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Ask BikePortland: Do I have to put my foot down at stop signs/red lights?

Posted by on February 10th, 2010 at 10:38 am

salmon street stop sign

Do you have to put your foot down?
(Photo © J. Maus)

This week’s “Ask BikePortland” comes from Daniel Knutson. Mr. Knutson, 52, wrote in to express his frustrations at getting a ticket from a Portland Police Officer a few months ago for doing a “track stand” at a stop light.

On September 19th, Knutson says was riding home from work on East Burnside when he came to the intersection of 82nd. Like he always does, he balanced on his bike instead of putting his foot down. When the light changed, he rolled through the intersection and was pulled over by Officer Royce Curtiss.

According to Knutson, Curtiss was on the other side of the street, and, “When he saw me balancing on my bike, he assumed I was going into the intersection.”

Knutson tried to contest the ticket in traffic court, but the judge sided with Officer Curtiss and upheld the ticket. Knutson was fined $182 dollars (a reduction from the original fine of $242) for a violation of ORS 811.265 “Failure to obey a traffic control device.”

Knutson says he now puts his foot down at all stop signs and stop lights, because he can’t afford another ticket or blemish on his record. But he wants to know: “Is it against the law for me to balance on my bike at stops?”

The answer — despite this unfortunate experience with Officer Curtiss and the Multnomah County Traffic Court — is no.

Oregon law only requires that you cease forward motion. A few years back, I asked the former Commander of the Portland Police Traffic Division for his take on the question:

“Track stands are fine. The law requires the wheels to stop moving in order to be considered a stop. However, it’s very rare for a police officer to cite someone just because the wheels don’t “completely” cease movement.”

Rare, yes, but unfortunately it still happens.

What are your experiences with this issue? Have you ever been cited for doing a track stand at a stop light/stop sign?

— See previous “Ask BikePortland” articles here.

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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peejay
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peejay

One more example of a vague law, selectively enforced and ignorantly ajudicated. This could be overturned on appeal, but who has the time and money for that?

h
Guest
h

i wondered about that too. very good question.

Rob
Guest
Rob

Let me get this straight, the cyclist did a track stand at a stop light and when it turned green he proceeded on… and he received a $242 ticket!! That isn’t right. Do you even have to stop all forward motion at a red light, or do you just have to not enter the intersection? Maybe something is lost in translation here, maybe the ticket was for riding into the intersection prior to the light changing?

dan
Guest
dan

I think getting a “failure to obey TCD” citation for doing a trackstand is ridiculous. However, I commute through Ladds Addition, a hotbed for cyclist stings, and I make a point of looking around for cops at the stop signs (i.e., look to the right of the sign as well as to the left to oncoming traffic). When I see a cop, I very ostentatiously come to a full stop, put a foot down, and wave to them. Silly waste of time…

Of course, sometimes I just drag a foot without coming to a full stop. Does that fulfill the legal requirements?

tony
Guest
tony

242 dollars is an insane amount for this “infraction” consider that that guy who hit the pedicab got 25 hours of community service.

Arguably, 25 hours of service is a “cheaper” sentence to a minimum wage worker than 242 dollars. Not to mention, you might meet someone or learn something doing the service.

So running someone over while you look on the floor for your cell phone is a lesser crime than not putting your foot down at a RED LIGHT?! Insane.

AaronF
Guest
AaronF

“When he saw me balancing on my bike, he assumed I was going into the intersection.”

So the cyclist didn’t proceed into the intersection at all until the light turned green, and then was ticketed for maybe thinking about disobeying a traffic device?

Now, I’ve seen plenty of trackstanding cyclists that dribbled into the intersection too early and probably would have earned a ticket, but Knutson says he wasn’t in the intersection.

Nick V
Guest
Nick V

I got busted for a rolling stop in Ladds Addition around 3 years ago and went to a class to avoid the mark on my record and the fine.

