A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Cyclists acting badly: A councilor complains

Written September 19th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Every now and then, somebody on the Albany City Council will wonder out loud if anything can be done about bicyclists ignoring the traffic laws or otherwise acting stupid. It happened again last week.

Councilor Bessie Johnson raised the subject at the conclusion of the council’s meeting on Sept. 11. “I swear,” she said, “bicyclists in Albany don’t know a law if it looked ’em in the face.” Apparently someone on a bike had yelled at her in her car, and she said she’s had “many close encounters” with bike riders darting in front of her, or not riding within the bike lanes, or not obeying the rules of the road. She wondered if the police should be handing out tickets.

Mayor Sharon Konopa chimed in. She had just managed to avoid a collision with a “gal” who was in a bike lane but going the wrong way.

Bike riders on the wrong side of the street, and going the wrong way in bicycle lanes, are a common sight on Albany streets. It’s unlawful, and endangers not only the riders doing it but any cyclists they meet.

Which brings up a related point: Are cyclists required to use bike lanes when lanes are provided? The law is ambiguous, transportation systems analyst Ron Irish told the Albany Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission at its monthly meeting back in June.

The state vehicle code says when bike lanes are provided, cyclists are supposed to use them except when passing or turning left, or when there’s debris in the lane, or there’s an obstruction. But: Cyclists can’t be required to comply unless the road authority — city, county, or ODOT — has determined that the particular lane is safe to use. And before making that determination, the road authority has to hold a public hearing, which Irish doubted any road authority in Oregon had ever done.

The bike/ped panel agreed at the time to discuss it again. Its next meeting is on Sept. 24, and the agenda includes this item: “Requirement to ride in bike lane discussion.” (The meeting that day is at 7 p.m. in the Periwinkle Room on the second floor of City Hall.)

Unless the city council holds hearings on the safety of every bike lane on Albany streets, the police may not be abe to cite anybody for riding outside a lane. But they certainly could ticket cyclists going the wrong way, or failing to yield the right of way, or committing any other violation of the vehicle code. But as you know, when you want one there’s never a cop in sight. (hh)

Between parked vehicles and traffic: The bike lane on Second Avenue leading east from downtown

14 responses to “Cyclists acting badly: A councilor complains”

  1. Mike Ely says:

    Sharon and Bessie need a little education. Maybe it’s time to get them on bikes and ride around on a tour of downtown Athens to see the streets from another perspective. Thanks Hasso for keeping us informed. PS Time to toe in those brakes!

  2. craigz says:

    Bike lanes are a good thing but I am also for a fee or license that helps pay for them. In addition, Bike Lanes MUST be used properly. In a bike lane you still go with the same flow-direction of vehicle traffic. Twice I have almost took out a bicyclist that was traveling the wrong direction on the wrong side of the street in a bike lane, they were “hidden” behind mail boxes and trees so when I pulled into traffic from the side street, they were not noticed until they were nearly a hood ornament. Last year I almost hit a bike head on in a turn lane. I merged into the turn lane to turn left to almost hit a bike that was actually coming straight at me, riding in the turn lane, late at night, very dark…wearing dark clothing and NO headlight. These were all young adults 20’s-30’s. Some bikers need to read the rules of the road manual !

  3. North Albany Guy says:

    Probably not the bikes that are the problem but those who ride them illegally. If given the opportunity, I wonder how well those folks would drive.

  4. centrist says:

    Dare I say this?
    XXXYYY don’t kill people………

  5. Albany YIMBY says:

    You can’t blame someone that is working getting plastic bottles and cans in his trailer to try to avoid cycling 3 miles around Pacific so they can follow the right way of traffic. It’s an unrealistic expectation.

    They are just annoyed that poor people that ride bikes exist and to see them from above in their suburban SUVs. Cars and trucks may as well occupy 95% of the road but the problem is that pesky bicyclist.

