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Lessons for Portland from a police chief in Lincoln, Nebraska

Posted by on July 31st, 2008 at 1:13 pm

Lincoln, Nebraska’s Police
Chief Tom Casady.

A reader (thanks Donna!) sent me a link the other day to a well-written blog post about sharing the road. Opinions on this topic are a dime a dozen, but something caught my eye about this particular article — it was written by the Police Chief of Lincoln, Nebraska (pop. 248,744).

On his Chief’s Corner blog, Chief Tom Casady tackles the contentious issue of road rage, which is making headlines all over country (and world) as more and more cities come to grips with a changing transportation landscape.

Several things impressed me about Chief Casady’s comments.

First, the fact that he writes so candidly and freely is a breath of fresh air. Given the stream of constant controversy that seems to plague the Portland Police Bureau, I doubt we’ll be seeing Police Chief Rose Sizer communicating in such an unguarded way any time soon (which is too bad, because the value of this, from a community policing standpoint, is incalculable).

Here’s how Casady opens his article:

“As the price of gas is causing all of us to flinch I am sure we will continue to see more people consider the two-wheeled option. It is almost certain that bike-car conflicts will increase… drivers and riders will increasingly share the road.”

He then writes,

“Sharing the road is not just polite, it’s the law… Some motorists view a slower-moving bicycle as an obstruction. Any avid cyclist has their stories of Beavis & Friend flipping them the universal peace sign, crowding them to the curb, making a right turn directly in front of their path, launching a Big Gulp grenade, and otherwise pestering them with obnoxious and dangerous behavior.”

A former everyday bike rider himself, Chief Casady explains that there are often good reasons why people on bikes need a bit of breathing room (like “cracks, crevices, and potholes” in the road) and writes, “motorists just need to deal with that” imploring them to treat cyclists “with the same respect as any other vehicle.”

While he goes on to write that “Aggressive driving seems to be a common condition for a growing number of motorists,” he also points the finger at cyclists (although he writes, “cyclists aren’t the problem”).

“Some cyclists,” he writes, “seem to think that traffic signals are optional.”

He ends the piece with a good lesson for all of us: “When operating your 21 lb. road bike, do not get in an argument with a probable drunk who has poor impulse control and drives a 4,500 lb. weapon.”

Not only was I surprised at the tone and content of Casady’s blog post, but it comes in stark contrast to the silence we’ve heard so far from our city’s leadership.

In the past several weeks, Portland’s “bikes vs. cars” problem has been highlighted in the national media and the local anti-bike sentiment seems to be building (one woman has even started Bike Free Portland, a blog aimed at “Stopping the Bikenazi cold in their track”).

Yet despite the downward spiral of civility brought on by this “us vs. them” mentality that has real public safety implications in our community, we’re yet to hear any major statements from our local leaders.

I’m not saying I completely agree with Casady’s comments, but at least he’s publicly addressing the issue in an honest way and trying to set a civil tone for his city — and in doing so, he’s showing this “Platinum” city at thing or two about leadership.

Read Casady’s article here.

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Comments
  • Refunk July 31, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Uh, Jonathan?

    Interesting stuff. Did ya wanna share that link to the Chief\’s blog with us?

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  • RyNO Dan July 31, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    I grew up in Lincoln racing RedLine\’s
    behind the NE YMCA. It was an ABA track.
    The NBA track was out near Wahoo.
    There was always a bike
    scene there. And a good punk scene too.
    Hi Mom !!!!!!

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  • Ian July 31, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    Sounds like some valuable comments. Thanks for some comments from someone who knows that SHARING is give and take.

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  • Fritz July 31, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    Is… is.. is that swastika made out of pedals? *jaw drops*. Well, it made me laugh quite a bit. I hope this person isn\’t for serious.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 31, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    \”Did ya wanna share that link to the Chief\’s blog with us?\”

    oops.. my mistake. I\’ve added the link to the story.. here it is.

