Driving around bicycles

A bicyclist is riding in front of me. What should I do?
Are bicyclists required to use bike lanes?
How can motorists safely pass bicyclists?
When can motorists drive in bicycle lanes?
When can motorists stop or park in bike lane?
When motorists turn though bike lanes, are cyclists required to stay out of the way?
How can I turn right when there’s a bike lane to my right?
Where should a bicyclist ride within a traffic lane? 
Must I yield to bicyclists in crosswalks and sidewalks?
What’s the meaning of the sharrow marking sharrows on the road?
Can bicycles pass cars on the right within the same lane?
What is the law regarding helmet use?
Can bicycles ride side-by-side in the same lane?
Do bicyclists have to signal their movements?
How should a bicyclist make a left turn?
What is the law regarding bicycles carrying loads?
Are bicyclists required to have lights?
Are bicyclists required to use shoulders?
Are bicyclists allowed on freeways and interstates?

backlinks_iconA bicyclist is riding in front of me. What should I do?
It’s mandatory to reduce speed until it’s “reasonable and prudent” in the presence of bicyclists, pedestrians, and all slow-moving traffic.  This law is called the Basic Speed Law and is the first concept described in the Drivers Manual.  ORS 811.100

The cyclist has several reasons to ride in the center of the lane (see questions below), and has the legal right to determine his safest position.  ORS 814.430(2).

Stay behind and change lanes to pass when safe to do so.

In the majority of situations, the operator of a slow vehicle is not impeding traffic.  Impeding cannot be applied when “proceeding in a manner needed for safe operation”.  Additionally, Oregon courts have added these requirements for “impeding”:
1.) the slow traffic is significantly below the speed limit
2.) faster traffic cannot safely and lawfully pass
AND
3.) faster traffic is forced to remain behind the slow traffic for an unreasonable distance.  This distance hasn’t been clarified other than a court decision that “a fraction of a mile” is not impeding.

When there’s a difference in speed between roadway users, the responsibility is on the faster traffic to stay behind and pass when safe.
Explanation from a traffic lawyer, ORS 811.130, 811.425

backlinks_iconAre bicyclists required to use bike lanes?
No.  Throughout Oregon, cyclists may always choose between using sidewalks or bike lanes.  Corvallis gives cyclists the additional right to always choose between sidewalks, bike lanes, and traffic lanes.

By state law, if a study has confirmed the safety of a bike lane and the results announced at a public hearing, cyclsts would then be prohibited from primarily using the adjacent traffic lane.  This is confusing, as the general public doesn’t know which bike lanes have had the study, what the results were, and whether the results were publically announced.  The City of Corvallis allows cyclists to use all traffic lanes, regardless of whether bike lanes exist, by intentionally not announcing safety results in public.  The City does significant outreach to inform all citizens of this fact.  ORS 814.420(2), Legal Guide for Oregon Bicyclists p 63-65

For Oregon cities other than Corvallis, the only way to learn which bike lanes are deemed mandatory to use instead of the traffic lane is to call the local public works or local traffic engineers.  Even for those bike lanes deemed mandatory, cyclists may still use the traffic lane when:
1.) hazardous conditions exist in the bicycle lane.
2.) in preparation for a left turn.
3.) in preparation for a right turn where a right turn is authorized.
4.) they pass someone else in the bicycle lane.
5.) continuing straight at an intersection where the bike lane is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right.
ORS 814.420(3)

backlinks_iconHow can motorists safely pass bicyclists? 
Unsafe passing is the #1 cause of bicycling fatality, so this issue cannot be overstated.  The often repeated phrase afterwards is “I thought I had enough room”.  Although it’s legal to pass bicyclists within the same lane or by lanesplitting (controversial even for motorcycles), these dangerous maneuvers put you at the highest risk of killing the cyclist.  The safest technique is to pass exactly as if you were passing another car: move entirely into the left lane, return to the lane well ahead of the cyclist, and use turn signals for every lane change.  These techniques, which apply to passing all small roadway users, are demonstrated in the Honda video below.

