Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Where do we stand on enforcement practices?

Posted by on April 4th, 2007 at 9:12 am

Tour de Fat '06

At the Tour de Fat Parade.
File photo: 8/27/06

I have covered bicycle-related law enforcement issues extensively on this site.

My coverage has mirrored changes in my personal understanding and experience of the complex relationship between police officers and bicyclists in Portland.

In the past few years, I’ve had many experiences with the Police Bureau. Back in August of 2005, I questioned their presence at Critical Mass (after an argument with an officer during the ride), I’ve joined officers on ride-alongs in patrol cars and on bikes, I’ve interviewed a Commander, worked with the Traffic Division on bike theft issues, and have had contact with officers on numerous issues from bike crash investigations, to neighborhood safety.

Like many relationships, there have been highs and lows, and there is always more work to be done.

officer barnum

Officer Barnum takes the oath.
File photo: 9/7/06

As editor of this site, I am in the challenging position of trying to facilitate this relationship while maintaining credibility and respect from both sides.

My awareness of the issues and my sense of purpose has evolved considerably since that Critical Mass skirmish in August of ’05, but covering this issue is still not easy.

Most people appreciate my efforts, but others have labeled me an apologist and a “mouthpiece” for the Police Bureau. On the other side, I shudder to think what the officers are saying as they read stories and comments down at the station.

At this point in time, I’m concerned that there is an ongoing issue around the enforcement practices of some Traffic Division officers. There have been many comments and stories posted here about confusion and frustration about how bicycle laws are being enforced.

Bill Sinnott

Former Traffic Division
Commander Bill Sinnott.
File photo: 11/9/05

There have been controversial “enforcement actions” or “stings”, suspect application of bicycle-related laws — including the right to leave the bike lane to make a turn, and the right to ride a fixed-gear bicycle — and there have been so many bicycle cases at the County courthouse they had to schedule a special, full day of trials to hear them all.

Last week we had an interesting discussion about enforcement practices at a construction zone that sits in the middle of a very popular bikeway.

There were also reports that (despite a divided legal system and pending legislation in Salem) some Portland police officers continue to cite bicyclists for riding fixed gear bicycles even though it is arguably 100% legal to do so.

So what does this all add up to? Is this an issue that needs to be addressed? I’m not sure (that’s why I’m writing this article), but I am sure that if we do nothing, the potential for further confusion, frustration, and divisiveness will remain.

Bicycle Master Plan ride #3

Officer Pickett (L) joined us at
the Bike Master Plan ride last night.
File photo: 4/4/07

That being said, there are bright spots. One of them is Officer Robert Pickett from Southeast Precinct. He has already made a large effort to facilitate a more cooperative and understanding relationship between cyclists and cops. He has contributed both content and comments to this site and just last night he joined cyclists on the Bicycle Master Plan ride.

We’re grateful that Officer Pickett is taking on this role and this is a very positive and important step, but the issues here have more to do with the Traffic Division (especially since they write write the vast majority of citations).

So, what else can/should we do?

Here are some ideas:

  • get on the agenda of the Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee and seek their advice,
  • write a letter the Mayor outlining points of concern,
  • organize a meeting to bring everyone to the table and discuss the issues.
BTA Crash Team meeting with Police

The BTA organized a bike crash
mini-summit at Traffic Division headquarters in 2005.
File photo: 10/27/05.

Or, do you think this is a non-issue? I’m sure some people will think I’m just whining because I feel cyclists should be above the law. That is far from the situation here. I’m writing this to figure out where the community stands on this issue and to hopefully spur some discussion and take action (if necessary).

I am interested in your thoughts.

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.

  • Steve April 4, 2007 at 9:34 am

    It seems to me that the best way to eliminate these enforcement actions is for cyclists to not “reward” the PPD for performing them. The enforcement actions would cease, like any unwanted behavior, if cyclists followed the laws (no matter how inconvienent) and there were no cause for tickets. It’s daunting, but the legislature is where we should focus our energies in order to change some of the antiquated laws.

    I bike commute from SW to NoPo almost every day and am constantly reminded by “fellow” cyclists that we are more to blame for these enforcement actions than the police.

    So I guess my vote goes to follow the law or expect a ticket. No further action neccessary.

