Biking Speeds and Sidewalk Direction

The finer points of Oregon bicycle law are often confusing, for bicyclists as well as motorists. Understanding what is legal and what is not can be an important factor in determining who was at fault in a collision.

We were recently contacted by a cyclist who read bicycle attorney Ray Thomas‘s article on “Bicycle, Sidewalks and the Law” and had a few questions about it.

Is it legal to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk going the wrong way down a one-way street?

Unlike roads, sidewalks have no directional requirements, which means there is no wrong way under the law. In the areas of Portland where it’s legal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk, the law does not dictate which direction you can go.

Keep in mind, however, that most of downtown Portland’s sidewalks are off-limits to bicyclists, unless the cyclist must ride on them “to avoid a traffic hazard in the immediate area.” These off-limits areas are located between SW Jefferson St., Naito Pkwy., NW Hoyt St. and 13th Ave., unless you’re in the Park Blocks or on SW Salmon St.

In the example of the motorist who collided with a cyclist while exiting a parking lot, was it determined that the cyclist was riding at the speed of an ordinary walk when the accident took place?

This question refers to the Oregon statute that makes it a traffic infraction if a motorist fails to yield right of way to a bicyclist riding on the sidewalk, unless the cyclist commits the offense of “unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk.” One example of this offense is riding at a speed greater than an ordinary walk when approaching or entering a crosswalk, driveway, curb cut or pedestrian ramp if a motor vehicle is approaching.

The walking speed requirement can be a real trap for bicyclists. While it may seem as though slowing down to a walking speed would make it easy to avoid a collision, keep in mind that a walking speed can still be quite brisk.

For more information about bicycle law, or to find answers to specific questions, the public can attend one of Ray’s free bicycle clinics, offered at the Bicycle Transportation Alliance office.