Bicycles are considered vehicles in Texas. That means cyclists must follow the same rules of the road as cars, with a few exceptions as designated in the Texas Transportation Code. Here is a summary of Texas bicycle-related laws put together by the League of American Bicyclists.
All laws mentioned below were current as of August 2012 and may be subject to change.
Safe Passing Laws
Texas does not have a law that sets a specific distance for a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle. The overtaking of a bicycle by a motor vehicle, or vice versa, is governed by general traffic laws and, in most circumstances, such overtaking must be done to the left at a safe distance.
Source: Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §545.053
Texas has no helmet law. It is legal for all persons of any age to operate a bicycle without wearing a helmet unless otherwise provided by a municipal regulation.
However, Texas has designated April as Child Safety Month which, amongst other things, promotes ways to reduce accidental injury and death through the use of bicycle helmets.
Source: TS §662.105
Vulnerable Road User Laws
Texas does not have any vulnerable road user laws at this time. There are currently no national standards for laws protecting vulnerable road users, but the League of American Bicyclists has drafted a Model Vulnerable Road User statute, which you can find here: http://www.bikeleague.org/action/bikelaws/modellaws.php.
Distracted Driving Laws
Texas currently has the following laws aimed at distracted driving, subject to limited exceptions:
- A person under 18 years of age may not operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device;
- A person under 17 years of age who holds a restricted motorcycle license or moped license may not operate a motorcycle or moped while using a wireless communications device;
- An operator may not use a wireless communication device while operating a passenger bus with a minor passenger on the bus unless the passenger bus is stopped; and
- An operator may not use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle within a school crossing zone unless the vehicle is stopped; or the wireless communication device is used with a hands-free device.
Source: Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §§545.424; 545.425
Where to Ride
Texas requires that a person operating a bicycle on a roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:
- The person is passing another vehicle moving in the same direction;
- The person is preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway;
- There exists a condition on or of the roadway that prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway; or
- The person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is:
- Less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or
- Too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.
- The person is operating a bicycle on a one-way roadway with two or more marked traffic lanes, in which case they may ride as near as practicable to the left curb or edge of the roadway.
Source: Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §551.103
Texas does not have a statute that specifically authorizes or prohibits the operation of a bicycle upon a sidewalk.
Mandatory Use of Bicycle Paths
Texas does not require that bicyclists use any lane or path other than a normal vehicular traffic lane.
Bicycling Under the Influence
Texas’s law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to motor vehicles and therefore does not directly apply to bicyclists. Nevertheless bicycles should not be operated while intoxicated.
Source: Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §49.04
“Idaho Stop” and Vehicle Detection Errors
Texas does not provide any modifications to the requirement to come to a complete stop when directed to stop by traffic control devices and does not authorize bicyclists to disobey traffic lights that fail to detect bicyclists.
Authorization for Local Regulation of bicycles
Texas provides that its state traffic laws shall not prevent a local authority, with respect to a highway under its jurisdiction and in the reasonable exercise of the police power, from the operation and requiring registration and licensing of a bicycle or electric bicycle, including payment of a registration fee.
In addition, a governing body of a municipality may restrain or prohibit the firing of firecrackers or guns, the use of a bicycle or similar conveyance, the use of a firework or similar material, or any other amusement or practice tending to annoy persons passing on a street or sidewalk.
Source: Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §§542.202; 217.003
Source of Laws
The laws regulating the operation of bicycles in the state of Texas are generally found in Titles 545 and 551 of the Texas Statutes (TS), available here:http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Search.aspx.
The following resources may be useful:
- Compilation of Bicycle laws by Bicycle Texas: http://www.biketexas.org/es/infrastructure/texas-bicycle-laws
- Call 311 for any issues with bike lanes or debris in the lane.
- Knowing the Laws:
- A person operating a bicycle has generally the same rights and responsibilities as when he/she operates a motor vehicle. More information is available via the City of Austin, which has compiled several links to Austin ordinances and Texas statutes.
- General Smart Cycling Tips from the League of American Bicyclists.
- In the unfortunate incident that you are involved in a crash, have this crash card on hand to collect the appropriate information.
- Download this Crash Card here
Getting More Bikeways:
- Bike Austin not only advocates for more bikeways in the Austin metro, but we also provide tools and information so that you can advocate effectively as well.
All laws mentioned here were current as of August 2012 and may be subject to change. The laws listed here are for informational purposes only. Please consult your state and local laws in order to determine the laws you are subject to while riding.
See the League’s model statutes