Legal Section Archives

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City says e-bike use on park paths is a violation, but it’s not enforced

Posted on September 18th, 2018 at 12:19 pm.

Portland City Code prohibits e-bike use on paths like the Springwater.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Last summer we stumbled upon an inconvenient truth about electric bike use in Oregon State Parks. It turned out that despite their popularity, it was illegal to operate e-bikes on State Park paths and trails.

Thankfully, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) acknowledged the outdated rules and the State Parks Commission recently approved new ones that explicitly permit e-bike use on their facilities.

Now it appears the City of Portland might have the same problem. [Read more…]

Portland firm releases free legal guidebook for electric bicycles

Posted on August 1st, 2018 at 1:56 pm.

Cover

Electric scooters are hogging headlines right now; but e-bikes are Portland’s quiet transportation revolution. In the past few years the number of people riding with pedal-assisted motors has skyrocketed and local shops have seen a big increase in sales.

While e-bikes have carved out a safe space in Portland’s street culture, they — like their unmotorized brethren — still exist in somewhat of a legal Twilight Zone. Are they bicycles or “motorized vehicles”? Can they be ridden on sidewalks? Those are just some of the questions people often have about them.

A new legal guidebook by the law firm of Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost aims to answer those questions.

Oregon E-Bike Rights: A Legal Guide for Electric Bike Riders was written by Ray Thomas, Cynthia Newton, Jim Coon, and Chris Thomas. You might recognize that first name as the lawyer behind Pedal Power: A Legal Guide for Oregon Bicyclists, which is now in its 10th printing and is widely considered Oregon’s bike law bible. Thomas and Newton are also BikePortland contributors (and the firm is a major supporter of bike advocacy in Portland, including a sponsor of our work).

TCNF’s 49-page guide is a comprehensive look at laws that govern the use of electric bikes in Oregon. In addition to a rundown of the relevant Oregon Revised Statutes, the guide also covers insurance policy questions, advocacy efforts to change existing e-bike laws and create better ones, and offers a resource guide if you want to probe further.
[Read more…]

Walk or roll on Portland streets? You need more personal injury insurance protection

Posted on January 23rd, 2018 at 1:42 pm.

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This post was written by Portland lawyer Cynthia Newton. She previously shared her concerns about commercial truck operators. Today’s post is about the insurance gap faced by bicycle users. It’s an issue we’ve covered previously here on BikePortland, but it’s so important we felt it was worth re-upping.

This is one of those things that’s not pleasant to think about, but important to know.

Bicycle riders and walkers who are involved in a collision with the driver of a motor vehicle often suffer serious injuries, requiring emergency medical care, surgery, hospitalization and short or long-term disability. Many Oregon drivers carry the minimal automobile insurance limits of $25,000. Serious injuries combined with this minimal amount of coverage combine to create a gap between the funds needed to pay medical expenses and to be fully compensated for lost income and non-economic damages. Put more simply: The injured’s damages exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage.

As lawyers who work with bicycle riders, we see the consequences of this situation far too often.
[Read more…]

What you should know about Oregon’s new distracted driving law

Posted on October 16th, 2017 at 1:59 pm.

Distracted driver being distracted.jpg

Scofflaw.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Our legal contributor Ray Thomas is an author and lawyer based in Portland.

On October 1, 2017, Oregon’s new distracted driving law went into effect. The law has an expanded scope and raises the penalties for violations. Here are a few things every Oregon bicycle rider should know about it.

People who walk and bike know all too well the risks drivers pose as they stare into screens and attempt to drive around us. Since we are not encapsulated inside a steel compartment looking at the world through safety glass, we see the shocking number of people who try to maneuver their cars and trucks down the streets while completely tuned out to anything but what is on the screen in front of them.

And the statistics confirm how deadly this behavior is: More than 4,000 crashes were caused by distraction in Oregon in 2014. And between 2011 and 2015 there were 54 fatalities and 15,150 injuries in Oregon caused by distracted drivers (see the Oregon Department of Transportation 2014 Oregon Traffic Crash Summary).
[Read more…]

Here are the Oregon House bills we’re following this session (Part 2 of 2)

Posted on February 21st, 2017 at 1:36 pm.

Legislator bike ride at the Oregon Bike Summit-1

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The 2017 Oregon Legislative Session is well underway and we’re following as many bills as humanly possible (in a one-person newsroom).

Out of the thousands of bills swirling around the halls and meeting rooms of the state capitol building in Salem, there are few of particular importance to transportation reform advocates. Last week we shared the Senate bills we’re following and below are the House bills we’ve got an eye on…

House Bill 2355

Summary: “Directs Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to develop method for recording data concerning officer-initiated pedestrian and traffic stops” (Official overview)
[Read more…]

Here are the Oregon Senate bills we’re following this session (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on February 17th, 2017 at 10:00 am.

Legislator bike ride at the Oregon Bike Summit-1

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The 2017 Oregon legislative session is well underway. Votes have already taken place and bills are moving up and dying off as I type this.

