Support BikePortland

Ask BikePortland: Is it legal to ride with my dog?

Posted by on January 30th, 2015 at 12:13 pm

East Portland Sunday Parkways-14

Not a crime, in case you were wondering.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to the latest installment of Ask BikePortland. Browse past questions here.

Portland is a perennial front-runner in national rankings of top bike cities, and the same goes for dogs. We love them both. But what happens when you demonstrate affection for pedaling and pooches at the same time?

Reader Nastassja P. had an experience recently that left her wondering if riding with a dog on a leash is legal. She emailed us her experience and asked the question:

“We were on Lincoln St on about SE 36th/37th heading west at about 7:30am. We were well within the lines established by the white biker image painted on the ground [a sharrow, Lincoln is a bike boulevard]. I was just riding along, my dog Oso to the right of me (very close to the parked cars), on his walky-doggy, and weren’t going super slow – he was definitely running.


Lady in a sedan with 3 kids in it, drove by (going the same direction as me) and slowed down and rolled down her window, leaned over the front seat so her head was nearly out the side of the passenger window and yelled “You cannot be on the road with your dog!” and pointed/waived her finger at me, and then zoomed off. I had no time to say anything back.

Oso and I have been biking together from the beginning. He’s quite behaved and stops at stop lights and knows his right and left, and is quite good at drinking out of the water bottle as well. I like to take him to work with me at least one day a week. For the most part, I get smiles, but today was the first time that someone just seemed outright pissed to witness such a site.

I’m wondering, is there a law prohibiting biking with dogs? Or how do others feel about this?”

We asked Charley Gee of Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton for an answer. He said the closest thing in the Oregon Revised Statutes that would even remotely apply would be 814.450: “Unlawful load on bicycle.” But that law only deals with carrying the load, not on something attached and running alongside you. (And for reference, it doesn’t prohibit you from carrying a dog in a bag or basket, unless it, “prevents the person from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebar and having full control at all times.”

That means this is legal:

Sunday Parkways North 2011-23-22

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

So is this:

Sunday Parkways North Portland 2012-39

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

This too:

Sunday Parkways 09 -101

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

To keep both hands on your bars and have your dog run with you while doing so, get one of these doggie-walker thingeys like Nastassja has:

stajOso Bike to work

Oso and his bike leash.
(Photo by Rick Olson)

Going back to Nastassja’s question, no, it’s not illegal to bike with your dog running alongside. However, Gee also pointed out that Careless Driving could be applied if the presence of the dog distracted you or caused you to do something that led to a collision with another road user.

You might recall back in 2011 when a woman became distracted with her dog in the back seat of her car while driving and swerved and struck a man who was biking on SW Multnomah. In that case the driver was issued a citation for Careless Driving with injury to a vulnerable road user (ORS 811.135).

So go ahead, ride with your dog all you’d like. Just make sure those big, cute puppy eyes don’t distract you from safely navigating the road ahead.

Like Ask BikePortland? So do we. And we’d love to find a sponsor. Contact if interested.

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

  • meh January 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    Dogs can be unpredictable and can become distracted. If connected to your bike or the leash is looped around your wrist, a larger dog can pull you over, or into traffic or other obstacle.

    If your dog bolts you have to be prepared to let go of the leash.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

  • pdx2wheeler January 30, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Odd that it’s illegal for a human to walk or jog in a bike lane, yet a dog can run in a bike lane as long as it’s attached to a bike. Can a jogger jog in a bike lane then if they’re leashed to a bike?

    Recommended Thumb up 19

    • Dan M. January 30, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      Sounds kinky.

      Recommended Thumb up 15

      • q`Tzal February 1, 2015 at 10:15 am

        Sounds Portland.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Spiffy February 3, 2015 at 9:13 am

      I’m annoyed that joggers user bike lanes but I would be ok with it if they were tethered to a bike…

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • davemess January 30, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    I’m curious about the one hand on the handlebars stipulation. This definitely isn’t true in cars (i.e. keeping both hands on the wheel).

