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BTA pushes for pedestrian hand signal law

Posted by on April 18th, 2007 at 9:52 am

Bricker demonstrates the proposed
pedestrian hand signal.
File photo: 2/15/07

The BTA is working the halls of Salem right now to build support for Senate Bill 573. According to an action alert sent out by BTA lobbyist Scott Bricker yesterday,

“The bill would allow pedestrians to use a hand signal to employ their right-of-way, rather than the current standard of entering the roadway and putting yourself in front of oncoming traffic. It will increase communication and safety.”

The bill has already been recommended by the Senate Judiciary Committee and Bricker hopes to see it move to a vote on the Senate Floor later this week.

Here is the full text of the bill.

Contact your Senator and ask for their support.

UPDATE 4/19/07: The BTA just reported that this bill has passed the Senate. It now moves to the House.

UPDATE 4/20/07: The Oregonian covers this on the front page of today’s paper.

Please support BikePortland.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • West Cougar April 18, 2007 at 9:59 am

    Huh? We need a law for that? I do that stuff all the time. Thanks, but what we really need a law for is Idaho-style STOP SIGNS.

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  • gabrielamadeus April 18, 2007 at 10:10 am

    That’s awesome, I’ve waited many times for drivers to see me and stop to let me cross, but this may actually make them stop. But why is the BTA behind it?

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  • Jessica Roberts April 18, 2007 at 10:12 am

    I am so sick of drivers failing to yield the right of way to me when I try to cross Belmont and Burnside. Will this really help me in that situation? I hope so but those drivers sure aren’t convincing me of it.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis April 18, 2007 at 10:17 am

    I understand why you would question whether a law is necessary, but I really do think it would enhance communication and safety. I already do this as well. But most drivers don’t seem to understand that any pedestrian waiting to cross the road at *any* intersection has the right of way. Giving them the signal would make clear that they need to stop or yield. Often when I’m driving I find it unclear whether someone is waiting to cross, waiting for the bus, or just standing there. The signal would eliminate that ambiguity.

    I – D – A – H – O,

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  • WOBG April 18, 2007 at 10:20 am

    Anyone taking bets as to how soon comments from the terminally incensed will flood in about the injustice of having to stop (at Ladd’s Circle, maybe?) just because a ped has a hand up?

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  • tonyt April 18, 2007 at 10:25 am

    I think it will increase the visibility of the concept of yielding to peds as well as increasing actual yielding. It also transforms the whole notion from being passive, just stepping onto the road, to active, holding up your hand.

    I have often stopped for peds, only to find out that they were waiting for a bus.

    So many drivers (and police I might add) STILL don’t seem to understand that cars must yield to peds at ALL public intersections (except when there’s a light giving cars right of way). We have a lot to do. I think a public awareness campaign is in order.

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  • Burr April 18, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Shouldn’t the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition be pushing this legislation, while the BTA pushes IDAHO STYLE STOP legislation for cyclists????

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  • natallica April 18, 2007 at 10:29 am

    when i get tired of waiting i employ the same technique, but i attach a smile and a wave to it. i can’t take credit for it, though, i got the idea from elly’s article on here a while back!

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  • Drew April 18, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Bad idea and hopefully the BTA is not consuming too many resources. I see great potential in increasing the conflict between peds and drivers. Let’s spend more time advocating for appropriate infrastructure and comprehensive education program.

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  • SKiDmark April 18, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    I propose pedestrians look both ways before they cross the street and only enter the road when it is safe to do so, just like the rest of us.

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  • Scott Bricker, BTA April 18, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    Pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks, both marked and unmarked. (Yes you, bicyclist, must yield to them.) But to get that right of way you have be in the roadway. Therefore you must risk your life to get it.

    This bill increases communication and the rights of pedestrians to be able to cross the street by using a hand signal. I understand you all never walk, but I often try to cross a busy street and use my bike as a shield. We are also trying to increase safety for children and get more kids biking and walking to school. In general we need to increases the safety of the environment for non-motorized users. This bill does that, just try it before you smack at it.

    The BTA is partnering with the WPC on this bill.

    And with my unofficial non-BTA hat on….It’s actually funny that you all think this is a bad idea and at the same time probably haven’t tried it, are blowing through red lights and buzzing walkers on your bike (yes at Ladds), and just talking smack like Lars. Get off your saddles.

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  • nick April 18, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I am amazed at the general tone of some comments thus far.

    Cyclists should be tripping over themselves to help create an environment that tips the favor away from cars.

