Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 28th, 2012 at 8:42 am
"We frequently encounter these processions on training rides in Portland's West Hills. Suggestions range from doing nothing (besides merely following the law), to stopping in respect while the procession goes by."
— Ray Thomas, lawyer
For whatever reason, some of the most popular roads for bicycling on here in the Portland region also tend to be near graveyards. There's Riverview Cemetery just west of the Sellwood Bridge and Skyline Memorial Gardens up in the West Hills just to name a few.
Ray Thomas, a local lawyer who rides frequently in these areas, recently had a situation where a group he was riding with happened upon a funeral procession. The experience left him wondering how Oregon law handles the presence of bicycles on the road when a funeral procession rolls by. So, as Thomas often does, he did a bit of research and wrote an article about it. He shared the article with me yesterday.
Here's how he sets up the scenario:
A group of us were out riding in the West Hills when we approached a stop sign. To our left was an oncoming funeral procession led by three uniformed motorcycle riders with flashing lights. The procession consisted of a line of cars with headlights on that was turning right onto the street we leaving. As we approached the stop sign, the lead motorcyclist waved his hand at us in a chopping motion and shouted something like “Oncoming Procession!”
According to Thomas, "A funeral procession is given many unique rights by statute over other drivers on the road." For example, he says, processions can take over an entire intersection, "if the Funeral Escort Vehicle or Funeral Lead Vehicle lawfully enters an intersection, and the following procession may then enter the intersection without stopping. ORS 811.804(1)."
That statute also requires a road users to yield the right of way — stop and remain stopped — when the procession is in the intersection. In addition, you are required to obey the directions given by the driver of an official funeral escort vehicle.
The way Thomas sees it, if the procession is on the opposite side of the street, and you can continue on your bicycle in the opposite lane, without impeding the procession in any way, you are not breaking the law.
As with many laws, there is the legally prescribed solution and then there is etiquette and personal conduct. In this case, both are important to keep in mind. "We frequently encounter these processions on training rides in Portland's West Hills," writes Thomas, "Suggestions range from doing nothing (besides merely following the law), to stopping in respect while the procession goes by."
Have you ever ridden by a funeral procession? Share your experiences below.