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Perceptions of enforcement

Posted by on November 21st, 2006 at 11:20 am

Tour de Fat '06

The issue of enforcement against bicycles is contributing to an increasingly acrimonious relationship between the Police Bureau and some members of the bike community.

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?

There also remains a sometimes tenuous relationship between the Traffic Division, PDOT, and some bike advocates over the location and execution of bicycle enforcement actions (like this one), and over how the Bureau sets enforcement priorities given their limited resources.

Questions and an open discussion about the policies of the Police Bureau by citizens and advocates is a healthy thing, but it seems like we’ve moved away from the positive working relationship we enjoyed just several months ago.

The photo below is from a traffic safety meeting led by former Commander Bill Sinnott at PPB headquarters one year ago:

[Former Traffic Division Commander Bill Sinnott leads the meeting. Reps from PDOT, BTA, and others are at the table. (File photo from 10/25/05)]

This downward trend in the relationship between the police and the bike community is unfortunate for many reasons. The Traffic Division writes 80% of Portland’s tickets and they investigate drunk drivers and bicycle crashes. That being said, I feel like a good relationship with them is essential to making this city bike-friendly.

The good news is that this relationship is far from a lost cause and it just needs some tweaking. It’s a work in progress and I’m confident it will improve in the future.

At this point, I’m curious what the perception is about how many tickets are actually being written to cyclists.

Lieutenant Mark Kruger — who I’ve worked hard to maintain a good relationship with as a quasi-spokesperson of the bike community — has given me their citation statistics for October.

Before I publish them I’d like to hear from you how many tickets you think were written to bicyclists in October. As a frame of reference, there were 4,760 total citations written.

Here’s the question:

    Out of 4,760 citations, how many tickets do you think were written to bicyclists in October?

I’ll update this post with the stats in a few days. Thanks for your input.

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

75 Comments
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    Cate November 21, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    What percentage of Portland bicyclists are messengers? What percentage of Portland bicyclists ride fixed gears?

    What is a “ticky-tack” violation?

    How many of the citations given to bicyclists were upheld in court? Is it a PPD issue or a legislative issue?

    Why the guessing game on how many tickets went to bicyclists?

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    Todd Boulanger November 21, 2006 at 12:24 pm

    Spelling Correction:

    My guess would be 10 citations maximum.

    And this might be a stretch – even counting multiple tickets for a single traffic stop.

    IMHO: As a daily all weather bicyclist and transportation planner, there should be a lot more enforcement of basic safety equipment like missing lights/ reflectors/ horns/ bells vs. this whole fixie enforcement issue. Such enforcement would include education and efforts like the get-lit programme too.

    There is nothing worse than a wrong way bicyclist riding towards you in the dark without lights in the winter – they can see you but you are left in the dark about them.

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    Jonathan Maus November 21, 2006 at 12:28 pm

    Those are good questions.

    Percentage of messengers = very very low.
    Percentage of fixed-gear riders = no idea.

    By “ticky tack” violation I was trying to capture the feelings of cyclists that have complained to me about stuff like not turning into the proper lane, not signalling a turn, not riding in the bike lane, etc…

    How many citations were upheld in court?
    Most were upheld, but a few were dismissed.

    Is it a PPB or leg. issue?
    This is yet to be figured out. In a perfect world I would hope we could come to the table and work it out without going to Salem.

    Why the guessing game?
    I’m just curious about cyclists’ perception of how many tickets are being written.

    What’s your guess?

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    no one in particular November 21, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    Thirty?

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    tonyt November 21, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    Put me down for 47.

    I’d also like to see that number put alongside the number of accidents out there happen because of a bike-at-fault, or maybe how many cyclists have been killed due to their own misdeeds.

    How does it correlate? What are the economic comparisons?

    But then again, the buttheads that drive down my street at 45mph, flying through an uncontrolled intersection haven’t caused any “economic” damage, yet, but they sure do negatively impact the quality of life in my neighborhood.

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    Cecil November 21, 2006 at 1:08 pm

    Is it a contest? What would I win? My guess is 72. But I beg to differ that a citation for not turning into the proper lane or not signalling a turn is a “ticky-tack” violation. Both those manuveours can cause an accident because they require other riders or motorists to try to predict what the turning rider is up to. They also lead to other riders and motorists starting to make assumptions that lead to accidents, like the other rider who almost t-boned me when she turned from my left onto Ladd Avenue from Ladd Circle while I was continuing on Ladd Circle – when I yelled at her to watch out, her response was “I assumed you were turning.” When I asked if she had seen me signaling a turn, she said “No, but no one signals here.” Sadly, she was right. Frankly, a little enforcement at Ladd Circle would not be a bad idea . . . I have yet to see a cyclist stop, or even fake a stop, at any of the stop signs from the feeder streets.

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    adam November 21, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    at least 1.

    this is 1 more than the number of people cyclists killed with their actions.

    it is 1 less than the number of innocent people that the ppb killed over the same period of time.

    the number of tickets written to cyclists is lower than the number of cop hours they waste “patrolling” the mass every month.

    it is not a matter of numbers, it is matter of decency.

    They don’t want to meet with any of us. All of the work that we have done to work with them has been done by us as volunteers, not by them as PAID public SERVANTs.

    cannot wait to hear that important public piece of data. and, why is it not public knowledge anyway?

    thank you, jonathan and people like marc for constantly banging your head against this wall. I know, personally, how frustrating it is.

    Since you know Kruger, I believe I asked him a few, direct questions on a comment a while ago. does he want to meet with ME about it?

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    Jasun Wurster November 21, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    Oh Jonathan you crafty little minx …

    Sorry ‘minx’ is the word for the day and I just had to use it.

    My guess for the number of tickets for the past month is approximately .003% of the total traffic citations written. Just to let you know I am playing by the internationally accepted ‘Price is Right Rules’ here.

    Though the above number seems small. I feel that numbers are misleading in this case. The reason is that perceptions are based on interactions with the PPB regardless if the officer write tickets. I have gotten tickets, in other cities, when I totally deserved it and walked away from the situation with a high respect for the officer.

