Skip to main content

Oregon State Flag An official website of the State of Oregon »

Section 5 - Rules of the Road

Now that you and your bicycle are properly equipped and you have learned some defensive riding skills, learning and following the rules of the road will help make your ride even more safe, fun and less stressful. You have the right to ride on the road in Oregon.
Here are the most important things to keep in mind when you decide to ride with traffic.

Ride With Traffic

Ride in a straight line in the same direction as the traffic next to you. People driving look for possible conflicts with traffic when they enter a road, turn, or change lanes. If you are riding in the same direction as traffic, people driving will more likely see and yield to you.

When riding in a bicycle lane, you should ride in the same direction as the arrow painted on the pavement in the bicycle lane. Most bicycle lanes are marked as one-way in the same direction as the closest traffic lane.The rare exceptions are:
  • some one-way streets where a “contraflow” bicycle lane is specifically designed and marked to allow people on bicycles to ride in the opposite direction from cars, and
  • where a specially designed and marked two-way bicycle lane is provided on one side of the street.
Riding in the road against traffic is against the law. Some people ride against traffic because they think that looking at on-coming traffic will help prevent crashes or being hit from behind. However, people bicycling are rarely hit from behind and wrong-way riding actually puts you at higher risk for a crash. Riding against traffic makes it difficult to see signs and traffic signals that could be critical for making decisions or avoiding conflicts. You also risk a head-on collision with people riding or driving in the right direction who may not have time or space to safely move around you.

Image - Hazards of wrong-way riding diagram. 
Hazards of wrong-way riding: Driver A is looking for traffic on the left; Driver B is looking for traffic ahead;
in both cases, a wrong-way bicyclist is not in the driver’s main field of vision.

Ride to the Right or Take the Left Lane?

In most traffic and road conditions, the rules of the road require you to ride on the right side of the road. In some conditions it is best to ride closer to the center and “take the lane.” In Oregon, if there is a bicycle lane on a street you are required to ride in it, except:
  • When avoiding hazards
  • When avoiding parked cars
  • When a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side
  • When making a left turn
  • To avoid conflicts with right-turning cars.
  • On a one-way street, you may ride on the left as long as you are riding with traffic.
Image - Avoid road hazards diagram.  
Avoid road hazards

When there is no bicycle lane, it is generally best to ride on the right side of the road, but this doesn’t mean that you have to be right up against the curb or edge of the road. Riding too close to the curb or edge of the road can be dangerous if you hit the curb or hit the roadway edge and lose your balance, causing you to fall.

If there is no bicycle lane or shoulder and the vehicle travel lane is narrow, you should ride closer to the center of the traffic lane. Many times this means riding in the lane about where a passenger in a car would be sitting (slightly to the right of center). This will discourage people driving from passing you when there isn’t room. If you’re traveling at the same speed as traffic, positioning yourself closer to the center of a narrow lane will keep you out of people’s blind spots and reduce conflicts with right-turning traffic.

Image - Occupy more of the travel lane if it is narrow or if traffic is moving slowly diagram.
Occupy more of the travel lane if it is narrow or if traffic is moving slowly.

On some streets a shared lane marking or “sharrow” is painted on the road to indicate that the lane is shared with people driving and
people riding bicycles. The sharrow symbol also indicates to the person riding a bicycle where they should be positioned – usually in the center of the lane or just right of center. This makes you more visible to people driving and also helps you to avoid parked cars opening doors.

Passing Other Vehicles

If you need to pass, pull into another lane only if it is clear and without conflicts ahead. If a car ahead of you is signaling a right turn, check to see if your left side is clear, shift over to pass, then move back into your original position. People riding bicycles are legally allowed to pass on the right if there is a bicycle lane, but people driving often forget to look before turning right, so it is best to ride defensively. Do not pass on the right unless the person driving slows down or stops and communicates they see you. Ride at a reasonable speed, and scan carefully for turning vehicles.

Image - Sharrows indicate where to ride diagram.
Sharrows indicate where to ride.

Navigating Intersections

Most crashes with motor vehicles happen at road intersections and driveways, where people bicycling and driving cross paths. To avoid these crashes, ride with traffic and in a predictable manner. When you approach an intersection with several lanes, choose one that serves the direction you want to go in or the one with the arrow pointing where you want to go. If there is a straight through bicycle lane, use it only if you’re going straight ahead. You may get cut off by turning cars if you’re in the wrong lane.