    I completely support this legislation. And I am sorry that we need it. I am proud to be a member of an organization (BTA) that supports making it easier for people to cross a busy street.

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  • Brian. April 18, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    This bill is adding a new layer of code onto code that is already not enforced.

    I’m no lawyer, but I’m assuming that crosswalk code is very similiar from state to state. Why make ours different?

    What is on the books already is good enough. If there was broad enforcement with fines that stuck this type of thing would not be an issue.

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  • N.I.K. April 18, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    It’s actually funny that you all think this is a bad idea and at the same time probably haven’t tried it, are blowing through red lights and buzzing walkers on your bike (yes at Ladds), and just talking smack like Lars. Get off your saddles.

    Way to generalize the hell out of everything, Scott. As a legal-minded cyclist both in ranting and in practice, it seems that I can rest assured that you’re down at the BTA making sure we all get a bad name for ourselves and dealing with things in a bitterly sarcastic and highly adversarial manner.

    On-topic, I’d say that this is bill’s an interesting idea. As both a cyclist and a person who does in fact walk quite a lot, I actually like the idea of a pedestrian actually signaling their intention to cross rather than just darting into the street and hoping they’ll make it and that the driver of an oncoming vehicle will slow down. For it to work correctly, though, it’d require law-abiding and/or sensible behavior from both pedestrians and vehicle drivers. Considering that a) the law already gives peds the right of way and yet I’ve still nearly been run down by drivers who’ve actually sped up when I’ve started to cross an intersection and b) I’ve been on the other end where a ped enters an intersection without looking when I’m a scant few feet from crossing through the intersection, it seems iffy. If passed, it’d need to be accompanied by a *huge* public awareness campaign just to get people to follow protocol for the sake of enforcing an existing law, and even then I wouldn’t be entirely confident in such an effort’s success, if only because there are people out there who just plain don’t give a damn for the law or the lives of other human beings.

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  • Burr April 18, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    I didn’t say it was a bad idea, I just think that the BTA already has enough on their plate advocating for bicyclists that they shouldn’t be diluting their efforts on something that may be somewhat related but is really a tangential issue. The Idaho Stop is a much more important issue for cyclists but all we’ve hear about it from the BTA so far is more or less a big fat nothing.

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  • nick April 18, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    N.I.K. is exactly right about the awareness campaign. My guess is that most car users are not yet aware that even non-signed intersections are crosswalks where peds have right-of-way.

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  • Disco D April 18, 2007 at 2:20 pm

    I’m with N.I.K. …”wearing your un-offical non BTA hat” or not, your response was a little ridiculous.

    Of all the responses I saw before yours the only people who seemed at all questioning it said basically they hoped not too many resources were going in to this when there are other issues at hand.

    To that you decide “It’s actually funny that you all think this is a bad idea and at the same time probably haven’t tried it, are blowing through red lights and buzzing walkers on your bike (yes at Ladds), and just talking smack like Lars. Get off your saddles.” is an appropriate response.

    What would you say if someone actually said something negative about this? Wow.

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  • Steve April 18, 2007 at 2:47 pm


    I couldn’t agree with you more, and I think that putting resources towards a law of conveinence (the “Idaho” stop), should be secondary to a law that increases safety not only for pedestrians but also for cyclists. Thanks for your hard work.

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  • pet cow April 18, 2007 at 2:49 pm


    thank you bta, from someone who is unable bike, this is really appreciated. i can’t even begin to count how many times i have been ignored by car after car while waiting to cross the street where it is just not safe to step into the right of way. sometimes it’s not even safe to stand on the edge of the row. this new law will certainly make the news if it passes, and that will only help awareness of the issue grow.

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  • Drew April 18, 2007 at 2:56 pm

    Hello everyone,

    I said it was a bad idea. I have tried this gesture and it has resulted on several ocassions in an angry driver threathening me with violence or the more common hand gesture that I am sure we all know very well. As already mentioned, there is already a law on the books. Could a more relevant issue better enforcement of the current law? Or how about a campaign to making the written test to get a driver’s license more challenging. Let’s add several questions to the exam specifically adressing pedestrian & bicycle related issues. People who drive less and are better educated/more responsible when driving sounds like a win win to me.

    On a side note, What’s up with Brickers road rage? I guess someone raised their hand.

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  • bjorn April 18, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    I’m glad to hear that the BTA is partnering with the WPC on this. Hopefully that means that they are also weighing in on some bills that are more about bikes than pedestrians. Combining forces on these laws will make both groups more effective in the end.

