Judge dismisses Medford man’s protest over citation for leaving bike lane

Still from police video of traffic stop.

A Medford man issued a citation last year for pedaling outside of a bike lane to avoid debris says a judge has sided with the officer who pulled him over, saying he should have steered his bike around the rocks and sticks without leaving the bike lane.

We reported on this incident in October, including a video of Dallas Smith’s encounter with Ashland police officer Steve MacLennan.

“I get flats when I ride over there,” Smith tells Ofc. MacLennan in the video, which was captured by the officer’s dashboard camera. “I got two flats riding (unclear) last week.”

“That doesn’t cut it,” Ofc. MacLennan replied. “These? No. You have broken glass, you have rocks, then okay. But you cannot be riding down the center line here, down the white line, into the traffic lane. This is not sufficient enough. This is not debris that’s going to be causing a problem.”

“The truck in front of me kind of went around you,” Ofc. MacLennan went on. “Both of the cars that were in front of me went out and around you.”

Last week Smith, who was biking on Ashland’s Main Street to his job with the University of Southern Oregon’s IT department when he was pulled over, wrote with the latest:

The judge found me guilty of riding out of the bike lane. I showed the judge the debris I was avoiding and she said the bike lane is wide enough that I should be able to swerve around most objects in the bike lane and not have to leave it. I disagree with the ruling as the lane had rocks and sticks all over it from gravel driveways that go into the bike lane. The officer actually brought up the part about the public hearings stating that they had public hearings in 2011 to determine if they should create these new bike lanes. I asked the judge how a public hearing in 2011 could determine that a bike lane created in 2013 was safe. She said the the public hearings in 2011 were sufficient to satisfy that a public hearing had been held.

As Jonathan wrote last October, it’s entirely true that in Oregon, as in some other states, the law requires people on bikes to use a bike lane if it’s available. There’s an exception for safety, but as Smith has found, that’s open to interpretation.

Smith, who represented himself, received a fine of $110 for failure to use a bike lane.

(For more on 814.420, browse our archives.)

Michael Andersen (Contributor)

Michael Andersen (Contributor)

Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.

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RW
RW
9 years ago

Ashland is to most southern Oregonians as Lake Oswego is to most Portlandians, embarrassing!

Mossby Pomegranate
Mossby Pomegranate
9 years ago
Reply to  RW

Lake Oswego is embarrassing why? They don’t have stupid things like art tax and dumb “art” tacked up everywhere?

Chris I
Chris I
9 years ago

It seems like the people that live outside of Portland and don’t pay the Arts Tax are more worked up about it than those of us that do.

davemess
davemess
9 years ago

Stupid art, trying to beautify our city…….

Huey Lewis
Huey Lewis
9 years ago
Reply to  RW

STOP USING “PORTLANDIANS”. PORTLANDERS.

Ben
Ben
9 years ago

Just to make sure I’m reading it correctly, avoiding debris like glass is acceptable, but rocks and sticks are not?

I wonder how this relates to Portland-area debris we see. I’m thinking the heavy layer of pebbles and crud in bike lanes after a long winter of tire chains. Or, in a more localized example, the bridge that goes east off of North Rivergate/North Lombard near Kelley Point (http://goo.gl/2yagyv).

That bridge has a normal bike line, but it’s always full of awful rock debris, so I usually find myself leaning a bit off the line if it’s clear and truck-free. Does the size of the debris matter?

dan
dan
9 years ago

This case makes the officer and the judge look (almost) unbelievably petty and mean-spirited. Does the officer sit around and wait for cars to cross into the bike lane when going around a curve and write them a ticket for operating their vehicles in the bike lane?

Matthew
Matthew
9 years ago
Reply to  dan

no, it makes it look like he’s doing his job, enforcing the law and trying to prevent behavior that needlessly heightens the danger for all road users. the officer states “if you have broken glass, you have rocks, then okay. this doesn’t cut it” the video shows the bike lane conditions pretty clearly. the officer is fairly polite about the whole thing and refuses to be drawn into an argument as well. wonder why some drivers have so much animosity towards cyclists? it’s because of stuff like this. the cyclist that passed them while the guy was getting a ticket didn’t seem to have a problem riding in the bike lane & i wouldn’t either.

wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  Matthew

Also from the vid audio, fairly clear suggestion that the officer didn’t just up and impulsively issue the citation. He apparently had been watching Smith ride for an extended period of time while he was stopping other road users. In other words, he had a longer opportunity to observe the manner of Smith’s use of the road, than do people only viewing the vid.

Oliver
Oliver
9 years ago

How many citations has the officer issued for driving in the bike lane?