If you can’t make it across traffic to the correct lane, use the crosswalk.

At some intersections and busy driveways, green paint is used in the bicycle lane to indicate areas where people driving are likely to
drive across the bicycle lane to turn or move into a turn lane. These markings remind people driving that this is a possible conflict zone and to watch for people bicycling. However, this green paint should also be a reminder for you while bicycling to be especially alert for potential conflicts.

Image - Choose the correct lane diagram.
Choose the correct lane.


You are legally allowed to ride your bicycle in a crosswalk, but you must slow down when approaching the intersection and enter the crosswalk at the speed of a person walking. This allows people driving enough time to see that you intend to cross and stop for
you. Proceed slowly and yield to people walking.

When riding, you must stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. A crosswalk exists at any public road intersection, whether marked
or unmarked. If a person is crossing in a crosswalk, as a vehicle you must stop and wait until the pedestrian has cleared your lane and the next lane before you may proceed. Do not pass stopped cars or other people on bicycles at a crosswalk or intersection – they may be stopped to let a person cross.

If you want to make a turn at a signal and a person is crossing the intersection, you must stop and wait until the person has cleared
your lane and six feet of the next lane before turning.

Image - At an intersection, you must wait until a crossing pedestrian has cleared your lane diagramand the next lane.
At an intersection, you must wait until a crossing pedestrian has cleared your lane and the next lane.


Roundabouts are intersections that are designed to allow vehicles to continuously flow through the intersection, but at safer slower
speeds. Bicycle lanes are usually not striped through roundabouts, so you will have to decide if you want to move into the traffic lane
and ride through the intersection as a vehicle or move onto the sidewalk and navigate the intersection as a pedestrian. There are
usually bicycle ramps from the bicycle lane to the sidewalk at the approach to roundabouts to allow you to ride onto the sidewalk.

For more information on bicycling through roundabouts, visit:


Hand Signals

Signal before making a turn to warn traffic behind you. To signal a left turn, look behind you, then hold your left arm out. To signal a
right turn, either hold your right arm out, or hold your left arm up, with a bent elbow. You don’t have to keep your arm up or extended
through the turn – you may need both hands on the handlebars to steer your bicycle. Whenever stopping it is good to use the stop
hand signal.

Image - Bicyclist hand signals diagram.

Bicyclist hand signals.

Left Turns

There are several ways to turn on a bicycle.

Image - How to make a left turn diagram.
How to make a left turn.

As a Vehicle
As you approach the intersection, look over your left shoulder for traffic and, when clear, signal your turn, move over to the left side of the lane on a two lane road (1), or into the left lane or the center turn lane when available. You should be positioned so cars going straight through can’t pass you on the left. Yield to on-coming cars before turning. If you are riding in a bicycle lane, or on a road with several lanes, you need to look and signal each time you change lanes. Unless you are making a two-stage left turn as described in the next section, never make a left turn from the right side of the road, even if you are in a bicycle lane.

“Box-style” or Two-Stage Left (see also Bicycle Boxes,)
Proceed straight through the intersection on the right. Then stop, and either cross as a pedestrian in the crosswalk (2), or make a 90 degree left turn and proceed as if you were coming from the right (3). If there is a signal, wait for the green or WALK signal before crossing. Yield to people crossing in the crosswalk.

Avoiding Blind Spots and the Right Hook

A “right hook” crash occurs when a person driving turns right across the path of a person riding a bicycle straight past a driveway or through an intersection. While it is legal to pass a line of stopped cars on streets with a bicycle lane, it is advisable to stop behind the first vehicle, particularly if it’s a large truck, with limited ability to see smaller vehicles around them. On streets without bicycle lanes, people bicycling should take the lane at intersections and proceed through the intersection as any other vehicle.

Image - stopping behind large trucks and blind spot diagram.
It is advisable to stop behind large trucks with limited peripheral visibility.

Using Bicycle Boxes

Bicycle boxes are a painted traffic control device used at some intersections with signals to provide an area for people riding bicycles to wait for a green light in front of any cars that are also waiting. Bicycle boxes help make people on bicycles more visible at intersections and also can help reduce traffic delays. There are two styles of bicycle boxes in use in Oregon.

