State legal office says civil disorder bill would not apply to bicycle corkers

A woman stops traffic with her bicycle during a protest in downtown Portland, July 2020. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

As we shared last month, a law making its way through the legislative process in Salem has some folks concerned that it could be applied broadly enough to capture a common form of traffic management during large events known as “corking.” In Portland, corking is typically done by bicycle riders because of their ability to move quickly through streets and use their bikes to form a wall in front of cross-traffic in a way that encourages drivers to stop and wait for people in a parade, protest or big group ride to get across an intersection safely.

The chief sponsor of House Bill 2572, Representative Dacia Grayber (D – Tigard), heard this concern from the community and took up the issue directly with the state’s Office of Legislative Counsel. “LC” as it’s known in Salem, is an office of legal experts that writes and edits bill language, researches statutes, advises lawmakers on legal matters, and so on.

Grayber and other supporters of the bill see it as a crucial tool to thwart paramilitary activity from groups or individuals who do things like attack power stations, form gun-toting militias to intimidate others, and so on. To increase its odds of passage, Grayber wants to prove to Oregonians that activities like bicycle corking would not be caught up in the law if the bill passed.

According to the Chief Executive of the Office of Legislative Counsel, Dexter Johnson, corkers have nothing to worry about.

In a letter (PDF) to Rep. Grayber dated April 28th, Johnson writes: “You asked whether the -3 amendments to House Bill 2572 would apply to persons engaging in ‘corking,’ or using bicycles in a coordinated manner to restrict or block traffic during a protest, march or demonstration. The answer is, most likely, no.”

Here’s the salient excerpt from Johnson’s letter:

“In order to be subject to a cause of action under the -3 amendments to HB 2572, a person who engages in corking would need to: (1) act as part of, on behalf of or in furtherance of an objective of, a private paramilitary organization; (2) be armed with a dangerous or deadly weapon; and (3) engage in the specific conduct described in the -3 amendments. The conduct that seems most applicable to corking is when a person “[a]ssumes, exercises or asserts, without legal authorization, the functions, powers or duties of” law enforcement or local government officials, or prevents a person “from engaging in conduct in which the other person has a legal right to engage.” Beginning with the third element described above, it is possible that a court would find that, by blocking traffic, a person engaging in corking is preventing persons from being able to engage in conduct in which they have a legal right to engage (proceeding down the street), or is assuming the function of a law enforcement officer performing traffic control functions. However, a person engaging in corking likely would not satisfy the other two elements and therefore would not be subject to the cause of action…

a group of persons blocking traffic with bicycles is most likely not functioning as a combat, combat support or law enforcement unit. The term “security services” is not defined, but a court seeking to determine the meaning of that term would engage in a structured methodology to discern the intent of the Legislative Assembly that enacted the statute in question.2 Under this methodology, a court looks first to the text and context of the statute, considers proffered legislative history and finally weighs general maxims of statutory construction if there is any remaining uncertainty.”

As to whether a bicycle could be considered a “dangerous weapon,” Johnson says that’s very unlikely:

“… a bicycle is not a deadly weapon, as it is not ‘specifically designed for’ causing death or serious physical injury. A bicycle is also not a dangerous weapon unless the bicycle is ‘used, attempted to be used or threatened to be used’ in a manner that is ‘readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury.’ A court would almost certainly find that when a person is simply standing with a bicycle, blocking traffic, the bicycle is not a dangerous weapon.”

Johnson concludes by saying his office believes corkers would not be subject to the law.

HB 2572 is scheduled for a work session and possible vote today (5/11) at 1:00 pm in the House Committee on Rules.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Kyle Banerjee
Kyle Banerjee
9 months ago

The apparent target of the bill — real or implied intimidation or threat of violence — should be a crime.

Nonetheless, I hope nonviolent corkers won’t be encouraged by the legal distinction should the bill pass. The tactic only promotes negative attitudes towards those associated with those who engage in in it and provokes conflict.

