Oregon law did not specifically authorize passing on the right until 2006, when the law was clarified to follow the great majority of other states and the Uniform Vehicle Code in specifically allowing bicycles to pass other vehicles on the right when it can be performed safely.
In Oregon bicycles and motor vehicles share the same traffic lane and the fluid movement of traffic is in everyone’s best interest when performed in a safe manner. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) Legislative Committee persuaded the 2005 Oregon Legislature to change the law so that passing on the right would be allowed “if the overtaking vehicle is a bicycle that may safely make the passage under the existing conditions” ORS 811.415(2)(c).
Of course, bicycles are entitled to pass cars just like any other vehicle on streets without a bicycle lane.
The 2006 law allows safe passing on the right which helps to make the flow of traffic more smooth, and keeps riders from being stuck while stopped in a line of exhaust spewing motor vehicles.
Oregon law allowing bicycles to pass on the right is not unusual. The Uniform Vehicle Code Section 11-304(b) is a typical treatment of the issue: “The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety.” (National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances 2000). Oregon merely joined the great majority of other states that allowed the maneuver with the law change of 2006.
The bicycle is a legal hybrid in Oregon traffic law. It is a vehicle but also is allowed to share the same lane with motor vehicles. A bicycle’s narrow width of track allows the rider to fully utilize the standard width traffic lane and improve the roadway’s capacity to move traffic. The Oregon law supports common sense and smooth traffic flow in allowing safe passing on the right.
Ray Thomas is an Oregon bicycle lawyer with Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.