Use e-scooters in Oregon? You should read this legal guide

(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you’re a low-car Portlander, you understand that driving around the city is often more trouble than it’s worth. You probably also find shared electric scooters to be a useful addition to the mobility mix. But where do these vehicles fit into the rules of the road?

Now there’s a handy new guide from a local law firm that lays it all out.

Our friends at Thomas, Coon, Newton & Frost have released, Oregon E-Scooter Rights: A Legal Guide for Electric Scooter Users (PDF). This is the fifth booklet from TCN&F since their popular Pedal Power cycling guide was published in 2000.

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Doored? The law is on your side (but that might not be enough)

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(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you ever have the unfortunate luck of coming into conflict with another road user, it’s always a pleasure to find out the law is in your favor.

Usually, conflicts on the road relate to the question of who has the right to the same space at the same time. Having someone open their car door into you — a.k.a. getting “doored” — falls into this category. Usually a motor vehicle operator fails to see a bicycle rider and opens a door so close to their path that a collision or near-miss occurs. While defensive riding can go a long way toward avoiding this sometimes painful encounter, sometimes there is just nothing a rider can do — everything happens too fast.

Fortunately, this is one of those areas where the law is on the side of the bicycle rider. Here’s the relevant section of Oregon’s Vehicle Code (remember bicycles are “vehicles” too) that prohibits opening the door of any vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so:

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Supreme Court’s rail-trail ruling: What does it mean for Oregon?

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Family trip to Stub Stewart State Park-39-39

A Supreme Court ruling could open the door
for lawsuits from landowners adjacent to popular
rail-trails like the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on a rail-trail case — and the doomsday headlines that followed — have caused a lot of concern among people who love cycling on paths built atop former railroad corridors.

In Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States the court ruled 8-1 in favor of the trust, who claimed their rights to the now-abandoned railroad should be reinstated. Their land is slated to become part of the Medicine Bow Rail Trial and the federal government argued that they have rights to the trail easement based on a “reversionary interest” which should go into effect once the railroad was abandoned.

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Video of bike lane citation in Ashland highlights controversial Oregon law

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Still from police video of traffic stop.

Just after 6:00 pm on August 15th, 35-year-old Medford resident Dallas Smith was riding in the bike lane on Main Street in Ashland when he was pulled over by Ashland police officer Steve MacLennan. The offense? Officer MacLennan claimed that Smith was riding his bicycle outside of the bike lane.

“Why are riding on the white line and actually going over into the traffic lane when you have a bike lane here?” the officer asked Smith as he approached him during the traffic stop. When Smith replied that he was avoiding glass and other debris near the curb, which often gives him flats, Ofc. MacLennan dismissively replied. “Nope. No, that doesn’t cut it.”

After issuing the $110 citation, Ofc. MacLennan repeated to Smith that there wasn’t a sufficient amount of debris in the lane to warrant him riding several feet to the left of the curb. As he rode away, Smith asked the officer, “What am I supposed to do up here where there is no bike lane?” “You better ride off to the right then,” Ofc. MacLennan replied.

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Politifact checks our work on bike crossing laws

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You can stay on your bike and have the legal
right to cross an unsignalized intersection
(marked or unmarked) simply by dipping your
tire into the road.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Our attempt to clear up confusion about Oregon’s crossing laws earlier this month gave us more than we bargained for on several accounts. First, in writing up the story, I realized I didn’t fully understand how current Oregon law dealt with people on bicycles when it came to attempting to cross a street on the sidewalk at an unsignalized intersection. Eventually (I hope) we clarified the law. Not only that, but it turns out The Oregonian and their Politifact team decided to check our work.

In Saturday’s edition of the paper, The Oregonian/Politifact asked; “Must cars stop if a cyclist dips a wheel into a crosswalk?”

The fact-checkers at The Oregonian swung into action after they read a tweet I published on January 4th. They must have been skeptical that Oregon’s crossing law is triggered when someone on a bike simply dips their front wheel into the roadway (from the sidewalk).

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Clearing up confusion around Oregon’s crosswalk law

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Crosswalks in action-4

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last month I shared the story of a reader who admitted that he doesn’t always stop for people on foot waiting to cross the road in front of him. In that story I mentioned Oregon’s crosswalk law; but I mistakenly left out a key part of it. After hearing from several readers who were concerned about what I wrote, I want to clear up any confusion about the law. Here’s what I wrote:

Oregon law (ORS 811.028) clearly states that if you see a person waiting to cross an intersection at a corner, and you’re able to do so in time, you must stop and let them cross.

What I failed to mention is that you are only required to stop if the person has made some effort to demonstrate their desire to cross. My memory of recent legislation changes to the crosswalk laws was faulty and I regret the error. Thankfully, I’ve heard from Oregon Walk Executive Director Steph Routh and she has helped sort out my misunderstandings.