    Also the Idaho Style team did recieve some advice from the BTA this year and we really appreciated it. We may not be successful this session, but I think that we did manage to keep Idaho Style in the minds of at least some people in Salem. If people really want to see any bill move forward we need to keep contacting our senators and representatives and letting them know that we think it is important.

    The BTA works on lots of stuff but none of these groups can get anywhere if we don’t take the time to write our legislators. We should thank Jonathan and the BTA for the reminder that it is time to take action on this bill.

    I’m trying to write at least a few emails or letters each month, please join in.


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  • Michelle April 18, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    “Cyclists should be tripping over themselves to help create an environment that tips the favor away from cars.”

    Good point nick.

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  • K April 18, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    A raised arm is usually seen as aggression. It creeps me out. We have a law that is neither promoted nor enforced. Most people I know who have moved to Oregon went and took their DMV test without having read the handbook and they all passed. Let’s get Portlander’s educated about the law and then make sure it is enforced. No news spreads faster than bad news–“I got a ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian!” It will be all over town.

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  • hike and bike April 18, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    meanwhile… the city is conducting a crosswalk enforcement action next week at SE Foster and 80th and SE Foster and 82nd.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis April 18, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    “As already mentioned, there is already a law on the books.”

    Oregon currently does not have a statute that allows pedestrians to indicate their intent to cross. In fact, no US jurisdiction does. People stating the above seem to be referring to the fact that this bill does not change the pedestrian right-of-way law. Based on that fact, or the fact of lax enforcement (or something else?), people then seem to be concluding that this law therefore is either redundant or ineffectual, respectively, and has no legal or social value.

    The “extra layer” will have some positive effect in several respects.

    First, the law establishes a specific and obvious method for peds to communicate personally and directly with individual drivers. The publicity surrounding this “official method of crosing the street” will provide notice or reminding to people that the social expectation in Oregon is that you stop when someone puts up their hand. This will enhance compliance, especially as more people interact under this norm.

    Yes, an education campaign would probably be the single most effective act the City or State governments could take to create compliance. But the City has recently convincingly demonstrated that its priority is on punitive measures for creating compliance, rather than preventative, constructive, or pro-social measures. No doubt there will be some such PR effort. If you want to help, you should volunteer to work for the PR campaign.

    No, you’re probably not going to stop getting the finger occasionally. Rednecks and other assorted jackballs will always be such. Welcome to 21st century America.

    In addition, the signal rule has legal value beyond the right-of-way rule. It potentially establishes negligence per se in related torts. It also offers a very simple objective behavioral observation that facilitates establishing probable cause and guilt when issuing or upholding a citation.

    “Could a more relevant issue better enforcement of the current law?”

    Maybe. But this bill offers three advantages in enhancing compliance. First, it adds the value described above. Second, it offers an opportunity for education, which is more effective than punitive compliance efforts. Third, it avoids the problems with the City’s chosen mode of enforcement, selective issuance of fines in short, localized bursts based on ad-hoc responses to individual complaints rather than on an assessment of relative hazards.

    It’s clear the City’s chosen strategy for enforcement is poor. But it’s also revealing. The City is unable to effectively enforce traffic laws regularly and simultaneously throughout the City. Instead, the law is going to empower you by legally sanctioning your assertion of your own rights. This type of policy has long and successful history in the Anglo-American legal tradition (with one glaring exception: guns).

    And thanks to the First Amendment, if your assertion-of-rights doesn’t go well, you too can assert your Constitutionally protected right to free expression.

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  • Michael April 19, 2007 at 7:37 am

    I already use the stop gesture and it works. It is not aggressive unless you make it so. It is a positive, assertive signal that is instinctively understood, and most often obeyed. Giving it the weight of law is possibly useful for the settlement of disputes.

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  • David Feldman April 19, 2007 at 9:56 am

    Why move the burden off of drivers?
    Why should a pedestrian have to signal–a CIVILIZED motorist or cyclist will see their presence at the edge of a crosswalk as signal enough.

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  • Burr April 19, 2007 at 11:14 am

    “meanwhile… the city is conducting a crosswalk enforcement action next week at SE Foster and 80th and SE Foster and 82nd.

    I’ve always found it quite curious that the police preannounce these ‘stings’, and in fact forewarn motorists at the scene with signs indicating ‘cross walk enforcement ahead’; yet they consistently fail to extend the same courtesy to bicyclists when they perform bicyclist ‘stings’.

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  • Curt Dewees April 19, 2007 at 11:16 am

    “Why should a pedestrian have to signal?”

