Category Archives: Bicycle Law

Do bicyclists have to walk their bikes in crosswalks? by Charley Gee

I encounter this question a lot in the bicycle law clinics I teach.

The short answer is: No.  There is no statewide legal requirement to walk a bicycle in a crosswalk.

There are, however, a couple of laws to keep in mind when riding up to or in a crosswalk.

First, when a bicyclist in Oregon is riding on a sidewalk and is approaching or entering a crosswalk (and also a driveway, a curb cut, or a pedestrian ramp) and a motor vehicle is approaching, the bicyclist must slow to the speed of an “ordinary walk” while approaching and entering. ORS 814.410(1)(d) Unsafe operation of bicycle on sidewalk.

Second, a bicyclist is entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian while in a crosswalk.  ORS 814.410(2).  What this means is that the requirement that a motor vehicle stop at a crosswalk when a pedestrian is crossing the roadway also applies to bicyclists.  ORS 811.028 Failure to stop and remain stopped for pedestrian.  Oregon law even requires cars to stop when any part of a person’s bicycle moves onto the roadway in a crosswalk with the intent to proceed across.  ORS 811.028(4).  A bicyclist can’t leave the sidewalk into the path of a car, though, if the car is so close it constitutes an immediate hazard (like it wouldn’t be able to stop safely), even if the bicyclist is entering a crosswalk.  ORS 814.410(1)(a).

Third, a bicyclist must always keep in mind that while riding on the sidewalk and in crosswalks is legal under state law, cities have the right to make it illegal under their city ordinances, so it is important to know the laws of the cities you ride in.

Charley Gee is a bicycle attorney in Portland, Oregon.  He practices at Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton where he represents bicycle riders and pedestrians in personal injury cases.

Does Oregon have a Bicycle Helmet Law?

Like a lot of legal questions, the question of whether Oregon has a mandatory bicycle helmet law is answered with “it depends”.

For bicycle operators under he age of 16 a helmet is required if they are operating a bicycle on a public street or on premises open to the public (like parking lots) per ORS 814.485 Failure to wear protective headgear. For a premises to be considered open to the public it must be made open to the general public for the use of motor vehicles. ORS 801.400 Premises open to the public.

ORS 814.486 Endangering bicycle operator or passenger extends the helmet requirement to bicycle passengers, so if the operator of the bicycle allows a passenger (like cargo bikes, bikes with kid carriers, or pedicabs) under the age of 16 to ride without a helmet the operator can be cited.

Summed up, if a person is 16 or over, or if they are under 16 and not operating their bicycle on a public street or anywhere that motor vehicles are allowed to operate, there is no legal requirement to wear a helmet.

However, even in those situations where a bicycle operator under the age of 16 is operating in an area where a helmet is required, there are some exemptions from the helmet requirement:

1.) If the wearing of a helmet would violate a religious belief or practice;
2.) If the person operating the bicycle is operating a tricycle designed to be ridden by children; and
3.) If the person operating the bicycle is operating a three wheeled non-motorized vehicle on a beach while it is closed to motor vehicle traffic.

But what happens if a person required to wear a helmet fails to do so?

ORS 814.485 sets the fine at $25 for the bicycle operator. However that statutes companion statutes allows the fine to shift to a child’s parents or guardians, or can levy a separate fine on an adult.

If a child is 11 years of age or younger, the violation for failing to wear a helmet MUST be charged against their parent, guardian or any other person with legal responsibility for the safety and welfare of the child.

If a child is between 12 and 16 years of age the violation may be issued to an adult, as above, but also may be issued to the child him- or herself.

An adult could also be charged with violating ORS 814.486 Endangering bicycle operator or passenger if a child under 16 that they have legal responsibility for operates a bicycle without a helmet. It is important to note that there is no knowledge or intent element to this violation, so even if the adult did not know the child was riding without a helmet they could still be charged with the violation.

Even though the penalty for violating ORS 814.485 or ORS 814.486 is a modest $25, a person who violates the law for the first time is not required to pay the fine if they prove to the satisfaction of the court that the underage bicycle operator has protective headgear.

