Bike Lanes Continue Through Intersections For Sure With New Legislative Proposal

When a person riding a bicycle gets right hooked in an intersection, the Oregon Vehicle Code contains a section that protects the cyclist’s right to the right of way. ORS 811.050 provides:

“A person commits the offense of failure of a motor vehicle operator to yield to a rider on a bicycle lane if the person is operating a motor vehicle and the person does not yield the right of way to a person operating a bicycle . . . upon a bicycle lane.”

Even if investigating law enforcement officers decide not to “cite” the driver, usually the police report narrative and the attached form containing boxes for checking off relevant factors for the crash will indicate the that the motorist “FTY”—failed to yield—to the cyclist. AND just because the officer at the scene does not cite the driver with a ticket does not mean that the violation was not committed, as many cops “let the insurance companies” sort it out once the report notes what the officer believes are the primary causes for the crash.

But now two judges in cases where the offending driver was cited for violation of ORS 811.050 have decided that somehow the bike lane “disappears” in the intersection because there is no paint on the road which then somehow causes the bike lane to legally evaporate, presumably to be reincarnated when the paint starts on the other side of the intersection. While this lack of legal reasoning has no binding legal “authority” with two cases out of left field among the many adjudications that have gone the other way at the trial level out there, it is nevertheless important to affirm and clarify the law so the bad legal result does not occur again.

As we stated in 2015 the last time this happened:

“The court ruling fails to recognize that the legal existence of a bicycle lane does not end just because the paint on the road stops at an intersection. Note that the statutory definition of “bicycle lane” says it is “that part of the roadway . . . designated by official signs or markings” (emphasis added). This means that the “designation” may be by either “official signs” or “markings”. Just because the lane divider lines are interrupted in the intersection does not mean that bicyclists lose their legal right to the space legally “designated” for their use.

Bicycle lane designation by markings or signs creates a legal status for bicyclists that does not require the presence of paint on the pavement in the intersection because lanes (even motor vehicle lanes) continue even when the paint stops. It is the markings or designations visible before and after the intersection that create the legal presence of the bicycle lane. Just because every inch of a bicycle lane is not “marked”, does not mean its legal designation has ended. When one looks at a bicycle map of Portland, the “designation” of the bicycle lane continues along the entire route. No authority suggests otherwise. If traffic lanes all ceased to exist in intersections, legal chaos would ensue and every intersection without lines painted for every lane would turn into a legal free-for-all.”

See, “Bike Lane Right of Way Continues Even Without Painted Line Through Intersection”, July 2015 at tcnf.legal.  For more about the case see: https://bikeportland.org/2018/10/17/judge-rules-that-bend-bike-lane-does-not-continue-through-intersection-291167.

In the second case, Judge Michael Adler of Bend held that a Fed Ex driver did not violate the bike lane right of way law when he turned right over and onto an overtaking bicycle rider in a bicycle lane who was killed by the wheels of the large delivery truck. This unreported decision is not binding legal authority but now that lightning has struck twice, Oregon’s bike advocacy community has responded with a clarification of the law that demonstrates that bike lanes continue through intersections.

Jillian Detweiler of Street Trust and Jim Coon and Ray Thomas of Thomas Coon Newton and Frost, Attorneys have teamed up  with Representative Rob Nosse (D-Portland) to draft the new proposed law that affirms the obvious: just because there is no paint does not mean there is no bike lane in an intersection. The new law, LC 3354 (“LC” means Legislative Counsel, the official law drafting staff for the legislature) adds the section in bold below to ORS 801.155, the statute in the Oregon Vehicle Code defining “bicycle lane”:

“Bicycle lane” means that part of the highway, adjacent to the roadway, designated by official signs or markings for use by persons riding bicycles except as otherwise specifically provided by law. Where the markings of a bicycle lane are interrupted by an intersection, the bicycle lane continues in and through the intersection.

We hope this law will have the “legs” necessary to pass through the legislature and become law before another legal judicial  anomaly occurs to deny a bicycle rider their lawful right of way in the intersection.

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TCNF Bike Lawyers