Tag Archives: Bicycle Lanes

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.

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.