Bessie Stringfield fought for civil rights and equality by doing what she loved despite the struggles and danger that came with riding motorcycles.
SFRC Alley Sweeper 2013: “GET OFF MY LAWN!”
Alright, it may be slightly delayed… but I finished my video from the 2013 Sang-Froid Riding Club Alley Sweeper Urban Enduro. After the event I did a mini status update with photos of the damage to the bike and myself after wrecking it twice. Now it’s time to answer the question posed to me via instagram, facebook, AND twitter: “Can you explain to me how that’s fun?”
Sure… riding through mud, potholes, gravel, grass, and whatever else you happen upon is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the motorcyclists who like to get dirty, like to feel their back tire lose traction. Those of us who enjoy those “oh shit moments” and riding with other friends.
The Alley Sweeper is not about property damage or disrespect to neighborhoods and communities. Motorcyclists are ALL ABOUT community!
HOW TO READ THIS BLOG POST: For a general review, hit the first few paragraphs. Keep going for my rant to all of the angry neighbors who tried to hurt motorcyclists and did stupid crap like park in the middle of the roadway. I actually address the legality of riding in alleyways, public vs private as well. My video is at the very bottom of the page, after (mostly found/collected) photos.
As Icon wrote, “The intersection between good times and imminent disaster is a blurry one. However, when this intersection can be crossed in your own backyard you can’t help but not explore it. This is the premise for the 2013 SFRC Alley Sweeper in Portland, OR.”
An estimated 300 motorcycles showed up on Tillamook in North Portland to participate in this year’s urban enduro… the resonating sound of a deluge of motorcycles starting up is overwhelming in the best of ways. There was no limit to the type of motorcycles that showed up to get muddy- baggers, adventure motorcycles, scooters, dirt bikes and even a couple side cars.
Sporadic groups of motorcycles galavanting through alleyways first all over North Portland and secondly in SE caused quite the kerfluffle this year. Tales were told of boards laid across the roadways with nails jutting out of them, angry neighbors trying to hit riders as they passed with different home made weapons including a 2×4. The groups I rode with on the other hand were only greeted with smiles and waves from adults and children alike.
After the ride I posted a photo of my bruise to instagram. The debate begun shortly thereafter with a comment, “Can you help me understand what the alley ride is all about? I can’t figure out how that would be fun?”
You can read the entire conversation on the original instagram post page if you like but the general points were, “A lot of people in my neighborhood HATE the alley sweep. I’m holding my judgement. All I know is my alley is where my two little girls play and where I go to relax – both of which weren’t possible today. … I don’t have a problem with the Sweep but am just trying to understand the event, but I do think the riders should have an ounce of understanding with regard to the other people that may have an issue.” I can understand, to an extent, where he is coming from. If you want to relax in your back yard with a cocktail, or work on a project in the alleyway off to the side, it’s the same as the front of your house and the parking areas. Sure. However, I don’t get peace and quiet when I go in my backyard. Kids screaming at the neighbors house, dogs barking incessantly… it’s the way it goes. As much as I might get frustrated about it, there’s nothing inherently illegal about any of these things.
Close calls and “oh shit” moments happen every day on the roads whether you are a pedestrian, bicyclist, motorcyclist or car driver. The difference here is that the motorcyclists are in close quarters with each other, riding down alley ways that can have debris unexpectedly in the road ways. Each rider is responsible for their own safety when it comes to street riding or this once a year urban enduro extravaganza.
Now, when it comes to the legality of motorcyclists riding in alleyways. Here are some facts:
- If there is no posted speed limit in an alley or narrow residential street, the limit defaults to 15 mph
- Not all alleyways are public property (owned by the city)
- Damage to private property can be considered a crime, leaving the scene is a fleeing from the scene of a crime charge on top of that
- Impeding traffic is also a violation you can be ticketed for
Here is the legal mumbo jumbo for private property alleyways, roads, etc. It basically says that private property roads must be marked with regulated signage that lets motorists know they are not allowed to trespass.
164.270 Closure of premises to motor-propelled vehicles.
(1) For purposes of ORS 164.245, a landowner or an agent of the landowner may close the privately owned premises of the landowner to motor-propelled vehicles by posting signs on or near the boundaries of the closed premises at the normal points of entry as follows:
(a) Signs must be no smaller than eight inches in height and 11 inches in width;
(b) Signs must contain the words “Closed to Motor-propelled Vehicles” or words to that effect in letters no less than one inch in height;
(c) Signs must display the name, business address and phone number, if any, of the landowner or agent of the landowner; and
(d) Signs must be posted at normal points of entry and be no further apart than 350 yards.
