Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Construction zone becomes ticket zone for cyclists

Posted by on March 22nd, 2007 at 7:29 am

As I reported last month, the Portland Police Bureau is on heightened alert to give out tickets in the MLK Viaduct construction zone near OMSI.

Looking West towards the
Willamette River. (file photo)

This week they must be especially busy because I’ve received three separate emails from people that are not happy with the way things are going.

At issue is not simply that people are getting tickets, but for the seemingly haphazard placement of stop signs that is “freakin bizarre” (as one person put it) and a detour route that is “nonsensical”.

One person who was cited said the police officer told him today’s enforcement was brought on by a complaint from one of the contractors. (*ODOT requested the enforcement. Read update below from Mayor’s office)

Read these eyewitness accounts for more details:

This one comes from Joe Broach:

“On my way downtown around 1 PM on Monday via the Springwater trail near OMSI I arrived at the construction detour just as a motorcycle officer finished writing another cyclist a ticket. The cyclist warned me to stop as he rode off, so I assume it was blowing a stop sign (one of, what, 5 that it takes to complete the detour?) that got him. It sure looked silly to me, with absolutely no construction or traffic around and rain pouring down.

I hope the motorists at the Water St. stop detour sign who consistently fail to yield to bikes on Caruthers are getting equal treatment.”

And the other comes from Ed Birnbaum, a respiratory therapist who was cited yesterday morning:

“At least two motorcycle cops were hard at work where the eastside bike path detours into the Esplanade near OMSI, protecting the public by citing cyclists for not making a complete stop at a stop sign.

While that cop was writing up my ticket, another pulled over 2 more cyclists. The corner in question is where you’d be heading north for a block, then turning left to go 2 more blocks into the Esplanade, where the Portland Opera HQ is…Since no one rides on that north-bound block when there’s no construction or detour, most of us aren’t so aware of the Stop sign and you could, like me, miss it while you’re looking hard at the RR tracks you have to cross going west and for traffic, especially construction vehicles of all sorts, that have been crossing there.

The cops are obviously there on some sort of mission. The one who cited me said that “The construction workers have been complaining.” About what? He didn’t mention any accidents. I can’t believe that scofflaw bike riders have created a major hazard for other people at that corner.

…is it really in the public interest to have two cops spend so much time to bust bike riders? Is that the best use of our resources? It’s my understanding that this will put a moving violation on my driver’s license. I can avoid that by going to a “Safety Class” at Emanuel Hospital.

Is this how our city is promoting bicycle commuting?”

Any time the police run increased enforcement and cyclists are caught, feathers are ruffled and people get frustrated. I can understand that.

But are they unfairly targeting cyclists? Can police resources be more effectively utilized?

I ran into Judge Christopher Larsen yesterday and we discussed these issues. He’s the guy that started the new diversion class and he assured me that there is no coordinated effort to fill it. He said bicyclists get only 0.8% of all citations written and the idea of increased enforcement to fill the class exists is nothing but a rumor.

Where does the BTA stand on this? After all, they are an official partner (with the Police Bureau and others) in the new diversion class. Here’s a statement from Michelle Poyourow which echoes their official stance,

“We think enforcement against bicyclists should be focused on dangerous intersections, not just at intersections with lots of bicycle traffic or with an annoyed neighbor. The City of Portland Office of Transportation has excellent data on the most dangerous intersections in Portland, for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike and those are the places we’d like to see resources directed towards.”

So it seems like this will continue to be a thorny issue until a few things happen,

  • improved coordination between the Police Bureau, bike advocates, and PDOT
  • a PR campaign by the Police Bureau
  • everyone obeys all laws at all times in all conditions, no questions asked.

Do you ride through the OMSI/Springwater area? What has your experience been?
UPDATE 2:Ed Birnbaum has received an informative reply from the Mayor’s office about this situation:

“Dear Mr. Birnbaum:

Thank you for emailing about the traffic enforcement action near the Esplanade, from SE Grand to Water Avenues.

…The enforcement mission you describe was requested by ODOT (who also provided grant funding for it). The Police Traffic division fielded many complaints from work zone flaggers regarding many bicyclists not obeying stop signs in the construction zone and creating a hazard. Traffic confirmed that there was an issue, and at one point observed several bicyclists passing cars on the right at stop signs and then turning left immediately in front of them. In order to get the word out publicly, Traffic informed bikportland.org earlier this month that enforcement would begin on March 12 and continue for the foreseeable future – and, that motorists as well as bicyclists would be expected to obey traffic laws. Traffic (Division) has informed me that yesterday alone, 46 citations were issued to automobiles and 22 to bicycles (*Note: that is about the average for bike citations over an entire month).

We support the enforcement mission, and they will continue in the area until at least the end of the month. The disposition of many traffic collisions involving bicyclist injury or fatality find that the bicyclist was at fault, and therefore, enforcement missions to help ensure that all who use the road respect traffic safety laws are a valuable use of police resources.

Thank you, again, for emailing.

Jeremy Van Keuren
Public Advocate
Office of Mayor Tom Potter”

UPDATE 1: A commenter reminds us that this could all be avoided if we could complete the trail gap on the riverfront:

“I would encourage people to expend their energy and passion around this issue on getting SK Northwest to put in their required segment of the Springwater Trail. The current gap in the trail forces everyone off the trail and out into the street system in a heavy industrial area. That could be closed, eventually.

Today is the last day of the comment period before city staff issues a decision. Shoot an e-mail to the planner with your concerns. Contact info in this previous post.”

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. Thank you.

  • "the other" steph March 22, 2007 at 8:07 am

    it would be interesting to look at the rider/driver citation ratio for offenses that both riders and drivers have in common rather than the overall percentage (i’m assuming this is moving citation and does not include “expired tags”, etc.). have many bicyclists been hit with a speeding ticket (i only know of one person), for instance?
    maybe this is off-topic . . .

