Politifact checks our work on bike crossing laws

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on January 14th, 2013

Source: BikePortland

You can stay on your bike and have the legalright to cross an unsignalized intersection  (marked or unmarked) simply by dipping your tire into the road. (Photo © J. Maus-BikePortland)

You can stay on your bike and have the legal
right to cross an unsignalized intersection
(marked or unmarked) simply by dipping your
tire into the road.
(Photo © J. Maus-BikePortland)

Our attempt to clear up confusion about Oregon’s crossing laws earlier this month gave us more than we bargained for on several accounts. First, in writing up the story, I realized I didn’t fully understand how current Oregon law dealt with people on bicycles when it came to attempting to cross a street on the sidewalk at an unsignalized intersection. Eventually (I hope) we clarified the law. Not only that, but it turns out The Oregonian and their Politifact team decided to check our work.

In Saturday’s edition of the paper, The Oregonian/Politifact asked; “Must cars stop if a cyclist dips a wheel into a crosswalk?”

The fact-checkers at The Oregonian swung into action after they read a tweet I published on January 4th. They must have been skeptical that Oregon’s crossing law is triggered when someone on a bike simply dips their front wheel into the roadway (from the sidewalk).

“We wondered if that was an accurate reading of the relatively new law,” wrote the Politifacters, “so we called Sheila Lyons, the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program manager.” Lyons pointed them to ORS 811.028 which states, “… a pedestrian is crossing the roadway in a crosswalk when any part or extension of the pedestrian, including but not limited to any part of the pedestrians [sic] body, wheelchair, cane, crutch or bicycle, moves onto the roadway in a crosswalk with the intent to proceed.”

So far, so good. But they then wondered if you had to be walking your bike in order to have the law on your side. Thanks to ORS 814.410 — which states, “a bicyclist on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk” — it turns out you don’t have to dismount while on the sidewalk (or in the crosswalk if there is one).

Just to make double-sure my tweet was true, the Politifact team also checked with lawyer Ray Thomas and Oregon State Senators Jackie Dingfelder and Ginny Burdick.

The verdict? True! Read the full analysis for yourself.

Whew! I’m happy to have a 1-0 record on Politifact. And I’m even more pleased that this law got more attention. As we all know, laws are great, but without 1) awareness and 2) enforcement, they don’t have much impact.

— You might also want to check the story at this link to read the 300+ comments the story has generated at OregonLive.com.