In Oregon and Washington, we live in some of the greenest, most environmentally-aware communities in the country. Portland has a long history as a bike-friendly city that attempts to promote cycling as a safe and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. Indeed, studies have placed Portland among the top 5 cities in the U.S. for bike-friendliness. More than 6% of all Portland commuters bicycle to work, one of the highest percentages of any city in the country. At Kaplan Law, LLC, we advocate both for Portland’s biking community and for increased bike safety measures on our roads. We also work to help injured cyclists defend their rights.
Despite all the efforts of the city, cycling in Portland can be dangerous. Recent years have seen several crashes on the region’s streets in which cars, trucks, SUVs, or TriMet vehicles have struck or killed bicyclists. Advocacy organizations like BikePortland still struggle to get bike-friendly infrastructure projects approved both by the city council and the state legislature in Salem. Even as bike lanes are added around the city and the region, known trouble spots still draw the attention of activists. Basic issues – such as places where bike lanes cross high-volume off-ramps or merging bike lanes on overpasses – need to be addressed.
In 2019, more than 840 bicyclists died nationwide in fatal accidents, down 3% over 2018. A decline... so, that's good, right? Not exactly, when you account for the fact that 2018's 871 bicyclist fatalities was the highest such figure since 1988.
Oregon law protects cyclists by applying most vehicle regulations to them under ORS 814.400 (Washington riders enjoy similar protections through RCW 46.61.755). The application of vehicle regulations to bike riders is critically important because it establishes an equal right for bicyclists to be on the roads. Recent legislation and court rulings in Oregon have reinforced bicyclists’ rights by confirming that bike lanes extend through intersections even when they are not formally marked on the pavement, and by modifying the way "stop" signs apply to riders (in most circumstances they can be treated as "yield" signs). The links at the bottom of this page are useful resources for those in search of more detail.
Auto insurance coverage in Oregon plays a critically important role in bicycle accidents, specifically Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. If you have an auto insurance policy or live with a family member who does, PIP will cover your initial medical bills if you are injured by a car. In Oregon, the minimum level of coverage is $15,000 of reasonably related medical bills. (Washington’s legal minimum is $10,000.) If auto-related injuries are severe enough that you need to miss work for more than two weeks, Oregon PIP coverage will also pay 70% or $3,000 a month (whichever is less) up to $15,000. Income replacement benefits are less generous in Washington, where they are capped at $200 per week.
If you have an auto insurance policy and also enjoy riding, I strongly recommend checking your policy to confirm that you have a minimum of $100,000/$300,000 in Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist (UIM) coverage. This will give you some protection from careless drivers who may have no insurance, or who have state minimum policies ($25,000). Unfortunately, when a cyclist is hit by a car, the injuries can be severe. Minimum insurance policies are not going to cut it if you must miss a lot of work or have extensive medical bills.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a bike crash with a motor vehicle, it is important to understand how the law can help you deal with medical bills, insurance coverage, personal trauma, or pain and suffering. Aside from the portions of Oregon and Washington law that apply specifically to bicycles and their riders, it is always important to examine the specifics of the case. Were alcohol or drugs a factor in the driver’s actions? Was the driver’s conduct reckless or negligent? Did the road design, signage (or lack thereof), or other factors contribute to the crash?
As Oregon and Washington bicycle attorneys, Kaplan Law, LLC can help you understand your rights. Your bicycle accident case may present many major challenges, including litigating against an at-fault driver (and/or their auto insurer,) or even battling with your own insurance company to get the compensation you are owed. We are experienced in guiding clients in overcoming each of these challenges.Resources: