Education about bicycle laws is a major factor in keeping our roads safe for everyone. Increasing awareness and understanding of these laws is just as important as any bike safety infrastructure or policy changes.
That’s why some cyclists are concerned that a quote attributed to a Portland Police Bureau employee and published by the Oregonian on Sunday, not only makes this education effort more difficult but it contributes to a more dangerous environment on our streets.
The statements came from Traffic Division Lieutenant Mark Kruger. Kruger was asked:
What are the responsibilities of a cyclist when the bike lane they’re in ends?
To which he was quoted as saying,
“Cyclists are required to ride as close as practical to the right shoulder unless they’re turning left, Kruger says. They can ride as close as practical to the left shoulder on a one-way street within a city.”
Portlander Guy Berliner, who has posted his concern in both comments on this site and in emails to the Shift email list (where many others have chimed in with concern), says Kruger’s statement endangers cyclists.
He plans to write a letter to Oregonian editors that says in part,
“This advice is erroneous and potentially life-threatening, because it was precisely this behavior which led to the deaths of the two cyclists in separate incidents recently…in each case, they were riding in the bike lane past a roadway exit or intersection, through a spot which cycling safety educators have dubbed the “suicide slot,” the stretch of the bike lane that lies in the path of right turning or exiting vehicles.
Cycling safety experts have long counseled cyclists to avoid riding through these hazard zones when their intended direction of travel is through an intersection, advising them to merge into a through-traffic lane.”
Others point out that besides encouraging risky behavior, Kruger’s quote and the Oregonian article also make no mention of key legal provisions that give bicyclists the right to leave a bike lane for a variety of reasons.
According to ORS 814.420 and 814.430, cyclists can legally leave the bike lane and/or operate on the road when no bike lane is present when (among other things),
- Overtaking and passing another bicycle, a vehicle or a pedestrian that is in the bicycle lane.
- Avoiding debris or other hazardous conditions (which can include debris, car doors, and drainage grates).
- Continuing straight at an intersection where the bicycle lane or path is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right.
(This describes the situation in both recent fatalities.)
- Operating at a speed that does not impede other road users.
bicyclists have the right to take the lane.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)
As someone who often rides a bicycle in Portland traffic, I hear all too often from motorists who think I have no right to be on the road at any time. That’s why it’s absolutely imperative, especially during times of heightened tension due to tragic events, that our city employees and our local media outlets do their part to help educate the public and decrease tensions on the road.