To make roads safer for cyclists, states and cities around the country have enacted laws requiring a “buffer zone” between cars and bicycles.
Buffer zones increase the space between bikes and cars, and are usually marked with painted strips and sometimes with images of bicycles on the pavement. A raised strip of pavement between cars and cyclists prevents motorists from driving into the buffer zone and allows cyclists to safely avoid traffic and parked cars.
State Bicycle Buffer Zone Laws
In 1973, Wisconsin became the first state to pass a bicycle buffer zone safe passing law. Since then, approximately 33 states and D.C. have similar safe passing laws. In most cases, states require a three-foot distance between cars and bikes.
In September 2013, California signed into law Assembly Bill 1371 the “Three Feet for Safety Act,” requiring drivers passing other cars or bikes to pass with at least three feet between their vehicles and the cycle or vehicle being passed. A driver violating the three-foot buffer zone can be fined from $35 to up to $100 for a first ticket and $250 for any subsequent tickets or if a collision occurs that harms the bike rider.
Oregon State law ORS 811.065 (Unsafe Passing of a Person Operating a Bicycle) states “The driver of a motor vehicle may only pass a person operating a bicycle by driving to the left of the bicycle at a safe distance and returning to the lane of travel once the motor vehicle is safely clear of the overtaken bicycle. A ‘safe distance’ means a distance that is sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.
Bike Zones in Portland
Cyclists riding in and around the Portland area must navigate through roads and intersections which may or may not contain bike zones. The Portland Citywide Bike Map is your best guide for locating streets that give priority to cyclists.
Bike lanes throughout the Portland area, which must be integrated with existing streets and intersections, are often awkwardly designed and confusing. The state-wide mandatory bike lane law requires cyclists to use these lanes. Until new bike-friendly designed roads replace old outdated ones, bikers and motorists need to be extra cautious.
The Bicycle Accidents section on this website will tell you what you need to do in the event of a bicycle accident.