    Plus in the bottom two pictures the people both have “at least one hand” on the bicycle, and clearly have control as they’re both on tandems (and the second person has no steering capabilities).
    So why would either of those pictures possibly not be legal?

    It sounds like I can ride with my dog, with one hand on the bars and one on the leash, as long as I’m in control (which with many dogs isn’t that hard to do). Right?

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 30, 2015 at 12:41 pm


      I goofed. You are right. I’ve edited the story a bit. I had read the ORS language incorrectly.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

      • davemess January 30, 2015 at 2:57 pm

        Thanks, I was pretty confused.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

  • spencer January 30, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    I ride my my dog(s) with a coaster brake. Even squirrel time doesn’t pose a problem. That said, a LOT of dogs can’t tolerate “running” speed for long periods, however they can trot indefinitely. If you do ride with your dog, start early in life (not too early) and don’t ride to exhaustion. Dogs are meant to run/rest/ repeat, not sprint indefinitely.

    Recommended Thumb up 10

    • Alan 1.0 January 30, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      100% agree! Another thing is that at a trot you’re going so slow (~6mph) that it’s easy to control the bike, even if the dog pulls. Meh’s point about big and/or crazy dogs is good, too; practice in safe places until the dog gets used to it. Most of them catch on real quick. Springy attachments work fine if you like bike gadgets but holding the leash in your hand works just fine, too, and you can hold the leash and grab bars and brakes at the same time, on drops or flat bars.

      Driving a car with your left hand while leaning out the right window to yell at people beside you…not so safe.

      Recommended Thumb up 9

    • dan January 30, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Yes! Someone needs to tell this to the woman in my neighborhood who bikes at high speeds with her Weimeraner leashed to the bike. The dog struggles to keep up and looks miserable.

      Recommended Thumb up 8

  • daisy January 30, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Best tip I ever got: lash the dog’s leash to the seat post. I don’t take my pup far on my bike, but we have fun along the way.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • davemess January 30, 2015 at 2:59 pm

      Hope you have a small dog.
      I could easily see my 80 or 100 lbs. dogs crashing me hard.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Granpa January 30, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    If you dog steps on a tack on the Hawthorn Bridge do you call police, the humane society or the magnet man?

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • babygorilla January 30, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    There might be a traffic violation in the first picture, but it is not for the dog.

    ORS 811.195 provides that “a person commits the offense of having a passenger in a trailer if the person operates a vehicle on a highway while towing any type of trailer that contains a passenger.” It lists some exceptions, but none appear to apply to bicycle trailers. Highway is defined to pretty much include all streets in Oregon, not just interstates or freeways under ORS 801.305. Trailer is defined as “any vehicle without motive power designed to be drawn by another vehicle” under ORS 801.560. Vehicle is defined to be any device in, upon or on any person or property may be drawn upon a public highway under ORS 801.590.

    The prohibition against passenger’s in trailers in ORS 811.195 is not limited to “motor vehicles” towing trailers and the vehicle code provides that vehicle laws are applicable to bicycles, ORS 814.400, unless by their very nature they cannot be applied. To me, nothing in the very nature of a bicycle towing a trailer compels that that prohibition against it cannot be applied to bicycles.

    I haven’t found any other exemption for a passenger in a bike trailer, but there may be one or it just might be something the authorities do not cite for.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Charley Gee January 30, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      Woah Babygorilla, you just blew my mind. I want to research that further. Crazy.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) January 30, 2015 at 3:46 pm

      babygorilla and Charley Gee,

      Didn’t this come up during the Mitch Greenlick debacle?

      And yes, I think this is just one of many other instances in ORS where it’s not clear how a bicycle-related behavior applies. It would be absurd and preposterous for a judge to hold up a citation for the woman in that lead image.

