A bill that would clear up uncertainty about bike lanes in intersections passed the House on Thursday by a wide margin.
The bill specifically says that bike lanes continue through an intersection regardless of whether they are marked or not.
House Bill 2682, which is rooted in the death of cyclist Jonathan Chase Adams in a downtown Bend intersection, is supported by local leaders and politicians. They seek to change the legal definition of a bike lane to provide more protection for cyclists and force drivers to pay more attention to cyclists on the road.
HB 2682 passed the House 48-12. Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend and Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, supported the bill.
A first reading in the Senate is scheduled for Monday.
On the morning of Nov. 20, 2017, Adams, 31, was cycling north on Wall Street to his job at Carl’s Jr. A FedEx tractor-trailer was turning right at the intersection. Adams, biking straight, collided with the side of the big rig and was dragged under the rear wheels, killing him.
Responding police declined to cite the FedEx driver, Trenton Derek Sage, with failing to yield to a rider in a bicycle lane. But six months later, the local district attorney did. At trial in October 2018, Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge A. Michael Adler ruled Adams did not have the protection of the bike lane because he was struck in the intersection. Sage was found not guilty.
A constituent of Rep. Rob Nosse, R-Portland, informed him of Adler’s ruling, which made Nosse want to change the law, according to Bulletin archives.
A one-page bill was introduced this legislative session by Nosse and Sheri Schouten, D-Beaverton, that is intended to prevent similar rulings.
The Bend City Council voted to look into changing local law to clarify that bike lanes continue through intersections even if their markings don’t. But the city attorney’s office informed the council state law would likely preempt any local policy tweak.
Before the vote Thursday, hearings were held before the Joint Transportation Committee, where a number of speakers decried the local court ruling.
“Judge Adler’s decision leaves our members with loads of questions,” said cyclist Lucas Freeman of the group Bend Bikes. “This ruling suggests that drivers have no obligation to yield to cyclists in intersections. Does it mean that those who choose to cycle to work must take the lane at every intersection since the legal protection of the bike lane disappears? Does it imply that cyclists must do the same at every driveway to stay safe?”
Also testifying in support were representatives of the Oregon cycling community, as well as the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Portland Bureau of Transportation, which oversees 350 miles of bicycle lanes and “Neighborhood Greenways,” or residential streets with low auto traffic intended for bicycle use.
PBOT staff has long considered that bicycle lanes continue through intersections, even without markings, testified PBOT interim director Chris Warner.
“Due to a recent court interpretation, HB 2682 is needed to clarify the interaction between bicyclists and motorists at intersections of streets with marked bicycle lanes. Without this bill, intersections could become unclear and more dangerous,” he said.
— Bulletin reporter Gary A. Warner contributed to this report.
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