Bicycle safety: Rules of the road

Posted by Sarah Rough on Sunday, Oct. 6 at 1:00 pm.

According to Governing Magazine, in 2011, just over 7 percent of workers commuted by bicycle in Eugene Ore. The congestion from cyclists, pedestrians and cars along East 13th Avenue moving at different speeds and directions can lead to accidents and run-ins.

Cycling is an efficient method of transportation, but according to Oregon law a bicycle is a vehicle and is required to follow the rules of the road. Failure to follow these rules can lead to traffic violations just as in a motorized vehicle.

On Sept. 25, two cyclists were riding on the sidewalk down East 13th Avenue when a car leaving an alley between Ferry and Mill streets struck one of the riders, one of whom was sent to the hospital with a minor leg injury.

The cyclists were riding against traffic and witnesses said they were traveling at a fast pace. Police cited the two for unsafe operation of a bicycle on the sidewalk. Riding on walkways leads to unnecessary interactions with pedestrians as well as cars when visibility is limited from driveways and alleyways.

UOPD Communications Director Kelly McIver said that, because Eugene is such a bicycle-heavy community, there are responsibilities for the rider to follow the rules of the road.

“The biggest issues we see are blowing through stop signs, not signaling and not being aware of surroundings,” McIver said.

The UO brings new people to Eugene each year and for some, cycling as transportation is a new concept. For those who have never cycled before and may not understand the rules of bicycling, it is easy to follow the example of others. Susan Kelly, owner of Blue Heron Bicycles on 13th Avenue has watched cyclists throughout the years, and a practice that is becoming more prevalent is using the sidewalk as a bicycle path.

“It’s easy for someone who doesn’t know how to bike to lead a path for others who don’t know,” Kelly said. “It’s a habitual behavior.”

And while she acknowledges the positive changes that have been made toward a more bicycle-friendly campus, such as the in-street cycling path along 13th Avenue, Kelly still believes there are many improvements that could be made.

LiveMove, a UO transportation and livability student group, has come up with a plan to create a safe and more efficient paths for bicycles along 13th Avenue between downtown and campus.

“It’s really easy to funnel people into campus,” said Nick Meltzer, a community and regional planning graduate student who works with LiveMove. “But then you go two blocks out and you kind of run out of options.”

The group plans on creating a two-way cycle track such as the one on Alder Street to encourage people to ride bicycles but also feel safe in doing so.

As the number of bicyclists and pedestrians flowing throughout campus rises with the addition of new housing complexes around Eugene, being aware of one’s surroundings is crucial. As a primary artery from downtown to campus, 13th Avenue is currently in a state of “organized chaos,” Kelly said. “I’m surprised more accidents haven’t happened.”

  • John

    In Oregon it IS legal to ride bikes on the sidewalk in all but a handful of exclusion zones. In Eugene, bikes are not allowed to ride on sidewalks in a small portion of downtown bounded by the outer limits of Charnelton Street on the west, 6th Avenue on the north, Pearl Street on the east, and 11th Avenue on the south. Everywhere else, it is legal. (unless the UO has it’s own rules)

    A summary of a bicyclist’s responsibilities when riding on the sidewalks are: Go slowly on sidewalks. Pedestrians have the right of way on walkways. You must give an audible warning when you pass. Enter driveways and intersections at a walker’s pace and look carefully for traffic.

    Personally, I believe you are probably safer and more visible on the street, but riding on sidewalks is allowed. So is riding against traffic if you are on the sidewalk.

    Since this appears to be a series of articles, a quick browse of the following legal guide might aid in future stories: