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Cautious driver could have passed on left

Would you consider responding to this situation which happened on Saturday, Oct. 17? I was returning to Eagle Point via North Foothill Road soon after noon. After passing the intersection of Coker Butte Road, I came up behind a bicycle rider heading north on Foothill. Since that section of road is marked with double-yellow lines, I slowed and stayed behind the rider. I was driving my crew-cab pickup. I stayed behind him anticipating that he would, when safe, pull over.

There were a number of opportunities for him to pull over, and I anticipated he would at least pull over and give way on Dry Creek Road. He did not and continued pedaling. The traffic was starting to build up behind my vehicle and the bicyclist, and it became obvious that he was becoming agitated. He started to point for me to pass on an uphill blind corner. He then suddenly stopped in the right-hand lane, approximately three feet from the white fog line and angrily started waving me to pass and shouting at me. At that same time, another car came from the north. I waited until it had passed and went around and continued to my destination.

It is my understanding that I should consider the bicycle and rider the same as I would another vehicle and only attempt to pass when there was no double-yellow line, and there is no approaching traffic and it is safe to pass. Was my approach the right thing to do in this situation? What could I have done to make this situation better/safer? Would you have ticketed me if you had seen me pass the bicyclist in the aforementioned situation before he stopped in the road?

— Gary Spires, Eagle Point

Lots of factors come into play here, Gary. First, your approach was the conservative, safe way to handle the situation. When in doubt, always err on the side of safety. Would I have ticketed you if you had passed earlier? No, and I base my answer on common sense, being that traffic has to move, and upon ORS 811.420, which covers passing in a no-passing zone and its exceptions. It says, in essence, that a driver commits an offense if he drives a vehicle on the left side of a roadway in a no-passing zone that has been designated to prohibit such movements by appropriate signs or markings posted on the roadway — in other words, the double-yellow lines. However, and here's why I wouldn't ticket you, there is an exception for when an obstruction or condition exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center lines, providing that the driver doing so shall yield the right of way to all vehicles traveling in the opposite direction.

Because of space constraints, I'm going to address the bicyclist's obligations in my next column.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a regular Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail cochradc@jacksoncounty.org.