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  • Paul Cone July 31, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    I was happy to see Chief Sizer show up at some bike functions, but I am dismayed that she is now saying that she won\’t able to work with a potential new boss (i.e. Commissioner Leonard). It sounds like politics is getting the best of her and I don\’t expect we\’ll see her blogging about this or any other issue anytime soon.

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  • bahueh July 31, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    I was hoping Chief Sizer could be a little more immune from this conversation as I believe she\’s doing other good things for the city..

    annual crime report came out yesterday..overall drop of 14%…haven\’t had a single murder in over 30 days…auto theft down 36%…

    some of y\’all may not like it as it doesn\’t fit the cop hatin\’ agenda, but the PPD is doing their job to some extent and are not the epic fail some here wish them to be. I\’m no apologist..they are hardly collectively perfect and make very public mistakes…but not many cities see this type of improvement in quality of life..

    would more candid, public, media covered conversation like this with city officials help the ongoing conflicts? absolutely….I\’ve been hoping SOMEONE..ANYONE would have stood in front of a microphone bank by now to address the recent conflicts…but sadly no one has…I think the BTA, We Are All Traffic, and the PPD are missing a prime opportunity to openly address these issues to a public audience…because face it, the vast majority of Portlanders don\’t read this online blog..

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  • KT July 31, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    That \”one woman\” you speak of, Jonathan, comes off as a real troll here in your comments section– and now she\’s found the forums as well.

    I\’ve been to her site– and if anyone is furthering the so-called \”war\” between cars and bikes, it\’s her.

    At first I thought she was being ironic– but that\’s giving her too much credit. She\’s serious, folks. Better hope you don\’t meet her on the streets, she sounds like she\’ll run you off the road as soon as look at you– if you\’re on a bike.

    Anyway, to return to the subject at hand, it IS refreshing to see a police chief with such a \”common sense\” point of view. Interesting stuff, Jonathan!

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  • Ian July 31, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Now if all the insane bike people and insane drivers were as reasonable as this guy.

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  • Forseti July 31, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Wow, amazing comments! Finally, a police officer who understands traffic law! When can we get him to come and give a talk to the PPB?

    Seriously, when Randy Leonard takes over the PPB and Sizer is sh!tcanned, we should hire Mr Casady.

    Despite arguably doing their job \”to some extent,\” this city deserves better. This city deserves a police force that punishes officers who use excessive force and that enforces laws that protect cyclists\’ and pedestrians\’ access to the road.

    We do not have that now, and that\’s the number one reason why the majority of Portlanders still aren\’t riding bikes. With effective enforcement, this City can realize the potential we all know it has to lead the Nation toward a new kind of transportation system – one where everyone gets to use the road without fear.

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  • Icarus Falling July 31, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Great article.

    In reference to Sizer, since she is mentioned above:

    I believe it has been shown, now and in the past, that when Sizer is in a position of power, there is an obvious increase in cracking down on bicycles, whether legal, justified, or not.

    It is quite obvious that she is a large part of the difficulty we have as cyclists in interactions with the PPB.

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  • Matthew Denton July 31, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    That chief is fun:

    Tom Casady said…
    Alright, alright already. Since apparently every cyclist on seven continents is now reading this post, I need advice. I want to bag the Mavics and the tubulars on my old Bianchi, and get a set of clinchers. How about a recommendation on a good online retailer for new wheels? Nothing fancy, just a decent wheelset without a new mortgage.
    July 30, 2008 6:11 PM

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  • t27 July 31, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    “When operating your 21 lb. road bike, do not get in an argument with a probable drunk who has poor impulse control and drives a 4,500 lb. weapon.”

    Good advise and it is nice to see someone in law enforcement recognize the weapon nature of the vehicle.

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  • joe July 31, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    sizers days are numbered. as was the case with that old fiend kruger, we will all be better of with her departure.

    That chief sounds awesome! maybe he can interview for the job here?

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  • Paul Tay July 31, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Eat yer HEART out, PDX! We AIN\’T that DING-ASS in the Midwest after all. :-P

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  • Anonymous July 31, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    @ Paul Tay #15

    Does that mean we have to ride to Oklahoma now?

