When he gave his friend a ride home on his bicycle
from the Aladdin Theatre last February, Kenneth Southerland
did not think he was breaking the law. The police did.
But Southerland and all Portland cyclists won a victory today when a traffic court judge and the police agreed to discharge Southerland's $143 ticket.
By giving his friend a ride on a rack over his rear tire, Southerland had been charged with breaking Oregon state law 814.460, which prohibits cyclists from carrying more passengers than their bike is safely equipped to handle. But the law is an obscure one, and Southerland's custom-built bike was in fact in compliance.
According to Southerland, as he left a Magnetic Fields concert with his friend Fiona, a police officer drove by and said something to them that they did not understand. They then stopped biking and walked a bit.
When they tried riding again, the officer got out of his car. “He said, ‘that's against the law,' says Southerland, referring to Officer David Scott, “'and I said, ‘no it's not.'”
The officer returned to his car, and a back-up squad car soon arrived on the scene.
“You could tell the look on his face, saying this is really silly,” says Southerland of the second officer.
After making him wait in the rain for a half-hour, police issued Southerland the $143 ticket. In court, however, Southerland's attorney argued that police did not meet the burden of proof the law required.
“It's another example of where the technology has changed but the law hasn't,” said Mark Ginsberg, Southerland's attorney and a fellow cycling advocate. He went on to explain that Southerland's bike, specially made by MAP Bicycles in Portland, has a rack attached to the frame in two places and is safe for passengers to ride.
About a half-dozen friends and bicycle enthusiasts rode to Southerland's trial to support him, and the judge decided the case in minutes.
Southerland, a software engineer from inner Southeast Portland, says he is pleased with the outcome. Outside the courthouse, he got back on his bike, now-moot ticket in hand, and invited his friend Fiona to hop on the back.
"Don't push your luck, Ken," said his lawyer.