Bob’s own scofflaw past revealed!
By Bob Mionske
I was riding on a sidewalk in downtown Portland last month and a policeofficer, riding on the same sidewalk “pulled me over.” At first I thoughthe was kidding and said something like “how fast was I doing officer?”It turns out he wasn’t all that amused and said it was against the lawto ride on sidewalks in downtown. I had entered the sidewalk to get arounda huge construction hole. Should I fight this ticket and what advice doyou have? By the way, the cop was also riding on the sidewalk!
Portland, OregonDear M. Eisenhart;
In the words of Shakespeare you were “hoisted with your own petar.”In other words, it seems you may have been injured by your own rapier-likewit (I, myself am all too familiar with the risks of being a wise guy).This is especially true when your area has a history of antagonism betweenpolice and cyclists. Sometimes the most expedient way to avoid troublewhen you have been stopped for a traffic violation is to be cooperativeand contrite- read brown nose. You may get off with only a warning. Butdon’t fret; you may have the last laugh after all.Many cities prohibit the riding of bicycles on the sidewalks in theirdowntown areas. The pertinent portion for your case from Portland’s ordinancereads:
No person may:
Ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, unless avoiding a traffic hazard in the immediate area, within the area bounded by and including SW Jefferson, Front Avenue, NW Hoyt and 13th Avenue except:
On sidewalks designated as bike lanes or paths:On the ramps or approaches to any Willamette River Bridge;In the area bounded by the west property line of SW Ninth Avenue, the east property line of SW Park Avenue, the north property line of SW Jeffersonand the south property line of SW Salmon Street.For police or special officers operating a bicycle in the course and scope of their duties
So if you were within this boxed area you can only lawfully ride on thesidewalk to avoid “a traffic hazard in the immediate area”. I would needto know more about the construction hole, but this should fit nicely intothe listed exception to sidewalk riding. Clearly the police officers presenceon the sidewalk was lawful as the fourth exceptions allows for police toride when on duty.At your court appearance (and/or in your written plea to the charge)explain to the judge why you found yourself on the sidewalk and referencethe traffic hazard exception. If this hazard still exists, get pictures.If you have witnesses get statements that support your defense.Also, be prepared to explain any and all comments made to the ticketingofficer as the judge may have a narrative of the event (while it shouldn’tmatter what you said to the officer, the judge is less likely to use hisdiscretion to dismiss if he feels you were uncooperative or hostile).By way of example, I once appeared in city court on charges of usinga “toy in the street” (for in-line skating) and resisting arrest for skatingaway (he couldn’t ride down stairs, but a few miles later justice caughtup to me in the form of a very angry cop in a squad car). My defense wasthat I didn’t hear the cop yelling at me because I was wearing headphones.Later, when I was in front of the court, the judge said “if you didn’tknow the officer was trying to stop you, please explain why this reportthat I have here in my hand state that that you yelled ’if you want meto stop you will have to catch me.’”I had a quick thinking reply- but it didn’t fly and while he eventuallydismissed the toy in the street charge, I had to pay the costlier ticketfor disobeying the officer’s command to stop.
Bob(Research and drafting assistance provided by Bruce Epperson-lawstudent-Nova Southeast University)
Now read the fine print:
Bob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented the U.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the road race), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championship road race.
After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske’s practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).
If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to email@example.com. Bob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions each week to answer in this column. General bicycle-accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.
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