Last week, I attended a meeting of PDOT’s Community and Schools Traffic Safety Partnership (CSTSP) Coordination Council and got an update on Portland’s effort to be the first city to offer a traffic law violation diversion class to bicyclists and pedestrians.
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.
Think of it like traditional traffic court, but now open to all roadway users.
The man with the plan is Circuit Court Judge Pro Tem Christopher Larsen (photo, above). Inspired by a seatbelt safety class at Legacy Emanuel Hospital, and working with the Portland Police, ODOT, Trauma Nurses Talk Tough, and the BTA, Larsen has created what is now known as the Share the Road Safety Class.
At the meeting, Judge Larsen spoke about how his experiences in traffic court led him to create this class:
“When I became a judge 2.5 years ago it became painfully obvious to me as I heard traffic violation cases that there was a lack of awareness about how all the traffic laws work together to provide a safe environment for everybody that uses the public right of way. As a lawyer who defended traffic law violations I could tell there was a need for more education.
Knowing that Portland is on the map as a bike and pedestrian friendly city, and knowing that there’s going to be huge population growth, we simply must become more educated about our obligations and responsibilities around sharing the roads.””
According to the ODOT grant application, the class will last two hours, will require a nominal fee and will feature a variety of presenters. Upon completion of the class and compliance with all conditions and court orders, defendants will receive a certificate that can be used for a reduced fine, discharge, or dismissal of the violation.
The class is only available to first-time offenders of certain traffic violations. Examples of the 30 eligible violations include, motorists driving in the bike lane, not yielding to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, failure of a cyclist to yield to a pedestrian in a sidewalk, and so on.
Larsen hopes funding will be approved soon and plans to start classes in, “the next month or so.”
Larsen was also quick to add that this new diversion class will not be used as an excuse by the Portland Police to issue more citations to bicyclists. “That’s up to them,” he said.