Written and brought to you by: the offices of Swanson, Thomas, Coon, and Newton (a law firm representing people in litigation against insurance companies, corporations, and the government.)
Recently Portland Pedal Power, your favorite bicycle delivery company Portland has within her city walls, has teamed up with the legal representatives in the offices of Swanson, Thomas, Coon, and Newton to inform you on popular bicycle related legal issues in Portland.
You may remember the efforts of PBOT, Shift, the BTA, Community Cycling Center and Green Empowerment to educate the public about bicyclists and pedestrians coexisting on sidewalk. The campaign included posters reminding cyclists to not be “silent passers,” and many cyclists received free handlebar bells. The project was to encourage bike riders to take special care to avoid endangering pedestrians while riding on sidewalks. Just as bicyclists expect car drivers to respect them on the road, pedestrians also expect to stay safe when walking on the sidewalk.
Those on bikes travel faster than pedestrians but take more up more space when they need to turn or stop. When multi-use paths and roads don’t leave much room for cyclists – like on some bridges – it can be more difficult for riders to steer, control and maneuver. Incidentally, collisions can occur.
It’s common for cities to identify pedestrian-dense areas and make the sidewalks off-limits to bicycle riders. In Portland, for example, these areas include SW Jefferson Street, NW Hoyt Street, Naito Parkway and 13th Avenue. The exceptions to these areas are on Salmon Street, the Park Blocks, multi-use paths and bridges. While the fine for breaking the municipal regulation is up to $500, many people ride in the prohibited areas anyway. One of the reasons for the rule-breaking is that there are no signs that indicate which areas are off limits and which are not. Some cyclists bask in ignorance and choose not to learn the laws about off-limits areas. And even when cyclists are aware of these areas, many choose to not to follow the laws.
Other areas of the country have laws regarding the riding of bicycles on sidewalks. In New York City, for example, those over the age of 14 can’t ride a bike on the sidewalk. NYC recently added a pedestrian-endangerment provision to this law that charges lawbreakers with a $300 fine or 20 days of incarceration, plus bike impoundment.
On average, in a large city like NYC, about 200 pedestrians are injured by cyclists, but none are killed. On the other hand, motor vehicles injure up to 11,000 pedestrians and kill approximately 200. When compared to the hazards associated with motor vehicles, bicyclists on sidewalks pose more of an annoyance than a high-level threat.
What Oregon Law Says
In Oregon, the law is clear: Pedestrians always have the right-of-way. When a cyclist passes a pedestrian on a sidewalk, he or she must give an audible signal. Additionally, pedestrians have the right-of-way in marked and unmarked crosswalks and on sidewalks. Cyclists have the right-of-way over vehicles when they are moving no faster than walking speed in front of driveways, entryways and crosswalks.
Problems often arise on the road when cyclists fail to yield to pedestrians who are in crosswalks, either marked or unmarked. According to ORS 811.020, it’s unlawful for a cyclist to pass a vehicle that’s stopped for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Many cyclists forget that the rules of the road car drivers must follow also apply to them. For example, bicyclists have to stop at STOP signs and yield to pedestrians crossing the road just as car drivers do. ORS 814.140 (“Unsafe Operation of Bicycle on Sidewalk”) prohibits riding in a manner that poses a danger (or could pose a danger) to pedestrians, such as weaving around them on a sidewalk. Breaking this rule could land a bike rider with a “careless driving” charge.
Bicyclists can do a lot to enhance pedestrian safety on sidewalks by simply following the rules. By minding laws about off-limits areas, signaling when passing a pedestrian with an audible noise and generally remaining aware of right-of-way, the clash between cyclists and pedestrians can be minimized.
Learn more about Oregon statutes that apply to cyclists on the website for the law office of Swanson, Thomas, Coon & Newton. Each site provides a more in-depth look at bicycle laws and gives you access to the Pedal Power book. Check out the third part of the downloadable book to learn city-specific ordinances for about 20 Oregon communities.