breaking the rules which would jeapordize that pension. So, as Bill says, you've got to work to get the law changed and that will be a cumbersome process at best. In the mean time, don't break the rules in sight of the cops.

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  • Splitting Lanes Is Fun December 5, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    Cecil,
    Boy, that sounds great and all, but is in no way realistic.
    I mean, besides being a entire waste of tax payer dollars, what would it acheive?
    This is in no manner what we need.
    In driving, licensing is a way to get permission to be on the road in a dangerous, heavy, motor vehicle. But, as is proven, really in no matter does it change the way a person drives, or the way they face the responsibilities of driving.
    It is simply a means to stay on the road. One is only held accountable for actions if they happen to be pulled over.
    We neither need to learn lessons from a licensing facility, nor are riders in this town realistically going to change riding habits due to regulation.
    This idea should die here.

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