Oregon’s Vehicle Code on bicycle helmets also contains a statute that prohibits evidence of failure to wear a helmet from being used in a civil trial where a bicycle operator is injured or killed and where damages are being sought. ORS 814.489 says such evidence “shall not be admissible, applicable, or effective to reduce the amount of damages or to constitute a defense to an action for damages[.]”

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

 

Oregon Bicycle Law in the News

Two of our contributors were recently featured in news articles about Oregon bicycle law:

Ray Thomas explained the law regarding flashing bicycle lights for The Oregonian’s Joe Rose, specifically how the Oregon statute prohibiting flashing lights on motor vehicles does not apply to bicycles.

Charley Gee was quoted in Michael Andersen‘s BikePortland.org‘s story about Uber’s illegal launch in Portland and the insurance implications of being hit by an Uber driver.  Vehicles operated by Uber drivers do not carry the levels of insurance that traditional commercial and cab companies do.

What are Oregon’s Bicycle Parking Laws? by Charley Gee

A bicycle parked blocking access to newspaper boxes, in violation of Portland city Code 16.70.320(A).

Oregon’s state statutes do not contain any laws that dictate how a person is supposed to park a bicycle. This has resulted in many cities and towns of Oregon drafting their own bicycle parking ordinances. In some of those cities a violation of the ordinance can result in an illegally parked bicycle being impounded . Below I have included the bicycle parking ordinances for the 13 largest cities in Oregon.

Portland

Portland City Code 16.70.320 Operating Rules

No person may:

A. Leave a bicycle so that it obstructs vehicle or pedestrian traffic on a roadway, sidewalk, driveway, handicap access ramp, building entrance, or so that it prevents operation of a parking meter or newspaper rack;

B. Leave a bicycle secured to a fire hydrant or to a police or fire call box;

C. Leave a bicycle on private property without consent of the owner or legal tenant. Consent is implied on private commercial property;

D. Leave a bicycle on a street or other public property for more than 72 hours[.]

Salem

Salem City Code 101.150 Parking of Bicycles

It shall be unlawful for any person to leave a bicycle upon any sidewalk, except in a bicycle rack. If no rack is provided, he shall leave the bicycle so as not to obstruct any roadway, sidewalk, driveway, or building entrance; nor shall any person leave a bicycle on public or private property without consent of the person in charge or the owner thereof.

Eugene

Eugene City Code 5.400 Operating Rules

. . .

(2) No person may park a bicycle in or near a public thoroughfare or place in such a manner as to obstruct traffic or endanger persons or property.

Eugene City Code 5.420 Impounding of Bicycles

(1) A bicycle left on public property for a period in excess of 24 hours may be impounded by the police department.

(2) In addition to any citation issued, a bicycle parked in violation of this chapter may be immediately impounded.

(3) If a bicycle impounded under this chapter bears an Oregon driver’s license number, or other means of determining its ownership exist, the police shall make reasonable efforts to notify the owner.

(4) A bicycle impounded under this chapter which remains unclaimed shall be disposed of in accordance with the city’s procedures for disposal of abandoned or lost personal property.

Gresham

Gresham Revised Code 8.70.040 Misuse of a Bicycle or NonMotorized Vehicle.

No person shall leave a bicycle or non-motorized vehicle:

(1) in a manner which obstructs a street. sidewalk, driveway or building entrance;

(2) on private property without the consent of the person in charge or the owner of the property;

(3) on public property for a period in excess of 18 hours; or

(4) in a public parking lot in a vehicle parking space. A bicycle may only be parked in a public parking lot where special provision has been made for bicycles, in the stand, rack, or other bicycle holder

Gresham Revised Code 8.70.050 Impoundment.

(1) A bicycle or non-motorized vehicle in violation of GRC Article 8.70 may be immediately impounded by the police department.

(2) If a bicycle or non-motorized vehicle impounded under this section is licensed, or other means of determining its ownership exist, the police shall make a reasonable effort to notify the owner.

