portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting portland metro

bikes/transportation | police / legal

September Critical Mass

This month's critical mass saw the PPB passionately enforcing lighting requirements with the obsessive linear misguidedness of a teen in lust. As a point of reference for this article I have pasted the OSR that was key in my interactions last night.
815.280 Violation of bicycle equipment requirements; requirements; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of violation of bicycle equipment requirements if the person does any of the following:


(c) At the times described in the following, a bicycle or its rider must be equipped with lighting equipment that meets the described requirements:

(A) The lighting equipment must be used during limited visibility conditions.

(B) The lighting equipment must show a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the bicycle.

(C) The lighting equipment must have a red reflector or lighting devise or material of such size or characteristic and so mounted as to be visible from all distance up to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlights on a motor vehicle.


The ride started out with what appeared to be a one-to-one ration of bicycle officers to Critical Massers. Though the heavy down poor of rain severely limited the turn out last nights ride and lessened the disposition of the officers assigned to the ride ... for me (Jasun Wurster) this ride again reaffirmed why I feel Portland needs Critical Mass.

My interaction started as most do. An officer was commenting to another rider how they needed to get off the road because they did not possess a rear light per OSR 815.280 section C paragraph c. I politely told the officer that he was misinterpreting the law. At that point the officer told me that I had to get off of the road because I was in violation of the law as well.

Now my involvement with Critical Mass is not to antagonize ... though last night I was really in my typical antisocial moods ... however, for me the point of this ride is to educate. This includes drivers, bike riders and most importantly the PPB officers who's limited resources are grossly misappropriated monthly to the ride.

I politely showed the officer, who identified himself as the Sargent in charge, that I had a front light that was on and clearly not in violation of the law. To that point his reply was "Get off the road or get a ticket". Again, maintaining my composure for I knew the above law I informed the officer that I will take his frivolous ticket. As we retire to the sidewalk I ask him that he please show me the OSR that I am in violation of ... for I know that all PPB officers have a small book with all traffic related laws as a standard part of their equipment.

I was surprised that the officer in charge refused to look up the above law to educate me that I was in violation of his perception of the law. After a few moments of politely talking with the officer he informed me that he did not have time to look up the law because he was in charge. Understanding this I asked if he could delegate one of the many officers under his command to assist him with this ticked.

He told me to stay put and went to talk to a small group approximately 6 bicycle and motorcycle officers that had gathered next to me. I heard the officers talking to him and telling him that I was in the right. With that a different officer told me that I was free to go. In which I thanked him and at the same time relayed me disappointment in this incident. Ok I was not all that disappointed for a cute girl saw the whole thing and commented how proud she was of me ... ok I ride Critical Mass for a few other reasons as well.

Anyhow, I did have another officer tell me that the law stated that I had to have a 'solid' white front light and if I would change my light over from blinking to solid. Wanting more to talk to the above mentioned girl and not this overzealous officer I told him that for Critical Mass I will have a solid light, though I think he is mistaken, and thanked him as.

About 10 minuets later on our ride down 4th the officers informed us that they were leaving the ride and to have a safe night. With that Critical Mass was rolling without any police and the 20 or so of us had a kick ass ride across the Burnside Bridge in which Jane initiated a bike lift for the traffic stuck at a stand still on I-5 Northbound on our way to Free Geek for free food and drink.

Anyhow, there are monthly meetings in which anyone can attend between the PPB and riders to help educate and express concerns. Yea, I was a bit upset of the officers propagating their warped interpretation of the law in a attempt to intimidate me. But in the end I feel as though I was able to educate about half a dozen officers and all my friends ... plus went to a cool party with the cute girl.