On January 4th, 2019—less than a week ago—a pedestrian here in Portland was killed by a motor vehicle while crossing the street at the intersection of SW Salmon and Park. This intersection only features one marked crosswalk. According to the statement released by police, the pedestrian was in an “unmarked crosswalk” when he was hit.
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.
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.
Printed on each BIKETOWN bike is a list of riding tips, which includes “WALK BIKES ON SIDEWALK”:
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.”
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.
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.”
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.