Officer Brett Barnum of the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division has been at the center of the fixed gear enforcement issue. He was the officer who convinced a traffic court judge to uphold his citation of Ayla Holland back on July 28th (the case is being appealed).
Then, just last Tuesday, Barnum found himself in court again for the same violation. This time John Boyd, a local architect, convinced the judge to overrule Barnum’s ticket on the grounds that the definition of “brake” was not clearly defined in the statute (815.280(a)(b)).
Now, despite this recent ruling and what would appear to be a statute in legal limbo, Barnum is still ticketing bicyclists for riding fixed gear bicycles without a hand brake.
One cyclist—who wants to remain nameless until after he has fought his case—contacted me after getting a ticket from Barnum Thursday night.
Here is his story:
“Yesterday, around 3:00pm, a certain Officer Barnum accosted me (after I- check it – stopped in front of my north Portland apartment after work), “noticing that I was riding a fixed gear without a brake.”
There were a few moments of what-if-your-chain-broke banter, both he and I were doubtless fully expecting each others’ comments-after which he issued me a citation for being in violation of ORS 815.280.”
John Boyd alerted me to this incident via a comment and said,
“I dare say that to me (this) would represent a squandering of city and county resources. This would seem to suggest that Barnum does not recognize the Judges authority in the matter.
Is there precedent for police repeatedly bringing known loosing cases before the court? How many times will he need to be spanked on the behind with a dictionary before his superior says “get over it”.”
This comment inspired another reader to suggest that cyclists consider filing an official complaint about Barnum’s conduct. According to a reader named Elly,
“There is a supposedly independent police review commission in Portland. You can file commendations or complaints with them, if you feel that a specific officer has done an especially good job or has failed to uphold their duty.
You can choose to file a commendation or complaint from the toolbar on the right.”
I’m not exactly sure of the legal situation here, but perhaps the Police should just give warnings for this violation until the courts decide once and for all
if the statute will be changed or not how the statute should be interpreted.
Are there any cops, lawyers, or judges out there who can shed some light on this?
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You wrote: “until the courts decide once and for all if the statute will be changed or not”
I sure hope the courts aren’t changing statutes. I really hope they leave that to the lawmakers…
Brake as defined by Webster’s : something used to slow down or stop movement or activity.
I do believe if I slow down my pedaling my track bike slows down and if I stop pedaling my track bike stops. On top of that my bike can skid so therefore I meet all the requirement of the statute.
ONE LESS BRAKE
Considering the overwhelming number of motorists speeding, running red lights, and other dangerous behaviors, this cop has a serious lack of good judgment in the application of his time and duty to enforce the laws.
Is there an Offcier Bailey at the PPD traffic division to complete this circus?
RE: the “what if your chain breaks?” question.
Brake cables have been known to break, too, you know. The law doesn’t say that you have to have TWO brakes on your bike. So, you could be legal with one brake, yet still face the same situation of being unable to stop due to a failed component. Does this logic escape Officer Muldoon…errr, Barnum? Yo, Brett, why don’t you shut down a meth lab or rescue a kitten…do something productive with your time instead of picking on cyclists?
Theoretically there might be a way to get an injunction on the enforcement action – but I am not sure. (Not a lawyer.)
The problem here is that there are conflicting rulings at the circuit court level regarding the meaning of the statute. Circuit court judges are not bound by the decisions of other circuit court judges – the decision in the successful case affected only that rider, no other riders, although if those riders are ticketed they would apparently do well to make the same statutory construction argument. Until an appellate court has ruled on the issue, the possibility of conflicting rulings remain, and ticketing of riders is still legal. Whether it is a waste of resources is an entirely different matter. Frankly, I would prefer they start ticketing all the drivers who park their cars facing the wrong direction on city streets (SE is full of them). There’s nothing to get you heart pumping as fast as when you are riding your bike down the street and suddenly faced head on by some jack-ass pulling out of his wrong side of the street space. . . .
Couldn’t this headline read “Despite ruling, fixed gear riders continue to break law.”
Ok, stop throwing rocks and just listen. Even if the appeal overturns the first ruling in the first case these tickets could still be given out. The letter of the law needs to change for any real change to happen.
btw, i’m not the cop
How much time is Officer Barnum spending on this? Not only does he write the pointless tickets, but he appears to be spending a lot of time in court as an advocate for a particular interpretation of the statute. That’s time he’s not out on the street–which, come to think of it, might not be a good thing.