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  • Dan Burton March 22, 2007 at 8:10 am

    The detour does not make sense. Unless something has changed in the last week, cyclists are able to access the trail on a new section of concrete pavement directly, with no detour required. I don’t get it.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 22, 2007 at 8:31 am

    This is a classic example of a governmental body that has gone beyond its mandate to promote public health and safety and is misusing law enforcement resources for punitive purposes.

    Meanwhile, the road is in terrible shape, temporary stop signs are left in bike lanes, the detour is poorly signed, and the Ross Island Co. apparently has its own private road to use while the rest of us are required to go around.

    Jonathan, would you consider hosting an internet petition that cyclists could sign regarding this issue? I would like to write (another) letter to the City.

    On a lighter note, the guy who wants to cite me (merely a matter of time, I’m sure) had better bring a bike with a motor…

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  • Dave March 22, 2007 at 8:32 am

    I got a ticket there yesterday, along with about 6 other cyclists during the 5 minutes or so I was stopped. There were two motorcycle officers just waiting for people to roll through the northbound stop sign on 4th Ave, turning onto Caruthers. It is very confusing, and there are temporary stop signs and detour signs pointing in multiple directions. The best part is that the ticket is for $242 — ridiculous! I totally ran the stop sign and take responsibility for it, but $242 is nothing but a big middle finger to cyclists in Portland.

    I love how if a car/house gets broken into or if a bike gets stolen, the police, “just don’t have the resources” to do anything, but they apparently have enough motorcycle cops and $20,000 BMW motorcycles lying around to sit in wait to nab bike commuters rolling through stop signs. Buncha jerks!

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  • Carl March 22, 2007 at 8:34 am

    No helmet, no lights, no brakes, tearing through our construction zones, breaking the law, and pissing off other road users on the way to their respiratory therapy jobs… I’m glad to hear that the PPB is targeting this dangerous minority. Why can’t Ed and his scofflaw messenger friends just OBEY THE LAW?!

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  • Cecil March 22, 2007 at 8:34 am

    I ride through that area on a regular basis and have yet to see any cops, so my timing must be different. I have been keeping an eye out for them because of the earlier post re increased enforcement. However,I am one of those folks who stops at stop signs, even if there’s no one around, so I am not too worried about it. I too was wondering about why bikes couldn’t just go through on the new concrete area as Dan pointed out, but this morning I noticed that a lot of the construction trucks were going through that space at a fairly rapid pace, perhaps because they assume no one will be there, so if cyclists do go through, they should watch out for those fast moving trucks

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  • Nancy March 22, 2007 at 9:09 am

    Last summer, on Sundays, my husband and I had a booth set up a in a parking lot promoting our hi-viz items. We had full view of this corner with the stop sign.
    I can tell you we saw only a few cyclists stop-and they were usually stopped trying to figure out which way to go or they were waiting for someone to catch up. There were many near misses-with both the cyclist and motorist shaking their head at each other. At the time we were there, there was no construction going on, but a tremendous amount of truck traffic.

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  • Another Carl March 22, 2007 at 9:46 am

    So what’s not to understand? You stop at the stop signs, as you always should, then there’s no problem. Why do you guys think yourselves above the law and begin screaming discrimination when the law is properly enforced? As a fellow cyclist, I deeply resent this widespread scofflaw attitude among my fellow riders. It is the cause of most of our PR problems with the public.

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  • Bill March 22, 2007 at 9:56 am

    I have ridden through that area twice a day year around since before the trail opened. It is dangerous even without the construction and I have written several times on how crazy it is to have all the bike traffic squeeze over to the west side of fourth. It forces you to cross paths with Ross Island’s aggressive truckers and I have seen no less than 4 head on accidents between bicyclists at the corner of 4th and Caruthers.

    That said, I’ve seen some of the stupidest maneuvers by cyclists ever in that same area. An area that dangerous deserves a slow, cautious approach. The construction traffic is heavy and dangerous, the detour signage and layout is inadequate, and the bicyclists aren’t being cautious enough.

    Enough blaming and whining. Let’s get BTA, PDOT, ODOT, and Ross Island together to figure out how to make this safer for all. I’d be glad to be part of the solution or at least improvement. As far as the cops go, at least it makes more sense here than their mining gold at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 22, 2007 at 10:04 am

    This is not an issue about obeying the law. Let’s all agree that everyone needs to obey the law and put that argument to bed.

    This is an issue of which laws are enforced, whom enforcement is directed at, and the relative priorities the City sets in its enforcement activities. As Earl would say, it’s a matter of equity.

    Here’s an example of the inequity: I live in a school zone, a few yards away from a four-way stop. There are children around every morning, and every morning (all day, in fact) I watch motorists roll through the stop signs and then speed through the school zone. Yet in the 9 months I have lived there, I have never seen cops on motorcycles sitting at the intersection waiting to cite people for those violations.

    Is it more important to the health and safety of Portlanders that the Police protect innocent, vulnerable truck drivers from out-of-control cyclists or that it protect children from speeding cars and trucks?

    Even if you answer “both,” it still does not explain why the PoPo is on the Springwater and not at Sellwood Middle School, or any number of other schools around PDX. So, I invite you to consider, why is that?

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  • Burr March 22, 2007 at 10:04 am

    I’m curious to know the names of the two motorcycle cops who have made this their mission. And I’m willing to bet it’s Barnum and Balzer.

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  • Dave March 22, 2007 at 10:06 am

    It’s completely screwy over there now, but as someone who drives through there more than he rides, I can say that stop-running cyclists have definitely been a problem. A week ago I sat in a backup of cars for a good ten minutes while the cement truck at the front waited for a cyclist to actually stop at the stop sign on Caruthers and allow him to turn.

    I’ve ridden it too, and honestly people, it’s not that hard. Construction zones are a pain in the keister for all of us, and we all are going to have to take a little extra care down there for the foreseeable future.

