Monthly Archives: September 2014

When can a motor vehicle stop or park in the bicycle lane? by Charley Gee

Following last week’s post about motor vehicles operating in the bicycle lane, I was asked several questions about motor vehicles stopping or parking in bicycle lanes.

It is not rare to see a car or delivery truck parked in the bicycle lane.  If a motor vehicle is parked in the bicycle lane, is it breaking the law?  It depends.  Under Oregon state law, it is not illegal for a motor vehicle to stop or park in a bicycle lane under certain circumstances.  However, many municipal ordinance and city codes, including Portland’s, make stopping on a bicycle lane illegal in most scenarios.

ORS 811.550(23) makes stopping, standing or parking (I’m going to use “stopping” as shorthand) a motor vehicle on a bicycle lane illegal.  However, like the law that makes operating a car on the bike lane illegal, this law has many exemptions.   10 of them.    Most of the exemptions are obvious:

  • Government vehicles performing maintenance or repair work;
  • School buses or worker transport buses loading or unloading passengers (provided their yellow flashing lights are engaged);
  • Vehicles complying with the direction of a police officer or traffic control device;
  • Vehicles operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stopped in order to release fish; or
  • Vehicles stopped to collect solid waste. recycling, or yard debris.

However, there are some circumstances where you would expect that a vehicle stopped in the bicycle lane is violating the law where, in fact, it is not:

  • If a vehicle becomes “disabled in such a manner and such an extent that the driver cannot avoid stopping or temporarily leaving the disabled vehicle” in the bicycle lane, no violation of the prohibition has occurred; or
  • When a vehicle momentarily stops to allow oncoming traffic to pass before making a turn or momentarily stops in preparation for or while negotiating an exit from the road.

The biggest bike lane blocking culprits, however, are parked delivery trucks and cars double parked temporarily.  Despite the hazard they create and the inefficiencies they cause, they may not be breaking Oregon state law.

A vehicle is allowed to stop, stand, or park in the bicycle lane if:

  • If the vehicle is momentarily stopped to pick up or discharge a passenger; or
  • If the vehicle is momentarily stopped for the purpose of, and while actually engaged in, the loading or unloading of property;

So, the trucks stopped on the bicycle lane to deliver kegs of beer or UPS trucks stopped outside office buildings are not violating state law, so long as they are engaged in the loading or unloading of goods.  Same with the taxi cabs outside of the hotels, so long as they are actively picking up or discharging a passenger.

One last exemption stands out for both its vagueness of language and possible reach.  (5) of the exemption law reads:

  •  “When applicable, this subsection exempts vehicles from the prohibitions and penalties when the driver’s disregard of the prohibitions is necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic.”  (Emphasis added).

“Conflict with other traffic” is not defined in the statute and has not been defined by the Oregon courts.

Portland’s City Code specifically prohibits stopping on a bicycle lane PCC 16.20.130(u) without the numerous exclusions of the state law, but it does include one exclusion (to all of their parking prohibitions) that exempts vehicles stopped on a bicycle lane to avoid conflict with other traffic.

Charley Gee represents injured bicyclists and pedestrians in Portland, Oregon.

Can a motor vehicle operate in a bicycle lane? by Charley Gee

At our bicycle legal clinics, we are often asked about motor vehicles operating in the bicycle lane. While a bicycle lane has one of the purest rights-of-way in the Oregon Vehicle Code, the law does allow motor vehicles to operate upon the bicycle lane in certain circumstances.

Oregon law contains a blanket prohibition of the operation of a motor vehicle upon a bicycle lane. ORS 811.435(1), so in most situations a motor vehicle operating in a bicycle lane is operating illegally.

However, like a lot of prohibitions in the Oregon Vehicle Code, there is a statute that allows exceptions.  ORS 811.440 enumerates the circumstances in which a motor vehicle is allowed to operate on a bicycle lane.

Most of the exceptions require no further explanation:

  • entering or leaving an alley, private road or driveway;
  • required in the course of official duty (think police and fire vehicles); and
  • implement of husbandry (farm vehicle) that crosses into the bicycle lane to permit other vehicles to pass.