    On the other hand, especially here in Portland, my perception is formed not by getting tickets but having to repeatedly deal with a police force that has officers who make up laws on a whim. It seems that officers gets very confrontational when I have the civic audacity to question them on the law by simply asking them to look it up in the ORS before writing me a ticket. This is not so much coming from the Traffic division officers … but the precinct officers. These officers are organizationally different than Traffic … but which have more interaction with cyclists.

    My expectation is for a police force to build a relationship with the community by being part of it. They should get to know the individuals and educate citizens to provide for a cohesive society. Unfortunately, my perception of the PPB doing this is primarily through compliance-gaining via the motivational appeal of fear … as opposed to reasoning or being a part of the community.

    Your reporting is great. However, I think that also asking the following questions are more just as vital:

    What is the global PPB ratio of hours last month that were patrolling neighborhoods on foot or bicycle (I know this is not the Traffic division)?

    What is the global PPB ratio of officers the live in the area that they patrol?

    How many people were stopped last month and the officers went on a ‘fishing expedition’ running warrant checks and illegally searching bags … only to let them go after nothing came up (my guess this is not recorded)?

    For the most part my perception of the leadership in the Traffic Division is one of listening to the cycling community. I think the next step is for the PPB as a whole to start listening and start become more of a part of the community as a whole.

    The issues with our police force are antiquated policies that are adversely affecting many communities … not just the urban cycling community.

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    andy November 21, 2006 at 1:21 pm

    It might also be helpful to know how many citations were given to motorists in bike-related situations: failing to yield to a bike in a bike line, opening doors into the path of an oncoming cyclists, etc. The perception of a lot of cyclists, myself included, is that the Traffic Division is not enforcing the laws equally.

    So: how many of those 4,760 citations were given out to motorists who infringed on cyclist’s rights to legally and safely occupy the public right of way?

    And also: what is the ratio of cyclists to motorists on the road, anyway? Let’s have some numbers to compare against.

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    Rixtir November 21, 2006 at 1:23 pm

    I just have to laugh at these cyclists who claim a right to ride as they please and then whine and sniffle every time they get busted for it.

    Got a ticket for breaking the law? Good. Now suck up and pay, just like everybody else.

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    Rixtir November 21, 2006 at 1:28 pm

    Oh, and my guess is 337.

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    dayaram November 21, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    tickets for bikies? less than 30.
    and yes I think that those who ride at nite without lights, don’t stop at lights etc should get tickets and stop acting like “brats’ about it!

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    Rixtir November 21, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    Oops, i misread that– October, not the entire year. OK, for October, I’d say 37.

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    tonyt November 21, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    Hi Rixtir,

    Hey man, if I get busted for running a stop sign (which I do but claim no “right” to) and get a ticket, so be it. I know the rules and I take that risk.

    My beef is that some yahoo running a red light in an Escalade is given the same ticket that I’d get for rolling a stop sign on my bike.

    (and actually, my own experience of getting hit by a truck that ran a red light is that the driver does NOT get a ticket)

    That’s not whining, that’s asking that there be some acknowledgement of the difference between a 5,665 lb SUV (yup I looked it up) and me on a bike (sum total

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    tonyt November 21, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    sorry half my post got deleted

    sum total

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    tonyt November 21, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    That’s not whining, that’s asking that there be some acknowledgement of the difference between a 5,665 lb SUV (yup I looked it up) and me on a bike (sum total

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    tonyt November 21, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    argh i give up. sorry folks. computer issues

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    Dabby November 21, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    Rixtir,
    What “You” are not understanding here is that some of the tickets are being written for “not” violating the law.
    I agree, you break the law, you take your chances, you pay the ticket.
    But the police can not rewrite the law on the street.
    Nor do we pay them to not understand it to the point of bad enforcement.
    Andy,
    they do not give a ticket for a cyclist/ car interaction unless there is an injury.
    So that answer would not reallly be available, or a valid accounting.

    By the way, I say 42 tickets to cyclists in October.

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    Magnum November 21, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    Do you have stats on Barnum and Balzer? Lets call a spade a spade most of the traffic division is probably going after high risk offenses such as excesive speed and DUIs. I’d like to see what percentage of Barnum and Balzers tickets were bicycle related and what percetage of bicycle tickets of the total bicycle tickets writen can be attributed to these two.

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    Bill Larson November 21, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    Im guessing less than 30

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    ian November 21, 2006 at 2:26 pm

    150-
    and I bet maybe 2 or 3 are to fixies. the rest are running stop signs or no lights or something else they deserved.

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    adam November 21, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    I would like to know why Kruger is still employed. let’s call a spade a spade, whether he is a nazi or just hates peaceful demonstrations…

    http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/Content?oid=34703&category=22101

    “In April, the city paid out nearly $1 million in damages and attorney fees after Kruger and several other Portland police allegedly beat up and pepper sprayed anti-war protesters in 2002. This time around, Kruger allegedly grabbed an otherwise peaceful protester at a 2003 anti-Bush rally and dragged her 15 feet by the hair. The plaintiff, Amber Hicks, is seeking an undisclosed amount of monetary damages.”

    http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/Content?oid=31818&category=22101

    “it’s understandable that the police bureau is sensitive about Kruger’s off-the-job interests. In the course of background research for a lawsuit against Kruger, attorneys discovered a disturbing pattern of behavior, personal interests, and hobbies. One of Kruger’s former friends came forward to say they used to drive around the city listening to recorded Adolf Hitler speeches and shouting racial epithets at people. He also confessed that Kruger had constructed a shrine for fallen Nazi soldiers at Rocky Butte. The attorneys have acquired video footage of Kruger wearing Nazi uniforms.”

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    Rixtir November 21, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    Dabby, I agree, my mistake in forgetting that point.

