In Roseburg, popularity of bicycling thwarts punitive police power grab

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 22nd, 2012 at 9:56 am

Source: BikePortland.org

Gravel and leaves in the bike lane on N. Interstate Ave.(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Gravel and leaves in the bike lane on N. Interstate Ave.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Earlier this month, police officers in the City of Roseburg tried to strengthen their authority to ticket people who do not ride in bike lanes. They thought they could sneak an agenda item through City Council and be on their way. It turns out, they were wrong.

Officers wanted to close a loophole in ORS 814.420, the law that mandates people on bicycles must use a bike lane if/when one is available (there are myriad exceptions to the rule). Specifically, the police wanted to close the loophole that says a person is not required to follow the law, “unless the state or local authority… finds, after public hearing, that the bicycle lane or bicycle path is suitable for safe bicycle use at reasonable rates of speed.”

By police department request, City staffers provided Roseburg City Council with a list of all the bike lanes in Roseburg and the put it on the council agenda. The thinking was, if the list was passed, it would qualify as the “public hearing” required by law and would make it easier for Roseburg police to successfully prosecute people for riding outside the bike lane. The problem with that is, there would be no public process or qualitative analysis to make sure that those bike lanes were indeed “safe for bicycle use”.

I’m happy to report today that common sense has prevailed.

BikePortland reader and Roseburg resident Dick Dolgonas shared the following update about what happened:

“As you know, the City staff had proposed a hearing to allow officers to cite riders for not riding in bike lanes, with the exceptions noted in state law. Staff ended up taking the item off the agenda, but in the meantime local cyclists had been prepared, so they spoke to the City Council under audience participation.

Members of the Roseburg Bicycle/Pedestrian Coalition distributed photos of bike lanes which were inadequate, and spoke of the need to address safety issues. Others spoke of the need to promote cycling, including a member of the Umpqua Basin Economic Alliance who noted that being a bicycle-friendly city is key to attracting visitors and recreationists. He cited Portland, Eugene, Ashland, and Bend as examples of communities that fully embrace and promote safe bicycling, and commented that Roseburg should also follow their lead.

Another audience member spoke as a person without a car, and noted thatbicycles are often used by lower income members of the community, and that any restrictions placed on biking could affect them to a greater degree.

What was frustrating for the Roseburg Bicycle/Pedestrian Coalition is that the City has made real progress in addressing our needs, and this action seemed not to serve any purpose related to safety. Additionally, we really have it pretty good down here as there are miles of well paved County roads, traffic is pretty light, and there are small stores located at convenient locations throughout the area. When we can lure people down here, they love it. In fact, we have found great success in attracting riders of all stripes with our upcoming Vineyard Tour on September 8 with 5 rides from 15 to 100 miles (more info at CycleUmpqua.com.

At the conclusion of the Council meeting, the mayor thanked those who spoke, and a council member indicated he agreed with the comments.”

So there you go. Proof positive that when people who care about — and understand — bicycling (and all of its benefits) make their voices heard, policies and ideas that hurt bicycling don’t stand a chance.

Way to go Roseburg! And thanks for sharing the update Dick. (I’ll have to stop for a ride on some of your gorgeous roads next time I visit my dad down in Grants Pass.)

1 Comment

  1. Right now the cyclists have won the most recent skirmish. But isn’t it obvious that when you lobby and agitate for bicycle lanes that you are obligated to use them. If they fall into disrepair then it will be incumbent upon individuals and the advocacy organizations that they “hire” to lobby on their behalf to work tirelessly to avoid this kind of “bad blood”.

    Every movement eventually reaches the state of young adulthood. And when that happens you are expected to have an adult response to the problem at hand. I have driven stretches of Chicago streets where I could have enjoyed a more comfortable ride on the sidewalk. But my automobile (and my bicycles) are not allowed there.

    I have few alternatives but to complain to City Hall and perhaps be prepared to send photographs to support my contention that the thoroughfare is unsafe.

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