(2) A person violates ORS 164.245 if the person operates or rides upon or within a motor-propelled vehicle upon privately owned premises when the premises are posted as provided in this section and the person does not have written authorization to operate a motor-propelled vehicle upon the premises.
(3) Nothing contained in this section prevents emergency or law enforcement vehicles from entering upon land closed to motor-propelled vehicles. [1981 c.394 §2]
Now for one a lot of us don’t know… you must come to a complete stop when exiting a driveway, parking lot, or alley. Even if there is no stop sign.
811.505 Failure to stop when emerging from alley, driveway or building; penalty.
(1) A person commits the offense of failure to stop when emerging from an alley, driveway or building if the person is operating a vehicle that is emerging from an alley, building, private road or driveway in a business or residence district and the person does not stop the vehicle as follows:
(a) If there is a sidewalk or sidewalk area, the person must stop the vehicle before driving onto the sidewalk or sidewalk area.
(b) If there is no sidewalk or sidewalk area, the person must stop at the point nearest the roadway to be entered where the driver has a view of approaching traffic.
(2) The offense described in this section, failure to stop when emerging from an alley, driveway or building, is a Class B traffic violation. [1983 c.338 §658; 1985 c.16 §322; 1995 c.383 §78]
Here’s what I really want to say to the people who get bent out of shape about the alley sweeper:
Think of it as a celebration of the weather. You know how all the kids go sled down the icy streets when it gets really cold during winter? Or how traffic clogs the arteries of our city the first really nice weekend as everyone heads out of town to go camping? Do you complain about their happiness?
Do you complain about your neighbor mowing his lawn early Saturday morning the first sunny day of spring? What about neighbor kids riding bicycles on the side walk during summer? GET OVER IT! It’s not about you, or your property. The motorcyclists who are participating this are comprised of mostly (the vast majority) respectful, experienced riders who enjoy the camaraderie of a large group, and the challenge of a muddy alley. I’ll be the first to admit that I get a little giggle when my motorcycle sets off car alarms when I pass by a parking garage, and the same can be said for some of the participants in the Alley Sweeper. But really, is it worth injuring an individual over a group of people having fun?
The fact that there were actually people trying to put motorcyclists in physical danger absolutely flabbergasts and infuriates me. I suppose through all the lectures we’ve endured from non-riders about the danger of being a motorcyclist, none of that information was actually absorbed. I want to make it clear that throwing boards in front of a two wheeled vehicle is potentially life threatening. Hitting them as they pass by with poles, beams, bats, whatever… could cause them months of recovery in the hospital when they go down. Is that worth it to you? Is a few hours of vroom vroom noises behind your house on a shitty wet overcast day really that cumbersome to your lifestyle? Would you park your car in the middle of the street? No? Then why on earth did you park it in the middle of the alleyway? Oh right, because you’re self righteous and think you’re the alley police, deputized by neighborhood watch to stop motorcyclists from having a bit of fun for ONE DAY A YEAR.
While I know and understand that the police will be called, and there will be some behavioral outliers that act like jerks or even make a bad judgement call. Hell, I went down twice and I was traveling at no more than 20 mph in the alleys. Both times, I looked back and the river of motorcyclists had stopped on a dime far behind me.
My point? Generally speaking, we’re just a dirt-loving group of riders celebrating spring time. So instead of trying to hit us with wooden posts, why don’t you just ask for a ride?
There is magic in those alleys. As your rear wheel does a little slither, your spine gets a little quiver. When you save the front end from going out on a slick of grass, you feel like the most capable and bad ass person on earth. There are no other places close to town where I can take a Yamaha XS400 with street tires out into wet muddy goodness with a load of friends and have some fun. So why do you want to take that away from us?
Link to my video is at the very bottom of the page- but before… I wanted to share some cool photos and videos. These next shots are from Blakelpd05 on youtube’s video. It’s one of my favorites, as he captured more than one “OOPS!” moment, and some seriously fun overgrowth.
Here’s a few shots from the ThumperTalk forum. Another blocked alley…
Now some from the ADVrider forum.
Ned Thanhouser on Vimeo: A good short video
ThrasherBill on Youtube: going over the pedestrian bridge. Less than legal, and something I’ve always fantasized about doing
ThrasherBill on Youtube: Basic footage
Blakelpd05 on Youtube: Good stuff
Dweller99 on Youtube: General footage
p0wn on Youtube: Highlights
Cody Kahler on Youtube: From the beginning on
Indiesol on Vimeo: General review
You can check out my (very long) video of the 2013 SFRC Alley Sweeper on vimeo, or below. Bear in mind that I sped up 90% of the footage so I could include everything I got without boring you to death. Keep an eye out for my first close call, and the Portland mini-Dakar.
Until next year…