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View Full Version : Cops busting bikers dragnet style on Salmon


David Keltner
05-10-2006, 09:21 AM
This morning eight motorcycle cops set up a trap one block south of 23rd and Salmon where there's a 4 way stop sign. They were busting bikers right and left for disobeying the stop. When I rode by it looked like a bta convention, there were so many stopped riders. Everyone was getting slapped with $242 fines.

Anyone who rides that route knows the stop is in the middle of a huge 12 block hill and that visibility at that intersection is awesome. As a result, just about everyone rides through the stop sign.

There's no question running stop signs is a bad idea. There's also no question people do it all the time.

Has anyone had any experience fighting this sort of thing? The $242 definetly has me committed to showing up in court to try and get a reduction at the very least.

I've also been advised that if enough of the people busted that morning get together, we may be able to get a lawyer to fight the fines.

SyntaxPolice
05-10-2006, 09:43 AM
I got a ticket this morning, so did my girlfriend 15 minutes earlier. I'm thinking I might make some kind of donation of an equal amount to an organization for bikers rights. Sigh. Don't know if showing up to court is worth the trouble. A friend of mine says that when he showed up, the judge said that the most they can reduce it to is $190. If everyone else shows up maybe I will too.

klrpdx
05-10-2006, 12:25 PM
Anyone who rides that route knows the stop is in the middle of a huge 12 block hill and that visibility at that intersection is awesome. As a result, just about everyone rides through the stop sign.


How is it possible to get caught then? Were the cops hiding? Just wondering.

What do the cops consider a "stop"? I'm assuming it means foot on the ground, look both ways, and then go. A friend and I were arguing about this but couldn't find the definition anywhere in the Oregon driving rules.

SyntaxPolice
05-10-2006, 12:32 PM
How is it possible to get caught then? Were the cops hiding? Just wondering.

Yes, they were two blocks away and sorta behind parked cars.

Matt P.
05-10-2006, 12:43 PM
What do the cops consider a "stop"? I'm assuming it means foot on the ground, look both ways, and then go. A friend and I were arguing about this but couldn't find the definition anywhere in the Oregon driving rules.

ORS811.260 Governs traffic control devices. Section 11 of that statute reads:

(11) Stop signs. A driver approaching a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if there is no marked crosswalk, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering it. After stopping, the driver shall yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when the driver is moving across or within the intersection.

The Oregon Bicyclist Manual simply says "Stop at STOP signs and red lights. Itís the law to stop for a yellow light too, and it makes good sense Ė rushing through a yellow light may not leave you enough time to make it across the intersection before the light changes."

I don't know what the cops consider a "stop", but the common sense interpretation would seem to support your opinion.

Side note: I've taken to carrying the driver's and cyclists' manuals with me from time to time to hand out to erroneous (non-violent) drivers, and I'm about to start taking copies of page 41 of the Oregon Driver's Manual with "you cannot stop, stand, or park your vehicle in these locations:" and "In a bicycle lane or path" highlighted to put under the windshield wiper of cars parked in the bike lane.

Hmm... Maybe we should start doing that to the trucks on SE Caruthers. 20 or 30 of them will probably irritate the drivers, but then they *are* breaking the law.

SyntaxPolice
05-10-2006, 01:46 PM
Side note: I've taken to carrying the driver's and cyclists' manuals with me from time to time to hand out to erroneous (non-violent) drivers, and I'm about to start taking copies of page 41 of the Oregon Driver's Manual with "you cannot stop, stand, or park your vehicle in these locations:" and "In a bicycle lane or path" highlighted to put under the windshield wiper of cars parked in the bike lane.

Hmm... Maybe we should start doing that to the trucks on SE Caruthers. 20 or 30 of them will probably irritate the drivers, but then they *are* breaking the law.

The cop who ticketed me emphasized that he had gotten "a lot" of phone complaints about cyclists not stopping at that intersection. Perhaps cyclists should be phoning the police more about cars parked too closely to the intersections and parked in bike lanes. I wonder how vocal the typical cyclist is? I have more or less just assumed that cars behaving badly is a way of life. Perhaps I'll be more vocal now.

peace,

isaac

Matt P.
05-10-2006, 02:37 PM
I'm curious as to how many complaints they get about cars not stopping at that intersection. Cyclists are far less dangerous than cars, even at speed.

dylanmc
05-10-2006, 04:58 PM
I was a "victim" of the last police sting (you know, the one in response to a cyclist getting assaulted by a TriMet passenger). I honestly thought I had a reason to contest my ticket, so I asked for a court date. I was aghast at the judge's lack of not just sympathy, but empathy with the plight of cyclists. It's pretty clear the man had never been on a bike in traffic. I'll post more details of my experience later if I can muster the calmness to do so, but in short, the judge I saw was almost hostile and definitely condescending towards me and the other cyclists he saw. (He also blatantly "racially profiled" a native American: "haven't I seen you before?")

