Tag Archives: Bicycle Law

What does “Impeding Traffic” mean?

Earlier this year Salem cyclist David Fox had an encounter with an irate motorist on State Street, a three lane one way street that runs by Oregon’s State Capitol. Despite riding to the right on the street, the motorist became angry at him and told David “if I was impeding traffic, then I had to pull to the side. But I told him he had plenty of room to go around. The last thing he said was: ‘I hope you are killed by a car.’” David’s encounter led him to erect his own signs along State Street to educate road users about the law. He removed the signs shortly after putting them up.

Two of Oregon’s Rules of the Road that bicyclists are frequently cited for violating, ORS 814.430 Improper use of lanes and ORS 811.130 Impeding traffic, include references to “impeding traffic.” The term “impeding traffic” is not defined anywhere in the statutory vehicle code, and the definition of the term is not as simple as a lot of motor vehicle driver’s believe it is, including the driver that threatened David.

In 2005 the Oregon Court of Appeals defined what impeding traffic meant in State v. Tiffin, 202 Or App 199 (2005). In the case the defendant, Jacob Tiffin, was followed by two police officers on a two lane road in Josephine County with a posted speed limit of 40MPH. Tiffin was driving between 28 and 30 miles per hour. Despite there being several turnouts on the road, Tiffin continued driving with the police officers following him until he was eventually pulled over for violating ORS 811.130 Impeding traffic for driving under the speed limit. Tiffin was charged and convicted of driving under the influence of intoxicants. Tiffin appealed his conviction on the grounds that the police officers lacked probable cause to believe he had violated ORS 811.130 Impeding traffic because the officers could have safely and reasonably passed him but chose not to.

The court agreed with Tiffin and in doing so defined what it means to impede (or, rather, not impede) traffic: “here the officers were forced to slow down for only a fraction of a mile before they had the opportunity to pass defendant… [and] where the speed (of Tiffin) was not significantly below the speed limit, there were no other cars on the road, and if the officer’s vehicle was blocked at all, it was for a very short distance, if cannot be said that [Tiffin] violated ORS 811.130 by blocking or impeding the normal and reasonable flow of traffic.” The officers in Tiffin “were therefore not impeded or blocked – they could have safely and lawfully passed him but chose not to…there is no evidence that, before the officers decided to remain behind his vehicle and follow him, that he impeded ‘reasonable and normal’ traffic movement.”

How this case translates into Oregon bicycle law is that if a car driver behind a cyclist has the ability to safely and reasonably pass the bicyclist moving more slowly, the car driver is not “impeded”, even if they have to wait a fraction of a mile to do so. The driver who threatened David had ample ability to pass him by moving over into any of the other unoccupied lanes of State Street, but chose not to do so.

Do bicyclists have to yield to buses in Oregon?

In some circumstances bicyclists, and all other vehicle operators, are required to yield the right of way to transit buses in Oregon.

ORS 811.167 Failure to yield right of way to transit bus requires that vehicle operators approaching a transit bus from the rear are required to yield the right of way to the bus if the bus is trying to re-enter traffic after stopping to drop off or pick up passengers AND the bus has a illuminated, flashing yield sign displayed.

Here, a Trimet bus has its yield sign illuminated but motor vehicle traffic is failing to yield, causing the bus to block the bicycle lane.

In the picture above you can see that that Trimet bus’s yield sign (circled in red) is illuminated but the motor vehicle traffic has failed to yield, causing the bus to block the bicycle lane and prevent the bus behind it from getting to its stop.

ORS 811.167 Failure to yield right of way to transit bus

(1)A person commits the offense of failure to yield the right of way to a transit bus entering traffic if the person does not yield the right of way to a transit bus when:

     (a) A yield sign as described in subsection (2) of this section is displayed on the back of the transit bus;

     (b)The person is operating a vehicle that is overtaking the transit bus from the rear of the transit bus; and

     (c)The transit bus, after stopping to receive or discharge passengers, is signaling an intention to enter the traffic lane occupied by the person.

(2)The yield sign referred to in subsection (1)(a) of this section shall warn a person operating a motor vehicle approaching the rear of a transit bus that the person must yield when the transit bus is entering traffic. The yield sign shall be illuminated by a flashing light when the bus is signaling an intention to enter a traffic lane after stopping to receive or discharge passengers. The Oregon Transportation Commission shall adopt by rule the message on the yield sign, specifications for the size, shape, color, lettering and illumination of the sign and specifications for the placement of the sign on a transit bus.

(3)This section does not relieve a driver of a transit bus from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the roadway.

(4)As used in this section, transit bus means a commercial bus operated by a city or a county, a mass transit district established under ORS 267.010 to ORS 267.390 or a transportation district established under ORS 267.510 to 267.650.

(5)The offense described in this section, failure to yield the right of way to a transit bus entering traffic, is a Class D traffic violation. [1997 c.509 §2; 2013 c.202 §1