Schouten, Nosse: Let's protect bicyclists at intersections
As state representatives for Beaverton and Portland, we believe we must continue to make Oregon a bike friendly state and encourage biking as a viable eco-friendly option. Supporting individuals that use alternative means of transportation to help reduce carbon emissions is incredibly important and we need to ensure they have adequate legal protections on the road.
Rep. Schouten's husband, Dick, is an avid cyclist. It's great exercise, he commutes on two wheels regularly, and generally loves riding. Unfortunately, he has been in a couple bicycle accidents over the years, including a particularly bad one in 2015 where an uninsured driver forced him off the shoulder of Murray Boulevard in Beaverton.
Thankfully, he got away from that incident with just broken arm and a bent bike. But the hospital bill and damage to his bike were costly. Dick was travelling in a marked bike lane when he was struck, and the driver was clearly at fault. Because he had the legal right of way, he received a swift settlement and could defray the cost of the accident.
But some cyclists are not so lucky.
Last year, a 31-year-old Bend man was struck and killed in an intersection by a FedEx truck making a right turn. The Deschutes County district attorney cited the driver for failure to yield to a rider in a bicycle lane, but a judge recently threw out the charge on the (dubious) legal theory that bike lanes don't continue into intersections. Essentially, the judge's ruling only protects riders when they're between painted lines.
This is madness. To avoid visual confusion, we don't paint every lane line in our intersections. And nobody claims automobile travel lanes don't exist within an intersection. So the failure to acknowledge that bike lanes continue through intersections is both strange and troubling.
Now, to correct the confusion, we are co-sponsoring legislation (House Bill 2682) that will explicitly extend this legal protection to cyclists crossing intersections. This bill would make simple clarification that when the markings of a bicycle lane are interrupted by an intersection, the bicycle lane continues in and through the intersection. This legal clarity will help bicyclists who been struck in an intersection pursue a claim for their injuries.
As it stands now, the statute is unclear about how to handle accidents between a bike and a vehicle in an intersection. Our bill would remove legal ambiguity for those situations and encourage more cautious behavior by motorists. Nothing more. Nothing less.
While this bill will not make biking safer or prevent accidents, it will allow for legal recourse when something happens. And that's change we should support.
Sheri Schouten is state representative for Oregon House District 27, including parts of Beaverton, Raleigh Hills and Bull Mountain. Rob Nosse is state representative for Oregon House District 42, including parts of Southeast and Northeast Portland.