There is no public policy benefit of his personal vendetta against fixed gear riders. Has anyone shown a documented public safety issue here? That is, actual crashes–not hypothetical ones due to hypothetical leg spasms.
I’m sending a message to Mark Kruger, Barnum’s boss, and Rosie Sizer, Kruger’s boss, to tell them to rein this guy in. Next time the cops moan about not having enough public money to fight crime, I’m going to remember that this is how some of Portland’s finest choose to spend their valuable time. What a waste of resources.
Brett, please elaborate why you don’t think fixed-gear bicycles are in compliance. Is it that you don’t agree with the dictionary argument from post No.2 above, or another reason?
In light of my favorable ruling, do you not see this as a cop on self-righteous mission, looking to try other judges to agree with him? I’m just looking to know people’s angles on this.
maybe i’m just the devil’s advocate here, but don’t we have bigger fish to fry? i mean, sure, the officers are wasting time giving out these pointless tickets which may or may not be warranted, but does no one else feel that we’re wasting a lot of time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere?
John, thanks for your open mind.
My point (#8) is that if we consider a ruling to be THE basis for future issues then the first guilty ruling would mean that all future rulings would be guilty. That’s not the way the system works, thankfully.
I don’t see the cop as anything because I don’t have enough information to have an intelligent opinion on the matter of his motivation. Anyone that has a strong opinion, or actually files a complaint against him is being unfair, based on the information provided in these posts.
What I do know is that I applaud how you have handled, and continue to handle this issue. I think the cause would be better served with you at the helm of change instead of some of the more passionate people involved. Yours would be an important voice in getting the law changed as you have litigated your case and won.
As a matter of fact… I would donate resources to the cause of getting the letter of the law changed with you at the helm.
Also, I put a front brake on my fixie as soon as I got it. I believe it to be the best balance between safety and simplicity. But I also log a lot of miles on a road, commuter, and bent.
I agree with the hand. We as individuals compromise our desires on a daily basis to live as part of a society. Yes, there are times when we should not compromise our desires and challenge our systems and governments to make a change. But, is this really the issue to champion?
Officer Barnum, (if you read this site)
Maybe it is just me, but I am failing to see the difference between a fixed gear brake and a coaster brake. Could you please clarify this for me? Both rely on a chain to provide the forced required to stop the bike and both could have the chain break. So according to your argument about ‘what if the chain brakes’, this makes me worried that your going to start ticketing all the kids around PDX for using a coaster brake bike that happens to lack what you consider an effective brake.
Jonathan, Aaron’s right – your closing remark is a little misleading. You may wish to change “until the courts decide once and for all if the statute will be changed or not” to say instead, “until the courts decide once and for all how the statute should be interpreted.”
The judicial branch interprets and clarifies the law, the legislature actually *changes* it.
Matt and Aaron, thanks for your advice on my misleading statement. I agree and I will change it right now.
the hand said:
“does no one else feel that we’re wasting a lot of time and energy that could be better spent elsewhere?”
“I agree with the hand. …is this really the issue to champion?”
People fight on the issues they feel strongly about. Why discourage them? If you feel strongly about the issue, do something about it. If you don’t, then don’t.
Are there specific issues that you feel should be addressed instead?
There’s always a comment like yours. The answer to your question is “No.” There is plenty of time and energy to go around, and this is a matter of principle. Smaller fish become bigger fish you know.
Consider this as well while you’re sitting there so concerned about the time and energy wasted: Most people expend *way* more time and energy on activities that have no positive social effect whatsoever (watching TV, shopping, etc.)
I’d like to, respectfully, suggest that *your* effort is misdirected.
It is a responsibility of mine to contribute to the emotional and spirtitual evolution of our species. As such I interject my comments accordingly.
If I question the importance of devoting too much energy towards a certain goal then it is my belief that in the “grand vision” other goals are more important.
What goes on in this forum is not fighting on an issue. It is mainly entering a dialog with like minded individuals, or verbally fencing with unlike minded ones. I would have no comment towards those that carry this fight to actually getting the law changed. Ok, maybe I would… personally I think global warming is more important. But I have a great deal more respect for people that take action instead of just talking.
I say this every time this issue comes up…
Officer Barnum is a TRAFFIC COP his job is to write tickets related to traffic stuff, not rescue kittens, not shut down meth labs. He is in the Traffic Division, get it?
I’d be interested to know if there are other officers writing the same tickets or just Barnum. Let’s get the whole story here.
And is he really still using that “what if your chain breaks, or you get leg cramps example”
Next person who is pulled over by him please ask him what if he has a heart attack while driving his car, or motorcycle. Or has a seizure while riding his bike. These are ridiculous questions…..