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Reader: Why I don’t always stop for people waiting to cross the street

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Crosswalks in action-1

Scared to stop.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

A reader sent us a note recently about a traffic situation that I feel could use more community awareness and discussion. It has to do with stopping for people who are waiting to walk across the street. Oregon law (ORS 811.028) clearly states that if you see a person waiting to cross an intersection at a corner, and you’re able to do so in time, you must stop and let them cross. (UPDATE: To clarify, the law says you must only stop if the person extends their body/bike/cane/stroller into the intersection.)

But what if you’re on your bike and you’re afraid that people behind you in cars (or on bikes for that matter) might not stop and that they’d run into you? That’s a sensation I can relate to. It’s also one that reader Chris S. felt compelled to email us about. Here’s what he wrote:

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Bike-based contractor denied service at metal recycler for not being in a motor vehicle

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Chris Sanderson of Builder By Bike.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Chris Sanderson is a Portland-based licensed general contractor. Like many people in his line of work, he does a far amount of demolition and hauling for his clients. But unlike other contractors, Sanderson’s company vehicle is a bicycle, not a truck. Sanderson owns Builder By Bike LLC, a bike-based company he launched back in February.

On a recent job, he was asked to take down a metal basketball goal. He didn’t think there would be any problem taking it to a local metal recycler, so he was surprised when he was turned away.

Sanderson emailed us to share what happened:

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State finds Disco Trike owner Dan Kaufman “not guilty”

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Dan Kaufman on the stand last week.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The State of Oregon has issued a judgment of “not guilty” in the trial of the “Disco Trike” and its owner, local activist and filmmaker Dan Kaufman. The trial was heard by Multnomah County District Court Judge Cheryl Albrecht last Friday and she announced her decision today (PDF).

The Portland Police Bureau arrested Kaufman and seized his video equipment and his adult tricycle on SW Main Street near the Elk statue on the evening January 25th, 2012. Kaufman was participating in the J25 Occupy protests to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Egyptian uprisings in Tahrir Square. According to court documents, Kaufman was in custody for 40 minutes and his personal property was impounded (it was released to him one month later). Ultimately, he received a violation for Unlawful Operation of Sound Producing Equipment. The police testified in court last Friday that the amplified music being played from his Disco Trike was agitating the crowd and that it could be heard beyond the legal distance of 100 feet.

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City will step up truck parking enforcement on SE 4th Ave – Updated

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Trucks in bike lanes leads to
people in streets.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Portland Bureau of Transportation says they’ll step up enforcement of illegal parking on SE 4th Avenue just south of Caruthers. On Monday, we pointed out that large trucks servicing industrial businesses along the street are parking in the bike lanes that connect the Springwater Corridor and Eastbank Esplanade. This gap between the two paths is very popular with people bicycling, walking, and jogging and the illegally parked trucks are forcing them out into the middle of the roadway.

Cheryl Kuck, a media spokesperson for PBOT says they will tell Parking Enforcement Officers to put this area on their regular patrols. In Oregon, it’s illegal to park a motor vehicle on a bike lane unless you are there only “momentarily” and actively loading/unloading. Kuck also encourages people to call the parking hotline to report issues:

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Ethics, exhaust, and other reasons to break traffic laws while bicycling

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The bike world is buzzing today after a Sunday New York Times opinion piece by Randy Cohen laid out his personal, ethical case for riding illegally. In, If Kant Were a New York Cyclist, Cohen, formerly “The Ethicist” columnist at the paper, wrote:

“I treat red lights and stop signs as if they were yield signs. A fundamental concern of ethics is the effect of our actions on others. My actions harm no one. This moral reasoning may not sway the police officer writing me a ticket, but it would pass the test of Kant’s categorical imperative: I think all cyclists could — and should — ride like me.”

Not surprisingly, Cohen’s piece has spurred lots of reaction from both sides of the debate. Reuters’ Felix Salmon offered a thoughtful rebuttal to Cohen, writing that, “If Cohen wants to agitate for a change in the rules, I’ll join him and support him. But I’m not going to pretend that it’s OK to break the rules just because you think the rules should be changed.”

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How to ride near a funeral procession (without breaking the law)

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“We frequently encounter these processions on training rides in Portland’s West Hills. Suggestions range from doing nothing (besides merely following the law), to stopping in respect while the procession goes by.”
— Ray Thomas, lawyer

For whatever reason, some of the most popular roads for bicycling on here in the Portland region also tend to be near graveyards. There’s Riverview Cemetery just west of the Sellwood Bridge and Skyline Memorial Gardens up in the West Hills just to name a few.

Ray Thomas, a local lawyer who rides frequently in these areas, recently had a situation where a group he was riding with happened upon a funeral procession. The experience left him wondering how Oregon law handles the presence of bicycles on the road when a funeral procession rolls by. So, as Thomas often does, he did a bit of research and wrote an article about it. He shared the article with me yesterday.

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