I don’t understand why people recognize, let alone submit to the authority of self appointed yahoos. I won’t myself — including those I’m otherwise philosophically aligned with.

If people want to encourage cycling, just ride more and forego the bicycle theater. At 5pm on BN yesterday, I saw almost no one and rode completely unimpeded full speed on a race bike. Despite perfect weather this week, I’m not encountering cyclists on Interstate, Broadway, and a bunch of other great infrastructure at what should be busy times. Interestingly, I am finding plenty of cyclists in the hills where there are no bike lanes and the vehicles drive faster.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerjee

Despite perfect weather this week, I’m not encountering cyclists on Interstate, Broadway, and a bunch of other great infrastructure at what should be busy times.

The Williams-Vancouver bike lane couplet was nearly empty during peak am hours yesterday. It feels like the ongoing decline in cycling mode share has sharpened this spring.

dwk
dwk
9 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

I rode the WV bike lanes this morning at 7:45 and saw exactly ZERO cyclists. It’s astonishing.
At this rate asking PBOT for any funding for cycling is a tough sell….

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  dwk

At this rate asking PBOT for any funding for cycling is a tough sell….

Most seem to be in denial about the political implications of the ongoing decline in cycling mode share.

dwk
dwk
9 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Wheeler is adding to the political implications by not having the city employees working downtown again. That would immediately put some cyclists back in the bike lanes again and improve the look for cycling funding.
It would help bring downtown back also.
It would also allow the public to actually see people that work for the city if they have problems they want addressed. Too heavy a lift for Ted apparently.

cc_rider
cc_rider
9 months ago
Reply to  dwk

Wheeler is adding to the political implications by not having the city employees working downtown again. That would immediately put some cyclists back in the bike lanes again and improve the look for cycling funding.

Ah yes public workers need to personally donate 260 – 520 hours of their life each year for no other gain than trying to force them to spend money they don’t have downtown.

The City of Portland already has a brain drain. Why wouldn’t someone just go to the State, which needs workers, or any of the counties in the metro that have 100% WFH positions?

The argument that city workers need to go in to the office solely to try and get an economic improvement downtown is so gross.

It would also allow the public to actually see people that work for the city if they have problems they want addressed

LMAO random public employees shouldn’t have to field random complaints on the street.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

As I ride my bike around this city it definitely feels like there has been marked decay in the social contract and shared commons. Perhaps having so many public servants work in their home offices has contributed to this. In particular, I think one of the reasons that Portland’s bikeway are in disrepair and are often blocked by construction (without detour) is that PBOT and BDS employees no longer ride them.

cc_rider
cc_rider
9 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Perhaps having so many public servants work in their home offices has contributed to this.

Ah yes, the nationwide break in the social contract is due to City of Portland employees working in the neighborhood they live in instead of downtown.

Maybe we should have some evidence instead of just making stuff up?

I think one of the reasons that Portland’s bikeway are in disrepair and are often blocked by construction (without detour) is that PBOT and BDS employees no longer ride them.

Come on, I feel like so many commenters on Portlands current state either moved here a year ago or have rose tinted glasses about before 2020. Construction has chronically blocked bike lanes without a proper detour the entire decade I’ve lived here. Portland’s ‘bikeways’ are 90% gutter lanes, of course they are going to be in disrepair.

CoP employees (outside of PPB) generally live in the city.

Like I said, the rank and file know the city is a dumpster fire and want change, its the leadership who is the problem.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

Construction has chronically blocked bike lanes without a proper detour the entire decade I’ve lived here.

I’ve cycled in Portland on a near daily basis for 23+ years and I never once saw a major bridge bikeway closed with no detour for many months (e.g. requiring people to merge into traffic on Burnside for multiple blocks). Similarly, I rarely experienced major Portland bikeways being closed for many months without any recourse or detour. If you can’t recognize the accelerated decay and neglect of our major bikeways then I would suggest that you don’t ride them much.

CoP employees (outside of PPB) generally live in the city.

