Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Oregon’s bike-friendly driving test at work

Posted by on March 7th, 2014 at 9:59 am

From the other side-1

Heads up.
(Photo by J.Maus/BikePortland)

As we all know, it can sometimes be easy to forget how great Oregon is.

This morning, after returning to Oregon from the National Bike Summit (which I was attending for my other gig as Jonathan was covering for BikePortland) I saw a little reminder pop up in my standing Twitter search for bike-related tweets in Portland.

Below is the exchange, between two people who I don’t know (and both of whom, I’m sure, will be responsible and well-informed drivers once they’re both on the road).

How progressive is Oregon’s Department of Motor Vehicles when it comes to driving tests? Last fall, I got a tip that the agency had changed its rules so that failing to check a right-hand mirror for bikes on any right turn across a bike lane would now dock you points on a road test. I called the DMV to check this out. Their spokesman’s response (paraphrased): What are you talking about, man? We’ve been doing that for years and years.

Oregon driving laws could be more bike-friendly, of course. For example, there’s no instructional requirement for people over 18. And unlike in, for example, Tennessee, driver’s ed classes don’t include any experience riding a bicycle. But it looks like they did exactly what they were supposed to. I’m looking forward to sharing our roads with JBeRoe once she passes.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Bill Walters March 7, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Um … okay. If “we’ve been doing that for years and years,” then, per the right-hook example reported here just yesterday, the benefit is questionable. So then, what’s to celebrate?

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  • Dan March 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

    Drivers think of the right car lane as the ‘right lane’. But if there’s a bike lane on the right, they’re really turning from the middle, and should think of it that way.

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  • Daniel L March 7, 2014 at 10:53 am

    Since retesting is almost never required it takes about 20-30 years for a change in the testing to start to change driving habits among the majority of drivers.

    Most current drivers are basing their entire understanding of the law and best practices on things they learned when they were 16, and a lot of it was probably not really correct even then.

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    • JL March 7, 2014 at 11:10 am

      Are you talking about the PPB? 😉

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    • Bill Walters March 7, 2014 at 11:12 am

      Agreed, which begs the question: Just how many years is the “years and years”?

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      • Michael Andersen (News Editor)
        Michael Andersen (News Editor) March 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm

        He didn’t know – and since it wasn’t new, I didn’t think this fact was worth chasing down. As you note, having this requirement in the road test certainly isn’t enough to get everybody obeying the rules.

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  • JL March 7, 2014 at 11:03 am

    We can celebrate that a person with a drivers license from another state came to Oregon and was actually tested….

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    • davemess March 7, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      I took the written test when I moved here 4.5 years ago. I don’t remember a single question about bikes on it. There was a question about which months you could use chains (being from Ohio and Colorado, I kind of thought that one was a joke, and I think I missed it).

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    • gutterbunny March 7, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      I moved here in 92. Took the test once. Something like 10 questions on a video screen. I missed one – I didn’t know you were allowed to make a left hand turn from a two street onto a one way street against a red. Being unsure, I chose that you couldn’t picking the safest answer.

      Otherwise the test was about as basic and easy as it could possibly be.

      I haven’t had to take any kind of test since. And considering that I just renewed last year, it’ll be another 8 years until they have the opportunity to test me again. The real test last year was finding my birth certificate (had to order one).

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  • GlowBoy March 7, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Like Daniel said, a majority of people on the road started driving 25-30 years ago. So we’re just now at the point where the median-age driver was taught based on a 1980s understanding of traffic laws.

    That’s assuming they even had Drivers Ed, which shamefully is still not required in Oregon. Which brings me to …

    “For example, there’s no instructional requirement for people over 18” -BP

    There’s no hard instructional requirement in Oregon for drivers under 18, either. Even underage drivers can opt out of the Drivers Ed requirement by doing 100 hours of driving “supervised” by any licensed adult over 21. Disgusting.

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  • Shyla Osborn March 7, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    What we need is a massive PSA campaign, with TV ads aired during breaks in the local news, that teaches the driving public about sharing the road. Those flash cards that Swanson, Thomas, Coon and Newton provide could work as nice templates IMHO.

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  • Charles McCarthy March 7, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I vote for drivers having to retake the driving and written tests, say every three years.

    A person is supposed to have a physical every year to check for any decay that might have developed without being apparent. In the same way, the beginnings of bad driving habits ought to be caught, and up-to-date knowledge of the laws should be encouraged.

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    • Opus the Poet March 7, 2014 at 6:11 pm

      The standard for pilots is every two years or when you get a new certification whichever comes first. The common term is biennial flight review. There is an oral test over the changes in regulations in the last two years, plus about a one hour flight exam to make sure you’re sharp in emergency procedures.

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  • Howard Draper March 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    After recently moving here from TX, I can say the OR written test had far more questions about situations involving people walking and biking. The OR test was also much tougher in general, and I think that’s good.

    More frequent retests++

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  • dwainedibbly March 7, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    On one hand, when I moved here from FL 4 years ago I was delighted to see the bicycling-related test questions. OTOH I was a little surprised that I was able to pass the vision test without glasses. My vision has improved since I hit that age where some people need bifocals, but I didn’t think it had improved THAT much. I guess it’s nice to not have the requirement, but I’d never drive without glasses regardless of that.

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  • Jim March 7, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    The trick is to go around the corner at 30 mph so no bikes will be passing you.

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  • Pete March 8, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Neither driving nor bicycling testing is adequate IMHO…

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  • wsbob March 10, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Towards issuing driver’s licenses, look into requiring both a driver’s test, and a rider’s test. Have passing the rider’s test be a per-requisite to taking the driver’s test. Would Oregon considering and possibly implementing such an idea, be seen as being very progressive? Or just absurd, crazy and unnecessary? I don’t know.

    One challenge this kind of requirement would present, is that many people wanting a driver’s license, may have no intention or interest in riding out in traffic. For various reasons, they may not even be able to ride a bike.

    The test preparation material and test would have to be well enough written to effectively convey to people, safe procedures for riding in traffic, even if, in practice for the test, they haven’t actually ridden a bike to get some sense of what those things are.

    For people that aren’t interested in driving, but do need to, or want to be able to ride places that would take them into or through high traffic areas, there probably should be requirement to prepare and pass a rider’s test.

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    • wsbob March 10, 2014 at 1:25 am

      Correction: ‘per-requisite’ to prerequisite.

      I did look at the article about Chattanooga Tennessee’s driver education program said to offer experience in riding a bike. The program goes very light on actual biking with a short, 15 minute ride, but apparently, something about biking is also included during the four days of classroom time leading up to the ride on the final day of the course.

      It’s a start towards helping road users become better, safer road users.

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