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Police, Zoobombers come to terms on Hellway

Posted by on June 23rd, 2006 at 10:10 am

Zoobomb

[Zoobombers on Burnside.]

Highway 26 leading into downtown Portland is a traditional route sometimes used by Zoobombers. They call it “the Hellway” and it is simultaneously feared and revered by many.

While it’s usually legal to ride bikes on Highway 26, because of a sewer construction project, currently the Hellway route is off-limts. In early June one Zoobomber had a serious crash. That mishap and the illegal Hellway riding got some bad PR when the story got picked up and reported on by KGW-TV.

These events prompted a complaint by Central Precinct officers to the Traffic Division.

In response, Traffic Division Lieutenant Mark Kruger sent out a video crew to see what was going on. After watching the videos he was “appalled”:

“It was insane, they were riding down Highway 26 and through the tunnel without lights, surfing into traffic lanes…it was only a matter of time until someone was killed.”

Concerned for public safety and wanting to uphold the temporary prohibition of bikes on the highway, Kruger immediately set up a meeting to talk with the Zoobombers about the problem.

Last Friday Kruger and Traffic Division Commander Marty Rowley, along with a representative from Zoobomb (Reverend Phil), local bike lawyer and veteran bike community member Mark Ginsberg, someone from the Parks Department and officers from Central Precinct all came to the table.

Much to Kruger’s surprise, the talks went very well and Reverend Phil agreed to take back the concerns to the Zoobomb crew. Both sides agreed to revisit the situation the following week.

Last Sunday Kruger again sent out his crew to check on the Zoobomb and was very pleased to see that no one rode the Hellway and that everyone had lights.

Kruger, who also participates in monthly Critical Mass meetings, is now trying to set up another meeting to talk about how to keep the Hellway safe once it officially re-opens to bicycles in the coming weeks.

I think that the Police have chosen dialogue instead of a harsh crackdown really shows how far the bike community has come here in Portland. From my perspective, the Zoobombers are committed to enjoying themselves and maintaining the good vibe of their group much more than hassling with cops or causing problems.

Kudos to everyone involved and I hope the constructive dialogue continues.

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5 Comments
  • gabriel amadeus June 23, 2006 at 11:39 am

    Amen!
    As most of you know (I’m asssuming most of you are non-natives) Living in a place like p-town where people like the police actually have a dialogue with people like the zoobombers is freakin crazy. In a good way.

    Thanks portland!
    Thanks PPD!
    Thanks Mark, Marty, and Phill!

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  • Nick June 25, 2006 at 9:28 pm

    I have no problem with the zoobomb people. i ride their route to and from work every day, and think they represent the spirt of our city to the max.

    I many times take the zoo to Jefferson route on the sholder in the mornings to work. I’ll be damn POed with the zoobombers if they ruin this route for me by forcing ODOT to close it to bikes.

    I’m proud of both sides for working to make the situation work. Keep it up.

    ~n

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  • randy June 26, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    ODOT has already proposed closing Highway 26 to bikes from the Jefferson Street exit all the way out to 185th in Hillsboro. ZooBomb will not force ODOT to close the road, but could be used as an excuse to do so. What could prevent this action on ODOT’s part is solidarity between commuters, ZooBombers and other cyclists who use this section of the Highway.

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  • Nick June 26, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    randy,

    I totally agree. I know many who do the Zoobomb, and have wanted to m’self, I know they don’t want to hurt cycling at all. I also know they bitch about the crazy ones that make the zoobomb difficult at times.

    My point was that I hope a few bad apples don’t mess-up the access to 26.

    ~n

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  • good apple zoobomber June 28, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    Some info on Traffic Division Lieutenant Mark Kruger: http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/Content?oid=31818&category=22101
    http://portlandmercury.com/portland/Content?oid=30725&category=34029
    http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3015/4820/

    If you google his name, you’ll find much more info on his tactics and history. The first Critical Mass ride after he took Traffic Division was marked with arrests and tickets.

    I guarantee that you will never find a zoobomber with such a violent background as Lieutenant Mark Kruger. So I agree with you, Nick, I hope the acces to HWY 26 doesn’t get messed-up by bad apples, but I believe you mind find them somewhere else than on top of a minibike.

    Dialogue between police and community is a positive thing in Portland politics, but I can’t help but be suspicious of the interests that Mark Kruger might have in relating with zoobombers. Not to mention the fact that PP has been spying on zoobomb activities based on information they get at zoobomb.net forums.

    My true hope is that Zoobomb helps Portland police understand that there are much bigger priorities in this city than cracking down bicyclists.

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