Ride your bike with the intent to communicate to motorists how you are riding.
I want to be clear before you read this – I am not a lawyer. I am not trying to impersonate a lawyer or give legal advice. I’m a guy who owns a bicycle and wants to be able to ride legally and safely, and I want to share what I understand of the world with my friends. So having done my best to tell you to follow your best judgement and do not rely on my writings as legal advice, here’s what Texas law currently says about riding bikes on the road…
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(d) Repealed by Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1085, § 13, eff.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.
So – what does this mean?
This is pretty important for people on bicycles to understand. This means that according to the Great State of Texas, a bicycle is expected to ride to the right of center in their lane on a two-lane (one lane for each direction) roadway. What it means also is if you are on a roadway that has 4 lanes (2 in each direction) and the outside lane is less than 14 feet wide AND doesn’t have a bike lane designated then you should be riding in the lane in a manner that defines your intent. Specifically, if you try to ride in the gutter on a street any car around you will think (rightfully so) that you are trying to let them pass around you. You SHOULD be in the lane far enough from the curb to be safe (“as near as practicable” which most of us interpret as about 3 feet) preferably to the right of center but far enough into the lane to indicate that your intent is to be present in the lane.
The lane width designation in the law of 14 feet is not the standard lane width. TxDot defines the standard lane width for urban streets to be 10 to 11 feet, and if it is an outside lane to accommodate bicycle it would be 4 feet wider (14 feet).
Common sense takes precedent over everything, and I am not trying to provide legal advice. What I am trying to do is give a sound, reasonable interpretation of the use of lanes for bicycles in an urban environment (stay off 75 folks). The well-intentioned people I see out riding on Saturday morning up and down Hardin balanced in the gutter letting the concrete split twist their front tire need to be safe – demonstrate your intention to ride in the lane (get out of the gutter) but remain to the right of center so traffic can pass. Know that the law says you are operating a vehicle on a roadway and have to follow the laws, which means following safe and predictable rules. You are in greater danger riding in the gutter than you would be 3 feet from the curb.