Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Portland Police will target bicycling on downtown sidewalks

Posted by on July 30th, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Sidewalk rider-4

Sidewalk rider.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Police Bureau plans to raise awareness of illegal sidewalk bicycling downtown on Thursday.

A statement released by the PPB today called the initiative a “Sidewalk Awareness and Enforcement Effort for Bicycle Riders and Skateboarders.” The action is scheduled for 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm and will focus specifically on sidewalks between West Burnside and SW Yamhill between 5th and 6th.

“During the Summer months,” reads the statement, “Downtown Portland sidewalks become very congested and collisions between pedestrians and those riding bicycles or skateboards become more likely.”

The PPB refers to a section of City Code (16.70.320) that spells out the sidewalk bicycling and prohibition:

“no person may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, unless avoiding a traffic hazard in the immediate area, within the area bounded by and including SW Jefferson, Front Avenue (Naito Parkway), NW Hoyt and 13th Avenue.”

The only exception in the ordinance is for “police or special officers operating a bicycle in the course and scope of their duties” or “for employees of the Association for Portland Progress and companies providing security services operating a bicycle in the course and scope of their duties.”

Concerns about the safety issues of sidewalk bicycling is nothing new to Portland. Back in 2011 Commissioner Amanda Fritz led a City Hall press conference — with support from former Mayor Sam Adams and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance — to remind citizens about the “real safety risks” of “fast moving bicycles on sidewalks.”

Bike share demo-8-7

And a few months before that press conference it was Commissioner Fritz again trying to confront this issue with her infamous threat to vote against the bike share system: “I may support a bike sharing program downtown when I see bike riders using downtown streets and sidewalks in a safe manner,” she said during a city council meeting.

At tomorrow’s enforcement action, the PPB will be primarily issuing warnings, but in some cases, they say, “citations may be issued.”

This is one of many types of enforcement actions the PPB conducts throughout the year. Others have focused on crosswalk violations, distracted driving, speeding, DUII, and so on.

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  • Indy July 30, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    “police or special officers operating a bicycle in the course and scope of their duties” or “for employees of the Association for Portland Progress and companies providing security services operating a bicycle in the course and scope of their duties.”

    Do as I say, not as I do.

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    • matt picio July 30, 2014 at 11:10 pm

      It’d be great if we could amend that to permit police and prohibit private security from doing the same. There are too many exemptions to this law.

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    • paikiala July 31, 2014 at 9:30 am

      It’s called Police Powers, like exceeding the speed limit responding to an emergency, or going the wrong way around a barrier. Civics 101.

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      • TonyT
        TonyT July 31, 2014 at 11:46 am

        Actually this would be more like police speeding all the time, just because or going wrong way around a barrier all the time, just because. This isn’t an emergency exception that most reasonable people understand and can agree with. This is a 24/7 special privilege that I would argue creates animosity toward the police and confusion about the law. So, no, not civics 101.

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        • My Magic Hat July 31, 2014 at 7:47 pm

          No kidding . . . I’ve seen too many iniforms riding down sidewalks for no apparent reason. For emergencies? Sure. Letting officers cruise the sidewalk to enable their incompetence as riders? Not especially productive from any angle.

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      • Benjamin July 31, 2014 at 6:56 pm

        Police powers do not allow the police to disregard traffic laws UNLESS there is a threat to life or safety so technically they are breaking the law still. Much like when officers turn on their lights briefly to blow through a red light and then turn them off.

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  • Chris I July 30, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    How many Portlanders have been injured or killed by sidewalk riders?
    How many Portlanders have been injured or killed by cars?

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    • Dan Morrison July 30, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      Vehicles go on roads. Pedestrians go on sidewalks.

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      • Spiffy July 30, 2014 at 3:54 pm

        never the twain shall meet!

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        • naess August 1, 2014 at 12:32 pm

          actually, it’s the “twain” that causes a lot of the confusion. it would be nice if/when they re-write the ors they delete a lot of the pedestrian like powers that bikes are given.

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    • Phil Kulak July 30, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      If it doesn’t kill people, it should always be legal!

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      • Chris I July 30, 2014 at 2:28 pm

        Sidewalk riding should still be illegal, I just don’t think enforcement is the best use of police time. Maybe they could do some speed enforcement in east Portland, where people die every few months just trying to cross the street?

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        • jeff July 30, 2014 at 3:32 pm

          what good are laws if they’re not enforced?