I’ve combed through hundreds of bills to find ones that matter to people who care about transportation safety and the culture of our streets. Since there are so many bills I want to bring to your attention, I’ve decided to do this in two parts. First I’ll share a list of the Senate bills I’m following. Then in a separate post, I’ll share the House bills.

Here we go…
[Read more…]

Lawmakers, ODOT Director hear emotional testimony at Vision Zero bill hearing

Posted on February 15th, 2017 at 1:01 pm.

ODOT Director Matt Garrett (lower right) was in the house for today’s hearing.
(Photo: Oregon Walks)

A bill that would establish an official State of Oregon Vision Zero Task Force got its first public hearing today. And it was heart-wrenching.

The eight members of the House Committee On Transportation Policy who presided over the hearing for House Bill 2667 probably didn’t expect the 8:00 am start time to attract testimony from nearly two-dozen people. And they probably didn’t expect to hear from people like Marina Hajek, the mother of a 10-year old boy who was hit and killed by a reckless, speeding driver while walking his bike across a street in Eugene 10 years ago.
[Read more…]

Portland Parks says immunity ruling won’t impact volunteers at Gateway Green, other sites

Posted on February 9th, 2017 at 4:52 pm.

Turns out the forthcoming bike park at Gateway Green won’t be “crippled” by a court decision after all.

After the Willamette Week published a scary story yesterday about a legal loophole in Oregon law that allows people to sue city employees and volunteers for injuries sustained on City-owned properties, we’ve been trying to learn more about potential impacts to not just Gateway Green but the over 200 other Parks-owned properties around Portland.

If other cities have closed recreational facilities due to this loophole, what would happen in Portland? Volunteers are the backbone of many parks and public lands where we ride bikes, and losing them — or losing access completely because of liability concerns — would be a major setback.

Our initial inquiries with the City of Portland and other sources to clarify these impacts didn’t get very far. The Parks Bureau seemed to be caught off-guard by the Willamette Week story and no one else would comment due to it being a sensitive legal issue (if only I had a nickel for every time I heard “Sorry, I can’t discuss legal matters”). The City’s Office of Government Relations would only refer us to the pending legislation that will close the loophole and that we outlined in our story yesterday.

But what if those bills don’t pass? How will Parks’ and other public lands in Portland and throughout the state be impacted by the 2016 Oregon Supreme Court Ruling that found the legal concept of “recreational immunity” does not extend to city employees?
[Read more…]

Willamette Week: Legal concerns cloud Gateway Green bike park and other city properties

Posted on February 8th, 2017 at 1:33 pm.

Community Cross at Gateway Green-1

Should volunteers or city employees who work on parks facilities — like the upcoming Gateway Green — be open to liability lawsuits?
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

NOTE: Please read our important update to this story posted on Thursday 2/9 at 5:00 pm.

I didn’t know much about Oregon’s “recreational immunity” law when I woke up this morning. But since reading, “Portland’s First Mountain-Bike Park Could Be Crippled by a Court Decision” in the Willamette Week I’ve given myself a crash-course. And so should you.

That article lays out the case that a 2016 Oregon Supreme Court decision throws access to public parks (and all public lands more broadly) into question due to potential legal liability for landowners.

In a nutshell, that decision found that employees and volunteers of landowners are not covered by the same legal immunity as the owners of the land (as laid out in Oregon’s 1971 Public Use of Lands Act). For more on the ruling and the existing law, check out this article.
[Read more…]

New York’s high court says city’s unsafe street design makes them liable for injuries and deaths

Posted on January 10th, 2017 at 2:57 pm.

Advocates in New York City are all abuzz about the ruling.

It happens way too often: Someone is seriously injured or killed at a location that’s a known traffic safety hot-spot. As an activist, it’s infuriating. I can only imagine what it’s like for the family and friends of victims.

After years of assuming cities had blanket immunity from liability when it came to street design decisions, a recent decision by New York’s highest court has thrown that into question. The court found that the City of New York can be held partly liable for a man’s death because they knew the road encouraged speeding and unsafe driving but they failed to study and implement measures to mitigate the risk.

The ruling is being hailed as a “landmark” and “game-changing” decision by New York City nonprofit organization Transportation Alternatives. Here’s what they said in a statement last week:

“The New York high court just ruled that the City can be held liable for failing to study and implement traffic calming measures, which the jury determined were a major factor contributing to the crash. In a 2004 incident, the driver was traveling at 54 mph on Gerritsen Avenue, which had a speed limit of 30 mph. Prior to the incident, the City had been advised by local residents, elected officials, and the Department of Transportation that speeding was common on the street, but that no sufficient speed study or traffic calming review was performed. The Court found the City liable for failing to adequately study and mitigate the road conditions that contributed to the speeding, stating that “an unjustifiable delay in implementing a remedial plan constitutes a breach of the municipality’s duty to the public.”[Read more…]