The judge in the class told me that a trackstand is completely acceptable as a legal stop. I wish I could remember his name. Christopher Something-or-other…….He was also a cyclist.

kenny
Guest

petty.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Maybe I could understand if he was ticketed at a stop sign, but if it’s a green traffic signal, you’re allowed to enter the intersection. Rolling up to a red light at a crawl is not equivalent to running an intersection! If the story happened as it’s told, this ticket should be thrown out– and the officer involved needs a refresher on how to apply the law.

Lester
Guest
Lester

Do GPS logs hold up in court? Maybe I need to get one when rolling through Portland.

Steph Noll
Guest
Steph Noll

If you have other questions regarding how Oregon traffic law relates to bikes, there is a free bike legal clinic coming up at the BTA. http://www.bta4bikes.org/btablog/2010/02/10/bta-legal-clinic-wedensday-february-17/

fredlf
Guest
fredlf

The irony, of course, is that provided you can do it well, you’re safer at an intersection track-standing because you can see better and get moving faster.

Sadly, my “skillz” are not up to the task and so I put my foot down at lights out of shame, not legality. It’s not easy being a cyclist named Fred.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

I think there’s something missing from this story.

“According to Knutson, Curtiss was on the other side of the street, and, “When he saw me balancing on my bike, he assumed I was going into the intersection.” ” maus/bikeportland

Unless he’s just making it up, why would the officer assume the guy doing the track stand was going into the intersection? Something that occurs to me, is that there’s a lot of difference in how people do track stands. Some can hold their bike very still, but others do a fair amount of forward and back wobbling, which may leave other road users present wondering whether the person doing this on the bike is actually going to stop.

So how was Knutson on the bike doing in that respect? Was his trackstand one that could have reasonably left the cop wondering whether or not he was really stopping at the intersection before proceeding? While Knutson was making his track stand stop, did he observe the cop across the intersection?

dan #4, I think you’ve got the right idea. Why do you think coming to a full stop, putting a foot down and waving to the cop is a silly waste of time? It lets the cop know that you really have seen and complied with the stop sign. It keeps you from getting a ticket. I’m not sure you have to be ostentatious about it, or actually wave to the cop, but that’s your choice. If your gesture is friendly, the cop probably appreciates it.

chrehn
Guest
chrehn

This is not right! A “policeman” with a grudge and a “judge” with poor judgement.

KruckyBoy
Guest
KruckyBoy

It seems like the answer is- Technically NO, but to actually avoid getting ticketed and fined then YES, you have to put your foot down.

Herb Williams
Guest

this is wrong I was also ticketed on this. I there are many times I have seen police and trucker roll through the same stop sign and not get ticketed. lets think about it tons vs pounds were is the justis in that????

Argentius
Guest
Argentius

Just pathetic.

This kind of inconsistency would be perhaps tolerable if the fine were more modest, but, consider — if I am correct, in the state of Oregon, this counts as a Moving Violation.

Most bike owners are also drivers.

If Knutson is one of these, it’s possible his auto insurance could increase as a result of this. For a single ticket, when insurance rates go up, they total, again, if I recall, a couple of thousand dollars over the three-year period that the insurance company is interested in it.

EVEN IF the cyclist just slightly rolled into the intersection, I don’t feel the punishment would fit the crime, but, it seems like here, Mr Knutson did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong.

Wow.

PoPo
Guest
PoPo

Jonathan,

Here is an article you published a couple of years ago that addresses this exact question:

http://bikeportland.org/2008/09/24/guest-article-cops-and-stops-putting-our-foot-down/

Thanks for helping to get the word out!

Another Dan
Guest
Another Dan

In addition to the absurdity of not putting a foot down for a red light, I’m hung up on this statement, “he can’t afford another ticket or blemish on his record”. Blemish on what record? You don’t need a driver’s license to operate a bicycle. Are cycling traffic infractions applied to a person’s state driving record? If they are, and a person doesn’t have a driver’s license, where is their record maintained?

