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Police put damper on popular weekend fun rides

Posted by on July 16th, 2007 at 9:58 am

Midnight Mystery Ride - January

Cyclist gather before a Midnight Mystery Ride.
(File photo)

The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) were busy this weekend issuing citations to cyclists at two Portland biking traditions: the monthly Midnight Mystery Ride and the weekly Zoobomb.

Both rides have grown in popularity over the years and riders reported mass ticketing at both events. The coordinated — and seemingly planned in advance — enforcement stings have some wondering whether the PPB is just trying to keep riders safe or if they are attempting to completely squelch the events.

The Midnight Mystery Ride (commonly referred to as MMR) is a monthly event where cyclists meet at midnight and ride to a mystery location in order hang out and enjoy an outdoor party.

This month’s ride was on Friday and here’s a report by the ride leader as posted to the Shift email list:

“…last night’s MMR was immediately set upon by police; first corking and and being as supportive as people with guns and the constant threat of arbitrary kidnapping and imprisonment can be, then ticketing and harrassing (arresting?) people who were either breaking the law or doing things that the police think is breaking the law (like riding in a lane other than the bike lane or having a reflector instead of a taillight).”

The police presence led to confusion and many people left the ride. Others continued on and enjoyed a nice summer night in the park. The ride leader suspects that the growing size of the ride, and the presence of newcomers who don’t ride safely and seem to be there just to party, have made it harder to avoid the interest of the police.

Another person on the ride wonders how the Portland tradition of large group rides can continue with the PPB’s current enforcement practices:

“The PPB prefers that people have their giant parties at Barracuda, American Cowgirls, or Holocene (local night clubs). Sometimes, though, many of us would rather party outside with the help of our bikes and that freaks them out. There’s the problem. How do we deal with it? There may not be an easy solution.”

The police presence has prompted the creator of the Midnight Mystery Rides to issue an open letter to MMR riders.

Zoobomb 5/28/07

Riders await the MAX pre-Zoobomb.
(File photo)

Last night’s weekly Zoobomb, where people take the MAX to Washington Park and then ride down the hills on bikes, was also met with enhanced police presence.

One rider called it an “elaborate sting” and reported that the Traffic Division of the PPB used an unmarked car in the Zoo parking lot to do video surveillance at a stop sign along a known Zoobomb route,

“…the unmarked car reported to officers staked out around the bend saying, presumably, that everyone had run the stop sign. When the group rounded the corner, the lights came on and it was announced “You are not free to go! You are all being issued citations!” and later “A general announcement: you are all under video and audio surveillance.” It was pretty surreal.”

According to people on the ride, the enforcement took place at a stop sign adjacent to a crosswalk in front of the Children’s Museum as seen in the middle of this map.

Is the increase in police presence at these rides part of a coordinated crackdown? Or is the PPB simply enforcing the law in the interest of public safety?

Can these traditional rides continue or will they have the same fate as Critical Mass*, which has been seriously curtailed due to strict police enforcement?

I hope to have some thoughts on this from the Traffic Division Commander soon.

If you attended either of these rides (as a rider or as a police officer), please share your thoughts and experiences below.


[*Note: Unlike Critical Mass, Zoobomb and the Midnight Mystery Rides are not rooted in activism.]

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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rixtir
Guest
rixtir

I wasn\’t on either of these rides, so my comments aren\’t directed at these rides in particular. In fact, last night I was at home, so didn\’t even see the zoobomb go by, as I usually do.

That said, I\’ve seen zoobombers consistently riding outside the law. Not all of them, but on every run, there are zoobombers staying sort of within the law, and zoobombers blatantly breaking the law. I\’ve also seen some incredibly stupid and dangerous riding by zoobombers. Given that reality, is it really any surprise that the police might show up?

felix
Guest

NO COMMENT – MEDIA BLACKOUT – ZOOBOMB

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

\”trying to keep riders safe or if they are attempting to completely squelch the events\”

This is all about control.

