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Legislative update: Dead red passes, rear light bill might not, and more

Posted by on May 14th, 2015 at 3:38 pm

New safety signal at Couch and Grand-8-11

You can roll through, but only if it’s
safe and it doesn’t detect you.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

As we get into the home stretch of the 2015 Oregon legislative session, I figured it’d be a good time to roundup all the action on the bills we’ve been tracking. This session wasn’t too groundbreaking when it comes to bicycle-specific bills; but there have been some interesting ideas and at least one bike bill of consequence is already headed to the Governor’s desk.

Here we go…

Passed

Senate Bill 533 – Allows bike and motorcycle riders to proceed through red signal under certain conditions
Ever come up to the red light that never changes? Now you will have the legal right to roll through it thanks to SB 533, which passed a vote in the House yesterday. This bill (here’s our post on it) was proposed by motorcycle advocates and initially did not apply to bicycle riders. It was only after some lobbying action by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance that “bicyclist” was added.

Here’s the salient text:

reddeadtext

The BTA says passage of this law is “great news for bikes” that will make riding more convenient and efficient.

Interestingly, the Oregon Department of Transportation opposed the bill, as did the Governor’s Transportation Safety Advisory Committee. They fear the law will lead to deadly consequences for inexperienced riders who may not make good judgments on when it’s safe to proceed. Instead of a law, they would like to see a complaint-driven where people could call ODOT and have signals fixed.

At a hearing for the bill, Amy Joyce from ODOT’s Transportation Safety Division testified against the bill, saying, “Allowing this sort of behavior takes away from some of the predictability for motorcyclists and bicyclists.” Joyce said not all signals are the same and some people might not know what a “full cycle” of the signal is. To the predictability point, a House committee member asked, “What would be less predictable of this law versus what people do now – which is to break the law and do it anyways?”

Alive and kicking

House Bill 2564 – Inclusionary zoning
This bill is being hailed as a game-changer by affordable housing advocate. We covered it last month because of its potential impact on preserving income diverse neighborhoods in Portland. The bill passed the House last month by a vote of 34-25 and it has a Senate committee work session scheduled for May 19th.

Senate Bill 463 — Would allow drivers to have darker tinted windows with a note from their doctor
This is a bill I just heard about. It would allow people with certain medical conditions (that require “lower light trasmittance”) to have darker tint on their car windows than is currently allowed by law. This raises a big red flag for me because I rely heavily on being able to see drivers in order to make safe decisions on the road. Dark windows are very dangerous to everyone outside the car. This bill easily passed the Senate and has a public hearing scheduled for May 18th.

House Bill 2621 – Would allow City of Portland to use unmanned photo radar on high crash corridors
This bill is a top priority for Transportation Commissioner Steve Novick and the Portland Bureau of Transportation because it would give them a major new tool to fight speeding on our most dangerous streets. Much of what activists are lying in the street for right now has to do with people driving way too fast. Photo radar is proven to result in lower speeds, but PBOT currently lacks the legal authority to roll out a comprehensive photo radar program.

We reported this week that despite being stuck in committee, PBOT is optimistic they can get this bill onto the floors of both chambers for votes before it’s too late.

On life support

House Bill 3255 – Mandatory red rear lights for bicycles
The long, strange trip of HB 3255 might finally be over. This is the bill that started out as a mandate for all bicycle riders to wear reflective clothing. Its chief sponsor, House Rep. John Davis, thankfully pulled back that proposal and instead tried to mandate a red rear light (only a reflector is necessary now) for all bicycles ridden on Oregon “highways” (which in statute includes all public roads). Davis’ bill passed the House but it doesn’t look like it will get to the Senate floor.

The bill had a public hearing in a Senate committee yesterday. Rep Davis testified on its behalf; but veteran bike lawyer Ray Thomas was also there. As we reported last week, Thomas is adamantly opposed to the bill and his testimony (PDF) listed several reasons why lawmakers should give it pause.

In the end, using a rear light while riding is definitely the best, safest practice; but it seems there are too many devils in the details for it to be required by law. Time to pull the plug on this ill-fated “conversation” starter.

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Senate Bill 117 – Task Force on jurisdicational transfers
This bill is very relevant to the protests we’re seeing Portland right now. If passed, it would create a special legislative task force to grapple with the issues around transferring roads and highways from state to local control. It passed a Senate committee last month but its currently still stuck in the Senate Ways and Means committee – which is a place many bills go to die. (Note: The failure of this bill doesn’t mean Portland leaders still can’t broker a deal with ODOT to take over control of our local highways like Powell, Barbur, and so on.)