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  • sam April 4, 2007 at 9:42 am

    Hey Steve,

    Glad to see you commute everyday, may I ask since when?
    I, just like you, thought that I would never get a ticket because I am safe on the road. If you do it long enough with the present mindset of the PPD I can guarantee you that you will end up emailing Johnathan about a situation that you feel unfair.

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  • Anonymous April 4, 2007 at 10:14 am

    I’m 100% in agreement with Steve. Yesterday there was a cop staking out the stop sign at Caruthers and 4th, I always stop at that stop sign so I skated through the “trap” just fine, and on my way down Caruthers the cop actually said, “Thanks for stopping.” The easiest way to avoid these traps is to simply do what you’re supposed to do. Problem solved.

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  • Shamus April 4, 2007 at 10:21 am

    Thanks for the article Jonathan, and for me the short answer is yes – this is an issue that warrants further discussion. It’s not as simple as Steve states above (comment 1). It’s not as simple as “follow the law or expect a ticket” because, as many can attest, the law isn’t clear cut (fixed gear breaking, leaving the bike lane and signaling are some examples). Some police officers are citing bicyclists for offenses that fall into legal gray areas while not citing motorists for some very clear violations.

    For me that is the real issue: the police cite limited resources as an excuse for not citing more motorists for dangerous behavior, but still find the time to hassle messengers downtown riding fixies. A car cut me off last June and as a result I broke my shoulder. The driver was not cited for failure to yield (or anything) because the officer at the scene claimed (incorrectly) that there had to be contact for him to cite.

    This uneven enforcement is what gets me. And FYI Jonathan – I asked a few months go that enforcment issues be put on the BAC agenda. It will hopefully be addressed soon in that forum.

    – Shamus

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  • brettoo April 4, 2007 at 10:39 am

    First, I think we need to change some of the shortsighted, bike unfriendly laws (e.g. allow bikes to treat stop signs as yield signs) and thereby relieve the police of the burden of having to enforce laws that discourage bike riding and contribute little if anything to safety.

    Second, I think one annoyance is the choice of laws that are strictly enforced. I see plenty of bikers that deserve tickets every week — blowing through red lights when cars are coming, riding on sidewalks and barely missing pedestrians, etc. etc. They give the rest of us a bad rep among the non-bikers and they should get tickets because they’re jeopardizing others’ safety, not to mention their own.

    But then we see some tickets going to bikers because it’s easy for the officer to nail them, not because the offenders are really doing anything that jeopardizes safety. That’s what irritates, not the fact that bikers should be subject to the law.

    As even the officer who rode with us at yesterday’s NW ride implicitly acknowledged when he offered to not strictly enforce every niggling rule (and thanks to him for that gesture), law enforcement has plenty of room for discretion. Any cop will tell you that she could be issuing tickets every five minutes, so choice is involved. And some of the choices appear to have less to do with safety than… well, pick your theory.

    Maybe an analogy can be found in basketball. The refs could call a foul on almost every play — it’s the nature of the sport that contact will occur. But in practice, they’ll tell you that they generally don’t call every contact unless it gives a player an advantage. (And it happens to the visiting team — oops, scratch that.) Similarly, I wish law enforcement would focus on the relatively few scofflaws who really endanger others.

    And if safety is really the issue, it seems as though there’s plenty of opportunities to zap dangerous drivers, burglars and other dangerous types rather than relatively harmless bikers. So again, it’s a question of priorities. If I got a $242 ticket for easing through a stop sign and then saw some jerk in an SUV roaring down the street 20 mph over the limit unmolested, I’d be annoyed too, as a taxpayer, not just a biker.

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  • peejay April 4, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Although I understand A_O’s point (a bunch of threads back) that the only truly equitable situation is that laws are clear cut and police uniformly enforce them, this will never be the reality.

    No matter how precisely laws are written – and we shouldn’t stop trying – there sill always be room for interpretation and discretion. Look at any amendment to our Bill of Rights, and it shows a many-year history of debate as to what it means. Laws are exercises in compromise, and in applying general concepts to every situation. Laws don’t take account of all circumstances, or of limited resources. Laws are top-down, federal, state, city-wide, and we live in neighborhoods and communities, with our own situations and needs.

    So, selective, discretionary enforcement will always be with us. The question is how do we make it better? One way is for the officer making the decision to have some shared experience with the community member he/she is passing judgement over. This is the whole idea behind “community policing,” which, although packaged as a new idea, is really just returning to the way things used to be, before the automobile took over our lives and tore up our community fabric.

