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Another lawyer goes public with claim of cyclist bias at Police Bureau

Posted by on November 8th, 2007 at 4:22 pm

Lawyer Bob Mionske

Portland-based lawyer Bob Mionske, a former Olympian who writes a monthly legal column for VeloNews Magazine, has added yet another voice of concern over what he sees as a bias against bicyclists at the Portland Police Bureau.

In his most recent VeloNews column, A fatal bias?, Mionske goes in-depth on four cases that he says are “textbook incidents of anti-cyclist bias.”

Three of the four cases are from Portland collisions that happened in the past month.

Mionske uses the cases of Tracey Sparling, Brett Jarolimek, and Kyle Egertson to make his points.

In the Jarolimek case, Mionske says, “the Portland Police Bureau shifted the blame to the cyclist for “speeding”, rather than placing it on the driver for “failure to yield.”

The Sparling and Jarolimek tragedies have been discussed at length already, but you might not yet have heard about 24 year-old Kyle Egertson.

Egertson was involved in a collision with a truck on October 24th, just two days after we lost Brett Jarolimek. I read a report on KATU about the collision, and thought it was strange it was even reported. I didn’t feel it was newsworthy because it seemed like a simple fender-bender.

Here’s how Mionske lays it out:

“Kyle was hit by a motor vehicle, and based on the statements of a witness, was cited for running a red light and riding against traffic on a one-way street.

Think about that for a moment.

In most of the collisions between cyclists and negligent motorists, the police coddled the negligent motorist by talking about non-existent statutory requirements like the need for the driver to see the cyclist, or the need for the driver to perceive that he is violating right-of-way, or even by assuming that the cyclist “must have been speeding.”

In Kyle’s crash…it did not rise to the level of injury that the Portland Police bureau claims to be the threshold for an investigation leading to a citation.

And yet an investigation was conducted, and Kyle was cited.”

For more interesting details about this case, read Mionske’s column on VeloNews.

Mionske is not the first legal expert to point out what he feels are shortcomings in how the Portland Police Bureau deals with bicycle crashes. In an article on this site a few weeks ago, lawyer Mark Ginsberg claimed they had a “conformational bias” against cyclists, lawyer Chris Heaps was quoted in the Oregonian as saying he thinks they are “misusing their resources”, and lawyer Robert Reid penned an opinion piece in the Oregonian today with similar concerns.

Mionske has also just written a timely book, Bicycling & the Law, which has been very well-received.

In light of these concerns, and growing frustration in the community, Commissioner Adams has called a meeting to discuss these issues further. I hope to bring you developments soon.

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

46 Comments
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    a.O November 8, 2007 at 4:33 pm

    It\’s attack of the lawyers!!

    A bicyclist was charged with manslaughter after he ran through a stop sign and struck and killed a 71-year-old woman, police said Monday.

    Jean Calder died at Good Samaritan Hospital after she was struck Friday night as she crossed a street at an unmarked crosswalk, Corvallis police Capt. Ron Noble said.

    Christopher A. Lightning, 51, was charged with manslaughter and reckless driving.

    “A car and a bicycle are both vehicles and if they are operated in a way that could be criminal, then charges are filed equally in both situations,” Noble said. “He was going right through a stop sign.”

    Lightning was being housed in Benton County jail with bail set at $57,500. He will be given a court-appointed lawyer at his arraignment in Benton County.

    Now, replace \”going right through a stop sign\” with \”failing to yield to a cyclist in a bike lane,\” a violation of ORS 811.050. Then change the bike to a motor vehicle and the pedestrian to a cyclist.

    We\’ve got two examples just like that: Brett and Tracey. But no charges. Why?

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    VR November 8, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    Statistically PPB issues more citations to bicycles than they do for cars.

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    jonno November 8, 2007 at 5:01 pm

    Yeah, the whole \”level of injury\” thing that the PPB is using to explain their lack of investigation doesn\’t make sense. I know that the plural of anecdote is not data, but I have a relevant experience to share.

    A couple years back, my gf at the time was hit by a car on Hawthorne. She broke her ankle and was taken to the ER in an ambulance. The responding officer came to the hospital a short time later and wrote her a ticket for jaywalking. The PPB seemed to have no trouble following up the crash with an investigation and citation.

    What\’s different now? Why aren\’t they investigating and citing these drivers? It just doesn\’t make any sense.

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    Disco D November 8, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    Wow that\’s quite a read. I didn\’t know all the details of that last crash where the cyclist was cited…that will be an interesting case to watch after it gets hashed out in court.

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    brian November 8, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    I doubt they have time to do investigations with all the harrassment towards bike messengers which has been going on.

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    Chris Heaps November 8, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Bob Mionske is a guy who really knows both the law of bikes and the sociology of biking in modern America. He\’s an excellent source for information here. And, I might add, he receives a considerable amount of research and writing help from bikeportland\’s own rixter.

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    ds November 8, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    Is there enough circumstantial evidence to try a case against the Portland Police for any of incidents? I have no idea what type of case could be presented, but something to raise awareness in at City Hall.

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    brian November 8, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Wow that article of Bob\’s has me steaming mad.

    Thanks for the coverage.

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    shhambo November 8, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    Thank-You for posting this story. So we know the bias is there. What can we do?
    What is the best way to maybe start a police/cyclist round table to get some conversation going and change this bias. Is there such thing? If not there should be. What other solutions are there. Anyone?

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    tonyt November 8, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    Re: Kyle\’s citation and jonno\’s story. Yeah, this whole, \”we don\’t have the manpower\” thing is a crock.

    It\’s simply that the cops want it on their terms.

    They, for the most part, are habitual drivers, and they view bikers and peds as the \”other.\” We need to be \”taught a lesson and put in our place.\”

    Not to equate what we\’re dealing with as on par with the civil rights movement, but I don\’t think it\’s a stretch to say that the cops see us as \”uppity\” cyclists, demanding respect beyond our station.

    Gotta say though, that it\’s good to see the toothpaste out of the tube. It\’s going to be awfully hard for the PPB to get it back in.

    Oh, and be nice and legal out there folks, we\’re waging a war of diplomacy in the public arena.

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    BURR November 8, 2007 at 6:18 pm

    I\’d be very, very interested in hearing what Bob Mionske has to say about Kerry Alfred Teufel\’s fatal accident.

    http://bikeportland.org/2007/10/31/cyclist-found-at-fault-in-fatal-hillsboro-collision/

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    Dabby November 8, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    If you factor in the \”Racial Profiling\” (which is what it equates technically) of the working cyclist as Brian mentions above, the problem is even worse than it seems.

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    tim November 8, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    I had no idea that Bob lived in Portland. This is great stuff, folks. Go Bob!

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    Darrin Joos November 8, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Thankyou Bob and Jonathan for bringing much needed public attention to this matter. I think it will be difficult for the PBB to \”spin\” their way out of this one. It will be interesting to see how this situation plays out… cross your fingers.

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    JE November 9, 2007 at 2:18 am

    I got to thinking let\’s compare the arrest rate of drivers when a motor vehicle occupant is killed vs a ped or cyclists. I Googled \”fatal traffic accident portland.\”
    First result:
    The driver was killed.
    2nd:
    Pedestrian killed and no citations issued.
    3rd:
    Motorist kills two other motorists. Arrested upon release from the hospital charged with two counts of manslaughter.
    4th:
    14th & Burnside.

    Very unscientific, I know, but one page of Google has a lot of info. I\’d love to see someone pull PPB\’s fatal accident reports to have a looky for any bias in arrest rates.

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    Daisy November 9, 2007 at 9:41 am

    Yah, Bob! Thanks for chiming in with such a well written and informative article. Also, the new book is fabulous. If people haven\’t checked it out, you definitely should!

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    Bob November 9, 2007 at 10:06 am

    what is wrong with this statement:

    “Kyle was hit by a motor vehicle, and based on the statements of a witness, was cited for running a red light and riding against traffic on a one-way street.\”

    I\’ll tell you. Kyle was not hit by a motor vehicle. This makes is sound as though he was standing still and got run over. Kyle was travelling the wrong direction on a one way street, ran a stop light, and collided with a car that was operating completely legally.

    \”Kyle the bike rider hit a perfectly legal moving vehicle\” should be the statement.

    Why do all you bike riders believe you can do no wrong? Why is it you believe every confrontation between bike and car is the fault of the vehicle driver?

    I see bike riders run lights, stop signs, cut across sidewalks, and generally ignore traffic regulations all the time. You are not perfect!

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    EWG November 9, 2007 at 9:36 am

    I thought Jeremy Van Keuren, spokesperson for the mayors office, said that Kyle was actually NOT cited, that the news (KATU) got it wrong.

    This sure makes it sound like he WAS indeed given a citation. So I\’m confused. Which was it?

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    Qwendolyn November 9, 2007 at 9:36 am

    Bob,

    If you had bothered to read Mionske\’s article, you would have seen that there are very good reasons to take witness claims that the cyclist was riding the wrong way and running a red light with a grain of salt.

    here is a link

    And a direct quote from the article:

    \”
    In Kyle\’s case, he was riding home from Portland State, along the route he always takes. In order for Kyle to have been going the wrong way on that one-way street, he would have had to be riding away from his direction home. As he was riding home, he was hit from behind by the driver of a pickup truck, who was going into diabetic shock at the time he hit Kyle. The driver behind the pickup saw the collision, and said that Kyle must have been going the wrong way because he came out of nowhere. Note that the only eyewitness to the collision did not say that Kyle had been going the wrong way-he said that Kyle \”must have been going the wrong way.\” In other words, nobody saw Kyle going the wrong way.

    But what about that red light Kyle ran? It\’s also an assumption, based on the witness\’s statement that Kyle came out of nowhere, and based on the police officer\’s conclusion that Kyle must have done something wrong because Kyle wasn\’t able to answer questions about the accident-something that would not be unexpected for somebody suffering a severe concussion. In other words, nobody saw Kyle run a red light.

    Meanwhile, as the officer was concluding that the cyclist who couldn\’t answer questions must have done something wrong, the driver of the pickup truck was also unable to answer questions, because he was on the verge of a diabetic coma. And yet somehow, the police officer did not conclude that the driver also must have done something wrong. There were two people at the scene in need of medical attention, both unable to respond to a police investigation-an investigation that is apparently against department policy-and the cyclist is once again assumed to be the one at fault. What other explanation could there be in an automobile-centric society? It made sense to the driver who didn\’t actually see what happened, it made sense to the police who suddenly and unexpectedly decided that investigating accidents and issuing citations is within the scope of their duties, and it made sense to the media who reported the biased police assumptions as fact.

    After hearing Kyle\’s side of the story from his mother, I accepted his case, and will be telling his side of what happened if and when his case goes to trial.
    \”

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    Qwendolyn November 9, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Ok,

    no idea how my post #15 came before

    Bob\’s post #17

    But mine (#15) was a response to Bob in (#17)

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    Qwendolyn November 9, 2007 at 9:40 am

    hmmm,

    looks like the internets are broken

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    a.O November 9, 2007 at 9:46 am

    What\’s wrong with this statement:

    Why do all you bike riders believe you can do no wrong? Why is it you believe every confrontation between bike and car is the fault of the vehicle driver?

    Think about how absurd this statement is. Fill in some blanks for yourself: \”Why do all you _____ think _____.\”

    Anyone over the age of 5 should understand that not all members of any socially-defined group feel the same about anything. This is a ridiculous and insulting thing to say.

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    Kristen November 9, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Hm… Bob\’s article is very interesting.

    I always enjoy hearing that someone \”came out of nowhere\”. People don\’t \”come out of nowhere\”, we haven\’t perfected teleportation technology. Everyone comes from somewhere. If everyone paid more attention, there would be less surprises when moving through the transportation system in whatever mode.

    And yeah, the Portland Police Bureau seems to have something wacky going on internally. Makes me want to stay as far away from Portland, while on a bike, as I can.

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  • […] in conflicts with motorists and even product liability issues when parts and bones break. (Click on this for an example of his […]

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 11:16 am

    When you are driving, and someone \”comes out of nowhere\”, there are two possibilities:

    1. They actually turned a corner quickly, came off the sidewalk, or jumped out from behind a parked car, (you get my drift) or:

    2. You weren\’t properly paying attention, until that last second when you saw them.

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    Matt November 9, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Not to get all indymedia here, but I tend to think a lot of police officers have this sort of \”might makes right\” worldview that prevents then from objectively dealing with these incidents. The driver can\’t possibly be at fault, because every other road user is supposed to defer to their superior mass, regardless of right of ways, etc.

    For example, the sort of statements offered in defense of drivers in these cases are frighteningly similar to what\’s offered in support of cops involved in various misdeeds. \”The dead [cyclist|unarmed civilian] is at fault because even if the [driver|cop] fucked up and killed an innocent, law-abiding person, everyone knows you shouldn\’t [get in the way of a car|question a cop].\” Unfortunately, that\’s a pretty common attitude.

