|Photo by Jonathan Maus of BikePortland|
I have experienced my fair share of "road rage" from drivers. (OK, "What is a 'fair share?' you ask.) Some times it came from the perception of "privilege" I have as a cyclist and, in at least one incident I can recall, the legitimate perception of my privilege as a white person. Other times, the rage was an expression of hostility from some other source, and I just happened to be in "the wrong place at the wrong time."
But, to be fair, I have to say that some drivers become--understandably, perhaps--frustrated because they just don't know how to act. Often, that is a result of fact that they're not, or haven't recently been, cyclists. But I suspect that another factor could be ignorance of the law (also understandable, sometimes) or that said statutes are vague or don't address the situation at hand.
Doug Parrow and Richard Hughes understood what I've just described. Fortunately for us, they're retired, so they had time to do the considerable legwork (pun intended) necessary to bring it to the attention of Oregon State Senator Floyd Prozanski and help him to bring it to the legislative body in which he works. The result is Senate Bill 895, which has passed both houses of the state's legislature. Next, it will go to the House floor and the Governor's desk, where it is likely to be signed into law.
This new regulation actually amends an older regulation that governs vehicles in a "no passing" zones. The extant law, similar to others in other jurisdictions, says that you can pass on the left in a "no passing" zone if the vehicle you're passing has turned on to another road, driveway or alley. It also says that you can move further to the left, and even cross a center line, in order to avoid an "obstruction."
That all seems straightforward enough. But like similar laws, it probably was drafted at a time when the "obstruction" was likely to be another motor vehicle, such as a truck that's taking up the whole lane or another vehicle that's disabled or has to, for whatever reason, travel at a slower speed. It might also be a work site, which is likely to be clearly marked and blocked by a truck. The law's framers probably didn't know any adult cyclists.
These days, of course, that "obstruction" might be a cyclist or a group of them. That was a frequent occurrence on Skyline Boulevard, popular with motorists and cyclists alike because of its sweeping curves, scenic views and proximity to downtown Portland. To address such situations, the new bill says that motorists must drive at least five miles per hour under the speed limit while passing, and amends the definition of "obstruction" to explicitly include "any person who is riding a bicycle or operating any other type of vehicle and who is travelling at less than one-half of the speed limit."