City Council will consider crackdown on ‘street takeovers’ as sliding events continue

Posted by on August 17th, 2021 at 9:12 am

On Sunday evening, dozens of people gathered at Southeast Division and 48th to pay respects to Noah Terry, a 22-year-old who was shot at that location on October 24th, 2020. According to local news reports, Terry loved “drifting”, a hobby that entails burning out the tires of a souped-up car as the driver spins around in a circle and onlookers revel in the display. At Sunday’s gathering, a bouquet of silver and black balloons floated overhead while the people below blocked the intersection so drifters could do their thing.

Also known as “sliding” or “sideshows”, the activity has grown steadily in Portland in recent months and years. There’s an entire community that has sprung up around them. Earlier this month a massive crowd took over the wide intersection of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and Columbia Blvd. A Willamette Week reporter was at the event and wrote, “Gas fumes clouded the sky and the smell of burnt rubber filled the air. At least 400 spectators looked on. Lines of cars backed up a quarter to a half-mile down all four streets waited for hours. Some spectators launched fireworks.”

These meet-ups usually happened in relatively empty, far-off industrial locations. But as they’ve started to happen closer-in, Portland city leaders have seen enough and want to put an end to them. This week, Portland City Council will consider a new ordinance that will make it against the law to participate in unpermitted “street takeovers”.

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A tweet from Mayor Wheeler’s Director of Strategic Innovations, Sam Adams


According to council documents, the ordinance would “provide additional enforcement tools for Portland Police Bureau to reduce the incidents of dangerous street sliding events in the public right of way.” Specifically, the ordinance would create new infractions that come with fines of up to $500 and six months in prison for anyone who drives a car in one of these events or uses an object to block the street. If first offenders are caught, they’d be given the option of a diversion program. The ordinance would also allow police to tow vehicles without notice if their drivers are taking part in a street takeover event.

Back in March I shared concerns about how this dangerous cultural phenomenon might end up in a head-on collision with police. And here we are. Instead of finding non-enforcement alternatives, commissioners are set to consider a solution that could put these young, mostly Black and people of color, face-to-face with the PPB — an agency that has failed to build productive relationships with the community on a host of other fronts and has already nearly stopped responding to many issues and crimes because of what they say is a lack of funding and personnel.

Council documents say the city has gotten “significant community involvement” on the proposed ordinance and received feedback from, “… business stakeholders, district attorney, community organizations… public comment on social media, APANO [Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon], Latino Network, chambers of color, PPB advisory committees and community partners, and Office of Equity and Human Rights”. (We’ve reached out to the leader of APANO for comment but haven’t heard back yet.)

In March 2020, when the police chief of Detroit, Michigan was faced with the same issue, he worked with the community to find a vacant lot where they could drive and slide without as much danger to public safety — and more importantly — without attracting attention of gun-toting police officers.

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell will present the ordinance at City Council on Wednesday (8/18) at 2:00 pm.

Ordinance
Code language (PDF)
Impact statement (PDF)

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Bread
Guest
Bread

We built skate parks as a safe place for people to ride skateboards. The same idea should be applied here.

We should be building “drift parks” for people to play with their cars like this.. The space and resources required for “drifting” are very minimal. A large parking lot (of which there are many) is really all you need. Then just cones to mark out courses. Let local “crews” organize events/showcases, open them up a couple nights a week for a public “free drive” night and charge entry, set up some crowd stands and invite food trucks. People obviously want to do this, its foolish to think we can punish this behavior out of society.. When has that ever worked..

At the core, these are people who are looking for an outlet and a community. Modern American car culture glorifies “performance driving” and “radical individualism”. I am not sure why we are surprised to see more and more lawlessness on the roads amidst everything else..

Prohibition and retributive justice are probably not gonna solve this, but maybe giving them a place to engage with the hobbies and communities they want will help create a better paradigm for how/when/where this type of driving is done.

It worked with skateparks, and grass velodromes before that. It can probably have an effect here too.

