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Ginsberg gets his own day in court

Posted by on October 11th, 2006 at 8:40 am

Lawyer's Ride and CBS News

[Mark Ginsberg in
his other suit.]

Mark Ginsberg is a Portland-based lawyer who specializes in bicycle-related cases. He’s also the guy who represented messenger Ayla Holland in the infamous fixed gear brake trial.

Since that case, the Portland Police have continued to scrutinize bicyclists. They’re citing not only brakeless fixed-gear bicycle riders without handbrakes, but several other infractions that may not stand up in court including; not using hand signals (which cyclists are not required to do), not riding in the bike lane (which is not always required), and others.

Fighting for fixed gears in court

[Ginsberg in action.]

Ginsberg has a stack of at least eight bicycle citations that he thinks are of questionable merit so he requested his own day in court to present them all at once. Ginsberg said he made the request so he could spend more time on each case and honor what he calls, “judicial economy”:

“Traffic court is set up for quick, 10 minute cases…but I plan on spending 45 minutes to an hour on some of these cases so I made the request to make life easier for everyone.”

His request has been granted and on November 6th, he will have his own day in court. I’ve heard some cyclists might even show up outside the courtroom with donuts and coffee. It should be an interesting day.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

49 Comments
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    Jeff October 11, 2006 at 9:26 am

    I thought it was actually illegal to not signal for a turn. Can someone cite city traffic law on this one?

    Maybe I’m confusing “recommended” with “required”. Who knows.

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    Jonathan Maus October 11, 2006 at 9:28 am

    My understanding is that cyclists are required to use hand signals unless doing so puts them at risk.

    in other words, if you don’t feel comfortable taking your hand off the bars, you don’t have to.

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    Jeff October 11, 2006 at 9:36 am

    I’d still really like to see the actual traffic law on this one if anyone can dig it up. “… unless doing so puts [one] at risk” is far too vague (and maybe as vague as “braking device” ??) to be used in any convincing argument, whether it is for or against a cyclist not using hand signals.

    I’m eager to see how these cases turn out. At the least, I hope they will call attention to a few misinformed and questionable traffic laws.

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    Cate October 11, 2006 at 10:11 am

    814.440 Failure to signal turn; exceptions; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of failure to signal for a bicycle turn if the person does any of the following:
    (a) Stops a bicycle the person is operating without giving the appropriate hand and arm signal continuously for at least 100 feet before executing the stop.
    (b) Executes a turn on a bicycle the person is operating without giving the appropriate hand and arm signal for the turn for at least 100 feet before executing the turn.
    (c) Executes a turn on a bicycle the person is operating after having been stopped without giving, while stopped, the appropriate hand and arm signal for the turn.
    (2) A person is not in violation of the offense under this section if the person is operating a bicycle and does not give the appropriate signal continuously for a stop or turn because circumstances require that both hands be used to safely control or operate the bicycle.

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    Sara October 11, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Jonathon, you write that the police are citing “brakeless fixed-gear bicycle riders”, when I think you mean to say that the police are citing fixed-gear bicycle riders without hand-brakes/caliper-brakes/additional braking mechanisms.

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    Sara October 11, 2006 at 10:21 am

    Jonathan, you write that the police are citing “brakeless fixed-gear bicycle riders”, when I think you mean to say that the police are citing fixed-gear bicycle riders without hand-brakes/caliper-brakes/additional braking mechanisms.

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    Jonathan Maus October 11, 2006 at 10:23 am

    Sara,
    Thanks for noticing that. I’ve edited the post.

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    no one in particular October 11, 2006 at 11:24 am

    Whoah, you have to signal to stop?! I don’t even know what that hand signal is.

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    Steve October 11, 2006 at 11:47 am

    NOIP,

    Geez, I sure hope you aren’t licensed to operate a motor vehicle.

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    benschon October 11, 2006 at 12:04 pm

    100 feet? Continuously? Jeez, that’s half the distance of a downtown city block. That’s a long time to be holding your arm out before you turn. Poorly written law. Thank heaven for the “if circumstances require” loophole.

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    benschon October 11, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    You could argue that the law, as written, is contradictory, since it is not possible to “safely control or operate a bicycle” while riding one-handed in traffic for 100 feet.

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    Cecil October 11, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    Tell that to the guy I see every day riding no-handed down Salmon in rush hour (and he doesn’t signal his turns, either).

    I have never had trouble signaling my turns – sometimes I am able to do it the full 100 feet, sometimes I am not, but I have never not been able to give a hand signal.

    Of course, I know how to use my car signals as well, which I can’t say for the majority of Portland drivers . . . 🙂

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    Cecil October 11, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    NOIP, I sincerely hope you are joking.

