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New bicyclist diversion program in the works

Posted by on June 19th, 2006 at 9:12 am

There’s an exciting program being developed in Portland that, if approved and funded, would allow bicyclists to attend a legal and safety class in order to avoid a conviction or to have their traffic fine lowered.

This proposed class would only be available to first-time offenders of certain traffic violations.

The program is still in the development stages, but from what I’ve heard it could be ready to implement in “six months or less”. The person behind the program has been talking with local bike advocates, city officials and law enforcement representatives and the feedback so far has been very positive.

Many safety programs already exist for motor vehicle drivers but Portland could be the first city in the nation (to my knowledge) with a diversion program specifically for bicycle violations.

I look forward to sharing more details soon.

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  • ringer June 19, 2006 at 9:34 am

    It seems like the key here is “Bicycle Violations” Aren’t we (cyclists) treated as “motor vehicles”? I think this is a step in the right direction, but what I’m concerned with is my auto insurance going up for a “bicycle violation”. Am I even insured on my bike?

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  • randy June 19, 2006 at 10:35 am

    Bicycle violations do not show up on your DMV record, regardless of a conviction or whether or not you use your driver’s license for ID.

    You are insured on your bike by your PIP coverage (if you have auto insurance).

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  • Aaron June 19, 2006 at 11:11 am

    I fully support a program such as this. Many cyclists who are ticketed, are not aware of their responsibilities on the road. This would help alleviate the high rate of cyclists who are not aware of what is safe biking practice.
    Especially given the high cost of tickets relative to average bike expenses this makes perfect sense.

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  • mckenzie June 19, 2006 at 11:35 am

    While I think its great that such a program is being created, I think it does nothing to solve the key issue, which ringer mentioned briefly, that of ‘bicycle violations’. Bikes are still being targeted and ticketed for violations as though they were motor vehicles. This program, though it may help educate people of bike laws, seems more like a diversionary tactic than a head on solution to what is obviously a major conflict.

    I, for one, frequently run stop signs and red lights if I know the coast is clear, even though I am aware that is is illegal. If I got a ticket, I would take this class to weasel out of a ticket, but I doubt it would change my perceptions or change my illegal riding.

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  • Lenny Anderson June 19, 2006 at 11:53 am

    The Portland Police Bureau should not be wasting valuable Traffic Division resources on violations that put no one, but the bicyclist, at risk. It is hard to do harm to someone while riding a bike! Motor vehicles run down both pedestrians and bicyclist on a regular basis.
    Police should deploy resources where the most risk to life and property exist…motor vehicles that speed, run red lights, etc.
    All these enforcement actions against bicyclists who coast (safely) thru stop signs is simply public relations to satisfy some angry motorists. What a waste.
    That said, I urge every bicyclist to wait for red lights, yield at stop signs and generally operate your rig like one with a motor. But the police should have better things to do.

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  • Sara June 19, 2006 at 11:57 am

    Mckenzie, I bet that’s why it’s only for first time offenders, and for certain violations. When you keep doing the illegal behavior, then the second and later times you get ticketed, you won’t have the option of taking the class. Running red lights may not even be a violation that is part of this program.

    Although this is a nice idea, I agree with Ringer and Mckenzie that it may not be what really needs to be done. Even though we’re currently considered motor vehicles, I don’t think that’s the optimal solution. As the cycling population grows, we’re going to have to come up with more laws that are bicycle specific, to account for the differences between bikes and cars.

    While lowered fines and increased education are nice, I wish there were a way to give the education *before* there’s a problem (or a problem in the law-maker’s minds). Perhaps an emphasis on cyclists and pedestrians on the driving test would help. Schools could teach a section on bicycle safety. And there could be more advertising about the rights and responsibilities of cyclists. However, I still believe that while under-education is a problem for a significant portion of cyclists, a larger problem is that the laws for motor vehicles should not always apply to bicycles.

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  • Jonathan Maus June 19, 2006 at 2:22 pm


    With all due respect to your point, I don’t see what this program has to do with questionable enforcement actions and stings by the police.

    Stings or no stings, there will always be cyclists who get tickets.

