POSTED ON JULY 18, 2007:
Restless Ribbon Revisited
"A lot of loud, illegal, speeding motorcycles" have been swarming through Brookside along Peoria, sad co-pres Herb Beattie of the Brookside Neighborhood Association.
Brookside, bars, bikers and beer have traditionally gone together like peas and carrots, politics and corruption, or green eggs and ham.
With the surge in business growth seen in Brookside in recent years, though, some residents think the neighborhood is getting too rowdy and are asking city officials to step in and tame it.
Which brings to mind the days, not long ago, when the business end of Peoria, between 32nd and 51st Sts was called the "Restless Ribbon" for its cruising teenagers.
"We've received many complaints about lack of enforcement about noise ordinances, speeding, public intoxication, and violations of building codes, sign and other laws and regulations," said Herb Beattie, co-president of the Brookside Neighborhood Association.
With the proliferation of restaurants and drinking establishments in Brookside in the past few years, Beattie said the section of Peoria Ave. between 36th St. and Crow Creek (not the tavern, the actual creek, crossing Peoria Ave. roughly at 32nd St.) has become a hotbed of drunken revelry and debauchery on the weekends, which is overflowing the immediate area surrounding the bars and spilling over into residential areas.
"There's not adequate parking, so Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, cars are parked in the neighborhood; people are leaving the bars inebriated; young males are getting into fights and people are routinely leaving litter and beer cans in the neighborhood," he said.
Beattie pointed to a recent episode in which a fight ensued outside one of Brookside's abounding drinking establishments, and when the "at least 10 police cars and three ambulances" responded, innocent bystanders got caught in the line of fire when pepper spray was unleashed on the offending revelers.
And the party outgrowing the neighborhood isn't the only, or even the greatest of Beattie and other residents' concerns.
"A lot of loud, illegal, speeding motorcycles" have been swarming through Brookside along Peoria, he said.
"There's always been a biker tradition down there," said David Cranke, motorcycle enthusiast and longtime Brookside patron.
However, he explained, that tradition began roughly 15 years ago as the erstwhile Blue Rose Bar and Grill became hugely popular among the yuppie-biker crowd, bring dozens of bright and shiny choppers parked along the corner of 33rd and Peoria.
When that location changed ownership several times and then became The Bruhouse, the tradition continued. Indeed, with the opening of Crow Creek Tavern the number of motorbiking patrons continued to proliferate.
Since the opening of a wider variety of watering holes in the past few years, though, he's observed that those numbers have swelled into the hundreds.
"Somebody counted as many as 15 different establishments now that serve alcohol, and many are straight bars," concurred Beattie.
He said there have always been complaints in the neighborhood about rowdy Brookside patrons and raucous motorcycles, but the frequency of those complaints has increased sharply in the past two to three years.
Now, with hundreds of bikers descending on Brookside every weekend night, residents have to endure the roar of engines at all hours, he said.
In the past, Beattie said Tulsa police turned a blind eye to the ruckus, giving a wink of the eye instead of a ticket when bikers revved their engines along Brookside.
"We were told reliably that the police were told that they were to stop enforcing the noise ordinances," he said.
However reliably Beattie was told, though, Officer Jason Willingham, spokesman for the Tulsa Police Department, disputes that version of history.
"Neither the Chief nor the Mayor nor anyone have ever said 'Do not write this ticket.' That isn't legal, so they couldn't safely say something like that," he said.
However, Willingham added, "A supervisor might go to his squad and say 'show some leniency on this,'" but there has never been a department-wide policy of not enforcing noise ordinances or any other law, he said.
Whether the police have ignored noisy bikers in the past or not, though, that hasn't been the case of late.
Word on the street is that Mayor Kathy Taylor, "in an apparent reaction to pressure from Brookside residents" like Beattie and others, has created a special task force within the TPD for the purpose of citing any and all motorcyclists in or around the area.
That's the subject of a chain of e-mails circulating among a community of Tulsa motorcycle enthusiasts, among whom Cranke is a member.
"A uniformed official was quoted as saying 'the Mayor has tasked us with ticketing any and all motorcycles for loud mufflers, no matter the type of bike and regardless if the mufflers are stock or not,'" said one such rider.
"The officer went on to say, 'I would recommend all bikes steer clear of this area until this blows over or the local businesses put pressure back on the Mayor's office to rescind this direction,'" he also recounted.
"The police are going to be there to enforce every Friday and Saturday night on overtime until the end of the summer, handing out $45 tickets to anyone riding down Peoria. So, until further notice, consider ourselves grounded from Peoria," said another disenfranchised motorcyclist.
"I guess we'll just have to spend our money in other areas of this beleaguered city!," responded one of the bikers.
Cranke, though, took a more circumspect view.
"Hey people, we can thank a small handful of heavy accelerator bikes for causing this crackdown on all of us. You know who you are," he said.
"If we're going to take back our street, we're going to have to be respectful and responsible when riding near and through any residential area. Let's encourage our friends on the road to help keep Tulsa a motorcycle-friendly city. We're not the only ones on the playground," Cranke added.
And that's precisely the response police are after, according to Willingham.
While he said officers are ticketing motorcyclists along Brookside who disturb the peace, Willingham said it has nothing to do with a "special task force" created by the Mayor, and it's not "any and all" motorcyclists.
"The Mayor's got nothing to do with this--these are just officers responding to complaints," he said.
Willingham said Tulsa police have bigger fish to fry than to devote resources to a "pull out all the stops" crackdown on motorcycle noise in Brookside, but there have been enough citizen complaints for officers to issue citations when they see violations.
The city ordinance in question specifies that "Every motor vehicle shall at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise and annoying smoke, and no person shall use a muffler cut-out, by-pass or similar device upon a motor vehicle on any street or highway. No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in any manner which will amplify or increase the noise or sound emitted louder than that emitted by the
muffler originally installed on the vehicle."
Violations are met with a $45 ticket, Willingham said.
"Here's the bottom-line: if you're stopped at a red light and you rev your engine four or five times for no reason and you have a modified exhaust, you'll get a ticket; but if Joe Q citizen is just riding his bike down Brookside and driving normally and not making a racket, the police aren't going to bother him," he explained.
Meanwhile, Beattie and other members of the Brookside Neighborhood Association have a meeting planned for this week with Interim Police Chief David Bostrom, District 9 City Councilor Cason Carter, and Dewayne Smith, retired TPD officer and current director of the new "Working in Neighborhoods" division of the city's Code Enforcement Department.
Beattie said he and other BNA members have been "absolutely delighted" with Bostrom's response so far to their complaints about motorcycle noise, but they plan to speak with him and other city officials about the rest of their complaints as well.
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