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Mayor supports sting, cites safety concerns

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 13th, 2006 at 2:03 pm

A local cyclist, concerned with what she feels is too much "negative police attention on cyclists," emailed the Mayor's office after this morning's enforcement action and has heard a detailed response from one of his staffers:

Here is the response as relayed by the Mayor's "public advocate," Jeremy Van Keuren:

"Dear XXXXX:

Thank you for emailing about the enforcement action that recently took place in NE Portland at Broadway and Flint. Mayor Potter has asked me to respond on his behalf.

As you know, bicyclists as well as motorists must come to a complete stop before a stop sign. The enforcement action you refer to was carried out in response to concerns expressed by the local community that many bicyclists moved through the intersection without stopping. The Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT) assessed that the intersection is the third highest bicycle crash intersection in the City. I would like to note that during an enforcement action, no specific mode of transportation is targeted over another - the attending officers do not ignore motorists breaking the law.

During this enforcement action, sixteen bicyclists were cited along with thirteen motorists.

We support Traffic's use of dedicated enforcement actions, including their use at intersections frequented by bicycle traffic. Last month, 1887 moving violation citations were issued by the Police Bureau. Twenty-three were issued to bicyclists - the rest were issued to motorists. Traffic (Division) will continue to target traffic violations that endanger the lives and well being of all those who use the road, and that will include bicyclists.

One of Traffic's missions is to issue citations for moving violations that contribute to most traffic collisions. Reviewing collision incidents from the past eleven years which involved a bicyclist fatality, the bicyclist was at fault in 58 percent of the cases. Of those, 30 percent occurred because a bicyclist ignored a stop sign. During enforcement actions, we often find that many of the bicyclists stopped inform police officers that they typically do not stop at stop signs. Again, this is a major safety issue and the law is clear.

Road safety is very important to Mayor Potter, and I encourage you to spread the word about everyone's responsibility to share the road conscientiously and safely. I hope you will take part in the Portland Office of Transportation's (PDOT) "I Share the Road" campaign. You can participate and obtain free stickers for your car or bicycle from www.isharetheroad.com

Sincerely,

Jeremy Van Keuren
Public Advocate
Office of Mayor Potter"

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Comments
  • Burr December 13, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    Other analyses of the crash data suggest that motorists are at fault in 58% of car-bike collisions, I wonder if the Mayor's advocate got his numbers backwards, or if they failed to separate the youth/juvenile bicyclists from the adult cyclists when they analyzed the data.

    Today on my lunch break I saw three motorists run red lights downtown within several blocks of the central precinct. This is pretty typical, on a day-in day-out basis. There are never any cops around or tickets issued...

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  • josh m December 13, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    I think my best close call downtown w/ a car running a red light was on 4th and alder. I had just came from my work on 5th and yamhill. when I got to 4th and yamhill there was a girl laid out in the street, her bike a few feet away, cops, paramedics, etc.
    I turn onto 4th ave and ride down. I get to alder, i'm stopped at a red, light turns green, i start going and some ass in his mercedes on his cell phone comes inches from hitting me. We even locked eyes. I should have turned and chased him down.

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  • Kate December 13, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    I don't have a problem with being ticketed for running a stop sign-I deserved that-my issue is being fined upwards of $200 for such a minor violation.

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  • Cecil December 13, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Think of it this way - Imagine you run a stop sign thinking that the intersection is clear, but in reality there is a motorist approaching who has the right of way and is obeying the speed limit but is unable to avoid hitting you. Imagine that you are killed or seriously injured as a result. Not only is your life ruined, it is a pretty safe bet that the driver who hit you will spend the rest of his or her life mourning the fact that he or she hit you - even though through no fault of his or her own. Frankly, that doesn't seem like such a minor violation to me.

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  • peejay December 13, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    Why can't otherwise smart people understand the different dynamics in effect when it comes to bicycles and cars at intersections? Bicyclists have a better view of the surroundings, have more ability to fit into small gaps, and carry much less speed than cars. The speed differential multiplied by a bike + rider's much lower mass vs. a car + driver's, equates to orders of magnitude lower "crash force," the brunt of which is going to be felt by the bicyclist anyway. Add to this the need to maintain momentum, and the lack of bicycle sensors at the vast majority of intersections, and you get conditions that are so dissimilar that it's grossly inappropriate to make cyclists follow all the same laws as motor vehicle operators.