Oregonian Metro article:
Brett please read and COMPREHEND my first post. If it stops it has a brake, unless we who ride without an auxillary brake are magicians.
I am not breaking the law by simply riding my track bike.
The law is fine the law it is. It just needs to be interpreted with intelligence and common sense.
Sorry for the multiple posts. I meant “The law is fine the WAY it is.”
And “the hand” : you might think this is a fish worth frying if you were a messenger who got 4 tickets in one month, like one messenger did.
ONE LESS BRAKE
I fully get what Traffic Cops are supposed to do. It’s too bad Officer Barnum doesn’t…
It’s called sarcasm…look into it.
Okay so.. In the Oregonian article it says…
Both cases feature the increasingly popular one-speed fixed-gear bikes. The bikes work like a tricycle: if the wheels are turning, the pedals are moving.
At issue is an Oregon statute that says bicycles “must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.”
How many tricycle riders are able to make their wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement? Is Brett going after these “other fixed-gear” bikes?
Just food for thought. Anyone with a ticket for no hand brake may want to also mention that tricycles have no brake under Brett’s interpertation.
I’m actually very good at comprehending.
The law is not fine the way it is. It was written by someone that does not understand the physics of bicycling. I said nothing about you breaking the law.
“Common sense isn’t”
From what you are saying a person could argue that they meet the requirement for having a brake by falling off the bike… hmm.
Oh, and as far as the messenger that got four tickets in one month goes… well let me put it this way. Produce this person, show me the four tickets for no brakes and I will personally pay this persons tickets. If you can’t do this… stop talking smack.
>From what you are saying a person could argue that they meet the requirement for having a brake by falling off the bike… hmm.
s. k. i. d. skid.
>I’m actually very good at comprehending.
>The law is not fine the way it is.
Again, why is it not fine? Explaining part not up to the very good comprehending part.
I think it’s fine because it is an objective performance standard that sets a minimum ability to slow down a bicycle. That is skid. Obviously there are minimum standards that would be safer, like some deceleration value, or a “self energizing” requirement.
I don’t ride a bike in traffic to be safer. But increased bicycle regulations are inevitable, and we Portlanders will probably be the first ones in the US to lay em down (and we really should catch up to Idaho’s stop-means-yield law).
I am an avid cyclist, and I want a fixie of my own. I am also cop, but not with PPB. I need to remain somewhat anonymous, not so much to you folks but to the fellow cops I am about to slam. I am more than willing to identify myself to Jonathan off-forum, if he so wishes.
Dunno, This is silly. I would never write a fixie. In my mind the mechanics and physics of stopping a fixie are not much different than the coaster brake on my first Schwinn. The “What if your chain broke?” line is laughable.
Track stands? I do them all the time. Peleton through a stop sign? My opinion is that the whole group equals a single vehicle. As long as there are no major traffic confilcts and some reasonableness is applied by the cyclists, like seeing them let up, looking both ways and communicating, it is pretty easy to differentiate the boneheads from responsible cyclists. I’m not going to bust anyone’s balls.
I met Barnum once in 1995 outside of policework. Personally, I thought he was an arrogant bastard back then. Other than that I don’t know much about him. However, as you all know the mentality is shared by many officers (I refer to them as knuckle-draggers or “C” Students) and Patrick is exactly right. It is the fact that he is a TRAFFIC COP. Drug and Vice cops have a particular reputation as does SWAT. The Sub-Sub cultures of police specialty units is quite interesting, but I digress.
Court overtime is a frequent motivator, especially for traffic cops.
Peer motivation, competitions between officers regarding writing citations is not unusual in the least.
A personal disdain for hipster’s?
Pride hurt from losing a case and shopping for a favorable judge has been mentioned and I agree that this is is a possibility.
My guess is that traffic court in Multnomah County is not a “Court of Record” as the Circuit Court and above are. I believe that a favorable opinion for cyclists in a Court of Record” would set precedent that would effectively reign Barnum in. I might be wrong. I’m sure there are a bunch of green ACLU lawyer types here that can answer that. 🙂
“Produce this person, show me the four tickets for no brakes and I will personally pay this persons tickets.”
well you want to pay the tickets then or back out.
I LIVE WITH THE MESSENGER.
We work for the same company and its about $500 worth of tickets.
so you gonna pay when and where do you want to meet?
“From what you are saying a person could argue that they meet the requirement for having a brake by falling off the bike… hmm.”
