The No-Nonsense Guide To Texas Bicycle Laws

Texas A&M has fairly comprehensive summary of Texas bicycle laws, but we’ve noticed people’s eyes tend to glaze over when they read exhaustive lists of rules. So, let’s just talk about the most important Texas bicycle laws in a way that will be easier to remember.

If You’re In A Car or Truck: Treat Cyclists Like Any Other Vehicle

If you wouldn’t do it to a car, don’t do it to a bicycle. That includes turning in front of them, tailgating them, or passing them without enough space between your two vehicles. As Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Texas bicycle laws and regulations FAQ says, if “the cyclist adheres to all the discussed rules of the road and bicycle laws, bicycles are entitled to all rights of the road that apply to a motor vehicle, including access.”

Same goes for a cyclist who “takes the lane” by riding in the middle of the road. The Texas Transportation Code tells cyclists to ride “as near as practicable” to the right curb⁠—but it also has plenty of exceptions. For example, they can ride on the left curb on a one-way street.

If you’re not a cyclist, don’t bother memorizing these exceptions, just focus on keeping everybody safe. You’re not going to win points by “being right” about when a cyclist should or shouldn’t ride in the middle, but you can avoid a tragedy by simply being mindful no matter what they’re doing.

Cyclists are supposed to use hand signals to indicate where they’re going. They can point left with their left arm, point right with their right arm, or put their left hand straight up to turn right. Cyclists don’t always follow these rules—often because they want to keep both hands on the handlebars—and that can frustrate drivers, but you’ll always be in the clear if you just give cyclists enough room and watch out for them like you would any other vehicle.

If you and a cyclist get to an intersection at the same time, who goes first? Simple: use the same rule as you would for cars. That’s the answer to almost every question you might have, just treat the cyclist like you would any other vehicle.

Bicycle Accident Attorney - Understanding Texas bicycle laws

If You’re On A Bike: Act Like A Vehicle To Be Treated Like A Vehicle

At Thompson Law, we know how it is as a cyclists. Some of us are cyclists, as well, and thus pay attention to Texas bicycle laws both personally and professionally. We can bleed our own disc brake fluid and we can do our own derailleur adjustments (we use GCN’s guide to indexing gears). Driving in the road is scary, and sometimes the cars seem out to get us.

The biggest debate we see is over sharing the lane (riding near the curb) versus taking the lane (riding in the middle). The Texas bicycle laws related to the transportation code says “a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway,” but there’s a pretty big caveat to that. Notice what the full Section 551.103 says:

a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:

(4)  the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is:

(A)  less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or

(B)  too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.

That’s a big exception! Most of the roads in Texas don’t have a designated bicycle lane, and whether a road is “too narrow to safely travel side by side” is subjective.

TxDOT Guide to Safe Bicycling says, “when you move to the center of the lane, it establishes your position and prevents motorists from passing until there’s enough room. Be considerate of others.” We think that’s a pretty good guide: if you don’t think a car can pass you safely, then take the lane, which will help them understand they need to treat you like a vehicle. But don’t try to irritate drivers if you don’t need to for your own safety.

Similarly, if you want other drivers to treat you like a vehicle, then you need to act like a vehicle. That means using hand signals and following road signs. If you saw another car turn or change lanes without using their turn signals, you’d think it was rude and unsafe. Same with a car that rolls through a stop sign or red light. That’s how it looks to cars if you don’t use hand signals or you cruise through a stop.

Bike wreck lawyer guide to Texas bicycle laws

Where And How To Bike Safely In Texas

BikeTexas has been running a “benchmark study” to figure out the baseline for cyclist and pedestrian safety, including already looking at Amarillo, Arlington, Austin, Brownsville, Carrollton, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Fort Worth, Frisco, Garland, Grand Prairie, Irving, Laredo, Lewisville, Lubbock, McAllen, McKinney, Mesquite, New Braunfels, Plano, Richardson, San Antonio, San Marcos, and we encourage you to take a look if you’re interested. These will help you ensure you are compliant with Texas bicycle laws.

TxDOT also has interactive bikeway maps for the same areas. Like most cities, the bikeways are a patchwork, but, with a little bit of planning in advance, you can get almost anywhere. In the DFW area, there are more off-street bikeways in the McKinney, Plano, and Arlington areas, but paths can be planned anywhere.

