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Important Laws to Know When Bicycling in Austin

By April 17, 2018Bicycle Accidents

Bicycle use is prevalent throughout Austin and the state of Texas. Anyone who rides a bicycle in Texas for commuting or for enjoyment is subject to the same duties and regulations applicable to drivers of motor vehicles. Of course, bicyclists also have the same rights as those who drive motor vehicles, something often forgotten by Texas drivers.

Unless they are otherwise directed by law enforcement personnel, signs, traffic signals or other bicycle-specific facilities, Texas bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as Texas motorists. Adherence to Austin’s bicycle laws will limit confusion, reduce risks and hopefully lead to fewer bicycle accidents. Motor vehicles must yield the right-of-way to bicycles when proper, just as they would to any other motor vehicle. Note that parents and guardians may not knowingly allow a child to violate any section of the Texas Transportation Code related to bicycle operation and safety.

Texas Bicycle Laws You Should Know

The Texas Transportation Code mandates the following for all bicycle use throughout the entire state of Texas:

  • A person may not use a bicycle to carry more persons than the bicycle is designed or equipped to carry: (551.102a)
  • A person operating a bicycle may not use the bicycle to carry an object that prevents the person from operating the bicycle with at least one hand on the handlebars of the bicycles: (551.102c)
  • Bicyclists must  ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway and move in the same direction as traffic unless certain circumstances like passing, turning, or some other condition prevents it: (551.103)
  • Bicyclists may ride two abreast as long as they do not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic: (551.103c)
  • A bicycle must be equipped with a brake capable of making a braked wheel skid on dry, level clean pavement: (551.104a)
  • Bicyclists may not ride at night unless the bike has a white light on the front and a red reflector or red light on the rear: (551.104b)
  • Bicyclists must use hand and arm signals from the left side of the bicycle and vehicle: (545.107)

Austin, TX City Ordinances

There are Austin city ordinances that regulate bicycle use in Austin, as well as special regulations for cycling on the campus of the University of Texas. There is no statewide requirement in Texas that bicyclists must wear a helmet. A statewide helmet law was proposed in 1999 by the Texas Legislature but failed to garner enough support. However, Austin has a municipal ordinance that requires all children age 17 and under to wear a helmet while riding.

Distracted Bicycling

As with driving a motor vehicle, operating a bicycle may be extremely dangerous when distracted. Austin was one of the first cities in Texas to address the growing problem of distracted driving by enacting a municipal ordinance that prohibits any cyclist from using a portable electronic device while riding in Austin. This law, which went into effect in January 1, 2015, applies to both motorists and bicyclists and carries fines of up to $500. The City of Austin has a program that offers first offenders a chance to have their case dismissed through a deferral agreement.

Bicycle Parking

A bicycle when parked must not impede or obstruct sidewalks or pedestrian traffic, nor may it be attached to public or private property in such a way that it may damage property. Texas does not have a statewide law that mandates a specific distance for motor vehicles passing or overtaking bicycles. Austin has a local ordinance that requires a distance of three feet and to the left. Local and state law generally allows riding on a sidewalk, but it is prohibited in parts of downtown Austin and on the University of Texas campus.

University of Texas Regulations

University of Texas regulations require students to park their bicycles only on bike racks, and not on stair handrails or wheelchair ramps. The University of Texas Police Department also requires all students to register their bikes. UT police have been known to conduct stings to catch bicyclists for various offenses, especially at Speedway at 21st, 26th, & 30th; and 26th & Whitis. Failing to observe bicycle laws in Austin and on the University of Texas campus carries financial consequences.

How We Can Help

DC Law may help anyone who has suffered an injury while riding a bicycle, whether caused by a motor vehicle or some other circumstance. Our firm is founded on the concept that every client is entitled to the highest level of respect and attention. We are Austin’s choice for skilled, experienced, and dedicated personal injury lawyers. We offer legal representation that produces quality service, a high level of attorney-client communication and aggressive representation. If you have been harmed by the reckless or negligent act of another in any type of accident, contact DC Law today at 512-220-1800 to consult with an experienced injury attorney.