Category Archives: Bicycle Lanes

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.

Cynthia Newton’s Back to School Road Safety Tips

TCNF Partner Cynthia Newton spoke with KATU traffic reporter Hannah Olsen about getting your kids to school safely by bike. In this clip, aired in Portland on August 27th, 2018, Cynthia explains her five rules for safe bike travel to school.

1. Find a good route from where you live to your school. That way you can follow the same route every day. No fuss. No rush.

2. You can ride on the sidewalk everywhere in PDX except downtown. Remember to slow to a walking speed when crossing driveways and entering crosswalks so cars have more time to see you.

3. When crossing the street, always use a crosswalk. There is a crosswalk at every corner, even if there is no paint on the roadway. Enter at walking speed so cars have more time to see you.

4. Kids under 16 are required to wear a helmet. Kids are more likely to wear a helmet if their parent does.

5. Wear white and use a light. Lights—a white one in front and a red one in rear—are required in limited visibility conditions, but wearing white or using a light anytime makes you more visible. Drivers don’t hit cyclists they can see.

KATU’s article about this conversation with Cynthia, including some additional advice from TCNF attorney Chris Thomas, can be found here.

Announcing a New E-Bike Legal Guide by TCNF Bike Lawyers

TCNF’s team of bicycle trial lawyers is pleased to announce the completion of Oregon E-Bike Rights: A Legal Guide for Electric Bike Riders.  Written by Ray Thomas, Jim Coon, Cynthia Newton and Chris Thomas, the booklet contains a comprehensive discussion of laws governing the use of electric bicycles in Oregon.  Topics include riding in bike lanes, on sidewalks, in state parks and on federal land, as well as insurance coverage and advocacy efforts to improve e-bike laws.  TCNF’s bike lawyers felt the need for this booklet now due to the recent increase in popularity of electric bikes and the interesting legal space they occupy between bicycles and motor vehicles.

You can download the booklet here. Updated to 2nd Edition in November 2018.

We hope you find this guide useful and that you contact us with any questions about Oregon e-bike law.

We’re fans of BIKETOWN, but its Rules of the Road need work – Chris Thomas

BIKETOWN, Portland’s bike sharing system, is a great resource for getting more people on bikes. The system’s efforts to encourage more riding include educating users about how to ride properly and without violating Oregon law. However, some of BIKETOWN’s advice incorrectly describes Oregon law and has the potential to mislead bicyclists who are learning the ropes.

SIDEWALKS

Printed on each BIKETOWN bike is a list of riding tips, which includes “WALK BIKES ON SIDEWALK”:

A list of rules printed on all BIKETOWN bikes: Yield for people walking, obey traffic lights and laws, walk bikes on sidewalk, don't bike on rail tracks, have fun! But these rules don't accurately represent Oregon bike law.

The BIKETOWN website contains a section entitled Rules of the Road, which advises bicyclists “AVOID SIDEWALKS” and “. . . whenever possible, it’s best to ride on the road and leave the sidewalk for pedestrian traffic.”

BIKETOWN website text telling users to "avoid sidewalks," which doesn't accurately represent Oregon bike law

In fact, Oregon law generally allows bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk, provided they comply with the requirements of ORS 814.410, including obligations to yield to pedestrians, audibly warn before passing, and enter crosswalks at a walking speed. Many local jurisdictions impose prohibitions on riding in downtown core areas, including Portland, where bicyclists generally may not ride on the sidewalk between Naito Parkway, 13th Avenue, SW Jefferson and NW Hoyt. Portland City Code 16.70.320. Although BIKETOWN’s warnings about sidewalk riding may apply in Portland’s downtown core, that area constitutes a small fraction of the system’s service area, which includes many high speed thoroughfares without bike lanes, such as NE Sandy, SE Powell and NE Martin Luther King. In those places, a bicyclist may feel safer riding on the sidewalk than in the roadway, and they would be legally entitled to do so.

HEADPHONES

The Rules of the Road section of the BIKETOWN website also states: “It is also illegal to ride with two headphones in; one is permitted, but it’s always safer to ride without any.”

BIKETOWN's website's description of rules relating to headphones, which doesn't accurately represent Oregon bike law

This is a clear misstatement of Oregon law. Without wading into the prudence of riding with headphones, no section of the Oregon vehicle code explicitly prohibits such use (in one ear or both). California law does include such a prohibition, which likely caused the confusion here, but given that BIKETOWN exclusively operates in Oregon, this is an incorrect statement of the law.