    Tonyt, I hear what you’re saying about the different harms created, but I think lowering the fine creates further incentive to break the law. Bicycles have a right to the road because they’re vehicles; the other side of that coin is that riders have the same duties that drivers of other vehicles have. With the rights come responsibilities. Lowering the fine sends a signal that those responsibilities shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    That said, there’s obviously a difference in the harm created when an Escalade runs a red light (although bicyclists can and do damage property, and injure and kill pedestrians, when they disregard their duties.). rather than lowering the fine for cyclists, I would advocate that *if* society wants to acknowledge the difference in harms created, then perhaps the driver of an automobile should pay the fine *and* lose his/her drivers license for a year.

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    tonyt November 21, 2006 at 2:47 pm

    Rixtir,

    I’d rather RAISE the fine for the Escalade really.

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    Rixtir November 21, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    Tonyt,

    As I said, I haven’t thought out the ramifications (for example, if cyclists are subject to lesser penalties, do they have lesser rights?), but having said that, I wouldn’t be against the idea of raising fines on that Escalade for running red lights, speeding, etc.

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    tonyt November 21, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    Well, I would say that cyclists should have a lesser penalty because we are already at an obvious disadvantage in terms of plain physics AND pose a smaller threat to other public space users. Rights to public space should remain the same.

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    adam November 21, 2006 at 3:02 pm

    Here is another number game.

    What percentage of the values of the PPB does the bike community think that the PPB demonstrates?

    here are the “values” from Their website:
    * Integrity
    * Compassion
    * Accountability
    * Respect
    * Excellence
    * Service

    Uhhhh, lemme think. oh, right.

    ZERO

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    pdxMark November 21, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    If the percentage of tickets to cyclists reflected the percentage of vehicle trips city-wide by bike, I would think that the number of tickets to cyclists ought to be about 5. (Clearly I’m guessing on the city-wide total counts for bike trips versus car trips.) If cyclists break traffic laws twice as often as motorists (a far-fetched assumption when speeding is taken into account), there would be about 10 tickets.

    My guess is that about 150 tickets were written to cyclists, out of the 4700. In this case, cyclists would either 30 times more likely than a motorist to break a traffic law, or cyclists are being disproportionately targetd by PPB.

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    Rixtir November 21, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    Or maybe more cyclists refuse to stop at stop signs and red lights, while more motorists observe those traffic signals?

    Nahh, the PPB is targeting cyclists. Yeah, that must be it. That way, nobody has to take responsibility for the way they ride, because it’s all just one big conspiracy….

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    Rixtir November 21, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    Putting away conspiracy theories for a moment, if a large percentage of cyclists refuses to obey traffic laws that they personally disagree with, and that refusal to obey laws is noticeable by the most casual observer, then it’s likely that the PPB will decide to crack down on that lawless behavior. Especially when they receive complaints about it.

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    pdxMark November 21, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    Rix – I suspect traffic enforcement is like shooting fish in a barrel. A traffic officer can sit almost anywhere and be steadily writing tickets to whoever is passing by. The point is whether they choose to sit along bike routes, where 25 pound bicycles cruise through stop signs in quiet residential neighborhoods, or whether they sit along thoroughfares and ticket 3000 pound cars for speeding or dashing through red stop lights at congested intersections.

    It’s all a matter of where they choose to sit, and if they are spending disproportionate time sitting on routes that carry the 1/10% of daily city-wide vehicle traffic that poses the least risk to other road users, then I think they aren’t using they time wisely.

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    Jasun Wurster November 21, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Rixtir,

    Consider (or better yet observe) the following:

    1) What is the percentage in a 1 hour sampling during 4:30PM to 5:30PM of automobiles that come to a complete, as in ceasing all forward motion, at stop sign (you choose the busy intersection)?

    2) Same condition as above, what is the percentage of automobiles completely stopping before turning right on red?

    3) Let’s not pick on just drivers. How many people make illegal mid-block crossings at Pioneer courthouse square?

    I reference the following Portland City ordnances:

    16.70.210 Must Use Crosswalks
    http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?&a=16267&c=28596

    16.70.220 Must Cross at Right Angles.
    http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?&a=16270&c=28596

    After all … there are a lot more pedestrians than automobiles and cyclists in our city. Why is the PPB not they cracking down on these disturbingly massive law violations? Under your logic there should be police enforcement happening to target pedestrians, who are obviously the largest percentage of law breakers in the city.

    jasun

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    rixtir November 21, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    pdxMark:

    It may be shooting fish in a barrel, but your argument is diminished by reverting to propaganda. Cyclists run stpos in “quiet residential neighborhoods” while autos run stops at “congested intersections”?

    I’m downtown every day, and that’s where I see cyclists running lights, stop signs, cutting off other vehicles…

    I’ve seen cyclists run lights and force others to screech to a halt– downtown, not in “quiet residential neighborhoods.” I saw it last night most recently.

    Jasun:

    1) & 2) Let’s say you’re right, and agree that at least some autos make a rolling stop. That’s not analogous in percentage or action to the cyclists who blast through without even slowing.

    *Cue all the cyclists who claim to slow and look before they blow the stop.*

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    lennon November 21, 2006 at 4:51 pm

    Don’t feed the trolls, guys; Rixtir is putting you on the defensive when you have no reason to be there.

    We reduce gridlock, produce less air and noise pollution, and demand *less* expenditure for infrastructure than daily drivers. Simply by choosing to ride instead of driving, we have already shown ourselves to be more concerned with safe, effective transportation, so I absolutely reject any assertion that cyclists are somehow bad “citizens of the road”.

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    Rixtir November 21, 2006 at 5:41 pm

    Lennon:

    Chances are good that I’ve been riding for longer than you’ve been alive. I don’t even own a car. I do own 6 bikes. So where do you get off separating me out as a “troll” from “we cyclists”?

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    ian November 21, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    Lennon, the aurgument isn’t about bikes are good vs bad. its about are cops targeting cyclists. I am interested to see these results, because my guess is no. I bet they are higher than the trips ratio, because bikes downtown are visibly breaking the law all the time, my self included. I am guessing a high percentage of tickets, both car and bike, are given close to downtown where the percentage of bikes is higher then outer parts of the city.
    I have also been a messenger a few different times in my life, and got tickets for running lights. which I did, and didn’t complain that I was being targeted.
    If the cops are watching people who regularly break the law, thats not targeting.

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    Cate November 21, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    Thank you, lennon. The trolls get too much respect around here.

    And thank you, Jonathan, for your response. I get concerned when I read “The issue of enforcement against bicycles is contributing to an increasingly acrimonious relationship between the Police Bureau and the bike community.” I think it’s important to question who you’re implying the bike community is.

    Is the bike community represented by messengers and fixed gear bicyclists (especially those without caliper brakes), or does it include all Portland bicyclists? I, for one, don’t have an acrimonious relationship with the PPD.

    If you’re going to be a self-designated “quasi-spokesperson of the bike community”, doesn’t the bike community need to include all bicyclists? How many Portland bicyclists actually have an acrimonious relationship with the PPD? I suspect it’s not very high.

    Ask OBRA or PWTC bicyclists how many have an acrimonious relationships with the PPD. Or ask the average bicyclist riding on the Esplanade.

    I think it’s important to question assumptions before making decisions and negatively judging others.

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    josh m November 21, 2006 at 6:37 pm

    I always love when people bust the “I have been riding longer than you’ve been alive, so I am better and all knowing”.
    I blow lights, signs, etc… I don’t ride in the bike lane, I change lanes and turn without signaling, I don’t have a rear light, i ride a track bike w/ out rim brakes, sometimes I ride on the sidewalk, I ride between lanes downtown, i pass stopped traffic on the right and then cut through to make a left turn, blahblahblah.
    However, I can’t kill a car or seriously injure a car.
    I’ve not caused any accidents.
    Irony is, everytime I’ve been hit by a car, I’ve been in the bike lane.

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    Macaroni November 21, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    I’ll guess 88 tickets.

    I could’ve been ticketed once for swinging my bike against a cab whose driver had cut in front of me on SW Broadway (where else), but I wasn’t. The cops were behind me and saw it, darn it. They would not admit that the driver broke the law for turning in front of me when I was in the bike lane, and the driver went away saying, “Ma’am, I didn’t do anything wrong.” In summary, my experience has been that police don’t ticket bicyclists as much as they could and they don’t ticket drivers when they should.

    I think it is time we start self-policing. We might risk being at the end of some verbal abuse, but I’d rather we solved our own problems than get the police more involved than they already are.

    As more and more people bike accidents between bicylists are going to become more common. As I’ve said in previous posts, if someone wants to be an idiot and ride without a headlight that’s his prerogative, but if I have a head-on with someone because of it, I’m going to be royally po’d, hurt or killed. I actually had a biker yell at me for turning left in front of him at night when he had no lights and I did not see him.
    Self-policing in moderation. How about it?

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    Macaroni November 21, 2006 at 6:48 pm

    josh m,
    You must be very proud of yourself.

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    rixtir November 21, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    Josh, I think if you read back, it was lennon who was separating me out as a non-cycling troll. You can’t have it both ways: First I’m a non-cyclist who’s trolling, then when that line of “reasoning” doesn’t work, I’m busting out my bogus “I’ve been riding longer than you argument.”

    If people don’t want to hear it, they don’t have to make the challenge to begin with.

    And while I have no doubt that you can’t kill a car, Josh, I also have no doubt that you can cause property damage to somebody’s car. And let me take a wild guess here: If you caused property damage, you don’t actually have the financial werewithal to pay for that damage, do you? (It’s OK, I don’t have the financial werewithal either, but I also do my best to not be negligent about harming other people.).

    And finally, you forgot the greatest harm you are capable of inflicting: You are capable of injuring or killing pedestrians. It’s happened before. And yes, I know cars kill loads of people every year. That doesn’t make it OK for cyclists to do it once in a while.

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    Jonathan Maus November 21, 2006 at 7:01 pm

    Cate,

    You said:
    “If you’re going to be a self-designated “quasi-spokesperson of the bike community”, doesn’t the bike community need to include all bicyclists?”

    I’m not sure why you’d phrase your question like that. Of course I realize the community should include all bicyclists.

    Please excuse my use of the phrase “bike community”. I fully understand that different parts of the community have different experiences with the PPB.

    I should have said “some members of the bike community”. I’ll go and edit it now.

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    Brad November 21, 2006 at 7:08 pm

    We should also be looking into the type of tickets written and the percentage of the total driving population. If the percentage of tickets were written to cyclists is greater than then the percentage of cyclists as total traffic, that would be very telling and a problem.

    Secondly, the *ticky-tack* violations, should be further scrutinized. For example, as a commercially licensed (class B) driver and a former commercial driving instructor, I have never heard of anyone being only cited for making a turn into the wrong lane. My only experience with this infraction is a driver being cited in combination with other infractions, but never alone.

    Many of us drive and have cars, do we ever worry about putting on our turn signals exactly 100 feet before our turn?

    My guess is 2% of all tickets went to cylists or 95.2 or just under 3 per day in October.

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    Jasun Wurster November 21, 2006 at 7:43 pm

    Rixtir,

    You see unlike you, I provide sources to substantiate my claims and do not resort to logical fallacies. For example:

    According to the NHTSA “In 2005, 43,443 people were killed in the estimated 6,159,000 police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes, 2,699,000 people were injured, and 4,304,000 crashes involved property damage only.”

    (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/overviewtsf05.pdf)

    Can you show us your data that proves your comment in post #33 that:

    “… all the cyclists who claim to slow and look before they blow the stop …”

    The reason for my above source is that EVERY DAY approximately 119 people in the United States are killed by automobiles and 739 individuals are injured DAILY in the United States. I could not find national statistics for cyclists but, I suspect them to be much lower. With this line of thinking should not the police emphasis be placed on actions that KILL and INJURE the most people?

    Also, if you do not mind can you answer my question #3 in post #32?

    I am trying to highlight that the logic to your argument would seem to dictate that the larger number of law violators should get the largest police attention. Since there are more pedestrians than driver and cyclists combined should not the PPB enforce City ordnances to protect their well being? After all a pedestrian crossing the street is the most vulnerable user of this public shared resource.