AaronF
Guest
AaronF

“Are cycling traffic infractions applied to a person’s state driving record?”

I ran a red light at critical mass in 2003 or so and it didn’t touch my insurance.

RyNO Dan
Guest
RyNO Dan

My question for next weeks ABP…

Is it legal for motor vehicles to have tinted drivers-side windows ?

Marid
Guest
Marid

Please don’t delude yourself that doing a track stand is safer. You make cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians nervous since it is not obvious that you are in control of your bicycle. In this case, that included the policeman. You are also not faster, if like most people I see doing it, you are in (or have only) a high gear. You would be much quicker through the intersection if you had down-shifted before stopping.

Yeoh
Guest
Yeoh

Agree 100% with Marid. As both a cyclist and motorist I find that most cyclists attempting track stands are wobbly and move back and forth and sideways in order to maintain their balance causing me to fear for where they will actually end up once the light turns green. As a cyclist I’ve had “track standers” veer into my lane and even fall into me. I really with they would just cut out the grandstanding.

SteveD
Guest
SteveD

I agree with Rob (#3) that we might not be getting the whole story. The ticket might be for crossing into the intersection while trying to maintain his track stand.

If anything, this shows that you should always contest your traffic ticket, even if you don’t stand a chance – the judge will reduce the fine. It also shows that you should do your research on the law before going to traffic court. He could have gotten this thrown out (assuming he didn’t cross into the intersection) simply by citing the traffic code to the judge. Don’t claim ignorance – there is no excuse for not knowing the traffic laws since they are readily available on line. And ignorance of the law never holds up in court.

hemp22
Guest
hemp22

PoPo: You’re right, that’s a good article – and seems to be preaching to the choir here.
So, given that this ticket was issued, and held up in court, the question is, when will the Portland Police be made aware of this?
When will we get to thank *you* for getting the word out?

Tacoma
Guest
Tacoma

+1 for SteveD #24 and Rob #3. So on the related question, “If the light turns green before one ‘crosses into the intersection’ (i.e. before the crosswalk), is a stop required?” I would expect the answer to be “No”. I may be creeping toward the intersection at 0.01 MPH but as long as I have not entered, I’m god.

Tacoma
Guest
Tacoma

Sorry, Freudian slip, “a god”. oops, I mean “good”.

drew
Guest
drew

Not even that cop comes to a complete stop at an intersection when driving his personal car. Almost nobody does. Unless lost and looking at a map.

That the cyclist did a trackstand is amazing.(unless to yield the right of way to cross traffic)

This member of the police dept likes to target bikes. I suggest he spends more time policing intersections where drivers refuse to stop for pedestrians. That type of policing could actually save lives.

huey lewis
Guest
huey lewis

I think that Mr. Knutson will realize the error of his ways once he has a few more years of being an adult under his belt. Track standing? I just don’t get the youth of today.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I remember reading something about this before on BP and someone brought up a funny point… If cyclists have to put a foot down even if they can maintain balance, shouldn’t car drivers have to swing open a door and put a foot down on the pavement too?!

Zaphod
Guest

Tacoma #25 has a very interesting point. If the cyclist did not enter into the intersection when it was red then why does it matter whether he was track standing, rolling slowly or blazing at full speed?

Something is amiss.

There are a handful of known sting areas where I put a foot down. It angers me that I feel compelled to do this when it’s not legally required. I simply don’t have the time or inclination to deal with a ticket. Nevermind fighting the thing, my schedule has me pushing the edge of shipping/receiving hours such that just the 15 minute traffic stop will often wreak havoc.

Noah Genda
Guest

Marid and Yeoh, I 100% disagree. I dont see anything wrong with trackstanding when a stop sign or about-to-be-green light is involved. Yes its annoying when people try to trackstand for 2 minutes while waiting for a light to change, and yes some cant do it well, but thats what learning is all about. Personally I find it easier to trackstand than get in/out of my cages when a long stopping time is not warranted. And the snide comment about only having a higher gear? Ha, any excuse to hate on a single speed.