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  • Curt Dewees March 22, 2007 at 10:14 am

    Last night I rode through there on my way home from work (coming from the Oaks Bottom Trail to the south), and I came to a “T” intersection.

    There were two construction-worker/flaggers stopping traffic, facing either direction on the other street, but there was no flagger facing my direction. Also the stop sign facing my direction had been covered up by a large piece of cardboard.

    Since the stop sign had been covered up, and since there was no flagger stopping traffic in my direction, I looked carefully both ways to make sure it was safe and then continued on my journey without stopping. One of the flaggers started yelling at me to, “Wait, wait!”

    Wait for what? If they wanted vehicles coming from my direction to stop, why did they cover up the stop sign? And if they want to direct traffic coming from the south, why didn’t they post a flagger facing that direction, too?

    It didn’t make any sense at all.

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  • sheldon March 22, 2007 at 10:33 am

    I agree with AO, 100% percent. This is not about hard feelings for breaking the law, but questioning why the PPB feels so compelled to ticket bicyclists on the complaint of some construction workers. We always here how it is a single complaint that targets traffic enforcement actions (e.g. SE 23 and Salmon).

    Meanwhile, myself and several neighbors have complained about cars speeding down our street during the evening rush hour so what do the cops do? They send a car out between 1 and 2 PM and say they only saw 5 cars use our street and none were speeding.

    I’m not against enforcing traffic laws, but I strongly question the motivations of PPB in this instance. Its a sad waste of human resources.

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  • Lenny Anderson March 22, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Police resources should be deployed where illegal behavior puts other people’s lives, property, etc at risk, period.
    The existing penalty for careless/illegal bike riding is already death if not serious injury to the rider with few consequences for the errant rider’s “victim.”
    We saw a motorist run a red light long after it turned on Interstate this AM leaving the Rose Quarter…its routine these days. Where are the cops?…out harassing bike commuters. Great.

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  • Martha March 22, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I used to ride through that area every day, but lately I’ve been altering my route because of the construction. The stop signs are really screwy, in that their location changes daily — even the permanent stop signs get covered then uncovered. Am I supposed to stop at that stop sign under the viaduct when there are two flaggers on either end of the section of road telling me to proceed through, and they haven’t bothered to cover it up?

    Plus, there are so many construction signs, steel plates on the road, and general obstacles that it’s not hard to overlook a new stop sign when trying to safely and slowly navigate the ever-changing maze.

    I would encourage the construction crews to re-think their signage and make the new stop signs more visible (perhaps by putting those yellow flags on them like they do when a new permanent stop sign is installed) and more consistent. Maybe also re-think the number and locations of all signs to reduce the visual clutter and clarify the message.

    I would also like to know whether the police are devoting equal enforcement efforts to the 20 mph speed limit on the new detour road between Caruthers and Water — those big trucks can get going pretty fast in there. That said, it’s a no-brainer to stop at stop signs (when you can see them). I routinely get cut off by other cyclists who don’t bother to follow the law, and that’s lame.

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  • mc March 22, 2007 at 11:08 am

    I commute under the MLK viaduct and in the area of OMSI twice (or more) a day, six or seven days a week, and have done so for eight years. In the past two weeks, I have seen many more motorocyle officers in the area than at any point in my memory, and they are usually on Caruthers monitoring the (recently created) four-way stop at the Water Bypass/4th/Caruthers intersection. The Eastbound stop on Caruthers went in within the last two weeks. My understanding is that the increased presence is specifically because of the ignoring of traffic control devices in the area by motorists and cyclists.

    The complaining about the inconvenience posed by the construction strikes me as overly harsh, and I think some credit is in order. Fourth avenue has been shut down for only a few weeks. The resurface between Division Place and Caruthers was completed very quickly; and the stretch to Ivon is almost done, which will mitigate much of the relatively brief inconvenience for riders headed to and from the corridor.

    Unfortunately, the viaduct project will impact riders coming from points east on Division place for a much longer time, which happens to be the direction of my commute, but so be it. I can’t understand the anger directed at the construction companies that are just doing their job. Fourth Avenue will be in far better shape when it reopens than it was in its former condition. The Viaduct project _has_ to happen. At least it is being rebuilt, instead of dismantled, which would have been a far more dangerous situation for bicyclists in the long term, considering that the alternative plan was for all of 99E traffic to be permanently routed on the ground through that section of area. Dealing with slow-moving heavy trucks for a few years is one thing. Negotiating across six lanes of one of the busiest sections of road in the city for the rest of the forseeable future would have been horrible. From what I understand, the vote on that decision was 3 to 2; a very narrow victory.

    I think a bit of civility, patience and common sense will go a long way to making this situation more tolerable. Just a few days ago, while stopped on my bike in a line of traffic waiting for a flagger, I was nearly clipped by another rider who didn’t think the delay applied to him, and rode through the flagger’s plea for him to wait. Not a good image. Compound that with the time last week when another cyclist swore at me while swerving around me as I stopped at the sign at Fourth at the train tracks, and I have developed a bit of a bad taste in my mouth as of late regarding a very small subset of my fellow riders. At one point prior to the closure of the viaduct underpass on Cartuthers, I had reason to have a conversation with a construction worker (a biker herself) who said she was dismayed with the lack of respect and general impatience motorists and cyclists alike were showing the work crews, who really have everyone’s safety at the top of their minds.

    In the long term, the construction will be a _good_ thing for all commuters in the area. I have to admit that I sincerely hope that the railroad tracks at the Darigold plant get repaved again soon; they’re getting rather nasty. Then again, they are in far better shape than they were prior to the last time they were repaved about three years ago, as are most of the streets in the area since the heavy truck diversion was initially enacted.

    I guess what I am trying to say in this rather long message is I am more than willing to put up with a little inconvenience for the short term knowing what the eventual result is going to be, and especially considering what the alternative would have been. Best wishes and ride safely.

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  • Stephen March 22, 2007 at 11:37 am

    This all sounds like another reason for completing the East Bank Esplanade-Springwater trail.

