Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 16th, 2007 at 9:58 am
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.
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.]