Bicycles are vehicles, too

Which side of the road should bicyclists ride on? I see many bicycles riding on the left side of the road facing traffic. I have been under the impression that bicycles must follow the same rules of the road as automobiles. Is that correct? Isn't it more dangerous for bicycles to ride on the wrong or left side of the road? Thank you for your consideration of my question.

— S. Shephard, Medford

This is a pretty easy one for me this week, but with the better weather coming up it's a good topic to review, since we can all expect more bicyclists out and about.

Oregon Revised Statutes' section 814.400 handles most questions regarding how bicycles are viewed as far as traffic laws are concerned. It's titled "Application of vehicle laws to bicycles."

In essence it states that every person riding a bicycle is subject to the provisions and has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle when operating on highways and with regard to vehicle equipment. There is an exception for those types of laws or provisions which by their very nature can have no application. As an example, that would be something like wearing a seat belt. A bicycle is a vehicle for purposes of the vehicle code, and when the term "vehicle" is used, the term is applicable to bicycles. Being classified as a vehicle means that you can get a DUII on a bicycle, for example.

Finally, nothing in the law relating to the operation of bicycles relieves bicyclists or motorists from the duty to exercise due care.

So, since they are classified as vehicles, bicycles are to be ridden with traffic, not facing it, and must obey traffic laws just like automobiles.

Dace Cochran, a patrol sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, writes a weekly Q&A column on police issues for the Mail Tribune. Have a question for him? Write to Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501, or e-mail

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