Oregon Ebike Laws

Last Edited
November 16, 2021

Oregon Ebike Laws

Christian Angelo

The state of Oregon ranks second in the bike-friendly ratings awarded by the League of American Bicyclists. Its cities have high designations in the award database - from bronze to platinum. People in Oregon consider cycling as an essential mode of transport with numerous benefits - traffic congestion reduction, public health improvement, and greenhouse gas reduction of the state. 

Oregon is just a special place for you and your bicycle. There are even industries that specialize in bike tourism for visiting tourists who want to enjoy the Oregon riding experience. 

What makes Oregan exemplary is that electric bicycles are also given importance. In this article, you will know the state-specific electric bike laws in Oregon. 

Oregon Bicycling Manual

The Oregon Bicycling Manual is now in its 5th edition. It was prepared and published by the Public Transportation and Transportation Safety Divisions at Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). The manual itself is a manifestation that Oregon gives importance to the bicycling community. This serves as a definitive guide for bike enthusiasts in Oregon. 

Oregon’s electric bicycle laws

Oregon is one of the few states that has a specific definition of an electric bicycle but does not incorporate the usual three-tier classification system. In Oregon, an e-bike is called an “electric assist bicycle” with the definition of:

“a vehicle that Is designed to be operated on the ground on wheels; has a seat or saddle for use of the rider;  is designed to travel with not more than three wheels in contact with the ground; has both fully operative pedals for human propulsion and an electric motor; and is equipped with an electric motor that: has a power output of not more than 1,000 watts; and is incapable of propelling the vehicle at a speed of greater than 20 miles per hour on level ground.

Although e-bikes are considered as a bike, there are different rules that apply to e-bikes. First, the minimum age for e-bike operation is 16. E-bikes can be driven in bicycle lanes and on paths, but prohibited on sidewalks. In the absence of a bicycle lane, you can ride in the lane with traffic. Both public and private lands are subject to its own rules so it’s better to read about the regulations in your area before purchasing or riding an e-bike.

While helmets are only required for riders below 16 years old, it is recommended for everyone to wear a fully approved protective headgear to prevent injury or potential brain damage during a crash.  

The use of lights during nighttime is mandated by law. Your e-bike must have a front white light that is visible from at least 500 feet away, and a rear red light that is visible from at least 600 feet away. White reflectors are not as effective, insufficient, and not legal. 

Other safety guidelines and traffic rules

Additional lights and reflective gear attached on your helmet, chest, back, arms, and legs can be useful. You can also wear light or bright colored clothes such as neon yellow and lime green that are unique to the dark surroundings to make you more visible.

Adding audible signal equipment can be a great way to alert drivers and pedestrians around you. A bicycle bell or a horn are great examples. These tools can be used to signal caution to pedestrians or drivers. Side mirrors are also great tools that help you become more aware of your surroundings. Taking a careful glance on the side mirrors before making a turn is a common practice for riders and drivers.

You should always ride in a straight line in the same direction as the traffic. This way, it will be easier for drivers to see you or yield to you. In bicycle lanes, follow the direction of the arrow on the pavement. Bike lanes are usually beside the closest traffic lane. 

You cannot ride against the traffic. This is prohibited by the law. There are people who think that riding against traffic would be safer because they can easily see upcoming traffic and can be easily seen by oncoming vehicle drivers as well. This perception is very dangerous because it actually puts you at a higher risk for head-on collision since drivers are not expecting a vehicle moving towards them. 

Bicycles and electric bicycles are required to ride on bicycle lanes unless there are certain hazards to avoid, the lane is too narrow for bicycles to ride side by side, or the rider is making a left turn.

In the absence of a bicycle lane, the general rule is to ride on the right side as practical as possible. This does not mean to literally stay on the most right side. You don’t have to stay too close to the curb because it can be dangerous. If you want to discourage other drivers from passing you without caution in a narrow lane, you can try to position yourself closer to the center.

Hand signals are essential to communicating with other drivers. Remember that your e-bike may not have signal lights unlike cars and motorcycles. A left-turn signal can be done by extending your left arm and hand horizontally. A right-turn signal can be done by raising your left arm up with a bent elbow, or right arm horizontally. A stop signal can be done by extending the left arm, and bending the elbow at a 90-degree angle. Do this before making a turn so you can still manage to have both arms in the handlebars.

In the state of Oregon, there are bicycle signals located at some intersections. These signals are dedicated for bicycles only to improve safety when passing intersections. These signals operate similarly as standard traffic lights - green, yellow, red. Red means stop, while green means go. These bicycle signals are clear because they are displayed with a “BICYCLE” word or icon.

To enjoy your electric bicycle…

Make sure to follow the traffic rules and electric bicycle-specific laws. E-bikes are generally subject to the same laws as standard bicycles do. E-bikes can only be operated by persons above 16 years old. Helmets are only required for riders below 16 but are recommended for everyone’s safety. Use of lights after dark is also required. Remember to use hand signals so that motorists will be aware of your actions.

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