Just spit-balling here..

cmh89
Guest
cmh89

Skate parks work because it provides a better alternative for people who want a better alternative. These folks don’t want a better alternative

Drift parks would attract some small amount of people but the allure for a lot of these people is the chaos and disruption it causes. They aren’t doing this on 48th and Division or MLK and Columbia because there is no better spot to do it. They are doing it there to cause problems. They are like children breaking stuff to get attention.

The other problems with a drift park is 1, these folks are not paying an entry fee, 2, it’s a massive liability for the city, 3, who the hell wants this crap in their neighborhood permanently, and 4, I’d guess the city can’t host events where people are driving their cars in circle drunk or high, which many of these idiots are.

Prohibition and retributive justice are probably not gonna solve this, but maybe giving them a place to engage with the hobbies and communities they want will help create a better paradigm for how/when/where this type of driving is done.

Some behavior just can’t be tolerated. If they wont stop endangering the people around them, they just need to be removed from society like any other violent person.

Chopper mark
Guest
Chopper mark

Doing donuts in a car is violent? I believe that is called hyperbole.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Causing or intending to cause damage. Marked by the user of harmful or destructive force.

I think you are relying on the connotation of the word, not the literal meaning. The risk of doing that is, connotation is not universal. Whereas definition is.

Karl Dickman
Guest
Karl Dickman

I routinely see people say the same thing about mountain bikes. Maybe what you say about drifters is true–I certainly have no personal knowledge–but I know that the vitriol against mountain bikers is totally without merit and it makes me wonder how seriously I should take your negative assertions about drifters.

ivan
Guest
ivan

Agreed. This, with outreach to the communities, is the solution — not bulking up the carceral state.

That said, the way the actual ordinance (Word document) is drafted, I think it’s worth pointing out that it can’t be used against people simply “uses an object to block the street,” as is said in the article (and called out in several comments). The relevant section is paragraph C:

A person commits the offense of Unlawful Staging of a Street Takeover Event if, in a public place or upon a highway, the person knowingly uses a motor vehicle or other obstacle to create a physical barrier to impede an intersection, bridge, public right of way, or other public place or highway to create a location or physical opportunity for an unlawful street takeover event.

Emphasis mine. In paragraph A.4.c, “unlawful street takeover event” is specifically defined as involving motor vehicles “in a curved direction, in a circular direction, or around corners”. So this wouldn’t apply to someone using objects to block the street for a demonstration, or in fact even using vehicles to block the street so long as they weren’t sliding.

But I still think Bread’s suggestion of legalizing specific areas for this makes more sense than citing/fining/imprisoning people, especially since in the best outcome, that is just going to push these events to other parts of the county/Metro area.

John
Guest
John

Cool, so street drag racing is ok?

The city should work with these folks and find place(s) for this activity.

eddiearni
Guest
eddiearni

pollution

Laura
Guest
Laura

but those activities (skateboards and bicycles) didn’t create massive amounts of noise and pollution, not to mention the safety threat of a flying broken wheel (video from Columbia/MLK 3-4 weeks ago). Seriously, I re-read the article and swiched “rolling coal” for sliding and sideshows. Would we be getting all “let’s find them an alternative place,” and “let’s find a cooperative solution?” if we were talking about rolling coal. Nope…we make modifying the engines illegal, we make the activity illegal, and we threaten to impound the illegally modified vehicles.

Steve C
Guest
Steve C
maxD
Guest
maxD

without attracting attention of gun-toting police officers

They are literally doing this to attract attention. This article seems to equate street racers with black Americans who are harassed by police just for being in public. The street racer/sliders are hardly some oppressed minority. These people are taking over public space for entirely selfish reasons and creating a lot of danger in the process.

Chopper mark
Guest
Chopper mark

This is very much an activity that has come out of Black America. In other cities it’s on dirt bikes and quads doing wheelies in groups, in a similar manner as Critical Mass bike rides. Drifting’s birthplace is Japan, and street drifting is absolutely global. So yes if it does get cracked down upon, it is going to affect people of color more than anyone else, and given our justice system it will affect people of color more than white people.