Lester
Guest
Lester

The trackstand haters are pretty dang funny.

I’m 41 and I trackstand.

42×21 is my favorite gear to come to a stop in, whether trackstanding or long-term dabbing.

velo
Guest
velo

Anyway to appeal this ticket? It seems like the judge ruled incorrectly based on past interpretation. I’m so damn sick of cops who aren’t trained as to the law.

What if I slowly creep up towards a stop light in a car until it turns green? I’d never stop moving but that ought to be legal since I don’t enter the intersection. That is far less of stop then a track stand.

At the end of the day most cops can’t be trusted, they simply are not sufficiently trained to apply the law in a reasonable way. The courts are an insufficient shield for when they over reach. The lack of consequences for overreaching cops creates a situation where they can push without ever being held to account.

BURR
Guest
BURR

As long as he waited for the light to change before entering the intersection it shouldn’t matter if he was fully stopped or rolling slowly forward while waiting for the light to change. Portland cops are idiots.

PoPo
Guest
PoPo

The ORS says nothing about putting your foot down, so you aren’t required to do that.

It does say that you “shall stop” however, and it sounds like the Officer and Mr. Knutson disagreed over whether that happened or not.

Mr. Knutson did absolutely the correct thing in this case, by asking for a trial in front of a judge for a decision.

It would be interesting to get the transcript of the trial, so we could hear the evidence from both sides that were presented to the judge. That would give us a better basis for agreeing or disagreeing with the judge’s decision.

Anyone can get a recording of any traffic trial from the circuit court. I believe it costs ten or twenty dollars, and they will burn it onto a CD.

commuter
Guest
commuter

If I ever get pulled over by a cop while on my bike, is it legal for me to pull out my phone and start recording our interaction?

david....no the other one
Guest
david....no the other one

OK, I’ll be the parent here(or devils advocate, if you prefer?). Bicyclist on Burnside headed east, crossing eighty-second. Late in the day, busy streets,probably dark or close to it. Police officer in car, on opposite side of street(facing east also?, facing west?).
Drivers not paying attention, bicyclist doing something officer wonders, do they know what they are doing? will they fall in traffic. Who knows, not the officer. TICKET!!!
Wait for it!….I’ve done it to, with a friend. A double romantic track stand, in summer. The time of light, vision for blocks, motorists without darkness- induced comas, phones on their ears.
Did Mr Knutson deserve a ticket? Was the officer overreaching? Was traffic heavy and manic? Was the judge unjust? Is the fine ridiculous? Yes Do all of us need to be a little more cautious at this time of year? Or are we in just as big a rush as the cagers. Lighten up spring is almost here.
Mr Knutson, Im sorry you got caught in a legal grey area, that was open to interpatation. But thank you for giving us your heads up.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“Anyway to appeal this ticket? It seems like the judge ruled incorrectly based on past interpretation.” velo #34

Will you be offering your explanation of how you think the judge ruled incorrectly regarding this citation? What is it that you who feel the judge ruled incorrectly, think you know that the judge doesn’t?

As I wrote in the earlier comment, there aren’t a lot of details in the bikeportland story that describe what it was…if there was anything… about the track stop made by the guy on the bike, Knutson, that might have led the cop to decide a citation was warranted; and…for the judge to agree with the citation.

In the bikeportland story, Knutson appears to have jumped to the conclusion that it was his having used a track stand for a stop instead of a foot on the ground stop, that led the cop to issue the citation for not stopping. His account of the cops explanation for the citation:

“When he saw me balancing on my bike, he assumed I was going into the intersection.”

…suggests something different. According to this story, the cop said nothing about Knutson not putting a foot to verify a stop was being made. I don’t know what was said by the cop before the judge other than what Knutson himself paraphrased in this story. Knutson’s own account of what the cop said suggests the cop may have seen movement on Knutson’s part, indicating that he wasn’t stopping for the red light.