    If officers responsible for traffic enforcement spent time in all modes of traffic: car, bike, foot, even bus, they might share our experience and make better enforcement decisions. They’ll still make mistakes, but perhaps their biases based on ignorance of experience would be reduced.

    That’s why I asked Officers Pickett and Letter last night at the ride if they could get all officers to spend time on bike duty. The answer I got shows that we have a long way to go: most officers just don’t want to do it. These of course are the people who would be most served by the duty.

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  • Betsy Wilson April 4, 2007 at 11:55 am

    Kruger has to go — he has no ability to analyze the data and focus the traffic division’s resources on the top safety threats.

    Canada, Australia, and Europe have halved their traffic fatalities while the US’s have stayed the same — they take traffic safety seriously, focus on the real threats (not things like bicycles), and get it done.

    It’s embarrassing to try to have a bike-encouraging city that targets cyclists with $242 tickets. It needs to stop.

    So, yes, we should focus on efforts on the Mayor’s office. The Police Dept. leadership has heard, and ignored, our concerns (rank and file varies, as you noted).

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  • DK April 4, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Can’t anyone see what’s happening? Bike patrol cops ARE different than their counterparts who ride around in patrol cars and motorcycles. Not in uniform and their standing in the community, but in their wallets. Think about it. The only way to get into court and benefit (like their brothers) with the overtime, is to cite bicyclists for anything possible. They don’t get too much from just rolling the homeless and chasing away the skateboarders. That’s why that tour of duty is not so popular with other cops.

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  • peejay April 4, 2007 at 12:35 pm


    What are you saying? Bike cops are busting bikers because that’s their only route to overtime? Can you back that up with any data? I doubt it.

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  • DK April 4, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    Where should I go to get this info? A Police precinct. Or do you want me to hack into their payroll stats. It’s called easy money dude.

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  • Jessica Roberts April 4, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    I really appreciated the opportunity to chat with Officers Pickett (and I didn’t catch his partner’s name) joined us last night. It was a good chance to interact with the police in a non-confrontational situation.

    In general, I wish we could have more interactions with police that weren’t about a “situation.” Wasn’t that the point of cops walking their neighborhood beat? So you could get to know them, create a relationship, learn whom to call if something is up? We’ve lost an awful lot of trust and cooperation by sticking police in cars, away from the possibility of ordinary human interaction.

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  • SKiDmark April 4, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    I would feel a lot safer at rides like Tour De Fat if the Police would do their corking with bicycles instead of those near-silent BMW sportbikes that they ride. I really don’t think it is that safe to have a motorcycle accelerating alongside a group of cyclists. Bike parades tend to move at a pace where it is easy to get from the back to the front of the ride with a little effort People who film bike events do it all the time, so Police on bicycles could do it too.

    I also agree with Steve. Obeying the law in front of the Police, so that they have no reason to hassle you, is the most “Outlaw” thing you can do.

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  • DK April 4, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Oh, I forgot to explain to peejay. When a citation is written, the hearing is set for one of the involved officers days off, so that officer can go without missing any shift time. This is overtime.

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  • Dabby April 4, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    It has become very apparent that the combination of regime changes (within the Portland Police), and the increase in ridership, has put cyclists in the position of being “targeted” by a certain percentage of the police force, albeit small.

    It is also very apparent that this shows no sign of stopping, as a large number of cycling tickets, by the same officers, were given out last week alone, to a very select group of cyclists.

    It is very covenient (for the PPB) that the most heavily targeted cyclists (a group only 50 strong) are spending 8-9 hours a day, constanly within the same parameters.

    These are the same parameters that make up the turf of the most frequent police dept. violators. (Barnum and Balzer)

    This makes constant harrasment, and what would be the bicycle equivalant of racial profiling, much easier than you could even imagine.

    Another sad fact is that these are the exact cyclists who will not be here, posting, complaining, and letting you know about the crappy ticket they got today, let alone the identical one they got two weeks ago.
    These are also the exact cyclists who cannot afford to pay such a ticket, let alone take the many hours off work to show up and fight it in court….

    It is much easier, and smarter, for the people of this dynamic to lay low, and attempt to slide under the radar……..

    We do hear about the random ticket.
    We do hear about the commuter stings.
    We hear about the random track stand ticket.
    We read comments from officer’s who are not ticketing us for legal use of the roadway, and who are not misintepreting ordinace wording…

    What we still have yet to hear about it what is going to be done about this, and how these rogue officers will be dealt with?