It doesn\’t require their participation, it\’s not sponsored, they don\’t get it therefore they don\’t like it, therefore they must control it.

Simply put, many cops have control issues and they need to find something to act upon.

There are plenty of studies that point to cops having all sorts of issues at greater levels than the general population. Somehow, the police force either attracts them or creates them. I suspect both.

Example? Police have 2-4 times the incidence of domestic violence as the general population.

http://www.purpleberets.org/violence_police_families.html

Suicide? About the same.

http://www.tearsofacop.com/police/articles/lewis.html

I know there are good cops out there, heck, I think most believe they are doing the right thing, but there is something systemic about this. This isn\’t about bikes. It\’s about control and seeking outlets for their frustration.

Prettybikelover
Guest
Prettybikelover

I used to ride MMR regularly, and have ridden it less and less since the police presence became heavy-handed and uncomfortable for me.

I don\’t understand how 100 cars driving up & down Greeley and Intertate at 12:30am is considered fine by the police, yet 100 bikes doing the same thing is illegal.

I really don\’t understand.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

tonyt, the police have a job to do. That job is to enforce the laws. If people get together in large groups with the intent to break the law, the police will (eventually) respond. What part of that don\’t you get?

I\’ve seen zoobombers break the law every single ride; I wouldn\’t be surprised to hear that the police have received complaints about that. I would be surprised if the police received complaints and did nothing.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

rixtir,

I\’m fully aware that police have a job to do. My question is this.

Is the MMR actually a problem? Why the massive crackdown?

Complaints?

I\’ve called the cops again and again to deal with 3,000 lb cars ripping down my street and blowing stop signs at near full speed. I have an uncontrolled intersection and see near-misses pretty regularly. There is a head-start school in my neighborhood. Kids walking around. Kids riding bikes.

I\’m told that they can spare ONE cop, and if he/she doesn\’t nab somebody in 15 minutes, they\’ll move on. I\’m told it\’s a manppower issue.

Yet this? This massive crackdown? This is the best use of manpower?

This is ridiculous. This is about control.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Actually, I wasn\’t commenting on MMT. But I did read the links Jonathan provided, and it\’s clear that even the MMT organizers are saying there\’s a problem, and it\’s coming from people who are more interested in causing a scene and partying than they are in the idea of the MMT. If that\’s the case, I\’m not surprised that the cops would write tickets.

Of course it\’s about control– what would an organized group dedicated to lawbreaking expect?

TR
Guest
TR

Ah yes, and now the flood of comments from people who don\’t ride these rides begins. And it took less time than usual for the holier-than-thou-I\’ve-never-ran-a-stop-sign crowd to start blaming the bicyclists.

Slick
Guest
Slick

Even if these rides asked for help, the cops wouldn\’t give it. They didn\’t even want to escort the ride of silence. They either need to offer more parade escorts or find some other way to make things safe to their standards. Giving ticket for having fun is poor public service. I don\’t want to live in a police state!

Donna
Guest
Donna

I could be totally off, but it *seems* like the intensity and distasteful nature of these crackdowns have increased in a timeline that matches personnel changes in the position of traffic commander. I noticed an increase and change in nature when Bill Sinnott retired and yet another when Marty Rowley retired. Again, that is *my* personal impression, which others may or may not share.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

start blaming the bicyclists.

If they\’re blameless, they presumably will win their cases, no?

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Rixtir, I get it. I understand that at its core, law enforcement is about control. But there is control and CONTROL. These guys, and Kruger specifically, have issues.

What I seek is proportionality and appropriate use of finite resources. This ain\’t it.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

\”If they\’re blameless, they presumably will win their cases, no?\”

HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! HA HA HA! BRAAAAAAAAAA!

Oh rixtir you crack me up! That is soooo how the system works.

Okay, I\’m outta here, I\’ve hit my daily allotment of comments already.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Rixtir:

This is again the same issue as all those stings. Let me repeat myself. If we have finite resources for law enforcement and the police cannot be everywhere at all times, then they must subject their efforts to some kind of statistically appropriate distribution, focussed on doing the most good. That would be to stop the most crashes, or to prevent the most violent crime or property crime. I would think it might be way down on the list to be devoting a bunch of resources to harrassing a group of riders until they can be busted for one thing or another. However many cops there were on that ride is that many that were not patrolling dangerous areas (for vehicle safety or serious crime). That is an irresponsible waste of our city budget.

Oh, and another thing. Do you know how the cops busted riders? They used their motorcycles to cut them off, causing risk of collision and injury. (I was on the MMR and witnessed this.) If this is fine, why not just use pepper spray or even live rounds?

anon
Guest
anon

I say you run a stop you get a ticket,
one road one set of rules!

just think if you had stopped you wouldn\’t be complaining about the ticket, your should consider yourself very very very very lucky if your still alive if you run a stop.

what kind of message does running stops send to the children bike riders?

Lenny Anderson
Guest

When Portland\’s freeways are virtually unpatroled by law enforcement, it is absurd to assign traffic division officers to bike stings of any kind.
Who is running PPB? Time to take this to the Mayor.

Jack
Guest
Jack

It\’s painfully clear that the Portland Police Department hates cyclists. Officers Barnum and Hosely specifically have vendettas against cyclists and will go beyond their unmerited powers to ruin the day of any cyclist. Be warned. We live in an extremely bike un-friendly city.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

I don\’t disagree with you, peejay, but I think it\’s clear that the police are only occasionally showing up. Are they out pulling over every zoobomber every Sunday? They could (theoretically, but not resource-wise), but they don\’t. My guess is they got some complaints, and decided to make their presence shown. Then they\’ll move on to something else for awhile.

ps, you have a pm.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

\”If they\’re blameless, they presumably will win their cases, no?\”

HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! HA HA HA! BRAAAAAAAAAA!

Oh rixtir you crack me up! That is soooo how the system works.

If a biker doesn\’t have a light, and gets a ticket for not having a light, and the cop testifies at the hearing that the biker didn\’t have a light, yes, that biker will be found guilty.

IS there a solution to that? How about this: The biker rides with a light, thereby preventing the citation in the first place.

SKiDmark
Guest
SKiDmark

If it is a back light, you are not required to have one. You are required to have a red reflector.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

I know that. If a rider gets a citation for failure to have a tail light, that one is easy to beat in court. Sure it\’s a hassle to go to court, and if that cop knows there\’s no violation but writes a ticket anyway, THAT is something worth calling them on for harassment.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Many judges automatically uphold tickets, even the most blatantly overreaching ones, because they work with the same officers every day. They only see each citizen once or twice, and it\’s human nature to favor those whom you know.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Nonsense, peejay. Sheer nonsense. You give me a citation for a violation that isn\’t on the books, and I can beat it, in any court, in front of any judge, any day of the week.

tonyt
Guest
tonyt

Okay, I gotta jump back in on this one rixtir. No sir, THAT is nonesense. Dishonest, misleading, strawman nonsense.

peejay never said a judge would uphold a citation for something that \”isn\’t on the books.\”

He said \”overreaching.\”

Cops aren\’t that stupid. They\’re not going to write a ticket for something not on the books. They may get creative, but they\’re almost always going to give themselves something to work with in court.

SKiDmark
Guest
SKiDmark

rixter, you are naive if you think there isn\’t at least a 50/50 chance of a judge siding with the Police even if you are in the right, especially if your are involved in a bike activity like MMR, Zoobomb, or Critical Mass.

SKiDmark
Guest
SKiDmark

Also, for Zoobomb it is like this every summer. More people start showing up, and then the Police start showing up. It\’s not every week, and occasionally the Police have to leave because they get a \”hot call\” (their term not mine).

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

tonyt, somebody posted (in one of the links) that cops wrote tickets for not having a tail light. Later, in post 18 of this thread, I posted:

If a biker doesn\’t have a light, and gets a ticket for not having a light, and the cop testifies at the hearing that the biker didn\’t have a light, yes, that biker will be found guilty.

