Tag Archives: Turning

Do Bicyclists have the Right of Way in the Bicycle Lane over Drivers Wishing to Turn?

I have had several readers and non-readers ask me to explain the right of way bicyclists have while riding in a bicycle lane over a car driver wanting to turn over and across the bicycle lane.

A bicyclist has the right of way in a bicycle lane and a turning motorist is required to yield to the bicyclist before making their turn, even if the motorist arrives at the intersection first and is displaying a turn indicator.

ORS 811.050 Failure to yield to rider on bicycle lane requires a person operating a motor vehicle to yield to a bicyclist that is operating in a bicycle lane.  There are no exceptions contained in the law that would give a motor vehicle operator the right of way over a bicyclist.

Violating the right of way does not require contact with another roadway user.  It means that one vehicle fails to yield “to the right of one vehicle or pedestrian to proceed in a lawful manner in preference to another vehicle or pedestrian approaching under such circumstances of direction, speed, and proximity as to give rise to danger of collision unless one grants precedence to the other.” ORS 801.440 Right of way. This means that if a motor vehicle makes a maneuver that causes a bicyclist operating in the bicycle lane to have to slow, stop, or make an avoidance maneuver, the right of way has not been yielded, and Oregon law was violated.

When do Oregon bicyclists have to signal?

Oregon law requires bicyclists to signal their turns and stops. While that seems like a simple proposition, this law actually goes deeper than that and contains some key differences from the signaling requirements of motor vehicle operators.


ORS 814.440 Failure to signal turn requires a person operating a bicycle to signal their turns, and ORS 811.395 Appropriate signals for stopping, turning, changing lanes and decelerating provides the method for doing so:

100 feet prior to a left turn a bicyclist must indicate their turn by extending their hand and arm horizontally from the left side of the bicycle.

100 feet prior to a right turn a bicyclist must indicate their turn by either extending their hand and arm upward from the left side of the bicycle or extending their right hand and arm horizontally from the right side of the bicycle.


Like turning, the appropriate signal for stopping is contained in ORS 814.440 and ORS 811.395:

100 feet prior to executing a stop a bicyclist must continuously extend their hand and arm downward from the left side of the vehicle.

This differs from the turn signals because of the continuous requirement.

Once a bicyclist stops, they are required to then signal their turn while stopped before executing the turn.

From the Oregon Bicyclist's Manual, Page 8

From the Oregon Bicyclist’s Manual, Page 8

Safety exception

Oftentimes safely braking requires the use of both hands, or conditions make removing an operator’s hands from the handlebars dangerous while approaching and making a turn. Because of those risks the law provides an important exception to the signaling requirements: bicyclists are not required to provide a signal if “circumstances require that both hands be used to safely control or operate the bicycle.”

Changing lanes

Oregon law requires one type of signal by motor vehicle operators that it does not require of bicyclists: changing lanes.

All vehicles are required under Oregon law to provide the appropriate signal when changing lanes and this law would apply to bicyclists under ORS 814.400 Application of vehicle laws to bicycles. However, ORS 814.400 exempts those laws that by “their very nature can have no application.” ORS 811.395 requires a change of lane to be signaled only by “activation of both front and rear turn signal lights on the side of the vehicle”. Bicycles do not have turn signal lights and are not required to have any lights beyond those required by ORS 815.280 Violation of bicycle equipment requirements (see ORS 811.525 Exemptions from requirements for use of lights). If a bicycle did have side turn signal lights, as some custom bikes have or have been retrofitted, then their operators would be required to signal a lane change using those lights.

For the rest of us, since by ORS 811.395(4)’s very nature it cannot apply to bicycle operators, a bicyclist is not required to signal a lane change. What this means is that a bicycle operator in Oregon cannot be issued a valid violation for failing to signal a lane change. However, ORS 814.400(3) provides that the vehicle code “does not relieve a bicyclist or motorist from the duty to exercise due care”.

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.