So in my 5 years as a road biker I have heard many interpretations of bike laws. I had one car ask me at a red light if it was legal for me to be in the road. I have had quite a few drivers yell at me to ride on the sidewalk. Yesterday a lady on a bike yelled at me for not having a bell on my bike, granted she was not wearing a helmet and was weaving like a loony on the trail. So here is a consolidated list of current Texas bike laws pertaining to all things including bells and helmets.
First for the helmet situation:
According to the Helmet Safety institute: in Coppell and Southlake kids under 15 need to wear one, Bedford is under 16, Benbrook under 17. Children under 18 have to have a helmet on in Houston, Ft Worth, Austin and Arlington. Dallas is apparently the only city in Texas that requires all ages to wear a helmet.
Houston requires bikes to be registered for $1.00 or risk being fined $5.00. This can be done at a fire station. I think I will take my chances with the fine. I wonder how many people have shown up to a fire station looking to register their bike.
**Update: I don't really fact check my stuff. Someone left me a comment saying that bikes are not required to register anymore. I'm leaving the section up with a side note because I think it's funny you used to have to.**
Sidewalk vs Road
In Houston you can not ride a bike on the sidewalk in a business district. A business district is defined as an area where within 600ft of the road and occupying a 300ft stretch on either side of the road are buildings used as businesses. If you do ride on the sidewalk, pedestrians have the right of way. Lets face it, its easier to ride on the street and operate the bike like a car.
Working breaks, a light on the front of the bike that emits a white light at least 500ft, a red light/reflector on the back visible from 500ft.
Sorry lady, bell not required.
You are not required to carry ID when operating a bike. If you are stopped by the police you are required to give your name, address and DOB. You will not be charged with failure to carry an ID. Don't give false info because that is illegal.
Drunk While Riding
I'm still looking for written evidence, but bloggers indicate it is possible in Texas to be charged with a DUI while on a bike. Open container laws apparently also apply. I'm of the opinion you would have to wreck into a Police Cruiser completely wasted with a beer cap on to face charges. Then your lawyer would really have to suck to be convicted. Not that I have faced that scenario.
Have to use the hand signals we learned in drivers ed.
Operation on the Road
Ride the bike in the far lane as close to the curb as you feel safe. You can ride two abreast in a single lane, but no more than 2. Bikes can pass a car in another lane, bikes can move into another lane to get around a hazard or parked car. Bikes can cross lanes to make a left-hand turn.
Basically bikes are considered motorized vehicles and have to follow all the rules that cars do, including: not speeding, stopping at red light, stopping at stop signs, etc.
In Idaho cyclists can run stop signs if they slow down first to check traffic.
In Colorado it is now illegal to throw things at cyclists, before they would actually have to hit the biker for it to be a punishable offense.
Another CO law stipulates that cars must give bikers a 3ft cushion when passing.
A similar law was recently vetoed by Gov Rick Perry of TX, he stated it was already illegal to drive recklessly.
My opinion is that people don't necessarily drive recklessly, they just don't pay attention to what they are doing.