My recent story on a traffic court decision that upheld a ticket to a local messenger for not having a “separate braking device” on her fixed-gear bicycle has quickly spread around the web and seems to have struck a nerve in cyclists everywhere.
This morning the article was linked to from BoingBoing.net, one of the most well-known blogs in the world with an estimated 1.75 million visitors per day.
Here’s the latest from a local messenger, the lawyer on the case, and a police Lieutenant.
Messengers across the country are expectedly up in arms at the decision and are very worried that this will only increase what they see as unwarranted harassment from cops for merely doing their job.
Earlier today I touched base with Dabby, a veteran Portland messenger. Dabby says he has distributed the story to hundreds of messengers and has talked to many of them about it:
“We’re definitely not happy about this. Several of us are now carrying sticks in our bags just in case we get pulled over…but seriously though, we feel like yet again we are being targeted just for doing our job. What really worries me is that cops are pulling us over for no reason…how they even tell whether we’ve got a front brake on our bike until they’ve pulled us over?”
PUMA—who has just recently begun to organize their advocacy efforts—will likely hold a meeting to get input from more messengers and if necessary, will consider a fundraiser to pay for Ayla Holland’s ticket or ongoing trial.
According to Ayla Holland’s lawyer Mark Ginsberg, his office will have the full audio transcript from the trial tomorrow and will have it transcribed by next week. At that point they will decide how or if to move forward with the case.
In a post to a local cycling email list Ginsberg maintained his opinion:
“The judge was of the opinion that the “device” needed to be a “separate” device, not just the fixed gear itself. In my opinion the judge was adding words to the statute ORS 815.280(2)(a), that aren’t there…the word “separate” was not in the statute or in the (definition of brake in the) dictionary. Is a tricycle illegal in this judges opinion?”
Bike lawyer Ray Thomas is also interested in this case and is working to film a video of a fixed-gear rider coming to a skid on dry, level pavement. Thomas hopes to present this video to the judge and the police.
I emailed Lieutenant Mark Kruger for his opinion on the situation. Kruger is 2nd in command at the Traffic Division, and Officer Barnum (who wrote the ticket to Holland) is under his command. Here’s Kruger’s opinion on the matter,
“Both Cmdr Rowley and I have looked at the law and think it is clear that a bike must be equipped with a brake and using feet or legs to physically stop the bike does not qualify under the law. Ever since Mark Ginsberg brought this to my attention I’ve been on the look out for such a bike in operation and finally saw a fellow a couple weeks ago going south on MLK. From what I saw he was hard pressed to stop that bike with his feet and legs in any way that would allow him to operate safely. I’m sure there are various ranges of skill out there, however, we still think the law requires a mechanical brake fixed to the bike in order to meet the requirement.”
I have a very strong feeling this case will be appealed. Anyone know a good bike route to Salem?