IS there a solution to that? How about this: The biker rides with a light, thereby preventing the citation in the first place.

peejay said that bikes aren\’t required to be equipped with tail lights. I said I know, and if they did, that would be easy to beat in court. peejay replied:

Many judges automatically uphold tickets, even the most blatantly overreaching ones, because they work with the same officers every day. They only see each citizen once or twice, and it\’s human nature to favor those whom you know.

There\’s no strawman argument in there, tonyt. peejay brought up the subject of citations for nonexistent violations, and I responded that those are easy to beat.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

ixter, you are naive if you think there isn\’t at least a 50/50 chance of a judge siding with the Police even if you are in the right, especially if your are involved in a bike activity like MMR, Zoobomb, or Critical Mass.

The judge will almost certainly take the officer\’s word over yours. If the officer says he saw you run a red light, and you say you didn\’t run a red light, you will be found guilty.

If an officer writes you a ticket for a nonsensical violation like \”no tail light,\” that\’s easy to beat. There isn\’t a judge in the county that will uphold a ticket for a violation that doesn\’t exist, if you\’re competent enough to bring the statute book with you.

peejay
Guest
peejay

rixtir:

It was SKIDmark who gave us the skinny on the light requirement, and I trust him. However, I disagree with you about the judge always making the correct decision. In many cases, they do completely defer to the officer, even on points of cold, hard fact, and certainly on matters of degree.

And it\’s NOT OK for the police to bust us for violations they suspect won\’t hold up in court. Many people cannot devote the time and money to show up, and are forced to mail in the fine. It is UNACCEPTABLE for the police to go on a fishing expedition.

peejay
Guest
peejay

I\’d also like to say that EVERY SINGLE person here, if followed by a police officer determined to find some infraction, would get pulled over in less than ten minutes. You just would. Everybody.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

It was SKIDmark who gave us the skinny on the light requirement, and I trust him. However, I disagree with you about the judge always making the correct decision. In many cases, they do completely defer to the officer, even on points of cold, hard fact, and certainly on matters of degree.

I don\’t dispute that they gave tickets for that. Let\’s back up. I said if a biker gets a ticket for not having a light– and I think ANYBODY should be able to understand that I\’m referring to the statutorily required front light– and the cop testifies, yes, the court will take the cop\’s word that the biker didn\’t have a light.

That is an ENTIRELY different situation from a court finding a biker guilty for a violation that doesn\’t exist. Given a nonexistent violation, I can beat it in any court, in front of any judge, any day of the week. Fact. The officer will lose every time. Fact.

And it\’s NOT OK for the police to bust us for violations they suspect won\’t hold up in court. Many people cannot devote the time and money to show up, and are forced to mail in the fine.

Of course it\’s unacceptable. And I\’d RATHER be directing my attention to REAL outrages, like the CMers who were given citations for not using the bike lane on a street where there are no bike lanes (it happened in NYC) than directing it towards imaginary, manufactured outrages along the lines of \”I broke the law and was ticketed for it. UNFAIR!\”

It is UNACCEPTABLE for the police to go on a fishing expedition.

That\’s not what a fishing expedition is.

I\’d also like to say that EVERY SINGLE person here, if followed by a police officer determined to find some infraction, would get pulled over in less than ten minutes. You just would. Everybody.

Of course. I\’ve broken out in a cold sweat when I\’ve been followed by a cop– note that I said \”followed by a cop,\” and not \”when I\’ve seen a cop\”– because it\’s always possible that I would screw up somehow.

But don\’t you ever wonder why exactly it is that the same cyclists who argue vociferously about why they shouldn\’t have to obey the law keep getting tickets, while those cyclists who do their best to follow the law never get tickets? Don\’t you see any sort of connection there?

someone
Guest
someone

The issue that I see at stake here has little to do with bikes. Rather, it is a conflict between 2 types of people: at one side we have independent, adventurous, critical and, often, risk loving types that often are at odds with laws and regulations that have doubtful purposes. On the other side, we have the “good boys” type – the kind of dumb ass that would come to a full stop on his bike, at a stop sign, in the middle of night, when there’s no one around. These are the uptight, scared, law-abiding types that are unable to improvise and break any rules and have a reverence to any kind of authority. They live so scared that they really believe that the world out there is full of dangers, and that we all would be utterly unsafe if we couldn’t count on law enforcement everywhere, all the time, in the most irrelevant situations. Since they are so uptight and scared, they greatly resent anyone who does not act that way, who is dynamic, street smart, not afraid of breaking stupid rules. They cannot stand the fact that someone can get away with that, and they feel revenged every time someone is fucked by the police or any other authority. These are the little men and women, and unfortunately they dominate the society, in Portland as well as the rest of the nation. If it wasn’t because of their support, the police would never be able to get away with their useless harassment, and stupid laws would be quickly forgotten. But they are all over, just look around, read the comments. It’s the same thing anytime there’s a conflict with law enforcement. They are quick to come out and blame the people who are not so fucking uptight as they are.

The rest are just details.

Dabby
Guest

I hate to say it, but whether or not the police were profiling or fishing, or just happened to be there eating a donut, you still ran a stop sign, got caught , and have to pay a ticket.

Suck it up, butter cup.

Logan 5
Guest
Logan 5

I\’ve seen people make references here to cops writing tickets for not having a tail light but also stating that there is no law that says a bike must have one. So why – and how – are they writing tickets?

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Logan 5,

Theoretically, a cop could write a ticket for a violation of the equipment statute, and then write on the ticket \”no tail light.\”

When it comes to trial, the cyclist would be charged with a violation of that statute, and when the cop testifies that the cyclist had no tail light, it would be easy to prove that the statute doesn\’t require one.

It seems more likely to me that the cop just wouldn\’t show up, once he realizes that he\’s got a losing case.

Graham
Guest
Graham

[i]It\’s painfully clear that the Portland Police Department hates cyclists. Officers Barnum and Hosely specifically have vendettas against cyclists and will go beyond their unmerited powers to ruin the day of any cyclist. Be warned. We live in an extremely bike un-friendly city.[/i]

I get that feeling too, having been on a critical mass ride some while back, and subjected to what felt like harassment. I\’m a safe-riding nice guy, but the whole time I felt like I was being stalked by a pack of wolves just waiting for me to slip up. It was all about the intimidation tactics. At one light (at which we were stopped waiting for it to turn) a cop on a motorcycle took the opportunity to mutter angrily at me about how much of their time we were wasting. WTF? I\’m just riding my bike, legally.

Maybe every time Portland\’s PR department touts our famous bicycle-friendliness, other voices should rise, pointing out that the riders that most contribute to our bicycle culture are also the ones subjected to the most inordinately aggressive police scrutiny.

Graham
Guest
Graham

Whoopsie, I obviously don\’t know how to italicize text… And I was quoting #17, which I forgot to mention.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Graham, do you honestly believe there would be a police escort at a CM on which everybody was observing the traffic laws, if CM hadn\’t cultivated a reputation for violating the traffic laws?

I don\’t.

I think if a mass of cyclists was riding within the law, and had never cultivated a law-breaking reputation, the cops wouldn\’t waste the city\’s money, just like they don\’t escort all of the cars stuck in rush hour traffic.

Jake Furniss
Guest
Jake Furniss

…reminds me of when I lived in California.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Whatever reputation MMR has for law-breaking does not fairly line up with reality. I am not saying that there isn\’t law breaking among its participants. But, unlike CM, MMR is not about confrontation or protest of any kind. It\’s about a group of people who want to have some low profile fun. Most people who talk about it as if it\’s another CM have no idea what they are talking about, and cetainly have not been on one of these rides.

