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.
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.”