Category Archives: Sidewalks


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.          

E-scooters on Sidewalks and Bike Lanes, Oh My!

Gregg writes to ask what to do on his e-scooter when a bike lane goes onto the sidewalk, as it does on several Portland bridges.  Of course scooters are required to use available bike lanes.  ORS 814.514:

“[A] person commits the offense of failure of a motor assisted scooter operator to use a bicycle lane or bicycle path if the person operates a motor assisted scooter 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 [unless prohibited by local ordinance].”

But a scooter is not allowed on a sidewalk except to cross it to enter or leave adjacent property.   ORS 814.524:

“A person commits the offense of unsafe operation of a motor assisted scooter on a sidewalk if the person operates a motor assisted scooter on a sidewalk, except to enter or leave adjacent property …”

So what to do when, as on the Broadway or Hawthorne bridges, the bike lane goes up onto what looks like a sidewalk?  Or on Lovejoy eastbound west of NW 13th Avenue?  Where the sidewalk IS the bike lane, how can you use the bike lane but stay off the sidewalk?

The technical answer on the bridges is that the concrete way that looks like a sidewalk doesn’t meet the definition of sidewalk because sidewalks are defined as being next to the “adjacent property line,” ORS 801.485, and what’s outside the railings on the bridges is a 40 foot drop to the river.   That’s not “adjacent property,” and there’s no “line.”

On NW Lovejoy just west of NW 13th, where the bike lane is routed up onto the sidewalk behind the MAX shelter, take the bike lane, and tell the arresting officer you’re following the law that requires e-scooters to take the bike lane.  (Besides, who wants to ride an e-scooter between the MAX tracks on Lovejoy?)   

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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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.

We’re fans of BIKETOWN, but its Rules of the Road need work – Chris Thomas

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”:

A list of rules printed on all BIKETOWN bikes: Yield for people walking, obey traffic lights and laws, walk bikes on sidewalk, don't bike on rail tracks, have fun! But these rules don't accurately represent Oregon bike law.

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.”

BIKETOWN website text telling users to "avoid sidewalks," which doesn't accurately represent Oregon bike law

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.”

BIKETOWN's website's description of rules relating to headphones, which doesn't accurately represent Oregon bike law

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.