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  • benschon March 22, 2007 at 11:39 am

    I would encourage people to expend their energy and passion around this issue on getting SK Northwest to put in their required segment of the Springwater Trail. The current gap in the trail forces everyone off the trail and out into the street system in a heavy industrial area. That could be closed, eventually.

    Today is the last day of the comment period before city staff issues a decision. Shoot an e-mail to the planner with your concerns. Contact info in this previous post:


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  • Dabby March 22, 2007 at 11:51 am

    I was down in the construction zone yesterday, and while I knew days ago about the action, and did not get a ticket, I spent some time warning other cyclists, and some drivers I saw that I knew (delivery drivers, one of which pulled a illegal U turn, in the middle of the intersection, without being pulled over). about the motorcycle policemen parked there.

    The policemen who are posting themselves up there are none other than the members and ringleaders of the Barnum and Balzer Circus.
    I saw them both….

    These same two policemen are the ones responsible for selective interpretation of bicycle related ordinances, (especialy fixed gear harrasment) and the only officers I have ever gotten a bike ticket from in twenty years of working on my bike. (for a stop light, while chasing down a car, who had just come three lanes over to run me off the road. The car also ran the stop light, with the motorcycle cop right there, and I was the only one stopped).

    While I know for a fact that they do truly and unjustly target bicycles in and out of downtown, I must say that it is just trivial to read accounts of people mad because they are getting citations for things they actually did wrong.

    There is an enforcement action in progress due to the fact that, one, unsafe riding habits have been observed in the construction zone.

    And two, the construction workers themselves are more concerned with deadlines, and work, to pay attention to how they are moving through this zone.

    If you break the law in this area, you will get a ticket. Suck it up and pay it……..

    If you are wrongly ticketed, or pulled over for doing nothing wrong, you have many options.

    One is to state your case to the officer, and, after proving your point, ride off on your merry way.
    They cannot give you a ticket if you have done nothing wrong.

    The next thing to do is to take your ticket to court and fight it…..
    Something about the right to defend one’s self…
    And when the police officer is not there during roll call, ask for a dismissal.
    Once again, something about having the right to defend yourself against your accuser.

    But really, if you blow a stop sign, and get caught doing it, you deserve the ticket.
    It does not give you the right to bitch about it…..

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  • Carl March 22, 2007 at 12:06 pm

    Sorry to leave you out in the cold, “Another Carl,” but my comment was 100% tongue-in-cheek. Suggesting that “Ed and his scofflaw messenger friends just OBEY THE LAW?!” was meant to point out the fact that this ISN’T about fixed gears, helmets, professions, or class. Ed’s not a messenger and I doubt he’s a scofflaw. Some folks like to point to messengers and their groupies as the bad apples, the dreaded “scofflaw messenger-types.” That’s crap. When it comes to stop signs, most cyclists are guilty of running them, even the guy with the blaze orange reflective safety vest. Sit outside at the Clinton Corner Cafe or the Night Light sometime after 5 and tell me I’m wrong.

    But this isn’t about stop signs or being law-abiding. A_O is dead on. It’s about priorities. Ed was among thousands of other people who were breaking a law in Portland at that instant. While that’s certainly not cause to dismiss his ticket, it does make me wonder if the Police couldn’t find a more problematic area to target.

    Maybe they should be sitting downtown nabbing jaywalkers all day for a month (That’s a joke. They shouldn’t do that. It would be stupid.).

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  • Disco D March 22, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Just out of curiousity, how do the cops work it if the person they stop (on a bike) doesn’t have ID? I normally don’t carry my license since I am not in my car, but come to think of it I think the cops can pretty much arrest you if they can’t ID you right?

    All this talk of bicycle tickets got me wondering if I am going to jail when/if I get stopped.

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  • Michelle March 22, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    One of my concerns about the area is the strange distribution of stop signs. There are a few of them where they seem (at least to the laywoman like me) totally unnecessary, and then I can think of at least one place where there probably ought to be one. Add to that the moveable stop signs, and the ones that are sometimes covered up and sometimes not, and I worry that the whole situation is just training bicyclists to second-guess (i.e. run) stop signs. Maybe if their placement made more sense, people would give them the benefit of the doubt?

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  • David March 22, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I drove south down 99E the other morning and there were two motorbike cops setup under the overpass after the bridge. The posted speed limit is 35 and everyone always does 45+. The speed limit is low because trucks are not allowed on the bridge and are forced to leave the highway and re-enter the highway using a short uphill on-ramp. Anyway, the PPB was targeting motorists too. The unfortunate difference is a speeding ticket isn’t $232, ouch! I encourage everyone to plead innocent and then opt for community service rather than paying the tickets.

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  • Patrick March 22, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Who do I ask for a police crackdown on drivers who turn right on the NW Everett/405 intersection?

    This has to be one of the dangerous intersections. Nearly every time I ride down that street a car turns right in front of me, despite the YIELD TO BIKES sign.

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  • Dave March 22, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    Amen, mc. Word, Dabby.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 22, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    OK, it’s official. Dabby’s post (#20) makes clear based on the identity of the officers that this is not merely grossly misplaced priorities IT IS A PORTLAND POLICE BUREAU VENDETTA AGAINST CYCLISTS.

    Sorry for yelling.

    If I get ticketed, I’m not just going to be in court to defend the citation, I’m going to be filing a civil rights lawsuit against the City.

    I’ll stop here so the rest of my post won’t read “*moderated*”.

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  • Matt P. March 22, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    First off, regarding ID and cops:

    SB932 currently before the state senate would make it a crime to fail to identify yourself to a police officer (including not carrying an authorized government ID card). If you want to help kill this bill, go to http://www.leg.state.or.us/findlegsltr/ and find out who your legislator is, then click the link on the page to contact your legislator and let them know you’re against it.

