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No paint, no problem: Oregon passes bike lane clarification bill

Posted by on May 6th, 2019 at 4:28 pm

This language will now exist in Oregon law.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“The rules of the road just got clearer today.”

That’s the statement from The Street Trust Executive Director Jillian Detweiler upon hearing House Bill 2682 passed the Senate today by a vote of 20-0 (with 8 absent and 2 excused), clearing its last hurdle before being signed into law by Governor Kate Brown.

The bill adds language to Oregon’s definition of a bicycle lane (ORS 801.155) to clarify that a lane still legally exists in an intersection even when the paint striping does not. It sounds like a no-brainer right? After all, no one would assume intersections are a legal free-for-all for other road users just because there’s no lane striping.

“When I read that a cyclist was killed and the driver citation was thrown out under this ridiculous line of reasoning, I knew something had to be done.”
— Ted Light, member of The Street Trust

Unfortunately, when bicycle users are involved, people often lose their minds. That’s what happened with two Oregon judges who ruled in separate cases that a motor vehicle driver could not be guilty of failure-to-yield to a rider in a bicycle lane (ORS 811.050) because the rider was in an intersection and there was no lane striping (thus no bicycle lane, thus no right-of-way).

To stop this madness, The Street Trust and Portland-based lawyer Ray Thomas put forward a bill to make it crystal clear: “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,” reads the text of the new language that will be added to Oregon’s definition of a bike lane.

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Despite what seems like a common sense housekeeping bill, Detweiler says she faced opposition from lawmakers in Salem. “13 state representatives voted against the bill,” Detweiler shared in a statement today. To make sure it passed, Detweiler and The Street Trust Advocacy Director Richa Poudyal testified before a House committee and met with electeds to explain the bill and build support. “The effort demonstrates the need to build elected leadership who support alternative transportation and to have dedicated advocates like The Street Trust to protect the rights of cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders.”

The bill’s chief sponsor was House Rep. Rob Nosse, a democrat who represents southeast Portland. Impetus for the bill came from Ted Light, a Street Trust member who lives in Rep. Nosse’s district.

“When I read that a cyclist was killed and the driver citation was thrown out under this ridiculous line of reasoning, I knew something had to be done,” Light said. “It was great that Representative Nosse and The Street Trust put their shoulder to the wheel to make this bill happen.”

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

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11 Comments
  • Avatar
    Keviniano May 6, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    I’m glad this is clarified, but lordy, what an awful distraction.

    Recommended Thumb up 11

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      B. Carfree May 6, 2019 at 7:10 pm

      We have so much to do that it’s a shame such energy must be wasted shepherding things like this bill through. It’s extremely worrisome that it took so much effort to make it happen. How are we ever going to move forward on real progress, as opposed to stopping the backsliding, in such an environment?

      (That annoying little voice in my head: Get busy with your (my) legislators so there’s fertile soil when good seeds are planted.)

      Recommended Thumb up 9

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      Resopmok May 7, 2019 at 6:47 am

      Yes, it’s sad we live in a world where we must fight for common sense to prevail. I’ll stop short of saying it’s wasted time spent on this bill because the results were apparently necessary, but it is indeed a distraction when we face a global crisis which threatens life on this planet as we know it (and yes, I mean global climate change).

      Recommended Thumb up 4

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    Burk Webb May 6, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    Nice work Ray Thomas and Rob Nosse and everyone else involved on this bill!

    Recommended Thumb up 20

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    Steven Soto May 6, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    Bravo for Ray Thomas, Rob Nosse, the Street Trust, and common sense!

    Recommended Thumb up 10

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    Adam May 7, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    So… does the clarified legal protection/ right-of-way still exist if the lane is not striped on BOTH sides of the intersection? All bicycle lanes start and stop somewhere, there are missing links, dedicated bicycle lanes that morph out of/ into (marked and un-marked) share-use lanes when crossing a intersection, multi-use paths sometimes start or end at one side of an intersection across from dedicated lanes, etc. Hopefully all the knowledgeable people that worked on this considered those situations and the new language covers those types of locations(?).

    Recommended Thumb up 1

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    jim May 7, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    So who were the rocket scientists in the house that voted against this bill?

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    JV May 8, 2019 at 10:49 am

    The real geniuses are the two judges whose rulings necessitated a law that should be filed in the ORS under “DUH!”

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    EB May 10, 2019 at 9:06 am

    Who were the 13 reps who voted against this and what was their line of reasoning to vote this down?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 10, 2019 at 9:22 am

      No votes were: Barreto, Boles, Bonham, Boshart Davis, Findley, Lewis, Post, Reschke, Smith DB, Smith G, Wallan, Witt. None provided a specific reason… the few who did explain their reasoning didn’t seem to understand what the bill does. They went on about concerns for “safety” and about fears it would lead to dangerous situations.

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        Pete May 12, 2019 at 9:05 am

        I can only imagine the response if one were to introduce something ‘progressive’ like allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs as yields or letting motorcycles filter in traffic. Mon dieux!

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