Allan Rudwick
Subscriber

“or uses an object to block the street”

I can think of lots of good reasons to do this. Hopefully there won’t be any spill-over enforcement into obstructions

CarolynD
Guest
CarolynD

Happening in “relatively empty, far-off industrial locations”? That’s not completely accurate. This type of garbage has happened on 82nd near Prescott. That’s not empty – a lot of working and middle class people live in that area. But of course, since these folks did their dirty and toxic “fun” closer in to more tourist-friendly Portland and away from the low-to-moderate income areas, the city council decides to do something about it. The people whipping their cars around and polluting the ground, air, and sound world are selfish and do not take into account anyone living or working in these areas. This is rotten behavior that does not belong in Portland.

Serenity
Guest
Serenity

The event I saw was downtown near SW Washington.

Mel
Guest
Mel

There was a solo slider in the Pearl district last fall. 13th and NW Flanders.

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

The chemical compound 6PPD-quinone is used in tire manufacturing and it is a deadly toxin to salmon. Where normal driving and tire wear is practiced, adult fish die before spawning. Burning rubber introduces more of this toxin into drainage ways by orders of magnitude.
Check out the rubber tracks on twisting roads. Drifters leave no margin for error or cyclists as the slide through blind corners
Sigh

Serenity
Guest
Serenity

I saw one of those, once. It was pretty scary.

Fat Tire
Guest
Fat Tire

Residents east of 82nd Ave. have to deal with this type of behavior daily. The scale may be smaller but the danger is real. I live at the base of Rocky Butte and work in Gresham. In the last few years my neighborhood has become a race/drift track. Everyday people speed down my street at triple the posted 20 mph speed limit. Enforcement has disappeared and speeders run rampant. I doubt people in closer-in neighborhoods/westside have to deal with, or are aware of this problem. On my commute I regularly witness reckless driving by people in souped up cars, often with no license plates. Cutting the police budget has been an unmitigated disaster for those in East County. The arterials are dragways and gun violence is a daily occurrence. Non-enforcement alternatives are wishful thinking and incredibly inefficient at curtailing this type of behavior.

Jeffrey Yasskin
Guest
Jeffrey Yasskin

Why do they need a new ordinance for this? Surely it’s already illegal, and just a matter of police choosing what laws to enforce? “Uses an object to block the street” seems especially prone to being misused to punish less dangerous behavior.

Pete S.
Guest
Pete S.

Exactly.

There is nearly a 100% chance that PPB will use this law to break up protest marches of people who’s politics they disagree with.

PPB could enforce existing law to break up street racing gatherings if they wanted to. They’re choosing not to respond to all sorts of crime in order to hold the city hostage and get council to give them more money. Because they are a trash organization that belongs in the scrap heap of history.

Jim Jeffers
Guest
Jim Jeffers

Unfortunately this is now a rampant problem here in Portland. It’s dangerous and scary. I walked out of the Safeway near my home on Hawthorne while this was going on. Even scarier – the walk home through the neighborhood was terrifying while more attendees were literally flying through the neighborhood streets between Hawthorne and Belmont. It’s not acceptable and if this is what it takes so be it. It’s also not acceptable that this is happening on Marine drive. Just because it’s out of the neighborhood does not make it any less illegal. If someone who supports this community wants to get a legitimate space or organize permitted events either at PIR, a private lot, or in a controlled environment – that’d be OK. But until then I just consider this another facet of the increased amount of crime that’s been festering ever since the pandemic. Bad times indeed.

Serenity
Guest
Serenity

I hear them flying through the streets of downtown everyday.

Jason
Guest
Jason

Joke’s on the drifters, just think of the damage they are doing to their cars on PDX streets. I’d be happy if they drifted off to some place else. This behavior is absolutely a display of entitlement.

