Monthly Archives: February 2015

Is it legal to pass on the right on a bicycle in Oregon? by Ray Thomas

Oregon law did not specifically authorize passing on the right until 2006, when the law was clarified to follow the great majority of other states and the Uniform Vehicle Code in specifically allowing bicycles to pass other vehicles on the right when it can be performed safely.

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In Oregon bicycles and motor vehicles share the same traffic lane and the fluid movement of traffic is in everyone’s best interest when performed in a safe manner. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) Legislative Committee persuaded the 2005 Oregon Legislature to change the law so that passing on the right would be allowed “if the overtaking vehicle is a bicycle that may safely make the passage under the existing conditions” ORS 811.415(2)(c).

Of course, bicycles are entitled to pass cars just like any other vehicle on streets without a bicycle lane.

The 2006 law allows safe passing on the right which helps to make the flow of traffic more smooth, and keeps riders from being stuck while stopped in a line of exhaust spewing motor vehicles.

Oregon law allowing bicycles to pass on the right is not unusual. The Uniform Vehicle Code Section 11-304(b) is a typical treatment of the issue: “The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety.” (National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances 2000). Oregon merely joined the great majority of other states that allowed the maneuver with the law change of 2006.

The bicycle is a legal hybrid in Oregon traffic law. It is a vehicle but also is allowed to share the same lane with motor vehicles. A bicycle’s narrow width of track allows the rider to fully utilize the standard width traffic lane and improve the roadway’s capacity to move traffic. The Oregon law supports common sense and smooth traffic flow in allowing safe passing on the right.

Ray Thomas is an Oregon bicycle lawyer with Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.

Does Oregon have a Dead Red Law?

No.  Oregon does not have a “dead red” law.

A dead red law is a law that provides an exception to the violation of Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device when the light does not detect a vehicle (like a bicycle) and the light fails to cycle through to allow a roadway user to proceed.  This can result in a person being stuck at a light without any option for lawfully passing through the intersection.

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ORS 811.260 Appropriate driver responses to traffic control devices is the Oregon statute that governs how roadway users are to treat traffic signals.

ORS 811.260(7) Steady circular red signal.

A driver facing a steady circular red signal light alone shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is is no marked crosswalk, then before entering the intersection.  The driver shall remain stopped until a green light is shown except when the driver is permitted to make a turn under ORS 811.360 (When vehicle turn permitted at stop light).  Emphasis added.

Oregon law does not allow any exception to the red light law for traffic signals that fail to turn green.

This can create a problem for cyclists whose bicycles are not big enough to activate the in-ground hoops that detect vehicles at intersections.

Recent legislation introduced in the Oregon House of Representatives (HB 2820) and Senate (SB 533) would create an exception, but only for motorcyclists.

The bills would allow a motorcyclist who has stopped and waited through one full light cycle without being detected to proceed though the intersection against the red light.

But for now the law remains clear: no vehicle operator can lawfully pass through a red light, even if the light fails to detect the vehicle.

Charley Gee is an Oregon bicycle attorney.  He practices in Portland with Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.