Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 22nd, 2007 at 7:29 am
Willamette River. (file photo)
This week they must be especially busy because I’ve received three separate emails from people that are not happy with the way things are going.
At issue is not simply that people are getting tickets, but for the seemingly haphazard placement of stop signs that is “freakin bizarre” (as one person put it) and a detour route that is “nonsensical”.
One person who was cited said the police officer told him today’s enforcement was brought on by a complaint from one of the contractors. (*ODOT requested the enforcement. Read update below from Mayor’s office)
Read these eyewitness accounts for more details:
This one comes from Joe Broach:
“On my way downtown around 1 PM on Monday via the Springwater trail near OMSI I arrived at the construction detour just as a motorcycle officer finished writing another cyclist a ticket. The cyclist warned me to stop as he rode off, so I assume it was blowing a stop sign (one of, what, 5 that it takes to complete the detour?) that got him. It sure looked silly to me, with absolutely no construction or traffic around and rain pouring down.
I hope the motorists at the Water St. stop detour sign who consistently fail to yield to bikes on Caruthers are getting equal treatment.”
And the other comes from Ed Birnbaum, a respiratory therapist who was cited yesterday morning:
“At least two motorcycle cops were hard at work where the eastside bike path detours into the Esplanade near OMSI, protecting the public by citing cyclists for not making a complete stop at a stop sign.
While that cop was writing up my ticket, another pulled over 2 more cyclists. The corner in question is where you’d be heading north for a block, then turning left to go 2 more blocks into the Esplanade, where the Portland Opera HQ is…Since no one rides on that north-bound block when there’s no construction or detour, most of us aren’t so aware of the Stop sign and you could, like me, miss it while you’re looking hard at the RR tracks you have to cross going west and for traffic, especially construction vehicles of all sorts, that have been crossing there.
The cops are obviously there on some sort of mission. The one who cited me said that “The construction workers have been complaining.” About what? He didn’t mention any accidents. I can’t believe that scofflaw bike riders have created a major hazard for other people at that corner.
…is it really in the public interest to have two cops spend so much time to bust bike riders? Is that the best use of our resources? It’s my understanding that this will put a moving violation on my driver’s license. I can avoid that by going to a “Safety Class” at Emanuel Hospital.
Is this how our city is promoting bicycle commuting?”
Any time the police run increased enforcement and cyclists are caught, feathers are ruffled and people get frustrated. I can understand that.
But are they unfairly targeting cyclists? Can police resources be more effectively utilized?
I ran into Judge Christopher Larsen yesterday and we discussed these issues. He’s the guy that started the new diversion class and he assured me that there is no coordinated effort to fill it. He said bicyclists get only 0.8% of all citations written and the idea of increased enforcement to fill the class exists is nothing but a rumor.
Where does the BTA stand on this? After all, they are an official partner (with the Police Bureau and others) in the new diversion class. Here’s a statement from Michelle Poyourow which echoes their official stance,
“We think enforcement against bicyclists should be focused on dangerous intersections, not just at intersections with lots of bicycle traffic or with an annoyed neighbor. The City of Portland Office of Transportation has excellent data on the most dangerous intersections in Portland, for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike and those are the places we’d like to see resources directed towards.”
So it seems like this will continue to be a thorny issue until a few things happen,
- improved coordination between the Police Bureau, bike advocates, and PDOT
- a PR campaign by the Police Bureau
- everyone obeys all laws at all times in all conditions, no questions asked.
Do you ride through the OMSI/Springwater area? What has your experience been?
UPDATE 2:Ed Birnbaum has received an informative reply from the Mayor’s office about this situation:
“Dear Mr. Birnbaum:
Thank you for emailing about the traffic enforcement action near the Esplanade, from SE Grand to Water Avenues.
…The enforcement mission you describe was requested by ODOT (who also provided grant funding for it). The Police Traffic division fielded many complaints from work zone flaggers regarding many bicyclists not obeying stop signs in the construction zone and creating a hazard. Traffic confirmed that there was an issue, and at one point observed several bicyclists passing cars on the right at stop signs and then turning left immediately in front of them. In order to get the word out publicly, Traffic informed bikportland.org earlier this month that enforcement would begin on March 12 and continue for the foreseeable future – and, that motorists as well as bicyclists would be expected to obey traffic laws. Traffic (Division) has informed me that yesterday alone, 46 citations were issued to automobiles and 22 to bicycles (*Note: that is about the average for bike citations over an entire month).
We support the enforcement mission, and they will continue in the area until at least the end of the month. The disposition of many traffic collisions involving bicyclist injury or fatality find that the bicyclist was at fault, and therefore, enforcement missions to help ensure that all who use the road respect traffic safety laws are a valuable use of police resources.
Thank you, again, for emailing.
Jeremy Van Keuren
Office of Mayor Tom Potter”
UPDATE 1: A commenter reminds us that this could all be avoided if we could complete the trail gap on the riverfront:
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“I would encourage people to expend their energy and passion around this issue on getting SK Northwest to put in their required segment of the Springwater Trail. The current gap in the trail forces everyone off the trail and out into the street system in a heavy industrial area. That could be closed, eventually.
Today is the last day of the comment period before city staff issues a decision. Shoot an e-mail to the planner with your concerns. Contact info in this previous post.”