    Because communication is a good thing. Drivers may not even notice you just standing there, not moving or doing anything.

    And if they do notice you, they have no way of reading your mind: Do you want to cross the street? Or are you waiting for your carpool to show up? Waiting for the bus? Just enjoying the view? Meditating?

    A definite, unmistakable hand signal would send a clear message to the car driver, “Please slow down and let me cross the street here; I plan on using my right of way.”

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  • Jonathan Maus April 19, 2007 at 11:28 am

    Randy (comment 28),

    the big difference in the pedestrian enforcement actions and the bike stings, is that the ped ones are an official, city program, whereas the bike ones (lately) have been a response to a citizen complaint.

    I remember an enforcement action that was sort of targeted at bicyclists up in NE when they did all the pre-announcements and warnings.

    Here’s the story I did on that event.

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  • Charles April 19, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    “Cyclists should be tripping over themselves to help create an environment that tips the favor away from cars.”

    Also agree here. I’m constantly surprised at how many cyclists do not stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. If you stop cars will stop with you (sometimes, I sometimes get in their way if it’s safe). And the walkers, ya they’re surprised a lot of the time, so I’m assuming it is true that not many bicyclists stop for them.

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  • Evan Manvel April 19, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    We wrote quite a bit about why we’re backing this bill back in December.

    Here it is, and a briefer form handy for people to review:

    (1) This bill fits hand-in-glove (sorry) with our Safe Routes to Schools work. We’re working on helping kids to walk and bike to school, and many more kids walk than bike. Creating a signal to help kids and adults cross streets will help get kids into the habit of walking, and then, as they get older, many will start biking.

    (2) Beginning cyclists often walk their bikes to cross busy streets. While more experienced cyclists are able to get across major streets on bike, people who are just beginning to bike often dismount and walk their bike across major streets. This helps them do that.

    (3) It changes the roadway dynamic. If drivers are required to stop for pedestrians who signal, they’re more likely to drive slower and be more aware of pedestrians and cyclists alike. Speed is a major factor in crashes and road safety.

    (4) Building alliances. Of course, the Legislature’s a political place, and while most Oregonians bike a little bit during the year for recreation, almost all Oregonians walk somewhere, sometime. Pushing a bill for pedestrians helps built alliances that can help us with the rest of our legislative agenda.

    (5) It’s the right thing for safety. The core reason we’re pushing the bill, of course, is to improve safety for Oregonians. While our other bills work to create safety for cyclists, roughly six times as many pedestrians are killed each year as cyclists, and we care about all Oregonians.

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  • Jacque April 22, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    When I’m driving a car, I try to actively watch for pedestrians trying to cross the street. I enjoy having the opportunity to be the one to stop traffic for them.

    But I find I cannot easily spot those pedestrians unless I am traveling at 25 mph or less. If motorists are expected to see ped’s and stop for them, shouldn’t the speed be limited to a speed that makes it possible to see and to stop? It seems kind of silly to allow cars to be driven at a speed that makes following this law impossible to comply with. If we want to take care of pedestrians (and encourage more walking) our streets should have an enforced speed limit of 25 mph. Better yet, the street should be engineered to make traveling faster than that improbable.

    But for now, if you want to get across a street, signaling gets the job done. The first car going by might not have time to “get it” but the next one will. I signal to cross all the time.
    (Sometimes while yelling “you’re supposed to stop stupid!” but I’m just like that.)

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  • red ted April 22, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    A good idea, if for no other reason than to put the issue in front of the cage-drivers. But where I live (NM) I think most drivers would take it as an order from a pedestrian: “You think yer’ gonna’ make me stop and waste my precious time and some $3.00 per gallon gas on you just ’cause you hold your hand out like a traffic cop? Who do you think you are?”
    People everywhere change when they get behind the wheel. They feel safe, they get aggresive, and don’t easily give ground as they project thier fears upon strangers. Also, I don’t recommend yelling at people in cars unless you are prepared to tango.
    Hold out your hand if you want, but NEVER trust a vehicle to stop.

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  • K April 23, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    We have a little help with more crosswalk markings:

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  • Paul Cone April 23, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    It seems like the enforcement actions that are a joint venture between PDOT and PPB are pre-announced, whereas the PPB-only ones are not. If that is indeed true, and the end goal (improved safety) is the same, is there a double-standard here? What does it matter if it’s an “official” city program? I mean, you can’t get more official than a police officer, can you, which is common in all of these actions. If PDOT wasn’t involved in these actions, would we hear about them at all?

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