Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

Bike Law 101: Waiting (or not) for the school bus

Posted by on April 12th, 2011 at 9:18 am

You’re freewheeling along on your bike. There’s been a change in the weather. The day is dry and it’s even warm enough to drop a layer. The ride just couldn’t be better. And then it happens. The approaching school bus has pulled to the curb just ahead.

Now, with lights ablaze and its stop sign thrust out tauntingly, almost a dare, do you obey or ignore?

Illustration by Dan Pegoda for BikePortland.org


Here’s the relevant Oregon statute for this situation:

811.155: Failure to stop for bus safety lights; penalty. 
(1) A driver commits the offense of failure to stop for bus safety lights if the driver meets or overtakes from either direction any vehicle that is stopped on a roadway and that is operating red bus safety lights described under ORS 816.260 and the driver does not:

    (a) Stop before reaching the vehicle; and
    (b) Remain standing until the bus safety lights are no longer operating.
    (*Note: the above statute does not apply to a driver when the bus is stopped on a different roadway, e.g. divided highway)

But, the beauty of bicycling in many Oregon cities is the ease of morphing from having the rights and duties of a motorist to that of a pedestrian. If you choose to get around the bus via the sidewalk — the designated safe haven of pedestrians — you’ll be presented with a different set of challenges.

On the sidewalk (as per ORS 814.410), you must:

  • give an audible signal when overtaking and passing a pedestrian and yield right-of-way to all pedestrians on the sidewalk.
  • slow to a walking speed when approaching or entering a crosswalk and/or driveway, or when crossing a curb cut or pedestrian ramp when a motor vehicle is approaching. 
  • not operate your bicycle in a careless manner that endangers or would likely endanger any person or property.
  • not operate an electric assisted bicycle.

If you find yourself behind a school bus in Portland’s downtown core, you may want to think twice about rolling onto the sidewalk, because It’s illegal to do so downtown (unless avoiding a traffic hazard; and sorry, a stopped school bus isn’t considered a traffic hazard). The illegal sidewalk riding area is bounded by and including SW Jefferson, Front Avenue, NW Hoyt and 13th Avenue (there are some exceptions, see Portland Code and Charter Chapter 16.70.320).

Of course you can ignore the law and continue on without stopping at all. But, if you accept the option to sit out the delay, it may give you time to wonder about the intent of the school bus law. After all it’s meant to keep children safe as they cross the street or congregate around the bus. Despite the personal inconvenience of waiting, the letter of the law may be important here because as a living, breathing distraction in the landscape, you are probably being observed by some of the kids on the bus. These are the future cyclists of America and you, standing by, are serving as a role model.

It isn’t often you are given the opportunity to do the right thing so easily and impress a very impressionable audience at the same time. Maybe it’s worth a couple minutes of standing still.

— Bike Law 101 appears twice a month and is written by Karen Lally and Kurt Jansen of the non-profit Animated Traffic Law Center based in Eugene, Oregon. See past articles here.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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

71
Leave a Reply

avatar
25 Comment threads
46 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
38 Comment authors
James CrawfordEl Bicicleroq`TzalPeteSpiffy Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
ralph
Guest
ralph

“These are the future cyclists of America and you, standing by, are serving as a role model.

It isn’t often you are given the opportunity to do the right thing so easily and impress a very impressionable audience at the same time. Maybe it’s worth a couple minutes of standing still. ”

So why doesn’t this apply to rolling stop signs?

It’s the law.

You’re setting an example there as well?

You’re CHOOSING to break the law by doing so.

So how about it, are the laws meant to be obeyed or not?

Seems like there’s a bit of cherry picking going on here when it comes to the law.

And once you choose which laws you will or won’t obey, you lose the moral high ground and give up the right to complain about drivers doing the same.

And spare me they’re driving a 3000 lb lethal weapon arguement.

Greg
Guest
Greg

I don’t mind stopping for a school bus. What does bother me is when the school bus guns it to get around me, just so they can throw on the red lights and stop…repeatedly…every 100 yards. For crying out loud, can’t the kiddos walk a block or two?

Kristen
Guest
Kristen

I don’t know, Doug…. the articles from these folks that have been posted here on BP show a distinct slant towards the “do whatever’s most convenient for you” side of the spectrum.

I encountered a school bus this morning. I stopped and waited, right next to the car just behind the school bus. I stopped because IT’S THE LAW. It’s pretty cut and dried.

I wasn’t going to hop up on the sidewalk to flout the law, either, because I’m more adult than that.

Yeah, I stop at red lights and stop signs, too. Because it’s the law.

Mark C
Guest
Mark C

Ralph, give it a rest. Cars and bikes are not the same, so bikes can safely operate differently than cars with out giving up their right to use the roads. This strict vehicular cycling interpretation gets tiresome. As pointed out above, bikes can legally use the sidwalk outside of downtown while cars certainly can’t.