Further, my ticketing officer was a very friendly guy, and someone who does have (or at least project) bicycle empathy. However, I think he was disingenuous both to me, as well as to some folks who were pulled over today about the "show up in court and get your ticket significantly reduced" tale. The judge cited a 2003 law that kept him from reducing our $242 fines below $180-something. In my book, for all the "pain and suffering" involved in preparing for a date in court, a $60 reduction is not remotely significant.

The thing that really steamed me was that most of the tickets in my day in court were for moving automobile violations, many of which endangered lives of others as well as the driver. And the judge lowered those fines, based on clean prior records, to the same $180.

Of course, your mileage may vary -- I'm sure (or at least would hope) some judges have more empathy for our plight.

pdxbikerboy
05-11-2006, 07:19 AM
I would suggest that from now on, each cyclist out there call the Portland traffic division, at least once a week, and demand enforcement against 3,000 lb vehicles running stop signs in his/her neighborhood.

Obstensibly, what the cops are saying, by their actions, is that of all the traffic problems, bikes rolling stop signs is the biggest and the most demanding of immediate attention.

As a sometime pedestrian who finds it nearly impossible to cross busier streets because cars won't yield at intersections, as required by law, I humbly suggest that there are bigger (by thousands of pounds) fish to fry.

Jonathan Maus
05-11-2006, 08:17 AM
Obstensibly, what the cops are saying, by their actions, is that of all the traffic problems, bikes rolling stop signs is the biggest and the most demanding of immediate attention.

pdxbikerboy,
I don't think it's fair to put the onus on the Traffic Division. It's not quite that simple. They are like the Army...they take orders and enforce the letter of the law. Sure, they sometimes act unjustly and their personal feelings about certain groups might get in the way of their policing. They are human and they are fallible like the rest of us.

The police take their orders from the Mayor. They enforce laws put on the books by lawyers, legislators, and bike adovocacy groups. They work streets that are engineered and designed by the City of Portland and ODOT. I think you see where I'm going with this.

You might be interested in this article I just posted:
http://bikeportland.org/2006/05/11/police-sting-cyclists-in-response-to-complaint/

Bottom line is that we all need to follow the rules of the road, whether we're in our cars or on our bikes.

Russell
05-11-2006, 10:57 AM
I agree with Jonathan that SE 23rd and Salmon is a design problem and not so much a police problem. Selective enforcement, etc is a separate issue. I almost got nailed by a bicyclist without lights running the sign after dark (after Iíd stopped, looked, and didnít see him before riding through) so I have a hard time being very empathetic to the tickets. However, when they decided Salmon should be an alternative bike route to Morrison/Belmont/Hawthorn, they needed to also make 23rd and Salmon a two way stop with the signs on the north-south route of the intersection.

From 7th to well past 30th the route is stop sign-free outside of major intersections except for this one lone 4-way. If you are traveling east, the stop sign comes right before a fairly steep hill for a commuter. From the west, stopping loses some good momentum. Itís an intersection that makes little sense having four stop signs.

The way to address it isnít to whine about the police, but complain to the city and try to make it a 2-way stop. If the city wants to divert bicycle traffic to Salmon, they need to remove the main impediment to traveling eastward on the road, and that is the 4-way on 23rd.

alex26
05-11-2006, 06:50 PM
I also got caught at that ridiculous sting, despite the fact that I did actually slow down at the stop (just didn't make a complete stop). I ride my bike because I can't even afford to take the bus to work and my ticket is worth nearly 3x the amount of my bike. It's so ridiculous! If someone in an average priced car got a ticket for thousands of dollars, there would be a riot. .

Anyway...enough whining from me...if people want to band together against this, I'm there.

eagerdrone
05-15-2006, 08:03 AM
Today I was taking a walk and I watched as a bikist nearly struck a group of pedestrians. for me it was like watching a drunken bowling ball careen down the alley while the pins (in this case peds) were captivated by fear into holding their position. I really work to give peds the utmost respect. I was angry at the bicyclist not only because the Peds were nearly creamed, but also because the biker dude didn't even slow down for the stop sign when the peds were clearly entering into the intersection, the bikist didn't even give an audible warning (like "SHIT, I can't stop"). I figure he must have a fixed gear (or no brakes) and his inertia was simply too great to slow down safely. Bottom line, he didn't have control of his bike. Of course then there's the whole STOP SIGN thing.

I'd expect this from a child, but a grown adult?
Ride safe fellow bicyclists...

donnambr
05-15-2006, 06:23 PM
And your experience, eagerdrone, is exactly why I hope for more of these. I was riding home on SE 20th today and stopped for a couple with a stroller full of kidlet as they were halfway across the street. I did nothing more than the traffic law requires me to do, and yet they looked at me and thanked me as if I refrained from shooting their baby. I get this kind of response from pedestrians at least once a week. Goes to show you what pedestrians expect out of us.

