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.

While we fully support proposed measures to make intersections like these safer for pedestrians, including incorporating additional marked crosswalks, we also think it is important for everyone—pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers, law enforcement and legislators—to think further about the implications of the existing laws that define and identify crosswalks, particularly ORS 801.220. There seems to be some confusion about whether the existence of marked crosswalks at an intersection negates or removes any crosswalks that aren’t marked at that intersection—but we don’t believe that is the case.

The view we have always taken of ORS 801.220 is that it does not “take away a crosswalk at another corner” but instead that a marked crosswalk location denotes the crosswalk for that particular crossing. Consequently, at the four corner intersection of SW Salmon and Park, there are four crosswalks. Unless there is signage, like at the west end of the Morrison Bridge on the east crosswalk over the foot of Washington Street that says “No Pedestrian Crossing” or something like that, ORS 801.220 is not a crosswalk “trimming” or elimination statute. Note that the actual language of ORS 801.220 states: “Whenever marked crosswalks have been indicated, such crosswalks and no others shall be deemed lawful across such roadway at that intersection.”

It is important to note the plural use of the word “crosswalks” not “crosswalk”. That is intentional. It is also important to note that where such “crosswalks” exist “no others” shall be deemed lawful. Clearly this indicates that marked crosswalks denote the crosswalk where such markings exist—but where no such markings exist then unmarked crosswalks still exist for the other 3 unmarked crossings on a four corner intersection. See how ORS 801.220 defines an unmarked crosswalk (the parameters for which, by the way, are very expansive, 6′ to 20′ wide!) here.

Further, “such roadway” “at that intersection” is a different part of roadway from the crosswalk where the collision occurred, separated by my guess of about 20′ or so. I am not saying PBOT could not close that unmarked crosswalk (the Oregon Vehicle Code provides cities the legal authority to do so), but in my view it would require signage, and would be a bad idea.

You can find several aerial pictures of the intersection, along with information about future pedestrian-safety changes planned for SW Salmon, in this detailed article on the subject of this preventable tragedy by Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland.