Harvest Century September 22nd

More education needed to preserve cyclist’s rights

Posted by on November 8th, 2006 at 11:25 am

[Editor’s note: Please read this follow-up comment made by the author.]

Like any emerging issue, bicycling occupies an uncertain and even an unknown territory. In the courtroom yesterday it was clear that the judge, the DA, and most of the police officers present have not been on a bicycle in their adult lives. In fact, everything about the day’s proceedings can be read in light of participants’ understanding, or lack thereof, of the mechanics and practicalities of bicycling.

“The rulings in the majority of yesterday’s cases would have been much different had the authorities involved had a better idea of the differences between bicycles and motor vehicles.”
-Elly Blue

The rulings in the majority of yesterday’s cases would have been much different — in fact, most of these tickets would never have been written — if the authorities involved understood the differences between bicycles and motor vehicles. A lot precious time, resources, and taxpayer money could be saved with a relatively small education effort, and I propose that be embarked on immediately.

To begin with, the original judge assigned on Tuesday was Christopher Larsen. He was nixed by one of the police, reportedly on the grounds that this he rides a bicycle. The police were within their rights to reject him (through the affidavit process), and in fact the defense also rejected two other judges before running out of vetoes at the unlucky moment that Judge Lowe became available.

The point is that the reason stated by the prosecution demonstrates a politicized, rather than fair and impartial, conception of riding a bicycle—after all, as Carl Larson cried when he found out, “Do judges who drive cars have to recuse themselves from auto cases?”

[Sgt. Jeff Niiya with Evan Manvel (BTA) and
Mark Lear (PDOT) in tow]

Case in point: Officer Gunderson, who cited Tori Bortman for failing to turn into the nearest possible lane—albeit that this lane is home to a large pothole and dangerous streetcar tracks—cannot have bicycled very much downtown. He maintained that,

“…she could have proceeded at a perpendicular angle across the easternmost track and then turned right into the area of roadway between the two tracks.”

He was sitting next to me, so after the case I leaned over and said,

“Those tracks can be really pernicious, you know, have you tried riding over them on a bike?”

He certainly had, he said, but it quickly became clear that he meant his motorcycle,

“It’s 700 pounds with small tires. We’re in the same boat as you a lot of the time.”

Certainly that’s a point to keep in mind, but not when it comes to tire width.

Bortman lost her case over a difference in the facts: She recalled turning into the middle lane, and the officer recounted her turning into the far lane, which is illegal. In his ruling statement Judge Lowe said,

“In cases such as this, I must ask myself: Who is in a better position to observe? And 90% of the time it is the police officer.”

More specifically, he claimed to base his judgment on the fact that Bortman turned right after stopping at a red light—an uncontroversial maneuver in this instance, and not one she was charged with, but the combination of a cyclist in funky attire and a red light painted an association that the judge, whether consciously or not, clearly found compelling.

Speaking of clothes, it was pointed out by a commenter on this blog that the only two defendants to be cleared of all wrongdoing were also the only two who had any appearance of being used to wearing collared shirts (in fact, both work for the City). Who’s to say what’s cause and what’s effect, but this observation accurately captures the dynamic of another major prejudice against cyclists.

In the future the Legal Defense Fund proposed by Dat Nguyen (one of the defendants whose case was dismissed) ought to include a provision for connecting desirous defendants with creased slacks.

“The police have made admirable efforts to educate themselves about bicycling…but there is a long, long way to go”
-Elly Blue

In the case against Jeff Smith, the opinion of the room was divided between people who have bicycled westbound on SW Main and those who have not. Proving the case was a matter of turning a bicyclists’ practical necessity into courtroom analytical logic, not an easy task without Roger Geller’s sensible explanation.

Alarmingly, the judge, without first-hand experience, still had difficulty with the decision. The City Attorney had come out to watch the ending of the case, and I asked him what he thought, expecting him to disagree with the judgment. But it turns out that he is a bicyclist himself, has experience with that stretch of road, and saw the reasonableness of Smith’s maneuver.

The judge, the DA, and the police officers I heard testify all demonstrated a very limited knowledge of how bicycles are operated and provided for. First there was the confusion about the tracks, and then Officer Clary testified against Jeff Smith alternately that he had left the bike lane and the bike path. Gearing mechanisms are also difficult to understand, and Carl Larson did a good job explaining the consequences of this in the afternoon cases.