If cyclists behaving like selfish children need tickets from the police in order to behave, then I guess that's what has to happen.

nevek
05-16-2006, 10:16 AM
I agree with Russell that the stop sign doesn't belong there. The cross street has little traffic (unlike 20th or 30th) and with Salmon as a bike route, the stop signs should be on the north/south sides of the intersection. I wonder if multiple complaints to the city bike coordinator (Roger Geller: roger.geller@pdxtrans.org) about the positioning of that stop sign would have any effect?

Regarding what the police would consider a stop and klrpdx's suggestion that it is a foot on the ground, I consider that analogous to requiring that a car be put into park at a stop sign. If my forward motion is stopped long enough for me to look both ways, that is exactly the way that a car stops at a sign, and that is what I will tell the police. I'll let you know if it works :-)

It used to be that you could go to court and get a traffic ticket reduced to $50 or lower, depending on the judge. I had a ticket for riding on the sidewalk downtown reduced to $0 (but not dismissed) by a sympathetic judge who acknowledged the dilemma faced by a cyclist in the transit mall and the shortage of northbound bike routes downtown (I now go around the mall by cutting over to 4th). Thanks to the 2003 law alluded to in a previous post, the judges can no longer do that. If you go to the courthouse and pay in person at the window, the clerk has the authority to give you the maximum-allowed reduction (~$70) if your driving record is good.

dylanmc
05-16-2006, 12:03 PM
... Thanks to the 2003 law alluded to in a previous post, the judges can no longer do that. If you go to the courthouse and pay in person at the window, the clerk has the authority to give you the maximum-allowed reduction (~$70) if your driving record is good.

To clarify this accurate statement, the $70 reduction is how much they can take off your $242 ticket. In my experience, the reduction was $60, bringing my bill to $182, for 4 hours effort (1 hour in line to "sign up" for a court date, 1 hour to prepare what I was going to say, 2 grueling hours waiting in the courtroom for my name to be called (Aaron Aardvark wouldn't be waiting as long), and countless hours stewing over the whole affair.).

In my court session the cab driver who illegally turned into traffic, cutting off a semi-truck, forcing the latter to panic stop by locking up his wheels, endangering her own life and that of her passengers, also had to pay $182.

Evan Manvel
05-16-2006, 04:05 PM
The BTA is working with the Traffic Safety Division to come up with a better solution than the stop sign at 23rd. Clearly, cut-through car traffic needs to be discouraged somehow, and I hope we'll find an affordable solution that will meet folks' needs.

PoPo
06-09-2006, 12:27 AM
I am a Portland police officer. And believe it or not I was also a bicycle messenger in downtown Portland for short time before getting my current job. I am a long-time bicyclist and am excited to currently be a member of the newly-created SE Precinct bicycle patrol.

The various postings in this string--from people of differing opinions of what is safe and unsafe on the road, from some people who have had positive and others who have had extremely negative interactions with police, from people with differing assumptions on what motivates police activity, and from people with different understandings of the law--perfectly illustrate the challenge I face at work. Finding a way to serve my diverse community (I also live in SE Portland) sometimes feels impossible. But this is also what makes my job so freaking interesting! (Almost typed "fraaking"--who loves the new Battlestar Galactica!)

I read about this site in the Wally Week today and am checking it out for the first time. I particularly appreciate the measured, thoughtful tone of the moderator--and I'm sorry I've already forgotton your name but don't want to risk hitting the back button and losing my text.

A couple things:

For a cop, a "stop" is when the wheels of your vehicle stop rolling. Doesn't matter if your feet are on the ground or the pedals. And a bicycle is a vehicle.

Indeed, it is not very common for us to recover stolen bicycles, but I have recently noticed an upswing in bicycles recovered because someone has noticed them listed as stolen on a website and then spotted the bicycle left somewhere. The system works! Take a couple digital photos of your bicycle and keep them somewhere just in case. And please record the serial number somewhere. Your chance of getting it back truly drops to nearly zero if you can't provide that when you report your bicycle stolen. The serial number is what we call in to dispatch when we see a bicycle we think is stolen, not the make or color. If the serial number isn't in the stolen bicycle database it will probably not be recovered.

dalv20
06-14-2006, 02:11 AM
...i'm tired of people who consider laws as if they were god given ...laws are suggestions made up by people and enforced by the cops. At times these suggestions have built in prejudices and other distortions to reality. I dare say this is the case with traffic laws applied to bikers. A red light means there may be objects in your way and they have the right of way... so you look and see... no objects, you go, i go... learn, take your time but do trust yourself.
The police... well, i wouldn't disobey the law infront of them... cuz that's provoking their "law is god given" minds... but i will not be scared into obidience to suggestions that are not here and now.

Shelby
06-14-2006, 07:54 AM
What does God have to do with it? The laws are made by men, but they aren't "suggestions". Plenty of accidents are caused by someone who doesn't see the car/bike/pedestrian that has the right of way.

Traffic planners may make wrong decisions, but that doesn't mean they're often foolish. That said, I'll take more liberties with red lights, etc. on foot than I will on a bicycle, but I never take any in a powered vehicle. I could digress into a philosophical discourse on obedience to the law, and when and why disobedience is appropriate, but I ought to get back to work. :-)