(Photo © J. Maus)
As the weather warms and the sun becomes more reliable, sidewalks seem to blossom with all manner of human traffic; from strollers to skateboarders to joggers and everything in between. And these days, much of that traffic is distracted by their phones or music pumping in their ears.
But this is sidewalk stuff. You ride a bike on the road. What’s this got to do with bicycling? Did you know that there’s an Oregon Statute that applies to crossing a sidewalk?
If you are not aware of it and wind up on the wrong side of it, you might find yourself in a position of shared liability for involvement in a crash.
(Illustration by Dan Pegoda/Animated Traffic Law Center for BikePortland.org)
Let’s review. First, what is a sidewalk?
ORS 801.485 defines it like this:
On the side of a highway which has a shoulder, a sidewalk is that portion of the highway between the outside lateral line of the shoulder and the adjacent property line capable of being used by a pedestrian.
On the side of a highway which has no shoulder, a sidewalk is that portion of the highway between the lateral line of the roadway and the adjacent property line capable of being used by a pedestrian.
In other words, a sidewalk is the place where you’re most likely to find someone walking.
Now that we know what a sidewalk is, here’s the statute I referred to earlier
ORS 811.505, “Failure to stop when emerging from alley, driveway or building”:
(1) A person commits the offense of failure to stop when emerging from an alley, driveway or building if the person is operating a vehicle that is emerging from an alley, building, private road or driveway in a business or residence district and the person does not stop the vehicle as follows:
(a) If there is a sidewalk or sidewalk area, the person must stop the vehicle before driving onto the sidewalk or sidewalk area.
(b) If there is no sidewalk or sidewalk area, the person must stop at the point nearest the roadway to be entered where the driver has a view of approaching traffic.
This is one of those laws that virtually no one seems to obey. This, because the vehicle operator is unaware of it, confused about it or doesn’t see its relevance.
First, let me be clear, a motor vehicle or bicycle operator intending to cross a sidewalk to enter the roadway must stop before driving onto the sidewalk or sidewalk area — even if there is no one using that space.
“For those who see the law as irrelevant, beware: habits have a way of convincing us that they’re legal until proven otherwise.”
The law’s intent is twofold. Protect those using the sidewalk who may be in the path of an approaching vehicle and ensure the vehicle has made time (by stopping) to make a safe entrance onto the roadway and into traffic. In some situations, it may mean having to stop twice. Once before the sidewalk, and then again at the edge of the roadway to ensure that it’s safe to proceed. This is usually the case when you’re pulling out of an alley and there is curbside parking blocking your view of approaching vehicles.
For those who see the law as irrelevant, beware: habits have a way of convincing us that they’re legal until proven otherwise. By then, it’s too late.
When it comes to crossing a sidewalk the rule of thumb is a simple nod to courtesy and respect. Remember, the sidewalk is a safe haven for foot travelers. If your route causes you to cross one, stop. It’s not only the law but it creates a safe habit so that down the line you do no harm.
— Bike Law 101 appears twice a month on BikePortland. It’s written by Karen Lally and Kurt Jansen of the non-profit Animated Traffic Law Center based in Eugene, Oregon. For more info on bike law, browse the Bike Law 101 archives. If your company or organization would like to sponsor this column, please get in touch.