    While I am all for cyclists following laws to promote safety on the road, the laws for cyclists should be different than the laws for cars. We already differentiate between them in terms of where in the street they may operate, what type of licensing is required, etc. (just as we have different laws for operators of large trucks), that it's well within precedent that bikes need different "stop sign" rules. Other cities have "rolling stop" regulations for bikes. If Portland wants to be a leading bike city, it should consider the same.

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  • Fritz December 13, 2006 at 3:38 pm

    Paul Dorn has a couple of very good essays on traffic law and cyclists here and here. They're worth spending a couple of minutes to read.

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  • Fritz December 13, 2006 at 3:39 pm

    Here's an excerpt from one of the essays I pointed at:
    We should be mindful of this historic inequity when motorists condemn stop sign running by bicyclists. Motorist use of the road is a privilege; they have duty of care for the risk they introduce into the public realm. Encouraged by government policy, media images, and automotive marketing to feel a sense of entitlement to exclusive use of streets, motorists generally forget this.

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  • doug December 13, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    Peejay:

    Just curious...what other cities have this 'rolling-stop' regulation for bikes? I've never heard of that, and I'd like to read more about it.

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  • Vladislav Davidzon December 13, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    Sounds like it's time to dump Tom Potter and his cronies in the next election cycle and get someone elected who is actually a cyclist and cares about making this city truly #1 for cycling in the world, not just in the US.

    What a shame.

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  • Lynne December 13, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    Speaking as a cyclist...

    "All those cars run a stop and the cops don't do anything"... "All those bikes run a stop and the cops don't do anything"...

    Uh, folks. Sometimes your number comes up while you are driving a car. Sometimes your number comes up when you are riding a bike. Stop or don't stop, but suck it up if you are caught.

    Feeling testy today...

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  • Burr December 13, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    Fritz - thanks for the links to the Paul Dorn essays, both were a very good read.

    Everyone should keep in mind that the traffic cops are motorized and that they generally take the perspective of the 'entitled motorists' Mr. Dorn discusses. So don't ever expect any real justice for cyclists from these enforcers of motorist entitlement.

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  • Burr December 13, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    Also, the Mayor is a former Top Cop, so I wouldn't expect any sympathy from him either, he's going to side with the popo when push comes to shove.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis December 13, 2006 at 4:19 pm

    "During enforcement actions, we often find that many of the bicyclists stopped inform police officers that they typically do not stop at stop signs. Again, this is a major safety issue and the law is clear."

    If this is a major safety issue, then I guess bicyclists are dying in record numbers in Idaho, where bicyclists are only required to yield, not stop, at stop signs. Once again, the powers-that-be fail to understand a very simple concept: Bikes are not cars.

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  • WOBG December 13, 2006 at 4:21 pm

    Maybe, based on physics, the law should be different for cyclists; maybe not. But right now it's the same for all, and issues of privilege vs. entitlement cut both ways.

    Use those arguments to lobby for changing the law, not to sustain some illusion that you are already above it.

    C'mon fellow cyclists, just stop---or if you won't, at least accept the consequences with a little bit of honor.

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  • ben December 13, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    even if that 58% figure is accurate...what about all the OTHER collisions, dangerous situations and violations that DON'T result in a biker fatality?

    i'm guessing a big chunk of all these incidents as a whole don't soley stem from bikers rolling through stops signs.

    "One of Traffic’s missions is to issue citations for moving violations that contribute to most traffic collisions."

    since JVK focused so much on bikers "ignoring stop signs", i can only assume that running stop signs must be the "moving violation that contributes to most traffic collision."

    ok:

    1. all collisions
    2. only collisions that we due to a stop sign being ignored.
    3. now lets narrow it down to the ones where a bike was involved.
    4. now take 58% of THOSE situations where the biker is allegedly at fault.
    5. 30% of THAT resulted in a fatality of a biker.

    CONCLUSION: the number we are left with seems like it would be a fairly small one, especially in comparision to all other collisions...
    so why the big focus from JVK?