      I have long said that we should all get together and draft an omnibus bill that would clean up the vehicle-related laws so that a lot of this bicycle stuff isn’t so darn vague and open to interpretation (see the disappearing bike lanes in intersections situation as just one example).

      Recommended Thumb up 7

      • 9watts January 31, 2015 at 7:58 am

        “Didn’t this come up during the Mitch Greenlick debacle? ”

        Yes. Babygorilla brings this up every time the conversation drifts into this territory (bike trailers).

        Recommended Thumb up 4

  • SEO January 30, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    That little sausage pup wrapped in purple made my day…sooo cute 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • 9watts January 31, 2015 at 8:04 am

      That dog in the fourth picture appears to be missing a leg. I hope the picky animal control officer who harassed J_R doesn’t encounter that assembly.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Dave January 30, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    I have always heard that running on pavement, even easily, is really hard on dogs’ paw pads and joints even more so than for our species.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Psyfalcon January 31, 2015 at 1:01 am

      Paws can wear down fast. Keeps the nails trimmed though. Pads will toughen up with use to some extent but they do make boots in a variety of materials. A nice denim would work well I think for hot roads.

      I never worried too much about joints, at a trot none of the feet come very far off the ground, so impact is actually minimal. If anyone has pressure sensors I will volunteer some dogs for experimentation though! There are plenty of congenital joint problems in dogs though, so paying attention is always a good thing.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Chris I January 30, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    I misinformed motorist? I’m surprised…

    This is how I move my dogs by bike:

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • babygorilla January 30, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Charley Gee
    Woah Babygorilla, you just blew my mind. I want to research that further. Crazy.
    Recommended 0

    Please. It should be an easy legislative fix to add a specific exemption to the trailer statute, but if one exists elsewhere or I’m missing something, it would be good to know.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Charley Gee January 30, 2015 at 3:51 pm

      I’m looking through the vehicle code and I don’t see anything. It feels like that scene in All the President’s Men (except totally not).

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Tim January 30, 2015 at 4:16 pm

    A dog that knows their right from their left and can drink from a water bottle is ahead of a lot of drivers on the road.

    Recommended Thumb up 13

  • J_R January 30, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Just be aware that animal control folks may have a different opinion. They could choose to cite you for almost anything like not having both county animal registration and a rabies tag on your dog; having a leash that is longer than that specified in the code, or whatever. Your city or county code may require that the leash be held in your hand. In my experience, the animal control officers are the worst of all law enforcement personnel. Watch out.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Chris I January 30, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      Why would you not have the registration and rabies tag?

      Recommended Thumb up 1

      • J_R January 30, 2015 at 5:34 pm

        Because, silly me, I thought that because I had to have a rabies vaccination to get a license, I didn’t have to have both tags on my dog. I had the license, but not the other and got a citation and had to got to court, pay a fine and court costs. No other infraction was involved.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

        • Spiffy February 3, 2015 at 9:19 am

          I only kept the registration tag on my dog for the same reason… can’t get the registration without the rabies shot, so having a rabies tag is pointless…

          Recommended Thumb up 0

  • babygorilla January 30, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)
    babygorilla and Charley Gee,
    Didn’t this come up during the Mitch Greenlick debacle?
    And yes, I think this is just one of many other instances in ORS where it’s not clear how a bicycle-related behavior applies. It would be absurd and preposterous for a judge to hold up a citation for the woman in that lead image.
    I have long said that we should all get together and draft an omnibus bill that would clean up the vehicle-related laws so that a lot of this bicycle stuff isn’t so darn vague and open to interpretation (see the disappearing bike lanes in intersections situation as just one example).
    Recommended 1

    As the statutes are written, I don’t think a court upholding a citation would be absurd from a legal standpoint. It would be a pretty straight forward reading of the statutes without anything to interpret (unlike the bike lane example which is an interpretation that leads to an absurd result).