The police, particularly the traffic division, have made admirable efforts to educate themselves about bicycling. Two years ago, the bicycle officers patrolling Critical Mass did not even have lights on their bikes, and now they are versed in the basics of the law. And it is heartening that the legal grey areas which come into contest here in Portland are as complex as we saw yesterday—at least our right to ride on the road at all is secure. But there is a long, long way to go.

We’re lucky in a way that the bicycling population has become large and visible enough that an awareness is growing—not least among cyclists—of our grossly unequal share of safety, mobility, and justice on the public roads. One important step is an outreach and education effort to improve the relevant public employees’ understanding of bicycling so that they can make well-informed enforcement decisions and legal judgments.

It’s important for these folks to know the law, but all their logical understanding will do them no good without a conception of what it’s like to ride a bike, and a respect for bicyclists’ right to be on the road. To this end, City Hall, the Police Department, the Judicial Department, and the Bar Association need to meet with the BTA and other interested parties to produce a plan to move forward. Otherwise, bicyclists will always be second-class citizens on the roads and in the courtroom.

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    adam November 8, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    right, if I ever get the chance to be in court, I would prefer a jury of my peers. my peers like to ride their bikes.


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    Elly November 8, 2006 at 1:22 pm

    I’ve just received some feedback over email on this column and suspect I owe an apology to some of the folks mentioned above. It’s been pointed out to me that many police officers are or have been cyclists themselves, and that my writing here is too confrontational and accusatory to contribute to a constructive dialogue.

    I WAS upset and indignant when I wrote this and that’s generally a bad idea. This isn’t at all intended as an attack, and I apologize for conveying it that way. I believe that what is in order here is not necessarily teaching police officers how to ride, as though they’re schoolkids, so much as something along the lines of *cultural sensitivity training* regarding the issues faced by everyday urban cyclists.

    A parallel example is training provided by many companies and municipalities to gently point out biases their employees may or may not even realize they have, in regards to, say, gender.

    Being a strong recreational cyclist, or being sympathetic to cyclists, does not necessarily protect one from misunderstandings such as the ones I observed in court and wrote about here. Thus the definite need for outreach, communication, and training.


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    Dave November 8, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    Has anyone approached the PPB Traffic Division about doing some bike/pedestrian training? I assume that the Traffic Division officers receive some sort of ongoing training (ie, how to drive their cars, new laws, department policies, etc…) every year, so wouldn’t it make sense for the BTA or some organization like that to offer to do some sensitivity training with these officers? If someone has approached them about this, what was the reaction? Maybe if some of the officers who are also cyclists are approached, it would be easier to get some bike/ped oriented training on thier calendar. Elly’s article says they need to learn more about a cyclist’s perspective, but doesn’t really offer any answers. What can be specifically done about it? Who can we talk to, BTA, City Hall, the Traffic Division? It would be great to see some response from those people who are involved in cycling advocacy.

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    Sam Livingston-Gray November 8, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    Hmm. I’ve been mulling the idea of riding with a helmet camera since an unpleasant encounter with a belligerent pedestrian a few weeks ago; it didn’t occur to me that video might also come in handy in the event I wind up in traffic court.

    As for cops’, prosecutors’, and judges’ lack of adult bicycling experience… I smell an outreach opportunity. I certainly wouldn’t suggest inviting them to, say, Critical Mass a la Tom Potter, but what’s to stop Portland cyclists from leading group rides specifically for people in the legal system? (Other than the participants’ likely lack of equipment, that is.)

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    adam November 8, 2006 at 2:53 pm

    great idea!

    how about a super legal bike ride for our super legal friends? I would prefer if we did it on a cold, wet, dark day – but, I am flexible. I have my rain gear, does the judge have his?

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    JV November 8, 2006 at 3:16 pm

    Just a quick comment about the train track issue.
    I ride a bike. I ride a motorcycle. The two have many challenges in common, and riders of each face similar dangers as vulnerable road users. However, there is no comparison when it comes to train tracks. The buried ones a la downtown pose essentially zero threat to motorcycles, but they scare the crap out of me on my bicycle. I personally would do exactly what the defendant did (avoid them), and I’d defend that action in court. The m’cycle riding officer should know better.

