Tag Archives: Bike Lanes

When can a motor vehicle stop or park in the bicycle lane?

Following last week’s post about motor vehicles operating in the bicycle lane, I was asked several questions about motor vehicles stopping or parking in bicycle lanes.

It is not rare to see a car or delivery truck parked in the bicycle lane.  If a motor vehicle is parked in the bicycle lane, is it breaking the law?  It depends.  Under Oregon state law, it is not illegal for a motor vehicle to stop or park in a bicycle lane under certain circumstances.  However, many municipal ordinance and city codes, including Portland’s, make stopping on a bicycle lane illegal in most scenarios.

ORS 811.550(23) makes stopping, standing or parking (I’m going to use “stopping” as shorthand) a motor vehicle on a bicycle lane illegal.  However, like the law that makes operating a car on the bike lane illegal, this law has many exemptions.   10 of them.    Most of the exemptions are obvious:

  • Government vehicles performing maintenance or repair work;
  • School buses or worker transport buses loading or unloading passengers (provided their yellow flashing lights are engaged);
  • Vehicles complying with the direction of a police officer or traffic control device;
  • Vehicles operated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stopped in order to release fish; or
  • Vehicles stopped to collect solid waste. recycling, or yard debris.

However, there are some circumstances where you would expect that a vehicle stopped in the bicycle lane is violating the law where, in fact, it is not:

  • If a vehicle becomes “disabled in such a manner and such an extent that the driver cannot avoid stopping or temporarily leaving the disabled vehicle” in the bicycle lane, no violation of the prohibition has occurred; or
  • When a vehicle momentarily stops to allow oncoming traffic to pass before making a turn or momentarily stops in preparation for or while negotiating an exit from the road.

The biggest bike lane blocking culprits, however, are parked delivery trucks and cars double parked temporarily.  Despite the hazard they create and the inefficiencies they cause, they may not be breaking Oregon state law.

A vehicle is allowed to stop, stand, or park in the bicycle lane if:

  • If the vehicle is momentarily stopped to pick up or discharge a passenger; or
  • If the vehicle is momentarily stopped for the purpose of, and while actually engaged in, the loading or unloading of property;

So, the trucks stopped on the bicycle lane to deliver kegs of beer or UPS trucks stopped outside office buildings are not violating state law, so long as they are engaged in the loading or unloading of goods.  Same with the taxi cabs outside of the hotels, so long as they are actively picking up or discharging a passenger.

One last exemption stands out for both its vagueness of language and possible reach.  (5) of the exemption law reads:

  •  “When applicable, this subsection exempts vehicles from the prohibitions and penalties when the driver’s disregard of the prohibitions is necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic.”  (Emphasis added).

“Conflict with other traffic” is not defined in the statute and has not been defined by the Oregon courts.

Portland’s City Code specifically prohibits stopping on a bicycle lane PCC 16.20.130(u) without the numerous exclusions of the state law, but it does include one exclusion (to all of their parking prohibitions) that exempts vehicles stopped on a bicycle lane to avoid conflict with other traffic.

Can a motor vehicle operate in a bicycle lane?

At our bicycle legal clinics, we are often asked about motor vehicles operating in the bicycle lane. While a bicycle lane has one of the purest rights-of-way in the Oregon Vehicle Code, the law does allow motor vehicles to operate upon the bicycle lane in certain circumstances.

Oregon law contains a blanket prohibition of the operation of a motor vehicle upon a bicycle lane. ORS 811.435(1), so in most situations a motor vehicle operating in a bicycle lane is operating illegally.

However, like a lot of prohibitions in the Oregon Vehicle Code, there is a statute that allows exceptions.  ORS 811.440 enumerates the circumstances in which a motor vehicle is allowed to operate on a bicycle lane.

Most of the exceptions require no further explanation:

  • entering or leaving an alley, private road or driveway;
  • required in the course of official duty (think police and fire vehicles); and
  • implement of husbandry (farm vehicle) that crosses into the bicycle lane to permit other vehicles to pass.

However, ORS 811.440(2)(a) contains a big exception in three words that causes a lot of traffic conflicts:

  • making a turn

Allowing motor vehicles to operate upon the bicycle lane while making a turn may seem obvious. Otherwise, how would they be able to make the turn? But the exception “making a turn” could potentially cover a lot of scenarios and can lead to some confusion and ambiguity:

Scenario 1: The Simple Right Turn

Right hook turn

Here, a motor vehicle makes a simple right turn at a green light, yielding to bicycles in the bicycle lane, from the right hand “B” lane. Did the motor vehicle driver violate Oregon law? No. They are permitted to cross over the bicycle lane to make the turn.  However, despite motor vehicle operators being allowed to operate on bicycle lanes while turning like this, there is no exception to the duty to yield the right of way to bicycle riders operating on a bicycle lane, found in ORS 811.050.

Scenario 2: The Sneak Around

Sneak Around

In this scenario, an inpatient motor vehicle operator comes up with a plan to pass the cars waiting to proceed straight or turn left by driving to the right of the cars in the bike lane. Did the driver violate Oregon law? Yes.  There is no exception for approaching a turn on the bicycle lane, only for making a turn. The driver also violated ORS 811.415 Unsafe passing on the right, which prohibits motor vehicles (but not bicyclists) from overtaking and passing other vehicles on the right.

Scenario 3: The Mid-Block Cruiser


I have occasionally seen a motor vehicle operator who, knowing they need to make a right turn ahead, and seeing a gap in bicycle traffic in the bicycle lane, moves their car over mid-block and occupies the bicycle lane while moving forward to make their turn. Is this legal? No. Like the example above, ORS 811.440(2)(a) only allows a car to operate on a bicycle lane while making a turn, not while preparing to make a turn.