    It is absurd that it is a prohibited practice if my read is not overlooking something. I just think the group who first incorporated bicycle specific language in the vehicle code just didn’t think of the situation.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • dan January 30, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    For anyone interested in learning how to bikjor with your dog, our club puts on a pull clinic every September, and depending on interest, also in April. Bikjoring, Scootering, Skijoring and Sledding are all very closely related, a lot of fun for you and your dog(s), and also a great way to exercise them.
    Most of us train on dirt trails and preferably snow (when we have it) up around the Mt Hood area, but there are several club members in the Portland area.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • The Odd Duck February 1, 2015 at 2:07 am

    If I had a dog I would preferred to walk it as its easier to judge when a dog in start to get tried. BTW carry water at all times for your dog. Its very easy for the dog to dehydrate. When I referring the dog that are bead for short distance not the sled dogs

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Lizzy February 1, 2015 at 5:07 am

    My experience with dog walkers on a bike is they let the leash out too long and it obstructs the trail/cycling space. They don’t consider other cyclists. I slow down when approaching one as dogs are instinctive animals and may suddenly bolt in any given direction. I’m generally not for walking a dog by bike. It’s also hard on a dog’s joints to jog or run on pavement, and very uncomfortable in the hot summer when pavement heats up.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Chris Anderson February 1, 2015 at 5:44 am

    Slightly related: I think it would be fitting for Bike Portland to do a photo essay of all the non-bike non-car Greenway users. I wonder if the driver in this story would have scolded a parent jogging with a stroller. The sidewalks aren’t suitable for this so I’m happy to see them taking the lane.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Gary February 2, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Interesting. I know what the law does prohibit: careless driving. I’d love to know how a driver could lean over, look at, scold, and wag a finger at the bike user while remaining careful and undistracted.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • Terry D-M February 2, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    My Hubby and I want a sister pair of Siamese kitties that we can train to ride with us. Cats! It is all about the Kitties!

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • lunchrider February 3, 2015 at 10:02 am

    For over 15 years I took my Duck Tolling Retriever out for a bike run using a device called a “springler” originally came from Denmark. Helped keep her and me safe for all these years. Of course it didn’t protect me from people who thought they knew better then me from yelling at us. She loved it and I know it helped keep her young.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • pedaling with pooch February 26, 2015 at 5:03 pm

    Wondering what the opinion and laws are regarding leaving your dog with your bike while you run into a business for an errand? I have a small dog that rides in a completely enclosed basket (basil pasja w/cover) that is attached to my back rack. Today when I went to the bank I left him in the basket; the bike was locked to a staple in front and within sight of the bank. I was inside for 5 minutes doing a quick transaction and when I came out a man was standing over my bike with his hands inside the basket trying to touch my dog. My dog was becoming distressed and yelping at his presence. When I got to the bike the man informed me that he had called the police for my “inhumane behavior towards my dog”. I was stunned to say the least.
    His attitude was pretty aggressive and he put his finger in my face and raised his voice. Of course when I was riding away I thought of a several retorts my adrenaline-addled mind blanked on at the time.
    I was never able to determine why it was “inhumane” to leave him there. The weather was dry, overcast, mid-50s. My dog had a sweater on so the wind from biking didn’t chill him. I asked if he thought it would be better if I leashed my dog and tied him up to the same place and he didn’t really answer.
    I don’t drive and I plan to continue to bring my dog with me as much as possible and will still leave him in the basket to do grocery runs and such, barring inclement weather.
    Any thoughts or advice on this? Anyone else have similar experiences with dogs in baskets or trailers? I wonder how Mike of “where’s Bixby” fame handles this?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Ben April 11, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      I use the only bike trailer on the market (the pupRUNNER) which allows your dogs to run inside the safety of the trailer, then when they’re tired or hot, the solid aluminum floors fold down so they can ride safely inside the trailer for the rest of my trip. I love it, and so do they!

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Ben April 11, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    They’re made in Boise Idaho.

    Recommended Thumb up 0