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Bike lane bill passes Oregon House 48-12, now heads to Senate

Posted by on May 1st, 2019 at 9:14 am

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

House Bill 2682 passed the Oregon House of Representatives by a vote of 48 to 12 last week. The bill seeks to amend Oregon’s statutory definition of bike lane to clarify that, “A bicycle lane exists in an intersection if the bicycle lane is marked on opposite sides of the intersection in the same direction of travel.”

Despite what’s simply a basic, legal clarification, some lawmakers think it makes cycling less safe and they want to send a message of concern to Oregon Senators as they take up the bill this month.

Bicycle lanes have always maintained legal standing even when unpainted inside intersections; but because two Oregon judges ruled otherwise, advocates felt it necessary to make this fact crystal clear.

As we shared when the bill passed the Joint Committee on Transportation on April 15th, some lawmakers think this is a bad idea.

Out of the 12 no votes* in the 60-member House of Representatives, 11 came from Republicans. Two of them felt the need to publish official explanations with their votes.

Rep. David Brock Smith said:

“I voted NO on HB 2682 for the following reasons and more… It does not make it safer for a bicyclist, gives them a false sense of security and could cause increased litigation. The bill needs to me amended and I hope my no vote assists in having those amendments occur in the Senate.”

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Rep. Denyc Boles said:

“I believe this legislation makes bicyclists less safe. This bill needs more work in the Senate and my “No” vote is to help give pause and support for additional amendments in the Senate. Safety is important. We need to make sure the legislation gets this right.”

It’s unclear what type of amendments these lawmakers would like to see (neither responded to requests for comment in time for publication). It’s also unclear why they feel this legislation would make conditions for bicycle riders less safe. The bill doesn’t give bicycle riders any more rights or privileges than they have today. All the bill does is adds a line to the definition of a bicycle lane in Oregon law. The intention is to make the legal right-of-way of bicycle users more ironclad when right-hook and unsafe lane change cases are presented in court.

The Street Trust Executive Director Jillian Detweiler says she and Advocacy Director Richa Poudyal lobbied House and Senate offices on this bill last week. “Urban legislators get it,” she wrote in a comment posted below. “My meeting with Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scapoose) was the most animated. She is convinced cyclists are out of control in the urban areas. I don’t think we will have her vote, but I think I made a little progress.”

For more on why this law makes sense, read this article from legal expert Rick Bernardi.

The bill has had its first reading in the Senate and now awaits further action. Stay tuned.

*No votes were filed by Rep.s Barreto, Boles, Bonham, Boshart Davis, Findley, Lewis, Post, Reschke, Smith (David Brock), Smith (Greg), Wallan, and Witt. See full results here.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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29 Comments
  • Avatar
    John Lascurettes May 1, 2019 at 9:43 am

    It does not make it safer for a bicyclist, gives them a false sense of security and could cause increased litigation.

    Let me see if I can translate:

    “It does not make it safer for a bicyclist [because it’s simply codifying the common sense understanding of a lane.]”

    “Gives them a false sense of security [because I’m going to turn without checking the lane anyway as will most other car heads I know.”]

    “… could cause increased litigation, [and I don’t want to get sued for ignoring the law].”

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    m May 1, 2019 at 9:56 am

    It’s sad this bill is even necessary. A total no-brainer.

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      AndyK May 1, 2019 at 2:04 pm

      This is nearly as dumb as a federal court declaring that putting chalk on car tires violates a person’s fourth amendment.

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    Aaron May 1, 2019 at 9:58 am

    “could cause increased litigation”

    Isn’t that the whole point of this bill? To allow recourse cyclists who are victimized by the negligence of drivers?

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      mh May 1, 2019 at 1:22 pm

      Apparently someone has to stand up for the defendant/party being sued.

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    K'Tesh May 1, 2019 at 10:03 am

    48 people who get it, and 12 morons. I wonder what the 12 would say if the word bicycle was replaced with automotive?

