Oregon Skateboarding Laws: The Basics

Skateboarding was once considered a fad, a momentary craze; something that would fade out as fast as cork-soled clogs and the beehive hairdo. It would now seem, however, that skateboarding is here to stay.  It is heavily featured in extreme sports competitions worldwide, and in Oregon, moving around on a thin wooden board with four wheels attached seems to be popular with kids from 6 to 76.

In fact, the City of Portland and the State of Oregon are taking the skateboarding “craze” so seriously, they have passed laws to govern the use of skateboards in public places.

It wasn’t easy to get the Oregon skateboarding laws passed that allowed skateboarders to share city streets with cars, buses and trucks. When the ordinance was proposed that effectively legitimized the use of skateboards in public places, back in December of 2000, the mayor of the day, Vera Katz, said she felt spending council time debating such an ordinance was “utterly foolish.” In spite of the objections, City Ordinance 20.12.205 was passed on January 26, 2001, and while skateboarders around Portland and Oregon rejoiced, the bill, the new laws do place a number of restrictions and provisions upon the use of skateboards. In Portland, those provisions include:

  • Skateboards may not be used in the downtown core area, which is the zone between SW Jefferson, Naito Parkway, NW Hoyt and 13th Avenue. All other city streets and sidewalk are fair game.
  • Another no-go area is the Tri-Met bus mall on 5th and 6th Avenues; the streets and sidewalks there are prohibited in terms of skateboarding use.
  • Anyone 16 or under must, by law (and through pure common sense) must wear a helmet when skateboarding in public. Fines will be issued for those who don’t obey, and if they’re below the age of majority, the parents will be forced to pay the fines (usually $25).
  • Between sunset and sunrise, boarders must have on their person or their board a white light and a rear red light or at least a reflector. Yes, we are talking about skateboards, not just bicycles!
  • Speaking of bikes, the new ordinance applies the same rules to skateboarders as to cyclists when operating on or near public streets, sidewalks and bike paths, including:
    • Skateboarders must yield to pedestrians
    • Motorists must yield to skateboarders in crosswalks, whether marked or unmarked.
    • Skateboarders may not pass motor vehicles on the right (in the absence of a bike/skateboard lane).
    • Skateboarders must stay as far to the right side of the road as possible.
  • It is completely illegal to skateboard on private property without the owner’s permission.
  • Damaging any ledges, stairs, rails or other urban architecture is seriously frowned upon, and the Portland Police Bureau have every intention of cracking down on the practice.
  • Other restrictions to skateboarding in public areas named in the same ordinance include using skateboards on:
    • Brickwork
    • Cobblestones
    • Ornamental surfaces
    • Picnic tables
    • Tennis courts
    • Fountain areas
    • Planters
    • Sculptures

While the above rules may appear to place too many restrictions on the use of skateboards, Portland has actually been quite proactive in creating safe environments for those who prefer to use manually powered means of transportation. Remember as well that, except for the few places listed above, it is perfectly legal to skateboard on any city street or sidewalk.

In addition, the City of Portland has actually designated certain downtown streets as “preferred skating routes, and those streets will actually have signs to show they are skate routes. Apart from these streets, which are located in the heart of the city, officials recommend that skateboarders use designated bike routes as the safest option.

State statutes are also in place

Outside Portland, the State of Oregon has enacted a number of laws dealing with skateboarding. The laws and penalties for non-compliance are as follows:

  • Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 814.485 deals with the failure to wear an approved helmet by someone aged 16 or under, in a public place. Oregon considers this a traffic infraction and can impose a fine of up to $72, but ORS814.600 says the fine for skateboarders is $25.
  • ORS 814.488 says that anyone aged 11 or under will not receive a citation…but their parents will. Between the ages of 12 and 16, the citation can be given to either the child or a parent or guardian, but not both.

Skateboarding is clearly not going to go away any time soon, if ever. In Portland, it seems to be growing in popularity with an increasingly young fan base.

The rules of the road that apply to bicyclists also apply to skateboarders, but then again, the rights enjoyed by bicyclists also apply to skateboarders. You have the right to use Oregon roads and Portland streets, the same as cars and other motorized vehicles.

Unfortunately, motorists frequently ignore bicyclists and skateboarders, or fail to see them in time to avoid a collision. And like bicyclists, skateboarders have very little by way of protection from the much larger, faster, more powerful vehicles on the road.

If you’ve been injured by another road user and it wasn’t your fault, you have the right to be compensated for your medical bills, any lost income, and for your pain and suffering. To find out exactly what your rights under Oregon law are, contact a Portland personal injury lawyer who specializes in such accidents.

The consultation is free, and a good accident attorney will be able to give you a good idea of the kind of compensation you can expect to receive. They will guide you through the process, deal with the insurance companies and make sure your rights are protected.