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Eugene Police Plan “Focused Enforcement Operation” Downtown, WBE provides a legal cycling tutorial

Location of the "Focused Enforcement Operation."

The Eugene Police Department (EPD) is planning a traffic “Focused Enforcement Operation” in downtown Eugene on  March 30th and 31st.  The location of the extra enforcement will be from 6th Ave. in the north to 18th Ave. in the south, and Lincoln St. in the west to Kincaid St. in the east. Click on the image to the right for a larger map of the area.

According to EPD  sources the goal of the operation will be to uniformly enforce the law for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists, and car drivers.  The reason I am giving this warning is to make sure that no one is given a citation due to lack of information and knowledge. Read on for details on what the police will be watching for, and how to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the law.

Please keep in mind that unless otherwise specified this is my interpretation of the law based on written guides and meetings which I have attended.  I am not a lawyer or an expert, nor will my opinion save you from getting a ticket.  Please post in the comments if any of you have an experience with the crackdown.

What Pedestrians and Cyclists should be watching out for:

Jaywalking

According to sources at the March 11th Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meeting, it is fine to cross the street mid-block as long as you cross at a right angle (go directly across) and yield to all cars.  If you cross in this manner it is not jaywalking.  You’ll get in trouble if you don’t yield to cars, or if you cross in any fashion other than directly, such as diagonally.

Crosswalk Rules

In Oregon every intersection is legally a crosswalk, but you still need to walk directly across – and don’t expect cars to stop at an unmarked crosswalk.  This is not a well-known law, despite being well documented and being in the Oregon Drivers Manual (PDF: page 83.)  Don’t bet your life on a driver’s knowledge of this law.

Crosswalks apply to cyclists as well, of course.  Bikers, you have to yield to pedestrians, and you cannot enter a crosswalk if there is a pedestrian in it already. According to sources at the BPAC meeting, a cyclist in Portland recently received a $240 ticket for such a violation.

From the Oregon Drivers Manual:

You must stop and remain stopped for a pedestrian crossing at a crosswalk (marked or unmarked) when the pedestrian is:

• In the lane in which your vehicle is traveling;
• In a lane next to the lane in which your vehicle is traveling;
• In the lane into which your vehicle is turning;
• In a lane adjacent to the lane into which your vehicle is turning, if you are making a turn at an intersection that does not have a traffic signal;
• Less than six feet from the lane into which your vehicle is turning, if you are making a turn at an intersection that has a traffic signal; or
• In a school crosswalk where there is a traffic patrol member and the traffic patrol member signals you to stop.

You are not required to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk if you are traveling along the half of the roadway on the other side of a safety island from the pedestrian.

There are also rules that a pedestrian must follow in a crosswalk.  According to BPAC sources, a driver does not have to yield to you until you step off the curb and put a foot in the crosswalk. That is how you assume your right-of-way.  Once you have assumed your right-of-way, you have to use it. You cannot motion for the car to go ahead because you will be encouraging them to make a violation.

Riding Bikes on the Sidewalk

It is legal to ride your bikes on the sidewalk in Oregon unless contradicted by a city ordinance.  Pedal Power: A Legal  Guide for Oregon Bicyclists (PDF: page 81,) lists what the rules are in Eugene:

5.400 Operating Rules.

(1) No person may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk in that area bounded by the outer limits of Charnelton Street on the west, 6th Avenue on the north, Pearl Street on the east,and 11th Avenue on the south.

It is illegal to bike on the sidewalk within the marked area

Also, in areas where it is is legal to ride on the sidewalk the cyclists must yield to pedestrians and give audible signals when passing.  A cyclist also must travel at the speed of the slowest moving person when sharing a crosswalk with other pedestrians.

Of course, cycling on the sidewalk is incredibly dangerous and a great way to get hit by cars in intersections and driveways.  Don’t do it.

Pedal Power also lists some other Eugene Ordinances that you should be aware of:  (red text = mine)

(2) No person may park a bicycle in or near a public thoroughfare or place in such a manner as to obstruct traffic or endanger persons or property.
(3) A person riding a bicycle:

  • (a) In a lane for vehicular traffic or parking may ride only in the direction legally prescribed there for that traffic. Don’t ride the wrong way in bike lanes.
  • (b) In a lane for vehicular traffic or parking shall ride as closely to the curb as is safe, but when approaching an intersection where a curb lane is designated “Left Turn” or “Right Turn” shall avoid that lane within 50 feet of the intersection if intending to ride through the intersection without turning. If it is safer to “take the lane” you may do it, but an officer might disagree.
  • (c) On a street or alley shall ride in single file with other bicyclists whenever a motor vehicle is approaching within 100 feet to the rear.
  • (d) On a bicycle path or a sidewalk shall keep as far to the right as is safe, except when overtaking and passing pedestrians and other vehicles, which shall be overtaken and passed only on the left.

Stop signs and stop lights

I hate to say it folks, but the Idaho Stop Law didn’t pass last session.  It didn’t even get out of committee. As a result cyclists still cannot legally roll through stop signs, nor can they treat red lights as stop signs. (The idea that red lights = stop signs was never part of the Oregon version of Idaho Stop, but works great in Idaho.) We can be sure that these laws will be well enforced during the “focused enforcement operation.” You can expect a $200+ ticket if you get caught.

On an editorial note, remember that as  cyclists we individually represent all other cyclists when on the road, like it or not.  If one of us behaves badly,  many drivers will attribute that bad behavior to our entire group.  Unfortunately this does not work in reverse, and “well-behaved” riders generally go unnoticed.

Even when a “focused enforcement operation” isn’t happening, it is a good idea not to run stop signs and stop lights.  While the law certainly is wrong, and while Idaho Stop simply would have “decriminalized good behavior”, it didn’t pass.  If you decide to break the law realize that many people are watching you and judging you for it. We need the hearts and minds of Eugene and Springfield citizens if we want to continue to advance cycling in the Eugene area.  These people vote and write legislators just like we do.  Don’t let them label us as lawbreaking fools.  We’ll need their support to pass Idaho Stop in the next session.

That’s not to say I don’t run my fair share of stop signs.  I ran about 20 in a row last Friday just biking across Springfield on D street, but there weren’t any other cars around to judge me.  I don’t ride like that on 18th street during morning rush hour, for instance,  even though it would be perfectly safe for me to do so.

Some laws make sense and some laws to do.  Simply breaking the laws that don’t make sense may be the easiest way around them, but it doesn’t help the situation in the long run.  It can also get rather expensive, and if you choose to break those laws on Tuesday or Wednesday you can’t expect to pay heavily for it.

I’ll leave you with a wonderful video created last year by Spencer Boomhower which explains the logic behind Idaho Stop.

2 comments to Eugene Police Plan “Focused Enforcement Operation” Downtown, WBE provides a legal cycling tutorial

  • Keith Beyer

    At W24th Ave. and Polk, hardly any vehicles come to a complete stop unless another car is at the intersection. I suppose there are many intersections like that in the city, but it seems inconsistent for some vehicle drivers who insist that bikes come to a complete halt.

  • Hey, wanted to mention that this was a great review of our local cycling rules & regs. Knowing is half the battle!