Tag Archives: Traffic Signals

Conflicting Crossing Signals

I have been asked by some attendees of our bicycle legal clinics about the legal operation of the crossings along the new Orange Line MAX in Portland, specifically the crossings at SE 12th Avenue and SE 8th Avenue where there are both pedestrian crossing signals and bicycle signals.

At these crossings, if nobody triggers the pedestrian crossing signal by pressing the button then bicyclists get a green bicycle signal but the pedestrian crossing signal remains a red “do not cross” hand.

The crossing at SE 8th Ave showing a green bicycle signal but a red hand pedestrian signal.

The crossing at SE 8th Ave showing a green bicycle signal but a red hand pedestrian signal.

ORS 814.410(2) Unsafe operation of bicycle on a sidewalk gives bicyclists operating on the sidewalk the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians.

ORS 814.400 Application of vehicle laws to bicycles gives bicyclists operating on a “public way” (not even on the roadway) the same rights and responsibilities of a any other vehicle operator under the vehicle code.

ORS 814.010(6)(b) Appropriate responses to traffic control devices requires that “[a] pedestrian shall not start to cross the roadway in the direction of a signal showing a Wait or Don’t Walk or any other symbol… indicating that the pedestrian may not proceed.”  

However, ORS 811.260(3) Appropriate responses to traffic control devices allows “[a] bicyclist facing a green bicycle signal may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at that place prohibits either turn.”  

So, in the situation described and shown in the photo above, we are left with contradictory signals due to a bicycle’s hybrid legal status as a vehicle beholden to both the vehicle code and pedestrian laws.

ORS 814.020 Failure to obey traffic control device contains an exception for when a pedestrian disobeys a signal at the direction of a police officer, but there is no exception for the direction of a conflicting traffic control device.

Unfortunately this problem does not have an easy legal answer.  The laws are in conflict with one another.  The only solution is a practical one: press the button to trigger both the green bicycle light and the pedestrian crossing signal.

Who has the right-of-way at a four-way stop in Oregon?

Everyone has seen the infamous Portlandia skit.

Despite what you may have learned in driver’s education about four way stops in Oregon, the person who stopped first or the person to your right does not have the legal right-of-way. Neither does the person going straight have right-of-way over the person turning left if they are not already in the intersection. The only person who has the right-of-way at a four way stop in Oregon is the vehicle operator who is already in the intersection.

ORS 811.260(15) Appropriate driver responses to traffic control devices contains the controlling law for a vehicle operator facing a stop sign.

(15) Stop signs. A driver approaching a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if there is no marked crosswalk, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering it. After stopping, the driver shall yield the right of way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when the driver is moving across or within the intersection.

There is no right-of-way for the vehicle approaching from a vehicle operator’s right at a controlled intersection like that found in ORS 811.275 Failure to yield the right of way at uncontrolled intersection for uncontrolled intersections (a topic for another day).

The Oregon Driver Manual says

At any intersection with stop signs in all four directions, it is common courtesy to allow the driver who stops first to go first. If in doubt yield to the driver on your right. To avoid the risk of a crash, never insist on the right of way.

2014-2015 Oregon Driver Manual, page 44.  Emphasis added.

So the next time someone waves you through you can proceed knowing you are not snatching the right-of-way from them. Once you cross your vehicle over that stop line and into the intersection that right-of-way is legally yours.

Does a bicyclist have to stop for railroad crossing signals in Oregon?

Yes, all vehicles have to stop and remain stopped when a railroad signal is displayed or a train is approaching and is close enough to be an immediate hazard.

In Oregon a vehicle (which includes a bicycle whether operated on the street or the sidewalk) must stop for a railroad signal or when a train is approaching and is close enough to be an immediate hazard, even if there are no railroad crossing signals.

Railroad crossing along Portland's new Orange Line

Railroad crossing along Portland’s new Orange Line

ORS 811.455 requires vehicle operators to stop at a stop line or, if there is no stop line, not less than 15 feet from a rail line when:

  • A clearly visible electric or mechanical signal is warning of the approach of a train.
  • When a crossing gate is lowered.
  • When a signal is given by a flagger or police officer that a train is approaching.
  • When an approaching train is clearly visible and is so close as to be an immediate hazard.
  • When an audible signal is given by a train because its speed or nearness to the crossing is an immediate hazard.

A vehicle operator must stop and remain stopped for a train until it is safe to proceed across the tracks.  This means that a vehicle operator is not required to wait until the signal ends, only until the train has passed and it is safe to proceed: “A driver who has stopped for the passing of a train at a railroad grade crossing in accordance with the provisions of this section shall not proceed across the railroad tracks until the driver can do so safely.”  ORS 811.455(1)(b).

Railroad crossing gate lowered.

Railroad crossing gate lowered.

When the crossing has crossing gates, though, a vehicle operator must wait until the crossing gate is fully opened before proceeding though, even is there is no train approaching or the train has already cleared the crossing: “A person shall not drive any vehicle through, around or under a crossing gate or barrier at a railroad crossing while the gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed.” ORS 811.455(1)(b).

Does Oregon have a Dead Red Law?

No.  Oregon does not have a “dead red” law.

A dead red law is a law that provides an exception to the violation of Failure to Obey a Traffic Control Device when the light does not detect a vehicle (like a bicycle) and the light fails to cycle through to allow a roadway user to proceed.  This can result in a person being stuck at a light without any option for lawfully passing through the intersection.


ORS 811.260 Appropriate driver responses to traffic control devices is the Oregon statute that governs how roadway users are to treat traffic signals.

ORS 811.260(7) Steady circular red signal.

A driver facing a steady circular red signal light alone shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is is no marked crosswalk, then before entering the intersection.  The driver shall remain stopped until a green light is shown except when the driver is permitted to make a turn under ORS 811.360 (When vehicle turn permitted at stop light).  Emphasis added.

Oregon law does not allow any exception to the red light law for traffic signals that fail to turn green.

This can create a problem for cyclists whose bicycles are not big enough to activate the in-ground hoops that detect vehicles at intersections.

Recent legislation introduced in the Oregon House of Representatives (HB 2820) and Senate (SB 533) would create an exception, but only for motorcyclists.

The bills would allow a motorcyclist who has stopped and waited through one full light cycle without being detected to proceed though the intersection against the red light.

But for now the law remains clear: no vehicle operator can lawfully pass through a red light, even if the light fails to detect the vehicle.