Last week, there was a lot of discussion about a stop sign enforcment mission by the Traffic Division of the Portland Police Bureau (PPB). In response to a citizen complaint, they sent several officers out to SE 23rd and Salmon Streets to nab law-breaking cyclists.
Until now, the one group we hadn’t heard from was the Traffic Division. I am pleased to have gotten permission from Lieutenant Mark Kruger to publish his thoughts from an email correspondence we had last Friday.
As you read this, please remember that Lt. Kruger has no obligation to offer his perspective on these events. He is doing so because he understands the importance of promoting understanding between the actions of the Traffic Division and the perceptions and opinions of the bike community.
From Lieutenant Mark Kruger of the PPB Traffic Division:
“I reviewed some of the comments on your site this morning and had a conversation with Greg (Raisman, from PDOT) yesterday.
A couple of important points that I would like to make are regarding why we conduct the enforcement that we do.
A great deal of effort goes into suggesting that bikes running stops signs et al is relatively harmless compared to the damage that can be done by a motorist who does the same thing. Additionally, there is the position that the police should be enforcing only the areas with the highest number of collisions.
I think you truly understand that the police in Portland actually conduct enforcement on bicyclists very rarely compared to the massive amount of enforcement directed at motorists. We should probably be directing more enforcement at bicycle violations given the increase in rider ship in recent years.
Our specific focus in the Traffic Div is to 1) arrest DUII drivers, 2) investigate traffic collisions and cite the responsible party, and 3) issue citations for moving violations that most contribute to traffic collisions.
To that end we will occasionally be working locations where bikes are running stop signs/lights because it is a significant safety issue for road users in general. Even if you only look at bike fatalities in Portland, the concern is clear. There have been 24 bicyclists killed in traffic collisions in Portland over the last 11 years. In 58% of those cases the bicyclist was at fault. Of those cases where the bicyclist was at fault, 30% were cases where the bicyclist went through a red light or stop sign without stopping and yielding the right of way. Those cases are at locations that do not have a significant crash history. The remaining cases of bicyclist fault most often show lack of attention and awareness of what traffic is doing around the bicyclist. Interestingly, in only one case where the motorist was at fault for the fatal collision did the motorist fail to stop at a stop sign or red light. DUII drivers have been the greatest lethal threat to bicyclists with 56% of all motorist fault in bicycle involved fatalities caused by DUII drivers. Those collisions are all bicyclists struck from behind on straight sections of roadway.
During the mission on Wed we had a great many of the bicyclists that we stopped tell us that they routinely do not stop for stop signs. So the point I want to make is that regardless of where we issue a traffic citation (to a motorist or a bicyclist) we are addressing behavior that we encounter at a specific location and general behavior or habits that the driver or bicyclist may engage in.
Our intent and desire is to target violations that contribute to traffic collisions and that is why we will continue to regard stop sign/red lights violations as significant and important regardless of where we encounter them. For both motorists and bicyclists.”
Please feel free to leave your feedback and comments. However in doing so, I would sincerely appreciate your respect and consideration of Lt. Kruger. I have worked hard to create a space where a Police Lieutenant feels comfortable enough to participate.
Let’s show him that we are here to foster understanding between cyclists and the Police and improve the safety of all road users.