Texas Rules of the Road for Cyclists & Drivers
Whether you primarily ride your bicycle to navigate the streets of Austin, Texas or prefer to use an automobile, safely sharing the road between cyclists and motorists is everyone’s responsibility. Based on 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), bicyclist fatalities reached 846 total across the country. Although this number represents a 2.9% drop from 2018, it is obviously not enough. Collisions between cars and bicyclists need to drop to zero before we can really say that our streets are safe for everyone. To do your part to prevent bicycle accidents, it helps to know not only the rules of the road but also general bicycle safety laws as well.
Bicycle Laws Specific to Austin, Texas
Every state, county, and city can have its own unique set of bicycle laws, and Austin is no exception. Before you head out on the road or bike paths of any city, take a moment to familiarize yourself with local rules.
When riding or driving in Austin, keep these bike-related laws in mind:
- Children ages 17 or younger must wear a helmet at all times when riding. However, you should always wear a Department of Transportation approved helmet whenever you ride, regardless of any local rules.
- Riding a bicycle on the sidewalks in Austin is generally allow, but there are certain streets throughout the city that prohibit it. You can call your nearest sheriff’s department for information about prohibited areas. Local bicycle shops are also a good source of bicycle road-sidewalk rules in any town.
- If you ride your bicycle around the University of Texas at Austin, then remember that sidewalks are reserved for pedestrians and that you must use a bike rack when departing your bicycle and leaving it unattended.
- Many bicycle lanes around Austin also double as parking lanes for automobiles. If you are driving, always check any posted parking signs to see if you can legally park there. If you are biking, do not be shocked to find a car parked in your bike lane up ahead – it could be completely legal!
- Bicyclists have the right-of-way when in a bike lane. Vehicles need to yield to bicyclists when they want to enter, pass through, or turn into an occupied bicycle lane.
Digital Bike Map of Austin
It is unlawful to ride your bicycle on many streets in Austin and throughout Texas. Instead, you will need to plan your route as a bicyclist using dedicated bike lanes, paths, and other passages that permit bicycle use. The City of Austin official website has a helpful bike map of Austin available in PDF form: http://austintexas.gov/page/biking-austin. Take a look before your next ride to verify that you can get from point A to point B safely and lawfully.
Act Like You are a Motor Vehicle
When you are using your bicycle on the streets rather than a dedicated bike lane or sidewalk, you should follow the same traffic laws as the motorists around you. Stop at lights and signs, yield when you do not have the right-of-way, signal when you want to turn, ride only when sober, never ride against traffic, and so forth.
You should also try to stay slightly to the side of your lane if it is wide enough to do so safely. Wearing bright and reflective clothing is also advised to make it easier for motorists to spot you, especially after dark. Although, remember that many roads in Austin do not permit bicyclists on them, so you should keep roadway riding to a minimum.
What Should You Do When Sharing the Road with Cyclists?
Motorists have just as much responsibility to share the road as bicyclists do. Whenever you are driving, you should be aware of ways you can safely drive near or next to bicyclists.
Seven share-the-road tips for drivers are:
- Stay out of bike lanes as much as possible. In Austin, driving in a bicycle lane may be unlawful in many cases, which means you would pose a threat to cyclists and your own driving record.
- Keep at least three feet between you and a bicyclist whenever possible. The three-foot rule is widely accepted, despite it not being an actual law in Texas.
- When you pass a cyclist, remember the three-foot rule and move slowly. You do not want to surprise them or risk clipping their back tire.
- Yield to bicyclists whenever you can, just as you would with a pedestrian.
- When turning through a bicycle lane, double-check for any approaching bicyclists. The same is true whenever turning right because a cyclist could be on the right-most edge of your lane.
- Do not assume that a bicyclist knows your vehicle is approaching. When possible, meet the eyes of a cyclist to confirm that you see each other.
- Use caution when you open your door into a bike lane or the sidewalk because you could swing it right into an approaching cyclist.
How Can a Cyclist Attorney Help Make Sense of a Claim?
As can be seen, there is plenty of bicycle safety and road rules in Austin. There are even more when you consider Texas-wide rules and laws, as well as expectations set by the federal Department of Transportation. How can you be expected to make sense of everything if you do get hurt while riding your bicycle?
A simple solution is to work with a trusted bicycle accident attorney, like the lawyers you can find here at Howry, Breen & Herman in Austin. Many cyclists throughout Austin recognize Attorney Sean Breen as an active advocate for bicyclist rights and increased roadway safety throughout the city. We are also reputable throughout legal and cycling communities as the law firm that won the 2004 Lance Armstrong case.
For more than 25 years, we have been representing the wrongfully injured, including bicyclists in Texas and across the country. We know the ins and outs of liability and safety laws that could influence your case. Our team can also network with experts from various industries to strengthen your claim with unique pieces of evidence.
To see how we can help you with a claim, call (512) 430-4844 and arrange a free consultation. You only pay our attorney fees if we win your case!