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    Attornatus_Oregonensis November 8, 2006 at 3:18 pm


    I think your training idea is a great one, but please stop apologizing for writing what you feel and what those outside the cycling community need to hear. If someone finds it “too confrontational” then perhaps they are too sensitive. The tone of your article was fine and it’s high time that the city, other governmental officials, and people generally heard that they have something to learn before offering ignorant opinions – some of them legally binding – on cycling.

    Stick to your guns! We need more effective advocacy, not apologies.

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    SKiDmark November 8, 2006 at 4:12 pm

    They can pick their own judges, and now they are trying to control what is written in on a public website? You were not confrontational. That judge and those two motorcycle cops obviously have an axe to grind. It may something as simple as being too stubborn to admit they are wrong.

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    Carl November 8, 2006 at 4:18 pm

    Here’s another detail about the state’s case against Tori who, by the way, teaches kids bike safety classes, works at Bike Gallery, and was on the clock, test riding a client’s bike at the time:

    The officer probed her relentlessly about her bicycling skills and her experience with off-road riding. His course of inquiry was designed to suggest that if Tori is a good cyclist, races cyclocross, and has been mountainbiking over rocks and stumps and mud…why on earth couldn’t she negotiate a pothole and some train tracks?

    Given all the SUV’s on the road, I’d say that this logic means that Portland is wasting a lot of money on road repairs. If you can drive up steep rocky fire roads, why couldn’t you drive down a pothole-strewn Naito Parkway?

    Elly’s right. The PPD has an opportunity here to be really progressive. Picture it: an officer training program that includes a special segment about bikes and the laws that pertain to them. That curriculum could stand as a replicable model for other police forces and a point of pride for the PPD. I pitched this idea to the BTA months ago. I suggest you do the same. You can’t complain about their inaction unless you ask them to step up.

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    BURR November 8, 2006 at 4:26 pm

    I agree with Carl and most everyone else here, Elly is right; she doesn’t owe anyone an apology and she should stick to her guns. The PPB and Judge Lowe are undereducated, out of control, and in over their head on these issues.

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    John November 8, 2006 at 4:45 pm

    Ahh for the simple days, when we didn’t have to worry about bike lanes and all the above discussion, or money and time wasted in the courts or tying up police officers time or our time. I am all for “shoulders” or wide roads (ie mississippi ? or Lombard in north-north portland?) and just be allowed to ride on a road. Keep it simple. Maybe someday we will reach a critical mass where cyclists don’t need special lanes, we just ride.

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    Dabby November 8, 2006 at 7:12 pm

    Personal feelings aside, it appears Miss Bortman was wrong in her turn, and should pay the ticket.
    The tickets for leaving the bike lane to turn were rightly overturned, as this is what autos do all the time.
    Of course, due to not even coming close to understanding, or trying to understand, the workings of a fixed gear drivetrain, these fights were lost.
    In the above article, it does clearly point out that these ruling were handed down due to not understanding the reality of the situations.
    Reality being survival and proper riding on the street, not proper riding due to a poorly written ordinance.
    Why are we not moving forward, or backward as it may be, to the solution?
    I have brought it up before, people seem to agree it is the root of the problem.
    What is the root of the problem you may be asking right now?
    Bicycles need to be totally declassified as motorized vehicles.
    Bicycles are on the same level as scooters, skateboard, Fruit boots even!
    Yet, we are not given the same consideration.
    We are regulated due to motor vehicle ordinances.
    To declassify will take us backwards 5 years, then move us safely into the future…
    This is what needs to be done.

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    Dabby November 8, 2006 at 7:17 pm

    I believe I have heard that a group of Portland Police People went to a training recently about dealing with, and removing from the bike, drunk and/or unruly cyclists? Training of sorts.. Please correct me if I am wrong…
    I have been tackled by the 2 of our Police off my bike, and they do need training, ’cause I rolled and ended up on my feet.
    Of course I got tackled by three more for being agile.
    Oh yeah, and I never did anything wrong…

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    BURR November 8, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    I thought the cops went to training on bicycle accident investigation?