And I expect that like Portland in general most have stopped riding their bikes on utilitarian routes.

cc_rider
cc_rider
9 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

If you can’t recognize the accelerated decay and neglect of our major bikeways then I would suggest that you don’t ride them much.

I don’t bike as much as I used to, that’s for sure. The PPB slow down and PBOT’s refusal to provide safe infrastructure has turned me into a 10% bike, 90% car kind of guy where I used to use my bike 100% of the time. I can’t even ride to get groceries anymore because the shanty town behind Freddies makes me feel certain my bike will get stolen. Its super sad.

That being said, the person I was replying to made the claim that they are decaying because CoP employees are dragging their meat suits to a very specific part of town, which is nonsense.

Our entire city is decaying because we have reached a critical mass of incompetence in the executive staff. It’s not because CoP are unaware there are problems.

I’ve cycled in Portland on a near daily basis for 23+ years and I never once saw a major bridge bikeway closed with no detour for many months

I fought a protracted battle with a construction company who was building something and their construction setup removed both the sidewalk and the bike lane for over a year at Denver for Rosa Parks, a couple of years ago.

I worked with the city, got them fined, and they’d keep right on doing it because it’s cheaper than doing it correctly. The City really doesn’t have the tools to punish bad actors.

dwk
dwk
9 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

10% biking and 90% driving explains a lot…..
Cycling is just not important to you, therefore it’s not important that people bike to downtown anymore.
For people who bike 90% and drive 10% it’s very important that there are more people in the bike lanes so we are ALL more visible.
It does not matter to you since you don’t bike much.
It’s pretty clear that non bike people are the majority of the commenters here which explains so much why cycling for transportation has fallen off the cliff.
No one really cares if anyone is commuting or not. That does not bode well for future support of Cycling infrastructure.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
9 months ago
Reply to  cc_rider

Competency is no longer the main item we hire people on.

Kyle Banerje
9 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

It’s gone off a cliff — I’m seeing this virtually everywhere. Just so happens I was filming on BN yesterday so people can see for themselves how few people there were going in either direction on a perfect day during rush hour in the busiest area of town. Going back to NoPo, I encountered zero cyclists on the Steel Bridge, one at the crossing, and one on Interstate.

The weather has been outstanding, traffic has gotten better (except for street racing), and there is truly no reason not to ride. Seems like a super high percentage of the few people I do encounter are electric powered.

On the plus side, at least it’s easy to get around

Dwk
Dwk
9 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerje

I don’t think there’s a plus to it. I feel like it’s 20 years ago and I am invisible again to drivers. I can tell they are not looking and don’t expect cyclists to be on the road. The traffic crossing the bike lane by the New Seasons to get on the freeway were not even checking the rear view mirrors.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  Dwk

I feel like it’s 20 years ago and I am invisible again to drivers.

This is exactly how it feels. I’ll still bike because I loathe driving but the level of hyper-vigilance required is so 90s (no the 1890s, the 1990s).

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  Kyle Banerje

On the plus side, at least it’s easy to get around

Definitely easier to go fast but it seems like formerly-important bike routes are prone to long-term closure these days (e.g. east side of the burnside bridge).

Phoenix
Phoenix
9 months ago

Great. But we all know that there has never been a law enacted that was “not meant to be enforced that way” has ever, in the history of the world, actually been enforced in exactly that way…
/s

Politicians may enact them, but the enforcement is up to the DAs, who may very well have a completely different idea/intention/agenda.

Sheilagh A Griffin
Sheilagh A Griffin
9 months ago

Oops, “As to weather a bicycle…” wrong weather/whether is more appropriate here. Darn autocorrect!

Jonathan, feel free to delete this after you fix that!^^

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
9 months ago

Corking is bad. I don’t care if it’s Bike Loud or the Gypsy Jokers doing it.

I have witnessed WNBR corkers harass, insult and challenge drivers to physical confrontation. It will no doubt happen again this year.

It’s antisocial, toxic behavior and the bike community needs to take a long hard look in the mirror. Expel the people who bring us all down with their selfish actions.

Fred
Fred
9 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

I agree, What is WNBR?

