Local and State Bike Laws for Austin, TX Residents
With each passing year, Texas embraces bicyclists a little more. Austin, in particular, is home to a network of bike-friendly routes. Like vehicles, bicyclists must adhere to local and state traffic laws. Before you head out on Texas roadways, learn the applicable laws and recommendations. Knowing your rights and responsibilities will help you safely navigate through the city and the countryside.
Texas State Bicycle Laws
At the state level, bicyclists must:
- Maintain the same rights and responsibilities of vehicle drivers. All cyclists must follow traffic signals, ride with the flow of traffic, and stop at relevant lights.
- Travel as far to the right side of the road as is safe. Bicyclists can use a full lane when necessary but should strive to travel along the rightmost side of the road when possible.
- Keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. Stop if you need to take both hands off the handlebars. Move to a recreational facility to perform hands-free stunts on a bike.
- Ride bicycles featuring a white light at the front of the bike and a red light or reflector at the back. These nighttime riding features improve visibility, making biking safer for both bicyclists and vehicles.
- Use appropriate hand signals to indicate turns and deceleration/stops. Extend your arm straight out to the left to indicate a left turn. Bend your arm up at the elbow (like you’re giving a high five) or straight out to the right to indicate a right turn. To stop, extend your arm out to the left and bend it down at the elbow. You may want to use other signals to indicate speed, obstacles, and other variables if you ride as part of a bicycling group.
Austin Bicycle Laws
If you’re cycling in the city of Austin, keep these laws in mind:
- Only certain riders must wear helmets. City ordinances require children ages 17 and under to wear helmets while operating bicycles. Neither the city nor the state imposes a helmet law on adults, but we highly recommend wearing one. A helmet can make the difference between a slight concussion and permanent brain injury in a vehicle vs. bicycle collision.
- Bicyclists can’t ride on the sidewalks in some areas. In fact, the city bans riding on the sidewalk in several areas of town. Because many other cities impose similar laws, consider avoiding sidewalks altogether.
- Bicyclists must adhere to certain riding restrictions. While on the roadways, cyclists must use the far right lane available to traffic, the center of a lane if vehicles park along the curb, or on the right side of streets without lanes. Bicyclists may not drive between vehicles in traffic.
- The city requires vehicles to yield to bicycles in bike lanes when turning. While the rule exists, many vehicles may continue to cut off bicyclists. Use caution around high traffic turns to avoid a collision with a non-compliant driver.
- The city bans vehicle parking in some bike lanes. If clearly marked with signs, vehicles must avoid parking in bike lanes. These prohibitions do not currently extend to all bike lanes, but bicyclists can call 311 and file a report detailing the issue with the Transportation Department.
Staying Safe as a Road Bicyclist
Many state and local laws in Texas involve common sense considerations. In addition to basic legal requirements, consider safe driving practices like riding with a seasoned bicyclist or joining a local riding group to gain experience on the roadways before riding on your own. Avoid high traffic and difficult roadway routes at first.
Bicycles handle similarly to vehicles, but there are many more potential hazards. In vehicle-heavy locations, bicyclists must often drive defensively to protect themselves. Use these laws as a foundation for riding practices and if you have any questions regarding the laws, reach out to a local Austin bicycle accident lawyer. If you spend more time driving than biking, exercise caution and patience around local bicyclists.