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Oregon lawmakers approve new bike lane bill


If you’re a cyclist who gets concerned when riding up to or through an intersection, there’s newly approved legislation that’s going to the governor’s desk that could increase your safety.

The legislation was proposed in large part due to a fatal crash that happened a year and a half ago at the Wall Street and Olney Avenue intersection in downtown Bend.

A FedEx driver was making a right-hand turn onto Olney Avenue as cyclist Jonathan Adams was biking north through the intersection on Wall Street. Adams collided with the FedEx truck and died at the scene.

The crash did not occur in a bike lane, according to Deschutes County Circuit Judge Michael Adler, who ruled the FedEx driver was not guilty of any criminal offense. He said if there are no bike lane markings, then there is no bike lane.

House Bill 2682 would change that. The bill says a bike lane exists in an intersection if the lane is marked on both sides of the intersection in the same direction of travel.

“I think this bill is a step forward, in terms of safety because it makes the environment more predictable,” Ariel Mendez, the board president for Bend Bikes, said Tuesday. “It clarifies what people’s expectations are when they come to intersections and how they use them safely.”

Kai Starr, whose bike is his main mode of transportation, said, “It’s definitely necessary, because of the fact that people are getting less and less cautious of bikers. I’m always having to watch my tail and be extra careful on my bike.”

This bill does not address any intersection where there are no bike lanes. It only clarifies the definition of a bike lane at intersections where there are bike lanes on both sides.

One driver said he thinks the bill means motorists need to assume a bike lane exists all the way through an intersection. But he said he believes that’s not enough to ensure cyclists’ safety.

“I think it would be helpful if there was some sort of indicator on the road so that drivers knew there was a bike lane in the intersection,” Will Van Vactor said. “Without that, it’s just an open intersection that you think you’re safe driving through or turning through.”

But a Bend attorney said he believes the ruling in the fatal crash would have been different if the change in state law had been in effect.

“I think Judge Adler would have found, based on this law, that the cyclist was effectively, legally, in a bike lane, even though there wasn’t paint through the intersection,” said Aron Yarmo, an attorney with Bailey and Yarmo. “I think in that situation, he would have found that the FedEx driver had violated the rule of failing to yield to a cyclist in the bike lane.”

The bill has been passed by both the state Senate and the House, and is only awaiting Gov. Kate Brown’s signature to become law.

If that happens, Bend city officials and police say it would not change any enforcement or lane striping practices.

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