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
Share the Road license plates
Texas, in conjunction with the Texas Bicycle Coalition Education Fund, offers Share the Road license plates. For more information on such plates please visit: https://rts.texasonline.state.tx.us/NASApp/txdotrts/SpecialPlateOrderServlet?grpid=60&pltid=97
In addition, funds from the "God Bless Texas" and "God Bless America" specialized license plates are used by the Texas Education Agency to support the Safe Routes to School Program.
Source: Tex. Transp. Code Ann. §§504.633; 504.648
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
- Compilation of Bicycle laws by Bicycle Austin: http://bicycleaustin.info/laws/tx-bike.html
- Urban Cycling Legal resources: http://www.urbancycling.com/essays/lawsindex.html
- Compilation of Bicycle laws by Houston Bicycle Club: http://www.houstonbicycleclub.org/Pages/SafetyBikeLaws.aspx
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.
Texas Transportation Code
We have copied relevant sections of the code related to bicycles.
Section 545.107 of the Texas Transportation Code states that bicyclists can signal a right turn by extending the right arm.
Section 545.107. Method of Giving Hand and Arm Signals
An operator who is permitted to give a hand and arm signal shall give the signal from the left side of the vehicle as follows:
to make a left turn signal, extend hand and arm horizontally;
to make a right turn signal, extend hand and arm upward, except that a bicycle operator may signal from the right side of the vehicle with the hand and arm extended horizontally; and
to stop or decrease speed, extend hand and arm downward.
Chapter 551 of the Code is the section that deals with bicycles and bicycle operators.
Operation of Bicycles, Mopeds, and Play Vehicles
SUBCHAPTER A. APPLICATION OF CHAPTER
Section 551.001. Persons Affected
This chapter applies only to a person operating a bicycle on:
a highway; or
a path set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles.
Section 551.002. Moped Included
A provision of this subtitle applicable to a bicycle also applies to a moped, other than a provision that by its nature cannot apply to a moped.
SUBCHAPTER B. REGULATION OF OPERATION
Section 551.101. Rights and Duties
(a) A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle under this subtitle, unless:
a provision of this chapter alters a right or duty; or
a right or duty applicable to a driver operating a vehicle cannot by its nature apply to a person operating a bicycle.
(b) A parent of a child or a guardian of a ward may not knowingly permit the child or ward to violate this subtitle.
Section 551.102. General Operation
(a) A person operating a bicycle shall ride only on or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle.
(b) A person may not use a bicycle to carry more persons than the bicycle is designed or equipped to carry.
(c) 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 bicycle.
(d) A person operating a bicycle, coaster, sled, or toy vehicle or using roller skates may not attach either the person or the bicycle, coaster, sled, toy vehicle, or roller skates to a streetcar or vehicle on a roadway.
Section 551.103. Operation on Roadway
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), 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:
(1) the person is passing another vehicle moving in the same direction;
(2) the person is preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway;
(3) a condition on or of the roadway, including a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway; or
(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.
(b) A person operating a bicycle on a one-way roadway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near as practicable to the left curb or edge of the roadway.
(c) Persons operating bicycles on a roadway may ride two abreast. Persons riding two abreast on a laned roadway shall ride in a single lane. Persons riding two abreast may not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway. Persons may not ride more than two abreast unless they are riding on a part of a roadway set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles.
(d) Repealed by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1085, § 13, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.
Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 165, § 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1995.
Amended by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1085, §§ 10, 13, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.
Section 551.104. Safety Equipment
(a) A person may not operate a bicycle unless the bicycle is equipped with a brake capable of making a braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
(b) A person may not operate a bicycle at nighttime unless the bicycle is equipped with:
(1). A lamp on the front of the bicycle that emits a white light visible fro ma distance of a least 500 feet in front of the bicycle; and
(2). on the rear of the bicyle:
(A) A red reflector that is:
(i) of a type approved by the department; and
(ii) visible when directly in front of lawful upper beams of motor vehicle headlamps from all distances from 50 to 300 feet to the rear of the bicycle; or
(B) lamp that emits a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear of the bicycle.
(C) In addition to the reflector required by Subsection (b), a person operating a bicycle at nighttime may use a lamp on the rear of the bicycle that emits a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear of the bicycle.
Section 551.105. Competitive Racing
(a) In this section, "bicycle" means a non-motorized vehicle propelled by human power.
(b) A sponsoring organization may hold a competitive bicycle race on a public road only with the approval of the appropriate local law enforcement agencies.
(c) The local law enforcement agencies and the sponsoring organization may agree on safety regulations governing the movement of bicycles during a competitive race or during training for a competitive race, including the permission for bicycle operators to ride abreast.