The Portland bicycle scene can seem overwhelming at times to both veterans
bicyclists and newcomers. It's hard to keep up with all the various
rules of the road. Just knowing what you, as a bike rider, can or cannot
do is confusing at times. For example, did you know that under the Vehicle Code
ORS 814.400, a bicycle is considered a vehicle? Moreover, bicyclists must use the
bike lane if it is provided, however, there are exceptions, such as when
it is unsafe to do so (
Angel Law PC, an injury litigation lawfirm in Portland Oregon representing bicyclists
injured in car accidents, offers this brief article to discuss the Helmet
Law, the Vulnerable User Law, and Safe Passing law as well as other various
resources regarding safe and enjoyable bike riding.
A helmet is an important piece of safety gear that protects us from severe
ORS 814.485 requires bicyclists or bicycle riders under the age of 16 to wear protective
headgear. Not doing so is considered a traffic violation and risks the
penalty of a maximum fine of $25. However, there are exemptions.
ORS 814.487 outlines that helmet use is exempted if it violates the individual's
religious beliefs or practices. If an exemption does not apply, safe protective
headgear must meet the minimum standards of the
American National Standards Institute,
Snell or the United States Department of Transportation (
The U.S. Department of Transportation provides a simple guide on
how to properly fit a bicycle helmet. The
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute offers comprehensive information about bike helmets such as statistics,
law and local jurisdictions of the various states, bike helmet standards,
and bicycle news.
Vulnerable User Law:
Back in January 2008, the Oregon legislature passed into law a new legal
concept which addresses a category of non-motorized roadway users, the
"vulnerable roadway user." The new law interacts with Oregon's
Careless Driving statute in that it adds additional penalties for careless
driving if it contributes to serious physical injury or death of a vulnerable
roadway user of a public way. Take a look at
ORS 801.608, the definition of "vulnerable roadway user," and
ORS 811.135. As you can see, a vulnerable user of a public way includes not only pedestrians,
but bicyclists, skateboarders, in-line skaters/roller skaters, scooters,
and highway workers. As such, in an accident which causes physical harm
or death to a vulnerable user of a public way, a court can pose additional
penalties to the careless driver. These penalties include:
- Attendance at a traffic safety course
- 100 – 200 hours of community service
- A fine of up to $12,500
- A suspension of driving privileges for one year
A required appearance in court;
In addition to the "vulnerable roadway user" legal concept, the
Oregon legislature also passed into law a "safe distance" concept
which defines the distance one can pass a person operating a bicycle.
The safe distance law does have its
exceptions, which include bicyclists in a bicycle lane, when driving at speeds not
greater than 35 mph, and passing on the right of a bicyclist who is turning
left. Otherwise, "safe distance" is referred to as that distance
sufficient to prevent contact with a bicyclist if the bicyclist were to
fall into the driver's lane of traffic.
There are many more bike safety resources which provide information on
how to have a safe and enjoyable bike ride in Oregon. One of the first
places you should check is Oregon's Department of Transportation website.
There you will find two sections of interest, the
State of Oregon: Bicycle & Pedestrian Program and the
Bicycle & Pedestrian Program Laws and Regulations. On the Bicycle & Pedestrian Program link you will find the
Oregon Bicyclist Manual. The manual provides safety tips and "how-to" summaries and
diagrams pertaining to safe bicycle riding.
In addition, familiarizing yourself with the bicycle paths in your area
can promote a safer ride for everyone. The Portland's Bureau of Transportation
walking and bicycle maps for anyone who requests. Finally, you can go to the Bicycle & Pedestrian
Program Laws and Regulations webpage and click on the ORS Summary page
to will find a comprehensive listing of statutes pertaining to bicycle
riders as well as pedestrians.
Organizations like Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), a non-profit
membership organization, advocate and promote bicycling and are instrumental
in improve bicycling conditions in Oregon.
BikePortland.org, a daily news web blogs provides culture, personalities, projects, businesses,
breaking news, and advocacy issues about Portland, and also has numerous
resources for bicyclists.
While it is everyone's duty to keep Oregon's walkways and streets
both safe and enjoyable for all, bicyclists can be particularly vulnerable
on crowded public roadways. Staying on top of state laws, learning more
about bike riding safety and the resources available all help bicyclists
keep themselves and fellow bicyclists and pedestrians safe.
Angel Law, P.C. hopes that you will take the time and review these various resources and
have both a safe and enjoyable bicycling experience.