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          • Greg August 1, 2014 at 12:37 am

            If they’re not enforced, remove them from the books 🙂

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    • matt picio July 30, 2014 at 11:24 pm

      “How many Portlanders have been injured or killed by sidewalk riders?
      How many Portlanders have been injured or killed by cars?”

      We don’t actually know. There are reported figures, but they don’t capture all instances. There are likely bike/ped interactions which result in injury but not severe enough to go to a hospital. There’s just no way to know how under-reported they are.


      Ped-Car: 227 (2011) / 270 (2012)
      Ped-Bike: 0 (2011) / 0 (2012)


      Incidentally, the reported number of instances in Portland where a motorized vehicle and bike collided:

      2011: 305
      2012: 374

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      • paikiala July 31, 2014 at 9:36 am

        DMV does not record crashes that don’t involve the MV.

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    • Mike July 31, 2014 at 10:20 am

      What’s your point? Just because a law that prevents a cyclist from doing something doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be enforced. And why is it that when such laws are enforced a finger is always pointed at cars. It’s not unlike my 5 year pointing out my 3 year old’s bad behavior when he is gettin punished for something he did wrong. Just stop it already.

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      • Opus the Poet July 31, 2014 at 12:14 pm

        Two things. One is the expenditure of resources for a relatively minor violation that rarely causes even minor injury, while ignoring the more major violations a few feet away that cause significant morbidity and mortality. Second is the fact that while things like speed limits and one-way streets are posted prominently the boundary of the illegal sidewalk zone is only known to people looking up the laws either in dead tree format or on line. I would state that very fact renders the sidewalk ordinance unenforceable. If the only way you can know where a behaviour was legal and illegal was to carry a map and a copy of the law around with you, that by definition is a bad law.

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  • Todd Boulanger July 30, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    For the PBoT / PBAC…there are some recommendations for updating this important CBD safety policy:

    1) how about adding small stencils or signs reminding citizens of this policy, like other cities do in high occurrence zones [most citizens either do not know about this type of law or where it is in effect/ or not in effect]; and
    2) add language allowing rider to ride on sidewalks to reach bike parking that is often located on sidewalks. [Imagine if car drivers had to get out and push their cars across sidewalks or crosswalks to get to their parking spaces.]

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    • Spiffy July 30, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      I love the stencil idea… that’s something that anybody could do with a few bucks…

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    • Opus the Poet July 31, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      I love the idea of drivers having to push their cars across sidewalks to get to/from parking. I can think of several people who would be alive right now had that been in place at the time they were killed.

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  • Ed Birnbaum July 30, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    Is this in response to collisions just being “more likely,” or which have actually happened? How frequent have they been and how serious?
    I hate and avoid riding on sidewalks, but found myself doing that for a short distance, briefly, trying to get to a west-bound Max near Pioneer Place because it’s so hard to ride on the streets because of the bus lanes and Max and streetcar tracks. These and other difficulties, like the disappearing bike lane a few blocks past the Hawthorne Bridge, have come up in this blog before. Does the city have anything more positive in mind than keeping bikes off sidewalks?

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  • spare_wheel July 30, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    a few years ago someone that looked awfully like amanda fritz shouted unintelligible things at me from her vehicle.

    “real safety risks”

    is there *ANY* actual evidence of this in portland?

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    • El Biciclero July 31, 2014 at 11:37 am

      “I’ll be happy to quit riding on the sidewalk, just as soon as drivers all start driving more responsibly downtown.”

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  • Scott H July 30, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I’ll be open to suggestions regarding how to operate my bicycle when traveling at less than 5mph, just as soon as I don’t witness cars going 40 in a 25 multiple times a day.

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    • Middle of the Road guy July 31, 2014 at 10:36 am

      ah yes…..the moral relativist approach. “other guy is wrong, so I can be wrong also but I will still complain about how the other guy is wrong”.

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      • Scott H July 31, 2014 at 3:45 pm

        No, not quite. I don’t ride on the sidewalk. My point is: the PPB shouldn’t bother with something most would admit is simply a nuisance and instead focus on actual traffic dangers. I’m sure everyone has their own opinion of what the PPB should focus on, but this one seems like a no-brainer.

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      • Karl Dickman July 31, 2014 at 5:54 pm

        “When the other guy is wrong he will flatten me into a bag of bone splinters and a pool of blood” isn’t moral relativism, it’s self-preservation.