    16 bicyclists and 13 motorists cited?
    is it me, or are the percentages not matching?
    i really want to know the percentage of collisions that DON'T involve bicycles (nevermind biker fatalities).
    if the percentage is indeed much higher than the ones that DO involve a bicycle, then i would say motor vehicles deserve a greater focus.

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  • ben December 13, 2006 at 4:30 pm

    sorry for the typo(s)
    i'll start proofreading.
    i swear. : )

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  • Burr December 13, 2006 at 4:39 pm

    As far as I'm aware, there haven't been any cyclist fatalities at N Flint and Broadway, so those statistics have nothing whatsoever to do with this enforcement action, and are just disinformation being disseminated by the police.

    The real question is: what are the crash statistics at this specific intersection and what do they tell us?

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  • Sheldon December 13, 2006 at 4:41 pm

    Today's sting and a neighborhood group I'm involved in have prompted me to call 503-823-SAFE and request a Police Enforcement Action. I also received the form letter from Mayor Potter's rep and I will be following up with him to see if something can be done to enhance "traffic safety" on my street.

    I live on NE 37 between Shaver and Alameda streets and over the past several years the nature of this section of residential road. As Beuamont Village, Alberta, and NE 33rd and NE Killingsworth have become more popular NE 37 is increasingly used as a thoroughfare for motorists who don't want to deal with traffic volumes on NE 33. NE 37 is also a designated bicycle street.

    Several neighbors and myself have banded together to get funding from City Repiar to implement traffic calming measures at NE 37 and Shaver. This effort is born of years of frustration on the part of several households who have engaged PDOT to respond to the increasing number of motorists.

    PDOT has been very unresponsive and regulary cite data that is at least 6 years to say there isn't a problem.

    As a cyclist, I'm always hearing that these actions are in response to citizen complaints, but they seem highly political to me. Therefore, if you want to help me and see how responsive the Police Traffic Division, PDOT and the Mayor's Office really are to traffic safety please call 503-823-SAFE and request an action for NE 37 and Failing.

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  • felix December 13, 2006 at 5:26 pm

    I will run every stop sign on the way home to make up for your tickets!

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  • rex burkholder December 13, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    I think it is important to note the location of this traffic enforcement action. N. Broadway and Flint. This is not the intersection of two quiet sidestreets. Cyclists coming off of Flint are going downhill at a good speed and, if they don't stop, entering a busy arterial moving fast.

    As a every day bike commuter for the last 36 years, and a person who has spent almost twenty years fighting for the rights of cyclists in this city and country, I believe strongly that bicyclists should stop at all stop signs, most particularly when entering busy arterials. I have almost been hit a number of times by cyclists running this particular stop sign when I am traveling in the bike lane on Broadway. It is not only an illegal move, it is a stupid and inconsiderate one. Right up there with riding at night with no lights.

    Do our streets need to be calmed? Damn right. There is no reason traffic should go 35+ mph in a city. But until we change the rules of the road, following those rules will keep us all safer. Enforcement really does help reduce fatalities and crashes.

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  • Burr December 13, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    "Therefore, if you want to help me and see how responsive the Police Traffic Division, PDOT and the Mayor’s Office really are to traffic safety please call 503-823-SAFE and request an action for NE 37 and Failing."

    Sheldon, be careful what you wish for; if they respond, when they respond, most of the tickets might once again go to cyclists; the cops rarely ticket a motorist for speeding if they are going less than 10 MPH over the speed limit. You might be better off trying to get PDOT to install speed bumps.

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  • SKiDmark December 13, 2006 at 5:43 pm

    If bicycles make up 5% of the traffic on the road then they need to get back out there and ticket 291 more cars.

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  • rixtir December 13, 2006 at 5:53 pm

    Oh, the injustice!

    I shall immediately cease all other activities in my life-- even eating, sleeping, and "bodily functions"-- so that I may devote every joule of my energy to righting this wrong!

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  • Sheldon December 13, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    Burr,

    I hear you, but there is no stop sign at this intersection. Rather it is for speeding on a residential street that is my prime concern. It also seems to me that these PEAs are political knee jerk reactions from PDOT. If PDOT and the Mayor's Office are truly concerned about traffic safety I'd like to see them respond in an area where the safety is 100% on motorists.

