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Riding bicycles on Portland sidewalks

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Ross Island Bridge
a bicyclist crossing the Ross Island Bridge

Riding bicycles on Portland sidewalks is almost certainly more dangerous than riding on the street, especially on busy streets with many driveways. This is because cars are less likely to see bicyclists when they are on the sidewalk.

Sidewalk biking is legal everywhere except downtown Portland, but only if you move across driveways and intersections no faster than an ordinary pedestrian.

If no possible auto routes cross the path, normal bicycling speeds are allowed, but bicyclists must still yield to pedestrians.


[edit] More dangerous than riding in the street

According to a 1992 study of bicycle accidents in Palo Alto, Calif., between 1981 and 1990, bicyclists who rode on sidewalks were almost twice as likely to be hit by autos as those who rode on the street. (See table 5 and the section titled "position on the road.")

"Even though sidewalks often feel like the safest place to ride for a cyclist, they're not generally the safest place to be if you're traveling at cycling speeds," Bicycle Transportation Alliance programs manager Stephanie Noll said at BTA commute workshop in June 2010. "There's a lot of crashes at intersections."

When a street has a narrow shoulder, bicyclists are often safest when they take the lane and ride among cars. This greatly increases the chance that auto drivers will see them.

Under ORS 811.055, a motorist must yield to a slow-moving bicycle on a sidewalk; failure to do so is a Class B traffic infraction. However, according to ORS 814.410, bicyclists forfeit their right of way and are guilty of a Class D traffic infraction if they ride carelessly, move faster than a pedestrian across driveways or crosswalks (when motor vehicles are present) or fail to yield to a pedestrian.

[edit] Conflicts with pedestrians

Bicycling on sidewalks also creates conflicts with pedestrians, who under ORS 814.410 have the right of way on sidewalks and crosswalks.

"While 10 miles an hour might feel like a real comfortable, not-too-fast speed on a bike, remember that it's three times walking speed," Noll said.

[edit] Banned from downtown Portland

According to Portland city code 16.70.320, bicycling is generally not allowed on sidewalks between or including SW Jefferson Street, Front Avenue, NW Hoyt Street and 13th Avenue.

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