Oregon Law—The Basics:
- It is illegal to equip bicycles with sirens or whistles.1
Oregon Law—Going Deeper:
This has to be one of the stranger requirements in Oregon’s bicycle laws. It’s illegal to equip a bicycle with a siren or whistle, except on bicycles used by police officers. I’ve never known or heard of any cyclist equipping their bike with a siren or whistle. And yet there it is in the law, a prohibition on something that nobody to my knowledge has ever done, and that to my knowledge, nobody would ever want to do.
What’s that all about? The language of the prohibition is clear that sirens and whistles are allowed on police bikes only, and originally comes from the UVC.2 But why? As far as I can tell, it’s one of those weird laws that used to make sense but has become so outdated that we have forgotten why it was ever put on the books in the first place.
But what about other types of audible warning devices? Lots of people put bells on their bikes, for example, including me. It’s not required by law, but it’s not prohibited either and is a courteous, non-startling way to announce my approach when pedestrians are ahead. And giving an audible warning to pedestrians is required by law when riding on the sidewalk.3 A bell is a great way to meet that requirement.
What about horns? The law is silent on this point, which means they are not prohibited. And in fact, the law allows you to equip your bike with audible warning devices that are not prohibited.4 But there are bulb horns, and then there are air horns, which are significantly louder. Is an air horn legal? The law is silent, so they are not prohibited.
However, there is a prohibition in Oregon law on using a horn except “as a reasonable warning,” and it’s also prohibited to make “any unnecessary or unreasonably loud or harsh sound by means of a horn or other warning device.”5 While this law is grouped with other laws related to motor vehicle equipment requirements, it is written broadly enough that it may apply to cyclists too.
The bottom line: It is not illegal to equip your bicycle with a horn, including an air horn, and as long as you only use it as a “reasonable warning” which is “necessary” and is not “unreasonably loud or harsh,” you’re not in violation of any law.
If You’ve Been Injured in a Crash
Do not communicate with the driver’s insurance company before consulting with an attorney. Most cyclists want to be fair and reasonable with the insurance company. Unfortunately, when you communicate with the insurance company, they are gathering information to be used against you later. What you see as an effort on your part to communicate a fair and honest account of the accident will be seen by the insurance company as an opportunity to gather evidence in support of their argument that your negligence caused the accident.
Contact bicyclelaw.com or another personal injury attorney who understands bicycling. While many attorneys are competent to handle general injury cases, make sure your attorney has experience and is familiar with:
- Bicycle traffic laws
- Negotiating bicycle accident cases with insurance companies
- Trying bicycle accident cases in court
- The prevailing prejudice against cyclists by motorists and juries
- The names and functions of all bicycle components
- The speed bikes travel as well as braking and cornering
- Bicycle handling skills, techniques, and customs
- How to get the full replacement value property damage estimates for your bicycle
- Establishing the value of lost riding time
- Leading bicycle accident reconstruction experts
- Licensed forensic bicycle engineers
- Establishing the value of permanent diminished riding ability