    You see, I respect the readers of this blog by contributing that they can think about and I back it up with facts.

    jasun

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    nerf November 21, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    i think most of them were written to me…

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    Steve November 21, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    I can’t believe we even have to have a discussion about traffic citations and their merits…It’s quite simple really,…break the law, risk a ticket. Don’t like the law? Work to change it… and not by whining on a forum about being picked on by the PPD. We ask for the same rights as motorists yet complain when treated as such. Its no wonder our credibility is nil with the PPD and the courts.

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    rixtir November 21, 2006 at 8:26 pm

    Jasun:

    1) In case you didn’t understand my comment, I said *cue all the cyclists who claim to slow and look before they blow the stop* “Cue.” That distinction is important (and I think you’re aware of that, because you edited that word out), because I wasn’t claiming any set of facts about “a known quantity” of cyclists; I was merely making the observation that when the subject of cyclists running lights without slowing and looking comes up, cyclists inevitably post to claim that they slow first. As far as verifying that cyclists make those posts, they’re somewhere here in the Bikeportland ethernet, and no, I’m not going to spend all night looking for them. It’s not a statistic, Jasun, it’s just an observation about what cyclists say when I point out the easily verifiable fact that some cyclists run lights without slowing and looking.

    2)I’m all for a massive crackdown on scofflaw motorists. Make the penalties hurt. Treat driving as a privilege, not a right.

    I also believe that the bicycle should be a privileged vehicle, both in Portland, and throughout the U.S. In the city, I believe the automobile should be restricted from the downtown area, as well as from bike boulevards radiating out from the downtown area.

    My perspectives on these issues are not mutually exclusive from believing that cyclists should obey the law too.

    3) My comment to your point 3, as you requested (even though I didn’t really see the point in responding): I don’t have an issue with the police enforcing crosswalk violations. But the fact that there are more pedestrians than there are drivers or bicyclists– assuming that such a laughable assertion, which you haven’t substantiated, were actually true– doesn’t prove that there are “massive violations” occurring. You need more evidence than sheer numbers of pedestrians to prove your claim that “massive violations” are occurring. And once you’ve proven your claim, if they’re committing violations which are impacting others– and that’s the point of enforcing traffic laws, after all– then yes, they should be cited. If, if, if….

    4) I don’t believe I’ve said anywhere that “the larger number of violators should get the largest police attention.” If I had said that, then the police should focus exclusively on automobiles. What I *did* say is that there are more cyclists blowing lights without even slowing and looking than there are automobiles doing the same thing. Do I have statistics to prove that? No, it’s from observation. But if you want to challenge that observation, we can pick a downtown street and observe the traffic, you and I. I’m confident that my observation will hold up.

    Now, if a significant number of cyclists are openly and visibly and regularly breaking the law, should the cops look the other way because there are other violators out there? Or should the cops cite cyclists who are breaking the law when they see them breaking the law? I argue that cyclists who break the law should be cited.

    I also argue that when everybody else’s attention is focused on the “injustice” of scofflaw cyclists receiving tickets, our attention is diverted from other cycling issues.

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    Eric November 21, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    I’ve seen several posts that conflate the good things about biking with following/not following traffic laws. To my fellow bikers I say welcome to the mainstream.

    I see the fact that traffic police do missions against bikers blowing stop signs, et al as a sign the biking culture has truly arrived. The next time you feel burned think about the poor motorist who got busted in a speed trap going through Cottage Grove – and all of his/her worthy excuses.

    Add worrying about getting a ticket to the following other worries about biking in Portland: number of snow days that might keep me off the bike, is one of the hundreds of miles of bike lanes convenient enough or should I take a surface street, damn I got a flat and forgot my spare tube – should I a) wait for a friendly fellow biker to offer me one or b) walk to the nearest of the many bike shops or c) take the bus equipped with the bike rack home, … Anyway, you get the idea – we’ve got it good. (Sorry kids, the world isn’t perfect.)

    BTW – there’s a great article about biking in NYC in the November 13th New Yorker. (Also see the article about Lagos in the same issue regarding the world not being perfect.)

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    no one in particular November 22, 2006 at 12:29 am

    Wurster: for the record, .003% of all October tickets would be .14 tickets. Or, about 1.6 tickets a year.

    Maybe you meant .3%? That would be about 14 tickets.

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    Jasun Wurster November 22, 2006 at 1:25 am

    Yea … I forgot to move the decimal. I did mean %0.3 … but that is the beauty of Price is Right rules … I did not go over!

    Thanks,

    jasun

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    Eric H November 22, 2006 at 6:17 am

    The number will be shocking; either really really low, or really really high. I don’t think Jonathan would have written the article if the number is low, what would be the point? My guess is really really high (+100s). It would be interesting to see the numbers by officer (as someone else suggested) or by precinct.

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    no one in particular November 22, 2006 at 10:24 am

    I think Jonathan was thinking we’d all guess 200 and then he’d surprise us when it was only 13. Considering the tone of the piece, which is “cyclists relationship with the police is not that bad.” If he was going to surprise us with a big number, I’d think it would be more a tone of “cops are really overreaching”.

    But anyway, this guessing game is boring.

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    Average Joe November 22, 2006 at 10:50 am

    It’s been my experience (admittedly anectdotal) as a cyclist and as a driver that fixed/SS riders are worse with regards to following traffic laws.

    Fixie/SS riders seldom seem to wear helmets or stop at stop signs.

    As a cyclist, I do not always feel safe around them because of this.

    No helmet = violation. Just like if a driver gets popped for no seatbelt.

    If you don’t obey the laws you can’t bitch and moan when others do not.

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    Cecil November 22, 2006 at 11:25 am

    Actually, for an adult “no (bike) helmet” does not equal violation. It just equals stupid.

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    Carl November 22, 2006 at 12:01 pm

    It’s my understanding that Portland’s “mode split” for bicyclists is 5-7%. Sounds high to me, but let’s run with it. Jonathan says that there were 4,760 citations issued in October. If the PPD was being “fair” and ticketing motorists and cyclists in even proportion, at least 5% of those tickets, 238, should be going to cyclists. I’d be surprised if the actual number is more than 50. If anyone is being ticketed in higher proportion, it’s motorists. No question.

