Drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists and people who walk, take note. Senate Bill 533 was signed into law by Oregon Governor Kate Brown on May 21, 2015 with an effective date of January 1, 2016. The new law permits bicyclists and motorcyclists to proceed through a stop light under certain conditions. Statutes ORS 811.260, 811.265 and 811.360 were amended. Roadway users in and around Eugene may have seen what looked like traffic law violations since January . . . that were not.
SBB 533 is not a “stop and roll” law like in Idaho. This change does not mean bicyclists and motorcyclists in Oregon can ignore red lights, or treat them like stop signs. The law requires that a cyclist or motorcyclist stop at a red light, initially. Motorcyclists and cyclists must stop and wait through the full light cycle, before proceeding past a signal that fails to turn green. The intention of the law is to account for the case when magnetic traffic sensors in the road surface or other signal triggering systems are not working.
Motorcyclists originally approached Senator Chris Edwards of Eugene to propose legislative relief for this kind of problem; Portland’s Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) played a role in writing the bill. Laws allowing motorcyclists and/or bicyclists to proceed at stop lights under certain conditions are on the books in other states, including Washington and Idaho. Some other states’ laws allow for the rider to treat a red signal like a stop sign, and proceed through if the motorcyclist or bicyclist believes it’s safe. Oregon’s law only applies when a motorcycle or bicycle rider does not see their red signal turn to green, depsite other lights at the intersection changing. The new bill does hold motorcyclists and bicyclists who are proceeding through a red light liable if there’s a collision with another road user who’s legally proceeding through a green light.
The rider must wait through the full light cycle after stopping, which means the rider has to be able to see lights for all directions. And the law does not address completely malfunctioning traffic signals.
The scenario is, you are waiting at a light, you can tell the oncoming traffic gets their green, the oncoming left turners get their green, the straight-through drivers heading the same way as you, to your right, as you wait over the sensor loops in the left turn lane, get their green, and the cross traffic each get their greens, and still you are waiting. Some intersection signals are actually designed so a traffic light that depends on sensors never turns green if no one is over that signal sensor. But what if that sensor doesn’t understand you are over it!?
The goal is to make sure motorcycle and bicycle riders don’t get stuck at intersections because their vehicles aren’t being sensed by the systems that tells red lights when to turn green. Rob Sadowsky, the BTA’s executive director, said “Our preferred best solution is for lights to get fixed,” but “replaced” might also be important to think about. A lot of the sensors are older electrically charged magnetic wire inductive loops in the pavement. Look for circle, square or diamond outlines cut in the pavement and filled with tar near intersections. Position your bike over the loop so as much metal as possible is as close to the loop as you can get it. If you have waited for your red signal to change through one full cycle of all the other lights, and it’s clear the trigger hasn’t sensed you, it is now legal for you to proceed through the intersection — with caution!