    • Keith says:

      I have to say this as someone who is currently out of work and looking for a job. If you check the Oregon Employment Department you will find there are MANY jobs available that require less work than canning (collecting cans). Before you use the “no permanent residence/phone” argument, I just helped a man get off the street and into transitional housing. However, and here’s the kicker, you have to want to change! I doubt he spent more than 1 night in that house. People you see canning, by and large, won’t go to food kitchens or halfway houses because they have to be clean and sober. They are not willing to give that up so they rely on bottle deposits so they can do what they want and not comply with society’s rules.
      But back to the topic of bicycle laws…if you are willing to break other more serious laws…why bother worrying about traffic laws?

  6. Another in North Albany says:

    Corvallis seems to have solved this issue. Maybe check with them? I’ve seen bicyclists getting tickets multiple times. And you know what? I’ve never had issue in that town with a cyclist being a hazard to navigation. They should know and obey the laws or be ticketed like motorists. It’s a safety issue, not a class issue, despite previous comments.

  7. Bill Kapaun says:

    How many bikes parked at the homeless shelter overnight?
    How man of these same bikes are involved in disrupting traffic?
    Add the immature youth & “former drivers” and there probably wouldn’t be nearly as many “offenders”.

    I occasionally “break the law”, but I yield when I should and avoid causing anyone else “irritation”. Sometimes it’s simply more prudent to “salmon” down a bike lane for 1/2 block then to cross a busy street twice.

    Sharon & Bessie are apparently too stupid to stay out of the bike lane. What difference does the direction of the cyclist matter if they are driving properly?

    I’m sure many would like to see bike lanes abolished.
    Great! Now you get to follow a bicycle until it’s safe to pass like YOU are SUPPOSED TO on ANY street road WITHOUT a bike lane. You are obviously intent on following the law right?
    Make sure you know what you wish for!

  8. J. Jacobson says:

    I, for one, am more than pleased that Ward III Councilor Johnson took such a strong, emphatic position on this pressing issue. With Johnson’s inspired leadership, Albany’s 3rd Ward is destined for greatness.

  9. Keith says:

    Personally, I decided long ago that I would ride as a vehicle…just like a car. I pushed myself through training to be able to not hold up traffic in town. As soon as cars start going faster than me, I move over. There are lots of problems with this. Parked cars, cars trying to park, UPS trucks, people turning right without looking for you. The list is long but I persist in riding legally and courteously doing my best to improve the image of cyclists every time I throw a leg over the bike.
    I get mad every time I see a cyclist riding the wrong way or without a light at night, or any other traffic law for that matter not because he’s breaking the law but because he’s making me look bad.
    Someone mentioned that bikes don’t kill people…and this is a fair point though you can cause an accident that could kill someone. But let’s be fair, pretty much every driver out there does 60 in a 55 or runs stale yellows or doesn’t stop at stop signs. This is the pot calling the kettle black, really. And when you are driving a 4000 pound chunk of steel, the penalty for failure is much more severe.

  10. Richard Vannice says:

    Why do we have “Idaho Stops”? Since this is “the law” why not just forget about all the other traffic laws being applicable to bike riders?
    I have apparently been under the misconception that vehicles (I believe bicycles are included in this category) are supposed to obey they same laws. Sure, I get upset with bike riders but I also get upset at drivers.
    Generally speaking, we have become a nation of scofflaws – attitude seems to be that they are written for the other guy.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Try driving in a bike lane;)

      I agree about the pot calling the kettle black-

      How about the joggers & motorized carts that use the bike lane when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk next to them? Ticket them too? Jaywalking?

  11. centrist says:

    The consensus on this is that there’s no consensus. Lots of US vs THEM blamestorming .
    Two posts by KEITH are eye opening and informative. Thanx K

  12. Julie W says:

    All this blame blame blame is ridiculous lets calm down and act like adults for a change. This can be solved but you need to work on it and calm the heck down!


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