Bicycling safety courses usually advise new riders to follow the same rules drivers must follow: Stop at stop signs, signal turns, and avoid cycling in a way that would put others or yourself at risk. Admittedly, some bike laws differ a bit from laws for automobiles, but in general biking as you would drive is a safe, wise approach.
As cyclists spend more time on the road, they should familiarize themselves with their state’s bicycling laws. If you’ve already reviewed the DMV’s cycling materials, you might be surprised to see the following little-known bike laws, which are common in many parts of the country.
1. Bicyclists are entitled to ride in the middle of the lane in certain circumstances. Most cyclists would identify riding to the right of the lane as a bicycle law. Portland, OR bicyclists, however, should be aware that Oregon law allows cyclists to take up the entire lane of traffic in certain situations, such as:
- When preparing to make a left turn.
- When passing another vehicle or bike.
- When hazardous objects, pedestrians, animals or lack of space make riding to the right unsafe.
Check your state’s bike laws to learn whether they mirror Oregon’s.
2. You can ride side-by-side with another cyclist as long as you are not impeding the flow of traffic. Again, we’re speaking specifically about Oregon law here, but in many states it is not illegal to “two-up” and ride next to your buddy. Indeed, in Oregon it is legal for more than two cyclists to ride abreast, as long as they don’t hamper the flow of traffic.
3. You must avoid impeding the progress of funeral processions. If a funeral procession is crossing through an intersection, cyclists must yield to it just like automobile drivers. However, if your route doesn’t cross the path of the procession, you may continue to pedal normally.
4. You must pull over and stop for ambulances – even when they are heading in the opposite direction. In most states, stopping for an ambulance is required by bicycle law. Portland, OR cyclists should be aware that all vehicles (including bikes) must also pull over and stop for ambulances traveling in the opposite lane.
5. It is legal to switch back and forth between sidewalk and bike lane, at least in Oregon. If you choose to ride on the sidewalk, be especially cautious about vehicles turning out of driveways – drivers may not anticipate your approach as well as they would if you were cycling exclusively in the bike lane.
6. You must slow to a walking speed when entering crosswalks, driveways or curb cuts. This rule, outlined in (ORS 814.410(1)(b)(c) in Oregon law, is meant to prevent accidents. Still, any bike attorney – Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine – would tell you that few cyclists follow this law to the letter. Still, it’s a smart rule as far as cyclist and pedestrian safety is concerned.
If cyclists hope to win more support from drivers and legislators, they must share the road responsibly. By following bike laws, including the little-known statutes listed above, you’ll be doing your part to promote cycling as a safe, healthy, environmentally friendly alternative to getting behind the wheel.
Editor’s Note: Ray Thomas leads two group bike rides during the week from downtown Portland.