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  • Robert L July 30, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    I have no issue with the enforcement of this city ordinance. The only problem is the fact that most people riding on the sidewalk downtown are 1) a tourist 2) homeless or 3) the cute little suburban family. Your day to day commuters know it’s faster and safer to ride with traffic.
    It would also help if they could put some signage around calling attention the this bit of city code.
    While your up on the bus mall targeting people bicycling on the sidewalk, would it be too much to ask if you could ticket all the cars making illegal turns?

    As a side note, there have been at least two people that have been sent to the hospital after they rode into the front door of my work while riding on the sidewalk (one of which took the door off it’s hinges).

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  • Dan Morrison July 30, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Good. Oregon should also make cycling on any sidewalk illegal like most states. Bikes are vehicles and belong where vehicles go. Sidewalks are for pedestrians. If you’re not comfortable on Portland’s streets with a bike, find another way.

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    • Chris I July 30, 2014 at 1:48 pm

      By find another way, you mean, buy a car?

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    • spare_wheel July 30, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      i agree that bikes should be allowed to go where other human-powered vehicles are legally allowed to go.

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    • Chris I July 30, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      And it’s pretty laughable that you point to other states as models for transportation policy. The United States has the highest transportation fatalities in the developed world. I’m not going to take transportation advice from Alabama, I’m going to take it from Sweden:


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    • Alan 1.0 July 30, 2014 at 1:52 pm

      Biking on the sidewalk is legal in most states: http://bikeleague.org/content/state-bike-laws-0

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    • TonyT
      TonyT July 30, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      There are times when sidewalks are appropriate and safer (riding with my 4 1/2 year-old for instance).

      And the notion that a person on a 25 lb “vehicle” is in the same category as a 20,000lb work truck is divorced from reality.

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      • Pete July 30, 2014 at 2:17 pm

        Agreed. There are times I’m in Sidis with Speedplay cleats and pedal (slowly, carefully) a block or two on a sidewalk against traffic to get to a crosswalk/stoplight. I’m a huge opponent to cycling on sidewalks, but outlawing it everywhere for all reasons is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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        • TonyT
          TonyT July 30, 2014 at 2:49 pm

          ” but outlawing it everywhere for all reasons is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

          But hey, it’s easier than thinking.

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    • Paul July 30, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      I disagree. Streets great are for fast biking (> 5mhp). But sidewalks are perfect for slow biking (< 5mph). Not everyone wants to ride fast all the time.

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    • Dan July 30, 2014 at 6:13 pm

      You want I should cross the top of the Steel bridge on the road instead of the sidewalk? And you’re willing to wait patiently behind me while I do so? That would be a first.

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    • paikiala July 31, 2014 at 9:38 am

      6 year olds? 8 year olds? 11 year olds? Seriously, in the road?

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    • are July 31, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      source for your assertion “most states” forbid biking on sidewalks? my impression is this is mostly a matter of local ordinance.

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  • Dan July 30, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    My coworker was run down by a skateboarder on the sidewalk about two months ago, and had his wrist in a splint for about a month, so I can’t say there’s zero risk to this behavior. In my mind, sidewalk cycling should not be any faster than a fast walk, and you should only do it for that last half-block to/from your destination. Doing 10 mph on the sidewalk for a few blocks probably does deserve a ticket.

    Having said that, I agree that I’d rather see Portland’s finest focus on motor vehicle operators, who are far more likely to cause serious injuries. And what is up with Amanda Fritz; did someone actually vote for her?

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    • Scott H July 30, 2014 at 10:18 pm

      She must have slipped in the back door of city hall while no one was looking during a snow storm or something. She really is a drain on our city and our resources. I truly believe the city of Portland would be better off, right this minute, without her as a commissioner. I don’t know how to be more clear.

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  • Ben July 30, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    I’d love to see more enforcement downtown in general. Sidewalk riders are a menace—I’ve had to leap out of the way on the bus mall many times—but not nearly so dangerous as drivers that dash through yellow lights and block sidewalks; drivers who make right turns without looking for pedestrians; drivers who turn across the bike lanes on Stark and Oak, esp. without signaling; drivers aggressively crossing SW Alder; etc., etc, etc.

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  • m July 30, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    Bikers on sidewalks downtown is annoying and illegal (as it should be) but it is not nearly as big of a problem as people texting/looking at their phones while driving their cars downtown. How about we start to “raise awareness” for that much larger and more dangerous issue?

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    • jeff July 30, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      false dichotomy. why can’t there be both efforts?