    …but numbers are dumb. They don’t reflect the offenses for which these cyclists are being ticketed. Everyone seems to think they’re for stop sign violations. I’m sure that’s quite a few of them, and justifiably so, but I’d wager that an alarming number of them are for really questionable offenses (lane violations, failure to signal, fixed gear, etc.). I doubt such a high proportion of the motorist citations are for similarly questionable violations. I wouldn’t mind if the Police actually started ticketing cyclists as frequently as they do motorists, as long as they did it for some of the serious and dangerous offenses they see every day. Running red lights and stop signs, not using lights, riding on the sidewalk, and riding against traffic all deserve more attention proportionally than they get.

    I think speed limits and stop signs are reasonable and should be enforced. When I drive a car, I speed. When I ride my bike, I run stop signs and red lights. I take a calculated risk and, when I don’t think the law is watching, I break laws when I, personally, consider it safe and reasonable. Now and then, I get caught. I’m alright with that cat and mouse game. What bothers me about this situation is the fact that it would probably be easier to get a ticket for riding a fixed gear or not using the bike lane than it would be for running a stop sign. These violations are not pressing safety concerns and it’s questionable as to whether some of them are violations at all.

    Is the traffic division unfairly targeting cyclists?
    -for certain, violations, yes.

    Do the number of citations they’ve issued tell that story?
    -Absolutely not.

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    steve November 22, 2006 at 1:04 pm

    The number of tickets, whatever it is, is too high. The reason is because bicycles are not traffic; so any “traffic tickets” are pointless wastes of taxpayer dollars – the cops need something important to do.

    For the most part, bicycles cannot harm others no matter what they do in traffic. Yes, others will mistakenly disagree, but they have been preempted: their comments are irrelevant.

    Bicycles are not much different than pedestrians, really. They weigh about the same and they usually aren’t that much faster.

    But, the police are an established bureaucracy and they need to justify their existence so the “traffic” cops will give cyclists tickets for breaking laws meant for automobiles.

    Now, if I got on my mountain bike and rode OVER the tops of cars and trucks stuck in a traffic jam and damaged a bunch of them, perhaps I’d deserve a “traffic” ticket. Running a sign or light on a bicycle never deserves a ticket unless you hit someone. I can run lights/signs safely on a bike – I have full visibility AND hearing as sensory clues to the safety of the act – and I’m generally the only one who could be adversely affected.

    I’d pretty much guarantee that fewer than 1 ticket per month to cyclists is justified. BUT, PPB has to justify that bloated bureacracy! Can we fight them? Are you kidding – they have recently murdered citizens on the street and received NO ADVERSE ACTIONS. They’re here to stay and we are completely powerless to oppose them.

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    Steve November 22, 2006 at 1:26 pm

    steve
    Bicycles aren’t traffic??? Not much faster than a pedestrian??? Allow me to clarify…If you ride your bike on a public road you are traffic…on a horse, in a wagon, driving a tractor, etc. etc. It is attitudes like “I can run red lights/stop signs safely” that further perpetuate the PPD view of all cyclists. Please, on behalf of us responsible cyclists, obey the traffic laws or leave your bike home…after all your not travelling that much slower then and you’ll be out our way.
    Steve
    please note the capital S so as not to confuse me with “steve”

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    Rixtir November 22, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    Steve, I was surprised to discover that the Oregon vehicle Code has no definition for “traffic.” Surprised because most states define traffic broadly to include vehicles, pedestrians, animals, trollies, etc.

    However, Oregon does define bicycles as “vehicles,” which shoots your argument that “bicycles are not traffic” full of holes.

    You might want to reconsider your argument that “bicycles cannot harm others” as well. Consider [url=http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,20285420-5005941,00.html]the death of James Gould[/url] as evidence against your argument. Sure, one can say that compared to automobile-caused deaths and injuries, bicycle-caused deaths and injuries are very low. That’s a far different argument than the argument you’re making, however.

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    Sasha November 22, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    Damn it John, the suspense is killing me. GIVE US THE NUMBER!

    S

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    John November 22, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    Holy crap! you check bikeportland late in the day and you miss out on a lot! In previous jobs working directly with police officers i can say this. There are asshole cops, there are nice cops, there are lazy cops and there are diligent cops… Shocking just like most of the people in the world… But 99% of our perceptions are based on less than 1% of our experience. So my recommendations is… don’t be so hard on cops, how would you feel if you were constantly judged based on what one of your coworkers did, once, 5 years ago, in another division.

    And for the record bikers can cause accidents that that kill people. The ticket should be the same.

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    SKiDmark November 22, 2006 at 4:38 pm

    My guesses and opinion on ticket numbers:

    If bicycles are 5% of the traffic on the road than the Police should be ticketing 19 cars for every one bicyclist they give a ticket to. I don’t know how many messengers they are but I bet it’s less than 1% so therefore for every 100 cyclists that get pulled over, 1 should be a bike messenger. I bet in reality the percentage is much higher.

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    Magnum November 22, 2006 at 5:20 pm

    Bicycles are small, nearly invisible, make quick and what may seem as erratic movements, and riders are protected my little more than the clothes on their back when they hit the ground, a car door, a truck, etc. Regrettably cyclists die and I applaud the efforts of those who work to keep the number of fatalities down. I think however the wrong question was being asked—not why are there so many fatalities but why there are so few given how people ride and how little physically protects a biker. I believe it is not because there are 1000s of incomprehensible and sometimes even nonsensical traffic laws but cyclists as a whole stay out of harms way because how they ride works. Until laws change to reflect the real way people ride cyclists are going to break traffic laws. I see cyclists all day downtown and the majority of them will break some traffic law even in the brief period of time I see them. Yes, I see a few people diligently doing their best to follow every law but from my (admittedly unscientific) observations they are in the minority.

