Bike lane isn’t for passing

Not too long ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation launched a public service announcement campaign to educate folks on the fact that every intersection in Oregon is a crosswalk even if it’s not marked. While I was glad to see ODOT spending resources to make people aware of what seems like a basic roadway concept, it makes you wonder, what else do Oregon’s drivers have wrong.

If a recent facebook post is a gauge, there seems to be some misinformation floating around about when someone driving a car can pass on the right.

The Setup

Here’s the scenario: you are driving eastbound from NW 6th on Newport Avenue in Bend. There is only one eastbound lane. You come upon a car that is turning left at Awbrey Road. Now imagine you’re watching this unfold in front of you as you are biking along just behind the passing car. Here’s what you’d see.

via GIPHY. Thanks Nate Wyeth for sharing.

And now the question: can you pass the car ahead by using the bike lane?

The answer is no, you can’t.

Some Context

Here’s why. According to Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 811.415 a person driving a motor vehicle is permitted to pass on the right if,

“The overtaken vehicle is making or the driver has signaled an intention to make a left turn.”

There are some additional caveats in section two of that statute, but essentially, ORS 811.415 seems to indicate in our scenario that it’s okay to pass on the left even if there’s only one lane.

Section 2 from ORS 811.415
Section 2 from ORS 811.415

And therein lies the confusion; if you think ORS 811.415 permits using a bike lane to pass on the right, you’d would be wrong. Why? Because ORS 811.440 specifically delineates when a motor vehicle can operate in a bicycle lane. Passing is not one of those permitted uses.

The general rule of thumb to apply to the motor vehicle code is this: the specific trumps the general. In this case, the more-general revised statute 811.415 which could leave you the impression that it might be okay to pass using a bike lane is superseded by the specifics of 811.440 which only lists four instances where a motor vehicle can use the bike lane.

Now that you know, it’s time for true confessions… what was that your understanding of using the bike lane when driving to pass on the right?