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Oregon bicycle law blog

Oregon's Bicycle Lighting Laws

In Oregon, bicycle lights and reflectors are required to be used in certain circumstances: when it is dark or when weather conditions limit visibility to less than 1,000 feet.

The law

Excerpt from ORS 815.280 Violation of bicycle equipment requirements

(1) A person commits the offense of violation of bicycle equipment requirements if the person does any of the following:

(a) Operates on any highway a bicycle in violation of the requirements of this section.

(b) Is the parent or guardian of a minor child or ward and authorizes or knowingly permits the child or ward to operate a bicycle on any highway in violation of the requirements of this section.

(2) A bicycle is operated in violation of this section if any of the following requirements are violated:

. . .

(c) At the times described in the following, a bicycle or its rider must be equipped with lighting equipment that meets the described requirements:

(A) The lighting equipment must be used during limited visibility conditions.

(B) The lighting equipment must show a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of a bicycle.

(C) The lighting equipment must have a red reflector or lighting device or material of such size or characteristic and so mounted as to be visible from all distances up to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlights on a motor vehicle.

People riding on sidewalks also have to use lights

“Highway” is a term that is used in Oregon’s statutory laws. In the law, a highway is not just a major thoroughfare. It is “every public way, road, street, thoroughfare, and place” that is “used or intended for the use of the general public for vehicles or vehicular traffic as a matter of right.” ORS 801.305.

Interestingly, this a definition of highway includes the sidewalk. A sidewalk is included in Oregon law as “a portion of the highway”. ORS 801.485. Therefore, a bicycle operator is required to use lights even while operating on the sidewalk or any other area open to the public’s vehicles.

Wearing lights

“A bicycle or its operator must be equipped” means that a person who clips a light to their messenger bag or helmet is in compliance with the law.

When are lights required?

Oregon law requires that all bicycle operators use lights in “limited visibility conditions.”

“Limited visibility conditions” does not just include nighttime when it is dark. The law actually defines it as anytime from sunset to sunrise and any other time that “due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions” you are not able to discern other persons and vehicles at a distance of 1,000 feet. The law requires the use of lights if the darkness or weather makes it difficult to see.

What lights are required?

Oregon law requires a front white light in limited visibility conditions. A front clear reflector will not suffice to satisfy the equipment requirement. A rear red reflector, or rear red reflective material will comply with the law so long as it can be seen from 600 feet to the rear.

Charley Gee is a personal injury lawyer in Portland, Oregon. He exclusively represents injured people against insurance companies and corporations and he focuses his practice on the representation of injured bicyclists and pedestrians.

Thank you to Kara Bredahl who assisted in the research for this post.

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