When a bicyclist operates in the middle of the lane, that’s communication to the vehicle behind that it’s unsafe to pass within the lane.  Change lanes to pass.

Do not pass near an intersection, on a hill, or on a curve.  ORS 811.410, 811.305

backlinks_iconWhen can motorists drive in bicycle lanes? 
After yielding the right of way to cyclists and ensuring the bike lane is clear, motorists may travel perpendicularly through bike lanes when turning, going through an intersection, or entering/exiting a driveway or private road.  Motorists may never drive in and parallel to the bicycle lane.  ORS 811.435811.440, 811.050, Explanation from a traffic lawyer

backlinks_iconWhen can motorists stop or park in bike lane? 
This is typically prohibited.  However, motorists may momentarily stop or park in the bike lane when actively loading or unloading the vehicle with passengers or property.  This allows buses, mail trucks, and garbage trucks to stop in bike lanes.  In this situation, bicycle lane traffic must wait or pass.

Other exceptions: government vehicles necessary to perform roadway work, Department of Fish and Wildlife vehicles when releasing fish, and any vehicle under the instruction of a police officer.  ORS 811.550(23), 811.555, 811.560, Explanation from a traffic lawyer

Corvallis city law further states that parked vehicles, including parts of those vehicles, may not in any way impede traffic on bike lanes.  Corvallis Municipal Code 6.10.060.060

backlinks_iconWhen motorists turn though bike lanes, are cyclists required to stay out of the way? 
Bicyclists have right-of-way over drivers within bicycle lanes, similar to a locomotives’s right-of-way on a railroad.  It’s a class B traffic violation for motorists to obstruct traffic in the bicycle lane.  Explanation #1 from a traffic lawyerExplanation #2 from a different traffic lawyer

When turning, motorists must wait in their lane until the bike lane is clear.  Bike lanes exist all the way through intersections, even if they are temporarily unmarked inside the intersection.  For a collision inside a bike lane, the applicable law is titled “Failure to yield to rider on bicycle lane”.  ORS 153.021, 811.050;

Motorists must yield to the bicycle lane when attempting a parking maneuver, entering driveways or parking lots, and exiting a vehicle.  Legal Guide for Oregon Bicyclists p 66

Motorists must even yield to “wrong-way” cyclists within bike lanes.  Although this cycling behavior is not advised, it’s not illegal.  Consider the bike lane to be a sidewalk for cyclists, and look BOTH ways before proceeding through.  Legal Guide for Persons on Foot p.33-34

backlinks_iconHow can I turn right when there’s a bike lane to my right?
turning combined

Turning motorists must wait in their lane until the bike lane is clear.  Do not turn if bicycle lane traffic would in any way be obstructed.

The path of the turn should be such that it wouldn’t disturb a bicyclist if he was also turning right from bike lane to bike lane.  At large intersections where lane markings disappear, as you leave your lane and as you enter your new lane, don’t cross over the solid white lines that designates the bicycle lane.  Do not drift into the bicycle lane at the beginning of the turn.  These concepts are illustrated below.  ORS 811.050811.440; Legal Guide for Oregon Bicyclists p.66p.89-94

backlinks_iconWhere should a bicyclist ride within a traffic lane? 
Bicyclists may ride anywhere in the lane.  To be maximally visible, bicycle and motorcycle education programs teach to occupy the middle of the lane.

Bicyclists are only required to “ride as close as practicable to the right edge of the roadway” if the lane is wide enough that a “bicycle and vehicle can travel safely side by side”, which traffic organizations teach is 17 feet.  Most lanes are 10-12 ft wide, with very few reaching 17 ft.