    How are we to start holding accountable those that “WE” pay to do their job, and to do it properly?

    I like the questions asked in this article….

    Yet, it is really just recently that the standard cyclist is having to deal with issues that the working cyclist has been dealing with for a long time…..

    It is time for unity.

    Unity to protect us as a whole.

    This unity, combined with a loud voice, and the backing of the proper forces, can start today to protect us from unlawful enforcement of misunderstood ordinances.

    It can carry us into City Council meetings, as one large, loud voice of reason.

    It can take us to the Mayor’s office, to garner support, and leverage in pushing the Chief of Police to punish officers for what appears to be a taste for profiling…….

    And, even better yet, using this unity to our advantage can teach us all a lot of important lessons….

    Today is the day…….
    Unity is the way…

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  • DK April 4, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Dabby, you forgot to mention the overtime theory! But I’m in on your profiling one.

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  • Steve April 4, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    Sam (#2),

    FYI…Since 2002, and I have been pulled over… at 4:30a for running a red light from a left turn lane. I was not cited.

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  • Dabby April 4, 2007 at 2:30 pm


    It is not the Mt. Bike Police that are targeting cyclists.
    In fact, in Se, there are only two mt Bike Police that work at all…Along with a handful downtown…..

    It is the Motorcycle police that are targeting….And a handful of driving ones…

    To assume that these police are doing this to get more overtime is an assinine thought.

    In fact, a large percentage of the time, the Officer that cited you will not even show up to the court date, due to scheduling, shift changes, etc… leaving you with the option of calling for a dismissal during the roll call…..

    Your comments are way off the mark, and not even worth referring to anymore than I already have…

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  • Steve April 4, 2007 at 2:50 pm


    Your rhetoric is entertaining at the least…the last group I want to be united with is a “heavily targeted” group of frequently cited “working cyclists”, who are failing to learn from their transgressions. It seems as if this group is placing itself above the laws (albeit poorly defined ones) and is simply resistant to compliance. C’mon, how many of these “crappy” tickets were without merit and how fast did word get around about the brakes on fixies? If you want to start a revolution, go right ahead, just please don’t expect the law-abiding cyclists to unite with you.

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  • Dabby April 4, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    By the way, since 2002 is not that long of a time…. (In relation to being exposed to unlawful ticketing practices, or lawful ones for that matter. I am in no way inplying that 5 years of bicycle commuting is not enough..)

    I have ridden for a living in this town since 1987, and have recieved just one bicycle ticket, just last year, by one of these same two motorcycle policemen…..

    I was also tackled off my bike, just last year, supposedly to protect me from someone on the sidewalk with a gun,
    by one of these two policemen…..I rolled and ended up on my feet (good ole skateboard training), only to be tackled by two more….(by the way, I had done nothing wrong, I was hurt by being tackled, my bike wheels were mangled…and to cover it up, I was thrown sober into the Hooper’s Center drunk tank…… without being tested… a test I would have passed with flying colors. I requested to be tested, they said they didn’t have too)

    A almost 20 year clean cycling record, shattered by over zealous, and under supervised officer’s of the law….

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  • Dabby April 4, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Lol, I guess there is no ‘U” in unity, is there Steve?

    Check Steve off the list of those who care…..

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  • Paul Cone April 4, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    I can’t help but think that the attitude of some officers is possibly related to whether or not they live in the community they police. In other words, I can’t help but wonder if the attitude of an officer who lives in Portland and is personally invested in their neighborhood is different than the officer who works here but drives in from Vancouver/Beaverton/West Linn/wherever. To answer peejay’s question, maybe that is why they don’t want to do it. It’s natural to think that if you’re a police officer living in your community, you’re going want to be more connected to and respected by your neighbors. Gone are the days of Mayberry PD, but sometimes it seems like we’ve just gone too far from it.

    Living in the community you police is one of the foundations of community policing. This article here — http://www.extension.iastate.edu/communities/news/ComCon35.html — says it better than I can.

    Finally, I think it would be interesting to see an analysis of police complaints vs. where the officers complained about live.

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  • Jonathan Maus April 4, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Dabby and Steve,

    please don’t allow your different opinions on this issue take away from the value of constructive dialogue.

    please focus your comments on the issue at hand, and try not to make it personal.

    thank you.

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  • John Boyd April 4, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Steve,

    if cyclists followed the laws
    This is precisely the problem, even after you have read, understood and obeyed the law, cyclists are repeatedly ticketed by cops who have not, and then upheld by injudicious judges who have not.


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  • DK April 4, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Hey Dabby. Is it even worth it to let you know that I worked for MultCo Sheriffs Dept for ten years? And about the time you got your only ticket. And quit holing us up at stop signs. Get off your soap box and smell the espresso.

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  • SKiDmark April 4, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    I think the most obvious way for bike messengers to “protest” would be to stop delivering to and from the Courthouse, and for matter delivering anything to or from City Hall.

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  • peejay April 4, 2007 at 5:21 pm


    I stand by my post: please clarify if you mean that bicycle cops are targeting bicycles because that is their only opportunity for earning overtime by court appearances. I want to know whether you really believe most bike tickets come from bike cops. That is what you implied on your first post, and you never answered my question.

    Whether or not police in general write tickets to earn overtime is not at issue here. It’s whether bike cops are doing it to bikers. Because I don’t believe it, and I don’t think anyone else on this site believes it.

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  • peejay April 4, 2007 at 5:24 pm


    It was a pleasure to meet you last night on the ride, and I’m gonna have to agree with you this time, on your point that the issue is often not the bikers following the laws, it’s the police (a small minority) not understanding the laws they are sworn to enforce.

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  • Donald April 4, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    I’m bummed that those fancy new traffic motorcycles seem to be single-seaters: I’d love to do a ride along with one of those two oft-named officers and see the world through their mirror shades for a shift. (Maybe get the officer a shirt for the day that says “If you can read this, the civilian fell off.”)

    I do encourage anyone who hasn’t done so already to schedule a ridealong with your local constabulary. It can be a very eye-opening experience to see the demands our community places on these oft-maligned civil servants.

    Discourse starts with understanding and a walk in another’s shoes is a great place to grab yourself a handful of some.

    While I’m on my soapbox, can I ask that folks so inclined please contact the Chief’s office and let her know what you think of her idea to place even lower the educational bar to becoming one of Portland’s finest. It seems like a very bad idea to me.

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  • Faye April 4, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    I just have to express my deepest gratitude to Jonathan Maus. He has been a very visible spokesperson for Portland bicyclists in a town that has few diplomatic voices. While the most radical of bicyclists have a fond place in my heart for their action and their efforts, it seems that the polarization of politics across the country exists here in Portland. And for whatever reason bicycling is a hot button issue between the left and the right, which may as well be described as the suburbs versus the urbanites. The Oregonian and local tv stations of course consistently highlight all topics that inflame the tension. See any daily headline and take note of the incredible hostility noted on their online forums about bicyclists. The local media sadly does not play an active role in public safety and education or as forum for community building. It’s really disgraceful. I think we could probably use a little less outrage and righteousness and a little more positive outreach and friendly overtures to folks who maybe, at the very least, unfamiliar or wary. Riding a bike in traffic can be a very vulnerable position (actually as can being a cop), and I for one don’t like the idea of riding with aggressive angry or even predatory people around. I’d rather just worry about the absent-minded drivers. So thank you heartily, Mr. Maus, for volunteering to do our community’s PR and for building genial relationships without which I might otherwise accidentally (or not) end up in the hospital or in jail.

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  • Hawthorne April 4, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    Interesting how this topic is always cops vs. bikes or cars vs. bikes. As a cyclist and a pedestrian I have to say that “bike friendly” policies like being able to blow through stop signs are not very pedestrian friendly. Can we all step back for a moment and look at the bigger picture? What we should want is a safe environment for everyone, not what is easiest for whatever one’s mode choice happens to be. The police should back this up…and if a few drivers, cyclists or peds get caught in the crosshairs, well, sorry.

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  • Alan April 4, 2007 at 11:16 pm

    It looks like a lot can be written on both sides of “who is to blame”. This stuff is useful to read – otherwise how will I know what people are thinking – but it does get repetitious after awhile.

    To come back to Jon’s question: please do keep writing about police-bike community relations. Just don’t expect a solution to appear. It’s a relationship after all; oth sides will have to keep working at it. Forever. But we can’t work at it if we don’t have some people talking and writing, so keep the stories coming Jon.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis April 5, 2007 at 7:18 am

    What Faye (#29) said.