    Regarding this particular enforcement action: I agree with Dabby 100%. Also, I see lots of complaints against this action, but *why* were they there in the first place? Supposedly because the contractors complained. Complained against who? I don’t see anything above or in the article saying the complaints were specifically directed against cyclists. Motorists and truckers in that area constantly violate stop signs, road direction and speed limits in that area, and frequently endanger construction workers. If I were them, I’d be complaining too. As long as the police are enforcing the law against all vehicles breaking the law, I fail to see the issue. The $242 fine has nothing to do with the police – you guys have to talk to the court system and/or the legislature on that one.

    As a side note, one of said contractors actually warned me this morning about the police enforcement. Most of the construction people have been very friendly and respectful to me while I’ve been on the bike, and I’ve been respectful and courteous towards them. If there really was some complaint directed against cyclists, remembering and respecting that these workers are people too, and frequently work a crappy job in nasty weather all day long, might go a long way towards encouraging more goodwill and fewer complaints. These guys generally have as many problems with motorists as we do, they’re at least partially sympathetic.

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  • Cecil March 22, 2007 at 3:01 pm

    A.O., just curious as what the basis of the civil rights claim would be. Unfair as this selective enforcement of the vehicle code may be, as far as I can tell it’s not exactly an infringement of any constitutional rights, either state or federal.

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  • mc March 22, 2007 at 3:55 pm


    Though I appreciate the fervor of your passion, that you say it is a “PPB vendetta” based on one other comment on this board does not make it so. My experience in getting to know SE officers in addition to my experiences at CPAC and HAND meetings must differ from yours. I have not found any reason to think that there is any bias “against” the biking community by the whole of the Portland Police. I do not wish to incite argument, but I would say that the MLK Viaduct project is a difficult area for bicyclists, motorists, businesses, and construction interests alike, and any attempt to polarize this issue is, in my opinion, misguided. This issue affects all interested parties, and the only course of action that can be productive is cooperation, not appeasement or antagonism.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 22, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    Fair enough. I understand and agree with the need to be constructive. I think all the relevant stakeholders should work together to find a solution to the problem, the start of which should be all parties involved obeying the laws.

    With that said, I think it is pretty clear based on previous events that the two officers involved have an anti-cyclist policy that is well-known and tolerated by their management. And it’s because I want us all to be able to work together that I want to convince the PPB that it needs to reign these clowns in if it wants to have a constructive dialogue with the citizens generally and (many) cyclists specifically.

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  • Ed Birnbaum March 22, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    Same Ed, the Respiratory Therapist. No not really a “scofflaw” but definitely a skeptic.
    Thought I should, out of fairness, share the reply from Tom Potter’s office, signed not by him but by Jeremy somebody:
    “Dear Mr. Birnbaum:

    Thank you for emailing about the traffic enforcement action near the Esplanade, from SE Grand to Water Avenues. Mayor Potter has asked me to respond on his behalf.

    The construction is being undertaken by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) for their MLK viaduct project and the entire area is posted as a “construction zone”. The enforcement mission you describe was requested by ODOT (who also provided grant funding for it). The Police Traffic division fielded many complaints from work zone flaggers regarding many bicyclists not obeying stop signs in the construction zone and creating a hazard. Traffic confirmed that there was an issue, and at one point observed several bicyclists passing cars on the right at stop signs and then turning left immediately in front of them. In order to get the word out publicly, Traffic informed bikportland.org earlier this month that enforcement would begin on March 12 and continue for the foreseeable future – and, that motorists as well as bicyclists would be expected to obey traffic laws. Traffic has informed me that yesterday alone, 46 citations were issued to automobiles and 22 to bicycles.

    We support the enforcement mission, and they will continue in the area until at least the end of the month. The disposition of many traffic collisions involving bicyclist injury or fatality find that the bicyclist was at fault, and therefore, enforcement missions to help ensure that all who use the road respect traffic safety laws are a valuable use of police resources.

    Thank you, again, for emailing.

    Jeremy Van Keuren
    Public Advocate
    Office of Mayor Tom Potter
    Portland, Oregon
    jvankeuren@ci..portland.or.us ”

    If the numbers are accurate, they’re not just targeting bicyclists. But I’m still thinking about some chemical preparation to help me get through the diversion class.

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  • Michelle March 22, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Excellent response from the Mayor’s office, and certainly changes the parameters of the discussion!

    I think the wider issues of where to target enforcement (and towards what violations) and how to improve this neighborhood for everyone – bicyclists, pedestrians, drivers and the construction workers who are trying very hard to keep everyone safe – are still on the table.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 22, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    Dear Mr. Van Keuren:

    In a recent letter to a fellow PDXer, the Mayor’s Office said: “Traffic … observed several bicyclists passing cars on the right at stop signs and then turning left immediately in front of them.”

    I have never seen this in this location during my twice-daily rides through there since Sept of last year. I have seen cyclists do some unadvisable and illegal things in this area, but nothing this foolhardy. I think the Mayor is exaggerating the degree of the hazard created by cyclists in this area.

    I also think that this approach to the necessary construction-based disruption of one of PDX’s major bike thoroughfares is extremely poor policy. By focusing exclusively on enforcement utilizing $242 fines and ignoring the safety and bike traffic flow issues that the construction hazard creates, the Mayor has decided upon a punitive policy that is bound to frustrate cyclists and prove divisive to the entire community.

    Rather than creating a well-signed area for one of PDX’s highest bike traffic locations that cyclists can move through efficiently, the Mayor has created an extremely hazardous area for cyclists. It is poorly and inconsistently signed (see above posts), it routes cyclists across steel plates and railroad tracks at an awkward angle, and it has large metal signs placed directly in bike lanes, forcing cyclists into the larger lane.

    The Mayor asks us to navigate this each morning and each evening after a hard day’s work and to humbly accept a $200+ fine for our “hazardous” behavior. He may have succeeded in teaching 22 Portland’s cyclists that not coming to a full and complete stop each time you reach a stop sign will cost you half your paycheck in this “bike friendly” town. And that he is interested in generating City revenue through excessive fines against cyclists. What he hasn’t shown is that he has a true concern for cyclist safety.