Tim
Tim
9 years ago
Reply to  Oliver

A more interesting (but probably no more effective) method to challenge the citation would be challenge the officers qualifications to judge the safety of the bike lane and part of that quaetioning would be how many citations has he issued for cars crossing over into the bike lane. I would be surprized if the officer has any expereince or training in bike lane safety.

The citation was obvious harasment since they don’t issue tickets to motorists crossing into the bike lane.

wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  Oliver

A companion question to yours could possibly be: ‘How many citations has the officer issued to people for their not riding in the bike lane?’

encephalopath
encephalopath
9 years ago

Was this traffic court or real court?

The traffic court judge is always going to side with the police officer as a professional courtesy even if he has to ignore what the law says or make stuff up to do it.

You have to appeal the traffic court ruling before you get to a place where anyone actually reads the statutes.

Richard
Richard
9 years ago
Reply to  encephalopath

100% correct. It’s a waste of time to go to traffic court. Guilty or not you are paying the fine.

wsbob
9 years ago

On April the 10th, Dallas Smith in an update to his story, posted to the comment section of this story: http://bikeportland.org/2013/10/25/video-of-bike-lane-citation-in-ashland-highlights-controversial-oregon-law-96089#comment-4692540 almost word for word, the same comments as included in today’s bikeportland story.

Interpretation is a fundamental part of any law. Sometimes, for laws to be applied fairly and responsibly, quite a lot needs to be known about the specific circumstances of given situations in which they come into play. I don’t think the snippet of the police officer’s video of Smith on his bike and conversation on it between them during the traffic stop, is sufficient to determine whether or not he was truly in violation of the law.

A transcript of the full exchange between Smith and the judge and the officer in court, could possibly give more insight on whether or not he was truly in violation. Also, what additional information was presented, photos, etc, about the debris in the bike lane, or lack of it.

Ian
Ian
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

Or we could just agree that it’s a bad law to have, regardless of how and whether it’s enforced.

wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  Ian

Sorry, but I don’t agree it’s a bad idea to have ORS 814.420 detailing use of the road by people traveling by bike. Eliminating this law because people don’t well understand use of the road by people traveling by bike, wouldn’t likely contribute to a better road use environment.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

It seems that even cops, judges, and lawyers don’t understand the meaning of this law, so how is it any good? A law that no one understands (except you, of course) is as good as no law at all. But worse, a law that relies entirely on the whims of police officers to determine its meaning is as good as handing cops a license to harass cyclists. Again, not that they can usually be bothered to engage in such harassment, but disinterest on the part of cops is the only thing preventing it when the “law” allows arbitrary stopping and citing of any cyclist outside a bike lane.

wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  El Biciclero

While it may be said that not enough do, it’s apparent that many people do understand the law, given that people are very rarely cited and found guilty of violating the law.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

Not enforcing a law is not evidence of understanding it. But if we ignore that, do you think this was this an instance of an officer understanding or not understanding the law? Do you think Mr. Smith understood or did not understand the law?

I know, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether the law was correctly applied or not. So how about if I ask again what benefit the law has for cyclists? Did the application of this law benefit Mr. Smith? Do you think the officer cited Smith out of concern for his safety? Out of concern for the safety of the drivers who were “forced” to go out around Mr. Smith?

wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  El Biciclero

“…do you think this was this an instance of an officer understanding or not understanding the law? Do you think Mr. Smith understood or did not understand the law?

I know, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether the law was correctly applied or not. …” El Biciclero

My familiarity of the story coming exclusively by way of bikeportland stories about it, and comments to those stories, I can’t be certain of either Smith’s or the officers understanding of the law, or that of the judge that ruled on the citation.

Not sure whether it was to you or some other person’s question about why I feel ORS 814.420 is basically a good law and of benefit to all road users, but I have detailed those reasons in past. If people actually read the law, making efforts to understand it, I think those reasons would be self evident.

9watts
9watts
9 years ago

I think the fourth word of your article is missing?

Spiffy
Spiffy
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

I’d also like to see the bike lane debris… we were told there were pictures or video of it…

J_R
J_R
9 years ago

Send a message to the mayor and city council members of Ashland by using the following link:

http://www.ashland.or.us/CouncilContact.asp

spare_wheel
spare_wheel
9 years ago
Reply to  J_R

done.

we were actually considering a trip to the ashland area but it looks like bend will be getting my tourist dollars this summer.

Scott H
Scott H
9 years ago
Reply to  J_R

done.

Jonathan Gordon
Jonathan Gordon
9 years ago
Reply to  J_R

Done!

J_R
J_R
9 years ago

My message to the mayor and council members indicated that in past years, we’ve made a point of stopping in Ashland on our I-5 road trips but won’t be doing so in the future now that Ashland is seeking to be anti-bike.