(3) A bicycle or non-motorized vehicle impounded under this section that remains unclaimed for a period of more than 60 days may be disposed of in accordance with GRC Article 2.81, the city’s procedures for disposal of abandoned or lost personal property.

(4) A bicycle or non-motorized vehicle impounded under this section may be held until the person using the device at the time of the impound is acquitted or provides proof that
security deposit or the fine upon conviction has been paid, unless otherwise ordered by the
Circuit Court or other court of competent jurisdiction.

Hillsboro

Hillsboro Municipal Code 8.28.100 Bicycle parking

A. It is unlawful to park or leave a bicycle upon the sidewalk, except in areas designated under HMC 8.28.100(B).

B. Designated areas for the parking of bicycles and only bicycles are as follows:

1. At the curb on the street and sidewalk, beginning at the intersection of the north boundary of Main Street and the west boundary of N 3rd Street, thence north 20 feet;

2. At the curb on the sidewalk beginning at the point on the north side of E Lincoln Street that is 55 feet east from the easterly boundary of N 2nd Avenue, thence east 20 feet; and

3. During the months the municipal swimming pool is in operation and while bicycle racks are maintained in the street for parking bicycles:

a. On the street on the easterly side of S 9th Avenue beginning at a point 10 feet south of the south boundary of E Cedar Street, thence south 35 feet; and

b. On the street on the southerly side of E Cedar Street, beginning at a point 15 feet east of the east boundary of S 9th Avenue, thence east 45 feet.

C. The manager will cause the appropriate number of bicycle racks to be erected, kept and maintained, each with the proper marking by signs or painting, upon each of the areas under HMC 8.28.100(B).

Beaverton

Beaverton City Code 6.02.430 Impounding of Bicycles.

A. It shall be unlawful to leave a bicycle on public or private property without the consent of the person in charge or the owner thereof.

B. A bicycle left on public property for a period in excess of 72 hours may be impounded by the police department.

C. If a bicycle impounded under this section bears an Oregon driver’s license number or is licensed by this City or another City or other means of determining its ownership exists, the police shall make reasonable efforts to notify the owner.

D. An impoundment fee set by Council resolution shall be charged to the owner of a bicycle impounded under this section except where the bicycle was stolen.

E. A bicycle impounded under this chapter which remains unclaimed for 60 days, shall be disposed of in accordance with BC 2.05.010 through 2.05.026.

Bend

Bend City Code 6.35.000 Bicycle Operating Rules.

Except for bicycles operated by on duty law enforcement personnel:

A. Bicycles shall be parked so they do not obstruct a roadway, sidewalk, driveway or building entrance.
. . .

Bend City Code 6.35.005 Impounding Bicycles.

A. A bicycle left on public property for more than 24 hours may be impounded by the Police Department.

B. If a bicycle impounded under this code is registered, or other means of determining its ownership exist, the police shall make a reasonable effort to notify the owner. No impounding fee shall be charged to the owner of a stolen bike.

C. A bicycle impounded under this code and remaining unclaimed shall be disposed of in accordance with City procedures for disposal of abandoned or lost personal property.

D. Except as provided in subsection (B) of this section, a fee established in the City’s Fee Resolution shall be charged to the owner of a bicycle impounded under this section.

Medford

None

Springfield

None

Corvallis

Corvallis City Code 6.10.060.150

No person shall park a bicycle upon a street or upon a sidewalk except in a rack to support the bicycle or against a building or at the curb, in such a manner as to afford the least obstruction to pedestrian traffic.

Albany

Albany City Code 13.40.150 Parking

No person shall park a bicycle upon a street or upon a sidewalk except in a rack to support the bicycle or against a building or at the curb, in such a manner as to afford the least obstruction to pedestrian traffic.

Tigard

Tigard Municipal Code 10.36.180 Parking Restrictions

From and after December 18, 1967, it is unlawful for any person to park or leave a bicycle upon the sidewalk within the City; except in areas designated by ordinance, which areas shall be properly marked by signs or painting and provided with racks for parking bicycles.

Lake Oswego

Lake Oswego Code 32.10.810 Requirements for Operation of Bicycles Generally.