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
9 months ago
Reply to  Fred

World Naked Bike Ride

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
9 months ago
Reply to  Fred

World Naked Bike Ride.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
9 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

Dave Fronk, I cannot speak to the more recent era of corking behaviour you witnessed, but pre 2010 corking – in my experience – the corking was very important to keep smaller (than say 0000’s of riders, even naked) protest ride pelotons together especially when the PPB was actively physically fighting cyclist access to roadways outside of the CBD and trying to kettle and pick off individuals.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
9 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

Corking is the safest and fastest way to move hundreds or thousands of people through an intersection. Cars might not realize it but if bikes didn’t cork they could potentially tie up streets for a very long time trying to move thousands of riders through and intersection at just a handful at time

Trike Guy
Trike Guy
9 months ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

I’m 99.9% certain that cars never realize anything – unless AI and automated vehicles have come a lot farther than I thought.

Of course, having been on a bus that was held up for over 8minutes by corkers who were abusive and arrogant and having missed my connection to an hourly bus as a result, I *really* get the anti-corker sentiment I’m seeing here.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
9 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

I’m inclined to agree with you…but admittedly my attitude depends upon the nature of the event. Something like the Naked Bike Ride is based in fun and doesn’t necessarily have an agenda.

But stopping traffic for something poltical just comes across differently. It’s like the participants are purposely trying to be jerks – and that gets a different response from other road users.

Dave Fronk
Dave Fronk
9 months ago

WNBR is absolutely political and the people claiming otherwise are either uninformed or are intentionally muddying the conversation to avoid the hard questions.

It protests “oil dependence” by creating a giant rolling traffic traffic jam.

If refuses to publish its route so that it’s impossible for drivers to avoid. Maximizing inconvenience is the intent. It’s a huge middle finger to our community and corking is on the front line, making sure that drivers feel the resentment.

WNBR may have been fun a decade ago, and it’s probably still fun in other cities, but in Portland the goal is to further the idealogical divide between cyclists and drivers.

It’s time to end the phony culture war.

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

WNBR is “political” so riding naked can be labeled political speech and thus confer more protection to riders. It most definitely does not feel political when riding it (or partying afterward). The traffic jam effect is essentially meaningless when the ride is late on a Saturday night. The route is unpublished to reduce gawking.

WNBR is a rolling party. It asks no hard questions.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
9 months ago
Reply to  Watts

If WNBR were a political protest against fossil fuels it would be held at rush hour and would not openly cooperate with the Portland police. Unfortunately, it’s really nothing more than a giant naked party (with many, if not most, participants driving to the start location).

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
9 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

That’s weird. It looks like the people are having fun. Several of my friends who ride it have never mentioned it was all about oil dependency, so thank you for telling them why they are doing it.

If you speak for everyone who rides it, that’s good to know.

Matt P
Matt P
9 months ago
Reply to  Dave Fronk

It’s for exhibitionists. Nothing more.

X
X
9 months ago

Having spoken with people who do corking, they rely on communication and de-escalation to reach out to people who happen to be present in motor vehicles. ‘Being a jerk’ would be a poor tactic.

Fred
Fred
9 months ago

I don’t care if it’s legal – I don’t think cyclists should cork the roads, EVER.

Well, maybe if there’s a person down in the road or some other emergency situation, then it would be okay. But corking roads to allow groups to stay together is just wrong and makes drivers hate us.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
9 months ago
Reply to  Fred

They hate us anyways

Watts
Watts
9 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Corking also makes group rides much more enjoyable and quite possibly safer.

idlebytes
idlebytes
9 months ago
Reply to  Fred

But corking roads to allow groups to stay together is just wrong and makes drivers hate us.

Ya lets have cyclists wait at each light as 10,000+ of us spread out across the city for half a day. Even smaller group rides would take significantly longer if we didn’t cork. If you think drivers are upset about corking wait till you see how upset they get being unable to use a road for 6 hours. It’s equivalent to blocking roads for parades or marathons.

