When a Bike Lane Isn’t Enough

Bike lanes make it easy to know where to ride, but sometimes they just aren’t there or are obstructed and cyclists must decide where to ride. To make the flow of traffic most efficient, section 551.103 of the Texas Transportation Code  (TTC) states that “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.”

Beyond the vague definition of what “as near as practicable” actually means, there are explicit exceptions in the code to this rule that drivers need to be aware of when they see cyclists in the roadway. Explore the following situations where cyclists do not have to ride on the right.

When passing a vehicle going the same direction

Comparing engines to human muscles, it’s natural that bikes will, on average, travel slower than surrounding cars. But the case can arise, if a driver is ogling the scenery or is distracted by devices or passengers, where a bike can travel faster than a car. In this case, it is acceptable for a cyclist to move into the main lane and pass the slower vehicle on the left.

When preparing to turn left

Just like cars, cyclists have to get where they’re going, and sometimes that means turning left. Drivers must allow cyclists to merge into the main lane from the bike lane or the right of the road and allow them to turn left from either the center lane or the main lane, just as they would a car.

When there is an obstruction on the right

Tree limbs fall. Road debris gets pushed to the edges of the road. Residential areas often have trash cans in the bike lanes. All manner of things can block the area that is “as near as practicable” to the right of the road. The Transportation Code states that obstructions such as “a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard” that are blocking the area typically reserved for cyclists will allow cyclists to use the main lane.

When the lane is too narrow

In consideration of another section of the TTC, which requires cars to leave a 3 feet buffer between cars and cyclists, some streets are just too small to allow both a cyclist and a car to ride side by side. In this case (when a roadway is less than 14 feet wide with no bike lane, or just too narrow for side by side travel) a cyclist can take the full lane to prevent a car trying, and failing, to pass the cyclist.

On a one-way road

When the lanes of a roadway travel in a single direction, a cyclist can travel either as far as practicable to the right or to the left of the roadway.


If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in a bicycle accident caused by someone else, it’s important to talk with a personal injury lawyer experienced with bicycle accidents.  McMinn Law Firm’s accident attorneys are available by phone, live chat, or web form 24/7.