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    steve November 9, 2007 at 1:54 pm

    So just out of curiosity.. I have noticed a whole mess load of you heaping praise on Mr. Sam Adams.

    Not one of you has questioned why we have to hear language and ideas like this from Bob Mionske, rather than our elected leaders.

    Bike boxes and a few hundred grand that will be gobbled up by beaurocracy are not what we need. Leaders who speak their conscience and hold our civil servants to account are what is needed.

    As far as I can see Sam is simply using these events to drum up support for his mayoral bid. Plenty of free publicity, you all are like shooting fish in a barrel.

    We should be livid at his pandering and the consensus here seems to be begging for more, more, MORE.

    WAKE UP!

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    Matt November 9, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Aye.

    If the PPB doesn\’t have the resources the investigate these incidents properly, perhaps Adams could propose an independent agency or commission to handle the investigations. I\’d wager that after a year or so, they\’d have some solid suggestions on improving safety.

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    Dave Thomson November 9, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    For those that want some facts on the PPB crash investigation policy, you can find it on page 262 of the PPB Manual of Policy and Procedure: http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=32482

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    Lisa November 9, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    Re. 29: This is interesting:

    3. Members will investigate all other crashes that meet the investigative
    criteria and are encouraged to investigate crashes that do not. At
    a minimum, for crashes that do not meet the investigation criteria,
    members will:
    a) Make every effort to provide assistance and information to involved
    persons. This includes completing and issuing copies of a Traffic Exchange Report to involved parties.
    b) Check all drivers for warrants, driving privileges, proof of insurance
    and registration violations.
    c) Cite violators when feasible.

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    BURR November 9, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Investigation Criteria (640.50)
    Members will investigate the following types of crashes. This investigation will
    include completing an Oregon Police Crash Report.
    a. Fatal crashes.
    b. Physical injuries with entry into the Regional Trauma System by on-scene
    EMS personnel.
    c. Drivers who are under the influence of intoxicants.
    d. Drivers that fail to perform the duties required of them at the scene of a
    traffi ccrash (hit and run).
    e. Hazardous material spills: Members should determine if a trained motor
    carrier officer is on duty from Traffic or other precincts to assist in the
    investigation.
    f. An emergency code run by the police, whether or not a police vehicle was
    involved.
    g. When a citation is issued to a driver involved in a crash for a violation
    other than a vehicle licensing, operator licensing or financial responsibility
    statute.

    Note item (g). This is a catch-22 and a fatal flaw in the system. If the crash is non-fatal and non-trauma level, it only needs to be investigated if citations are issued and does not need to be investigated if no citations are issued.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) November 9, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    \”Note item (g). This is a catch-22 and a fatal flaw in the system. If the crash is non-fatal and non-trauma level, it only needs to be investigated if citations are issued and does not need to be investigated if no citations are issued.\”

    Burr, (et al)

    I just got back from a meeting with Adams, Chief Sizer, and others. This exact topic was brought up and pointed out by Mark Ginsberg after Sizer read the same passage from their manual you\’ve outlined above.

    obviously they didn\’t say they\’d fix it right away, but they (and everyone else in the room) did hear about it and it was made clear that this is something that should be clarified/fixed.

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    Antonio Gramsci November 9, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    The fish rots from the head.

    I have a feeling that there could be a significant improvement in attitude towards cyclists on the part of PPB if Mr. Kruger were reassigned — if only for the example it would set for other officers. But I also think their direction could be changed by getting someone into the Traffic Division who is on the same page as PDOT on encouraging and protecting cyclists in the city.

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    SkidMark November 9, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    Shouldn\’t saying \”I didn\’t see her\” exhonorate the cyclist of all responsibility? That\’s how it works if you are driving a car.

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    BURR November 9, 2007 at 9:13 pm

    I have a feeling that there could be a significant improvement in attitude towards cyclists on the part of PPB if Mr. Kruger were reassigned — if only for the example it would set for other officers. But I also think their direction could be changed by getting someone into the Traffic Division who is on the same page as PDOT on encouraging and protecting cyclists in the city.

    PDOT has now had an open invitation to PPB to assign an officer to the City\’s Bicycle Advisory Committee for over five years and PPB has yet to do so. There actually was a time back in the 90s when a police officer – a gentleman named Carl Rilling – was on the BAC, and I knew there was someone inside PPB who I could trust to deal with issues as they arose, most especially incidents concerning motorist harassment of cyclists. It\’s been so long now and the city has headed so far down the wrong path during the latter half of the Katz years and most of the Potter years that it\’s going to take a lot of work to repair the damage and reestablish trust. Removal of Kruger and a refocusing of the priorities of the Traffic Division is only the first step that needs to be taken to place us on the path towards building a new working relationship based on mutual trust.