Hubba Hubba
Guest
Hubba Hubba

I don’t believe it has anything to do with entitlement. I think they are just having fun, but it isn’t safe in a confined place where they could hit property and people. I agree it is a stupid thing to do to your car, but some of them probably like working on their cars. I know off-roaders who have to make repairs every time they go on a trip – it is their hobby – and it’s a good one – they learn a lot keeping their vehicles going. Lots of worse things you can do in your spare time.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

You can just have fun and not impact hundreds if not thousands of people. So yeah…it’s entitled.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

They’re “just having fun” at everyone else’s expense — and when one of them gets hurt, their own, too.

Serenity
Guest
Serenity

I don’t believe it has anything to do with entitlement.

You what, now? Excuse me while I die laughing.

Jason
Guest
Jason

They feel entitled to have that fun at the expense of a very large number of fellow citizens.

David D
Guest
David D

Love when disgraced former mayors who get absolutely routed in a later council election still manage to make policy that affects all of our lives.
The fact that Wheeler brought Sam back into city hall is the clearest example of his utter contempt for all of us.
Carceral solutions won’t solve this problem and this ordinance will be used to harm cyclists pedestrians and protesters exerting their rights to public space.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

How’s that recall campaign going?

resdar
Guest
resdar

All of these things are already illegal! Passing ordinances that are redundant to existing laws to make unenforced illegal behavior super-duper-extra illegal misses the root cause of lack of enforcement. As loosely worded as this ordinance is, it will create unintended enforcable outcomes for currently legal or legal-ish activities.

Hubba Hubba
Guest
Hubba Hubba

Looks a lot safer than a typical “mostly peaceful” Portland protest. Still, it’s illegal and not without risk to nearby buildings, cars, people, light poles, etc so the popo need to stop it every single time.

Start taking license plates, getting photos of the cars, and putting those on the internet so the aholes don’t sell their abused cars to someone who isn’t aware of the abuse the car was subjected to.

Jason
Guest
Jason

If you agree that the issue is overtly illegal, bringing protests into scope is a bad faith statement. It doesn’t correspond to the topic.

JohnR
Guest
JohnR

Would this ordinance also apply to group rides? I.e., an object (bicycle) used to block traffic as the group rides by? Thursday night ride, world naked ride, other pedalpalooza rides?

Or, does the language limit enforcement to motor vehicles?

Champs
Guest
Champs

We definitely need to look at other tools in the toolbox before we start making laws in near-orbit around the First Amendment right to assemble.

That said, this isn’t skateboarding. It is objectively—literally, and figuratively—toxic behavior endangering people and blocking the right of way. We need sanctioned spaces for this like we need safe spaces for dog fighting. Just no.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Unlawful street takeover event means an activity that is:
Unpermitted;
Preplanned or contemporaneously coordinated by two or more persons; and
Involves one or more persons demonstrating, exhibiting, or comparing the maneuverability or power of one or more motor vehicles in a curved direction, in a circular direction, or around corners, including but not limited to by breaking traction in a curved or circular direction or around corners.

Which part of the First Amendment covers motor vehicles?

Champs
Guest
Champs

Be careful what you wish for when you start restricting the rights of people to assemble in the street. This just isn’t what I consider a new category of offense worth opening that can of worms over.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

This is the second time on this thread I’ve heard about the sacred “right to assembly” enshrined in the First Amendment. Be advised that the right is a political one, the right to assemble is for political purposes, and is definitely not a right to “assemble in the street” to … do whatever that is. This has has nothing to do with petitioning the government for a redress of grievances or anything else rational. As such, it is well outside the scope of our cherished, but often fetishized and misunderstood, right to assembly.

Chopper mark
Guest
Chopper mark

Pat’s Acres Racing Complex in Canby does drifting events. Although what is needed for this activity is a flat area enclosed with K-rails for people to do burnouts, donuts, and drifting in. Sign a waiver, pay for time or maybe offer some sort of membership. There would probably need to be some kind of emergency/fire response on duty as well. PIR has a fairly large parking lot, not sure if they are willing to get it coated with rubber skid marks.