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    Cate November 8, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    I really, really don’t want to be the PC police here, but Dabby, “fruit boots”?

    I don’t want bicyclists to be classified with scooters, skateboards, etc. Then bicyclists would probably lose funding, rights to the roads, etc. Funding would probably come from Portland Parks, instead of PDOT. Bicycling would be marginalized more than it already is and perceived as solely a recreational activity.

    When I’m riding, I like thinking that I have just as much right to the road as every car. I don’t think people on skateboards, scooters, rollerblades, etc. feel that way.

    Classifying bicyles as motor vehicles gives bicycles a status that is in our favor. The problem is some of the legislation and its enforcement needs improvement.

    Elly is right – time for some serious education. Sounds like a great job for the BTA!

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    Cate November 8, 2006 at 7:47 pm

    BURR, six of them did:


    But they’re a special investigative group, not the average traffic cop on the street. And they focus on collisions.

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    Qwendolyn November 8, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    What Skidmark said is spot-on:

    “It may something as simple as being too stubborn to admit they are wrong.”

    For example:
    At October CriticalMass the bike cops wanted us to ride in the right lane (the one with the street car tracks.) When the CM riders pointed out that the middle lane or left lane was safer, they were threatened with tickets.

    My point is that even if it didn’t initially occur to those bike cops that having the whole CM riding in the right lane was a bad idea (retarded idea, actually,) they had it pointed out to them and in response resorted to threatening people with tickets.

    I think that this is, as Skidmark wrote, probably nothing more than stubbornness. The bike cops’ train of thought probably went something like this:

    “I wear a smelly uniform and a badge, therefore I must be right.”

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    Dabby November 9, 2006 at 12:14 am

    Fruit Boots, or fruit booter’s, is a skateboarder term for a rollerblader.
    I have no problem with rollerbladers, it is just a weird, perhaps slightly off color nickname.
    Not unlike the moniker Dabby…
    In case you don’t know, in what I do, dabbing is considered bad, and tends to mean you suck. To be accused of dabbing is mainly insulting, and highly negative. It is like boo-ing, or flipping someone off, truly
    So, much more than in fruitbooting, my own nickname is rude, and it’s intentions when applied, are to be questioned.
    Thank you for your concern on this matter, for, as you, and many others well known, I could use a personal editor. Many of the things I say and write come from the darker side of me, or out of moments of rage, or not caring what or how I write, as Elly remarks on above.

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    Dabby November 9, 2006 at 12:21 am

    By the way,
    I hold Critical Mass largely responsible for a lot of the bicycle problems we have.
    I say largely responsible, because the whole point of Critical Mass is to have a ” In Your Face” attitude about cycling. Going out of your way to bring negative attention to cycling.
    I do not care if you think it is positive. It isn’t.
    This is not the way to go.
    I have always known this.
    I wish more people would realize it.

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    Dabby November 9, 2006 at 12:29 am

    I also agree that you should dress for sucess in the courtroom, as it is considered, no matter how much you might not like it, disrespectful to go up in front of a judge in a matter not fitting the court.
    This is of course a long held tradition. You go to court, you look nice.
    You present yourself as a honorable citizen, as someone who respects the sanctity of the courtroom.
    This is how I was brought up.
    This is what you should do.
    What would make you think otherwise?
    Alot of what goes on in traffic court has to do with attitude and first impressions.
    The way to do well in a short, 15 minute court appearance, where the first impression is the only one, is to present yourself well.
    Everyone else in the courtroom is either in a suit, a uniform, or a jail outfit?

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    Dabby November 9, 2006 at 1:19 am

    As I stated, a declassification would take cycling backwards a few steps, then forward safely.
    And do you really think a loss of funding would occur, as much as this city and state already spends on cycling?
    I think not.
    And, on another note, ordinances would be drafted that would pertain exactly to bicycles, instead of motor vehicles, or even skateboards or scooters.
    Bicycle specific laws.
    Laws that would be possible to follow safely, and possible to defend yourself in court against(which is our right) effectively.
    These are but a few of the many, many reasons why we should push towards this end.

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    adam November 9, 2006 at 8:48 am

    Dabby, I think that you are superb. I want to hear more about the story of being tackled.