    Is the Mayor pro-safety or anti-bike?

    Very truly yours,

    /Christopher Heaps/

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  • Cecil March 22, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    “Traffic … observed several bicyclists passing cars on the right at stop signs and then turning left immediately in front of them.”

    Sadly, while I haven’t seen this occur at 4th and Caruthers, I have seen cyclists pull this manuever on numerous occasions in all parts of town. It is without a doubt the stupidest thing I have ever seen a cyclist do, and I have seen cyclists do some pretty darn stupid things.

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  • Matt Picio March 22, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    I also have never seen this particular reckless behavior in my twice daily rides on 4th, Caruthers, Ivon, etc. I *have* seen cyclists running stop signs (constantly), but that’s about it – no crazy behavior around cars.

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  • Burr March 22, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    “We support the enforcement mission, and they will continue in the area until at least the end of the month. The disposition of many traffic collisions involving bicyclist injury or fatality find that the bicyclist was at fault, and therefore, enforcement missions to help ensure that all who use the road respect traffic safety laws are a valuable use of police resources.”

    I like the blame the victim mentality. I’ve looked at a fair amount of Portland crash data and concluded that the at fault ratio of motorists to cyclists was about 60:40. And cyclists were always the injured parties. It’s pretty disingenuous for the mayor’s office to use the excuse that cyclists were responsible for most bike-car crashes as an excuse for these enforcement actions.

    Is the mayor’s office getting their information directly from Barnum and Balzer?

    Who’s lobbying in Salem to get fines for cyclists’ traffic infractions reduced? Is the ‘yield at stop sign ‘ legislation moving forward in Salem? Now’s the time, folks!

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  • Dabby March 22, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    Yesterday, I had cyclists, in and right near this exact area, pull this same move (as described in the letter above) in front of me.

    I also had some “recreational” older (older than me even) fast moving cyclists try to pass me in the children zone right at OMSI, where there were construction cones up, a full large group of mentally handicapped adults, some in wheelchairs even, and children playing.

    Riding irresponsibly is one thing, but doing it in the vicinity of children and the handicapped is one of the worst things imaginable………

    I sat and watched, after giving them fair warning about the traffic trap ahead, cyclists run the stop sign right in front of the motorcycle cop, who lucky for them was chatting on his cell phone and did nothing.

    A cyclist pulling to the right around a car, and then going left in front of them, is common and nothing new at all, but still very stupid……….

    Claims that this does not happen are being handed out by either the blind, or the naive……..

    Maybe it just hasn’t happened in front of you yet…… But oh it happens…..

    We all, including me, pull cycling moves that we are not proud of, or that are considered by most to be stupid….

    But acting, and stating that we do not is just ludicrous.

    Denying the problems exist will just take us farther from the proper solutions we are looking for…..

    We are going to have to make certain concessions, and certain confessions in order to win some of these wars we are fighting.

    Life is about give and take….

    Silly responses to the mayor’s office, defending other’s for crimes they “do” commit, is one example of how not to handle this situation…..

    We cannot defend cycling by lying about it. We must stand and be proud of what we do, and admit to how we can do it better if we want them to do better for us….

    Once again, this is the opinion of me, and I speak for no one else but me….

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  • peejay March 22, 2007 at 11:14 pm

    OK, it’s settled:

    Don’t run red lights in front of cops; and

    Do let the city know that if they expect 100% compliance of the traffic ordinances, they have a responsibility to better manage traffic, especially in construction zones.


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  • PoPo March 23, 2007 at 1:27 am

    I happened to be eating lunch at the traffic division office and happened to run into two officers who told me that they were doing this enforcement mission. Figuring there would be an uproar of some sort on this site, I asked them what their bicycle / car ticket ratio was and they told me 22 to 46, so that jives with the city hall response, and I don’t see why they would lie to me. I asked how strict they were being with bicyclists, and one officer said that he was stopping mostly bicyclists who seemed to barrel through stop signs without looking and/or were doing things that seemed particularly dangerous such as the passing-on-the-right-while-turning-left maneuver mentioned above. Since they will spend hours at that intersection, as do the construction flaggers, they will obviously have a much better sense of what traffic is doing than people who simply pass through there twice a day and also develop a sense of what is particularly dangerous or egregious for that area.

    What other questions can I try to answer….

    Carrying ID. The Oregon Revised Statutes specifically says that you don’t have to have a driver’s license in order to operate a bicycle (ORS 807.020). However, if you are stopped by the police for any violation (i.e. a traffic stop, as a bicyclist, car driver or pedestrian) you are required to provide your true name, date of birth and address. If an officer has reason to believe you are lying about any of these, he/she can detain you for as long as it takes to confirm your identity. This could mean being put in a police car and transported downtown to have your fingerprints taken and verified. Obviously, if you have a picture ID, you can be quickly and easily identified on the spot. If you don’t have and ID but give your name and DOB to the officer, he/she can check via DMV records and might ask follow-up questions just to confirm you are who you say you are. Most of the people we deal with, particularly on traffic stops, tell the truth about who they are. A small percentage, however, try to play the “name game” and provide false names and birthdates, usually because they know they are wanted for some reason or have just done something bad. Brand new cops might not be very good at the name game yet, but most quickly learn to recognize when someone’s name and story aren’t adding up. (When you are lied and exaggerated to on a daily basis, you develop a pretty skeptical attitude!)

    You can be arrested if you don’t have your Drivers License with you while driving a car, though most cops quickly recognize and will probably understand if you clearly simply forgot it.

    Regarding your options when stopped for doing nothing wrong, someone above suggested arguing your point to the officer and then riding off. I just wanted to make sure that that person meant that the officer accepted the argument and agreed to let you go. Even if you are completely convinced that you did nothing wrong, if an officer activates those overhead lights, you must stop (even if it is later shown that the officer made a mistake.) I just don’t want anyone refusing to stop, or stopping and then leaving before released, and then getting chased and charged with Eluding and/or other crimes over a traffic ticket—that puts everyone in danger. The second suggestion of fighting the ticket in court is an excellent one. That is exactly what the court is for, and it is a safer, more structured, more balanced place to make your argument than with the officer on the street. And indeed, there is a chance the officer won’t show up, which invariably means the charge is dropped! (Though we do get in trouble if we miss court without a really good reason—personal knowledge here.)

    Regarding all the other places where people are committing traffic violations all the time and not getting caught, it is interesting how often this complaint comes up in various forms. Once common form is having a vehicle stopped at the side of the road for a violation, another car goes screaming by, and the stopped driver points to the speeder and asks me why I didn’t stop it too. The answer is because I’m dealing with you right now and can’t do two things at once. The other form is the “don’t you have anything better to do/there are so many other dangerous intersections in town” argument. Of course we know people are breaking traffic laws all over the place at every moment. But there are just a few of us, and we can’t stop them all. And there is data on dangerous intersections and places with lots of complaints about traffic infractions, and the traffic division prefers to do enforcement at those places, but not exclusively. (If you know of such places, please call, and have your friends call 503-823-SAFE and work to get it on the police radar.) Just FYI, I think this last argument is particularly aggravating to most officers, as it is a little insulting and demeaning. I wouldn’t use it if you are attempting to charm your way out of a ticket. In fact I would suggest that your best chance of avoiding a citation is to be extremely respectful, apologetic and take responsibility if you know you did something wrong, even if you don’t agree with the law—this can be quite refreshing to an officer and might result in a warning—though I obviously can’t guarantee it! I usually tell my friends and family that at the end of the day, the fact that you happened to get a ticket is more bad luck than anything else (you happened to make a mistake, there happened to be a cop who saw it, he/she happened to not be on a call and free to make a traffic stop, etc, etc.)—though a sure-fire way to avoid a citation is to obey all the traffic laws.

    Good, friendly idea of those folks who are taking the time to warn approaching bicyclists about the traffic enforcement. That’s good teamwork that accomplishes the goal without any interaction with the police at all.

    My partner and I rode our police bicycles in that construction area again today and it seems like the signs are pretty clear, though it is unclear to me why there is that one-block, U-shaped detour when there appears to be a clear, finished concrete road continuing straight off the end of the Springwater corridor to Carruthers. However I am not in construction and don’t know the big picture of that project. Perhaps there is still work to be done on that section, perhaps there’s lots of truck traffic using it; perhaps there is something else I don’t know about. I did ask a construction person about it, though, and she wasn’t sure why bikes were being detoured off of it either, but said that she would consult with a project manager about it. I’ll try to follow-up tomorrow.

    I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try to be fair and reasonable at my job, there will always be a small percentage of folks for whom I and my co-workers can do absolutely no right and no amount of patient explanation or thoughtful debate will change their mind. A lost cause, perhaps. I have noticed a similar breakdown among comments on this website–a majority or reasonable, thoughtful, big-picture type opinions that consider the hopes and needs of the community beyond just us bikers; and a minority of angry, frustrated, focused criticisms. I guess that is natural among a community, though, as we are all different, and, particularly in this country, entitled to our opinions.

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  • Macaroni March 23, 2007 at 1:32 am

    ODOT = Openly Despises Optional Transportation
    ODOT = Offensive Dolts Oregon Tolerates
    ODOT = Our Department of Tastelessness

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  • peejay March 23, 2007 at 7:18 am

    Wouldn’t covering a stop sign with cardboard and then ticketing those who fail to stop count as entrapment? Just asking.

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  • mc March 23, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Are you saying that a police officer actually covered a stop sign with cardboard and then wrote tickets for failure to stop at that sign? I find that highly unlikely.

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  • Curt Dewees March 23, 2007 at 9:02 am

    Re: Who covered the stop sign with cardboard?

    My guess is this: During this road construction phase, the folks at Ross Island Sand and Gravel probably got together with the construction company and worked it out so the RIS&G trucks could come and go with as little interruption as possible, and since there are construction flaggers out there already directing traffic at that intersection, they decided to make the intersection a two-way stop instead of a three-way stop (to facilitate truck traffic).

    I’m sure the Portland Police had nothing to do with covering up the stop sign with cardboard. I’m willing to bet it is a temporary arrangement between the construction co. and Ross Island Sand & Gravel.

    [But is it legal to cover up a stop sign with cardboard? Hmmm….. That’s another question to which I don’t know the answer ….]

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  • Dave March 23, 2007 at 9:06 am

    For what it’s worth, I rode through the 4th and Caruthers intersection this morning and saw that one of the motorcycle cops was ticketing a big semi truck and the other was ticketing a car.

    I still feel that a $242 ticket for a bicycle violation is nothing short of ludicrous, although the headwound slide show class is a good alternative. Ed — are you going to the April 11th one? We should hook up beforehand 🙂

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  • Dabby March 23, 2007 at 9:15 am

    I was suggesting riding away from the traffic stop only after convincing, or having the officer agree, that you have not actually violated the law.

    Not just taking off……..

    Thanks for your response Po Po, it is what people need to hear….

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  • Bill March 23, 2007 at 9:49 am

    About the covering of stop signs:

    If a temporary traffic control device or a flagger has to give instructions that are in conflict with a permanently installed device (sign, signal), the permanent device has to be covered or turned off.

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  • craig March 23, 2007 at 9:59 am

    I just want to say thanks to PoPo for taking the time to write his comment.