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  • bahueh July 31, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    yes, Forseti, you have issues with police officers…we get it already. move on.

    funny how some people attract their attention and disdain simultaneously…

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  • peejay July 31, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    I\’m with you, Forseti. I\’d like to respect the police more here, because they\’d probably have a better time of it if they were respected more. But they have to earn it. And all the beatings and taserings aren\’t gonna do it. Let\’s hope our new police chief gets this little fact.

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  • woogie July 31, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Gee Peejay, you make it sound like \”beatings and taserings\” are a daily event.

    Yes there are some bad cops, but it gets tiresome to hear how the entire PPB is the problem.

    If you don\’t want all cyclists painted with the same brush then don\’t turn around and paint a group with one brush because of a few bad seeds.

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  • Metal Cowboy July 31, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Casady seems to get it! He really should consider interviewing for the Portland Chief position – if it should come available in the near future…

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  • Donna July 31, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Sometimes a dose of Midwestern common sense is just what the doctor ordered. :=)

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  • destroying.angel July 31, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    I thought the Bike Free Portland blog was hilarious. I loved her 4 types of cyclists — the characterizations are so, so true to life! Some folks are just so humorlessly self-righteous that they can\’t ever laugh at themselves (or their friends!). They should stay on the bikeportland forums where they can grimly and with absolutely no humor whatsoever continue to complain about how much cycling in Pdx sucks.

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  • Jen July 31, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    As a former pdxer and midwesterner, I have to say that you shouldn\’t be so shocked that there is common sense and bike culture out there in the heartland. Not every city is on board, but Lincoln has long been known as a great cycling place. Why would Casady want to interview for the Chief position when he is already living among great bike trails, reasonably priced real estate, and yes, all that common sense ? Just kidding around a bit. He\’d be great for Portland. At least invite him as a speaker.

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  • sox fumata August 1, 2008 at 1:10 am

    Where\’s Andy Griffith?
    Cops like Andy would never make it through the hiring process of any department these days. That\’s a real problem.

    If I was Chief Casady, i wouldn\’t consider the job, the increased headache wouldn\’t be worth the money.

    Pdx has a lot of good cops but there\’s also a good sized jerk (to put it nicely) contingent that we need to rid the PPD of, way-more than we need a new chief.
    But that\’s very hard thing to do and hiring a new chief is so easy.

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  • Ian August 1, 2008 at 8:49 am

    This guy is insane he wants us to share the roads??? I refuse to share the road with a polluting automobile. Death to cars!

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  • E August 1, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    What a great, common sense article. Thanks for sharing, Jonathan! :)

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  • Paul Tay August 1, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    #16, no, anon. Why don\’t you simply put your bike on this little number? It belongs to our very LOVELY Mayor. Beats the Greyhound.

    Ha ha. My Mayor is RICHER than YOUR Mayor! Eat yer heart out, Sam.

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  • Matt Picio August 2, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Paul (#27) – Oh, lovely – a private jet. Once upon a time in Detroit, Mayor Coleman Young was the first US mayor to have his own private jet (he always claimed \”It\’s not mine, it\’s the City of Detroit\’s\”). Now that other mayors are apparently getting them, I weep for the future.

    Oh, BTW – Sam\’s a lot richer than your mayor – your mayor just has more money. ;-)

    (and Bud Clark was richer still, as in \”He did WHAT?!? Now, THAT\’s rich!\”)

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  • Paul Tay August 2, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Matt, oh yeah? MY Mayor is a whole lot CUTER. :-P

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  • [...] just reading BikePortland.org this morning and I found he had a link to another story from the police chief of Lincoln, Nebraska about sharing the road. Great article from a source you wouldn’t normally expect. He is absolutely right, conflicts [...]

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  • [...] also: Lessons for Portland from a police chief in Lincoln, Nebraska from BikePortland.org — it’s interesting to see folks in a city as famously [...]

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