Joe
Joe
9 years ago

WTH?

Joe
Joe
9 years ago

can you please get out of the bike lane mr. police man.. lol

Carter
Carter
9 years ago

A law requiring bikes to stay in the bike lane? That is ridiculous, absurd, senseless. I violate it all the time. As do others.

PomPilot
PomPilot
9 years ago

“Smith, who represented himself, received a fine of $110 for failure to use a bike lane.”

While his legal fees would surly have exceed the potential fine, a qualified attorney might have been able to sway the judge and challenge the ability of the Ashland police officer to determine safe bike lane conditions.

Joe
Joe
9 years ago

police why?

Mark Allyn
9 years ago

Folks:

Although I am very disappointed at what happened here; to be frank with you; I am not surprised.

I have had at least three people cry on my shoulder regarding the wierdities of Ashland’s culture. Plus the story we had here on this forum about the troubles that our own Sprockets had while performing there.

I had a three hour conversation with a refugee from Ashland (who now lives in Beaverton). After that conversation, I almost could not sleep.

It seems that there is an interesting psychological sludge going on down there. They have a lot of expats from California who came in during the 90’s at about the same time that the Rodney King riots broke out in Los Angeles.

It seems that these so-called arm-chair liberals were suffering from black-flight syndrome and wanted a cozy little enclave of their own. So, they came up and slowly took over Ashland and kind of pushed the long-time residents (the indigenous folks) out of power and onto the fringes.

Ashland is a very white armchair ‘liberal’ enclave that wants to paint a picture to attract the Shakespeare tourists. But in reality, they chase out anyone and anything that threatens their nice cozy little home.

I am a little torqued off right now because Dr. Norman Paul, my childhood psychiatrist passed away a few years ago. I would have loved to have him do an analysis of Ashland’s culture and hear what he says of it especially with his experience in phychiatry.

Mark

q`Tzal
q`Tzal
9 years ago
Reply to  Mark Allyn

As soon as you exclude people from your group to give yourself a feeling of worth you prove the opposite.

Michael M.
9 years ago
Reply to  Mark Allyn

And this is different from Portland … how?

Skid
Skid
9 years ago

I’ll steer around rocks and sticks in the bike lane when motorists start going to jail for hit-and-run resulting in the of the cyclist. FTP

Skid
Skid
9 years ago

Death. Resulting in the death of cyclists.

JJJJ
JJJJ
9 years ago

I loaded the video.

First thought “Does the bike guy really need to be riding in the middle of the lane? Could move to the right a bit. And hes really going fast. Look, hes passing the other bike guy who is biking in the lane, and if he can do it, anyone can”

And then I realized it was the police video. I cannot believe the citation. If theres an appeal process, I hope he appeals. Id send a donation to help cover any fees.

Buzz
Buzz
9 years ago

I call BS on this, and it points out the flaws in the exceptions to the mandatory bike lane law, as long as judges are predisposed to side with motorized cops.

REPEAL THE MANDATORY BIKE LANE LAW (ORS 814.420).

Christopher Sanderson
9 years ago

At least Ashland is a great town to visit if you are coming off the Pacific Crest Trail to do a resupply.

jim
jim
9 years ago

It sounds like it is time to consider a different kind of tires. Two flats in two weeks! I don’t get two flats in two years.

Shyla O.
9 years ago
Reply to  jim

That’s because you don’t ride through Gresham and Rockwood every day. :/

Chris I
Chris I
9 years ago
Reply to  Shyla O.

I ride through Gresham and Rockwood. I switched over to Schwalbe Durano Plus tires (25c) and now only get 2-3 flats per year.

wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  jim

Whether a bike has flat resistant tires or not, rocks, sticks, glass, and whatever other junk that gets swept into the bike lane by passing motor vehicles, are still hazards. Oregon law does not hold people traveling by bike in violation of the law for leaving the bike lane to travel in a comparatively debris free main lane to avoid hazards.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero
9 years ago
Reply to  wsbob

“Oregon law does not hold people traveling by bike in violation of the law for leaving the bike lane to travel in a comparatively debris free main lane to avoid hazards.”

Well, apparently it does.

wsbob
9 years ago
Reply to  El Biciclero

“”Oregon law does not hold people traveling by bike in violation of the law for leaving the bike lane to travel in a comparatively debris free main lane to avoid hazards.”

Well, apparently it does.” El Biciclero

It, or at least, the written law doesn’t. If you read the 814.420, and .430, they do not preclude people traveling by bike from taking the main lane from bike lanes or otherwise, the far right side of the road, to avoid “…hazards…”.

