portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article portland metro


"Dangerous Driving Complaint Month"

March has been declared "Dangerous Driving Complaint Month". Declarers urge people to call the police at 503-823-3333 and file a complaint about each and every dangerous encounter with an automobile they witness or experience.
Cyclists face dangerous encounters with car drivers daily. In Portland, a lot of work has been done to designate clearly marked bike paths. Drivers are still largely unaware of the bicyclists that surround them. The irresponsible driving is due to many factors. For one, the automobile shuts one off from the natural world and boxes the driver in a whole other environment. Drivers are not as conscious of others around them. Also, despite warnings against it, many drivers still talk on cell phones while navigating through the city.

Around the world in over 100 cities cyclists gather on the last Friday of the month to raise awareness for the need for bicycle transportation. It's called Critical Mass and it's a celebration of the use of bicycles instead of cars that has been happening for years. The cyclists generally feel safer riding in large groups.

In Portland, Critical Mass riders face excessive police presence and force. Police will find ways to cite even the law-abiding riders. National Lawyers' Guild Legal Observers have even been ticketed. The absurdity of the citations and force is exhausting. In the Fall a rider was questioning why the police were using so much force with a small female rider. A short calm rider himself, while not in motion he was thrown to the ground by officers with enough force to damage his handle bars and was then arrested. In February a rider was told this his new one inch by one inch halogen front light looked blue, a color reserved for police vehicles. The officer stated that in this day and age with all the kidnappings and violence out there, we need to be certain which vehicles are the police. The rider was then issued a ticket for $77.00. The light has the same hue as the extra bright lights used in many new luxury cars. Another cyclist on the same ride was cited for an unlawful load: a small bucket on his handlebars that contained a video camera.

When questioned about the excessive police presence, Mayor Katz states that in her neighborhood, people are afraid of Critical Mass riders because they pound on the hoods of cars. Commander Findling, the officer in charge of the police presence on Critical Mass rides, also uses the urban legend of hood pounding as justification for having nearly one police vehicle for each participant in Critical Mass. Findling states he receives complaints from drivers about the dangerous riding of Critical Mass cyclists.

While there may have been a few instances in the past when a rider touched the hood of a car, this excuse has been blown out of proportion and is now largely an urban legend. Cyclists, collectively, face many more *daily* dangerous encounters than the number of dangerous encounters ever faced by motorists on all Portland Critical Mass rides.

Outraged citizens feel that the Portland Police are using false justification for extreme police presence and violence on rides. They want to make it very clear to the Police Bureau that cyclists endure fear, death and injury on a daily basis because of unlawful drivers.

March has been declared "Dangerous Driving Complaint Month". Declarers urge people to call the police at 503-823-3333 and file a complaint about each and every dangerous encounter with an automobile they witness or experience. They also ask that you send a note to  BadMoveDriver@ziplip.com when you call in a complaint so they may gauge the number of complaints logged. Even if the license plate number is not known, the complaint will be logged.

For the safety of all cyclists!

to be kept abreast of issues related to Critical Mass, join the Critical Mass listserver by sending a blank e-mail to  lists@tao.ca
in the message field type: subscribe pdx-cmass
Great Idea! 02.Mar.2001 10:29

Biker Boy

I almost got hit today so I called up. They were encouraging me to give a plate number but I didn't have that. Thay almost made it sound as if "if you don't have a license plate number this complaint is no good" but that's not true. all it means is that they cannot investigate. But yes, they can log it and are required to.

Bike ON

Hit 'Em Where It Hurt$ 03.Mar.2001 17:39

from Biker-x (not the poster)

Overcoming the rampant police brutality that affected SFCM for a year, took a combination of almost every conceivable strategy. One of the most successful tactics in overcoming the harassment was filing claims and pursuing legal action against the city. Why does this work? It's simple: cities don't really take notice of police brutality and misconduct
problems until it starts costing them MONEY.

Before you can sue the city for harassment, wrongful arrest and imprisonment, physical injury, loss of transportation, bogus citations, civil rights damages, and so forth, you need to file a claim for damages against the city. It's a simple and cost-free process. You can obtain standard forms from the city itself. Contact the city attorney, and
inquire where you can pick up the forms, or get the assistance of a sympathetic lawyer or the NLG.

Believe it or not, car drivers routinely collect damages from cities for auto damages caused by potholes and roads in disrepair. I know cyclists who have collected damages for injuries and bicycle damages as well. If you feel your civil rights (right to peaceably assemble and communicate
under the First Amendment) have been violated, if you are a victim of false arrest or physical injuries, or have any monetary losses from having a bike impounded, lost work, wages, legal fees, etc., you should consider filing such a claim.

Cyclists in SF filed dozens of claims, alone and in groups, prior to succeeding in ending police harassment. Claims are routinely denied within 30 to 180 days, then you have up to a year to pursue legal action. I know of a number of claims that were paid out in SF, and a number of small claims court victories from people who followed with legal action. Claims were circulated prior to SFCM rides to address various instances of police abuse. Police harassment ceased for 2 or 3 months immediately after claims were first filed in SF. For maximum impact, file the claims in a group a
few days before a ride. The city attorney will not be able to investigate the claims in time to reject them, and the chances of an interim cessation of police misconduct is maximized.

While no attorneys may volunteer to assist Portland CM affirm cyclists civil rights now, building a mounting number of claims and evidence is important for potential legal action in the future. Consult an attorney regarding claim language, to see if you can file claims that will enable you to become part of a class at a future date. For civil rights violations in California, you do not need to specify an amount of damages if your claim is over $5000. Unless you have specific damages, such as hospital bills, lost wages, phone bills, bike repair bills, etc. relating
to a case, small claims court is not an option if your claim is rejected. However, you are still able to file a case in civil court to follow thorugh on your claim.

Filing a claim is simple. You need only submit a brief description of what occurred, what your claim is for, and names of officer(s) involved. It's also useful to name the city's police department as well. While individual
officers may be protected under color of law from personal prosecution, the city is liable for the conduct and actions of its officers while on duty, including any damages. You do not have to submit hard evidence or eyewitness names when filing a claim: that should be saved for court.
Don't offer statements or evidence that might be used against your case.

IMPORTANT: it is ILLEGAL to file a FALSE or FRAUDULENT claim. Consult a sympathetic attorney or law student, if possible, to look over your claim first.

I personally know of no one who filed a claim in SF who was ever challenged, but all claims filed to my knowledge were legitimately for specific incidents of brutality and rights violations. If you believe an incident or action has violated your consitutional or other rights, you
have the legal right to file and pursue such a claim. Among those CM rders I know, the right to ride bikes together is held a fully protected constitutional right. The cops know that; sometimes you have to assert and affirm your rights through legal means.

When police target CM, it is a war of attrition. Don't think any one ride or action is going to end their harassment. You need to think long-term, and build a solid pattern of evidence and damages leading up to such a
case. Sooner or later, the cops' heavy-handed and unconstitutional tactics catch up with them, and Portland CM will be well-positioned for a legal victory (if the cops don't back down first).

monitor areas 29.Mar.2001 21:46


823-2103 is the number to call for the transportation division to report areas where you repeatedly faces dangerous situations. i spoe with an offiv=cer tonight who said when people call the traffic division about such a thing, they will then monitor the intersection/area. i suppose it takes several people to call about an area.

what areas do you find to be crazy?

all of em! i say.

ride ride ride ride ride