    The way Barnum and Balzer are choosing to enforce traffic laws is regrettable (and lets be clear, they are giving out a lot of tickets that have nothing to do with brakes). Barnum and Balzer could just as easily be sitting around giving every driver who drives 1mph over the limit but by no stretch of the imagination would it be in the interest if the publics time and safety to do so. I signal turns, use bike lanes and so on when I feel it is appropriate but if I have to think twice about leaving a bike lane or not signaling even for the many instances allowable under those laws because I’m worried it might cost me $500 it is in that moments hesitation where it is likely I get doored, run into a pothole or get hit by a truck. If I followed every law all t he time I doubt I would ride as much as I do now or possibly even at all. For one it would make cycling as tedious and anger inducing as driving and two I may very well be taken out by a bus.

    The penalties w/r/t bicycles are absurd. There is a reason the penalties are different if I were to punch someone in the face as opposed to if I were to shoot someone in the face. Why? Because if you punch someone in they usually end up with a black eye and if you shoot someone they usually die. Somehow this logic didn’t make it into the traffic codes when it comes to the difference between a bike and a car. This equality of punishment is at its most absurd w/r/t DUIs(it is rumored the Portland PD has been taking training classes to better identify bicycle DUIs). I would never encourage someone to bike drunk but if the penalties and the enforcement are the same for bikes and cars sure we would have fewer bike DUIs but, as happens when the penalties for dissimilar offences are the same, you end up with more Car DUIs.

    Portland is trying to build itself into a cycling Mecca and has made great strides to do so but the attitudes and laws of our neighbors maybe something we should look at. Last year in Washington the head of the Washington DOT declared fixed gears to be legal. A few years ago a Police Officer in Seattle was quoted in one of the papers (sorry this is from memory) as saying it is unreasonable to expect a messenger to stop at a stop sign while going up a 15 percent grade. In California it is legal to ride between lanes. I spoke with an Officer in the San Diego traffic division (we were specifically talking about Cal’s brake law) he said a lot of bike laws were never meant to be enforced they were just on the books to show fault in the event of an accident. Idaho, of all places, recently passed laws allowing bike to treat stop signs as yield signs and stoplights as if they were stop signs. And apparently now even Washington DC world renowned bastion of cycling is amending its brake law to clarify that fixed gears are legal.

    Bicycle laws and especially the over zealous nature Barnum and Balzer enforce them eradicate great personal freedom (getting from point A to point B quickly and efficiently) while adding little to public safety and in instances making individuals and the public less safe.

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    pengo November 22, 2006 at 5:49 pm

    Regarding the argument that fines should be lower for cyclists because they won’t dent a car too badly, are forces of political and environmental righteousness, and are “usually not much faster than pedestrians” (WTF?):

    Have you considered the idea that fines as a deterrent are in some measure designed to protect YOU from bodily harm? That nobody, from police to bystanders to overburdened ER staff needs to deal with cleaning up the pointless catastrophe when some lightless champion gets hit while blowing a traffic stop? I don’t think it’s totally about property damage.

    I personally don’t know whether cops overenforce “ticky-tack” violations against cyclists, but the fines are fair. We are traffic, and not everything is “pigs vs. kids”.

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    NeRf November 22, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    amen magnum

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    Eddie November 22, 2006 at 8:35 pm

    Poster 56 said: “Now, if I got on my mountain bike and rode OVER the tops of cars and trucks stuck in a traffic jam and damaged a bunch of them, perhaps I’d deserve a “traffic” ticket.”

    My GAWD, THAT sounds like fun!

    I’d give quite a bit to see that happen and to see the jaws of the fuzz hit the street when they saw it!

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    steve November 22, 2006 at 8:57 pm

    Steve in post #57 claims, correctly, that he CANNOT run a stop sign/light safely. Steve is correct concerning himself – he knows himself really well. Pengo, in post 63 ought to keep reading also.

    steve, in post 56 (that’s me) claims his vision and hearing are acute when preparing to run a light/sign and can do it safely. I’ll look and listen both ways, quickly determine if I can do it safely, and if so I’ll go and if not, I’ll stop. I know my life depends on making the right decision. That’s why I will ALWAYS make the right decision. If, however, I see a cop nearby and decide that I’d better stop at that light, then as I wait, what may happen is that cars and trucks will pile up at the light all around me. Then, when the light changes and they all smash the gas pedal, my safety is no longer determined only by me (the person who cares BY FAR the most about it). When I get the green my safety is determined to a fairly large extent by whether the car driver morons talking on their cell phones and fighting with their spouses happened to notice me so they don’t turn into me or cut me off and kill me.

    Steve, poster 57, can choose to be a “responsible” cyclist in whatever way he chooses. It’s his life. When he is hit by a F350 because the hood of the truck was 8 feet high and the driver didn’t see him we can write on his tombstone that he “always obeyed the law”. I’ll even run a bunch of stop lights as I bike to his funeral and I’ll say kind words to make his family feel better. You happy now Steve, number 57? I sure hope so. How ’bout you pengo 63?

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    PoPo November 22, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    Very interesting debate!
    Just for the sake of clarity, Portland has a bureau system, thus it is the PPB…somehow it evolved into the PPD over the course 66 comments.

    And my guess is at least 2.

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    Pengo November 22, 2006 at 10:59 pm

    Hey steve 66,

    Congratulations on always making the right decision. Maybe you even do. And maybe plenty of drivers who run stops also would claim to always make the right decision. And maybe plenty of people “know” how to drive drunk. I’ve definitely known a few people who think they can perfectly handle driving at dangerous speeds. And I can hear all of the above making your own argument in their defense. Should all lawbreakers be evaluated according to their own perceptions of their own intentions?

    And again suppose that you do make all of the right decisions all of the time. Would you agree that not all cyclists do? Shall we make you a “steve knows what’s up” card to carry so that you can never be ticketed? Or since you fancy yourself an infallible paragon of sound decision making, traffic fines should be erased for all cyclists? I have no idea what your point is.

    Also, tell me where it is you ride that a menacing dogpile of cars piles up at a red then mows down whatever’s in its path on green.

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    steve November 23, 2006 at 11:07 pm

    To all the folks who are happy about the fuzz giving traffic citations to cyclists for any and all violations of motor vehicle laws this is your lucky day.

