Alley Sweeper Urban Enduro

An annual motorcycle ride through Portland alleyways sponsored by the Sang-Froid Riding Club has some Woodstock residents up in arms. The story’s been picked up by KOIN TV and local FOX 12 news, and discussed at length by neighbors on the Woodstock Portland Oregon facebook friend page administered by WNA volunteer Kenny Heggem.

You’ve probably heard about it by now…this year’s “Urban Enduro” is scheduled for Saturday, April 19th. if your home abuts an alley, you may have experienced the  excitement in years past. (It’s been going on since at least 2009…not sure how long in Woodstock.) Click on the news links above for more of the backstory.

Many of us neighborhood association volunteers understand the concerns. I live on an alley myself, and am bothered by the noise, but it’s only once a year and it’s temporary, so…given all else there is to be concerned about in the world, this is a low priority for me personally. Nonetheless, I do think it’s important for neighbors to be able to air their concerns, and I want to empower people to work out non-adversarial responses to the event. Meanwhile, I’ve been digging around (and talking to PPD and PBOT) to help find answers to homeowners’ questions, especially about liability… (Is there an attorney out there who can help us drill down to the fine points of the law?)

We will devote a BRIEF discussion to this topic at tonight’s Woodstock Neighborhood Association meeting. For those of you who can’t make it, here is a little FAQ:

Q: Is this ride legal?
A: According to PBOT, yes. Alleys are considered public rights of way and as such are open to vehicular traffic. There is this Portland law about Unnecessary Noise, but I’m not sure if it applies (or how it would be enforced if it does apply):

14.24.150 UnnecessaryNoise. (Added by Ord. No. 139931; passed May 22, effective June 23, 1975.) It is unlawful to make any excessive or unusually loud sound which disturbs the peace and quiet of any neighborhood or which does injure or endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace, or safety of any person.

Q: What traffic laws apply to alleys?
A: According to Oregon State Law, the speed limit on alleys is 15mph. For drivers emerging from alleys onto the street, the person must stop the vehicle before driving onto the sidewalk or sidewalk area, and if there is no sidewalk or sidewalk area, the person must stop at the point nearest the roadway.

Q: Are property owners responsible for safety of alleys?
A: Yes. As with other public rights of way adjoining residential properties, i.e. sidewalks and parking strips, property owners are responsible for keeping alleys clear of obstruction and safe for public passage. I don’t know the fine points of this law…given that this annual ride has a track record and the riders are out to have a good time, I would not worry too much about lawsuits stemming from rider injury; but I would warn against doing anything to intentionally obstruct the ride that could lead to an accident.

Q: What suggestions do you have for property owners who are concerned about the event’s impact on their alley or their sanity, or potential danger to pets and children? 
A: Post a sign at either end of your alley gently reminding riders of the 15mph speed limit, and to be mindful of the presence of children and pets.
Document any significant impacts to your unimproved alleyway by snapping before and after pictures, with which you may approach the Sang-Froid club for an alley maintenance contribution after the event.
Consider organizing a block party on your alley this year (or next).