Karl Dickman
Karl Dickman
9 months ago
Reply to  idlebytes

I’ve been honked at, tailgated, screamed at, punishment passed, or otherwise menaced while riding my bike at 10 mph in a 10 mph zone, 15 in a 15, 20 in a 20, 25 in a 25, 30 in a 30, 35 in a 35, and 35 in a 25. Each one of those speeds represents 2 or 3 instances, not just one each. They weren’t mad that I was delaying them, they were mad that I was on the road at all.

M
M
9 months ago

Well, the bicycle may or may not be considered a weapon, but a u-lock or chain? Probably.

In any case, the potential for abuse should be obvious and while IANAL it certainly seems constitutionally suspect.

Doug Klotz
Doug Klotz
9 months ago

There’s enough caveats in that opinion that I don’t trust that that’s how things would play out, especially with PPB making up their own laws as they seem to often do.

John Dovydenas
9 months ago

This is such a moot point. They dont even ticket the street racers.

Patrick Cashman
Patrick Cashman
9 months ago

God forbid somebody in this town go about their lives freely without having to pay homage to the bike activists. Now they feel empowered to control traffic and can’t be bothered to even get a permit for their “Naked Rides”. Absolute bullies and fascists.
From: engstrom, ty
Subject: World Naked Bike Ride 2023
To: Stainbrook, Rick
Cc: Madsen, Allison; Brant, Kristi; Petrov, Christopher; Felts, Kevin; Andrusko, Steven;
matt.d.studer@multco.us
Sent: April 19, 2023 9:05 PM (UTC+00:00)
Lt. Stainbrook,
Per our discussion this morning, I wanted to email you concerning the World Naked Bike Ride
(WMBR). This event is part of a larger summer-long event called “Pedalpalooza,” which coordinates
cycling events throughout the months of June, July and August. Historically, the WNBR has been the
last Saturday in June. Last year it was the last Sunday in July. We blocked both those dates out this
year as ALL HANDS days for our staff and required mandatory participation.
In the past, this event grew year after year until they finally obtained a permit through the city in 2009 or
2010. The Traffic Division helped to facilitate the movement of the group for several years. The last
time we had contact with any organizers of this event was in late 2019 or early 2020 when I attended a
planning meeting with Sgt. Barnum. As you know, in 2020 COVID happened and we did not help
facilitate any portion of the event that year. I am not sure if they held a small version of it or not in
2020. In 2021 and 2022, the WMBR took place with no police assistance or city permits and did not
appear to have any issues that impacted the community that I am aware of. Again this year, neither we
nor PBOT have received any contact from the organizers of this event and this morning the Traffic
Division released those ALL HANDS dates in June and July.
I heard second hand this morning that organizers of this event are potentially looking to have the 2023
WMBR on Sunday, August 27th. I checked their websites and there are currently no dates advertised
for 2023. I found out about this date from Multnomah County Bridges Supervisor, Matt Studer, who
oversees permitting for bridge use. He said an organizer contacted him today with vague interest in
using the Burnside Bridge for a large-scale cycling event on that date. They wanted to use the bridge
as a staging location for their ride. Matt was able to confirm it was for the WNBR. He informed me that
Multnomah County would likely not issue a permit for this if the city was not issuing permits for the ride
itself.
At this point, I still have received no contact from any WNBR organizers. As we discussed, we are not
making this new date in August an ALL HANDS date as the organizers have not contacted us and have
not attempted to obtain any permits from PBOT. I wanted to prepare this information to be forwarded
on to PPB command in case the CHO felt it necessary to stand up an IMT or prepare any resources.
Again, the last couple years, the event has taken place without our assistance and I am not aware of
any major issues arising from those events.
Let me know if there is anything further you need from me or any action you want me to take. Thanks,
Ty
Sgt. Ty D. Engstrom, 43502
Portland Police Bureau
SRD – Traffic Division
Motor Unit & Special Events
(503)545-3398 Cell
ty.engstrom@police.portlandoregon.gov
Save a life, arrest an impaired driver!!!