However, ORS 811.440(2)(a) contains a big exception in three words that causes a lot of traffic conflicts:

  • making a turn

Allowing motor vehicles to operate upon the bicycle lane while making a turn may seem obvious. Otherwise, how would they be able to make the turn? But the exception “making a turn” could potentially cover a lot of scenarios and can lead to some confusion and ambiguity:

Scenario 1: The Simple Right Turn

Right hook turn

Here, a motor vehicle makes a simple right turn at a green light, yielding to bicycles in the bicycle lane, from the right hand “B” lane. Did the motor vehicle driver violate Oregon law? No. They are permitted to cross over the bicycle lane to make the turn.  However, despite motor vehicle operators being allowed to operate on bicycle lanes while turning like this, there is no exception to the duty to yield the right of way to bicycle riders operating on a bicycle lane, found in ORS 811.050.

Scenario 2: The Sneak Around

Sneak Around

In this scenario, an inpatient motor vehicle operator comes up with a plan to pass the cars waiting to proceed straight or turn left by driving to the right of the cars in the bike lane. Did the driver violate Oregon law? Yes.  There is no exception for approaching a turn on the bicycle lane, only for making a turn. The driver also violated ORS 811.415 Unsafe passing on the right, which prohibits motor vehicles (but not bicyclists) from overtaking and passing other vehicles on the right.

Scenario 3: The Mid-Block Cruiser

Midblock

I have occasionally seen a motor vehicle operator who, knowing they need to make a right turn ahead, and seeing a gap in bicycle traffic in the bicycle lane, moves their car over mid-block and occupies the bicycle lane while moving forward to make their turn. Is this legal? No. Like the example above, ORS 811.440(2)(a) only allows a car to operate on a bicycle lane while making a turn, not while preparing to make a turn.

 

Accidents that result in property damage (Part 3) by Ray Thomas

Read Part 1.

Read Part 2.

V. Gear and Rental List

Sometimes riders are discouraged because the responsible driver’s insurance company fails to promptly pay on the property damage claim. In auto v. auto cases, property damage claims get settled promptly because claims adjusters are accustomed to providing a rental car while the damaged vehicle is in the shop getting fixed. The same law applies to bicycles – the bicycle rider is entitled to a rental vehicle or bus fare, ride-share costs or other reasonable expenses for the time it takes to get the damaged bicycle fixed and serviceable again. One tip for adding speed to the property damage disposition is to have the quote at the bicycle shop include the cost of a comparable rental bicycle by the day, week, and month so that the rider can let the adjuster know how the cost of delay is going to be transferred to the insurance company.

The same rules apply for other personal items such as helmet, panniers, clothing, and other personal property. If the clothing is new and you still have a receipt, it will be helpful for the bike shop in making an appraisal. If the property is older, the shop will need to know when you purchased it and the condition it was in prior to the collision. Finally, it is important that you save all property damaged so that you can show it to the adjuster if asked.

VI. ORS 20.080 – When the Offer is Unfair

We frequently hear from angry bicyclists who feel they are not being dealt with fairly in determining who was at fault in the accident, or the value of damaged property. Few bicyclists are willing to go to small claims court to advocate for themselves. Unfortunately, this means that riders frequently grudgingly accept “low ball” offers to settle property damage claims. One tool that does exist for bicyclists is a law that gives a victim a negotiating edge. ORS 20.080 provides that in claims for less than $10,000 if a thirty-day demand letter is sent to the responsible party and is not paid, and the victim gets a lawyer and files a successful lawsuit, the responsible party has to pay the amount originally owed, plus attorney fees and costs. In a simple property damage claim the attorney fees and costs could total several thousand dollars. If a bicycle rider is in negotiations and is being treated unfairly, it will probably be of assistance to mention this law because if the bicyclist has to go out and hire a lawyer to file a lawsuit and wins the case then the amount awarded as costs and fees may very well exceed the amount owed in the first place. The statutory provision is contained in its entirety below:

ORS 20.080 Attorney fees in actions for damages for personal or
property injury.

(1) In any action for damages for an injury or wrong to the person or property, or both, of another where the amount pleaded is $10,000 or less, and the plaintiff prevails in the action, there shall be taxed and allowed to the plaintiff, at trial and on appeal, a reasonable amount to be fixed by the court as attorney fees for the prosecution of the action, if the court finds that written demand for the payment of such claim was made on the defendant, and on the defendants insurer, if known to the plaintiff, not less than 30 days before the commencement of the action or the filing of a formal complaint under ORS 46.465 (Time and place of hearing), or not more than 30 days after the transfer of the action under ORS 46.461 (Counterclaims). However, no attorney fees shall be allowed to the plaintiff if the court finds that the defendant tendered to the plaintiff, prior to the commencement of the action or the filing of a formal complaint under ORS 46.465 (Time and place of hearing), or not more than 30 days after the transfer of the action under ORS 46.461 (Counterclaims), an amount not less than the damages awarded to the plaintiff.

(2) If the defendant pleads a counterclaim, not to exceed $10,000, and the defendant prevails in the action, there shall be taxed and allowed to the defendant, at trial and on appeal, a reasonable amount to be fixed by the court as attorney fees for the prosecution of the counterclaim.

VII. Conclusion

Property damage claims can be very frustrating for riders who are trying to represent themselves to get a fair recovery for their damaged equipment. Knowledge of the law helps to make the process a little easier, but, in the final analysis, fair payment on damaged property claims requires a willingness to spend the time necessary to present the proof of loss, and persevere through negotiations to obtain fair payment.

Ray Thomas is a founding partner at Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton where he represents bicyclists and pedestrians injured in collisions.

Accidents that result in property damage (Part 2) by Ray Thomas

Read Part 1.

III. Diminution in Value – The Law of Property Damage

The law relating to property damage claims is technical. Many people believe that they should receive the amount of money they will need to replace their damaged property. Unfortunately, that is not the law. Instead, the bicyclist is entitled to the amount of money equal to the difference between the fair market value of the property immediately before, and immediately after, the occurrence. This is called the “diminution in property value”. Bicycles depreciate rapidly and often the market value of a used bicycle is considerably less than its original purchase price. In order to establish market value, it is best to take your bicycle to a bike shop and get the following estimates:

● Value of the bicycle in the condition it was in immediately before the accident. In other words, the appraisal should be of the same year and model as your bicycle in the same condition. Most bike shops only sell new bikes. If you are having trouble, call around and find the name of a bike shop that sells used bicycles or will help you with your brand.

● Cost of repair of the bicycle. Do this even if you are certain the bicycle is beyond repair.

● Value of the bicycle in the condition it was in immediately after the accident. This amount is usually very low; what market value is there for a bent bike? The claims adjuster will almost certainly call the shop to verify your figures. If your bike is “totaled” the adjuster will want to pay the value of your bicycle before the accident minus its salvage value.

Frequently, bicycles have little or no salvage value. If you have a particular attachment to some of the components, such as that Terry saddle or that wonderful old Campagnolo crankset, let the adjuster know and they will frequently be willing to let you have these parts. It has been my experience that the adjuster will usually recognize that a bike has no salvage value and allow you to keep the damaged bike if it is indeed totaled. On the other hand, if the bicycle can be fixed, it is up to you whether you want to fix the bike or not. You are not entitled to receive more money because your bicycle had a particularly high sentimental value. However, if your bicycle was a rare bicycle, and had an unusually high monetary value, you are entitled to receive that greater value if it is damaged or destroyed.

Remember, the diminution in value of the bicycle may be much less than it would actually take to fix the bike. The law states that the person responsible for the damage need only pay the loss in value, not the cost of repair.

IV. The Statute of Limitations

The Oregon statute of limitations for property damage claims caused by negligence is two years unless the defendant is an agent for a public entity, in which case written notice of a claim must be provided to the appropriate authority within 180 days after the accident. In serious injury cases, it can be a year or more before the person has recovered enough to know what if any permanent physical impairments may have resulted; however, property damage claims can be resolved immediately after the collision. There is no tactical reason to wait to resolve the property damage claim, and if a bicyclist also suffered physical injuries any release of claims signed by the rider can be limited to property damage only so that the personal injuries may be pursued at a later time within the statute of limitations.

This article will be concluded in later posts.

Ray Thomas is a founding partner at Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton where he represents bicyclists and pedestrians injured in collisions.