Right Hook Style
This bicycle box is placed between the crosswalk and a stop bar—a thick solid white line indicating where motor vehicles should stop.
Bicycle boxes, usually painted green, indicate that people riding bicycles have priority by allowing them to go to the head of the line
and, once the light turns green, to get through the intersection before cars proceed.

Image - Right Hook Style Bike boxes place people bicycling at the head of the line diagram.
Right Hook Style Bike boxes place people bicycling at
the head of the line.

When a traffic signal is yellow or red, enter the bicycle box from the approaching bicycle lane. Stop before the crosswalk. (Not all bicycle boxes or approaching bicycle lanes are painted green.)

When the light is green, proceed as normal. Be aware of turning vehicles.

Left Turn Bicycle Box
A left turn bicycle box is provided when a two-stage left turn is required or encouraged. This style of bicycle box commonly accompanies a bicycle lane that is separated from the motor vehicle travel lane by a physical barrier, preventing people bicycling from moving into the left turn lane.

When the signal is green, proceed across the intersection to the bicycle box and then turn 90-degrees. Wait for the light to turn
green and proceed.

Image - Left Turn Bike Box diagram.
Left Turn Bike Box is provided when a two-stage left turn is required.

Obeying the Traffic Signals and Signs

Traffic Signals

You must come to a complete stop at solid red lights at intersections. When approaching an intersection with a solid yellow light, it is the law to stop at the yellow light if you are not already in the intersection. Rushing through a yellow light may not leave enough time for a person riding a bicycle to get through the intersection before the light turns green for oncoming traffic, which can cause a crash.

Useful tip: Shift into an easier or lower gear before stopping at an intersection. This will help you pedal more easily when you start

Image - How to trigger loop detectors diagram.
How to trigger loop detectors.

Many traffic signals are triggered by electrically charged wires buried under the pavement. When a vehicle goes over them, the metal disrupts the current, which sends a signal to a traffic signal control box. A computer directs the signal to change at the appropriate time.
Image - a man on a bicycle stopped on a detector stencil.
Bicycle detector stencil.

Most bicycles contain enough metal to trigger the signal, but you should know where the most sensitive spots are. Look for cut
lines in the pavement, filled with tar. Depending on the shape, the most sensitive spots are:
  • Diamonds: just inside one of the points.
  • Rectangles: up front in the middle.
  • Circles: about 1/4 of the way in.
At some intersections, the best place to wait to trigger the signal on your bike is marked with a small white bicycle stencil. Stay in
the detection zone until you get a green light. If the signal fails to detect you, go to the sidewalk and press the pedestrian button. You
are permitted to proceed with caution through the intersection on red if the signal fails to detect you after one full cycle of the signal.

Bicycle Signals

Bicycle signals are used at some intersections with bicycle only movements or where separating bicycle and motor vehicle movements through the intersection is needed to improve safety. Bicycle signals operate just like a regular green/yellow/red traffic signal. People bicycling must stop when a bicycle signal turns yellow or red, and may go when the bicycle signal turns green. Bicycle signals always have a sign saying “BICYCLE/BIKE SIGNAL” and the lights may have special bicycle-shaped lenses to make it clear that the signal applies to bicycles but not motor vehicles.

Image - a bike traffic light signal with a sign that reads Bike Signal.
Bike signals.

Stop Signs and Flashing Red Signals

In Oregon, people riding bicycles are allowed to treat stop signs and flashing red lights as YIELD signs. This means you can
proceed through the intersection or make a right or left turn at intersections controlled by stop signs or flashing red lights without
coming to a complete stop. When proceeding through an intersection, a person riding a bicycle must yield right of way to other
lawful traffic, yield to pedestrians, and exercise care to avoid a crash. If a police officer or flagger is present, you must obey any
instructions they give.

School Bus Safety Lights and Public Transit Buses

A person on a bicycle, just like the operator of any other vehicle, is required by law to stop and stay stopped for a school bus that is
operating red bus safety lights. It is the expectation that traffic in all directions stop and remain stopped until the bus driver turns the
flashing bus lights off.

Yield to public transit buses reentering traffic. Use caution when trying to pass a bus. The driver may not see you.


Oregon’s traffic signs follow the national standards. You are responsible for observing all official highway signs and markings.

Wayfinding and guide signs are typically green with white lettering and share information that might be useful to people bicycling.
These signs are used to identify officially designated bicycle routes and to guide people bicycling along the best routes to nearby

Image - A collage of various bicycle signs as seen throughout Oregon.
Bicycle signs as seen throughout Oregon.

