Jaywalking in Oregon

It wasn’t always the case that a motorist could kill pedestrians without penalty:

[A] 1923 editorial from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch […] opined that even in the case of a child darting out into traffic, a driver who disclaimed responsibility was committing “the perjury of a murderer.”

The [automobile] industry lobbied to change the law […] to restrict pedestrian use of the street and give primacy to cars. The idea of “jaywalking” – a concept that had not really existed prior to 1920 – was enshrined in law.

From: “The Invention of Jaywalking”, The Atlantic Cities

But, in fair Oregon, the law is on the side of the pedestrian. In short, jaywalking is not illegal in Oregon.  That is, there are no statutes in Oregon that deem jaywalking illegal, and, as Ray Thomas put it:

What is not taken away is given.

That does not mean that you cannot get a traffic ticket as a pedestrian.

Essentially, if it is indicated that you can’t begin to cross a street at a crosswalk — by a traffic light that is green or orange when there is no pedestrian light saying otherwise or by a pedestrian “don’t walk” sign — it is illegal to cross at the light (ORS 814.010 and 814.020).  Also, if there is a pedestrian tunnel or overpass nearby, it is illegal to cross the street at ground level (ORS 814.060).  But otherwise, you can cross the street.  Of course, you don’t have the right of way unless you are in a crosswalk.  So, that means if there are cars coming and they would have to slow down to avoid hitting you, then you can’t legally cross.  Fail to meet these criteria in your crossings could find you with a $90 fine.

So, look both ways and feel free to cross mid-block.  Of course, don’t “suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and move into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.” ORS 814.040 (1)(a)

One thought on “Jaywalking in Oregon

  1. John Roullier

    Motorists,cyclists and pedestrians should read this and then sit and walk the action on Monroe street in the University district when school is in session and watch the multitude of rules being broken. Crazy !!

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