Here\’s my test: are we hurting anybody? I didn\’t think so. Then leave us the ____ alone!

someone
Guest
someone

The issue that I see at stake here has little to do with bikes. Rather, it is a conflict between 2 types of people: at one side we have independent, adventurous, critical and, often, risk loving types that often are at odds with laws and regulations that have doubtful purposes. On the other side, we have the “good boys” type – the dumb people that, in the middle of the night, would come to a full stop at a stop sign, when there’s no one around. These are the uptight, scared, law-abiding types that are unable to improvise and break any rules and have a reverence to any kind of authority. They live so scared that they really believe that the world out there is full of dangers, and that we all would be utterly unsafe if we couldn’t count on law enforcement everywhere, all the time, in the most irrelevant situations. Since they are so uptight and scared, they greatly resent anyone who does not act that way, who is dynamic, street smart, not afraid of breaking stupid rules. They cannot stand the fact that someone can get away with that, and they feel revenged every time someone is f-d by the police or any other authority. These are the little men and women, and unfortunately they dominate the society, in Portland as well as the rest of the nation. If it wasn’t because of their support, the police would never be able to get away with their useless harassment, and stupid laws would be quickly forgotten. But they are all over, just look around, read the comments. It’s the same thing anytime there’s a conflict with law enforcement. They are quick to come out and blame the people who are not so f-ing uptight as they are.

The rest are just details.

wyatt
Guest
wyatt

\”…just like they don\’t escort all of the cars stuck in rush hour traffic.\”

Oh c\’mon! Please just admit that you\’re \”secretly\” anti-bike/pro-car.

Logan 5
Guest
Logan 5

This may go a bit off topic but I think one of the reasons police don\’t like CM is because of the lack of leadership among the riders. It makes the event unpredictable and cops don\’t don\’t like that at all, makes \’em nervous. As CM was open to all, it was just too easy to attract the bad elements with some kind of bone to pick. Without a leader to \”bring down\”, they have no other way to control the situation then to go after everybody.

And thanks for the explanation, rixtir. Makes me wonder how many times one officer could get away with that before judges started questioning his/her credibility.

Cecil
Guest
Cecil

Re: \”someone\’s\” post (#40)

Thank you for making my day with what has to be the most rank and baseless generalization of people and their motivations that this thread has seen to date. Keep up the good work.

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[…] Police put damper on popular weekend fun rides The Portland Police Bureau (PPB) were busy this weekend issuing citations to cyclists at two Portland biking traditions: the monthly Midnight Mystery Ride and the weekly Zoobomb….more […]

pushkin
Guest
pushkin

Someone (#40) –

I see you are schooled in the classic Bushian false dilemma.

\”Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.\”

Time to enroll in a different school, young grasshopper.

Not that your post was entirely without (unintended) humor, though.

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Someone, Post 40:

the dumb people

who never get tickets, unlike all of the smart cyclists who keep getting tickets for the same thing, over and over and over again, and can\’t understand why, and who never, ever, ever stop complaining about the cosmic injustice being done to them by the anti-bike conspiracy?

Those dumb people?

rixtir
Guest
rixtir

Wyatt, Post 41, you have no argument. That doesn\’t stop you, of course, from repeatedly struggling to come up with one.

wyatt
Guest
wyatt

Rixtir,

You are completely right. I cannot win an argument with you.

But I have to say that you are a shining example of how all of the pressure on the cycling community has caused it to cannabalize itself. And your rhetoric spreads like some kind of social cancer.

Coyote
Guest
Coyote

Gosh, I guess I don\’t really have a problem with PPB keeping an eye on 200 or so people who are meeting at midnight and traveling across town to secret party site. I am more likely to join the MMR than oppose it, but it seems like good community policing to be aware that this ride is going on and show up once in a while.

There is no sense in the ride getting out of hand and someone getting hurt. If a few punks get rousted once in a while, that is ok with me. I got rousted a few times as a kid, err punk, and it pissed me off to no end, it also taught me a lesson about having power, and not having power. From the tone and content of the MMR open letter, it looks the the ride leader thought things were become a bit more edgy the he to be wanted anyway.