. . .

7. Obstructing Traffic – No operator of a bicycle shall leave his bicycle lying or standing in such a manner that shall hinder or impede pedestrian or vehicular traffic upon the sidewalks or paths or upon the highways or alleys or public ways within the City, but shall take proper care to see that his bicycle is so placed as to avoid annoyance and danger of accident during his absence from it.

8. Use of Designated Bicycle Stands – The City may designate such place or places within commercial zones exclusively for parking of bicycles and no person shall stand, park or leave any bicycle on the highway or alley or sidewalk within 200 feet of any such place designated exclusively for bicycle parking by the City.

Lake Oswego Code 32.10.815 Impounding Bicycles.

1. No person shall leave a bicycle on private property without the consent of the owner or person in charge. Consent is implied on private business property unless bicycle parking is expressly prohibited.

2. Unless bicycle parking is expressly prohibited on public property, a person shall leave a bicycle in a bicycle rack, if provided, or in accordance with section LOC 32.10.810(8).

3. A bicycle left on a highway or other public property for more than 24 hours may be impounded by the police department.

4. In addition to any citation issued, a bicycle parked in violation of this chapter that obstructs or impedes the free flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic or otherwise endangers the public may be immediately impounded by a law enforcement officer.

5. If a bicycle impounded under this chapter is licensed, or other means of identifying its ownership exist, the police shall make reasonable efforts to notify the owner.

6. A bicycle impounded under this section that remains unclaimed after 30 days shall be disposed of in accordance with LOC 14.04.120.

7. Impoundment under this section shall be done in accordance with the provisions of LOC 14.04.110, et seq.

Charley Gee is a Portland, Oregon, bicycle and pedestrian attorney with Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.

When do Oregon bicyclists have to signal? by Charley Gee

Oregon law requires bicyclists to signal their turns and stops. While that seems like a simple proposition, this law actually goes deeper than that and contains some key differences from the signaling requirements of motor vehicle operators.

Turning

ORS 814.440 Failure to signal turn requires a person operating a bicycle to signal their turns, and ORS 811.395 Appropriate signals for stopping, turning, changing lanes and decelerating provides the method for doing so:

100 feet prior to a left turn a bicyclist must indicate their turn by extending their hand and arm horizontally from the left side of the bicycle.

100 feet prior to a right turn a bicyclist must indicate their turn by either extending their hand and arm upward from the left side of the bicycle or extending their right hand and arm horizontally from the right side of the bicycle.

Stopping

Like turning, the appropriate signal for stopping is contained in ORS 814.440 and ORS 811.395:

100 feet prior to executing a stop a bicyclist must continuously extend their hand and arm downward from the left side of the vehicle.

This differs from the turn signals because of the continuous requirement.

Once a bicyclist stops, they are required to then signal their turn while stopped before executing the turn.

From the Oregon Bicyclist's Manual, Page 8

From the Oregon Bicyclist’s Manual, Page 8

Safety exception

Oftentimes safely braking requires the use of both hands, or conditions make removing an operator’s hands from the handlebars dangerous while approaching and making a turn. Because of those risks the law provides an important exception to the signaling requirements: bicyclists are not required to provide a signal if “circumstances require that both hands be used to safely control or operate the bicycle.”

Changing lanes

Oregon law requires one type of signal by motor vehicle operators that it does not require of bicyclists: changing lanes.

All vehicles are required under Oregon law to provide the appropriate signal when changing lanes and this law would apply to bicyclists under ORS 814.400 Application of vehicle laws to bicycles. However, ORS 814.400 exempts those laws that by “their very nature can have no application.” ORS 811.395 requires a change of lane to be signaled only by “activation of both front and rear turn signal lights on the side of the vehicle”. Bicycles do not have turn signal lights and are not required to have any lights beyond those required by ORS 815.280 Violation of bicycle equipment requirements (see ORS 811.525 Exemptions from requirements for use of lights). If a bicycle did have side turn signal lights, as some custom bikes have or have been retrofitted, then their operators would be required to signal a lane change using those lights.