BTW, I’d stop for the bus rather than try to go around on the sidewalk.

jocko
Guest
jocko

Ralph, (insult deleted) Plenty of cyclists come to a complete stop at stop signs and plenty of motorists roll through stop signs, the article above makes no mention of either.

This is a great article that covers a subject that many p-town cyclists are ignorant about. This one kind of falls in the same category as one of my bike-beefs, which is cyclists failing to yield right of way to peds in a crosswalk.

John Lascurettes
Guest

In my neighborhood, I’ve simply gotten off my bike, walked past the bus and remounted. Are we SO averted to a little walking now and then? I do the same downtown when using a crosswalk (where technically it’s an extension of a sidewalk and therefore illegal for bikes).

deborah
Guest
deborah

I really like your point about the impressionable audience Jonathan!

And yes, Ralph, I do stop for most all stop signs too. I’m not 100% perfect – but my percentage is easily as good as any car driver, if not loads better. I even signal too! The idea of winning over a group of kids (or even an old curmudgeon like you Ralph) is not lost on me on my daily commute.

Some bikers give bikers a bad name. But isn’t that the case with any large group of people? I tell you what Ralph – I won’t assume you’re a passive aggressive road hog and please don’t assume I’m some flagrant scofflaw! We’re all individuals just trying to get where we’re going.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

I’ve had the driver of the yellow bus on North Concord watch in their mirror and actually wait until I’ve ridden past before turning the flashers from yellow to red. The couple times it has happened it totally makes my commute, and that driver is on par with the ladies who drive bus in Oakridge as far as I’m concerned.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

ralph–not to pile on, but I think there are nuances to “being a role model” that your argument doesn’t take into a account. If I roll a stop sign at an empty intersection, and later on stop at an uncontrolled intersection (no stop signs) to allow a pedestrian to cross, and some “future cyclist” observes me in both situations, am I being a positive role model or not? How about if I blast through both intersections, brushing back the ped in the second one?

I would suggest that it is still possible to send the positive message that common courtesy and respect for one’s fellow humans are important principles, even if one doesn’t obey the letter of every last law.

I encounter school buses almost every day on my commute. There is one that sometimes stops ahead of me to pick up kids on the sidewalk adjacent to where I am riding. I stop for that bus not because the lights are flashing, but because I would have to push my way through a crowd of kids trying to get on the bus if I didn’t wait. Pushing my way through a crowd of kids waiting to get on the bus seems like a jerky thing to do, so I don’t do it. If the bus was stopped in the opposite direction on the other side of the street, would I stop? I don’t know, maybe.

On the other hand, I was stopped at a red light one day last year, in the bike lane, when a school bus came up from behind me, stopped at the red, and then rather than wait 8 seconds for the light to change and me to get out of the way, the driver decided to make a right turn on the red, literally brushing me as she cut the corner. Only time I’ve ever slapped a vehicle–but it did no good; she knew I was there and decided to plow on past anyway. Was she doing anything illegal? Maybe, maybe not. Was she being a good role model? I sure didn’t think so.

Barney
Guest
Barney

Every person makes daily choices about which laws to follow and break. If you never break any laws whatsoever, then you are either in constant fear of punishment or you have infinite faith that all legislation is created sensibly and with better insight into our lives than we ourselves can provide.

On this topic, I don’t pass buses on my bike because the probability of hitting a child is pretty high, something I would like to avoid. I don’t come to a full stop at most stop signs because the failure of Oregon to adopt the Idaho stop-law is ridiculous and I’m an adult who can safely navigate most intersections without putting my foot down first.

Lee
Guest

This is why we need mandatory crosswalk license testing for schoolchildren – they can wear the license plates on their backpacks or something. And why do those freeloaders get those painted stripes, anyhow? They don’t even pay gas taxes!

Same roads, same rights.

PorterStout
Guest
PorterStout

Hey, only people like Ralph who have never exceeded the speed limit on, say, I-5 or I-84 are allowed to look down on everyone else from their morally superior position, because the speed limit “is the law” and exceeding it turns such self-proclaimed paragons of virtue into nothing more than self-righteous hypocrites. It’s just like Ralph said, “And once you choose which laws you will or won’t obey, you lose the moral high ground…” So everyone but Ralph can just step off this argument. Thank goodness for moral watchdogs like Ralph.

The reason to stop behind a bus is because there are children present, who might run out into the street without looking. It’s a good idea to slow down or stop when there are groups of children present, whether or not “it’s the law.” Same thing goes for pedestrians on the bike path.

bobcycle
Guest
bobcycle

Ralph, Comments made have been argued before. IMO, You’ve brought nothing new to the “table”. You have side tracked the discussion but if you feel better for it I guess it accomplished something. 25% of the above comments are yours, the rest are comments to your comments… and now back to our regular program…..

mmann
Guest

Ralph said: “I was asking for a consistent view point from the blog on following the law.”