For safety, the #1 and #2 things you can do is to wear a helmet and to avoid riding in the dark. The vast majority of bicycle deaths involve riders not wearing a helmet. Further, only a fraction of cyclists ride in the dark, but 50% of the bicycle crash fatalities in Texas occurred in the dark.

If You Have Been Injured in a Bicycle Accident, Thompson Law Can Help

If you are asking yourself “When should I contact a personal injury lawyer after a bike accident,” the answer is NOW! Thompson Law’s bicycle accident lawyers offer FREE CASE REVIEWS, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Further, we charge NO FEE unless we win. You will not incur any attorney fees, court costs, legal expenses, or any other costs unless we recover money on your behalf for your bike accident. If we do obtain a settlement for you, our fee will only come out of a portion of the settlement.

If you’ve been in a bicycle accident, contact us today for a free, confidential consultation regarding your accident and Texas bicycle laws.

No Win No Fee lawyer for bike accidents

The statute of limitations in Texas is 2 years in most injury accidents, such as a bike wreck. If you have been injured in a bike accident, call our experienced Texas bike accident lawyers today for a ZERO COST, NO-OBLIGATION CONSULTATION. The sooner you know your options, the faster you’ll be on the path to recovery. Call us today and take action to protect your right to a full value monetary recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Texas Bicycle Laws

What traffic laws apply to cyclists, and which do not?

In Texas, bicycles are generally granted the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles, as stipulated in the Tex. Transp. Code § 551.101, as well as in Title 7, Subtitle C. Rules of the Road, Chapters 541 – 600. This includes both traditional bicycles and electric bicycles, defined as a bike with fully operable pedals, an electric motor of fewer than 750 watts, and a top speed less than 28 mph (Tex. Transp. Code § 664.001).

Here’s a brief overview of the laws:

  • Bicycles should be ridden as far to the right as practicable if moving slower than traffic (Tex. Transp. Code § 551.103).
  • Only one person should be carried per bicycle at a time, unless the bike is designed and equipped to carry more.
  • Bicyclists must keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
  • Hand signals must be used to indicate stopping, turning left, or turning right.
  • A bicycle should be equipped with a brake capable of causing a braked wheel to skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
  • Nighttime biking requires a front headlamp visible from at least 500 feet and a rear red reflector or lamp visible from 300 or 500 feet, respectively.

These rules apply unless a specific statutory right or duty applicable to a cyclist is altered by Tex. Transp. Code Chapter 551, or a right or duty cannot by its nature apply to a person operating a bicycle.

Can bicycles legally be driven on sidewalks?

There is no state law prohibiting the riding of bicycles on sidewalks in Texas. Rather, the legality of riding bicycles on sidewalks varies by city within Texas.

While some cities permit bicycling on the sidewalk, others prohibit it, considering it a safety risk for pedestrians. For instance, in the city of Austin, it is legal to ride on sidewalks except in certain areas where it’s expressly prohibited. In contrast, in the city of Houston, riding bicycles on sidewalks is generally prohibited in business districts.

When is it legal for a bicyclist to “take the lane” of traffic?

In Texas, bicyclists moving slower than other traffic are generally required to ride as close as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway. However, they are permitted to “take the lane” in certain situations, as per Tex. Transp. Code § 551.103. These situations include:

  • When passing another vehicle moving in the same direction.
  • When preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway.
  • When there are unsafe conditions on the roadway, including fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, or surface hazards that prevent the cyclist from safely riding next to the curb or edge of the roadway.
  • When the lane is less than 14 feet wide without a designated bicycle lane adjacent to it, making it unsafe for a bicycle and motor vehicle to travel side by side.

What hand signals are bicyclists required to make?

In Texas, bicyclists are required to use specific hand signals to indicate their intentions to other road users. The following signals are stipulated in the Tex. Transp. Code § 545.107:

  • Left Turn: Extend your left hand and arm horizontally. This indicates that you plan to turn left.
  • Right Turn: Extend your right hand and arm horizontally, or alternatively extend your left hand and arm upward. Both signals indicate an intention to make a right turn.
  • Stop or Decrease Speed: Extend your left hand and arm downward. This indicates that you plan to stop or reduce your speed.

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