We think it is important to clearly state which parts of BIKETOWN’s advice is based on Oregon law, and which parts are put forth as safe riding “tips.”

In the meantime, check out TCNF’s pocket sized cards that summarize Oregon bike law, which can be found here and at local bike shops.

Protecting Sidewalks and Bike Lanes from Construction – Ray Thomas

The other day I was driving along Tualatin Valley highway during afternoon rush hour. Both lanes in each direction were filled with cars. As I drove through an area where construction was occurring I saw that the crew had stopped work for the day and left a furled up construction sign on a tripod stand right in the middle of the bike lane. Whoever did it was not thinking about a commuter bicycle rider coming along and having to leave the bike lane and go into heavy traffic to avoid the sign. This sort of thing is all too frequent and is dangerous for everyone, but so are the wider effects of construction sites. Whole neighborhoods can feel the impact of construction on a single street-corner.

Construction equipment passing a damaged concrete sidewalk. Sidewalks and bike lanes are closed for construction without enough thought to the impact these closures have on non-motorized road users in Oregon.

All too often bike lanes, multi-use paths and sidewalks are closed to the public far longer than is necessary. The danger to the public increases as pedestrians and bicycle riders scramble to reconfigure themselves into the available spaces to get around the construction zone. This scramble creates deaths and injuries that are foreseeable and avoidable.

The easy fix for these hazards to citizens is to employ good traffic control practices. Most construction sites on roadways have requirements for Traffic Control Plans (TCP).  These TCPs must be filed as part of the construction permit process where the public way will be impacted by construction. All too often “traffic control” means setting up a system merely to divert motorized traffic around the construction site. Often this means closing adjacent sidewalks and bike lanes. It is important to protect the public from arbitrary and unnecessary closures of the public way including that of sidewalks and bike lanes by complaining to public officials when dangerous closures occur.  And, as in the example provided above, it is imperative for safety that construction companies train workers to remove closures from the public way as early as possible to restore the natural traffic flow and right of way.

Collecting photographs of examples of unnecessarily dangerous public way closures can help raise awareness of these issues and encourage communities to reprioritize and to recognize the importance of non-motorized traffic. In 2016, local advocacy groups The Street Trust and Oregon Walks placed direct pressure on Portland city officials by creating the hashtag #WorkZoneWTF as a way to collect the most glaring examples of closures of the public way on social media. The many examples that flooded in created a graphic collection of the unnecessary hazards created by failing to recognize the rights of non-motorized road users.

After this effort, Portland implemented a city-wide construction traffic policy change in July 2016. The City Council voted 5-0 to adopt a new resolution changing the permitting of TCPs so as to preserve the public way for vulnerable users: “We wanted to make sure the last resort was to close the sidewalk and to close the bike lane,” said Faith Winegarden, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) permitting manager. “We want to make sure every option has been explored.” Bike Portland published an article on the policy change which can be found here.

Portland has continued to make good progress in this regard, but the state of Oregon has fallen behind. As part of a biennial Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Work Zone Safety Audit for 2017, ODOT’s reviewers gave some of the lowest scores to bicycle, pedestrian and ADA accommodations like continuous routes through construction zones, signage marking these routes, and ADA compliance. According to ODOT, these low scores mean that these areas “[need] additional attention,” which led them to update their 2018 advisory materials on standard site specifications and TCP design. And there’s more work to be done. ODOT’s plans for 2018 do consider non-motorized road use in urban environments, but more attention should be paid to the needs of non-motorized road users in rural areas. Pedestrian and cyclist traffic still isn’t being afforded the same attention and protection as motorized road use at the state level.

Here are a few of the measures Portland has adopted to limit the effect of construction sites upon pedestrians and cyclists:

  • Blocking a sidewalk, bike lane, or other public use path has to be regarded with the same importance as closing a lane of motor vehicle traffic
  • When sidewalks and bike lanes are blocked due to maintenance or construction, accommodations must be provided to the maximum extent feasible.

These measures might seem like common-sense, and they might seem like the minimum we ought to expect from city policy, but these protections are by no means guaranteed outside of Portland. I hope ODOT will follow PBOT’s lead and implement similar protections statewide.

