In 2016, Houston recorded seven pedal cyclist fatalities. The state of Texas had the third-highest number of pedal cyclist fatalities in the country the same year, with 65 deaths. As a Houston bicyclist, it is important to know your rights and all applicable bicycle laws in your municipality. Otherwise, you could end up in a serious bicycle accident – one you become liable for because you were breaking a roadway rule.
Were you recently hit or injured while riding your bike? If so, speak to a Houston bike accident lawyer to find out if you have a case.
Obeying Roadway Rules and Traffic Signals
Bicycles are equivalent to vehicles in the state of Texas. This means bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws, roadway rules, and signals as motor vehicle drivers. It is illegal to pass through a stop sign without stopping on a bicycle, for example, or to ignore pedestrian right-of-way at intersections. Operating a bicycle comes with the same responsibilities as other vehicles. Parents may not knowingly allow their children to violate the rules while biking. As a bicyclist, however, you also have the same rights as other types of roadway users.
Bicyclist Rights in Houston
Vehicles must yield the right-of-way to bicyclists as they would other vehicles. At a four-way intersection, for example, a vehicle must yield the right-of-way to a bicycle that arrived first. If the vehicle arrived first, however, the bicyclist must yield the right-of-way. Bikers have a right to ride in the roadway in most situations in Houston, unless a bicycle path is available. Vehicle drivers must keep at least three feet of distance between them and a bicyclist at all times.
Bicyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic on the road, and should keep as far to the right side of the road as possible. The only time it is permissible for a bicyclist to leave the right side of the road is when passing a vehicle, turning left, or avoiding an obstacle in the road. Bicyclists may ride two abreast of one another in the roadway, but must stay within one lane and cannot impede traffic.
Riding on Sidewalks
It is against the law to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk within a business district, according to Sec. 45-302 of the Houston Code of Ordinances. This means bicyclists in downtown Houston must stay on the roads, except where bicycle paths are available. Where bicyclists can ride on sidewalks in Texas, they must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. They must also give an audible signal, such as a honk or ringing of a bell, when overtaking and passing pedestrians on sidewalks. Traffic engineers have the right to put signs in business districts prohibiting bicyclists from riding on sidewalks.
Helmet and Equipment Laws
Texas does not have a universal bicycle helmet law requiring helmet use for adults. In Houston, however, children under the age of 18 must wear approved bicycle helmets at all times, as riders or passengers. Helmets must meet the standards under federal organization such as Snell or the Department of Transportation (DOT). They must also fit correctly on the child’s head. It is against the law for a parent to knowingly allow a child under the age of 14 to ride a bicycle without a helmet. Children do not have to wear helmets if riding on private land or roadways.
All bicyclists must ensure their vehicles possess a front white light visible from at least 500 feet in front of the bicycle, as well as a red rear reflector that is visible from 50 to 300 feet to the rear of the bicycle (or a red light visible from 500 feet). All bicycles must have brakes capable of stopping the bicycle on clean, level, and dry pavement. Riding a bicycle without the proper safety equipment is against the law. If you get into a bicycle accident in Houston, speak to a personal injury lawyer about your right to file a claim against the at-fault driver.