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The Oregonian, Rubber Side Down: Bicycle Law – 2

By November 25, 2007October 19th, 2021No Comments

This news article featuring Bob Mionske has been reproduced here for our media archives. To access the original article, follow the link.

The Oregonian, Rubber Side Down: Bicycle Law – 2

Posted by Peter LaPorte November 25, 2007 13:31PM

Portland attorney Bob Mionske‘s new book Bicylcing & The Law has received wide attention on the Internet. Deservedly so. He has written a researched and thorough analysis of laws applying to cyclists, from our fundamental rights through accidents (and accident avoidance) to liability waivers for group events.

This weekend, I was reminded that the risk of vehicular accidents are at the highest at intersections. It is there that decision – and indecision – by motorists and cyclists have the most consquence. In my particular case, I was entering an intersection on Cornelius Pass Road as a car which had just past me slowed and signaled a right turn. Seeing the turn signal, I slowed expecting the car to turn right across my path.

In this instance, however, the driver had teken note of me and my speed as he passed and waited for me to pass him (on the right) before making the turn. I waived and gave him an appreciative thumbs up.

That brief encounter underscored several points Mionske makes.

1. Cyclists are most at risk of being hit by a vehicle when riding straight through an intersection. As you approach an intersection, be prepared for the possibility of a driver turning in front of you.

2. Motorists commonly underestimate a cyclist’s speed – either because they don’t appreciate how fast a bicycle can travel or because the cyclist doesn’t provide enough visual clues about their speed (especially at night).

3. While there is no legal obligation for a cyclist to anticipate another person’s unlawful behavior, it is good safety (and common sense in my book) to ride defensively.

4. When possible, adjust your lane position to the left. “If you take the lane,” Mionske writes, “you will make it impossible for a driver in the right lane to cut you off while making a right turn.” (My friend, Slow Dave, always had a habit of moving close to the curb at intersections which always made me very nervous for his safety.)

5. Avoid riding (or stopping) in a motorist’s blind spot.

This last recommendation is perhaps the most important of all. If a motorist can’t see you, the risk of being hit goes up.

On several occassions, I have “taken the lane” as Mionske suggests by moving ahead of the first vehicle at a stop sign or light. If there is a crosswalk, I move into it by at least half a bike length. If there isn’t a crosswalk or if the road is narrow, I will move as far forward as needed to get ahead of the first car – including moving directly into his path if necessary. That may annoy the driver – but as soon as the light changes or the cross-traffic eases, I take off as fast as I can while moving to my right to allow the vehicle to pass.

Many of Mionske’s observations support the observations of Jeff Hiles in his paper Listening to Bike Lanes: Moving Beyong the Feud . In an earlier blog, Hiles’ notion of a cyclist’s Sense of Competence is an excellent framework to begin understanding and conducting ourselves on the road. Arguments over “rights” are important in courts but practicality and proficiency are what count on the road. For motorists and cyclists.

As cyclists, our ability to survive and thrive on Oregon roadways depends on increasing our level of competence in traffic and on various types of roads (urban, rural; bike lane, no bike lane; rush hour, weekends; etc). Competence includes bike handling skill, roadway and traffic vigilence and sometimes means giving way as much as it does insisting on rights. It also means that we must be on alert for less competent motorists whose are nevertheless likely to insist on rights just as vigorously as we.