Reuben Vyn and Officer Pryce.
(Photos: Peter Welte)
Two members of the PSU Cycling Club got a lot more than they bargained for while riding along NE Ainsworth yesterday.
According to witnesses, Club president Reuben Vyn was riding along with six other members of the club on NE Ainsworth near NE 23rd when a Portland police officer in a patrol car came by “within a foot” of his handlebars. (Ainsworth is a narrow, one-lane, residential street with car parking. The street is a designated bike route, but it’s also notoriously uncomfortable to ride on. See photo below)
In a statement to BikePortland, Vyn claims he was riding “about three feet from a row of parked cars when Officer Pryce passed me, coming within a foot of hitting me.” Vyn recalls that he then “signaled to him (the officer) with a lateral motion of my hand that he should have given me more space.”
According to Peter Welte, who was also on the ride, that gesture, “apparently pissed the guy (Officer Pryce) off.” The police officer then pulled Vyn over.
At this point, Welte — who was ahead of Vyn when the incident occurred — had doubled-back and was now standing with Vyn, discussing the law with the officer.
Vyn recalls the conversation:
“He proceeded to tell me that I needed to either ride with the flow of traffic or ride closer to the parked cars in order to let other vehicles pass. I replied that if I rode any closer to the cars I would risk getting ‘doored’. He asked if that actually happens, and if that has happened specifically to me. I replied that yes it actually has happened to me.
I further explained that it is my right to ride three feet from parked cars, and that he in fact made a dangerous move to pass me at such a close distance.”
Welte says that the cop “didn’t appreciate our feedback regarding his understanding of the law and looked for anything he could bust on.”
“It is much easier for me to disregard driver ignorance when it is not being displayed by someone in authority.”
— Nathan Sramek
After their discussion, both Vyn and Welte recall that Officer Pryce went back to his patrol car and then returned twenty minutes later with citations for both men. Pryce allegedly told them they were receiving the citations because they, “insisted on doing this the hard way.”
Reuben Vyn was cited for failure to update his address on his driver’s license (ORS 807.560) and for impeding traffic (ORS 811.130). Welte received a ticket as a pedestrian (he had entered the roadway to take pictures) for ‘improper position on a highway’ (ORS 814.070).
When Officer Pryce handed out the tickets, Welte recalls, Vyn asked, “What’s my ticket for? Riding in the street?”, and the officer responded “yes”.
Both Vyn and Welte feel their citations are not warranted and plan to contest them in traffic court.
the narrow street makes for tricky riding.
Nathan Sramek was also on the ride. He calls Vyn’s citation a “bogus charge” and, wrote in an email that, “What really bothers me about this situation, is not that Rueben and Peter were cited, but the implications events like this hold for the safety of the cycling community in general.”
Sramek calls the incident “disheartening” and he feels that police officers should serve as an example to other motorists. Reflecting on the incident, he wrote that he doesn’t think it’s indicative of the PPB’s attitude toward cyclists in general, but that “It is much easier for me to disregard driver ignorance when it is not being displayed by someone in authority.”
Welte says he and Vyn now plan to research their citations and prepare for their cases, which will be heard in traffic court in December. He also said they are considering filing a formal complaint with the police bureau.
[Editor’s Note: I’ve changed the headline of this story from “Riding on Ainsworth leads to tickets for PSU riders” to “Tickets follow close call on Ainsworth”. I just didn’t like the original headline, so I changed it.]