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Bike Question for Non-conformists

Bike Rules?
I'm an extremely unexperienced rider -- I just got my first bike in years today -- and I'm not really aware of the bike laws around Portland. Today, on my way home from a friends I got scolded by two horse-riding cops just off the Hawthorne Bridge near First Avenue who told me I need to walk my bike if on the sidewalk. But on the link below it clearly states otherwise:

"Go Slow on Sidewalks. Pedestrians have the right of way on walkways. By law, you must give them an audible warning when you pass. Cross driveways and intersections at a walker's pace and look carefully for traffic
(especially traffic turning right.)"
[from  http://www.trans.ci.portland.or.us/bicycles/rules.htm]

What's the truth? Where can I find a list of laws about what I can and can't do in the city?
sidewalk riding okay, EXCEPT: 27.Jun.2003 00:06


you are allowed to ride bikes on sidewalks in porltand, *except* for an area of downtown roughly equivalent
to the (downtown part of) fareless square. see 16.70.320 of city code, part E:

No person may:

[ ... ]

E. ride a bicycle on a sidewalk, unless avoiding a traffic hazard in the immediate area, within the area bounded by and including SW Jefferson, Front Avenue, NW Hoyt and 13th Avenue, except:

1. on sidewalks designated as bike lanes or paths;

2. on the ramps or approaches to any Willamette River Bridge; or

3. in the area from the west property line of SW Ninth Avenue, to the east property line of SW Park Avenue; from the property line of SW Jefferson to the south property line of SW Salmon Street; commonly known as the South Park Blocks.

4. for police or special officers operating a bicycle in the course and scope of their duties; or

5. for employees of the Association for Portland Progress and companies providing security services operating a bicycle in the course and scope of their duties. These employees must have in possession an identification card issued by the Chief of Police certifying the rider has completed a training course in the use of a bicycle for security patrol.

(from  http://www.trans.ci.portland.or.us/bicycles/code.htm )

in other words, downtown is road only. kinda sucks (i would blame the business association, but i am not sure of that), but on the other hand, it gives you a little something to argue back with when the car driver downtown yells for you to get on the sidewalk, i suppose.

But riding on the roads downtown isn't that bad 27.Jun.2003 00:21


"Biker" is correct about the ban on sidewalk riding downtown. However, riding on the roads downtown is actually pretty easy if you ride at a good pace. Due to the short blocks and the synchronization of the lights, you can ride along with traffic. I often come down from the zoo and across the Hawthorne Bridge at rush hour pulling my four-year-old on his Trail-a-Bike and it's not that difficult. Really.

Welcome to the only way to travel, especially in Portland. (And don't forget about tomorrow's "Memorial" Critical Mass.

Thanks 27.Jun.2003 00:24


Thanks for the info. It looks like I'll be taking the streets to work.

Maybe not difficult, but insane 27.Jun.2003 00:30


"I often come down from the zoo and across the Hawthorne Bridge at rush hour pulling my four-year-old on his Trail-a-Bike and it's not that difficult. Really. "

No Gerry it may not be "difficult", but sounds insane and borders on reckless endangerment. What could you possibly be thinking, putting a child in such a dangerous position. Maybe the next memorial will be for your four-year-old...

Biking is great and all, but that sounds like taking an uncessary risk with your child.

Oz That is part of the reason we Critical Mass 27.Jun.2003 03:26

99th Monkey, ( one more monkey and you have a critical mass)

I have heard so much negative shit the last few weeks, that bicyclists should get off the road if they aren't safe. Bullshit! We work very hard to educate and change both auto drivers and bike riders to safely share the road within the limits of the law, and to change some of the laws and riding conditions that make it unsafe for bicyclists to be on the streets any time of day or night. One of the things that has to happen, and will only happen is if enough people like you and me demand that the City of Portland start enforceing the laws that are there for our protection. One of the laws that I refer to is ORS 811.060, "Vehicular assault of a bicyclist or pedestrian". It seems that PPB like to ignore this one and the only nearby jurisdiction in the state that enforces it is Washinton County. Portland's cops (insert other derogatory slang here; I hesitate to refer to the as officers of the peace, as that they are not) seem more likely to arrest assaulted bicyclist's or make excuses for monster truck drivers who plough through bikers claiming they felt threatened. And what is this about not being able arrest drivers for manslaughter without a "police or credible witness" shit?
Do you know how many times the last 2 days I have had fellow car-centric workers tell me, "It was their fault, they should not have been riding at night"
Portland is self-proclaimed "the most bike-friendly town in the U.S", which only refers to miles of marked bike lane/streets. It has nothing to do with those marked bike lanes being safe to ride in! Portland is fast becoming the most unfriendly plase to ride in the world, both in terms of repression and actual safety and negative anti-bike mongering of the mainstream media. Come down to Critical Mass today and to the Bike Fair Saturday and talk to some of us in person, ride with us, raise your voice and take back the streets and MAKE THEM SAFE! IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE SAFE, HEALTHY AND FUN TO RIDE A BIKE!

Re: 99th Monkey 27.Jun.2003 04:13

Aaron John Shaver

Good points all, monkey. I'd love to start coming to Critical Masses, but I don't have a bike yet. Going to buy one soon (will be the first one I've owned in years).

lloyd district too 27.Jun.2003 08:20


The city extended the sidewalk riding ban to the Lloyd Center district, too. I don't know the exact boundaries.