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  • David Feldman April 5, 2007 at 7:28 am

    If police officers were given generous cash commissions for writing tickets for motor vehicle speeders and for busting drunk drivers, they’d somehow find no time to pay any attention to cyclists at all. Call it “free market harm reduction” traffic enforcement.

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  • DK April 5, 2007 at 8:38 am

    peejay, in general cops do write tickets for the right reason more often than not. Depending on certain circumstances…the weather, their moods, time of day (shift change), etc.. ticket writing finds its place. No, I admit I unfairly seperated bike patrol officers from their counterparts. But still it must be noted that circumstances also have an effect on tickets.

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  • dabby April 5, 2007 at 12:05 pm


    Perhaps you have missed something here.
    This is not about blowing red lights.
    Blowing red lights is illegal.

    Until running red lights becomes legal, which it never will, (possibly a reasonable yield at a red light before proceeding will become legal one day..) tickets for this offense should never be questioned.

    We should however question citations that stem from wrongly interpreting ordinances due to personal thoughts, or even vendetta’s.

    You mention having a safe enviorment for everybody….

    It is not very safe to be riding downtown, looking over your shoulder all the time for not only traffic and pedestrians, but also for a few policemen you know are there, and that you know are going to pull you over….regardless of whether you have actually violated a ordinance..

    This distracts the cyclist from safe riding practices…….it takes the focus partially away from where it should be….

    I believe I used to refer to this as gustapo tactics…..meaning… striking paranoia into the hearts of cyclists…..

    A safe enviornment is one where we can all coexist…..

    When those that are paid to “protect and serve” are a bigger worry than the trucks and SUV’s on the road, this is a real problem…

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  • steve April 5, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Dabby, how many tickets have you received?

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  • PoPo April 5, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    I love Faye (#29) too!

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  • Dabby April 5, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    1 ticket.

    I have been pulled over many, many times, and after pointing out I did not break a single law, I ride off on my merry way.

    That is what happens when you present the police with a plausible, and correct, explanation of why you are not in the wrong, and should not have been pulled over in the first place….

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  • Casey April 10, 2007 at 7:26 pm

    I also work downtown on my bicycle and recently received a “No Brake” citation from the same two motorcycle officers (Barnum and Balzer) that have issued the bulk of these tickets. The citation was for $92 and I was told to install a front brake on my bike to have the ticket dismissed. I was very insistent with officer Balzer to define exactly what he wanted in order to dismiss this ticket, as I do not have any money to pay it. He stated that he would prefer it to be a rear brake but that simply installing a front brake would be sufficient to dismiss the fine. It seems slightly odd to me that this would put me in compliance with the law as it seems to state rather plainly that “A bicycle must be equipped with a brake that enables the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.” (Oregon Vehicle Code 815.280). Not to nitpick but I find it strange that a front brake would accomplish this as engaging the front wheel to “skid” usually results, in my experience at least, with some sort of aerial acrobatics. I mentioned that a rear brake is pretty well useless for a fixed gear and officer Balzer stated that he understood that we (fixed riders) can skid with our legs but his concern was more with the possibility of our chains breaking leaving us helpless to stop. This seems also strange, as there is no mention of this sort of issue in the law I was cited for violating. I imagine that this all is simply Balzer being misunderstood or not clear and that the judge would simply say that yes indeed a back brake is the requirement forcing me to pay the fine anyway but it all seems so weird that the officer seems to understand the mechanics of the bike, albeit in a limited fashion, but is concerned about a mechanical failure that I as a fixed and geared rider have never experienced and if I was faced with such a disaster, one that is rather uncommon I believe, I was trained well enough in childhood riding BMX bikes to utilize what can be technically called “the ol’ foot brake” either applied to the ground or the tire itself. I know this is all inane but I wanted to share a little of the frustration I felt with trying to discuss bicycling issues and ordinances with two police officers that seemed to have no real idea about riding bikes or the issues that a cyclist is realistically concerned with while on the road. A blown out tire at speed or an oblivious driver/pedestrian with a cell phone stuck to their ear or train/streetcar tracks all are higher on my list of concerns than a broken chain. I acknowledge that running lights is against the law and that sidewalks are for pedestrians but I will take a ticket for these offenses and understand the reasons. As for this ticket it is confusing and ridiculous as well as impossible to reason with either these officers or the judge about the interpretations that are resulting in, at least what I consider to be, hefty fines leveled on people that can’t really afford them.

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