Does bike lane legally continue through the intersection?

I usually write posts mostly from my viewpoint because I want my blog to be mostly from my viewpoint. I am making a rare exception with this post because I am not a legal expert and my last post happened to be about Bend. While I read BikePortland almost daily and many of their posts fascinate me, I chose to make a rare exception to write about this post because Jonathan Maus thoroughly researched the legal issue and it raises questions about what I experienced in Bend.

Before I read Jonathan’s post, I thought it was common sense that a bike lane legally continues through the intersection. I am shocked by Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge Adler’s ruling.

Judge Adler ruled that he saw “no authority” to support the contention that bike lanes continue through intersections in Oregon.

While I have never had any personal legal issues while biking, do I need to start leaving the bike lane and using the travel lane when going through intersections in Oregon to prevent my legal rights from being lost? As comments below Jonathan’s post explain, I am not the only cyclist in Oregon asking this question.

I also found the below statement interesting. Even in bike-friendly Oregon, it is believed that people do not treat bike lanes like travel lanes. As someone who bikes daily in Oregon, I agree with this perspective. While neither type of lane physically (no paint) continues through the intersection, I have not seen anyone questioning whether the travel lane legally continues through the intersection. Why does the same not apply to the bike lane?

Prosecutor Andrew Steiner said many people today do not treat bike lanes like vehicle lanes, though they are.

Since I am a geographer, I would normally have started this post with where the bike lane is located in Bend. I felt readers needed the legal and culture details to fully understand the bike lane legal issue, so I postponed sharing the bike lane location. While the below Google Maps screenshot shows green lines for where the bike lanes continue through the intersection at NW Wall St and NW Olney Ave, the white bike lane paint does not actually continue through this intersection. The white bike lane paint stops where the intersection begins and restarts where the intersection ends. The same is true for the travel lanes.

Bend Intersection

Location of the bike lane legal issue in Bend, OR. Source: Google Maps

Portland had a similar legal issue

Unfortunately, Bend is not the only Oregon city to have experienced this legal issue. Portland had a similar legal issue in 2009. As this BikePortland post discussed, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Pro Tem Michael Zusman found that the collision did not occur “in the marked area comprising the bicycle lane.”

You are probably as confused as me after reading this post. Since I do not want to change how I bike through intersections in Oregon, I hope I can trust what Jonathan wrote in his 2018 post.

Let’s be clear: Even though the legal definition of a bicycle lane (ORS 801.155) doesn’t specifically address intersections, the legal protection of a bicycle lane absolutely does continue through an intersection even if the markings do not.

Jonathan’s viewpoint is shared by former Portland Police Bureau Captain Bryan Parman.

“We all know that lanes continue through an intersection, we just don’t lay down a bunch of criss-crossing lines because it would be confusing.” He also said, “It’s a poor ruling in an individual case but it doesn’t change the way we do business.”

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Bend at Eye Level

“Bend at Eye Level” is a reference to “The City at Eye Level”. Since people outside Oregon may not know where Bend is, below is a map that shows the location of Bend in Oregon. Bend, OR (91,122 people in 2016) reminds me of Asheville, NC (89,121 people in 2016) because they have similar populations and are hip and expensive mountain cities with strong art, brewery and mountain biking scenes. As someone who has biked in both cities, Asheville is not as bike friendly as Bend. Since it rains more in Asheville, I would rather live in Bend.

I am writing about Bend because I was shocked by many things that I saw while biking throughout Bend for my first time during the Oregon Trails Summit. I will admit that I did not plan to write about Bend before arriving in Bend. My thought process quickly changed when I biked through my first roundabout in Bend. It felt similar to a Dutch protected bike intersection, which I wrote about in this post. As you can see in the below photo, cyclists have the option to act like a pedestrian through the roundabout by taking the bike off-ramp to access the sidewalk then using the crosswalks.

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Looking west on NW Galveston Ave at NW 14th St. Photo: Ray Atkinson.

Even though I could not find any signs with instructions at any of the roundabouts in Bend, I found the below tips on the City of Bend’s website. Thankfully, the tips are just suggestions and do not appear to be laws because I biked on the sidewalks and across the crosswalks to avoid biking with cars through the roundabout. According to the City of Bend’s tips, I was supposed to walk my bike on the sidewalks and across the crosswalks. While there likely is not enough space to separate cyclists and pedestrians on the sidewalks and crosswalks in Bend, this is how the protected bike intersections and bike lanes function in the Netherlands.

I asked several cyclists in Bend whether they act like a pedestrian or a car when they bike through the roundabout. All of them said they act like a car by taking the lane through the roundabout because acting like a pedestrian takes too long and motorists do not expect to see cyclists using the sidewalk or crosswalk. While the City of Bend recommends for cyclists to walk their bike on the sidewalk and crosswalk through the roundabout, I doubt cyclists will do this unless there is someone walking. I rarely saw anyone walking outside of Downtown Bend, so most of the roundabouts had no one walking through them.

I have only shown you a bike off-ramp, so below is a bike on-ramp at another Bend roundabout. While most of the bike on-ramps did not have tree limbs blocking the ramp, I wanted to show this photo so urban designers can see an example of what not to do. I was unable to use this on-ramp because tree limbs were blocking the ramp. I emailed the City of Bend to ask them to trim the tree so this issue can be resolved.

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Looking south on SW Colorado Ave and SW Simpson Ave. Photo: Ray Atkinson.

The below roundabout issue is harder to fix. While most of the bike off-ramps were installed to make it easy to exit the road and enter the sidewalk, the below bike off-ramp was not installed correctly. It is also missing the painted white dashes on the road, which indicate that cyclists can move into the travel lane. While the City of Bend has installed infrastructure to allow cyclists to act like a pedestrian through roundabouts, cyclists are not required to do this.

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Looking west on SW Simpson Ave at SW Colorado Ave. Photo: Ray Atkinson.

Since I enjoyed biking throughout Bend and know people are not perfect, I wanted to share a photo of art installed at a roundabout. All of the roundabouts that I biked through had art installed in them. Here is a map that shows all 24 roundabouts that have art in them. The art produced great placemaking!

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Looking northwest at the SW Simpson Ave at SW Colorado Ave roundabout. Photo: Ray Atkinson.

I want to write more and have other photos to share, but believe this is a good stopping point for tonight. I plan to write more and add more photos another day. Thanks for reading my blog!