No chance

Senate Bill 861 – Allow courts to use location data (like GPS) as probable cause to search for stolen bicycles
This was a neat idea, but it either failed to grab lawmakers’ attention, or its sponsor, Senator Chris Edwards, just didn’t push hard enough on it.

House Bill 3094 – Increase highway speed limit to 75 mph
Try as they might, Oregon lawmakers just cannot make this happen. With its first work session not even scheduled yet, this bill is dead. I sort of love that Oregon is bucking the national trend on this one and holding the line at 65 mph.

House Bill 3233 – Would shorten amount of time a driver’s license would be revoked following three or more DUI convinctions.
I didn’t follow this one closely, but I can’t fathom the rationale for going easier on such dangerous drivers who clearly don’t learn their lesson. I also know that dedicated activist Kristi Finney — a mom who lost her son to a drunk driver — testified against it. With no work session scheduled in its originating committee, this bill is thankfully going nowhere.

House Bill 2522 and 3102 – Requiring a permit or an outright ban on studded tires
Both of these bills looked to crack down on the scourge of studded tires, which cause millions of dollars of damage to Oregon roads each year. The permit bill sought $70 to use the tires and the other bill wanted to prohibit them entirely. Unfortunately neither bill got much traction.

Senate Bill 177 – Mandatory bicycle licensing and registration
Remember this one? Just the latest attempt at this seemingly sensible yet utterly flawed idea. It didn’t go anywhere. And hopefully, this is the last time it comes up (at least in this form).

Those are all the bills we’ve been following this session. I’m not a Salem insider by any stretch, so please share your insights if you’ve got them. Two important dates to keep in mind: If a bill doesn’t get a work session by next Friday (5/22), it cannot move forward (under most circumstances); and if a bill doesn’t pass both chambers by June 5th, it is officially dead.

Read more of our 2015 legislative session coverage.

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

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Patrick Barber
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the studded tire bills didn’t get much traction! you’re killin me over here!

Adam H.
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Adam H.

complaint-driven where people could call ODOT and have signals fixed

Yeah right. Ask Will Vanlue how that “complaint-driven” model is going…

Indy
Guest
Indy

“Instead of a law, they would like to see a complaint-driven where people could call ODOT and have signals fixed.”

This would be great. The Northbound left turn light on Barbur@Bertha intersection has been broken for only about a decade now. It almost always assumes that there’s a car there, so Southbound traffic sits there and waits, needlessly. Over ten years… I wonder how many people have just sat at that light heading Southbound needlessly.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Great stuff. Thanks for summarizing it all.

“Allowing this sort of behavior takes away from some of the predictability for motorcyclists and bicyclists.” Predictability? Of what?

My favorite: go easier on repeat DUI offenders. Who are these clowns?!

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

“Senate Bill 463 — Would allow drivers to have darker tinted windows with a note from their doctor”

I would be more in favor of this if they took off the requirement of getting a look at a driver’s face to file a Citizen Initiated Complaint and instead held people accountable for their vehicles…

don’t want the ticket? then you better get your friend (that you loaned your car to) to fess up to what they did or you’re getting the ticket…

instead, why not buy sunglasses? you can’t remove dark tint in order to see better in low-light conditions (at night, in the rain, etc)…

the only reason I see for this law is to allow people to be less detectable and therefore less responsible…

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

HB 3414 may also be of interest… it’s another bill designed to more easily allow speeding on freeways…

officially titled “Requires certain persons to not drive in far left lane unless passing.” I’d call it “Allows speeders more room to continue illegally dangerous behavior.” but I don’t get to write the titles…

why do we continue to enable illegal behavior on our roads?

DC
Guest
DC

Forgive me if this was covered in past articles, but regarding the red light law: what is the intended course of action for waiting at a red light and determining a “full cycle”? If the light went through a “full cycle” then the rider would have gotten a green light! At a standard two-road intersection without turn lanes, the whole point is the light is NOT going through full cycles.

What am I missing?

kittens
Guest
kittens

Some of this legislation perfectly illustrate the profound disconnect between reality and law. And how many end up passing but with no realistic enforcement mechanism?

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

“Instead of a law, they would like to see a complaint-driven where people could call ODOT and have signals fixed.”

Hi, ODOT? I just spent five hours at a stoplight before it changed to green, can you fix this? So you’ll do a study in 2019? Great!

Paul
Guest
Paul

Re: SB 533. By using the phrase “roll through” in both the photo caption and the text implies an “Idaho stop”, which is completely different from what this bill addresses.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“They fear the law will lead to deadly consequences for inexperienced riders who may not make good judgments on when it’s safe to proceed.”

Good Lord! We should get on banning right turns on red and start converting all two-way stops immediately then! The lives of inexperienced riders (and drivers!) depend on it!

younggods
Guest
younggods

Next after “Dead red” should be the “Idaho stop”.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Surely ODOT can’t be serious. Only a self-driving car would sit at a dead red indefinitely, and I bet that even those are programmed to only wait so long.

