No paint, no problem: Oregon passes bike lane clarification bill

This language will now exist in Oregon law.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

“The rules of the road just got clearer today.”

That’s the statement from The Street Trust Executive Director Jillian Detweiler upon hearing House Bill 2682 passed the Senate today by a vote of 20-0 (with 8 absent and 2 excused), clearing its last hurdle before being signed into law by Governor Kate Brown.

The bill adds language to Oregon’s definition of a bicycle lane (ORS 801.155) to clarify that a lane still legally exists in an intersection even when the paint striping does not. It sounds like a no-brainer right? After all, no one would assume intersections are a legal free-for-all for other road users just because there’s no lane striping.

“When I read that a cyclist was killed and the driver citation was thrown out under this ridiculous line of reasoning, I knew something had to be done.”
— Ted Light, member of The Street Trust

Unfortunately, when bicycle users are involved, people often lose their minds. That’s what happened with two Oregon judges who ruled in separate cases that a motor vehicle driver could not be guilty of failure-to-yield to a rider in a bicycle lane (ORS 811.050) because the rider was in an intersection and there was no lane striping (thus no bicycle lane, thus no right-of-way).

To stop this madness, The Street Trust and Portland-based lawyer Ray Thomas put forward a bill to make it crystal clear: “A bicycle lane exists in an intersection if the bicycle lane is marked on opposite sides of the intersection in the same direction of travel,” reads the text of the new language that will be added to Oregon’s definition of a bike lane.

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Despite what seems like a common sense housekeeping bill, Detweiler says she faced opposition from lawmakers in Salem. “13 state representatives voted against the bill,” Detweiler shared in a statement today. To make sure it passed, Detweiler and The Street Trust Advocacy Director Richa Poudyal testified before a House committee and met with electeds to explain the bill and build support. “The effort demonstrates the need to build elected leadership who support alternative transportation and to have dedicated advocates like The Street Trust to protect the rights of cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders.”

The bill’s chief sponsor was House Rep. Rob Nosse, a democrat who represents southeast Portland. Impetus for the bill came from Ted Light, a Street Trust member who lives in Rep. Nosse’s district.

“When I read that a cyclist was killed and the driver citation was thrown out under this ridiculous line of reasoning, I knew something had to be done,” Light said. “It was great that Representative Nosse and The Street Trust put their shoulder to the wheel to make this bill happen.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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