    “I have been tackled by the 2 of our Police off my bike, and they do need training, ’cause I rolled and ended up on my feet.
    Of course I got tackled by three more for being agile.
    Oh yeah, and I never did anything wrong… ”

    did you file a complaint with ppb? can you tell us all the story? what are the names of the officers that tackled you off of your bike, etc?

    can you please tell us more about your story? recently, I was tackled by two cops for standing there talking to a homeless man. I don’t like that type of community policing.

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    adam November 9, 2006 at 9:01 am

    One last note about calling out cops. Officer Maul and Officer Jeff Niiya, I have something to say to you two:

    Thank you for being reasonable people. I could tell you the stories, but, instead, I filed commendations to both officers through their system. Both men were civil, informative, honest and confident about their position in life.

    on the other hand, well, you know what I think of cops who are jerks, I don’t need to repeat it again. anyway, I am calling people out from now on. Officer Maul and Officer Niiya are called out to ride with me at anytime and, if I can help them, please contact me.

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    Cate November 9, 2006 at 9:09 am

    Dabby, I know what fruit boots are. I guess I hoped we’d moved beyond implying rollerbladers are gay and referring to gay people as fruits.

    And I agree with you about dressing for court. I figure if the judges are willing to put on those silly gowns they wear when they’re in court, the rest of us can make the effort to dress up a bit.

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    Kristen November 9, 2006 at 9:22 am

    Elly, you have some very good points, and I didn’t see anything that was particularly “apology-worthy”, as it were.

    Having the police be educated about cycling in reality in Portland (and not just the PPB, but how’s about the ones out here in the ‘burbs?) is a great idea.

    Since the BTA has classes for cyclists about our legal responbilities, it seems like an outgrowth of those classes would be for “the other side”, those who are charged with enforcing the laws. Go further, and have even judges and lawyers attend. Can’t hurt, might help.

    Good article, Elly!

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    beth November 9, 2006 at 9:26 am

    I believe that “Bicycle vs. Car” arguments are, at their heart, “Class vs. Class” arguments.

    Forget about the “cool” people, the “bicycle community” people and the racers. Instead picture everyone else out there who rides because they have no other way to get around. When you add their numbers to those of the folks most likely to read this website, you lower the mean income level of all bicycle riders, and then you have a class division that is loaded with history and tough to crack.

    When the car became affordable for the middle class, it left the bicycle to the working poor and relegated it to “toy” status in the minds of most car drivers: to be an adult is to drive a car. I fight this bias every [expletive deleted] day, and not just from anonymous car drivers out on the road. Bicycle riders do not pay for operating licenses, vehicle registration or insurance and they do not buy gasoline. They simply don’t keep the national and global wheels of commerce turning the way that car drivers do, and that’s another part of why they’re largly ignored.

    Most transportation riders do not wear “outlandish” clothing. They wear street clothes and ride on sidewalks and quiet residential streets. The ones who can afford it wear rain jackets and maybe rain pants, sensible things. Not all transportation riders wear helmets. The bicycle is not a lifestyle statement for them, nor is it a status symbol. It’s a way to get to work. They don’t have time or inclination to belong to something called a Bike Community. They just ride bikes. And I believe that they make up the majority of people who ride bicycles in the USA. I know, because many of these riders are my customers.

    I also believe that because of this historicaly classist view of transportation riders, the laws are slow to change because most bicycle riders who get tickets are NOT proactive, are NOT political, and don’t have the money to hire a lawyer. Most don’t even know about so-called “Bike” lawyers who might take the case pro bono, because those lawyers mostly don’t extend their advertising reach beyond the “Bicycle Community”, whatever that is.

    The bicycle community is, in my opinion, EVERYONE who rides a bicycle, no matter how humble or in what neighborhood. Let’s all make a concerted effort to reach out to the rest of this community, and we may well acheive the necessary “critical mass” to effect change in both the law and in public perception.

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    Jasun Wurster November 9, 2006 at 10:20 am

    Is the problem here *really* bicycle law training for the PPB? From my experience with the PPB their first tool of education is the ticket. There have been many officers that I have immediately reached for their ticket book and then search for *any and all* reasons to write one.