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      • John Lascurettes July 30, 2014 at 5:55 pm

        Because both is never done. There is no “targeting” of texting drivers downtown. I’ve never heard of it anyway.

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        • Dan July 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm

          Maybe we should legalize throwing stuff at cars where the driver is texting. That would be both fun and effective.

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      • TonyT
        TonyT July 31, 2014 at 11:50 am

        Not a false dichotomy. It’s opportunity costs. Money, time, and resources spent in one place cannot be spent in another unless budget and manpower is increased, which it isn’t.

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      • Karl Dickman July 31, 2014 at 5:57 pm

        Because the police budget is not infinite?

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  • oliver July 30, 2014 at 2:16 pm

    Quasi homeless looking, middle-aged white male riding a department store mountain bike, sans helmet down a sidewalk opposing traffic off the curb against the signal.

    Is this a stereotype? (Can I really invent my own stereotype? )

    However, they are a convenient scapegoat when people want to lambast those scofflaw cyclists disobeying the law downtown.

    I think the enforcement’s good, although I’m not too sure about how one goes about getting the homeless to cough up fines. And despite the fact that 90% of the riding you see on the sidewalks downtown is that guy, be wary that the police will be seeking “high value” targets, ie those commuters who roll the last 20 feet from the curb cutout to their building entrance.

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  • GlowBoy July 30, 2014 at 2:44 pm

    “Oregon should also make cycling on any sidewalk illegal like most states.”

    I’ll accept this when all our streets are safe for cycling.

    “Find another way.” All too many times, especially out here in Beaverton where I work, there isn’t one.

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  • GlowBoy July 30, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    If PPB is so concerned about pedestrian safety, why not a LOT more enforcement of the implied-crosswalk law? One more time, PPB: cars kill more Portlanders than guns do. Get on it.

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    • TonyT
      TonyT July 30, 2014 at 2:56 pm

      Just to clear, it’s not “implied,” it’s unmarked. And yes, considering that there are MANY more unmarked crosswalks than marked, there should be many more enforcements at unmarked crosswalks than at marked ones. The last list of crosswalk enforcements I looked at, I think it was 2 out of 15 or so that were at unmarked crosswalks.

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      • Doug Klotz July 30, 2014 at 9:57 pm

        Plus, unless aggressively pushed to do so by the Pedestrian Advisory Committee or other groups, PBOT’s crosswalk enforcements seem to all take place from Noon to 2 PM on a Wednesday, instead of most of them being in evening rush hour, when the danger is really there (especially in the winter, when evening rush hour is partly in the dark)

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  • Dave July 30, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    How desperate is the PPB to avoid busting speeding, phoning, and aggressive drivers? What a waste of time!

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  • Spiffy July 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    meanwhile the Parking Division refuses to write tickets for people parked on the sidewalk where I work because there’s no abrupt curb and still plenty of sidewalk space available…

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  • m July 30, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    false dichotomy. why can’t there be both efforts?
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    Sounds like you have never had to work within a budget. Limited resources means making difficult decisions.

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  • Case July 30, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    “Raise awareness” = “Raise revenue”

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  • JD July 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    The caveat that allows police and security to ride sidewalks is hilarious. Exactly 100% of the times I’ve been mowed or nearly mowed as a pedestrian have been by downtown security guards with questionable control of their bikes.

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  • Rich July 30, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Would this whole issue even exist if bicyclists rode responsibly on the sidewalk?

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    • Pete July 30, 2014 at 10:40 pm

      Depends. In this context, a bicyclist riding responsibly yet unaware there’s a city code that disallows it in certain places will still get a citation. I think funding for this “awareness” effort would be much better spent on adequate signage, or sidewalk stencils like so many other cities have. It would reach a much broader audience than the 27 or so people they might talk to on Thursday from noon to 4. Not everyone in downtown Portland knows Portland “city code” – even if they know how to behave safely and responsibly.

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  • TOM July 30, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    And yet out here in neglected East of 122nd , we see PPD …how many times a week ? once,,,,, twice..maybe.

    downtown sidewalk 4 hour advance notice enforcement=low hanging fruit/little risk, but lots of TV/media exposure.

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    • Mossby Pomegranate July 30, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      Don’t worry Tom, the street fee will fix all our problems out here in east PDX!

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  • Nik July 30, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    false dichotomy. why can’t there be both efforts?
    Recommended 1

    That’s a good question. Maybe you should ask PPB why they appear to barely care about the perpetual, constant, and much more dangerous behavior by area drivers.

