Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oregon's bike lane law

Many of us in California are scratching our heads over Portland cyclists who oppose a proposed law change that makes cycling safer for them. We're talking about it, and we're baffled that Portland cyclists want to continue with a law that increases danger for them.

Currently, Oregon law says that right-turning vehicles must yield to cyclists in a bike lane. From our perspective, Oregon law encourages the "right hook" collision such as the tragically fatal right hook that precipitated this most recent discussion in Portland. In California, motorists are permitted to merge into the bike lane to make their right turns.

The system works fairly well in California, though there is room for improvement -- many motorists don't know to merge into the bike lane, and pretty much nobody knows how to use a turn signal. Still, we like that law here. A straight-going bicyclist merges away from the curb area, while a right-turning vehicle merges to the right. Merges away from the intersection results in less complexity at the intersection and more visibility for everybody.

Sure, there are mistakes and accidents and close calls here in California, but you don't want to make things even worse with a dangerous facility approach. And all road users should always remember that you should NEVER pass large trucks on the right. It's odd to see a Portland cycling advocate describe positioning yourself for your destination as a "swerve left into traffic" that creates "more danger for cyclists."

In his Bike Portland blog entry, Jonathan seems most bothered by the "us vs them" angle that the local paper took on the Oregon bike lane law. His earlier reporting on the proposed change reveals reasonable discussion at the time.


Paul Tay said...

The problem is the bike lane itself. Lose the bike lane and nobody gets confused.

Jym said...

=v= I certainly prefer California's law (and supporting infrastructure, when done properly). It does not solve the underlying problem of inattentive motorists, though. Many of them merge into bike lanes just as unsafely as Oregonian motorists turn across them.

I imagine the California approach is safer overall (though I know of no research on this point), but still not acceptably safe enough.