Bike Laws in Oregon

Oregon FlagOregon has a well-deserved reputation for being a beautiful state, and as such, it is extremely common to find hikers, horse back riders and cyclists! Oregon has many bike trails and it is one of the few states to mandate things like the use of helmets while riding. If you’re looking at doing some riding, what should you now about the bike laws in Oregon?

Bicycles and Traffic

It’s first important to note that under law, bikes are considered to be vehicles which means that cyclists have the same responsibilities and rights as drivers (except in cases where it would not be applicable). This opens up the doors for things like safe passing, where to ride, traffic lights, and even to some extent, riding under the influence.

As is the case in other states, in Oregon, bikes must ride as close to the right as possible when going slower than the normal speed of traffic. The only exceptions to this are in the following cases:

  • When passing a vehicle preparing to turn left
  • If conditions far to the right are too hazardous
  • If you are riding next to someone who is also bike riding and neither of you are going to impede traffic
  • In some cities, you can ride as far to the left as possible on one-way streets
  • If you’re riding in a bike lane, you don’t have to go far to the right

Oregon is one of the few states that requires cyclists to use the bike lane wherever it is provided, unless the cyclist is passing another vehicle, about to turn, if the bike lane is unsafe to use or if the bike lane becomes a right turn lane. That’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re coming in from other states as many other places leave that up to cities to decide and the state stays out of it.

On the other hand, bikes can ride on sidewalks (unless prohibited by local municipal law), and they are treated as pedestrians with the same rights and responsibilities. But electric bikes are not allowed on sidewalks. When riding on sidewalks, cyclists must yield to pedestrians, slowing down to the speed of a walk, and give an audible signal when passing.

The state of Oregon also quite firmly sets out how bikes and other traffic are meant to interact, including pedestrians. Oregon does have safe passing laws, though the law doesn’t state the distance, just that it must be “sufficient to prevent contact with the bicyclist if the bicyclist were to fall over into the lane of traffic.” (ORS 811.064(1)(a)). Cyclists themselves can pass on the left or on the right, assuming it can be completed safely. Oregon does not observe the Idaho stopping law; even if the red light doesn’t change, the cyclists still must stay stopped until something else trips up the light signal.

Finally, Oregon does define cyclists as vulnerable road users, meaning that if a cyclist is hit by a car, there are increased penalties for the driver.

Equipment that Cyclists Must Use

Oregon requires all riders under the age of sixteen to wear a helmet while riding on the roads or public land. Children can ride without a helmet on a private farm or backyard. Even if the child is a bike passenger in a carrier, they still must wear a helmet.

Bikes themselves must be equipped with lights when being ridden at night or during poor conditions (if the visibility is cut down to less than 1,000 feet). They must have a front white light that is visible from five hundred feet and a red rear reflector visible from six hundred feet. Bikes also must be equipped with brakes that can stop the bike within fifteen feet when traveling ten miles per hour.

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