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  • jim July 30, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    Will this include cyclists that stop in the crosswalk instead of behind the line like the law says?

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  • J_R July 30, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Will the PPB be putting out warning signs for bicyclists that say “Sidewalk Riding Enforcement Ahead”? That would mirror what they do for motorists. PPB puts out “Crosswalk Enforcement Ahead” signs to warn scofflaw motorists when they do the enforcement actions that seek to get motorists to obey the law and yield to pedestrians. They put up “Photo Radar Enforcement” signs to signal scofflaw motorists that they are enforcing speed limits. Just wondering.

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    • paikiala July 31, 2014 at 10:40 am

      Photo radar signs are required by law. the other signs are a courtesy.

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  • gutterbunnybikes July 30, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    Just gotta wonder how many drivers will get away with getting stopped in the middle of the intersections, or in the crosswalks while a police officer is standing right there handing a bike rider a ticket?

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  • reader July 30, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    I’d rather see the police go down on the transit mall and bust a few bike thieves.

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  • Doug Klotz July 30, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    My preferred north-south routes in Downtown? I take the single auto lane on 5th and on 6th. As far south as Madison, it’s the only lane, and theoretically cars can’t pass you (though a few will swerve into the transit lanes to do so), so it feels the safest of the downtown streets, safer than the bike lanes on Broadway.

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  • Tnash July 31, 2014 at 12:15 am

    Wow, thank you for giving us the heads up, I would not have heard about this otherwise. Thanks!

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  • Robert Burchett July 31, 2014 at 7:23 am

    The closest encounter I’ve had, as a pedestrian, with a cyclist on a sidewalk was with two Portland police officers. The first one missed me by inches at a blind corner at a speed much faster than a walk. And the second hardly gave me a look, much less an ‘Excuse us’. I ride on the sidewalk just about every day, but if I need to rush I do it in the street.

    Thanks for the warning, I’ll pass it around. The usual short attention span for all things bikey means it’s business as usual tomorrow.

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  • fredlf July 31, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Oh good, so now for the next few weeks, every time I’m on a multi-use path or coasting up the sidewalk, unclipped, to a business, some frothing winger will yell at me to get off the sidewalk. Yay.

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  • PJ July 31, 2014 at 9:23 am

    Well I hope they enforce it for those bike tours. I got run off the sidewalk by about thirty of them yesterday, their guide had no idea what he was doing or how to wrangle 30 people who haven’t ridden a bike since they were ten. What a completely unsafe business.

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    • PJ July 31, 2014 at 9:23 am

      *run off while walking, not riding.

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  • El Biciclero July 31, 2014 at 10:21 am

    While inconsiderate sidewalk riding is annoying and can be dangerous, I do find it interesting to consider the reasons why someone would ride on the sidewalk. I have little problem taking a lane in slow downtown traffic, but I understand there are those who don’t want to ride at 15 mph, or are unfamiliar with where the train tracks are, or are just intimidated by aggressive drivers, who aren’t paying attention, aren’t yielding to riders in bike lanes, are blocking bike lanes, passing unsafely, etc. It borders on a legal Catch-22: “you have to ride over there where driver lawlessness makes it scary. We’re not going to do anything about the drivers, but if you take refuge on the sidewalk, we’re going to bust you. So, decide now whether you would rather be intimidated and endangered by drivers or busted by the cops.”

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  • mh July 31, 2014 at 10:28 am

    I’ve been wanting – and sometimes asking for – signage at the main bike entry points to downtown. Most people simply don’t know that they can’t do in this one small section what they are perfectly free to do everywhere else.

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  • Buzz July 31, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Almost all bicycling in major Japanese cities is done on the sidewalk.

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    • Ben July 31, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      And, if you’ve ever visited Tokyo, you know how infuriating it is to be forced off the curb by an aggressive trike.

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  • Mindful Cyclist July 31, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Watching the news last night, the PPB said it was going to mostly give out warnings, and in some case citations for people who ride on sidewalks.


    I would rather see the cops focus on something else, but I am okay if the police are going to issue warnings and not ticket someone unless s/he is doing something really egregious.

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  • Sarah July 31, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    If riding on sidewalks is wrong, perhaps there should be more bike corral parking in the streets.

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  • TOM July 31, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    The local news covered this story tonight and showed bikes & skateboarders being chased down by Motorcycle cops also on the sidewalk.

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