    BTW PDOT will only install speed bumps if the residences on the street pay for them. The cost is $15k.

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  • ian December 13, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    I ride down broadway almost every day, and I would guess that one in three cyclists that I see run that stop sign. and most cars stop for it. so why is it so hard to believe that more bikes run it than cars?

    i run lights, and stops when I think it is clear. But I also know than I am breaking the law. and I accept the ticket when I have recieved one.

    quit your bitch'n and accept that you got caught and if you don't like the law, then work to change it.

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  • Jeff December 13, 2006 at 6:20 pm

    Doug, the Great State of Idaho (aka the Gem State, or Famous Potatoes) has allowed cyclists to yield at stop signs & proceed through a red light after stopping for over 20 years.

    http://www3.state.id.us/cgi-bin/newidst?sctid=490070020.K

    A bill to do the same in Oregon passed the Senate during the last legislative session, but died in committee in the House. Idaho's the only place in the US that I've heard of that allows this..?

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  • Macaroni December 13, 2006 at 7:02 pm

    I ride through Flint & Broadway every weekday morning. I used to run the stop sign because it was fun.
    One morning, a couple years ago, a cyclist was down, hit by a driver who was pretty upset. I didn't see what happened but I have a feeling the cyclist ran the stop sign as the driver was turning right just a short jog after Flint. I can easily see how it could happen.

    It is a dangerous spot to run a stop sign. I support this one traffic enforcement as it is a danger to cyclists coming down Broadway, as Rex said.

    I have a feeling it was PDOT truck drivers who asked for the enforcement as they are always trying to cross Broadway from the street after Flint and cyclists running the sign don't give them a chance to.

    I don't see cars running this stop sign, but they do nose into the bike lane as they take a right turn and it is very annoying and tiresome. They should get ticketed for that.

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  • Macaroni December 13, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    I guess it was water bureau drivers, not PDOT drivers. Speaking of the water bureau, one of their dipsh**employees hit me at Broadway and Hoyt one morning and blamed me for it after returning to the scene because he hit and ran.
    Some nice citizens in their car chased him down and I had three other people in cars stop and give me their ph numbers.

    A cop (Fender) came and would not ticket him. Surprise surprise! The city employee had turned right as I went through the bike lane. Got a written apology and some $. I was not injured thank gawd.

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  • Ethan December 14, 2006 at 1:04 am

    The self-serving justification that gets thrown around every time the cops give a ticket to a cyclist amazes me. Jonathan already relayed the overall citation stats a while back . . . THERE IS NOT an anti-bike trend in the numbers. There is also no big conspiracy. People complain, the cops come take a look, if the complaint has merit, they may do a sting. A + B = C.

    I agree we should have a rolling stop law, so what? Is this the way we go about engendering public support for such a proposition? I think not.

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  • adam December 14, 2006 at 5:32 am

    nice post. a few caveats: this is not a short comment, I am an unapologetic cyclist, I run red lights from time to time, cops don't ticket me.

    having said that, here is what I find funny about potter's office.

    1. I called them yesterday as soon as I read this post. the lovely young lady at the front desk said that they "knew nothing about this". if you don't believe me, check the post.

    2. our city government does not choose to be honest with us with data. the owner of this blog works tirelessly within the system to get information. after years of hard work, all he can get is "18 citations in one month". I have heard that he has a great relationship with the leadership of the city bike folks but even He cannot get true data. are they trying to hide something? the above letter from potter stinks like a rumsfeld press conference. obfuscation, delusion and other big words that mean nothing.

    3. they have all the money and time to waste that they wish too. potter loves to walk that thin blue line...that is why he gets given so much money by the establishment(if you don't believe me, do YOUR HOMEWORK)

    4. potter's government spends loads of energy harrassing cyclists. this is not an opinion, it is a fact.

    5. lastly, I heard that we have some superhero in our government who is responsible for transportation. funny, I went to his blog today, no mention of the heroic work the city is doing giving out tickets to cyclists.

    so, yeah, if I feel like it, potter will enjoy his retirement. it cannot come soon enough for a few people in public "service" around here. and, it is wet and dark out there, folks, extreme caution advised.

    anyone want to take on my debating points?