Mike
Guest
Mike

If you want fewer cars in Salem and Portland then there should have been support for the WES extension. Does anyone know if the legislators from the two cities publicly supported it?

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Idaho studied the impact when they moved to allowing people to treat red lights like stop signs when there was no cross traffic, they found no increase in injuries or deaths. It turns out that people are pretty good at judging when they are sitting at a red light for no reason. Their red light law was actually proposed by their state police and sheparded through by a republican. I really don’t understand why it is the least bit controversial, plenty of data to show there is no actual safety reason to oppose it.

soren
Guest
soren

We inched a little closer to the safe and rational approach to cycling and traffic signals — the Idaho stop.

soren
Guest
soren

“they would like to see a complaint-driven where people could call ODOT and have signals fixed”

i often commute on a bike that never triggers loop detectors.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Rep. Bill Kennemer of Oregon City must really like drunk driving…

steve
Guest
steve

Regarding Senate Bill 463 that would allow even darker tinted windows for some people, regardless of what these special cases may be for, it seems to me the current law already allows tinted windows that are too dark or the laws aren’t being enforced. Everyday I see darkly tinted windows everywhere with drivers I can’t communicate with at intersections or wherever. And there is no way a policeman could see if they are on their cell phone, etc. Crazy!

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…Davis’ bill passed the House but it doesn’t look like it will get to the Senate floor. …” bikeportland

Davis’s bill, amending an existing law to require bikes be equipped with tail lights, passed the house with a strong margin, 44-14. Why the bill may not make it to the Senate floor, I’m not sure, but it will be unfortunate if it doesn’t.

Given the strong support for the bill from the house, Oregon’s senators should definitely consider and vote as to whether or not it’s a good thing for Oregon to have the law require people using the road with bikes at night, equip their bikes with tail lights for improvement in visibility over that provided by reflectors.

Paul Johnson
Guest

Hopefully this keeps the PPB from stopping me for having dark tint windows, which having those seems to substantially reduce the odds of getting pulled over for having dark skin when I visit Portland (a problem I regularly have in the Metro Region). Still no cure for not having a front plate since my tribe does not issue them.

Tait
Guest
Tait

Aside from the obvious “what if the light doesn’t cycle at all” problem with 533, I don’t think it will really make any difference to me. On my commute path, I already know every light that won’t respond. I don’t even bother waiting for them; I go as soon as it’s clear to do so. (I’d wait if I saw an officer sitting there, but that never happens.)

Tait
Guest
Tait

Why is it a good idea to ban studded tires entirely? That’s going to increase risk and increase road damage by forcing the use of wires and chains instead. I certainly understand that there’s little need for studs in Portland, but Portland is not the rest of the state, and they’re vital in places like Burns or Pendleton. (Oh well, at least it’s effectively dead.)

Heather G
Guest
Heather G

Also track HB 2464, which reauthorizes ConnectOregon funding, a major way that bike/ped gets funded via ODOT at the regional level.

m
Guest
m

Other than the fact that you don’t like it and at least one person testified against it, why do you label HB 3255 as on “Life Support? This bill passed the House 44-14. Was there commentary by any Senators to give you an indication it will die in committee or not pass the Senate? Yet you say HB 2621 is “stuck in committee” but label it “Alive and Kicking”. Seems inconsistent.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Senate Bill 463 — Would allow drivers to have darker tinted windows with a note from their doctor.

Whats wrong with sunscreen, sunglasses, or SPF protective clothing if you are that sensitive? Normally UV is the issue, and UV can be screened without tint.

The police unions are usually really against tinted windows, and hopefully with fight this. The last you want while approach a car window is not being able to see the person. Super dangerous. Statistically I think the data is already out there guaranteeing more police deaths if overly tinted windows are allowed. Every criminal will be able to get a bogus doctor to approve them for the tinting.

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Darker tinted windows! So the drivers can’t be seen texting and talking on their cell phones. I have been using the Idaho traffic light/stop sign rules for about 4 decades on my bike. It is the only reasonable way of clearing the intersection in a timely manner for bikes to allow cars to do what ever they are thinking of doing. By the way I am also a motor driver (mercedes) . Reflectors versus reflectors. I am not sure but taillights LED type are cheaper than most reflectors. Usually available at thrift store or? for less than 2 batteries for them. I don’t even reply to texts when I am driving. I also do not wear headphones or text when riding the bike.
I have been noticing a lot of pickups for contractors with signage with the very dark windows all the way around. 2 of them blasted through red lights barely missing me in the car on Friday. I couldn’t tell if there was even a driver on board.