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    BURR November 9, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    I would only add that Kruger and a lot of the officers on the traffic squad are legacies of the Katz years when Mark Kroeker was Chief of Police. Kroeker is long gone but his legacy lives on in the attitudes of officers like Kruger and others in the Traffic Division.

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    Burr,
    Do you recall back in the early 90\’s also when I believe Rosie Sizer was in the position that Kruger is now?

    It seems to me that was back when the working messenger was under going intense scrutiny by the police force, as we were the most visual of the cyclists. there were a number of ridiculous citations handed out, and a large meeting in the auditorium between messengers, owners of companies, and the police, where we were given a number of ridiculous, messenger only bicycle rules to follow.

    My memory is spotty, I thought maybe you could help me out here.

    I thought you might be able to help me recall….

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    Dabby November 9, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    I truly believe this problem of enforcement and bicycle profiling goes deeper than Kruger… by the way. As it appears you do too Burr.

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    Antonio Gramsci November 10, 2007 at 4:09 am

    Part of my reasoning is, cops generally have a sense of invincibility. They have better unions than most real workers, essentially enjoying life sinecures from which they can scarcely ever be demoted, and even more rarely fired.

    Remember the huge uproar when just one of them got axed by Potter after killing a suspect under questionable circumstances?

    Trust me: If we could even get Potter to significantly rap Mr. Kruger\’s knuckles, let alone reassign him, other cops would take notice, particularly if it was clear that it had a lot to do with his bad attitude towards bikes, and a pretty quick end would likely be put to the \”open season\” on cyclists that currently seems to reign at PPB.

    Not to say that it would be the end of the story, or the results would be lasting. But I do think they\’d be quick, and noticeable.

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    Joe Millionaire November 10, 2007 at 10:13 am

    I think it\’s depressingly obvious that (some) Portland police have a bias against cyclists. I\’m sure that Officers Balzer, Hosely and Barnum have vendettas against kids on bikes. As does Micheal Fort of the Sherif Department.

    I don\’t support hatred in any format but these individuals are making it very hard not to.

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    Jacob November 11, 2007 at 12:07 am

    RE: Steve, comment #27

    I understand that pandering is loathsome but I\’m sure being a city commisioner keeps Mr. Adams very busy. His job is not to investigate police bias.

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    BURR November 11, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Dabby – Sorry but my memory on the incidents and meeting you refer to are pretty vague, but I have no doubt that they occurred. Back then, the commuters were the \’good\’ cyclists that the city catered to, and the police pretty much ignored the commuters until recently.

    I do remember unsucessfully trying to get the police to do stings on motorists violating cyclists rights in the late 90s.

    These days, I\’m not sure the police really make any significant distinctions between messengers, commuters, Zoobombers, hipster poseurs on fixies, etc.; they just seem overwhelmingly annoyed by the fact that the roads are filling with cyclists, and are lashing out in all directions, as agents of the motorists, rather than updating their enforcement policies for the 21st century.

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    Dabby November 11, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    Oh, they know the difference. There is targeting of certain cyclists, within certain groups, by the same officers, repeated.

    Ask Nerf about that.

    And, if you could take a listing of citations to cyclists in recent times, it would become painfully obvious…

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    Lenny Anderson November 12, 2007 at 8:42 am

    It seems that citing bicycists in crashes is standard SOP at PPB. On Swan Island we had a case where a bicyclist with lights was riding, legally, on the sidewalk against traffic on Basin Avenue…the best way off the Island…and was hit by a motorist turning onto Basin from a side street.
    The bicyclist got a busted leg, smashed bike, and four tickets to boot; I think he ended up in traffic school. The motorist got zip. Where is justice?

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    Elly November 15, 2007 at 9:12 am

    Bob Mionske just published his latest VeloNews legal column — it includes details about the rally, and some shocking letters from readers about their own experiences with media and police bias in cycling incidents.

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    Jeremy November 15, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    Hmm, ticketed for riding the wrong way seems valid to me. Cyclists are in no way supposed to ride against traffic from what I understand. I\’ve seen cyclists cited for this before.

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