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    TheCowabungaDude May 1, 2019 at 10:05 am

    The bicycling experts say that this is needed. Why don’t these legislators practice listening to the experts and let this clarification happen? There are waaaaaay more important topics that need their attention. This is a no-brainer that No-Brainers should not focus on.

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    El Biciclero May 1, 2019 at 10:06 am

    Just my cynical take, but I’m guessing “makes bicyclists less safe” is politish for “makes drivers more liable”. The concern here is not for bicyclists.

    After thinking about it and armchair legislating, I would have liked to see the language made less restrictive and more easily understood by just stating that a bicycle lane continues through an intersection if it exists prior to entering the intersection, regardless of whether it continues on the other side. Essentially, a bike lane can’t end at the entrance to an intersection.

    But anyway, progress! Can’t wait for the vote on the stop-as-yield bill… wait…getting a premonition… something about… “makes… bicyclists less safe…”? Whoa. Weird.

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    J_R May 1, 2019 at 11:01 am

    Please send emails in support to your senator!

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    Jillian Detweiler May 1, 2019 at 11:27 am

    The Street Trust visited every House and Senate office last week in advance of last week’s House vote and in anticipation of a vote in the Senate. I worked the Senate side while Advocacy Director Richa Poudyal worked the House. (Richa used to work for Representative Power.) Urban legislators get it. We did have to spend time distinguishing this proposal from the proposed Idaho stop bill. My meeting with Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scapoose) was the most animated. She is convinced cyclists are out of control in the urban areas. I don’t think we will have her vote, but I think I made a little progress. Kudos to City of Bend’s lobbyist for pitching in to address some opposition to the bill from Central Oregon legislators.

    We look forward to celebrating adoption of this bill and thanking everyone who assisted in the effort to get it passed!

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      encephalopath May 1, 2019 at 1:04 pm

      It sounds like some of the opposition is driven by windshield bias from legislators. “I’m not a bicyclist, so eff those guys.” Maybe they don’t see themselves as participants in active transportation and are too old to start now?

      But a good portion of the opposition appears to be coming from rural resentment of urban residents. They don’t like the people who live in cities and they’ll be damned if they are going to do anything to help them. This dynamic is really toxic.

      What if the urban legislators decided that they were going to treat rural residents like this? As in, “A bunch of these rural counties aren’t economically viable (in reality they’re not), so we’re not going to spend money on them anymore. If you don’t like it, you can move.”

      The squeals of outrage would be deafening.

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      Steve B May 1, 2019 at 3:39 pm

      Excellent, I really appreciate the report back on The Street Trust’s work on this bill. Thank you for your work on this!

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      El Biciclero May 1, 2019 at 3:39 pm

      The fact that an amendment (not even a new law!!) like this—that merely writes down what [almost] everyone already understands to be common sense—would be so thoroughly misunderstood and even slightly controversial is a real eye-opener to the often willful ignorance cultivated by those who make our laws, but don’t identify or empathize in the slightest with those whom the law will affect or protect. It may not be true, but I get the feeling a lot of times that there are some lawmakers for whom the litmus test is, “will it protect or make life easier for bicyclists? Then NO”. “Will it punish bicyclists or restrict the operation or movement of bicycles? Then YES”.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 1, 2019 at 4:02 pm

      Thanks for sharing this Jillian. I’ll add it to the post right away.

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    idlebytes May 1, 2019 at 11:41 am

    What I still can’t wrap my head around is if the bike line doesn’t exist in the intersection because there are no painted lines wouldn’t that mean all lanes don’t exist and it’s just a free for all? Why is this not even mentioned or commented upon by the judges that originally messed this up or the legislators still opposing it.

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      Chris I May 2, 2019 at 8:23 am

      Because they are small-minded and hold strong windshield bias. Basic logic does not apply when bikes are involved.

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    Dan May 1, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    The bike lane on NE 47th actually ends at NE Glisan traveling southbound. I move into the motor lane in the intersection, secure in my knowledge that according to the esteemed judge Michael Zusman (the guy who gave the green light to right hooking bikes in the intersection), I am not violating any laws because there are no lanes in the intersection. Not sure if this new legislature impacts the legality of that practice or not.

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      idlebytes May 1, 2019 at 12:20 pm

      It’s actually not illegal to change lanes in an intersection in Oregon. Just like there’s no specific law limiting the distance you have to be from an intersection before crossing the center line to pass someone. The only law that addresses your position at an intersection says you can’t be to the left of the center line while you’re at an intersection. I wonder if that judge would say you could be to the left while you’re IN the intersection since the law says AT an intersection 🙂

      https://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.305

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        GlowBoy May 2, 2019 at 9:11 am

        Wow, Oregon’s traffic laws can be truly bizarre – in good (left turn on red from two way to one way) and bad (Driver Education not required of minor drivers) ways. I certainly learned as a young driver that you were not allowed to change lanes in an intersection, foolishly assuming this rule was uniform across all 50 states.

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    Babygorilla May 1, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    I see potential issues with the language proposed. It says there is a bike lane in an intersection whenever there is striping. It doesn’t provide that the bike lane continues through the intersection or define where the bike lane is within the intersection.

    By its plain language, the proposed amendment could be read to make the whole intersection a bike lane or just parts of it, or whatever. If the intention is to clarify that the bike lane continues through the intersection as if the striping were to continue, why not have precise language to do so?

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      Q May 1, 2019 at 12:37 pm

      Also how does this work in the many intersections in which the bike lane conveniently disappears in favor of an automobile right turn only lane?

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      idlebytes May 1, 2019 at 1:16 pm

      These are both good points. The modified language seems to be more confusing I prefer the original language and feel like it addresses at least one of these concerns:

      Where the markings of a bicycle lane are interrupted by an intersection, the bicycle
      lane continues in and through the intersection.

      vs what it is now:

      A bicycle lane exists in an intersection if the bicycle lane is marked on opposite sides
      of the intersection in the same direction of travel.

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    Suburban May 1, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    “neither responded to requests for comment in time for publication). It’s also unclear why they feel this legislation would make conditions for bicycle riders less safe.”—-
    I really want to understand both of these points. If any NO voters can clarify, please do publish their responses regardless of when they do respond.

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      Chris I May 2, 2019 at 8:25 am

      They won’t respond, because they don’t have an argument. They are just voting against something that benefits a group of “others”.

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    Tim May 1, 2019 at 1:33 pm

    “could cause increased litigation” says it all. Some people don’t want to accept the responsibility inherent with driving a 3 ton vehicle in a public space, and they don’t want to be held liable for a right hook.

    False sense of security? How about the false sense of security of driving a 3 ton vehicle into another human.

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      GlowBoy May 2, 2019 at 9:12 am

      Tim, that gets my vote for Comment of the Week.

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      GlowBoy May 2, 2019 at 9:13 am

      And these twelve legislators who think doesn’t improve cyclist safety have how much experience riding bicycles on public roads?

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    Kristent May 2, 2019 at 9:07 am

    Do the no-voters think that unmarked crosswalks do not exist, then? There’s no paint to delineate them.

    I don’t understand how the Scappoose senator thinks that urban cyclists are “out of control”. And how does urban cycling affect her rural town? Is she thinking about cyclists who ride on hwy 30?

    More clarification is needed. I’d also like to hear the reasoning behind the no votes explained more clearly, as I don’t understand it. What is it about clarifying that bike lanes exist in intersections without paint, if the bike lane exists on either side of an intersection, that increase liability for anyone?

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    soren May 2, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    The fact that this statute was such an urgent need is an example of how many existing laws do little, in practice, to protect the *rights* of people rolling (or walking). Ubiquitous car-centrism has resulted in statutes that are vaguely worded, nonsensical, and/or conflict with other laws. If we want law enforcement and the courts to stop interpreting traffic law in a grossly biased manner, we need to rewrite the entire corpus of statutes so that they respect differences between different modes.

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