This is so tiresome. I assure you that me and every other semi-skilled fixed gear rider can bring a bike to a complete stop in complete control and safety. Maybe you should do a “ride-along” with a messenger so you can see the level of skill and control for yourself.
The original “safety bicycle” was a fixed gear. Unfortunately in our technologically complicated world, people have lost the ability to understand soemthing as utterly simple as the operation of a fixed gear bicycle.Centrifugal Bumblepuppy, anyone?
The messenger in question works for Mercury. You should leave your email on here so he can get ahold of you.
ONE LESS BRAKE stickers coming soon. The proceeds will go to the legal defense of the messengers who have gotten tickets. More details to folow. And…I don’t need to talk smack, this is REAL.
The letter needs changed for the same reason autos now have anit-lock brakes. A skid does not stop as effectively.
No Nerf, I asked Skid to produce the rider. And four brakeless tickets don’t add up to your number anyway so it doesn’t jive.
Also, I ride a fixed gear and I can skid stop… with and without powerslide.
But I tell you what, I’m moving on from this. I’ll watch though and if I see the four tickets for no brake persons email in here I will make contact.
Oh I am sorry Brett, but I am not going to reveal his identity without his permission. He does not own a computer. Nerf, could you ask your roomie when is a good time for he, Brett and I to meet? Really Brett, if you want me to introduce you to this messenger it can be arranged. Are you a man of your word?
hmmm looks like your backing out from what you said, starting to think the person actually exists and has tickets for that much? i don’t even want to waste my or his time on this
I guess some people front on the internet…..
ONE LESS BRAKE
You know, when I was involved with the Piedmont Neighborhood Association, I often tried to get our “neighborhood liason officer,” or any officer for that matter, to show up to our meetings to talk about issues concerning the neighborhood (cops speeding through the neighborhood and in general rarely interacting in positive ways with residents). Nope they said. They couldn’t do it. Manpower, manpower, manpower. Only so many officers and so much to do. So obviously given this example, I must say bull, bull, bull. (keeping it family-friendly you know).
And this officer wastes god knows how much time and how much money pursuing this crusade against the scourge of fixed-gears.
I’m sorry, is this a problem? Is there a track-record (no pun intended) of fixed-gears with chains breaking? As a former mechanic and long-time shop employee, I have NEVER seen a fixed gear with a half-way decent chainline brake a chain. Ever. Not that they never have, but the fact that I’ve never encountered it, certainly indicates a certain level or rarity.
What if the chain brakes? Well, what if a chain brakes on a coaster brake? What if hydraulic lines rupture on a car’s brakes? What if, what if.
Officer Barnum? How bout you get a radar gun and hang out on MLK and start busting the thousands (seriously!) of cars that go speeding down that street? What about the drivers (many of them cops I must say) who never yield to pedestrians at intersections, as dictated by law!?
You just don’t like cyclists. You hate that there is this element of society that operates outside of your little realm of control. These tickets are nothing more than a lame little attempt to assert your dominance over us. How very transparent.
Get over it you small little man with a gun.
You need a hobby.
Like I said. Produce the person that got four tickets in one month for no brake and I will pay for his tickets… period.
If you can’t produce him… stop talking smack.
I’m done with this topic. But, as I said, I will watch for the person to surface.
Heh. Maybe if Brett had a track bike he wouldn’t be able to back pedal so much! =P
Not talking smack Brett. I haven’t said anything on this subject that isn’t true. In fact rather than getting angry and getting in a pissing match with you I am going to put on my Team Diplomacy hat and try to arrange a meeting early next week between the 4 of us. They live in town and I live in Aloha but I think we can all meet downtown during their lunch break. If you can’t do that I’m sure that us three can bike somewhere in the early evening to meet you. Whatever is convenient for you.
I don’t know why you find it so implausible that a Police Officer would ticket a messenger multiple times.
ONE LESS BRAKE
Officer Barnum is continuing to write tickets because he lost one case. That’s all.
The issue hasn’t been heard by an appellate court yet, so there is no instruction to traffic courts from the appellate courts as to how to interpret this statute. Until there is instruction from the appellate courts, each traffic court is free to interpret the statute according to what it thinks the statute means. So Officer Barnum will continue to write tickets, and he will win some cases, and lose some cases, until an appellate court decides what the statute means. Then the traffic courts will follow that interpretation.
And if the Legislature agrees with the appellate court, that will be the accepted meaning of the statute, and if the legislature disagrees with the appellate court, it will step in and write the statute to mean what it wants the statute to mean.