What is the legal significance of “crossbikes” on neighborhood greenways? – Chris Thomas

Portland’s inner eastside contains an extensive network of neighborhood greenways: low traffic side streets that encourage bike traffic by including sharrow pavement markings, bike-specific wayfinding signs, speed bumps, diverters, and fewer stop signs.  Examples include NE Going, NE Tillamook, SE Clinton and SE Lincoln.  While greenway riding is typically a low key alternative to riding in a bike lane or on the shoulder of high-volume, auto-oriented streets, the crossing of higher speed arterials that cross the greenway can be stressful.  At most greenway crossings of arterials, bicyclists face a stop sign and cross traffic flows freely.  In an effort to improve arterial crossings, the City has painted green “crossbikes” across the intersection and installed signs warning arterial drivers of the greenway crossing.  The NE Tillamook greenway crossing of NE 15th Avenue is shown here:

The NE Tillamook greenway crossing NE 15th Avenue, featuring green "crossbike" markings on the asphalt to let drivers know bikers will be crossing the road.

What, if any, legal authority do these green “crossbikes” confer on greenway bike users?  The short answer: none.  Despite the similarity in appearance and name to “crosswalk”, a crossbike does not entitle a bicyclist to any of the legal rights enjoyed by a crosswalk user.

Crossbikes do not fall under the legal definition of a crosswalk.  A marked crosswalk is defined under ORS 801.220 as “any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere that is distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface of the roadway.”  While crossbikes do constitute roadway markings at an intersection, their location in the roadway demonstrates that they are not intended for “pedestrian crossing.”  Therefore, crossbikes are not crosswalks, and crossbike users are not entitled to any of the legal rights of crosswalk users.  In fact, crossbikes fail to fall within any statutory definition under Oregon law, making them legally meaningless.

Despite their lack of legal meaning, drivers and bicyclists often treat crossbikes as if they were—as their name suggests—crosswalks for bikes.  Under Oregon’s crosswalk law, ORS 811.028, once a pedestrian begins crossing in a crosswalk, approaching drivers must stop and remain stopped until the pedestrian has cleared.  Pedestrians can assert this right of way by moving into the roadway with the intent to proceed.  Therefore, pedestrians using the white zebra-striped crosswalks in the above photo have the legal right to cause cross traffic to stop simply by stepping into the roadway.

In contrast, bicycle users of the green zebra-striped crossbikes in the above photo have no right to cause cross traffic to stop.  Instead, pursuant to ORS 811.260(15), the stop sign they face requires them to stop and yield to cross traffic.  However, the similar appearance of the two types of markings, together with the yellow signs indicating bicycle and pedestrian crossing, strongly suggests that arterial traffic must yield to all greenway users.  Indeed, the behavior of many arterial drivers and greenway bicyclists demonstrates that, despite the underlying legal rights, crossbikes largely function as crosswalks for practical purposes.

Is there any harm in this inconsistency between the practical use of infrastructure and the underlying legal authority?  In many cases, perhaps not.  While installing crossbikes didn’t cost the City much (the green paint and signs were presumably relatively inexpensive) and the legal ambiguity may help bicyclists cross arterials more efficiently, there may be higher costs.  For example, what if a bicyclist mistakenly assumes that an approaching vehicle is slowing, and rolls past the stop sign into the crossbike?  Under Oregon law, the driver would clearly have the right of way, and the result could be a seriously injured bicyclist with no legal recourse because the cyclist was not entitled to the right of way.

Is a bicyclist allowed to ride on the sidewalk when there is a bicycle lane on the same street?

Yes, in Oregon, a person can ride a bicycle on a sidewalk even if the street they are riding along has a bicycle lane.

Oregon is a mandatory sidepath law state, which means that the law requires a bicycle operator to use a bicycle lane if one is present instead of riding in the mixed traffic lane.  ORS 814.420 Failure to use bicycle lane or path prohibits a person from “operat[ing] a bicycle on any portion of a roadway that is not a bicycle lane or bicycle path when a bicycle lane or bicycle path is adjacent to or near the roadway.”

However, the law only restricts bicycle operators from operating on the roadway when there is a bicycle lane and the sidewalk, while part of the highway, is not part of the roadway.  The roadway is “the portion of a highway that is improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the shoulder.”

Charley Gee is an attorney at Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost where he represents injured bicyclists and pedestrians.

Do Bicyclists have the Right of Way in the Bicycle Lane over Drivers Wishing to Turn?

I have had several readers and non-readers ask me to explain the right of way bicyclists have while riding in a bicycle lane over a car driver wanting to turn over and across the bicycle lane.

