At Least In Some Cities. Is Your City On The List?
Ride a bike, and sooner or later you will notice that drivers often receive preferential treatment under the law. Our streets are often designed with drivers in mind, with little or no thought given to cyclists. If you are hit by a careless driver, it’s not uncommon for law enforcement to arrive on the scene, see that you were riding a bike, and assume that you were at fault. And if you are ticketed for a traffic violation, you must either appear in court to fight the ticket, or pay up. But drivers have another option—traffic school. We all have to obey the law, but motor vehicles are the most dangerous vehicles on the road, so why do drivers get to go to traffic school, while cyclists—some of the least dangerous vehicle operators—are forced to go to court or pay a fine? Does that seem fair?
Obviously, it’s not fair at all. But the good news is, things are changing. Increasingly, courts are beginning to offer cyclists the option to attend traffic school in lieu of paying a fine. Here in Oregon, Portland led the way in 2007 with the nation’s first traffic diversion course for cyclists. Since then, traffic diversion courses have been approved in several Oregon cities, including Ashland, Bend, Corvallis, Eugene, and Redmond.
So what exactly is bicycle traffic school, and how does it work?
For an example, let’s take a look at the Portland program, which is a collaborative effort between Multnomah County courts, Portland Department of Transportation, Portland Police Bureau, Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Trauma Nurses Talk Tough. First, the traffic school is actually called a bicycle traffic diversion program. In Portland, the program is open to cyclists (as well as motorists and pedestrians) who are first-time offenders on certain bicycle and pedestrian-specific traffic laws.
If a cyclist is ticketed for one of these traffic violations, the cyclist has the option to pay the ticket, contest the ticket, or attend the bicycle traffic diversion program. If the cyclist chooses the diversion program, the cyclist will pay a small fee (currently set at $30), attend a two-hour class, and if the cyclist complies with all other conditions and court orders, will receive a certificate of completion which can be presented to the court in support of a reduced fine, a discharge, or a dismissal of the traffic violation. DUII violations and violations which result in a collision causing physical injury or property damage are not eligible for the Bicycle Traffic Diversion program.
Bicycle Traffic Diversion programs in other Oregon cities will be similar, but may vary in some details.
And if your city does not have a Bicycle Traffic Diversion Program, get active. Ask your local bicycle advocacy organization if they are working on getting a program approved. Look into how programs got approved in other Oregon cities, and see if you can build interest in your local court system for a similar program.
Of course, every traffic citation is different, and only you can decide whether you want to just pay a ticket, go to court and fight your ticket, or attend a Bicycle Traffic Diversion class. However, if you have been involved in a bicycle accident where the driver may be either partially or completely at fault, but you were the one who got a ticket, it is vital to protecting your legal rights in the collision to have your ticket dismissed. As an Oregon bicycle accident lawyer, I have seen many cases where a cyclist who was hit by a careless driver was ticketed, and the driver’s insurance company used that traffic ticket as a reason to fight the cyclist’s insurance claim. Sometimes the cyclist was breaking the law, and so was the driver, but only the cyclist got a ticket. And sometimes, the cyclist was not breaking the law, but got ticketed anyway. Either way, if you have been in an Oregon bicycle accident, and you received a ticket as a result of that accident, an important first step in protecting your legal rights is to have your ticket dismissed.
If you have been injured in a Oregon bicycle accident, whether in a solo accident that may be the result of somebody else’s negligence, or in a collision with another person, contact Oregon bicycle accident attorney Bob Mionske at [email protected] or at 844-531-7530 for a free consultation.
For more information about traffic tickets, see How to Handle a Traffic Ticket.
For more information about Oregon bicycle accidents, see What To Do If You Are A Cyclist Involved In An Oregon Bicycle Accident.
For more information about insurance, see Insurance Advice For Oregon Bicyclists.
Bob Mionske is a former U.S. Olympic and pro cyclist, and a nationally-known bicycle accident lawyer based in Portland, Oregon, and affiliated with the Bike Law network. A prolific advocate for the rights of cyclists, Mionske authored Bicycling & the Law in 2007, and has continued his advocacy on behalf of the rights of cyclists with his Road Rights column in Bicycling magazine.