    As stated previously, there is nothing to stop them. We the people are powerless. Our government is going to use the full power of the Portland Fuzz to keep the very dangerous law breaking cyclists in line.

    Doesn’t that make you feel a lot safer? It’s your tax dollars at work! HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE! 🙁

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    gb November 24, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    My perception is, the total number of tickets to cyclists is low. Probably not above 1% of the total. I see people doing traffic violations on bikes all the time in plain view of cops and never receiving even a warning. Is it a problem? Maybe, but I think people should only be targetted for real public safety concerns, like wrong-way bicycle riding.

    However, as someone else mentioned, the real problem is not total numbers. My perception of police, for example, is very poor, and not because they give too many or too few tickets, but because they act with impunity and have practically zero accountability to the public they are supposed to be serving.

    It would not surprise me, for example, if someone investigated and found out that more than half of all the tickets turned out to be given by a single officer, say, for petty violations, just because he is an idiot motorist who has an asinine grudge against cyclists. I really don’t know one way or the other, but given the total impunity these cops enjoy, no one ought to be surprised were such a discovery to be made. And things like that could help explain the poor relations enjoyed by cops with the general public, cyclists included.

    Take Officer Kruger mentioned above as an example. As has been duly noted here, he has become a particularly notorious example of this. I cannot imagine any job with a similarly high public profile that requires daily, continuous, and skillful interactions with the public where an employee could retain their position after repeatedly committing the numerous disreputable and abusive instances of misconduct that he has been credibly accused of.

    This just goes to show the power of police unions and the total impotence of what passes for civilian “oversight.”

    See the link provided for some ideas on the radical restructuring of the institution of policing, a movement whose time is desperately overdue in my humble opinion.

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    Macaroni November 24, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    Magnum makes an interesting argument that traffic fines should reflect the seriousness of the violation. A car running a red light is by far worse. A bicyclist runs a red light (which I am personally against) usually intentionally, when it’s clear, a driver usually does it in error when it is often not clear. Not putting your foot down at a stop sign, coming to a complete stop for a nanosecond or slowly rolling through a stop should not accrue as large a fine as a car not stopping, for many obvious reasons. However, a bicyclist riding without a front light at night should get the electric chair. I have had another close call with such a jerk tonight. These morons must think if they are pedaling around at 8 mph, everyone else is. WELL, YOU’RE NOT!

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    Mr. Know it All November 25, 2006 at 12:04 am

    I believe in riding as safely as I can. For me that means helmet, yellow/orange colored top, A LOT of GOOD lights (especially on the rear), try to keep out of the way of the cars and trucks and keep equipment in good working order.

    I believe I am safer if I go through an intersection when it is SAFE to do it – not when a particular color of light shines in a box hanging over the street. I think it is safer to go on red illegally as soon as I can do it safely. It does not mean I will try to run a light at 30 mph without looking! That endangers pedestrians and other cyclists and deserves a ticket. IF there is an intersection where you can see both ways then I see no problem with bikes going through at say 10 mph. That’s pretty slow. At 10 mph you can look and listen to both directions, and if needed you can stop pretty quickly. Each situation is different so you must use your judgement. We all know that when we run a light or sign that our lives depend on us looking to be sure it is safe. That’s why there are so few accidents with bikes running lights.

    Cars rarely stop completely at stop signs and they have much less information about whether it is safe to go than bikes because the driver cannot hear traffic and the car window posts do block their view somewhat.

    Bike lanes? I use those when I’m on a busy street and I want to stay away from the cars as much as possible. Noone should EVER get a ticket just because they didn’t use a bike lane. If you intentionally are holding up traffic then, yes, perhaps a ticket is in order, but since I want to be safe and do not want to piss of car drivers that could easily kill me with any car, I do not intentionally hold up traffic EVER.

    Bikes do not need to signal turns unless they are changing lanes in traffic and the cars are very close so they need to know in advance that you are going to move in front of them. Many times bikes are not that close to other cars and so there is no need to signal since taking your hand off the bars does make you less safe.

    To me, it’s about common sense, and maximum safety, and not about following the letter of the law. The laws were made for cars and trucks and are necessary for those vehicles. I have no problem with bikers that want to follow the letter of the law. For many, especially if they aren’t familiar with the way car drivers do things, it may be the safest method.

    Being on a bike is a whole different world than being in a car. Bikes are very vulnerable when mixing it up with cars and trucks and so they should be given the freedom to ride in the way they feel is the safest.

    Who cares how many tickets were given? The tickets are irrelevant – given by a bloated, out-of-control bureaucracy to make money to justify their existence. Probably as was said before, most were likely given by a few bad apples in that bureaucracy. They have little respect from the people in this town and by picking on people riding bikes they are showing the smallness of their minds and will end up having even less respect in the future. Shame on them and shame on their superiors in city government that allow this crap to keep happening. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.

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    adam November 25, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    friends, I agree – let’s stop saying “…the police….” and start saying names and badge numbers. ok?

    we will beat them with specifics. everytime barnum hassles you, file a ppb complaint. everytime one of the good guys helps you, file a commendation. you will not hear back, in my experience, either way – however, at least you are on record…

    this was very well said:
    “Who cares how many tickets were given? The tickets are irrelevant – given by a bloated, out-of-control bureaucracy to make money to justify their existence. Probably as was said before, most were likely given by a few bad apples in that bureaucracy. They have little respect from the people in this town and by picking on people riding bikes they are showing the smallness of their minds and will end up having even less respect in the future. Shame on them and shame on their superiors in city government that allow this crap to keep happening. What a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

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    adam November 25, 2006 at 11:23 pm

    what is the answer?
    what is the answer?
    a few days have passed!

    also, for those of you who don’t know – jonathan is practically giving away cool, local merchandise.

    I bought 6 gift bags for $102. what a steal! hurry before he hires a business manager and doubles his prices. while supplies last

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    Jonathan Maus November 27, 2006 at 3:40 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone…

    Here’s a new post with the answer.

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