Category Archives: Chris Thomas

Cynthia Newton And Chris Thomas Present E-Bike And Scooter Law To Local Attorney Group

On Friday, October 26th, Cynthia Newton and Chris Thomas presented a seminar on Oregon electric bicycle and scooter law to a group of fellow trial attorneys. Their presentation, entitled “Shock Me Like an Electric Wheel: Oregon E-Bike and Scooter Law,” covered the rules of the road governing e-bike and scooter use as well as what insurance coverage may be available following a collision. They presented as part of the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association’s annual all-day continuing legal education seminar covering topics relevant to motor vehicle collision cases. Cynthia and Chris appreciate the role that electric assisted vehicles can play in Portland’s transportation future, and were honored to speak on this important topic.

Ray and Chris Thomas Join Ruckus Composites for Podcast on Bicycle Law

Ruckus Composites is a Portland-based company that specializes in repair of carbon fiber bicycles. Ruckus’ Shawn Small and Dan Steinle frequently record podcasts on topics related to bicycles and carbon fiber, known as the Fiber Side Chats. Shawn and Dan recently invited Ray and Chris Thomas of Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost to their studio to discuss bicycle law, including rules of the road, how Oregon compares to other states, and how insurance coverage can protect bicyclists.

The episode is here. We hope you enjoy it!

The floating section of Portland's Eastbank Esplanade, credit to Wikipedia User Cacophony

E-Bikes And E-Scooters On The Springwater, Esplanade And Other Portland Parks

The recent prevalence of e-bikes on Portland streets, and the even more recent influx of e-scooters, has increased the public’s curiosity about state and local law governing the devices. Many Portlanders now know that e-bikes and e-scooters are prohibited on sidewalks statewide, users of both must be at least 16 years old, and e-scooter users must wear helmets, but not e-bike riders. (For a comprehensive look at Oregon e-bike law, see our firm’s legal guide here.) A lesser known provision of Portland city code came to my attention recently in an article by the Oregonian’s Lizzy Acker, which included the following statement:

I emailed Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesperson John Brady on Friday to ask him some question about the scooters and he informed me that city code does not allow scooters in city parks, including the esplanade and the Springwater Corridor, so I can’t recommend you take this route home.

It seemed strange to me that critical bicycle and pedestrian corridors like the Springwater and Esplanade would be off limits to e-scooters, so I decided to take a look at the code to learn more. The relevant provision is not located in Title 16, which governs Vehicles and Traffic, but rather under Title 20 governing Parks and Recreation. Although the Springwater and Esplanade don’t resemble typical parks, they are controlled by Parks and Recreation and so are subject to the same rules as more conventional park spaces like Pioneer Square and Irving Park. After some digging, I came across 20.12.170, which regulates Use of Certain Devices or Equipment. Subsection (D) of that ordinance states as follows:

20.12.170 Use of Certain Devices or Equipment.

D. No person shall operate any motorized vehicle or motorized wheeled vehicle or motorized wheeled device in any Park, except on Park roads or in designated vehicle parking areas, or by permit. The prohibitions of this Section do not apply to authorized service or emergency vehicles or to the following electric mobility devices used by persons who need assistance to be mobile, and used in accordance with all applicable park and traffic rules:

1. “Electric assisted bicycle” as defined in ORS 801.258;

2. “Motorized wheelchair,” “Mobility scooter” or “Power chair” defined as an electric powered transportation device for one person in a seated position, with feet resting on floorboards or foot rests, and incapable of exceeding a speed of 20 mph; or

3. “Human or personal transporter system” defined as a self-balancing, electric-powered transportation device with two wheels, able to turn in place, and designed to transport one person in a standing position, with a top speed of 20 mph.

Assuming e-scooters constitute “motorized vehicle or motorized wheeled vehicle or motorized wheeled device,” which is fair, they do appear to be prohibited from use in Parks, which are defined in 20.04.010 as property “placed under the jurisdiction of Portland Parks and Recreation for park or recreational purposes.” The prohibition on e-scooters alone seems significant, given the important role served by Parks like the Springwater and Esplanade in the City’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure. However, the provision that really caught my eye from the above code provision relates to e-bikes. 20.12.170(D) subsection (1) exempts e-bikes from the general prohibition on “motorized vehicle or motorized wheeled vehicle or motorized wheeled device”, but only when “used by persons who need assistance to be mobile.”

Therefore, non-disabled e-bike riders are granted no exception to the e-bike prohibition, and are prohibited on all Park paths throughout the City. According to the Portland Parks directory, Parks include not only the Springwater, Esplanade, and Waterfront Park, but also the Peninsula Crossing Trail, Gateway Green, Forest Park and Powell Butte. Indeed, Portland law excludes non-disabled e-bike riding on some of the City’s most convenient, safe, and scenic bicycle corridors.

The prohibition of non-disabled e-bike use, as well as all e-scooter use, from many of our City’s prized bicycle and pedestrian facilities seems inconsistent with the City’s stated goals of fighting climate change, promoting non-car transportation, and improving safety for vulnerable road users. The Springwater and Esplanade epitomize the type of car-free and efficient infrastructure that make bicycle commuting through Portland an attractive alternative to driving. If the City is serious about accomplishing its goals, it needs to act soon to allow at least some level of e-bike and e-scooter access to these areas by non-disabled Portlanders.

Some may question whether a change in the code is truly necessary given the lack of any apparent enforcement by the City of the above provision. However, despite no current, active enforcement, the code should be updated because it reflects our priorities as a City. Also, if a collision happens that causes injury to an e-bike or e-scooter user, the injured party could face a defense that they were legally a trespasser and shouldn’t have been in the park in the first place. Though it may seem like an obscure, unenforced code provision now, it could still create an excuse for failing to pay for damages caused by negligence.

It recently came to light that the state’s park agency, Oregon Parks and Recreation, interprets state rules to prohibit e-bike users from trails in Oregon State Parks because they fall under the agency’s definition of motor vehicles. As a result, Oregon Parks and Recreation initiated a process to change the rules and allow e-bikes on state park trails, with reasonable restrictions on use. In recognition of the important role e-bikes and e-scooters can play in our City’s transportation future, we think the City of Portland should take similar action.

Image credit: “The Esplanade’s floating section” by Wikipedia User: Cacophony under CC BY 2.5

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.

TCNF Attorney Chris Thomas Places 3rd In The Red Line Criterium

On Sunday August 12 attorney Chris Thomas raced as a member of the TCNF.LEGAL Racing Team in the Red Line Criterium on Swan Island in Portland. Chris lined up with about 25 other riders for the Category 3 event, which raced for 40 minutes around the flat, one half mile, D-shaped circuit. On the final lap, Chris sprinted for 3rd place and a spot on the podium. For more information on the TCNF.LEGAL Racing Team, check out their Facebook page here.