The short answer is that cyclists are not always required to stop for stop signs. Cyclists must obey most of the same traffic laws as drivers. By having one uniform set of traffic laws, pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers can use roads safely.
But in a few limited situations, cyclists are allowed to follow different laws than drivers. And Oregon law outlines different rules for cyclists approaching intersections controlled by stop signs and flashing red lights.
Traffic Signals and Signs in Oregon
Under Oregon law, all drivers must obey traffic control devices, including stop signs, traffic lights, and flashing warning lights. When a driver fails to obey a traffic control device, the police can issue a citation for a Class B traffic violation.
Oregon’s traffic code also defines what drivers must do when approaching a stop sign. They must:
- Stop at the stop line if the intersection has one
- Stop at the crosswalk if the intersection lacks a stop line
- Stop at a safe location before the intersection if there is no stop line or crosswalk
- Yield the right of way to any vehicle in or approaching the intersection
When the intersection has stop signs in multiple directions, the driver must yield to anyone who arrived before them. If two drivers arrive simultaneously, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on the right. Oregon’s stop sign statute also explicitly says that this does not apply to bicyclists.
How Bicyclists Handle Stop Signs in Oregon
Oregon’s statute does not require bicyclists to run through stop signs. Bicyclists can — and in many situations should — follow the same rules at stop signs as drivers. In other words, the police cannot cite cyclists for stopping at a stop sign.
The stop sign statute for bicycles allows cyclists approaching a stop sign to slow to a safe speed without stopping.
After slowing, the cyclist can:
- Go straight through the intersection
- Turn right or left onto a two-way street
- Turn right or left onto a one-way street in the direction indicated
The bicycle stop sign law does not excuse cyclists who fail to:
- Yield the right of way to vehicles or bicycles in or approaching the intersection
- Obey directions given by a construction flagger or police officer
- Yield to pedestrians properly crossing the road at the intersection or a crosswalk
- Exercise due care to avoid a collision
An officer can cite the cyclist if they commit any of these violations or fail to slow to a safe speed before proceeding through a stop sign. This state classifies this citation as a Class D traffic violation. Class D traffic violations carry a fine of $115, although a judge can raise it to $250 or drop it to $65.
How Dangerous Are Oregon Intersections for Cyclists?
In 2020, 475 bicycle crashes were reported to police officers throughout Oregon. These bicycle accidents caused:
- 14 cyclist deaths
- 473 non-fatal cyclist injuries
- 4 motor vehicle occupant injuries
Of the 475 crashes, 303 happened at intersections. In other words, intersections were much more dangerous than the road segments between intersections. Nearly 64% of bicycle crashes happened at intersections, while just over 36% of collisions happened between intersections.
According to Oregon’s 2020 statistics, 37 bike crashes, including one fatal collision, happened when someone ran a stop sign. This means nearly 7.8% of bike accidents occurred due to stop sign violations. But the statistics do not identify how many of these violations were committed by the cyclist and how many were the fault of the driver.
Portland’s numbers are much worse. Portland had 85 bicycle crashes in 2020, resulting in five deaths and 80 injuries. Of these, 65 collisions happened at an intersection. Sadly, four of the five fatal bicycle accidents in Portland that year occurred at an intersection.
Ten bike crashes in Portland happened when either the driver or cyclist ran a stop sign. These crashes killed one person and injured 84 others. And nearly 12% of Portland bicycle collisions happened when someone ran a stop sign. Again, Oregon’s statistics do not separate those caused by cyclists from those caused by vehicle drivers.
Determining Fault for Stop Sign Crashes
A legal principle called “negligence” determines which road user is at fault for a collision. Negligence occurs when someone’s failure to exercise reasonable care injures another person.
All road users must follow the law. Traffic laws keep road users safe by ensuring that everyone behaves predictably. Without traffic laws, vehicles would move chaotically and unpredictably.
Some accidents happen without fault. For example, if a flash flood pushes your car into another vehicle, neither driver was at fault for the collision because both drivers acted reasonably.
But the fault for most accidents will fall on one or both road users. In a stop sign accident, you need to look at the movements of both the bicycle and automobile and compare them to each party’s duties under Oregon’s traffic laws.
To start, the driver will probably bear the liability for a crash anytime they go through a stop sign without stopping. The law clearly requires automobile drivers to stop at stop signs.
Conversely, you do not know who bears the liability when the cyclist goes through a stop sign without stopping. The law allows cyclists to proceed without stopping under some circumstances.
When a cyclist runs a stop sign, you need to look at the surrounding facts, including:
- How far away was the car when the cyclist went through the stop sign?
- Did the driver act to make the cyclist believe they wouldn’t cross the intersection?
- Did the cyclist slow to a safe speed when approaching the intersection?
Bear in mind that the cyclist has a duty to avoid collisions under Oregon law. Thus, the fault for any collision that results from a cyclist running a stop sign will often fall on the cyclist.
Can Cyclists in Oregon Run Stop Signs?
Yes, cyclists can run stop signs after slowing to a safe speed. The question is whether they should. The answer to this question will depend on the circumstances. You will need to exercise good judgment and reasonable care to determine whether you should run any stop signs you encounter as you ride your bike in Oregon.