Id think that there is another direction to go with this….. Has anyone, or is anyone willing to check into the history of injury or crashes where the fixed gear rider was out of control, broke his chain or some other mechanical failure of the bike or rider that would give the officers the feeling that the direction they are going with this is well warranted.
Thank you Rixtir.
Fortunately, I’ve never had to learn how the system works.
>and he will win some cases, and lose some cases
Barnum has a choice whether to operate in a semi-rogue manner until appelate court can weigh in.
Funny though how a loosing defendant doesn’t get to choose to continue until an appellate decision.
Actually, a defendant who loses his/her case could choose to continue to ride “brakeless.” However, that defendant would risk another ticket, and depending on the court, could either win or lose that case.
Barnum is prosecuting these cases under his understanding of what the law means, so I wouldn’t characterize that particular fact as “semi-rogue” (although it’s interesting that he does appear to have developed a particular interest in fixed gear riders.).
Because no case has been appealed yet, there’s no appellate decision for anybody to wait for. In order for the appellate courts to weigh in, somebody will have to appeal a decision. That likely means that a defendant who loses at trial would appeal.
Until a case is appealed and a decision made, Officer Barnum can keep writing tickets and prosecuting cases (although I suppose if he kept losing in trial court, the traffic division might tell him to back off on prosecuting losing cases).
Punishment by process.
I’ve read with interest the comments about fixed-gear brakes and the courts. I’m a Multnomah County Judge Pro Tem who works with Judges Lowe and Larsen. It isn’t uncommon for two judges to differ in statutory interpretation. One judge is not obligated to follow a ruling of another judge in the same jurisdiction, but engages in his or own fact-finding and legal analysis. While the process of statutory interpretation follows a prescribed set of procedures, the interpretation may differ somewhat based on facts in an individual case. I’m not personally privy to Judge Lowe’s or Judge Larsen’s reasoning or to the individual facts, but it appears from a reading of the statute that both positions have some merit.
Appealing traffic citations is time-consuming and can be very expensive. The best approach for any ticket is to come to court armed with as much information as possible, to be educated in bicycle safety and laws, to be courteous, and to be mindful of court procedures and admissibility of evidence. Lawyers and experts might help your case, but it’s good preparation that’s key.
With all due respect Judge Cheryl: If a Police Officer asks you to stop, and you do so without dragging your feet on the ground, doesn’t that indicate the presense of a braking device? If the statute requires that the braked wheel must be capable of skidding, and you can skid a bike that is a fixed gear, doesn’t that satify the statute?
The drivetrain on a fixed gear functions as a drive and a brake. When you increase you pedaling speed the bike accellerates (drive), when you decrease your pedaling speed the bike decellerates (brake). When you stop pedalling the bike stops(brake). If it stops it is a brake.
This is spinning horribly out of control.
I have a few remarks to add.
To the officer above (un named):
Having dealt with Portland Police for a long time, I understand and respect your wishes to remain annonymous.
I am glad to see your comments, as they reinforce what I have known, or believed to be, the case for a long time.
I also respect your post, using your real name, in defense of judge’s decisons.
We pay them to do the job that they are doing. If we do not like this, we must work to change the laws.
This has been my stance on this since the beginning.
The ordinance must be changed in Salem where the lawmakers meet.
This will not be handled on anymore than a case to case basis here in Portland.
I think alot of people here do not understand that. These judges are making independent decisions on a violation, that is on a dockett, that they may not have even seen until 2 minutes before you are standing in front of them. Once again, this is their job.
The judges are not conspiring against us like people want to believe.
The police officer is certainly targeting this, in a sometimes unlawful manner…
This must be stopped, since there is a obvious history of this occuring. Who here has the power to have Mr. Barnum chastized for abuse of authority?
Your comments border on idiotic. You claim to want to pay for my friends tickets, if only they could be reproduced.
I could do this in a half hour if you would like. He is Nerf’s roomate, this is no lie.
He has gotten four tickets for this offense. I believe they range from a no brake ticket, to driving a unsafe vehicle, which is basically the same ticket.
Yet, when told they can easily be produced, your back pedal.
But, why would we want your assistance in this manner? You do not even seem to understand or get the issue.
The best thing for this person to do is never, ever, get within one city block of you.
He should, and will, thrust those tickets into his fat little hand, and march right on over to the office of a lawyer, who can do him some good.
For, like your comments here, you paying for his tickets would be unproductive and uncalled for. It appears to me we do not need your help what so ever.
Bringing it ’round the turkey and into your living room,