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How Well do You Know Your Oregon Bike Lane Laws?

Given that Portland has been called the most bike-friendly city in the country, and the effort and money that have gone into providing bike lanes on city streets to make cycling safer, you would think that cyclists—and motorists—would be pretty familiar with Oregon bike lane laws. Or would they?

Hardly a day goes by without a cyclist being injured by a motorist, and it’s probably safe to say that not an hour goes by without a motorist being annoyed by a cyclist. In many cases, this is because either the motorist or the cyclist does not know or understand the Oregon state laws pertaining to the use of bike lanes, and specifically who should be yielding and who has the right of way in any given situation.
Are you ready for a little question and answer session then? There are no prizes today for getting a perfect score, but if you learn the bike lane laws and abide by them, you could win the ultimate prize of saving your or someone else’s life. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get all the answers right. Even the experts would admit there are some gray areas mixed in with these statutes.
With that little warning still fresh in your mind, let’s get started!
Oregon Bike Lane Laws QUIZ
Question 1. You’re on your way home from work, pedaling happily away in the bike lane, when you see a delivery truck with its four-way flashers on, blocking your path. You shout at the inconsiderate so-and-so that he has no right to be there, and he tells you he’s delivering a package and to keep your hair on. Who is right?
  • Answer. If he’s actually delivering a package, the delivery man is well within his rights to temporarily park in the bike lane, providing he’s actually delivering or collecting something, according to ORS 811.560 (3). Ok, so how are you doing with the quiz so far?

Question 2.A car is entering a four-lane undivided highway at speed. You’re in a bike lane on the highway, but obviously moving at a much slower speed. Who legally has the right of way, and who is supposed to yield?

  • Answer. It doesn’t matter how big or fast he is, the motorist is the one who is supposed to yield here, according to ORS 811.285 (1), which says that unless a sign indicates otherwise, any vehicle entering a roadway must yield to vehicles, including bicycles, that are already on the roadway.

Question 3.You’re northbound on a five-lane highway, and you’re safely tucked into the bike lane. Suddenly, an ambulance with lights flashing and sirens blaring appears on the far side of the highway, heading south. Do you actually have to pull over, given that you’re traveling in opposite directions and you’re in a bike lane?

  • Answer. Oh, yes, you most certainly do! ORS 811.145 (1) (b) (c) says you must pull over all the way to the right side of the road—providing you’re not in an intersection—and stop until the vehicle has passed.

Question 4.Some cyclists like to move back and forth between a bike lane and the sidewalk, much to the annoyance of some pedestrians. Is what the cyclist is doing actually legal?

  • Answer. Yes, it’s legal, but this is one of those gray areas we referred to earlier. As a general rule, a cyclist may switch back and forth between bike lanes and sidewalks (ORS 814.410 (1) (a) (b) (c), but certain provisions apply, including:
  1. A city ordinance must be in place which permits this action by cyclists
  2. The cyclist must yield to pedestrians
  3. The cyclist must give an audible warning to any pedestrians they may be passing
  4. The cyclist may not suddenly move from the sidewalk into the path of a vehicle in the bike lane or ride in an otherwise careless manner when entering or leaving the bike path

Question 5.You’re riding in a bicycle lane when you come to a red light. You check for traffic, and nothing is coming. As long as you remain in your bicycle lane, is it legal to proceed through the red light, having checked for oncoming traffic in all directions.

  • Answer. It doesn’t matter if the city is deserted. If you’re facing a red light, you may not go through the red light, whether or not you’re in the bicycle lane, according to ORS 811.260(5).

Question 6.You’re riding your bike on an unfamiliar highway, but there’s a four-inch wide line at the side of the road, also known as a fog line. Does that same line also indicate the presence of a bike lane?

  • Answer. No, that’s not a bike lane. Throughout the state of Oregon, bike lanes are designated by official signs, and are marked with white lines that are eight inches wide. ORS 801.155

Question 7.You come to an intersection and your bike lane suddenly expands into a large green box. You intend to go straight ahead, so should you stay to the right side of the green box while waiting for the green light?

  • Answer. No, you should move to the front and center of the green box, if you plan to go straight ahead. By situating yourself in that position, it will prevent inconsiderate motorists from being able to make a right hand turn in front of you. Let them honk! You’re in the correct and legal spot.

Question 8.You’re riding against the flow of traffic, but you’re in your bike lane. Are you breaking the law?

  • Answer. This is another gray area. ORS 811.294(1) doesn’t specifically state you can’t go against the flow of traffic, but police officers and judges can and do view a cyclist heading against traffic in virtually the same light as a driver going the wrong way up a one-way street.

Question 9.Now you’re on a one-way street, and while there’s a bike lane on the right side of the street, there’s none on the left. You know you’ll be making a left turn a few blocks up, so is it legal for you to stay on the left side of the street, since you’re riding with the flow of traffic?

  • Answer. No, it is not all right. When a bike lane is available, you must use it, unless you’re avoiding a hazard, passing another bike, car or pedestrian, or just before you make your turn, according to ORS 814.420 (1)(3)(a)(b)(c)(d).

Question 10.You’re approaching a T-junction; you’re in a bike lane, and you see the light is about to turn red. Can you move from the bike lane to the sidewalk to avoid the red light?

  • Answer. Yes, you can, but again, there are a number of conditions. It must be safe to do so, and you’ll have to yield to all pedestrians. In addition, you must slow to a walking speed when crossing the intersection or past any entrances or driveways, according to ORS 814.410 (1)(b)(c).

Question 11.The last one! You’re in a bike lane and a motorist clearly doesn’t like the fact that you’re stopping him from getting home to watch Monday night football. He deliberately cuts you off and nearly knocks you off your bike. Then he stops, shouts, gestures and uses words that turn the air bright blue. You’re mad as hell and wish you had the power to issue a citation. Is this possible?

  • Answer. Yes it is! Get a good look at the soon-to-be embarrassed driver, and get his license plate and car details. Then have a look at the Initiation of Violation Proceedings steps in ORS 153.058.
Well, then, how many of the 11 questions did you get right? Knowing Oregon bike lane laws can be useful when out and about in Portland or other Oregon cities and towns. Not knowing them can be lethal.
Every year, hundreds of Oregon cyclists are seriously injured, or worse, in accidents that weren’t their fault.  If this has happened to you or a member of your family, talk to a good Portland bicycle accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected. The consultation is completely free, and a good personal injury lawyer will explain the various steps you’ll need to take to get the compensation you need and deserve to cover your medical expenses, any lost income, and for your pain and suffering.