monitors, analyzes and corrects media reporting errors and bias concerning messengers and couriers.

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The Oregonian Misleads Readers

The Back Seat column of the March 7th Oregonian demonstrates that it's sometimes misleading columnists that "give good cyclists and bike messengers a bad name".

In Steven Beaven's description of the cyclist's behavior he states that the messenger was "passing between two cars". Beaven tells readers that according to ORS 814.430 "cyclists are supposed to ride as closely to the left curb as POSSIBLE on a one-way street, if there is no bike lane." He also states "there are exceptions in this statute. But NONE of them applied in this case."

He's wrong. Some states use the world "possible" and some use the more realistic term "practicable". Oregon uses the latter.

Here is the text of the statute:
SECTION 3. ORS 814.430 is amended to read:
814.430. (1) A person commits the offense of improper use of lanes by a bicycle if the person is operating a bicycle on a roadway AT LESS THAN THE NORMAL SPEED OF TRAFFIC using the roadway at that time and place under the existing conditions and the person does not ride as close as PRACTICABLE to the right curb or edge of the roadway.

(2) A person is NOT in violation of the offense under this section if the person is not operating a bicycle as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway under any of the following circumstances:
  (a) When overtaking and PASSING another bicycle or vehicle that is proceeding in the same direction.

The section on one-way streets says:
(d) When operating within a city as near as practicable to the left curb or edge of a roadway that is designated to allow traffic to move in only one direction along the roadway. A bicycle that is operated under this paragraph is subject to the SAME REQUIREMENTS AND EXCEPTIONS when operating along the left curb or edge as are applicable when a bicycle is operating along the right curb or edge of the roadway.

In other words the same rules and exceptions apply on one-way streets.

In this case the cyclist was passing so the exception does apply. The reason it applies is that it is much safer and practicable to pass cars on the traffic side than it is on the curb side.

Back Seat

The Oregonian, March 7, 2005

by Steven Beaven

A skinny fellow wearing the bike messenger's uniform zipped alongside of us recently, pedaling precariously close to the Back Seat staff car and the vehicle in the next lane. It was odd, we thought: a cyclist passing between two cars on a busy, one-way downtown street. Kind of risky, too.

So, we gently tapped our horn to politely signify that we were, like, mad as heck at Mr. Skinny Man. Our little "toot" said, "Hey, Bub, get away from us. It's boneheads like you who give good cyclists and bike messengers a bad name, OK?"

Mr. I'm-So-Important-I-Set-My-Own-Laws then pulled out his big U-shaped lock and swung it menacingly by his side, like he was some tough guy, despite his knickers and that large, bulbous helmet. But instead of ratcheting up this potential road rage episode, we took a deep breath  and let him ride off to deliver the important messages that required such daredevil riding.

But now we have a little message for him.

Don't do that!

It's dumb, dangerous and illegal.

According to ORS 814.430, otherwise known as improper use of lanes, cyclists are supposed to ride as closely to the left curb as possible on a one-way street, if there is no bike lane.

Now, of course, there are exceptions in this statute. But none of them applied in this case. We're betting, in a court of law, that no reasonable judge, of sound mind and body, would conclude that a cyclist passing two moving vehicles headed in the same direction is a good idea.

Granted, Mr. Outta-My-Way-I'm-Too-Cool-For-The-Oregon-Revised-Statutes had only one other option -- riding between the moving cars and the parked cars on the far left side. But that is safer for everyone involved, don't you think?

We invite any and all thoughtful responses on this issue. But please spare us the tiresome rants about how awful all drivers are, how they're  putting cyclists at risk every time they hit the gas, etc. Doesn't apply here. And doesn't make it OK to ride like a moron.

Contact: backseat@news.oregonian.com


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