Get Legal With Ray Thomas

Welcome to our legal special feature of legal articles written by Ray Thomas of Portland-based firm Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton.

Get Legal with Ray Thomas: Oregon’s ‘Safe Passing’ law explained

Avatar by on January 6th, 2014 at 3:53 pm

This is the final installment of our three-part series on Oregon’s passing laws written by our legal correspondent Ray Thomas. Read previous parts here and here.

The 2007 Oregon Legislature added an innovative law to the nation’s passing laws when Senator Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene) reformed Oregon’s bicycle passing laws with a new collection of legal concepts. The new passing law was intended to remedy several factors believed responsible for the tragic death of triathlete Jane Higdon on Territorial Road in Eugene when she and a group of riders were passed by a truck hauling logs.

Here’s the text of the law:[Read more…]

Get Legal with Ray Thomas: Passing around centerline myths and riding ‘two-up’

Avatar by on December 11th, 2013 at 10:44 am

Ride to Monmouth-14

Legal? That depends.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

This is part two of our three-part series on Oregon’s passing laws written by our legal correspondent Ray Thomas. Read part one here.

​When is it OK to ride side-by-side? [Read more…]

Get Legal with Ray Thomas: Bicycling and Oregon’s passing laws

Avatar by on December 2nd, 2013 at 11:50 am


The legal side of getting passed.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to part one of a three part series on Oregon’s passing laws.

Trying to decipher Oregon’s passing laws are a perfect example of how it’s often difficult to know when (and how) a particular vehicle law applies to someone riding a bicycle. Confusion about application of the rules of the road and vehicle laws sometimes results when frustrated motor vehicle operators turn to the statutes to try to put bicycle riders in their “proper” place on the roadway; but rights and responsibilities of bicycle riders on the roadway are somewhat of a legal hybrid in the Oregon statutes. Frustration of motor vehicle operators must not be allowed to diminish the bicycle operator’s legitimate right to share the traveled portion of the roadway — and even to occupy a full lane when necessary — to avoid surface hazards or other potential dangers. ​[Read more…]

Get Legal with Ray Thomas: The skinny on sidewalk riding

Avatar by on September 30th, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Weidler detour on sidewalk-6

Learn the laws about sidewalk riding.
(Photos © J Maus/BikePortland)

People that bike, walk (or roll, in the case of wheelchair and electric scooter users) share sidewalks every day, and the combination of modes can cause conflict and confusion. Oregon law, however, is very clear on right-of-way and the legal conduct required when you are bicycling on the sidewalk.

Legal clarity aside, the devil is in the details.

One problem is that bicycle operators travel much faster than walkers and require considerably greater distance to turn and stop. When bicycle traffic is constricted, such as on bridges and other multi-use paths, the inevitable congestion magnifies the impact of the small steering or control mistakes that lead to occasional collisions.[Read more…]

Get Legal with Ray Thomas: What to do if you’re in a collision

Avatar by on August 26th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Scene of right hook NE Couch and Grand-1

It might never happen to you,
but just in case…
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

What should you do if you are in a collision with a motor vehicle? First, be prepared. While the odds may be pretty good that you will never be involved in a collision there are several tips you can follow which will make any collision less of a disruption in your life. An understanding of the fundamentals of insurance, medical services, and the legal system will help you after your collision.

This article is a very basic primer on these areas.

If you are in a collision

If you do get in a collision with an automobile while riding your bicycle, make sure that you obtain complete and accurate information about the driver. It is an unfortunate fact of modern life that some people with driving and insurance problems carry false identification. Make sure that the driver shows you an official document such as a driver license or other photo ID as well as a certificate of current insurance coverage before they leave the scene of the collision. If they will not do so, then call the police.[Read more…]

Get Legal with Ray Thomas: Harassment of Bicycle Riders

Avatar by on July 22nd, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Ray Thomas
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Welcome to our new legal column with Ray Thomas. Ray has been a legal resource for Portlanders (and beyond) for many years and we’ve used him as a source on countless stories. Now we plan to give him a greater presence on BikePortland. Disclaimer: Ray’s law firm Swanson Thomas Coon & Newton, is a BikePortland advertiser. As always, I welcome your feedback either in the comments or directly via email. Thanks for reading. — Jonathan

What can you do if someone harasses you while you are riding your bike? The first and best advice is to not do anything that gets you hurt, remember what you can in order to identify the perpetrators later, and call law enforcement.
[Read more…]

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

Avatar 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…]