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Bike Austin: Local, State Laws for Getting Around Town

For some in Austin, cycling is a way of life, not a mode of transportation. If you’re new to town or want to start moving on two wheels instead of four, read on for tips about the rules of the road, plus where to find bike-related information, groups, and events in and around Austin.


Rules of the Road

Before you get out on the road, understand the laws that you’ll have to face if something -like an accident- happens. Cyclists in Austin have to follow local Austin city bike laws as well as state laws. Read on to get the facts of cycling law.


The Bike Community

Austin’s bike community is vibrant and growing. Read on to learn more about the extensive resources available to Austin’s cyclists for bike maintenance classes, road safety, and group rides. Skip to Resources section.

National Bike Month

During National Bike Month, it’s time to take note of events happening around town where you can gain confidence on two wheels in ATX and bike veterans get a chance to reconnect with the community.

One of the most important events is Bike to Work Day 2019 on May 17th! Check the Bike Austin page for more information on this event. Participants can visit fueling stations and enter a free raffle – all while protecting the environment and getting some exercise. Or visit the Bicycle Sport Shop roundup of all the Bike Month events going on throughout May.

Yes, Bikers still have to follow traffic rules

You don’t have to take a test or get a license to ride your bike around town. With no license updates or fees, biking is a popular choice for short distance commutes and short errands.

But another consequence of this is there’s no mandatory or uniform literature all cyclists are expected to know before they take to the road. Instead, cycling education as it exists is more of an elective undertaking.

Here are a few quick tips to guide cyclists to navigate Austin traffic!

Infographic: Bicycle Safety in Austin

Austin was named a Gold biking city by National Bike League in 2015. The designation is further proof of the city's love for the 2-wheel commute. Those who bicycle might be aware os the city's Bicycle Master Plan, part of the city's overhaul on biking safety. But that doesn't mean that every route is safe for riders right now - or ever will be without these important safety tips. Read this infographic to get some of the most helpful tips for cycling in Austin.

When biking, follow driving rules

As a general rule, all individuals using the road, including cyclists, pedicabs, automobiles, rickshaws, etc. are expected to follow driving laws. This necessitates an understanding of the basic rules that are often associated with driving at the state level, but are actually applicable to anyone on the road. This includes stopping at all stop lights and stop signs and using signals (see next section).

There are a few exceptions to this. The Texas Transportation code states “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.”

Knowing the rules of the road give you a better chance of having a safe ride every time.

Bicycle Exemptions to the General Rules

Bicycles, by nature, will usually travel on the road slower than the motor vehicle traffic. Texas Transportation code outlines these rules for bicyclists out on the road:

Where bicyclists should ride:

  1. They should ride as safely close to the right curb of the roadway, unless:
  2. passing another vehicle,
  3. preparing to turn left,
  4. an object or other obstacle obstructs the normal bicycle path,
  5. there is no shoulder for the cyclist to ride in. In that case, there’s not enough space for a cyclist to ride side-by-side with a vehicle, in which case the bicyclist should use the entire lane.
  6. In Austin, bicycles are generally allowed on the sidewalk with some exceptions. Bikes are prohibited on the sidewalk in parts of downtown and on UT campus.
  7. A cyclist on a one-way road should ride as close as they can to the left curb safely.

Additional rules for bicycling:

  1. Bicyclists under the age of 17 are required to wear a helmet while riding.
  2. Just like drivers, bicyclists are prohibited from using a portable electronic device while operating the vehicle.
  3. When parking a bicycle, it can not damage property it is attached to.

Use hand signals when turning and stopping

Signaling is an important part of communicating with other drivers and cyclists on the road. Cars are equipped with light signals that other drivers are familiar with. Cyclists need to use hand signals both when stopping and turning to let other drivers know their movements.

Ride as far to the right as safely possible

Slower cars are expected to use the right lanes on the road. Similarly, because bikes are typically slower than cars, they are expected to ride as far to the right as safely possible to ensure efficient flow of traffic. However, there are certain situations when cyclists either can’t or shouldn’t ride on the right side of the road.

At night, use bike lights and reflectors

When riding at night, cyclists are required by law to have a white light on the front of their bike and a red reflector or red light on the rear of their bike, just like cars must have working headlights and tail lights, to ensure that they can see the road in front of them and can be seen by other travelers on the road.

Always ride with the flow of traffic

Unless riding in a two-way protected bike lane, cyclists traveling on the road must always ride with the flow of traffic. If a road has a designated one-way bike lane, just like a one-way road, all travelers must be going in the same direction.

Whether you are just starting out, getting back into the groove, or rediscovering a passion from a new light – stay safe while out on the road! Every rider, no matter the experience level, should follow traffic laws.

Just as in a car, getting there safely is far better than getting there quickly. Risks that could harm you or others should always be avoided.

Can my bicycle be towed?

Bicycles, like cars, can be towed if they’re parked in a way that violates Austin traffic ordinances. Bikes can’t be parked in a way that blocks pedestrian or vehicle traffic, and they shouldn’t be parked in a space that’s designated for vehicles.

A bicycle might also be towed if it’s attached to public or private property in a way that could damage it or render it unusable.

Don’t leave your bike for too long! If left for over 48 hours it is considered abandoned.