Boundary 27.Jun.2003 08:35


Sounds like the fareless square boundaries, esp. since it extends to Lloyd Ctr; and yes, probably dictated by the business alliance.

sidewalks are for bike traffic too 27.Jun.2003 09:38

can you say class action

As far as I know the sidewalk ban is as stated in the Portland Municipal code posted above. There must be a new ordinance or revision of the older ordinance indicating that the sidewalk ban has been extended to the Lloyd district. I have not seen such an ordinance but it's possible that city council covertly passed it and it is not on the books yet (ie. not enforceable). I very much doubt this extension has been made into law.

Also the police do not know the law, especially with regard to bicycles. A few weeks ago I was stopped by an armed man wearing a police uniform while riding in the South Park Blocks. He threatened to give me a citation but I explained to him that it is perfectly legal to ride in the South Park blocks. He said to me "that is not my understanding of the law". I said "well, your understanding is wrong officer" and just rode away. I then went to PSU, downloaded a copy of the ordinance, went back to the park blocks and handed the officer the ordinance pointing to the exception. He still tried to insist he was right. That's how arrogant and stupid they truly are. In short, the police are determined to persecute cyclists whether it is legitimate or not.

There is something we can do...sue the city in a class action suit for selectively targeting. ticketing and harassing cyclists. SF cyclists are doing this and so can we. I'll be watching the response to this post and talking to people about how to go forward with this. Now is the time to take on the city and the police.

not lloyd district too 27.Jun.2003 09:52

no one in particular

The city code on portlandonline.com is current as of April 1st and makes no mention of disallowing sidewalk riding in the lloyd district. Furthermore, I (and several others) rode on the sidewalks near Lloyd Center during last month's Critical Mass, and no arrests were made... (Not that the latter necessarily means anything, but...)

regarding cops not knowing the law 27.Jun.2003 10:00

no one in particular

Yeah, the cops have no clue what they're enforcing. During a mass late last summer I saw a female bike cop (you'd think the bike cops would know!) threaten to give a ticket to a man riding on the sidewalk.

I hopped up on the sidewalk and started running my bike alongside the cop asking her "why can't he ride his bike on the sidewalk? portland city code says it's legal unless it's in fareless square! are you going to give him a ticket for something that isn't illegal? have you ever read the city code?" etc.

She answered in short, one-word answers, but tried to tell me I was wrong. You'd think before they send cops to critical mass, they'd give them a short seminar on what is and isn't illegal. Silly.

WHERE? and what about belmont? 27.Jun.2003 14:35

casey cars_kill@mudberry.com

the portland critical mass page (  http://www.subluna.com/CriticalMass/ ) says that critical mass meets at 5:30 under the burside bridge... what's the deal? just bad communication... or are there actually two separate groups now?

in any case... i hope some riders make it over to the belmont & 40th! the atrocities here have received a lot of media coverage... but i think it would mean a lot more (at least to me) if the portland biking community took over belmont tonight.

also... there's a benefit show at stumptown downtown tonight... proceeds will go to caroline and hopefully the families of orion and angela. stumptown, southwest 3rd and ash, 9pm... no cover... but donations (any amount) encouraged!

oh... creepy old trucks will be playing... and they're rad... so i'm going.
i've attached an mp3 (with creepy old trucks permission).

Answer to Original 27.Jun.2003 15:04

Alex Monroe

Good comments, but I didn't feel that the original question was answered fully. I know that the Bike Gallery stores have a handy littly card of Bicyclists' rights. Go pick one up. They are put out by the 'bicycling lawyers' at Swanson, Thomas, & Coon.
Website with information on law and legal resources at  http://www.stc-law.com

bleeargh 28.Jun.2003 14:42


oz, what the fuck isn't dangerous these days? your attack towards gerry was not needed. pdx in comparison to other towns, like austin and where i live now, mpls, has a safe downtown to cycle in. the kid probably loves it. as a child i used to ride around on the back of my moms bike and i loved it. probably part of why i still use bikes as my only mode of transportation twenty something years later. where am i going with this? um, everything is dangerous.

clarification of rules needed. 28.Jun.2003 19:17


I would like to know if anyone has any more information on when it is legal for a bicycle to take up the entire lane. From what I understand it is legal if there isn't enough room for a car to safely pass. I would say that it is unsafe for cars to pass bicycles on approximately 90% of the streets in portland. I think that if we (bike riders) were more informed of our rights we could ride in a way that is much safer than we generally do now. I ride in the middle of the land quite often and I feel that it is much safer than having cars squeazing by me with their rearview mirrors a foot from my head. Any information on the legality of riding in the middle of the lane would be much appriciated.

Middle of the Road... 29.Jun.2003 14:18


Yeah, I'd like clarification on the middle of lane thing also. Trouble is, my knowing isn't going to stop drivers from trying to force me out of their way by getting right up on my rear wheel. I don't feel particularly safe riding to the side because on many roads, Belmont for instance, you will quickly rear end a parked car that way...just can't seem to win...

This info can be found at the BTA website 30.Jun.2003 10:30

Judy J