What happened in Dallas Smith’s situation, that brought him to be cited and fined for violation of 814.420? A number of things could have contributed to that citation standing in court. Unfortunately for Smith, he’s got no witnesses aside from the police officer and the police video. So any questions about of the manner in which he was riding down the road, rely heavily on the words of those two people and what’s shown in the vid.

What the writers of 814.420 considered “…other hazards…” for bicycle travel to consist of, is another important point of the law that must be understood. In addition to the people living by it, people administering the law, are obliged to understand what such things specific words refer to in any given law.

From the very brief recap via Smith’s comment, of what the judge said in court, it’s hard to be certain whether the judge thought about what in this law, “…other hazards…” refers to, but it seems she may have. It seems she didn’t contradict Smith’s claim that there was debris in the bike lane, but simply explained to him that the bike lane was big enough that he should have been able to go around the debris while staying in the bike lane.

Jim
Jim
9 years ago

Does that fine work out to be about $50 an inch? How far does my wheel have to be inside the line?

Evan Manvel
Evan Manvel
9 years ago

The police officer seems to claim the problem was “the truck kind of went around you… and cars went out and around you.” Sigh.

Really, that’s the problem? In a road with a turn lane that’s almost always open?

Spiffy
Spiffy
9 years ago
Reply to  Evan Manvel

it’s illegal to use a center turn lane to pass a bicycle…

Livellie
Livellie
9 years ago

I sometimes ride the white line of bike lanes…especially in the spring because cars tend to travel over the white line and clear winter debris off of them. Plus a lot of them are raised a little above the black top surface and that seems to help keep little chards of glass off the white line. Most of the flats I’ve gotten come from these little tiny pieces of glass or wires that are impossible to see. When I watched the video, it appears that is what was going on here…staying on or just out side the white line and clear of debris. He wasn’t holding back traffic. He wasn’t swerving around. He was just traveling down the road in a clearer/cleaner line of travel…creating no safety issues what so ever. The police officer and the judge must have a different agenda than concerns over safety. Lame.

Joe
Joe
9 years ago

“very white armchair ‘liberal’ enclave”
whoa so true this is becoming the ” norm ” in parts or Oregon. burbs yes!
this makes me think can ppl really live outside the cage?

TOM
TOM
9 years ago

I ride out to MHCC every weekend … STARK is still full of the pea gravel from the ice storm. They’ve just pushed it further right. GLASS ? Have had more flats in Gresham than anywhere else.
Coming back west on Burnside hill , the storm grates , branches and dead critters in the bike lane force me out into car areas. But I do stop just after the light (223rd ?) and wait for a RED so that there is no traffic behind me.

TOM
TOM
9 years ago

here is an interesting article from the UK that addresses some of that: (from a motoring site, no less ?)

Cyclists! Why do they ride in the middle of the road?

http://www.motoring.co.uk/car-news/cyclists-why-do-they-ride-in-the-middle-of-the-road-_62617

TOM
TOM
9 years ago

El Biciclero
It seems that even cops, judges, and lawyers don’t understand the meaning of this law, so how is it any good? A law that no one understands (except you, of course) is as good as no law at all. But worse, a law that relies entirely on the whims of police officers to determine its meaning is as good as handing cops a license to harass cyclists.

Or as our esteemed President does … if the authorities disagree with a law , just ignore or don’t enforce it.

captainkarma
captainkarma
9 years ago
Reply to  TOM

I knew at some point it would be Obama’s fault! Back to the issue: A good cop knows which laws are worth enforcing or not. He could’ve just used some discretion and expressed to Mr. Smith his concern about safety ( if that was really his issue) instead of writing a citation for a murky at best violation.

Joe
Joe
9 years ago

so if I move into the lane to avoid him blocking lane with his body and car, is that a ticket too? oh what if I crash.. ahh I see the rider is far right 😉 warning would be the best for safety and concern not mil cop.

TOM
TOM
9 years ago

clue me in ..
is traffic court there to provide justice ?
or
generate as much as possible revenue for local governments ?

abomb
abomb
9 years ago
Paul Johnson
Paul Johnson
9 years ago

Wow. Headline confusing, had to read it a few times in order to figure out how that related to the article.

Blackcatprowl
Blackcatprowl
4 years ago

Bogus. It is sufficient reason to leave the bike lane. It is the reason that “protected lanes” are dangerous, as it is just a further excuse to push cyclists off the roads. They can be great, yet are oft underdesigned and dangerous to boot.

The police are, also, generally, anti-cyclist, harassing bicyclists, especially, after dark. Bicycling-after-dark is sufficient reason for the police to pull over a cyclist and intimidate them.