It’s going to continue and will likely get bigger. Police crackdowns won’t do anything to stop it. This is just the new face of hot rodding, which had its birth in the US when the first 1932 Ford V-8 got crashed and the engine found its way into a Model T. And don’t think that going to electric cars will stop it, having all the torque available at zero rpm makes for some very easy tire spinning, so hot rodding will just continue to evolve.

David Hampsten
Guest
David Hampsten

Read the ordinance itself, the code language. With this new ordinance, bicycling and skateboarding on city streets will effectively be illegal:
1. Highway means the entire width of a public right-of-way when any portion thereof is intended for motor vehicle movement or motor vehicle access to abutting property.

Way to go Portland, national leader in driving the nail into the bicycling coffin.

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

It’s not clear to me why that wording would make cycling or skateboarding illegal. Can you elaborate?

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

He’s confused. He’s only quoting part of the ordinance, and omitting the part that applies it only to people operating motor vehicles.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

The propositional logic here is “IF mv access, THEN ‘highway'”. This is not logically equivalent to the statement you are implying, “IF ‘highway’, THEN exclusive mv access”. Including the definition may seem redundant, but it doesn’t imply what you are suggesting it does.

JR
Guest
JR

This appears to be happening all over the city. I see the characteristic circular tire marks on all manner of streets and parking lots around NE Portland. I can also hear this happening almost every night, usually after 6pm. It’s dangerous, bad for the environment, and harms our collective quality of life (noise, pollution, safety, traffic jams, etc). I’m all for enforcement of current laws to shut this down. If we absolutely need a new law, so be it. The primary penalty I’d like to see is impounding the vehicles (assuming they aren’t stolen, in which case jail).

Laura
Guest
Laura

Living near Division/48th, this has been going on for a while, including, IIRC, the night Noah Terry was shot. There are “Noah Terry memorial events” all the time, some week nights and nearly every Sunday for the past few weeks. It seems that folks are pre-functioning here, and then going up to MLK/Columbia for the big show. I feel sorry for the businesses and residents at that intersection, especially knowing how loud and smelly it is 6 blocks away. I know people who have been threatened with violence, simply for trying to walk thru the area, and don’t get me started on the fear instilled in neighborhood pets and veterans. This past Sunday, folks were also racing down Clinton in the area between 45th and Chavez. I walked by the area on Monday morning, and was impressed (sarcasm) by the amount of tire debris that would ultimately get into our storm drains and the river. Skateboarders didn’t create this amount of noise, pollution, and threat to others. In the era of climate change, it needs to stop.

Go big bike guy.
Guest
Go big bike guy.

I’m 100% for this new law. I’m 100% sure it won’t do anything.
The problem is Portlanders have decided they value being woke more than having a functioning civil society with enforcement of laws.
This law won’t help until the politicians hear from people who want their 911 calls answered, garbage picked up, not have their bike stolen repeatedly and are tired of the lawlessness allowed in this formerly beautiful city.

SPEAK UP PEOPLE!

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

Is “woke” some sort of Millinneal or Boomer jargon for “respecting Constitutional rights”? See, the fascist tropes sneak in so insidiously that it’s almost imperceptible.

Mark in NoPo
Guest
Mark in NoPo

Nowhere does “Go big bike guy” suggest abrogating anyone’s rights under the Constitution, Dude. You’re seeing phantoms — that’s why they’re imperceptible.

— A “Millennial” who rolls his eyes at identity-based insults

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

Portland successfully curbed ‘cruising’ back in the day, and I’d have to say cruising was a lot less dangerous of an activity than sliding and drifting in public is.

Don Courtney
Guest
Don Courtney

It’s official, this blog has swallowed the blue pill/kook-aid. There is no society that functions without a police mechanism. Particularly one as violent and without traditional family restraints as the United States. Just take a look farther south to Mexico, the Carribean, Central America, and South America, all have higher violent crime than here, none have a weak police force.

Steve C
Guest
Steve C

I can follow you, though I might disagree, regarding the need for strong police presence in our society. But those examples, they aren’t doing you any favors. Miss me with your Mexican style murderous and corrupt police force.