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    Matt Picio October 11, 2006 at 12:47 pm

    NOIP, if you’re *not* kidding, please look here:

    http://www.dgs.state.pa.us/dgs/lib/dgs/cap_police/bike_hand_signals.jpg

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    Cecil October 11, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    And while we are on the subject, a casual flick of your finger at hip level is not exactly helpful – another biker MIGHT see it and MIGHT know what you are doing, but the chances of a car driver seeing it and glomming on to the meaning are pretty damn slim –

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    Cate October 11, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    Or read the Oregon version:

    811.395 Appropriate signals for stopping, turning, changing lanes and decelerating…
    Appropriate signals are as follows:
    (1) To indicate a left turn either of the following:
    (a) Hand and arm extended horizontally from the left side of the vehicle.
    (b) Activation of front and rear turn signal lights on the left side of the vehicle.
    (2) To indicate a right turn either of the following:
    (a) Hand and arm extended upward from the left side of the vehicle. A person who is operating a bicycle is not in violation of this paragraph if the person signals a right turn by extending the person’s right hand and arm horizontally.
    (b) Activation of front and rear turn signal lights on the right side of the vehicle.
    (3) To indicate a stop or a decrease in speed either of the following:
    (a) Hand and arm extended downward from the left side of the vehicle; or
    (b) Activation of brake lights on the vehicle.

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    Dabby October 11, 2006 at 1:12 pm

    Folks,
    It was proven many years ago in court here in Portland that it is actually safer not to take your hands off the bars in order to signal.
    This is a fact in more ways than one.
    And, further more, the intracaies of the hand signaling program do not allow for quick thinking, instantaneous signaling. As pointed out above, 100 feet is a long way from the intersection.
    If I think I am in danger, I look back (or forward) at the driver, and point the direction I am going. This, and the occasional “bird” when I am cut off are the only hand signals I use. I use the obvious pointed finger, cause, along with most cyclists, most motorists do not know the hand signals either. You practice them to pass your drivers test once, then hardly ever use them again.

    Also, while it has been edited in this post, the use of the term “Brakeless Fixed gear Bicycles” is erroneous and does all of bicyling a injustice.
    There is no way that a properly applied fixed gear cog on a proper fixed gear hub is not a brake.
    We should discourage use of this terminology, especially here where everyone will pick up on it.
    I will maintain that a conversion fixed gear ie; a freewheel hub, with a fixed gear cog, mounted with a bottom bracket lock ring, IS NOT A BRAKE!
    This is not safe, nor effective for stopping more than a few times, due to the effects of torque.

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    Dabby October 11, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    And, by the way, we will be showing up early with coffee and doughnuts, in order to show support for our own.
    Our own being all CYCLISTS, not just messengers, a fact I wish more people here caught on to.

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    Anonymous October 11, 2006 at 1:43 pm

    Will the public be allowed to witness this? I think it would be beneficial for as many cycslists who are able to, to be present while this occurs. Knowing is half the battle! As is seen here by some comments made not everyone actually knows the legality of their riding in the city. Also, just the cyclist presence would indicate that we’re serious about knowing our rights, and being good cyclists.
    plus..I think dougnuts and coffee outside the court is a great show of unity and people should go to support their fellow riders.

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    Wyatt October 11, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    Dabby wrote: “Our own being all CYCLISTS, not just messengers, a fact I wish more people here caught on to.”

    Hear, hear!

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    mykle October 11, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    “Will the public be allowed to witness this?”

    I believe the public is allowed to witness any court case that the judge has not cloistered for some specific reason. Therefore, I suggest bicyclists show up IN THE COURTROOM to show their support.

    (Although you’ll first have to finish the coffee & doughnuts outside the courtroom. Alas …)

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    Cecil October 11, 2006 at 2:58 pm

    All court proceedings in Oregon are open to the public. As long as you are courteous and don’t disrupt the proceedings, you may attend. If the courtroom gets too crowded, the judge may some require folks to leave, however

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    Jeff October 11, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    I want to add: Please signal with your left arm/hand. Nobody will see you when you signal for a right turn with your right arm!!

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    Cecil October 11, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    I agree with Jeff – I know it is legal to signal a right turn by pointing right with your right arm, but it is not very effective.

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    jeff s October 11, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    Jeff & Cecil,

    not to get off the thread, but: I’m curious why you think that pointing with your right arm is inconspicuous/not effective. I’ve become a believer in “point where you’re going” — yes, I even point straight ahead on occasion — on the theory that it’s a cue that can’t possibly be misinterpreted. So I’d be interested to hear why you think the left hand in the air to signal a right turn is preferable?

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    Jeff October 11, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    To Jeff S: As far as driver instruction dictates, all signals must be made with the left arm. Arm at 180 deg for left turn, arm at 90 deg for right turn.