For the rest of us, since by ORS 811.395(4)’s very nature it cannot apply to bicycle operators, a bicyclist is not required to signal a lane change. What this means is that a bicycle operator in Oregon cannot be issued a valid violation for failing to signal a lane change. However, ORS 814.400(3) provides that the vehicle code “does not relieve a bicyclist or motorist from the duty to exercise due care”.

Charley Gee is a Portland bicycle lawyer.

When Do Oregon Bicyclists Have to Use Lights? by Charley Gee

As the rains return to Oregon, the sun sets earlier, and we return to standard time, I see more bike lights illuminated on my rides to and from work.

IMG_0377

Oregon law requires that bicycle operators use lights in “limited visibility conditions.”

Excerpt from ORS 815.280 Violation of bicycle equipment requirements

(1) A person commits the offense of violation of bicycle equipment requirements if the person does any of the following:
(a) Operates on any highway a bicycle in violation of the requirements of this section.
(b) Is the parent or guardian of a minor child or ward and authorizes or knowingly permits the child or ward to operate a bicycle on any highway in violation of the requirements of this section.
(2) A bicycle is operated in violation of this section if any of the following requirements are violated:
. . .
(c) At the times described in the following, a bicycle or its rider must be equipped with lighting equipment that meets the described requirements:
(A) The lighting equipment must be used during limited visibility conditions.
(B) The lighting equipment must show a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of a bicycle.
(C) The lighting equipment must have a red reflector or lighting device or material of such size or characteristic and so mounted as to be visible from all distances up to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlights on a motor vehicle.

There are several key definitions to know in order to fully understand this law.

“Highway” is a term used in Oregon’s Rules of the Road that leads to a lot of confusion. Surprisingly to some people, a highway as defined in the law doesn’t just mean those roads designated as highways but “every public way, road, street, thoroughfare, and place” that are “used or intended for the use of the general public for vehicles or vehicular traffic as a matter of right.” ORS 801.305. This extends to the sidewalk, which is defined as “a portion of the highway”. ORS 801.485. What this means is that a bicycle operator is required to use lights even while operating on the sidewalk or any other area open to the public, like parking lots.

“A bicycle or its operator must be equipped” means that a person who clips a light to their messenger bag or helmet is in as much compliance with the law as someone with a light or reflector attached to their bicycle.

Another part of this law that is tricky is that “limited visibility conditions” does not just include nighttime. The law defines it as anytime from sunset to sunrise, which is obvious, but also any other time that “due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions” you are not able to discern other persons and vehicles at a distance of 1,000 feet. 1,000 feet is a long distance. For instance, in downtown Portland, 1,000 feet is five city blocks. So, the law requires the use of lights if the darkness, rain, fog, mist, or snow makes it difficult to see.

Bicycles sold are usually equipped with only reflectors, not lights. Oregon law requires a front white light in limited visibility conditions. A front clear reflector will not suffice to satisfy the equipment requirement. A rear red reflector, or rear red reflective material, will, so long as it can be seen from 600 feet to the rear (3 downtown Portland city blocks).

Charley Gee is an attorney in Portland, Oregon.

Do Portland’s new Waterfront Park signs have any legal authority? by Charley Gee

Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park was named one of the best public spaces in the country in 2012.

With a mix of walkers, joggers, cyclists, tourists on Segways, and animals on (and off) leashes the paths can be a jumble of transportation modes and uses.

The City of Portland has recently installed signs to encourage “faster” riders to use Naito Parkway and also to ride slowly when the path is crowded.

Credit: Amanda Ulrich, IG @amandarunpdxforcongo

Credit: Amanda Ulrich, Instagram: @amandarunpdxforcongo

Credit:

Credit: Amanda Ulrich, Instagram: @amandarunpdxforcongo

 

If a cyclist chose to ignore these signs and ride faster than conditions warrant could that person by cited?  Yes, but not for breaking the laws that you may think.

