Category Archives: crosswalks


What are the legal rights and responsibilities of people walking and jogging in the roadway?

In our current time of widespread “shelter in place” orders, heading out for a neighborhood walk or jog is among the few available forms of exercise.  With relatively high volumes of sidewalk traffic, and a desire to maintain appropriate social distances, many people find it necessary to divert from the sidewalk and walk or run, at least temporarily, in the roadway.  People on foot have ample right of way protections on sidewalks and when using marked or unmarked crosswalks.  However, when they veer into the roadway, their rights with respect to other modes diminish significantly. 

ORS 814.070, entitled “Improper position upon or improperly proceeding along highway,” is a pedestrian-equivalent to Oregon’s “mandatory side path law” for bicyclists.  Just as ORS 814.420 requires bicyclists to use a bicycle lane when one is available (subject to several important exceptions), ORS 814.070 prohibits people on foot from “tak[ing] a position upon or proceed[ing] along and upon the roadway where there is an adjacent usable sidewalk or shoulder.”  Of course, in the age of mandatory 6 foot buffers between sidewalk users, a pedestrian using the roadway could argue that the sidewalk was not “usable” because it was occupied by another (potentially virus-carrying) person.  However, even if that pedestrian is legally entitled to be in the roadway, ORS 814.040 requires, when outside of marked or unmarked crosswalks, that they “yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.”  In other words, while pedestrians enjoy significant right of way protections on the sidewalk and in crosswalks, when otherwise travelling in the roadway they must yield to vehicles, including cars and bicycles. 

Fortunately, in many parts of Portland, motor vehicle traffic is light, making compliance with Oregon law while in the roadway relatively straightforward.  However, in the city’s denser areas, or on streets with high vehicle traffic volumes, pedestrians forced to use the roadway face additional risk of injury without legal recourse.          

Marked and Unmarked Crosswalks in Oregon: Our Take on ORS 801.220

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.

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Right of Way in the Crosswalk: Legislative Solutions to Making the Cars Stop Without Entering the Killing Zone

by Ray Thomas, Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Attorney


Why did the man on the curb with the dog glare angrily at the approaching motorist?
Why did the elderly lady with the bag of groceries look wistful?

Why did the child standing on the curb look confused?

What do these people walking all have in common besides trying to safely cross the street? The answer is confusion and frustration over where they stand, or don’t stand, with approaching motorists to claim their legal right to cross the street in a crosswalk.

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