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  • adam December 14, 2006 at 5:54 am

    ok, last one...I have to get to work!

    and, yes, I love this blog and can spend all day reading it sometimes. sorry. if anyone knows of a better place for this, let me know.

    I found some evidence(no data) of a dui sting, on st pattys day, no less!

    PIO Contact PIO Contact Name: Paul Dolbey
    Email Address: pdolbey@portlandpolice.org
    Phone Number: 503-823-0010
    Pager Number: 503-790-1779
    File Attachment(s)
    None Uploaded

    On March 17, 2006, at 5:00 p.m., the Portland Police Bureau’s Traffic Division and East Precinct will participate in a joint DUII Saturation Patrol in cooperation with Oregon State Police, Washington State Police and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

    The goal of DUII Saturation Patrol is to ensure those enjoying the St. Patrick’s Day festivities do not attempt to drink and drive in Portland. The Traffic Division will deploy extra patrols in the downtown entertainment district as well as the westside of the city. Additionally, Central Precinct, Portland Police Reserves and members of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will be patrolling the downtown area to ensure everyone enjoys a safe celebration.

    Historically, the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the downtown area has not been associated with any problems. However, the Traffic Division would like to remind everyone planning on joining in the festivities to be responsible and have a designated driver, or plan on using public transportation."

    I would like to hear about it if anyone follows up on this.

    happy thursday(is it thursday already?)

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  • Whiny McWhinerson December 14, 2006 at 7:22 am

    Hmmm. Break a law, get a ticket? Why is anyone surprised?

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  • clinton rider December 14, 2006 at 8:53 am

    Following on what Cecil (#4) said, I've seen quite a few bike-on-bike near misses where bikes run a side-street stop and almost nail the thru-biker. I've seen several bike-on-bike crashes for the same reason. One was a guy who blew a stop sign and cut between members of a family, nailing one of the little kids. The kid was okay but shaken up. So is that kid gonna become a lifetime cyclist or will he ride only 'cuz mom and dad make him?

    Amen Rex B.

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  • Donna December 14, 2006 at 9:57 am

    Oh, yes, clinton rider, I've experienced the same - 5 times this summer, all at the 4 way stop at SE 21st and SE Clinton. 5 bicyclists who nearly hit another bicyclist (that would be me) because they didn't feel stop signs applied to them.

    Why is it that stop signs don't apply to some bicyclists but they should apply to others? When a bicyclist doesn't stop as required for another bicyclist or for pedestrians crossing the street, it gives me the impression that they are somehow above following rules that they expect others to adhere to. I don't know this for sure, but I somehow suspect that these are the same bicyclists who are upset about getting tickets for breaking the law.

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  • Troy December 14, 2006 at 11:10 am

    I personally ride through the 21st and Clinton intersection twice a day. On Fridays after work there is a 25% chance there will be a police officer at or near the intersection. Several times I have come to a stop at this intersection only to have another cyclist fly by me without stopping, cutting on the inside in the direction of my turn. Once I witnessed one of these "law breakers" get pulled over for their reckless behavior.

    If you choose to run a stop sign at least pay attention to what is going on around you. If a fellow cyclist is stopping you might want to look around.

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  • Evan Manvel, BTA December 14, 2006 at 11:54 am

    Just to clarify the fatalities...

    According to the police documents I have seen, over the past eleven years, there have been four cases of cyclist fatalities in Portland involving stop lights and stop signs.

    Two of those were stop sign cases in 1997 (SE 70th and Division and NW 28th and Thurman), one in 1998 involved a red light (NW Front and 15th), and a 2001 incident (NE Weidler at 106th Ave) which did not involve a cyclist rolling through a stop sign, but rather stopping at a stop sign and then trying to cross.

    No cyclist, according to the documents I have seen from the Police Department, has been killed in the past nine years while rolling through a stop sign.

    That said, NE Broadway and Flint had 6 reported crashes from 1995-2004, tied for fourth (behind SW 69th/Garden Home/Multnomah which had 8, and I-5 Freeway and Broadway and NE Broadway and Grand 7). I don't know the severity of these crashes, but usually only more serious crashes get reported.