Regulatory signs are rectangular with black words or symbols on a white background and share information about traffic laws. They
may be posted alone, with other traffic signs, or with traffic signals.

The Bicycle STOP Sign – Stop. Yield right of way to traffic (including pedestrians) in the crossing.  
Image - The Bicycle STOP Sign..

The Bicycle YIELD Sign  Reduce speed and, if needed for safety, stop as you would for a stop sign. Yield righof way to traffic (including pedestrians) in the crossing.
Image - The Bicycle YIELD Sign.


Push Button Before Entering Tunnel – Push the button to activate the warning beacon(s) before entering the tunnel. The flashing beacon alerts motorists to the presence of people bicycling in the tunnel. A similar sign exists to activate warning beacons before entering a narrow bridge.
Image - Push Button Before Entering Tunnel Sign.

Bikes Cross on Walk Signal Only – Placed at some signalized pedestrian crossings; people bicycling are to use the pedestrian crossing.
Image - Bikes Cross on Walk Signal Only Sign.

Push Button for Bike Crossing – Used at locations where push buttons are accessible from the bikeway; people bicycling must push button to get a green signal.
Image - Push Button For Bike Crossing Sign.

Sidewalk Users Walk Bikes – Used where sidewalk width or other conditions could make bicycle riding hazardous.
Image - Sidewalk Users Walk Bikes Sign.

Warning signs are diamond shaped with black words or symbols on a yellow or orange background. They are used to alert you
to possible hazards or a change in road conditions ahead. The following are examples of yellow warning signs.

Bike Lane Ends – Used where the bike lane abruptly terminates and the rider must merge with the through lane of traffic.
Image - Bike Lane Ends Sign.

Bicycle Railroad Crossing – Used where path of people bicycling crosses railroad tracks at an angle which may create the potential to deflect a bicycle wheel.
Image - Bicycle Railroad Crossing Sign.

Low Clearance – Warns people bicycling of clearances less than 8’-0” between the bike path and the structure.
Image - Low Clearance Sign.

Riding on Sidewalks

When people don’t feel comfortable riding in a bicycle lane or close to fast-moving vehicles, the sidewalk may appear to be the safest or most convenient place to ride. Sidewalks can be shared by multiple users, but they are not designed for people biking. Before riding on the sidewalk, consider the surrounding conditions. If you do ride on a sidewalk, try to ride in the same direction as traffic next to you, and adjust your riding habits for the safety of all sidewalk users by following these guidelines:

Slow down at driveways and street crossings. People driving are looking for people walking nearby, not fast moving bikes 
approaching from farther away. If you go too fast, drivers may not see you. If you crash, you may be found at fault if you were going too fast.

Image - Motorist crossing a sidewalk may not see you on a bicycle.
Motorist crossing a sidewalk may not see you on a bicycle.

Yield to people walking on sidewalks. Sidewalks are for people walking, not bicycling. Be courteous and ride cautiously. When
passing a person walking, slow down, give an audible warning, and wait for the person to move over. A bicycle bell works best. If you
must say something, make your intentions clear. For example, “passing on your left.” Keep in mind, a person may be hearing
impaired or wearing headphones.

Walk your bike in downtown areas. They are busy with people walking out of doorways, stopping to talk to each other or window
shopping. Some cities ban bicycle riding on their downtown sidewalks.

Image - Walk your bike on downtown sidewalks.
Walk your bike on downtown sidewalks

Riding in Separated Bicycle Lanes

Separated bicycle lanes are bicycle lanes that are separated from traffic by a vertical barrier like a curb or planter, not just painted
stripes. When riding in a separated bicycle lane, you have the same rights and responsibilities as riding in a bicycle lane. This type of
bicycle lane should feel more comfortable because you have more separation from other traffic. However, because of the vertical
barriers you will need to be sure to ride straight and plan ahead for your turns.

Riding on Paths

Paths are wider than sidewalks and designed to be shared by people walking and bicycling. They are often very comfortable places to ride because they are separated from traffic, but you should still ride cautiously and follow the rules of the road. Ride on the right and yield to slower traffic. Because paths are shared spaces, traveling at a slower speed makes it safer for everyone. There are often streets near paths for faster riders. When crossing a driveway or street, slow down and be sure drivers see you. Ride more slowly and alertly at night, when it’s harder to see the surface and edges of the path. People walking, jogging, skating, or other people riding bikes may come up from behind or in front of you. Bike bells can work well for communicating with other path users, but keep in mind
that many people may be listening to devices and so, they may not always hear your voice or your bell.