Fines do apply – and the city could even write a ticket for improperly stowing a bicycle. To avoid these, park the bicycle on a bike rack, against a wall, or against a street curb.

Don’t Get into a Bike-Car Crash! But If You Do…

Even experienced bicyclists may encounter an out of control vehicle and get into a crash. Protect your legal rights and health with these tips.

  1. Protect your health. Knowing to follow these steps in the event of an accident, can save your life and health.
  2. Eliminate risks of oncoming traffic. Ask a first responder to stop oncoming traffic.
  3. If you cannot feel any of your extremities, do not allow anyone to move you until trained personnel are present.
  4. Contact a personal injury attorney after seeking medical attention. The sooner you do, the better chance of receiving a full recovery to treat injuries.

If you witness a bike crash:

  1. Notify law enforcement regardless of who is at fault. It is always better for the cyclist if the peace officer conducts an investigation. They are not required to do an investigation but they are required to write a report.
  2. A cyclist has certain duties following an accident, including:
  3. Give information and report an accident
  4. Duty to immediately give notice of an accident
  5. Provide information and render aid

Biking Resources

There are many things to love about Austin, and the number of resources Austinites can draw on when bicycling about town is just one of them. Through non-profits in Austin, you can learn to build and maintenance your own bike, go on group rides, and learn the basics of city riding. There are tons of resources for those who want to start cycling in Austin – even if you don’t even own a bike. Advocacy groups like Bike Austin and Bike Texas want to help make it possible for more people to travel by bike.

  • Yellow Bike Project: If you’ve ever been out on the road, only to get a flat, you know how important it is to know how to change the tire on a bike. Sure there are plenty of bike shops in town, but there’s only one volunteer-powered initiative that teaches Austinites about bike mechanics and maintenance.You can take classes or stop by the shop during open hours. If you’re a bike expert yourself, there are more than a few ways to get involved!Through classes you can build a bike on your own, or buy a bike there already crafted. There’s some pretty sweet perks when you buy your bike at the Yellow Bike Project! Thanks to a new partnership between cycling advocacy group Bike Austin and this community bike project, all bike purchases at the space come with a free $30 Bike Austin membership.
  • Austin B-Cycle: Don’t have a bike and don’t have time to maintenance it… but still want to see what it’s like to be out out on two wheels instead of four? You can try the city’s Austin B-Cycle program. Austin is one of many cities to bring urban transportation to more people by offering day and month long rentals of bikes. The program encourages visitors and residents to take the city by the handlebars. Just pay for a rental and pick up your bike at any B-station kiosk. You can return your bike at any of the 50 stations across Central Austin.
  • Bike Austin Education Fund There are two branches to this important cycling group. Bike Austin participates in educating the public about cycling laws and safety through a variety of outreach efforts. They are the go-to org for learning about bike events such as Bike to Work Day.

    If you’re just getting out on the road, you can attend one of the monthly cycle class hosted by Bike Austin. It’s a great way to gain confidence while cycling in traffic. If you’re a more experienced rider, you might be thinking about racing in one of the Texas hill country’s amazing tours across the state. You can get the tips on maneuvering through bicycle traffic in a Bike Austin Group Cycling class. It’ll make you a better rider, and ready for the next social ride in Austin!
    Bicyclists aren’t the only ones who need to know how to share to the road. That’s why Bike Austin has even taken their education efforts to provide information to Austin Metro Bus drivers, Austin Police Department, and to social media to help the public understand what makes Austin’s streets safe for everyone.
    Read on in this post to find out more about Bike Austin’s advocacy work in the capital city.

  • Bike Austin (Advocacy) You may have read about some of the education initiatives brought by Bike Austin earlier in the post. What you might not know about is their extensive advocacy work in bringing safer road conditions for cyclists in all parts of Austin. Executive Director of Bike Austin Katie Smith Deolloz often weighs in on bicycle safety issues in Austin.
    The group is a strong advocate for bike lanes. Did you know that bike lanes can make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists?

    When a biking tragedy occurs in Austin, members have shown their support for families by advocating for safer road conditions and critiquing news reports that place blame on cyclists. To become a member of this Austin-area-only cycling advocacy group, you can visit their website.

  • Bike Texas: The lone star state is big – and so is the passion of the cycling community. Austin is lucky enough to call Bike Texas home. The organization lobbies the state legislature during sessions for the interests of cyclists across the state. The group advocates for statewide legislation like the Safe Passing Bill in Texas.

It would establish a standard 3 ft passing distance across the state. The legislation has won some notable victories, including passing through the Texas House and Senate with overwhelming majorities. However in 2009 Rick Perry vetoed the bill saying that it “contradicts much of the current statute.” Texas drivers have been required since earlier than 2009 to pass “at a safe distance” but there is no specific distance specified. In Austin at least, there is a 3 foot safe passing ordinance already in place.

  • League of American Bicyclists Though a national organization, the League of American Bicyclists takes root in Austin as well. In 2015 the org named Austin a Silver City

Austin Bike Accident Lawyer

This information was brought to you by McMinn Law Firm in Austin, TX. Justin McMinn and Jason McMinn are experienced bike accident and personal injury attorneys. At McMinn Law Firm, the entire legal staff works tirelessly to provide all our clients with comprehensive legal representation.

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