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The law on bikes, cyclists depends on where they are

After the recent pedestrian-vehicle tragedy in Ashland, I have a question concerning rights in crosswalks. When the Southern Oregon University student was hit, it was first stated she was riding her bicycle across the crosswalk (since changed.) I recently came upon a crosswalk in front of the Ashland police station and as I was near the crosswalk, an individual came riding a bike down the side street and continued across the street in front of me in the crosswalk. I had to suddenly stop to avoid the cyclist. The rider gave me an unfriendly gesture. Don't bicycle riders have the same rules of the road as automobiles? Don't they become pedestrians if walking their bike?

— Jerry, Ashland

To answer your first question Jerry, Oregon Revised Statutes 814.400 defines how vehicle laws apply to bicycles. In essence, it says every person riding a bicycle upon a public way is subject to the provisions applicable to and has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle concerning operating on highways and vehicle equipment except those provisions that by their very nature can have no application (such as using a seat belt.) It also states that a bicycle is a vehicle for purposes of the vehicle code and when the term "vehicle" is used in the vehicle code then the term shall be deemed to be applicable to bicycles. Finally, just like pedestrian law, it states the provisions of the vehicle code relating to the operation of bicycles do not relieve a bicyclist or a motorist from the duty to exercise due care.

Regarding your second question, O.R.S. 814.410 addresses the unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk. First of all, it says you cannot ride a bicycle so as to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and move into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. Then one of the sections (1.d) also specifically addresses responses at crosswalks and driveways. It states a bicyclist must not operate the bicycle at a speed greater than an ordinary walk when approaching or entering a crosswalk or approaching or crossing a driveway. This statute also says that 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 and cannot operate a bicycle on a sidewalk in a careless manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property. Violation is a Class D traffic violation, bail $97.

So, to summarize, bicycles riding on the road are subject to obey the same laws as cars. When at crosswalks or driveways when using the sidewalk, then they are considered pedestrians, whether riding or walking their bikes, but they must be riding at no faster than an ordinary walking speed when using the crosswalk and can't leave a place of safety without exercising due care toward vehicular traffic on the roadway.

Have a question for Jackson County Sheriff's Department patrol Sgt. Dace Cochran? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.