Riding Through Construction Zones

Riding a bicycle through a construction work zone can be intimidating.

Pre-trip planning can help make the trip a bit less stressful and safer. It may be possible to identify a alternate route around the
work zone.

However, if you must ride through a work zone, do the following:
  • Obey the rules of the road as you would in a motor vehicle.
  • Obey construction signs and look for bicycle-specific warning and detour signs.
  • Follow detour signing for bicycle routes, where applicable.
  • Follow detour signing for motor vehicles if sharing the road.
  • Stay out of the work area – do not ride behind the cones, barricades or barrier, unless instructed to do so.
  • Walk your bicycle across rough, uneven, or gravel surfaces.
  • Watch for steel plates in the roadway – they can be slippery!
  • Obey directions given by flaggers - they may have specific instructions for people biking.
  • Be alert, be visible, be patient.
  • Report any unsafe incidents to a flagger, police officer or other official on site, if necessary.
  • For emergencies, find a safe space to pull over and call 9-1-1.

Riding on Interstate Freeways

Pedestrians and people riding bicycles are banned on the following segments of interstate freeway:

I-84: from I-5 (MP 0) to:
122nd Street (MP 10.25) Eastbound
Sandy Blvd (MP 15.14) Westbound
Sandy Blvd (MP 15.14) Westbound
US 26: East of the Jefferson Street Interchange (MP 73.35)
I-5: from Beaverton-Tigard Highway Interchange, MP 292.20
to Delta Park Interchange, MP 306.70
I-205: North of the Oregon 43, MP 8.82
I-405: Whole length
US 30: From I-405, MP 0 to 23rd Street, MP 1.99

I-5: Barnet Road (South Medford) Interchange, MP 27.58 to the
Crater Lake Highway (North Medford) Interchange, MP 30.29.

What to Do in Case of a Crash

Check for injuries first. If someone is injured, call 911 for help right away. Administer first aid if you are trained. After the injured have been helped and removed from harm’s way, begin gathering information.

If someone has been struck by a car, ask the driver for name and address, vehicle registration number, driver’s license number, and insurance policy company and number. Oregon law requires motor vehicle owners to carry insurance that covers injuries to people bicycling and pedestrians, and to have proof of insurance.

Don’t discuss fault immediately after the collision. Be careful not to make statements at the scene of the crash, but do get information about witnesses if there are any.

Get information from witnesses. Ask witnesses, including passengers, their names and addresses. Do not depend on others to
take witness names and phone numbers.

Give your name and address. Travelers should carry identification and medical insurance information, especially when you cycle

Document the crash through photographs or video, if possible. Write down what you think happened as soon as possible.
Document your injuries and property damage as well. Save all receipts, medical included, and repair estimates. Contact your
insurance company if you have coverage on your bicycle or if you have an automobile insurance policy. You may also want to contact
an attorney.

In case of property damage over $2,500 or injury to a person, fill out a DMV traffic accident report within 72 hours.

Report Road Concerns


(888) 275-6368

Stay Connected

Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees

Public bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees (BPACs) meet regularly to provide public agencies advice on how to improve conditions for walking and bicycling. The Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (OBPAC) is a governor appointed committee that advises ODOT on pedestrian and bicycle issues. Many communities also have local bicycle or transportation advisory committees that you can get involved in. Advisory committee meetings are open to the public, so you can attend and provide comments even if you are not a member of the committee. Learn more about OBPAC and local BPACs at in the “Get Involved” section.

Other ODOT Active Transportation Resources

Get There Oregon

Learn bicycling routes, locate bike share stations, and join a bike pool with help from ODOT’s Transportation Options program.
Get There and its partners help commuters and other travelers plan routes, log trips to track miles, carbon emissions, calories burned
and more. Learn more at

Oregon Safe Routes to School

Oregon Safe Routes to School helps create safe, convenient, and fun opportunities for children to walk, bike and roll to and from
school. See this website for the latest resources and information about Safe Routes to School:

The Driver’s Field Guide to Sharing Oregon’s Roads

Learn the rules of the road and safe driving habits for sharing the road with people riding bikes with these ODOT resources:

​​​​​Table of Contents​