The cyclist could not be (successfully) cited under state law.  The Waterfront Path is a multi-use path.  It is not a sidewalk under the law, because it is not on the side of a highway.  It is, however, a bicycle path.  What this means is that, under state law, a bicyclist is under no traffic law obligation to yield the right of way to pedestrians or provide an audible signal, nor maintain a speed reasonable under the basic rule.  They are, however, under the same due care requirements that all people owe one another under civil negligence law.

The City of Portland, however, has the right to control traffic within parks.  Bicycles are “traffic” when on the roadway and the city code extends the control of that traffic when bicycles are being operated within a park.  The Portland Police Bureau is directly authorized to enforce the traffic control within parks and can therefore issue a citation for violating the city code.  The fine can be up to $500.

Since the signs give clear directives, not suggestions, a bicycle rider who fails to operate slowly in crowded conditions, or who operates at a speed considered “fast” without using Naito Parkway, could be issued a citation.  The signs, however, leave a lot to the subjective experience of the cyclist and a law enforcement officer over what is “fast”, “slowly”, and “crowded”.

Charley Gee represents bicyclists and pedestrians in Portland, Oregon, at Swanson, Thomas, Coon, & Newton.

 

 

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.

 

Are Electric Assisted Bicycles Legal to Ride in Oregon? by Charley Gee

Electric Assisted Bikes, also known as e-bikes or e-assist bikes, are a growing trend, not just in Oregon but worldwide. The New York Times recently ran an article profiling the growth of sales that e-bikes are experiencing in Europe, and their growing popularity with “older people, delivery businesses and commuters who don’t want to sweat.” E-Bike Sales are Surging in Europe, August 25, 2014.  There has been recent local focus as well.  Jennifer Dill, Director of the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) recently appeared on OPB’s Think Out Loud to discuss their growing use and yesterday the National Institute for Transportation and Communities released an in depth and well researched survey of the regulations surrounding e-bikes in the United States.

So, are e-bikes legal to ride like an unassisted bicycle?  Yes, but with some very important differences (explained below).

An Electric Assisted Bicycle is a very specific creature in Oregon law under ORS 801.258.  It must:

  1. Be designed to be operated on the ground with wheels;
  2. Have a seat or saddle;
  3. Have no more than three wheels;
  4. Have BOTH fully operative pedals for human propulsion AND an ELECTRIC motor; AND
  5. That electric motor cannot have an output above 1,000 watts AND it cannot be capable of propelling the vehicle at a speed greater than 20 MPH on level ground.

There are a lot of specific requirements for a bike to be an e-bike under the law.  I have spoken to some owners of e-bikes who have motors above 1,000 watts that cannot get over 20 MPH and some who have motors at 1,000 watts who can get a speed higher than 20MPH.  These are not Electric Assisted Bicycles under the law and are not granted the same rights as Electric Assisted Bicycle users.

Electric Assisted Bicycles are given the same status of bicycles under Oregon law.  ORS 814.405.  That means that, when reading other statutes, any rights or responsibilities given to a rider of a bicycle under the law is also given to the rider of an Electric Assisted Bicycle (unless specifically stated otherwise).

The key law in which Electric Assisted Bicycles are not given the same rights and responsibilities as unassisted bicycle operators is operation upon a sidewalk.  Unassisted bicycle riders can, as a general rule, operate upon a sidewalk unless specifically prohibited from doing so by municipal ordinance (like downtown Portland and the Eugene transit mall area).  However, Electric Assisted Bicycle operators are specifically excluded from riding on sidewalks statewide.  ORS 814.410(1)(e).

This law creates an unnecessary inefficiency for an Electric Assisted Bicycle operator riding on the street or confined to the bicycle lane via ORS 814.420, but cannot legally escape to the sidewalk in the case of traffic or another blockage.  This is an interesting restriction given the inability, by the very nature of its definition, for an e-bike to exceed 20 MPH, but an unassisted bike with the right rider could easily exceed 20 MPH on a sidewalk.

Another key difference between Electric Assisted Bicycles and unassisted bicycles is that operators under 16 are not allowed to ride Electric Assisted Bicycles per ORS 807.020(15).