In the rare situation where a lane is 17 ft wide and therefore shareable, cyclists may still occupy the center of the lane or the “left tire track” position when:
1.) traveling at the normal speed of traffic
2.) in preparation to turn left
3.) passing a vehicle or bicyclist
4.) avoiding hazardous conditions (explicitly stated in the law as “including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or other conditions”)
ORS 814.430, Explanation from the national bicycle education cirriculum

backlinks_iconMust I yield to bicyclists in crosswalks and sidewalks?
Yes.  In sidewalks and crosswalks, cyclists have the same rights as pedestrians.  Cyclists do not need to dismount the bicycle.  ORS 811.055, 814.410(2); Explanation from traffic lawyer #1, #2, #3, #4

Speed restrictions: If motor vehicles are approaching, the cyclist’s speed must be no greater than an “ordinary walk” on approach and entry into crosswalks and on approach and crossing into driveways, parking lots, and private roads.  Even though motorists are required to stop, the law states that if the cyclist travels faster than a walk, the cyclist will be responsible for any collision.  However, the law states that this does not relieve motorists from the duty to exercise due care.ORS 814.410

Caveat: Local ordinances can ban bicycles on certain sidewalks.  Corvallis has signs posted at those locations.  Other Oregon cities don’t have signage, yet still enforce a sidewalk ban, often leading to confusion.  Corvallis Municipal Code 6.10.060.090(2)Legal Guide for Oregon Bicyclists p 117-119

backlinks_iconWhat’s the meaning of the sharrow marking sharrows on the road? 
This is a national road sign, used where bicycling on the right side of the road has been deemed unsafe.  Its purpose is to prevent bicyclists from injury by keeping them away from the “door zone” of parked cars or keep them centered in a lane that’s too narrow for a car to pass.  It indicates the city’s recommendation of where the cyclist should ride and is not legally binding.  Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices Section 9C.07

backlinks_iconCan bicyclists pass cars on the right within the same lane?
Yes, when safe to do so. ORS 811.415(2)(c)

backlinks_iconWhat is the law regarding helmet use? 
Anyone under 16 years of age must wear a helmet unless it violates a religious belief.  In civil court, lack of helmet is not applicable to reduce the amount of damages or constitute a defense when a cyclist is injured.  ORS 814.485, 814.486, 814.487, 814.489

backlinks_iconCan bicyclists ride side-by-side in the same lane? 
Yes.  There’s no limit to the number of bicyclists allowed side-by-side in the same lane.  Cyclists bunched together make it quicker and easier for drivers to pass.  ORS 814.430(2)(e), explanation from a traffic lawyer

backlinks_iconDo bicyclists have to signal their movements? 
Bicyclists must signal continuously for at least 100 ft before executing the stop or turn, unless it’s necessary that both hands be used to safely operate the bicycle.  ORS 814.440

backlinks_iconHow should a bicyclist make a left turn?
To turn left, bicyclists have two options: 1.) Just as motorists do, change lanes into the leftmost lane before turning or 2.) use the crosswalks for part or all of the turn.

Biyclists may use a crosswalk to reach a bicycle lane, then reposition the bicycle 90 degrees into the bicycle lane.

Bicyclists should not turn left from the right side of the road, even if it’s from the bicycle lane.  ORS 811.340, 811.550(23),

backlinks_iconWhat is the law regarding bicycles carrying loads? 
Rider must have full control and have at least one hand on the handlebars.  A bicycle cannot carry more people than it’s designed or safely equipped for. ORS 814.450, 814.460

backlinks_iconAre bicyclists required to have lights?
During limited visibility conditions, a bicyclist must have a white light in front and a light or reflector in the rear.  This applies on sidewalks as well.  ORS 815.280

backlinks_iconAre bicyclists required to use shoulders?  
Riding on a shoulder is allowed but not required.  Shoulders are not bicycle lanes, and are not maintained to ensure safe passage.  Anyone travelling on a shoulder gets stuck without right-of-way at every intersection.  ORS 801.480, 801.608, Oregon definition of roadway

backlinks_iconAre bicyclists allowed on freeways and interstates? 
Yes.  Motorists must reduce speed and yield appropriately.

However, state law describes seven specific sections of freeways/interstates where bicyclists are prohibited: six around Portland and one near Medford.  See links for full details.  Adequate signage must be present to warn about this anomaly.  OAR 734-20-0045