A Guide to Oregon Bicycle Helmet Laws

Bicycle riding is more popular than ever in Oregon. Oregon is known for its natural beauty and its focus on protecting the environment. Many people in Portland and across the state have been switching to bicycles for their commutes and running errands. With so many bicycle riders in Oregon, it is important to understand the laws regarding bicycles. Many people have asked whether or not wearing a bicycle helmet is mandatory under Oregon law. We will outline Oregon bicycle helmet laws and discuss some of the important safety issues related to riding a bicycle.

Do I Have to Wear a Bicycle Helmet in Oregon?

Whether or not an organ bicyclist needs to wear a helmet depends on his or her age. According to ORS 814.485, any bicycle operator under 16 must wear a helmet if they are riding on a public Street or any premises open to the public. Parking lots and alleyways are considered public. For a location to be considered open to the public, it needs to be accessible and open for the general public to ride their vehicles. 

Helmets are required for any operators or bicycle passengers under 16 years old. In short, any bicycle rider who is 16 or older is not required to wear a helmet when they are not on a public street or other premises where the general public can operate vehicles. For example, a 10-year-old bicyclist would be required to wear a bicycle helmet if they were riding on a public sidewalk in Portland. However, the 10-year old would not have to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle in the driveway of their family home.

 

Passengers Under 16 Must Wear Helmets

One important aspect of the Oregon bicycle helmet law that people often miss involves bicycle passengers. Families usually like to use cargo bikes or bicycles with kid carriers, also called pedicabs. The bicyclist may pull a pedicab with their children in a zippered compartment. Many people do not realize that the children in the pedicab or kid carrier must have a helmet anytime the bicycle rider is riding the vehicle. In some cases, the city or county in which a person is riding their bicycle has stricter bicycle helmet laws than Oregon. For example, according to the Portland city code, everyone under the age of 16 must wear a helmet in Portland.

 

Exceptions to the General Bicycle Helmet Rule

There are some exceptions to Oregon bicycle helmet law. Even in situations in which a bicycle operator or passenger is under the age of 16 operating in an area where a helmet is required, they will not be required to wear a helmet under these circumstances:

  • Wearing the helmet would violate the person’s religious belief or practice
  • The person operating the bicycle is operating a tricycle designed to be ridden by children, and
  • The person operating the bicycle is operating a three-wheeled non-motorized vehicle on a beach while the beach is closed off to motor vehicle traffic

 

What are the Penalties for Violating Oregon’s Bicycle Helmet Law?

ORS 814.485 Set the fine for the bicycle operator’s failure to wear a bicycle helmet at $25.  When a child under the age of 16 has been caught not wearing a bicycle helmet when they should have been wearing one, the appearance can be required to pay the fine. Alternatively, an additional fine may be placed on the adult in charge. When a child is 11 or younger and is in violation of Oregon’s helmet law, the fine must be charged against the parent, guardian, or any other person who was legally responsible for the safety and welfare of the child.

When a child between 12 and 16 violates the bicycle helmet laws, the fine may be issued to an adult, similar to the scenario above. However, the fine can be issued to the child himself or herself. An adult can be charged with violating Oregon’s bicycle helmet law when a child under 16 that they have legal responsibility for is caught operating a bicycle without a helmet. There is not any intent or knowledge element to this violation. As a result, even if the adult in charge didn’t know that the child riding without a helmet was a violation, he or she can still face charges.

Many people downplay the penalty for riding a bicycle without a helmet. After all, it is a modest $25 fine. Dealing with a charge of violating Oregon’s bicycle helmet law can be an unwanted hassle, though. A person who violates the law for the first time is not required to pay the fine if they can prove to the satisfaction of the cord that the underage bicycle operator has protective headgear. 

Oregon’s vehicle code also contains a provision that prohibits evidence of failure to wear a helmet from being used at a civil trial when a bicycle rider or passenger is injured or killed and when the victim or the victim’s family are seeking damages. Suppose a drunk driver collides with a bicyclist who should have been wearing a helmet but wasn’t, and the bicyclist dies. The bicyclist was aged 15 at the time of his death. His family decides to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the drunk driver who caused the accident. The drunk driver cannot use the bicyclist’s failure to wear a helmet against him in court to avoid paying the plaintiff compensation.

 

Why Should Bicyclists Wear Helmets?

Have you been injured in a bicycle accident in Portland? Are you interested in learning more about your right to compensation? If so, DuBois Law Group, LLC is here to help. Contact our Portland personal injury attorneys today to schedule your free initial consultation and learn more about our legal services.