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  • Rob March 23, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I commute via bicycle and my workplace is at the intersection described. I and my workmates have seen some unbelievably brain-dead stupid maneuvers by cyclists (and yes, a few motorists and pedestrians). One guy even attempted to ride *under* a semi trailer parked at our dock; while he and the bike *did* arrive on the other side of the trailer, they did not arrive together and so he was not wholly successful. The stop signs at both ends (at SE 4th and Caruthers and at the corner leading to OMSI)were routinely blown even before the construction began, and with the current situation I fear someone is in for a lengthy hospital stay if not a dirt nap.

    I won’t speak to the alleged entrapment issue — although I’ve seen nothing that suggests it’s actually happening — but I *will* once again harp upon patience and courtesy. Regardless of construction woes, inconvenience, and confusion, there is *nowhere* any of us have to go that warrants unsafe riding and driving or rude conduct. THINK.

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  • Matt P. March 23, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks, PoPo, for the lengthy and informative response. I rode through there this morning and they appear to have re-routed the “detour” to allow Springwater users to pass straight through on the new segment. Also, they are currently paving the other half of that street.

    Regarding identifying yourself. My understanding of the so-called “Terry stop” laws, the Supreme Court’s ruling, and current Oregon law is that you are required to provide your name. Period. Is this incorrect? Not that I wouldn’t provide my residence and birthdate to the police, but can you provide a reference to the statute that requires me to provide my date of birth? (A_O or Mark Ginsberg please chime in if you know)

    I’m not trying to deliberately nitpick the ins and outs of the law, but since “ignorance of the law is no excuse”, those of us who aren’t attorneys or peace officers need to know how to interpret the law. Thanks.

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  • Michelle March 23, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks, PoPo, for the great response. As always, your insight is invaluable, your explanations elegant, and your advice spot-on!

    I called 823-SAFE with a general concern about the traffic control engineering for that area, given that the construction will last through 2010, in hopes that the City and ODOT and the construction company help safely move bike and car and truck traffic around under the viaduct.

    This is a major junction on two heavily traveled bike routes, so I hope we can make it more comfortable for everyone.

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  • Ed March 23, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Bad news:
    Going to the class isn’t the only punishment. It looks like it costs $30, way less than the $242 ticket, but still ends up being a sort of fine. But, far worse, having attended the class, I have to bring a certificate of proof of attendance to show the judge in court. That means taking time off from work to wait around in court at either 8:30 AM or 1 PM. You can’t just send it in. The clerk I just spoke to, nice as she was, was quite clear about that.
    So, just as I was starting to calm down, feel generous, look at both sides, I’m now pretty PO’d again. For me, it’s an inconvenience, and also one for the patients I’ll have to cancel in order to go to court. It would be far worse for a young person with a poor and insecure job who might lose the job or a day’s pay. Even if I no longer believe that the intention was to persecute bicyclists, I still think it’s bad policy and I don’t think it’s making anyone safer.
    Even if they are ticketing more motor vehicles than bikes at that intersection, it still doesn’t turn out to be equitable. That route is absolutely crucial for us, (formerly) one of the best north-south routes and, for many of us, our way to get to and from work. ODOT should seek to keep us moving quickly and, of course, safely there. It should be understantable that we’d feel any major delay there rather keenly. But all of the streets involved in the detour are side streets for motorists. The block where I was stopped just heads into parking for a few business, or to the Esplanade, the Opera offices, or OMSI. And, anyway, I was definitely not “barreling through” but had slowed down to look for construction vehicles and to cross the tracks. I just didn’t come to a complete stop. If I were driving a car there, I coudn’t imagine not stopping completely, with or without a stop sign. I’m not surprised at all that 26 or more bike riders got tagged in one day. I’m shocked about the more than 40 drivers. My guess, though, is that what motivated the stake-out was not the cars and trucks but the bikes.
    The guy who signed my ticket was officer Balzer, as it turns out.
    Dave, I will be the dreaded class April 11th. I’ll shout out your name to see if you’re there.

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  • PoPo March 23, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks Dabby, I figured that is what you meant, but just wanted to clarify.

    Yesterday the stop sign was covered up at the intersection where the flagger was controlling traffic so as not to give mixed signals and confuse drivers and bikers. No officer in their right mind would attempt to enforce that stop sign–wouldn’t have a prayer in court, among other things.

    I spoke with the contractors today about that street that shoots directly north from the end of the Springwater Trail (4th ave?) and they said that it should be ok for bikes to use it now. I also asked if they would adjust the detour signs to clarify that fact, and the person I talked to said he would take care of it by the end of the day, though I didn’t have a chance to go back and check on it to see if he did.

    They said they only have a couple more weeks and then will be finished working on those surface streets. After they are done they will start on demolishing the viaduct, which shouldn’t affect that Springwater Corridor approach very much. That’s what they said, at least.

    About the birthdate thing, that’s a good question. I don’t have my little law book with me right now to cite the ORS, but will try to reply with it soon. I don’t feel nitpicked.

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  • Paul March 24, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    PoPo is working on a toeclips award nomination….

    Great responses, thanks for the posts!

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  • mc March 24, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Situation update:

    Rode under the viaduct twice yesterday, twice today. Fourth does appear to be open, though Caruthers to Ivon is only half complete (west side of the street) regarding concrete. Forms/rebar are set; looks like Fowler will knock out the east side section of fourth any day now.

    Division Place under the viaduct is currently closed in both directions; Caruthers is open under the viaduct now; WB traffic from Division Place now turns right as it formerly did. Unfortunately, the recent excavation has been temporarily filled with dirt and gravel; it’s about 3 feet wide and runs the entire length of Grand adjacent to the viaduct, and must be crossed carefully as it’s a bit sketchy since the material is not densely-packed. I am going to try to find out what the schedule is to resurface that section.

    Caruthers/Water Bypass/4th intersection is still a four-way stop.

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  • mc March 24, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I should clarify; fourth between ivon/division place appears to be open to bike/pedestrian traffic, not vehicular. I’m thinking that division place will not be closed long at all; I must assume it is a high priority to get the heavy truck traffic on the most direct path to 99E SB ASAP.

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