Monday, September 7, 2009

Texas Bicycle Laws

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.

Safety Equipment
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.

ID Requirements
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.

Hand Signals
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.

Interesting facts:
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.


  1. I called the city - Mayor's Citizen Assistance Office - and was put on hold while they checked: No bike registration required in Houston any longer.

  2. sweet thanks. i was kind of worried about that $5 fine

  3. 1) There's no state helmet law for cyclists. 2) TX Penal Code Sec. 49.04 "Driving While Intoxicated" is worded for *motor* vehicles only, but Sec. 49.02 "Public Intoxication" would probably apply to cyclists. 3) Right-arm-extended hand signal also allowed for cyclist. 4) Bikes can also ride on the left side of the roadway on a one-way road. 5) Unlike cars, bikes can also travel on the right shoulder or, for a one-way multi-lane road (e.g. divided highway), on the left shoulder.

  4. TTC 551.003 allows riders to occupy a whole lane if it's under 14 feet wide without an adjacent bike lane or if the rider deems it too narrow for a bike and a car to operate side-by-side

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  13. Is it legal to ride a bicycle on the side walk in Arlington,Texas?

  14. Thanks buddy! I just moved to Houston and I'm about to go bike George Bush Park for the first time. I don't own a helmet and I didn't want to get in trouble for not having one on! Though... if I decide to start biking in the streets, I'll get one for that.

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  20. I have recently acquired a bike. I'm still pretty timid when it comes to riding it though. So I'm not confident enough to ride it on the road yet. I live near the med center, and I see people riding their bikes on the sidewalks in that area.
    Is it wrong to do so as well?

    1. I commute to MH TMC from river oaks and have found the commute to be bicycle friendly, and drivers to respect my space even though I might be holding them up.

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