Without getting into the debate on stop/don’t stop/walk on the sidewalk (I bike commute 100+ miles/week and I drove a school bus for 3 years, so I’ve been on both sides) I just want to say that expecting consistency on a blog like bikeportland seems like an oxymoron, given the diversity of opinions the blog seeks to represent. Maybe some see the site as “Jonathan Maus says,” but I sure never saw it that way. I usually learn something whenever I follow the thread of a contentious post. For instance, I usually ride the sidewalk past the bus that takes 5 minutes to load 40 kids at the apartment, but never really thought before about how the kids saw my action before reading this post. Now I will.

gwynnebaer
Guest
gwynnebaer

bobcycle
Ralph, Comments made have been argued before. IMO, You’ve brought nothing new to the “table”. You have side tracked the discussion but if you feel better for it I guess it accomplished something. 25% of the above comments are yours, the rest are comments to your comments… and now back to our regular program…..

Well said, @bobcycle. On to the topic:

Seems clear to me, a bicyclist, when presented with the bus scenario above, must act as a “car” and stop. Sidewalks are almost never a good choice. Most of the issues with cyclists and cars alike that I see revolve around a profound lack of patience. But sometimes you just have to wait.

Chris Shaffer
Guest
Chris Shaffer

Maybe someone can tell us where Ralph works in the bike industry, so I can stop shopping there?

Kenji Sugahara
Guest

As John says- pull a cyclocross if you can! (I can’t imagine shouldering a cruiser). The kids may even get a kick out of it.

Brock Dittus
Guest

I’m a school bus driver as well as a bicyclist, and I do my best to be aware of traffic so I don’t needlessly obstruct it’s flow when I activate my red lights. Most unhappy customers I have encountered are motor vehicle operators who confuse my amber hazard lights with my 8-way red flashers and stop sign and won’t pass me even when there are clear directions printed onto the back of the bus. I’ve had a few instances where a bicyclist will speed past me during a red light loading procedure, but not many. More often I hear angry tales from other bus drivers who may or may not understand a bicycle’s rights on the road – or may not have encountered one of the better bicyclists.

JOe
Guest
JOe

I always stop for a school bus loading and unloading. As for the stop sign debate, if an auto is approaching I stop, if there is no other traffic at the intersection I roll through slowly. As I suspect almost every cyclist does. The folks who really irk me are those who speed through stop signs. In autos they are lethally dangerous. On bikes they are suicidal.

Greg
Guest
Greg

Personally, I think the “stop for the bus law” is misguided at best. It teaches young impressionable children that vehicles will magically stop for them…twice a day. I think the young pedestrians need to learn to play by the rules.

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

I always stop for school buses and don’t bother with the sidewalk.

James Crawford
Guest
James Crawford

Bravo!
The school bus stop is probably the most extreme case to demonstrate why even bikes should obey the traffic laws. A 200 pound spoker colliding with a forty pound kid is almost as likely to be lethal as the evil, 4,000 pound SUV running down the kid.
Of equal importance is that the law exists to avoid conflicts. Just as idiot auto drivers who refuse to notice bikes or intentionally endanger them provoke the righteous wrath of spokers, arrogant bikers who presume that the traffic laws shouldn’t apply to them provoke the resentment of motorists. The refusal of the PDX police to make mass arrests at the critical mass rallies should shame rge cycling community just as the staue honoring the Zoo bombers is a disgrace.

Now how about an article about lane discipline, illegal passing, and maintaining a safe stopping distance. You might also want tobwrite an article about road rage! The crowning achievement would be an article that documents how bikers who angrily confront motorists emulate the tactics of xarjackers and thus give them good cause to respond with force?

Perhaps you could have Seargent Santos research and write it?

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

rolling a stop sign is just that, a stop sign… to pass a bus with flashing red lights AND a stop sign is to run a red light AND roll a stop sign… I’ve never seen anybody post an article on this blog that said that running a red light (no matter where it is) is ok…

Pete
Guest
Pete

I was once pursued and nearly assaulted by a man who right-hooked and nearly hit me. He took offense when I screamed and he replied “I didn’t see you” and I replied back “of course not, you didn’t look!!”. This was Allen and Murray in the Beav and he gunned it across the McMen’s parking lot so I pulled near the eating area to avoid being exposed on the street. He shouted on and on about me not paying taxes and being arrogant and thinking I owned the road and then threatened to beat on me and actually got out of his truck when I chuckled at that (couldn’t help it). I had told him to calm down that it was me who should be mad because he nearly killed me and broke two laws in the process. When he opened the door I pulled my cell phone out and started reciting his license plate out loud (there were lots of people watching this). He jumped back in and screeched off. I suspect he was heading home from a bar.

Long story short I ended up being his neighbor for over a year. I learned that he’s an elementary school bus driver.

(I’m not certain if he ever figured out who I was, but when I moved out of town his truck inherited a “Practice Seeing Bicyclists” bumper sticker :).

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Folow the law or don’t expect the law to protect you.