Bike Law 101


Bike Law 101: Take care when crossing the foot lane (a.k.a. sidewalk)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on August 2nd, 2011 at 9:09 am

Respect the foot lane.
(Photo © J. Maus)

As the weather warms and the sun becomes more reliable, sidewalks seem to blossom with all manner of human traffic; from strollers to skateboarders to joggers and everything in between. And these days, much of that traffic is distracted by their phones or music pumping in their ears.

But this is sidewalk stuff. You ride a bike on the road. What’s this got to do with bicycling? Did you know that there’s an Oregon Statute that applies to crossing a sidewalk?

If you are not aware of it and wind up on the wrong side of it, you might find yourself in a position of shared liability for involvement in a crash.[Read more…]

Bike Law 101: Harassment and how to deal with it

Avatar by on July 20th, 2011 at 11:21 am

Bike lane in action

(Photo © J. Maus)

Having commanded ownership of the road for decades, sharing it is an often unfamiliar and difficult idea for many motor vehicle operators. To now be required to share that space with people on bicycles is for some, rather difficult. Many people honestly believe bicycles don’t have the same legal rights to the roadway that cars do.

This conviction is fueled by a general unawareness and confusion about the rights and duties of operating a motor vehicle and it’s compounded by unpredictable and unsafe behavior of some bike riders. The potent mix of fear and entitlement on both sides of the windshield can sometimes ignite an explosion of anger; an explosion that often falls into one of three legal categories: harassment, menacing or assault.[Read more…]

Bike Law 101: Who’s on the ‘roadway’?

Avatar by on July 6th, 2011 at 1:22 pm

A closer look at how the law dictates where you must ride.
(Illustration by Dan Pegoda/Animated Traffic Law Center for

[Read more…]

Bike Law 101: Careless biking

Avatar by on June 22nd, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Shared path Waterfront Park-1

Oregon’s careless driving statute applies
to multi-use paths too.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Many of us are aware that a person can be convicted of careless driving (ORS 811.135) for operating their motor vehicle in a manner that “endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.”

But did you realize that bicycle operators are also subject to this statute?

Familiarize yourself with the salient parts of the statute below (Note: This is the “vulnerable roadway users” statute, which was slightly modified this session):
[Read more…]

Bike Law 101: Riding two abreast

Avatar by on June 7th, 2011 at 8:59 am

Social cycling on N. Willamette Blvd.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The beauty of a bicycle is that by its very design it lends itself to connecting its operator with other people, be it another person on a bike or anyone else nearby. The technology itself encourages social interaction.

I hope it was with this understanding about bicycles and human nature that led to the creation of the law allowing bicyclists to ride two abreast (but more likely it’s the bicycle’s relatively small physical footprint).

The problem, of course, is that bicycles are playing in an arena with a technology (automobiles) that by its very design discourages social interaction outside of itself. In many ways, these two technologies couldn’t be more different on their social impact: Bicycles naturally lend themselves to social interactions while motor vehicles to social isolation — it’s a rub that causes a tremendous amount of friction on multiple fronts, including livability, urban design, and even traffic law.[Read more…]

Bike Law 101: “Take the lane,” legally

Avatar by on May 26th, 2011 at 10:56 am

Proper “take the lane” form.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Many of you already know that you have the legal right to “take the lane” when necessary. What’s less understood is what this actually means, both in practice on the road and in the law.

“Take the lane” is a common phrase, almost a rallying cry in some circles, and it’s used throughout the country. For many people, it’s the catch-all term that explains how bicycles are allowed to legally use the roadway; but what does it mean in Oregon?

For starters, “take the lane” doesn’t even exist in the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS). So, does it mean a person riding a bike should literally take up the entire lane, riding wherever he/she chooses? Or are you legally allowed just a portion of the road?

It depends.[Read more…]

Bike Law 101: The law of the lanes

Avatar by on May 11th, 2011 at 9:42 am

Bike lane in action

If it’s there, you should be too.
(Photo © J. Maus)

If you’re concerned about your personal safety mixing it up with motorized traffic, your fears are not without merit. American roads are made for something powerful, weighty and full of horsepower. Stepping foot or pushing pedal upon them can indeed be daunting.

The tendency for the timid may be to ride on the sidewalk where things feel safer. Although permitted by law and seemingly intuitive, this is a big mistake. Because you are off-road, you are out of the line of sight for drivers and your risk of a collision goes way up (especially going in the opposition direction of adjacent traffic).

On a bicycle, you are safest when you are visible, following standard driving practices and behaving predictably as you ride. This is where bike lanes come in. Bike lanes are engineered to help facilitate predictability and act as a visual cue to separate bikes and cars. [Read more…]

Bike Law 101: Biking under the influence

Avatar by on April 27th, 2011 at 11:00 am

Although it’s generally understood that it’s not cool to drink and drive, many people don’t think of cycling while in an altered state as being dangerous. But, before you over-indulge, here are some sobering statistics to consider…

According to NHTSA, (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) 28% of all cyclists killed in 2009 had a measurable blood alcohol level. 24% of these had a BAC of .08% or higher. A bicyclist’s risk of a crash begins to increase significantly at 0.05% BAC and climbs rapidly after about 0.08%. In other words, when you’re a pint or two down the odds for a bicycle crash go up…sometimes way up. One study showed BAC over 0.10% increased injury risk tenfold.

(Illustration by Dan Pegoda for

[Read more…]

Bike Law 101: Waiting (or not) for the school bus

Avatar by on April 12th, 2011 at 9:18 am

You’re freewheeling along on your bike. There’s been a change in the weather. The day is dry and it’s even warm enough to drop a layer. The ride just couldn’t be better. And then it happens. The approaching school bus has pulled to the curb just ahead.

Now, with lights ablaze and its stop sign thrust out tauntingly, almost a dare, do you obey or ignore?

Illustration by Dan Pegoda for

[Read more…]

Bike Law 101: Guidance for the ‘Dilemma Zone’

Avatar by on March 29th, 2011 at 9:45 am

[Publisher’s note: Welcome to Bike Law 101, a new column written for BikePortland by Kurt Jansen. Kurt is the Executive Director of the Animated Traffic Law Center. ATLC is a Eugene, Oregon based non-profit that helps organizations with their traffic law education efforts (the City of Portland hired them to create the “Every Corner is a Crosswalk” animation). Each month, Kurt will tackle a tricky bike law with hopes of adding some clarity to a our vehicle code.]

Entering an intersection on a solid yellow light is illegal in Oregon unless you cannot stop in time safely.

It’s a familiar enough scene. You’re on your bike approaching an intersection and the light is green. But, it’s been green for a while now; any second it will go to yellow (or perhaps it already has). Signal engineers call this the “dilemma zone.” Do you blast into the intersection or do you restrain yourself, slow down and wait? [Read more…]