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  • Chakra Lu June 19, 2006 at 2:54 pm

    what exactly is this good for? i think that they really need to focus on cars…i mean like the ones that take up the entire lanes on resi streets so that it makes it almost impossible to ride or drive down…or the cars that frequently pull so far out into the street WAY past a stop sign acting like you are not there while they KEEP pulling out…YES they could see me, I had a trail along bike with a big SAFETY RESCUE orange flag on it…cars are always violating and threatening lives with their big macho vehicles…why are there not more classes for them? more police stings for them? i have noticed that WITH my daughter on her trail along bike, there are more violations from cars threatening my life when I am obeying the law biking with her with the flashiest orange flag and reflectors on her bike as possible…BIG TRUCKS with huge egos, boat cars that like to drive the sidewalk…POLICE NOTICE THIS NOT!!! but, yeah they will notice me, without toting her along, yielding a stop sign not coming to a full stop and then condescendingly say “wanna ticket little girl???” the system is f’ed and that is all there is to it…making a violation class for first time offenders? come one…that would be nice to lower the ticket, but if you show up to court, most likely your ticket is going to be lowered to the maximum of having to pay like 25% of the ticket…state law enforced…but bike safety is an issue, but damn, i am going to violate the law to save mine and my daughter’s ass (when first we WERE obeying the law) to dodge some asshole from killing us…hostility much, yeah – ofcourse!

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  • randy June 19, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    The point is that there are already diversion programs for motorists, but there are none for cyclists. So today, a motorist might be able to get out of a traffic ticket by taking a class, but the only option for a cyclist is to pay the fine.

    This is a separate issue from police enforcement policy.

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  • Dabby June 19, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    By the way, bicycle tickets certainly and fully afect your driving record, as you can lose your license for a bicycle ticket.
    And on the driving record, it does not even say whether or not you were on a bike, or in a car, most or all of the time.
    It is just stated as a violation.
    I have known many, many people who have lost the ability to drive, based on number of violations, or accumalitive.
    People who never even had a license to drive.
    I myself have a ticket right now I refuse to pay, for a red light violation where a car crossed three lanes in order to turn left into me. During the process of trying to talk to him about it, he turned left very quickly, leaving me in the intersection, on my bike, where I got a $242 dollar red light ticket, while the car that violated my personal space drove away fast.
    My job requires that I drive some, and this ticket worries me very much. The ticket I never should have gotten.

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  • Gregg June 19, 2006 at 8:41 pm

    Lenny, your statement about bicyclist not hurting anybody is totally inaccurate. Believe it or not, when I drive a car, the last thing I want to do is kill somebody with it. If I have to swerve out of the way of a rogue cyclist and hit a pedestrian , then there is somebody that just got hurt by the actions of a cyclist.

    And on a side note, there are plenty of intersections where I can “coast through” in a car safely; it still doesn’t make it right. Or legal. The laws were made for the roads and the public that uses them, not the vehicle that is conveniently being used at the time.

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  • Dr. Mark Ross June 19, 2006 at 11:10 pm

    I’m giving 2 BIG Thumbs Up to this plan.

    First time caught, you’re given an opportunity to reconsider your behavior. It is up to you to decide whether you’re going to modify it or not, but the second time caught you’ll be hit with the full $242 and you won’t be able to whine since you were warned.

    ps: Sadly, after watching numerious speeding bikes dodging pedestrians and children along the McCall waterfront during the last few weeks I’m ready for stepped up police enforcement of outlaw cyclists.

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  • Curt June 21, 2006 at 1:02 am

    To the writer who thinks that traffic violations by bicyclists “put no one, but the bicyclist, at risk.” That statement is just not true. Reckless bicylists can cause collisions and injure or kill other bicyclists and pedestrians. Last year a bicyclist in Corvallis, Ore., ran a red light (or stop sign, can’t remember) and hit and killed a pedestrian. A diversion program for law-breaking bicyclists is a good idea, and as more and more people start riding bikes more often, this kind of program could become more relevant to out public safety.

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  • gb July 20, 2006 at 6:24 pm

    To whoever stated that bike violations affect your driving record, that’s probably false (I know it is in California at least). It may, however, be incumbent on you to ask the judge explicitly to note that the violation was a “bicycle violation” so as to ensure that it does not create points against your motor vehicle driving record.

    I would like to see a diversion program that would get people enrolling in high quality vehicular cycling courses a la Forester’s Effective Cycling. This would be an excellent thing for bike safety in this city.

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  • […] Back in June I reported on the progress of this new class that would offer bicyclists and pedestrians who commit certain traffic violations the opportunity to attend a class and have their fine reduced and/or their ticket dismissed. […]

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