Bikes and the Law

A summary of laws that apply to bicycles and their riders, compiled by the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT).

Knowing the law as it relates to bicycles is one part of sharing the road and staying safe while traveling.  For a more complete description of safe biking practices, see the "Getting Around Safely"section of the Portland Biking Guide.

Getting Around Safely

A bicycle is considered a vehicle under Oregon law, so people riding bikes must follow the same rules as people operating motor vehicles, with some exceptions. 

Portland Bike Laws:

Maintain control of the bicycle at all times

  • Save the no-hands and trick riding for the BMX park

Yield to Pedestrians

  • Stop at crosswalks when pedestrians show intent to cross, when they are in your lane or an adjacent lane (ORS 811.028).
  • Use the stopping/slowing hand signal to let traffic behind you know to stop also.
  • Cyclists must yield to all pedestrians when riding on sidewalks.

Ride in the same direction as traffic

Photo of NE 21st Ave where a 2-way bike lane is located next to 2 auto lanes
  • Unless you are in a specifically marked “contra-flow” bike lane  (ORS 814.400).

Obey traffic signals and signs

  • People on bicycles may treat a stop sign or flashing red light as a “Yield” sign, but make sure to slow and check for traffic that has the right of way. You must stop if necessary to prevent a crash (ORS 814.414, 814.416).
  • Bicyclists must stop at steady red lights (standard traffic signal).
  • Be alert for bicycle-specific traffic signals at some intersections with high levels of bike traffic.

Signal your turns and stopping or slowing

  • Use your hand to point the direction you are planning to turn.
    Illustration of hand signals for left turn, stop, and right turn on a bike
  • The law requires signaling 100 feet before the turn, unless both hands are needed on the handlebars to maintain control of the bike (ORS 814.440).

Use lights on the front and rear of your bike at night and in poor visibility conditions

  • The legal requirement is a white light on the front visible from 500 feet and a red light or reflector on the back visible from 600 feet (ORS 815.280). Lights front and rear will make you the most visible.

Riders should stay to the right, and if there is a bike lane present must use the bike lane

  • If you’re riding a bicycle on a road at less than the normal speed of traffic, you’re required to ride “as close as practicable to the curb or edge of roadway” except when:

    • overtaking or passing another bicycle or vehicle,
    • preparing to execute a left turn,
    • avoiding hazardous conditions, or
    • the lane is not wide enough to allow safe passing by a motor vehicle.
  • In these cases, a bicyclist may need to “take the lane” to avoid being squeezed against the curb or parked cars by passing traffic.  (ORS 814.420, 814.430).

Bicycles may use the sidewalk, except downtown

  • When riding on a sidewalk one must slow to walking speed when approaching an intersection, driveway, etc. where motor vehicles are present. (ORS  814.410).
  • The area in downtown Portland where bikes may not use the sidewalk is bounded by SW Jefferson Street, Front Avenue, NW Hoyt Street and 13th Avenue (Portland City Code  16.70.320 E).

A bicyclist must give an audible warning to a pedestrian when passing them on a sidewalk or path

People under 16 years old must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle

If you want to go straight to the source, here are links to relevant portions of the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) and the Portland City Code:

Drivers' Duties to Pedestrians and Bicycles Chapter 811 

Bicycles  (Oregon Vehicle Code Regarding Bicycles, Skateboards, Rollerblades, and Scooters) ORS Chapter 814

Additional statutes regarding equipment ORS Chapter 815

Portland City Code regarding bicycles

All Oregon Revised Statues

Additional resources:

State of Oregon Drivers Manual (pdf)

State of Oregon Bicyclists Manual (pdf)

Pedal Power: A Legal Guide for Oregon Bicyclists (pdf, prepared by Thomas, Coon, Newton and Frost, Attorneys at Law)

Oregon E-Bike Rights: A Legal Guide for Electric Bike Riders (pdf, prepared by Thomas, Coon, Newton and Frost, Attorneys at Law)