A bicyclist has the right of way in a bicycle lane and a turning motorist is required to yield to the bicyclist before making their turn, even if the motorist arrives at the intersection first and is displaying a turn indicator.

ORS 811.050 Failure to yield to rider on bicycle lane requires a person operating a motor vehicle to yield to a bicyclist that is operating in a bicycle lane.  There are no exceptions contained in the law that would give a motor vehicle operator the right of way over a bicyclist.

Violating the right of way does not require contact with another roadway user.  It means that one vehicle fails to yield “to the right of one vehicle or pedestrian to proceed in a lawful manner in preference to another vehicle or pedestrian approaching under such circumstances of direction, speed, and proximity as to give rise to danger of collision unless one grants precedence to the other.” ORS 801.440 Right of way. This means that if a motor vehicle makes a maneuver that causes a bicyclist operating in the bicycle lane to have to slow, stop, or make an avoidance maneuver, the right of way has not been yielded, and Oregon law was violated.

Charley Gee is a personal injury attorney in Portland, Oregon, at Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.

Are Segways Allowed on Sidewalks? by Charley Gee

One of the more unique sights in Downtown Portland are the Segway tour groups, of which there is not one but two different outfits: Portland by Segway and Portland Segway Nation Tours. There are also individuals who use the devices for transportation and recreation.

Segway

A Segway is not called a Segway in the law. It is called an Electric Personal Assistive Mobility Device and this covers not only the name brand Segway but also the other types of devices made by Honda and others. I will use EPAMD as short hand. To be considered an EPAMD, a device must be self balancing with two non-tandem (i.e. no front and rear wheel) wheels, designed to only transport one person in a standing position, have an electric drive, and a maximum speed of 15 MPH.

EPAMDs are vehicles under Oregon law. They are not, however, motor vehicles and this is specifically noted in the law. This is an important distinction when reading the Oregon Vehicle Code to determine which laws apply to EPAMD operators.  Even though EPAMDs are not motor vehicles, Oregon requires operators to be 16 years old or older.  An operator does not need a valid driver’s license, though.

EPAMDs, depending on where they are operated, fall under either bicycle laws or pedestrian laws, as well as a set of requirements specific to them.

If a person is operating an EPAMD on a sidewalk they are subject to the same laws as a pedestrian, but also have the same rights, like crossing at a crosswalk. However, like bicycles on sidewalks, their operators are subject to additional responsibilities beyond those of pedestrians:

• An EPAMD operator cannot operate on a sidewalk in a careless manner that endangers or would likely to endanger any person or property (remember that this includes the operator).
• When an EPAMD in operating on the sidewalk and approaching and entering a crosswalk, driveway, curb-cut, or a pedestrian ramp an operator of a EPAMD must slow to the speed of an ordinary walk.
• When passing pedestrians on a sidewalk an EPAMD operator must give an audible signal.
• An EPAMD must yield the right of way to all pedestrians on the sidewalk.

One misunderstanding of the law that I hear quite often in Portland is that the EPAMDs are not allowed to operate on sidewalks in the downtown core. This is not correct. Bicycles, scooters, and skateboards are prohibited from the sidewalks in Downtown Portland but EPAMDs are not addressed in the city code. The state does allow cities to prohibit them, but Portland has not taken the step to do so.

EPAMDs do not have all of the same rights as bicyclists when operating on the road. The biggest difference is that an EPAMD is not allowed to operate on a road with a speed limit above 35 MPH unless there is a bicycle lane (or they are crossing the road). EPAMDs are allowed to be operated in the bicycle lane, on bicycle paths, and on roads with posted speeds under 35 MPH. In such circumstances EPAMD operators are subject to the same rights and responsibilities as bicycle operators, including having the right-of-way in the bicycle lane.

EPAMDs also have specific requirements and restrictions:

• An EPAMD cannot carry more than one person.
• An EPAMD must have lighting in limited visibility conditions, including a white front light visible from 500 feet and a rear red reflector or light visible from 600 feet.
• A person cannot install a siren or whistle on an EPAMD.

Since EPAMD operators are subject to the same laws as bicycle operators when in bicycle lanes, that covers the helmet law, which requires operators under the age of 16 to wear a helmet.  However, this is moot since operators must be 16 or older to legally operate an EPAMD.

Charley Gee is an attorney in Portland, Oregon, where he represents injured bicyclists and pedestrians.