If you are an avid cyclist in Portland, you are probably aware of the many traffic laws you have to obey to get along on our congested streets. While most of the same rules apply to both cyclists and motor vehicles to keep everyone safe, cyclists are always in greater danger of getting hurt when they’re getting around town. There are some rules in place to protect cyclists specifically, many of which may be unknown to those testing the waters as a Portland cyclist commuter.

One of the key ways to stay safe while cycling around Portland is to be visible to everyone around you, which, in the lovely Pacific Northwest weather we’re used to, means bright, reflective gear and lights. Headlights, rear lights, flashing lights are all given two thumbs up by the Oregon Bike Light Law.

Active vs. Passive Lights

The Oregon Bike Light Law requires cyclists to use different types of lighting under different conditions. In “limited visibility conditions” that are prevalent during rainy or foggy days, a bicycle must be equipped with both “active” and “passive” lights. What do these terms mean?

Active lights are the type of lights that come to mind when we think of bike lights. These are lights that require some action on your part to activate. Typically, these are electric lights that run on a battery and must be turned on before it starts to work.

Passive lights don’t require the cyclist to do anything for them to work. These are reflectors or any kind of reflective material on your bike. As long as a light source aims at the area on your bike that has reflective material on it, it works. Of course, this doesn’t work in daytime and it isn’t as visible as active lighting, which is why Oregon requires both. Think about reflectors as an added safety mechanism in case your active lights fail.

For the most part, all new bicycles sold in the United States come with legally required reflectors, but not the required active lights due to the fact that most recreational riders avoid riding at night or when visibility is poor. If you ride an older bike, you are not required to have reflectors, and there is no law against taking reflectors off any bike; however, you should always have active lights in case you find yourself riding on a cloudy day or at night.

What kind of lights do I need at night?

By state law, you are required to have working lights when riding after dark or in limited visibility conditions. The light can be on worn by you or mounted on your bicycle, and it must meet specific requirements.

  • A white light that is visible for at least 500 feet forward
  • A red light or reflector visible for at least 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of the lower headlight beams on a motor vehicle.

What if I just don’t add lights?

Busy, well-lit city streets flooded with a never-ending stream of functional headlights may make a cyclist question whether or not it’s necessary to purchase extra equipment. Setting aside the fact that it’s against the law not to meet these minimum requirements, it’s important for cyclists to understand just how risky riding in poor visibility or at night really is.

Consider this statistic: 46% of all cycling fatalities occur at night, while only 8% of the cyclists involved in these accidents have the proper lighting gear. Don’t become a statistic, light your bike!

It may also be worth noting that although it’s highly unlikely you’d receive a citation for forgoing lights (even though if you do, the ticket can range between $60 to over $100), in the event that you are struck and injured by a motorist, the fact that you did not have lights when you were legally required to could cause your personal injury claim to be denied.

Don’t take the risk. Equip yourself with everything necessary to make yourself seen on the roads. In the event of a bicycle accident in Portland, RizkLaw can help you file a claim and receive a just settlement for your injuries. Call (503) 245-5677 for a free legal consultation.