    What I am getting at here is that the culture of the PPB is one that talking and communicating with citizens is not happening. What was that name that slogan Tom Potter had for this … he used it a lot last election and we are still too far from 2008 for him to mention it much … wait it is coming to me … come on Google don’t fail me now …





    Shit, I am drawing a blank because I do not see it used much here in Portland … but I have a feeling that if the PPB was really committed to this philosophical change in policing policy … police interaction would improve on all fronts.

    As unpopular as this may sound … the cycling community is being myopic and obtuse in this instance by failing to see the larger picture of this issue. Perhaps getting a ‘critical mass’ of citizens and local advocacy agencies to demand that the PPB change their policy is a better use of resources … maybe that will be my December project …

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    adam November 9, 2006 at 11:07 am

    jasun, you must be a poor researcher.

    I looked through all of your material and I could not find the correct policy on beating a man to death while in custody. apparently, according to http://www.portlandcopwatch.org, this happens from time to time. but, I could not find it anywhere?

    am I confused about something? sorry if my language is harsh, I am just angry about a few things right now.

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    Jasun Wurster November 9, 2006 at 12:34 pm


    Your language is only harsh because it accurately reflects the current, prevailing and acceptable policy of the PPB to rely on totalitarian and uncivil tactics to force compliance with what ever law the officer choose to enforce … even if the law does not exist.

    I am in totally agreement with you. I too could not find your above mentioned policy from an official city source … though it obviously must exist because the City has never condoned it’s use.

    I also believe that most of the problems with the PPB, in regard to forcing cyclists to adhere to the officers whim, is because of their organizations inability to modify their long standing traditions of gaining citizen compliance through the illegal use of powers we have granted them.

    My underlying message is that the cycling community may be best at joining with other organizations on this larger issue to create a loud voice to force the City to set the agenda in reforming our police force to enact policies that we the citizens demand. For me this is to have a police force the actually does community policing … as opposed to terrorizing the community.


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    Cecil November 9, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    Beth stated: “Most transportation riders do not wear “outlandish” clothing. They wear street clothes and ride on sidewalks and quiet residential streets. The ones who can afford it wear rain jackets and maybe rain pants, sensible things. Not all transportation riders wear helmets. The bicycle is not a lifestyle statement for them, nor is it a status symbol. It’s a way to get to work.”

    I found this particularly interesting because of something I have noticed this past week in regard to my own riding. First, I will admit that I am comfortably middle-class, and I pretty much look it. My daily bike commute takes me in a loop up the Esplanade, over the Steel Bridge and south down Waterfront Park. I usually pass at least one PPB bike patrol per day. I have been doing this route or a version of it for ages, and never got a second look from any bike officer. Last week I installed a bike rack and mounted two of those excellent Citybike’s bucket “panniers.” Since then, every (and I mean EVERY) time I pass a bike patrol, I get the long slow once-over. Apparently, a bucket pannier must be some signal to them of potential bike terrorism. Go figure.

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    organic brian November 9, 2006 at 9:16 pm

    Can we be perfectly clear about something regarding the funding of transportation infrastructure?

    “Bicycle riders do not pay for operating licenses, vehicle registration or insurance and they do not buy gasoline. They simply don’t keep the national and global wheels of commerce turning the way that car drivers do, and that’s another part of why they’re largly ignored.”

    If Beth means that cyclists who don’t drive cars don’t use petroleum which promotes all kinds of “commerce” such as oil trade, weapons of war, militaries, and hired death squads, then that is totally correct.

    Cyclists are not subsidized by motorists, in fact it is the other way around. Considering that cyclists don’t cause but about one-thousandth (probably much less) the wear to road surfaces, and don’t need as much space, and don’t tend to use highways generally, but also contribute money for transportation infrastructure through payroll, property, and sales taxes, then cyclists are paying more than their share. The fees for drivers’ licenses and vehicles tend to only cover the cost of the program which provides the licenses. Depending on what factors are considered, for example whether the costs of military protection of oil pipelines or health care costs from auto pollution are factored in, if fuel tax paid for 100% of the costs of transportation infrastructure (roads, highways, freeway landscaping…) gas would cost from two to EIGHT or more extra dollars per gallon. A cyclist would have to be homeless and without income, or travel many times farther than a typical cyclist, not to be subsidizing motorists. Even the fuel is subsidized: petroleum companies get all kinds of freebies (discounted land, military protection…) that are funded through tax money not collected at the pumps.

    Don’t let people get away with propagating this myth.



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    SKiDmark November 9, 2006 at 9:20 pm

    These “transportation riders” are some of the worst offenders. They are the ones riding on sidewalks, and riding the wrong way in bike lanes and on the shoulder of the road. I dodge them all the time. Do they get tickets too? Or do only the bike activist/advocate/messenger types get tickets?

    Bicycles make up about 5% of the traffic on the road. Does that mean for every cyclist one of these cops pull over that they pull over 19 cars?

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    ridealot November 9, 2006 at 10:24 pm


    I Love your point. Most Adults don’t ride bicylces. I believe this is a BIG part of the problem. Most people don’t even walk. They live their lives in wheather proof, sound proof, and community proof vehicle.

    If you have not been on a bicycle in more than 5 years, how can you possibly begin to understand what a rider must do to be safe on the streets. Laws are one thing. Self preservation is another.

    We need law makers, and law enforcment who really understand what it is like to be a pedestrian/cyclist.

    If politicians and cops were forced to ride bicycles as their sole means of transportation just one day a week for 3 months, this country would be a different place. These people would see the problems out there and would fix them. Not only would they make the roads safer for EVERYONE they would find their own health improve and stress levels reduced. I realize this idea is a non starter.

    Imagine if the entire country rode just one day a week.
    – That’s almost a 15% reduction in demand for oil (most of it foreign, which means we might be able to leave the mid east alone).
    – Peoples health/weight issues would improve. reducing health care costs for the nation
    – Everyone would become better drivers because they would come to understand how fast they are really going in that insulated vehicle, and the danger they pose with irresponsable driving practices.
    – Poeple would be become a part of the communtity and that can’t be bad. (When I ride I’m always saying hi/smiling at other peds or cyclist. But when I drive I just get frustrated with people).

    You all know the benefits…

    Maybe I should just move to Denmark.

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    beth November 9, 2006 at 10:47 pm

    Cecil wrote: “Last week I installed a bike rack and mounted two of those excellent Citybike’s [sic] bucket “panniers.” Since then, every (and I mean EVERY) time I pass a bike patrol, I get the long slow once-over. Apparently, a bucket pannier must be some signal to them of potential bike terrorism.”

    Well, that’s a new one for me. Of course, the shop itself has a longtime reputation of employing folks with fairly radical political views, many of whom are involved in activism of several sorts (including protests and jail support for protestors). So if the bucket had one of those huge “Citybikes” stickers on it, maybe there was some free associating going on. Or maybe the officer was admiring your mode of portage. (They ARE cool.) Could be anything, really. Ya never know.

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    Martha November 10, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    Yeah, ridealot! You posted the second half to Elly’s very sensible essay. It’s not just police and judges who need to become comfortable on a bike — it’s everyone.

    The more people who have experience riding a bike around town, the more civilized our roads will become. I for one think that I am a more courteous and safer driver than I would be otherwise simply because of my experience as a bicyclist.

    We don’t need everyone to convert to bicycling for all of their trips (though that would make for one great world); we just need everyone to include a bicycle in their everyday range of transportation options. The more mainstream that bicycling becomes, the better and safer our roads will be. That’s the world that I want to live in. Move to Denmark? Nah — I’d rather stick around Portland and help feed the bike momentum.

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    Dabby November 10, 2006 at 10:59 pm

    I agree with you on the bucket note.
    While I find them ungainly, and don’t ride with them, ( The best place on a bike to carry weight is not on the bike but on the body…) alot of people use the buckets, and love them.
    It may be possible that due to recent issues coming to light in the eyes of many cyclists who normally do not think about or face them, a bit of paranoia may be involved here.
    And, we pay the police to take a second look at everyone, to assure our safety, whether you like it or not, Cecil.
    Paranoia strikes deep in the heart of us all, it is a survival instinct that can keep us alive. But it can at the same time drain the life out of us…
    Just ride your bike and live.

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