    Actual law aside, the rest has to do with visibility. If I’m on the right shoulder of the road and I signal “right” with my right arm, the driver on my left isn’t going to see my signal. Most drivers simply cannot see signals made with the right arm, but they will definitely see signals made with the left arm if they are looking straight ahead while driving their vehicle.

    Does that make sense? I don’t think I explained it as well as I wanted to.

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    burr October 11, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    Cecil and Jeff are being rather anal. Left hand only signals are for motorists. Think about it, if a motorist has to signal a right turn with their hand, they would have to do it out the left window. Bicyclists have no such restrictions. Just point in the direction you are going, either hand will do just fine.

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    Sara October 11, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    Can traffic courts set precedents? Wasn’t this an issue with the fixie cases earlier?

    By dealing with the law itself, rather than individual cases, is Ginsberg getting around this issue?

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    Sara October 11, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    NOIP, as far as I know, you don’t have to signal to stop in most cases, since it is obvious that you will stop at a stop light or stop sign. However you do have to know what that signal is incase the need arises, if you need to stop when it is not obvious.

    ORS 814.440 does not say you have to signal to stop. Rather, it states that you have to signal a turn by signaling for 100 feet before you stop-then-turn or turn-without-stopping. Alternatively, you could stop, then signal, then turn, if I am reading correctly.

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    Jeff October 11, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    burr: I’d rather be anal than dead. Most motorists probably see me on my bike as being an annoyance and probably aren’t likely to check to see if my right arm is extended when they can only see my left arm.

    The motorists behind me are better able to see my left arm because my body and their vehicle obstruct their vision too much to get a good look at whatever my right arm is doing. It’s a matter of “line of sight” and I’m confident that the way I signal allows all motorists to see my signals.

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    Cecil October 11, 2006 at 7:31 pm

    Sara, I wish it were obvious that bikes would stop at stops signs, but as many many many of the threads on the site show, that simply isn’t that case.

    Burr and Jeff S. – You bet I’m anal. It’s what keeps me alive and unbroken. The fact of the matter is that a right-hand signal simply isn’t as visible as a left hand signal.

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    Cate October 11, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    Jeff S said: “I’ve become a believer in “point where you’re going””

    I like pointing too. It seems so natural for bicyclists to do and an obvious indicator for drivers to understand (as long as drivers can easily see you pointing).

    It’s great the law allows right hand signaling for bicyclists.

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    Cate October 11, 2006 at 8:11 pm

    Sara, I think you do have to signal to stop. Signaling to stop is equivalent to brake lights on a car.

    814.440 Failure to signal turn; exceptions; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of failure to signal for a bicycle turn if the person does any of the following:
    (a) Stops a bicycle the person is operating without giving the appropriate hand and arm signal continuously for at least 100 feet before executing the stop.

    I don’t signal to stop because both my hands are busy using the brakes to stop. Maybe the law is for fixies and bikes with coaster brakes…

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    Cate October 11, 2006 at 8:30 pm

    When I originally posted ORS 814.440, I didn’t include the third item:

    (3) The appropriate hand and arm signals for indicating turns and stops under this section are those provided for other vehicles under ORS 811.395 and 811.400.

    I don’t know why they include stopping under “Failure to signal turn”.

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    Sara October 11, 2006 at 9:57 pm

    Cate, the fact that ORS 814.440 is for “failure to signal turn” is why I thought that the law did not require signaling to stop. The wording of the statute is, in my opinion, ambiguous (though I don’t know legalese, so maybe it isn’t ambiguous to legal-types).

    If signaling to stop is required, I want to see a definitive resource that states it. I have never once seen a cyclist signalling a stop, although, heh, I rarely see other cyclists signaling turns, either. Other than Cecil and Cate, does anyone else here really signal to stop? Do you find it helpful when you see cyclists signal a stop (when either biking or driving)? I am not being saucey. . . I’m honestly curious about this.

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    Cate October 11, 2006 at 10:30 pm

    Sara, does this help (edited for brevity)?

    811.400 Failure to use appropriate signal for turn, lane change, stop or exit from roundabout; penalty.
    (1) A person commits the offense of failure to use an appropriate signal for a turn, lane change or stop or for an exit from a roundabout if the person does not make the appropriate signal under ORS 811.395 by use of signal lamps or hand signals and the person is operating a vehicle that is:
    (a) Turning, changing lanes, stopping or suddenly decelerating; or
    (b) Exiting from any position within a roundabout.

    811.405 Failure to signal with lights; exceptions; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of failure to signal with lights when required if a person is operating a vehicle and does not use the vehicle lighting equipment described under ORS 811.395 to signal when turning, changing lanes, stopping or suddenly decelerating under any of the following circumstances:
    (2) This section does not require the driver of a moped or bicycle that is not equipped with lighting equipment to use lighting equipment when required by this section. A driver of such moped or bicycle shall signal by means of appropriate hand and arm signals described under ORS 811.395 without violation of this section.

