Election season being in temporary remission and letters to the editor having dried up, it is clearly time to return for another exciting episode of Courtside.

As you may recall, when last we left the conversation, it may have appeared that pedestrians in Oregon have it all their own way in regard to their use of the roads. “But wait,” as they say on late night TV, “There’s more!” Basic journalistic fairness means we need to take a look at just what obligations pedestrians have to drivers.

ORS 814.010 through ORS 814.120 cover the rules of the road for pedestrians — and yes, there are rules for the walky types. The legislature has pulled no punches and dives directly on the issue with ORS 814.010, which discusses “Appropriate responses to traffic control devices.”

Unlike my never-ending quest to explain to people what a solid yellow light means in Oregon (all together now — “solid yellow in Oregon means STOP!”), most people seem to at least grasp the theory behind the standard pedestrian traffic control devices. The little white guy means “go ahead,” and the little reddish-orange one means “stay put.” Reading is fundamental in some areas, as the little guys have not yet replaced been by the words “Walk,” “Wait,” or “Don’t Walk,” also in “white, reddish, and reddish” respectively. I trust that the column’s readers do not need lessons on basic literacy and the words are self-explanatory.

What about those intersections that have neither little guys nor words, just regular traffic lights? The pedestrian needs merely to pretend he is in a vehicle and obey the appropriate traffic light. If he’s facing a red light — or solid yellow — then he “shall not enter the roadway” unless directed by some other signal (e.g. a walk light). If he’s facing a green light, he may proceed across the street in that direction. He may also proceed on a green arrow, unless prohibited by other devices (e.g. the red light he’d be facing if he went to cross the street). The penalty for failure to obey a traffic control device? Class D violation - maximum fine $250, presumptive fine $110. Pedestrians also, I mention in passing, are required to obey bridge and railroad signals. Basically, if a car couldn’t legally proceed, neither may a pedestrian.

The second area of concern — pay attention here, all you high school students and parents of same — is ORS 814.040, which is the failure to yield to a vehicle. Yes, that’s right — a pedestrian has no magical superior right of way over an oncoming car, regardless of what urban myth he may have bought into, if there is no traffic control device controlling the intersection. If a pedestrian “suddenly leaves a curb or other place of safety and moves into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard,” it is the pedestrian’s fault, not the vehicle’s fault. To rephrase in simpler terms — you can’t play games by jumping out in front of cars and believing that the car has the obligation to stop. Likewise if the pedestrian is crossing the street anywhere but a marked crosswalk, the vehicle has the right of way. The only place a pedestrian does not need to yield a right of way is when he is proceeding in a marked crosswalk — but even then, bear in mind that when he is proceeding in a marked crosswalk a pedestrian is still not allowed to create a hazard by suddenly leaving the sidewalk (or other place of safety). Violation? A class D offense again.

Miscellaneous pedestrian rules include the obvious “must use a pedestrian bridge or tunnel,” “must use a sidewalk or shoulder if available,” “must walk facing traffic when possible,” and “it’s okay to proceed from a disabled vehicle to the nearest exit, even if walking the wrong way.”

Easily the best part of the statutory section on pedestrians is the combination of ORS 814.070(1)(c)(A), which exempts hitchhikers from the violation “improper position upon highway,” when placed in combination with ORS 814.080 — which prohibits hitchhiking. As best I can tell that means that people who aren’t allowed to do something are allowed to do it the wrong way. Or something like that.

Next time on Courtside it’s the season for motorcycles, and Reader Kricket has asked for some discussion on a recent Motorcycle Consumer News article about those awesome two wheeled machines of fun and joy.

In the meantime, Courtside is in recess – but questions about court and court procedures, to hermistoncourtside@gmail.com, are always in order.

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