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Bicyclist should have let cars pass

This is a continuation of my column on Oct. 26, which addressed the obligations of a driver when trying to pass a cyclist on a two-lane road. This column will address the bicyclist's obligation.

The question was posed by Gary Spires of Eagle Point, who wanted to know whether it was OK to pass a bicyclist when there's a double-yellow line, especially if traffic is backing up behind him and it appears safe to pass.

Should the bicyclist have moved over to let Gary pass? Oregon Revised Statute 811.425, the failure of a slower driver to yield to an overtaking vehicle, would apply here, I think.

It says a person commits the offense if the person is driving a vehicle (and bicycles are considered vehicles in Oregon) and the person fails to move off the main traveled portion of the highway into an area sufficient for safe turnout when:

(a) The driver of the overtaken vehicle is proceeding at a speed less than the basic speed;

(b) The driver of the overtaking vehicle is proceeding at a conforming speed;

(c) The highway is a two directional, two-lane highway; and;

(d) There is no clear lane for passing available to the driver of the overtaking vehicle.

So, while the bicyclist has every right to use the lane, as long as he's reasonably close to the right-hand edge, he should also, in a case like North Foothills Road near Coker Butte Road, have pulled over and let backed-up traffic go by him when he had an opportunity, like at Dry Creek Road. The grade is steep and there are sharp corners which prohibit easy passing by vehicles.

Now, to head off a rash of return e-mail from irate bicyclists, this is not to say that every bicyclist is obligated to pull over just because cyclists are generally slower than cars. I'm saying that bicyclists need to be aware that under certain circumstances, they may be creating a hazard behind them due to uphill and/or twisting, curvy roads that don't have any passing areas available and, as in Gary's example, won't have an available passing lane for some time. So at bicyclist speed, it still would have taken a long time to get through the two sharp corners beyond Dry Creek Road to an available passing area.

Be aware of the surroundings, and be courteous to all users of the road.

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.