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    Cate October 11, 2006 at 10:42 pm
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    Kevin October 11, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    I always signal right turns with my right arm. I am not worried about the cars on my left seeing my signal, it’s not for them. The signal is for the cars, pedestrian, or bikes on my right side who won’t see my signal if I use my left arm. It is the cars, pedestrians, or bikes on my right that I will be turning into, not the vehicles on my left. I also tend to point with a finger, sometimes using the blinker method of pointing, pulling back my arm, pointing again, and repeating.

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    Sara October 11, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    Cate, thank you : ).

    OK, help me visualize the legally ideal situation. If you’re approaching a stop sign and you’re going to turn left, during the 100 ft before the stop do you signal a stop or a left turn? Do you signal a stop, then once you’re stopped, signal a left turn? I know I’m being silly about this, but since my brakelights come on automatically in a car, I’ve never considered it as an important signal for communication (except on the freeway when traffic suddenly grinds to a halt). I try to have good communication with other road users when I am on the road, and if I’m missing an important piece of that, I want to correct the situation.

    Thanks!

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    Jeremy October 12, 2006 at 12:25 am

    News at 11…

    Fixed gear riders and cyclists with coaster brakes only ones able to properly signal on a good day…

    Honestly, the statute is badly out of date with most bicycles ridden on roadways having hand operated brakes. It’s not a stretch in most jurisdictions to have the 100 ft requirement waived simply on account of the mechanical workings of your bike.

    Toss in traffic, road conditions, debris, drunks throwing empties at you – you can get out of the distance requirement dumb and blindfolded.

    That said, you are required to signal when possible (think safely operating your bike here), the signals aren’t hard so there aren’t going to be too many cops who are going to hassle you if you make an attempt to signal. As luck would have it, signalling a slow or stop with the left arm (the safest and most appropriate choice of appendage to use) would leave you in the right position to signal your turn by simply lifting you hand.

    BTW, cars also have a distance requirement for signalling but I have never heard of anyone I know getting cited for failure to signal or failure to signal the appropriate distance.

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    Ian October 12, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    I typically signal a right turn with my right arm and never signal a stop.

    Also, be sure to buy cycling gloves that are *white* or have *reflective tape* so that your signals are visible at night (arguably the most important time for them to be visible).

    Has anyone developed brake lights for bicycles? I would also like to develop a propane or gas flame hand signaler for those times I *really* want to be noticed.

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    Jeremy October 12, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    I’ve seen other lights (and I can’t remember which catalog), but this one is interesting. http://www.global-merchants.com/home/bike.htm

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    Patrick October 12, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    But Mondays are lawyer ride days!!

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    Cecil October 12, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    Don’t worry, Patrick, the lawyer ride is during the lunch hour.

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    Cecil October 12, 2006 at 4:49 pm

    Do we know which judge is hearing the case? Is it a sitting judge or a pro tem?

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    Dabby October 13, 2006 at 8:36 pm

    When I was a boy, (early 70’s) I had a paper route, very large route, on big hills. (This explains alot about my life, now that I think about it).
    During this route, I met what was one of my best friends, Tim.
    We both rode bikes with banana seats and ape hangers, little tassles hanging off the handlebars. Bikes people dream of now.
    But Tim was really into his bike. And I still remember the day when he showed up with a battery operated stop light and turn signals that hung off the back of his sissy bar.
    I never thought that it was all that cool, but Tim did……..
    I miss that kid, but my point is that if you are really that worried about hand signals, such a product has been available for years.
    I am sticking with turning my head constantly, and maintaining eye contact with as many drivers as possible.

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    adam October 16, 2006 at 12:44 pm

    SICK OF POLICE HARASSMENT

    hey friends, I could care less about some law that some idiot wrote. I appreciate that we have good bikey people worrying about rewriting laws and, I truly admire their patience.

    I, for one, am out of patience with the PPB and their heavy-handed, jerk-off manner. I feel like we need to take the fight to them in a gentle, peaceful, intelligent manner. Anyone want to help with this project?

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  • […] The following notes on yesterday’s court proceedings are from local transportation activist and regular Shift volunteer, Carl Larson (photo). […]

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  • […] In addition to the well-publicized and unresolved fixed-gear bicycle issue, allegations of selective enforcement are still being made, especially by downtown messengers who feel they’re being unfairly targeted for both fixed-gears and other “ticky-tack” violations. Bike lawyer Mark Ginsberg recently spent an entire day (and then some) in Multnomah County Court trying a slew of bike tickets. Did it really have to come to that? […]

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