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!
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