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  • adam December 15, 2006 at 12:59 am

    evan, while I appreciate your "data", I still have not seen it.

    a cursory search of the ppb and pdot do not verify your "facts". can you and jonathan post this info, or, is it only for 5013(c)'s?

    enough stories, I want some information. but, you know, the city is not aware of this blog, apparently.

    and, as soon as you cop apologists stop apologizing, we can get to work. until then, either bring your data or keep your stories to yourself. thanks...

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  • Dabby December 15, 2006 at 2:08 am

    As you know Adam,
    The city is not concerned enough about bicyclists to come to, or issue a citation at, any bicycle related accident unless there is injury/ and or death.
    What makes you think they would have real numbers on bicyle related incidents, even on fatalities?
    While it is great that Evan has provided us with these numbers, it is not up to you to demnand more proof.
    Go request it yourself. You have as much right to it as he or anyone else does.
    On another note, in who's mind does 6 crashes in 9 years warrant a traffic sting?
    Oh, in the mind of Rosie Sizer and Mark Kruger. And it appears the Mayor, a Mayor that I sometimes have a problem even putting on a higher plane than Vera Katz, and I despise Vera Katz. He promised skateparks, knowing this would get votes. How much farther from the truth is that?
    I haven't been skating in a city park yet. And don't include Pier Park, for Dreamland is mostly finacially responsible for that happening. (Of course, in all the opening hoopla, they were left off the list of contributors)
    These are the people you should be bitching at Adam, not us here.
    Is it possible to bring back Bud Clark as Mayor?
    This should be done now.... Right now...

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  • adam December 15, 2006 at 8:21 am

    dabby, tell us how. I dont wish to get specific here, but I have been banging my head against this for awhile now, and, frankly, I am tired of it.

    when people hint at the fact that they have the info I am interested in, I ask for details, then, I get silence. if you can get me an audience with the "authorities", I will cancel my plans for that day and do it.

    now, this wont happen, which is why I am leaving. this town is superb. the political leadership is mediocre, to be charitable.

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  • Brad December 15, 2006 at 10:45 am

    Adam - there is a huge difference between the jackbooted police state of your imagination and a citation sting on cyclists.

    I'll be the first to ask for greater scrutiny of the PPB in light of incidents like the death of James Chasse but I don't think this sting, or arresting Rev. Phil, or citing brakeless fixies is an abuse of power on the level you seem to think. Misplaced priorities? Probably, but certainly not a crushing display of power designed to keep us cyclists down.

    You and others on this blog are sounding more and more like shrill 18 year old college kids who just took their first poli-sci course, bought a Che Guevara t-shirt, listened to Rage Against the Machine for the first time, and actually think the Freemasons, The Illuminati, and the Trilateral Commission are just a few bike citations away from world domination. The simplest explanation is that the cops are just writing tickets for blowing stoplights because they see a problem with such behavior. I received a jaywalking ticket once and, miraculously, I am still alowed to perambulate without GPS anklet or the Gestapo stopping me and demanding my papers.

    Have a safe trip. I hope you like your next city better.

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  • will workforf ood December 16, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    WOW!!

    "Reviewing collision incidents from the past eleven years which involved a bicyclist fatality, the bicyclist was at fault in 58 percent of the cases. Of those, 30 percent occurred because a bicyclist ignored a stop sign. "

    58% * 30% = 17.4%

    I'm not a math head or anything and i'm still not sure what Mr. Van Keuren is trying to say..

    If i look at his numbers it seems that very few accidents are caused by bicylcists running stop signs.

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  • adam December 17, 2006 at 8:34 am

    I am not against stings.

    I think enforcing laws are important. I just want it to be fair, that is all.

    fareless square does not have anything to do with justice.

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  • Matt Picio December 19, 2006 at 12:58 pm

    "it is not up to you to demnand more proof."

    It's totally appropriate to ask someone their source, however.

    "Go request it yourself. You have as much right to it as he or anyone else does."

    Kind of hard to do that if you don't know the source, especially if you're not familiar with where to find the data.

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