However it is that a road user determines to do it given the circumstances at hand, some clear means has to be used to indicate compliance with the law…if that’s what they’re trying to do.

What if, along with the track stand stop, Knutson had used the hand signal stop (I’m not sure how well this works while doing a track stand)? Would the cop have noticed this and passed on the citation? If nothing else, had Knutson done this, he could have used it to argue his innocence in court.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

The trackstand envy is definitely amusing.

Marid
Guest
Marid

No need to lose your cookies. Trackstanding is showing off. Like doing a wheelie. It’s fun, but doesn’t make you a better rider. Better to admit it and move on.

Lester
Guest
Lester

Actually wheelies, trackstands, bunnyhops, etc do make you a better rider. With these and other skills one can avoid crashes that a less skilled rider would have to endure when encountering unusual circumstances.

Just think of all the streetcar track slams that could be avoided with the tiniest wheelie over said track. And in the case of crossing the track nearly parallel perhaps unweighting the rear wheel as it crosses.

colin
Guest
colin

I’m a cyclist, and have noticed a large number of cyclists who balance on their bikes tend to start through the intersection early. I’m not saying when both lights are red, but when the cross street is yellow. That is still running a red light. This cyclist’s statement of “When he saw me balancing on my bike, he assumed I was going into the intersection.” makes me question what really happened.

cold worker
Guest
cold worker

Mr. Knutson, trackstanding at a light?! The gall! How dare you sir! Trackstanding is an affront to my notion of what cycling is and what it shall be for you if I have my say.

Jim
Guest
Jim

The point missed here is that track standing confuses drivers. Even if they have the right-of-way, if they see me intimating forward movement they can become unsure, hesitate, lurch, whatever. I don’t like confusion, especially in or at an intersection. I want drivers to respect me as a car, so I put the foot down to clearly let them know that I’m stopped, and I’ll wait my turn. Simple laws of survival. Cyclists too often find themselves on the losing end of confusion with motorist.

Jim

Dan 4
Guest

Ok, so there are many ways this can be looked upon. One is that if the cyclist cannot hold their position and neglects to be aware of the traffic it could be a dangerous thing. On the other hand if the cop was on the other side of the intersection and could not see the rider except them standing on the cranks the cop was not in a position to observe where the wheels are. The cop could have offered a traffic class and been far less of a butt head than just write a ticket. Have you read the papers lately? Portland PD is off the hook….They shoot guys in the back and attempt to justify their actions. Portland PD needs to get back in touch with the people and quit using their power and control on folks just getting though their days.

DJ Jazzy S
Guest
DJ Jazzy S

I’m putting my foot down!

Lester
Guest
Lester

Jim Sez : The point missed here is that track standing confuses drivers. Even if they have the right-of-way, if they see me intimating forward movement they can become unsure, hesitate, lurch, whatever.

I dislike cars that creep and they do it ALL THE TIME. I don’t think they’re breaking the law, however.

If I’m trackstanding at an all way stop and a driver with a right of way stalls, I motion for them to go with a sideways nod of my head. Seems to work pretty well.

If a driver exiting a driver creeps a bit, then brakes and waves me across, that is much nicer than one that just keeps creeping. When they keep creeping I anchor brakes or take the left side of the lane.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Personal feelings on track standing are totally irrelevant.

What I want to know: Is it legal to slowly creep toward an intersection while waiting for the light to turn green? I think it must be. I think it’s only illegal when you cross the line and start creeping into the intersection. That has to be the correct conclusion because if it turned red while you were still 30 feet away from the intersection would have to stop while still 15-20ft from the light? No that’s silly.

PoPo – I think post 36 is a little unclear.

d.bee
Guest
d.bee

So sorry you were fined. That’s extreme. I’m a good balancer – track stander, it could’ve happened to me. A warning from the officer would have been more humane. A $20 to $40 fine max. for a first offense. Jack it up incrementally for repeat offenders. Obviously, I live in la-la-land where everyone is fair-minded, happy and peaceful.