BikePortland

Flap over enforcement must lead to solutions


A scene from yesterday’s enforcement mission in Ladds Circle. Neighbors complained about bicyclists and the Police Bureau responded with motorcycle officers.
Photo: Aaron Tarfman

The recent enforcement mission in Ladds Circle has created a fervor of action and discussion. Twenty-four hours after the incident and comments are still coming in.

Here’s a quick recap of what happened:

A Ladds Circle resident (there might have been more than one) sent in a complaint that bicyclists were blowing through stop signs and were creating a safety hazard. After surveying the area, the Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division sent motorcycle cops (witnesses said 6-8 of them) out on an enforcement mission. Judging from accounts left in the comments yesterday the mission lasted all day. People were cited during the morning and evening commutes. I’ll share final statistics once I receive them from the PPB.

Cyclists in Ladds Circle.
Photo: Dat Nguyen

The reaction to the enforcement was mixed. Some cyclists were very supportive of the enforcement, while others were outraged that this area was given so many Police resources, in light of what they feel are much more dangerous intersections throughout the city.

Another issue that has been brought to the table is the engineering of the traffic circle. It is currently surrounded by stop signs, and some feel that yield signs would be a more appropriate treatment. One commenter cited compelling PDOT statistics that support changing the stop signs to yields. He wrote:

“In a September of 06 count, 2-4% of cyclists stopped before entering Ladd Circle northbound and 27-39% of auto drivers stopped. For 2000 through 2005 there were 2 reported crashes near the cicle with the closest being a rear end 30 feet from the circle. The solution is installation of YIELD signs – they don’t require a stop and maintain the same liability rules as STOP signs.”

The incident also sparked several calls and emails to Mayor Tom Potter’s office. One commenter relayed his conversation with Potter’s office. The Mayor supports the enforcement and reportedly said,

“…that taffic law breaking was significant enough, especially when combined with citizen complaints, to warrant an enforcement action.”

I found the entire situation very timely. Just last week I wrote about the issues surrounding police enforcement of bicycle-related laws and I wondered whether or not it warranted concern and action.

I am frustrated that we continue to go through this each time an enforcement action/sting is carried out. I think the reaction and the circumstances surrounding this situation make it clear that something needs to change. Whether the solution comes from engineering, enforcement, education, or a combination of all of them, something needs to be done.

Whatever happens, the cynical side of me is well-aware that bureaucracy and politics will play a prominent role.

For some in the community, this incident has renewed their interest in pushing Portland to adopt “Idaho-style” legislation that allows bicycles to treat some stops signs as yields (I have covered pro and con sides of this idea). Others are encouraging cyclists to be more active in filing complaints of their own in hopes of seeing a similar police response in other areas.

The BTA plans to discuss bicycle enforcement (and I’m sure this incident will come up) in a meeting with Mayor Potter next week.

As all this develops, let’s keep our eyes on the prize, and remember that in order to move bicycling forward in Portland, we need to not only educate the community on our perspective, but we must also must earn their respect.

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